A tome of tips for travel

Travel health considerations

Initially, I had figured we’d need some kinds of vaccinations.  Since we signed up for the trip relatively late (about 10 weeks in advance), I was concerned that we might be running short of time for vaccinations to take effect.  I figured out where the best place would be to get them—for us, it was going to be the county health department.  However, in an e-mail to the travel coordinator about some other issue, I happened to ask her about vaccinations and/or anti-malarial medications.  She wrote back promptly that no new vaccinations were required for the trip, although they suggested that routine vaccinations such as tetanus be up-to-date.  And of course, to check with your local health provider to see if any other issues might be of concern.  She also noted that we didn’t need to worry about malaria in Quito, Guayaquil, or the Galápagos Islands.  Our day trip to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve presented no problems either, since malaria didn’t exist in the mountainous regions.  Excellent!  However, you should always check with your health provider and/or the excellent CDC travel health Web site for the latest information.

Clothes

We had thought that we would be able to handwash some things (mostly shirts and socks) on the boat.  We even brought along some biodegradable detergent (good ol’ Dr. Broner’s!).  But at least on our boat, that wasn’t the case.  (And it would have been hard to hide dripping wet clothes that took several days to dry.  If you were traveling during the warm/wet season, the humidity would have rendered the drying process almost interminable, even if you could wash and hang clothes out.)  Our boat had a line along the roof handrail, with clothespins attached.  However, that was meant to hang out wet bathing suits and wet suits.  Some of our group confessed to taking showers in their clothes/underwear as one way to handle that issue.  Not something that appealed to me, though.  Luckily, I had brought 8 shirts and 8 pairs of socks; so I had no worries.  We had washed out shirts and socks in the Quito hotel room the night before we headed to the Galápagos, so we hit the islands with a full complement of clean clothes.  Larger boats and those at the higher end may have laundry facilities for passengers, so this wouldn’t be an issue on those boats.  Even other smaller boats may not have the “no laundry” restriction; but given the attention to water conservation, I suggest you either check it out very carefully with the company you’re dealing with or simply pack enough clothes to last you the length of the cruise.

A personal preference, to be sure, but I recommend you bring as many quick-dry clothes as possible.  Since it generally doesn’t get very cold, the hypothermia risk that accompanies wet cotton clothing doesn’t really come into play.  But it is a humid climate, especially during the warm/wet season; the boat and the outings are a wet environment; and your clothes will likely get wet on the panga rides or when making wet landings.  Cotton clothing will dry more slowly than will nylon or polyester clothes.  Shorts are especially likely to get wet on the panga rides; I, for one, am not very fond of walking or sitting around in damp shorts.  And although I had brought 2 pairs of quick-dry long pants, 1 pair of jeans, and 1 pair of lightweight sweatpants, I used only the last item for lounging around the boat—and even that, only a couple of times.  Shorts worked fine for me everywhere we went.  However, as one traveler commented, lightweight nylon long pants could come in very handy to avoid “lobster calves” if you know that you can’t be trusted to apply sunblock diligently.

I found shorts with pockets that snapped shut (in my case, these were cargo shorts) very handy.  I always carried a small stick of lip balm with a high SPF, for reapplying on my nose and lips.  With the shorts I had that didn’t have secure pockets, I had to keep checking my pocket to make sure the lip balm hadn’t slipped out while I was sitting on the panga.

What I did need to hunt for, though, was a bathing suit.  Ugh.  I hadn’t owned a bathing suit in almost 2 decades.  I originally thought I would just do whatever swimming was involved in a pair of nylon shorts and a polyester top.  But I studied the photos in the materials that Elderhostel sent us and I saw that all of the women at beaches were in bathing suits and most had bodies even less ideal than mine.  Hmmmm…  I decided I should at least think about getting a bathing suit.  (Many travel sites suggested bringing 1 or 2 bathing suits!)  I scoured several catalogs (mostly L.L. Bean and Land’s End, both known for their bathing suits’ kindness to and consideration of normal, non-model-like bodies).  Since I was looking in August, the local stores didn’t have much available but these vendors still had a wide variety of styles and some serious sales going on.  I found people’s comments on the stores’ Web sites to be very helpful in judging issues of fit, coverage, comfort, etc.  I settled on a tankini style with a slender skirt bottom that could be cinched higher or lower, depending on how daring I felt.  It arrived, fit perfectly, and didn’t look terrible on me.  Unbelievable. I used a nylon shirt with long sleeves that could be rolled up as a cover-up when we were traveling to snorkel spots via the pangas. It provided cover from the sun and a bit of warmth during the rides; and since it was nylon, it dried quickly.  Since we were traveling during the less humid season, the suit dried pretty well each day.  But if you’re traveling during the warmer (and therefore more humid) months, you might consider bringing more than one suit—if getting into a dry-ish suit is important to you.  Odds are, your suit won’t dry in one day.  (NOTE:  For our return trip in 2013, I bought a pair of “hydro short”—the kind that folks use for paddleboarding.  They were a bit longer than a typical women’s bathing suit bottom, made of 0.5ml neoprene (what wetsuits are made of) and fit perfectly under my shortie wetsuit.  I then just wore the top of my tankini under the wetsuit.)

Shoes, socks, and hats

Your footwear for the landings will vary by the type of landing:  dry or wet.  (Your naturalist guide will always tell you well in advance which to prepare for.)  Dry landings occur when the panga is steered up close to rocks or a stone outcrop; you then hop onto shore, with the help of the panga crew members, without getting your feet wet.  Everything I read recommended sturdy shoes for the island outings; my experience recommends close-toed shoes for the dry landings, for scrambling a bit over boulders and rough lava.  Most people in our group wore sneakers of some sort or some other simple walking shoes.  But I had a low pair of rugged hiking shoes that I took along; I do a lot of walking in them and I knew that my feet would be familiar with and comfortable in them.  (If you decide to buy some new shoes—by all means, buy them early and wear them around a lot, to break them in!)  I also had a large number of crew-length acrylic hiking socks; they too dried quickly if they got wet from the post-walk hose-off back at the boat.  What you don’t need are heavy-duty, leather, built-to-take-you-to-the-mountain-top-and-back hiking boots.  You are restricted primarily to well-groomed, relatively wide, cinder-covered paths, with an occasional stretch of walking of a few large-ish boulders.  But no scrambling, no creek-hopping, no wandering off the path to chase down that elusive bird.  (Actually, with the exception of the songbirds, all of the wildlife pretty much just sit there by the path—and sometimes right on the path–and stare back at you.  No chasing down needed at all.)  Lightweight hiking shoes should be more than ample for most people and sturdy running shoes are probably the modal type of footwear we saw.  And keep in mind that you’ll need to hose off your footwear every time you get back to the boat and possibly leave them on the fantail of the boat at all times (see below)—something your trusty leather hiking boots may not appreciate.  (NOTE:  By 2013, our return trip, closed-toe water sandals such as Keens had become widespread and worked well for both wet and dry landings, if your feet don’t need a lot of support.  Many of our group used them for all of the landings.)

Wet landings entail hopping off the panga directly into the water and wading, usually just a short distance, to the beach.  For the wet landings, I brought a pair of Teva sandals, designed for walking in water.  They didn’t provide as much support, but they’re sturdier than many sandals.  (Don’t forget to put sunblock on your feet anytime you’re wearing sandals!)  Even though the walks after wet landings tended to be relatively flat and easy, my feet were much less happy in the Tevas than they were in the hiking shoes.  (Also, since I don’t wear the Tevas very often or for extended periods of time, my feet weren’t nearly as accustomed to those shoes as they were to the hiking shoes.)  An alternative is to just tackle a wet landing in your bare feet; you could then dry your feet off on the beach and put on sturdier shoes and socks there (and reverse that process when heading off the island).  If you do this, bring a small towel—e.g., a lightweight super-absorbent “pack towel” that is easy to wring out thoroughly.  (We brought a couple, which we bought at REI.)  I never did this, even when I was developing some hot spots from the sandals.  (Somehow, it seemed better to jump off the panga, wade to the shore, and start walking.)  I probably should have. We even brought the pack towels for drying our feet after landings. But alas, I didn’t use them.

On the Tip Top II, any shoes used on an island walk were sequestered under the benches on the fantail after being hosed off to prevent carrying particles of whatever from 1 island to another.  We also didn’t wear them into the inside areas of the boat, to keep the influx of gritty sand down.  (This practice may not hold for all boats, though—especially the larger boats, where lots of shoes on the fantail could be quite a mess.  So check to see what’s the rule for your boat.)  I had brought a pair of light-weight sandals to wear around the boat.  Since I love going barefoot, though, I never wore them at all.  But if you’re not at ease in bare feet, bring a spare pair of “house shoes” if your boat will require you to leave your shoes outside.

And bring at least 1 hat!  Hats are very important throughout Ecuador and the archipelago.  (Contrary to other countries, in Ecuador you take off your hat when you enter a cathedral, rather than covering your head.  Since those who work outdoors always wear hats in the strong equatorial sun, the way to show reverence is through removing your hat.)  Even during the cool/dry season, the sun is directly overhead every day.  The paths on the islands don’t have much in the way of shade, even during the warm/wet season.  So you will be in the sun pretty much any time you’re not inside on the boat.  (One of our guides noted, “In the Galápagos, you pray for clouds.”  This is probably especially true during the warm/wet season (Jan. – May).)  Be sure you can secure your hat, either by tightening it or by using a chinstrap—especially important on the panga rides.  Many in our group had hats with brims that went all the way around, to protect their necks.  If you’re very sensitive to the sun, you should definitely bring such a hat.  I’m not all that sensitive; I wore a ball-style cap, without a brim in the back, that was easy to make it tight enough that I wouldn’t lose it in the wind.  However, I remained vigilant about applying sunblock on my neck.
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56 Responses to A tome of tips for travel

  1. Eric Pease says:

    April 2020! I’ve read all the entries for both your 2009 and 2013 trips. We’re in the middle of planning our first trip in March 2021. Thanks for all your hard work and all the information you’ve shared. Incredible resource! Thanks ever so much! ~Eric Pease

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Eric–

      Thanks for the great feedback! I’m glad you’re finding it all helpful. You’ve read ALL the entries for both trips–wow! Not many people have told me that. 🙂

      Like

  2. Siddharth says:

    Hello Tina, any advice on good cruise tours for families with kids age 4? Something where the operators program stuff for that age group to have their own fun?

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Siddharth–

      One of my favorite boats to recommend for families is Ecoventura’s Eric/Letty/Flamingo (a trio of sister boats that travel together–aka ELF). The owners assign folks to boats by demographics–e.g., families on one, younger adults on another, older adults on another. The naturalist guides on the family boats are well known for being great with kids.

      Having written that, though, 4 is pretty young. A number of boats have age restrictions, such as no one younger than 7. But I don’t know about those restrictions, boat by boat. I think your safest option would be to work with an agency that specializes in Galapagos travel to figure out the full range of your options. Three that get consistently good reviews are Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours. (We worked with Heather at CNH Tours for our return trip and were really happy with her help.) All of these have a variety of ways to contact them–web site, Skype, phone, e-mail. I suggest you formulate some introductory questions, contact several, and see who responds in a way that feels good to you.

      Tina

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  3. Julia says:

    Hi!!
    Im finally going to the Galapagos this August (beginning of August). Unfortunately, the cruises sometimes are so incredible expensive. I have heard from several people that I should reconsider to make a last-minute booking on the island. But do you think that I could find a cheaper last-minute deal in August?
    And I’ve read somewhere that it is not possible to buy a one-way ticket to galapagos? Only returns (with an airplane).. Is this true? Because I thought to buy a one way ticket and see if I could find a last-minute trip and not be bound to a specific return date.
    I hope you know the answers to these questions as well. Your post helped me out so so much so far!

    Greetings!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Julia–

      I don’t know much about what you’re asking. I’ve heard that if you do an Internet search for “last-minute Galapagos,” you can find some web sites that might help. Keep in mind, though, that August–especially early August–is one of the two high seasons, so you may have more limited options than usual.

      And I’ve never booked an airplane ticket to the archipelago, since the flights to and from the islands for our 2 trips were handled by the agencies operating the boats. So again, I can’t be any help there. Perhaps someone else reading the blog will know more.

      Tina

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tasha says:

    Hi Tina,
    I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to come across your blog and the immense help that you have given to people over the years. I hope you don’t mind but before i continue reading, I would just like to straight up ask your advice to focus my reading as its all a little overwhelming. We are planning to go to the Galapagos late Dec (after Christmas) coming back early January. We are going on our honeymoon and so are looking for some quiet (secluded islands), some breathtaking scenery and wildlife but a relaxing and more luxurious trip then normal. Could you recommend anything I should look at that fits the bill? Thanks so much in advance,
    Tasha

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Tasha–

      Are you thinking of late Dec., 2016? If so, you may be running into limited choices if you’re considering a naturalist cruise. People often book cruises that start around mid-Dec. through early Jan. a year or 2 ahead of time. So you’re looking at the highest of high seasons in the archipelago, complete (often) with high-season supplements. (ugh) If you’re thinking of 2017 or later, you’re probably still okay choice-wise, although holiday supplements will still lurk.

      Those worries aside, it’s difficult to feel “secluded” on a naturalist cruise. The landings are very tightly regulated to protect the environment and the wildlife. You will always be in a group of ~16 and you’re not allowed to be out of sight of the naturalist guide in most places. Any of the most distant islands–Genvoesa, Isabela, Fernandina, Española–have stunning scenery and make you feel that, if you’re not at the end of the earth you can at least see it from there. (I especially get that feeling around the western shore of Isabela and Fernandina.) Avoid itineraries that spend a lot of time around the central islands and the population centers on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela.

      I don’t have much experience with luxury-class boats, but I have always rather drooled over the Grace–an elegant 16-passenger ship that was originally a wedding gift from Ari Onassis to Princess Grace and Prince Ranier of Monaco. It isn’t modern luxury but rather old-school “wood everywhere” luxury. But that’s my style–it may not be your style.

      I suggest that you contact an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel to help with your trip. Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours are 3 agencies that get good reviews. (We used CNH Tours to arrange our 2nd trip and were very please with Heather’s help.) They will be far better equipped to help you figure out all of your options, especially if you’re hoping to travel in 2016.

      Best of luck!

      Tina

      Like

  5. THOMAS TULLIO III says:

    Hi… Generally speaking, what would be the best month to see the most? Also, would a cruise inside or outside the islands be preferred? (Sorry if these were asked before.)

    THnx,
    Ton

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Ton–

      No need to worry about repeated questions–there are a lot here! There is no “best” month in the archipelago. Every month of the year, the wildlife are doing fascinating things, so no worries there. If you like hot, more tropical weather, look to the months of Jan. – May; if you like cooler, less humid weather, Sept. – Dec. will suit you well. If you have an inclination toward motion sickness, you might want to avoid Sept. – Nov., which are the months with the highest likelihood of lively seas. If you’re dying to see the magnificent Wave Albatross, shoot for April – mid-Dec. If you want to avoid high season (and likely higher rates and larger crowds), don’t go July, Aug., or from mid-Dec. through early Jan.

      I’m not exactly sure what your mean by inside or outside the islands. Perhaps you mean around the more central islands or around the more distant islands? If that’s the case, definitely try to get to at least 2 of the 4 most distant islands–Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela, and Española. An 8-day “northwest” itinerary is my favorite (assuming you can’t afford a full 15-day cruise), because it goes to 3 of these 4 (Genovesa, Fernandina, and Isabela). But not very many boats offer that one. Even fewer offer another good one–a “southwest” itinerary that heads to Fernandina, Isabela, and Española. But an 8-day western itinerary (featuring the youngest and westernmost islands of Isabela and Fernandina) or an eastern itinerary (highlights, Genovesa in the north and Española in the south) is a good choice and the most common ones available. Itineraries that keep you around the more central islands don’t get you very far from civilization. Many of the landings on those can also be visited by folks just doing day trips; the increased human traffic affects the wildlife so that they tend to live further from the paths than they do on the more distant, less visited islands.

      If that’s not what you were asking, write back and I’ll try again!

      Tina

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  6. Trudy says:

    Am going next month for my bucket trip. Love the blog. Best I’ve read so far. Question-for wet landings do you recommend water shoes and then change into sneakers or just wear sandals? I have an Ameri bag and will be using it throughout our trip (also Machu Pichu). Was great in Israel.No need for any other type of bag.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Trudy–

      I’m glad you’ve found the blog helpful. Thanks for letting me know.

      For wet landings, you can either use some kind of water shoe or sandal (e.g., Keens, Tevas) or just go in barefoot (my usual choice). The pangas pull up on a sandy beach or drop you in an area with a sandy bottom and you wade through water no higher than calf-high, typically. You can bring a small pack towel or use the towels provided by your boat (if they do that) to dry off your feet on the beach and then put on whatever footwear is appropriate for the ensuing walk.

      I’m not familiar with Ameri bag, but it sounds like works great for you!

      Tina

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  7. Tina says:

    Guy sent me a comment, which came only to me. Some of his tips could be helpful for others, so he gave me permission to reprint them here.

    Comment: Dear Tina:
    Coming back from a one week trip to the Galapagos in late October 2014 with my family, I want to thank you for the time and effort you have put in building this Website. Definitely the most useful of all sources around. I agree with others who say that you should make it into a book, including the comments. Some few tips:
    1) Cold water this time of the year, I would not be shy in recommending wet suit for snorkeling or diving, plus gives you some extra sense of safety.
    2) In Post Office Bay, found the sea turtles near the beach but also next to the rocks almost in the limit of the area where you are allowed to explore, don’t give up in the first try!
    3) I don’t know if others have made this recommendation before, but look out for William’s kiosk in Puerto Ayora beginning 7pm for excellent local dinner.
    4) If you travel with a “lancha” (one of the small boats) between Islands, be prepared for a very bumpy ride and don’t take the seats on the upper deck near the pilot. This was the only thing I would change from my trip.
    5) The 2009 book by Thalia Grant and Gregory Estes on Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos (Darwin in Galapagos: footsteps to a new world) is another wonder and gives you another perspective of the trip.
    Thanks again!

    Time: November 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Like

  8. Nathan says:

    Hi Tina,
    Your blog is fantastic! I love it.
    Do you have any recommendations for Travel insurance. We are planing to go in January on TipTop iV for 11 days.
    We were thinking of Trip cancellation for any reason, Medical, Medical evacuation, trip interruption.
    Do you have good experience with any specific insurance companies you can recommend?

    Thanks,

    Nathan

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Nathan–

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I’m glad you’re finding it helpful!

      I wholeheartedly think everyone going on this trip should have trip insurance–especially for medical evacuation. I used the Web site insuremytrip.com to look over a large # of insurance options and come up with one that seemed like it had what we wanted. I think we used Travel Guard, but we purchased that more than 2 years ago. So you’ll do best to start from scratch for yourself. We never had to use our policy (hurrah!), so I can’t speak to its responsiveness if we had had to use it.

      Note that many (if not all) policies will NOT insure against a boat owner’s going out of business. So your best insurance there will be to go with a reputable boat that has been working the waters in the archipelago for many years.

      Tina

      Like

  9. Darin Gartner says:

    Hi Tina,

    Love your blog! My 19 yr old daughter will be teaching English to children for two weeks in January on San Cristobal. My Uncle and I are taging along to see the Galapagos. My daughter will join us on the weekends to tour with us. Can we stay on San Cristobal or will we need to island hop and/or cruise to take it all in. Any advise you have is much appreciated.

    Many thanks,
    Darin Gartner
    Long Island, NY

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Darin–

      I may have already answered your question on TripAdvisor, but you definitely need to at least spend some time on Santa Cruz to get to the few uninhabited islands that permit day trips: Bartolomé, N. Seymour, Santa Fé, S. Plaza, and Floreana (which actually visits more of the town that the naturalist cruise landings do).. Not all day trips are offered every day, so you have to check on availability and stay a bit flexible when you’re in Puerto Ayora.

      If you can, though, I suggest at least a short cruise that goes to some of the less visited islands (meaning, not just those that can be visited via day trips) will give you an even better sense of the archipelago’s wonders.

      Tina

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  10. Cin says:

    Hi Tina, THANK YOU for this treasure trove of information! I am looking at an October booking on the Samba’s NW route. http://www.happygringo.com/ecuador-travel-tours/galapagos-travel-cruises/galapagos-yachts/comfortable-gringo/samba.html The one hang up is I see no posts for her on trip advisor past 2013. Should I worry about that? Many, many thanks!
    Cin

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Cin–

      The Samba is a small (12-passenger) boat in the tourist-superior class (the class right below first-class). I don’t generally recommend many boats in this category, unless you’re really strapped for money But the Samba is 1 of 2 exceptions. (The Angelito is the other exception.) The Samba has a fantastic naturalist guide (Juan Manuel Salcedo) who works many of the tours. (Of course, he does have some weeks off.) The Samba itself isn’t luxurious and its common areas are a bit small. But most folks I’ve heard from have had marvelous experiences on this boat.

      And I think the Samba’s NW itinerary is the best in the archipelago–not just because it goes to Genovesa, Fernandina, and iIabela but also because you snorkel off the northern island Marchena. As far as I know, no other boat goes there and some spectacular snorkeling sightings have been reported there.

      When we were considering our return trip, the Samba’s NW itinerary was in our final 2 choices. We ended up going with the Mary Anne in large part because we could get a larger cabin and the beds were situated so that one could hang one’s feet off the end of the bed. (My husband is quite tall.) The Samba’s bunks all seemed to be hemmed in by walls on both sides.

      I would go on the Samba’s NW itinerary in a heartbeat!

      Tina

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  11. jmhelms@ncsu.edu says:

    Hi Tina,

    I think I am the Nat’l Geo traveler that delivered the post card to your brother and his family! I was searching for the internet looking for info on PO Bay and Floreana and your blog came up. Crazy. I delivered the card mid-late August 2013.

    This is a terrific blog and has helped me write more about the location….I was trying to figure out our ship’s route!

    Kind Regards,
    Jenny

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Jenny–

      The postcard that was delivered to my husband’s brother’s family came from our 1st trip, in May, 2009. (We didn’t fill out any postcards on our 2nd trip there in May, 2013–just left that fun to other folks.) So unless you’re a time traveler, it wasn’t our card that you delivered. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words about the write-ups–I’m glad you’ve found them helpful. I still have one last outing to finish up, then I’ll be done with the 2013 trip. It’s probably rather telling that I’m really dragging my feet on that one. I hate to be finished with them since doing the pieces really keeps the marvelous trip alive in my memory.

      Tina

      Like

  12. Robin says:

    Thanks for this. Really helpful!
    Quick question: is the power outlet the same as the ones in the US? Do I need an adapter for the ship?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Robin–

      The boats (and all of Ecuador, really) use the same outlets as we do in the US. The boats have generators that produce DC current, but inverters convert the DC current into AC current, which we all have in our homes. No adapters of any kind needed!

      Tina

      Like

      • Abigail says:

        Hi Tina,

        Really enjoyed your blog! As someone who gets very sea sick- would you recommend any of the on land tours that take you between the islands but you live on land?

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Abigail–

        This is a tough choice. I’ve not been on the small boats that are used for day trips, so I can’t respond first-hand. But the trips can take more than 2 hours–one way–and, if the seas are even the slightest bit rough, the trips can be very uncomfortable. I’ve read numerous reports of people getting sick on the crossings. Ugh. So a land-based trip is no guarantee that motion sickness won’t be a problem.

        In fact, they can sometimes be even worse than an actual cruise, if you can believe that. Most of the long distances on a naturalist cruise are covered at night. So the sleep-inducing aspects of some motion sickness remedies can really work in your favor there: Take a pill and go to bed. Problem solved. Also, if you haven’t considered scopolamine patches, you might look into them. On both of our trips, about 2/3s of the 16 passengers used some kind of motion sickness remedy–and scopolamine patches were by far the most popular. Check with your physician, if you’re interested. They work well for a wide variety of people, but some folks experience side effects.

        Keep this advice in context, though. I’m a huge fan of naturalist cruises, so my response may be just a tad biased. 😉

        Tina

        Like

  13. Karen says:

    I have used your travel tips to plan my own upcoming trip to the Galapagos Islands. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice!

    Like

  14. Alison says:

    Hello Tina,
    I’ve really enjoyed reading all your fantastic advice and tips, the www is truly lacking such practical help and insight, you are definitely filling a need!
    I’m booked to go on a land based walking tour of the islands in 3 weeks time (yay, very excited) but advice for this type of trip is in even shorter supply. I don’t suppose you have any idea where I could get any further tips for my trip (the internal flight has a very strict 22lb limit for checked luggage, and NO hand luggage, this is proving to be a challenge for me!!)?
    Very many thanks
    Alison
    Ps, I am trying to get hold a copy of the book you mentioned but it doesn’t seem to be available in the UK 😦

    Like

  15. Louise says:

    Thanks so much, Tina. Your reply is so helpful and thorough. All the best, Louise

    Like

  16. Louise says:

    Hi Tina

    What a helpful site you’ve put together. We’re planning to travel in November. After the cruise, we’d like 3-4 days on one of the islands, chilling and maybe doing a couple of walks and boat day trips. Do you have a recommendation for us about which island would be best?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Louise–

      Glad you’ve found the site helpful! It’s truly a labor of love.

      If you want to do day trips to other islands, you’ll need to stay in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. You can reach 5 different islands from there: N. Seymour, Bartolomé, Santa Fé, S. Plaza, and Floreana. The only boat day trip from San Cristóbal is to Floreana, and I think it runs infrequently (but I’m not certain about that). You can’t do any boat day trips from Isabela. So you probably first want to consult your itinerary to see if you hit all of the SC boat day trips on your cruise. (Sometimes an eastern itinerary will indeed get to all of those spots.) PA has the “liveliest” tourist scene (using the term “liveliest” rather loosely)–more options for hotels at a lot of different price ranges, more restaurants, etc. So if your itinerary doesn’t hit all of the 5 islands, PA would be a good choice. Also, if your itinerary doesn’t take you to the highlands of SC to see the Giant Tortoises living free, you could do that as a day trip. That’s a “must see,” in my opinion! Tortuga Bay is a lovely beach that you can get to via a rather long walk. And of course, the shops of PA and the Charles Darwin Research Station (although the exhibits were under construction when we were there, so about all you could do was look at the different age cohorts of the young tortoises in the breeding program).

      If you decide against SC, I think my next choice would be Isabela, if you don’t get there on your itinerary. It doesn’t have as many hotel or restaurant options, but there are a few. You can hire a guide for the walk to Volcán Sierra Negra (not a long hike although it can apparently be quite a muddy slog if it’s been raining). You can also visit several other areas to see wildlife and snorkel. I don’t know Puerto Villamil (the town on Isabela) very well, but you can find lots of info about the sites in books and on the Internet.

      People who spend a few days on San Cristóbal also report good snorkeling (a day trip to Kicker Rock, for instance) and some day trips to other spots on the island (but you’d need to have a guide for anything that is part of the National Park). I know even less about San Cristóbal, but again–lots of information available in books and on the Internet.

      Have a great time planning and anticipating this marvelous adventure!

      Tina

      Like

  17. Grace Rintzler says:

    Thanks so much for your response, Tina. Your blog has been an amazing help! My husband always wants to wait until we get somewhere and buy these things then, but obviously that would not be a great idea for this trip. I will pack lots of sunblock!! Thanks!

    Like

  18. Grace Rintzler says:

    Tina,
    First, please let me add my thanks to you for all of the wonderful information! You mention the need for frequent application of good sunblock. Should we bring from home all of the sunblock we anticipate needing on our trip (ie lots of liquid/cream subject to weight limitations and ‘restrictions of liquids’ on airplanes), or is good sunblock readily available while on our visit to the Galapagos? I’m guessing that somehow we have to plan to bring it with us, and I’m not sure how to deal with this considering the weight and security regulations! Thanks!
    Grace

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Grace–

      I definitely suggest you bring whatever you think you’ll need. If you’re spending a day or so in either Quito or Guayaquil before you head to the archipelago, you could probably buy some there at a bearable price. But sunblock will only be available in the 3 main towns of the Galápaogs, on Santa Cruz, Isabela, or San Cristóbal. Depending on your itinerary, you may or may not have time to shop in any one of those towns. We looked in the grocery store in Puerto Ayora and found it to be VERY expensive there. So put extras in your checked baggage–we have never had any problem with weight restrictions flying to or from the archipelago. Although they put our bags on the scale when we checked it, they just marked “20 Kg” on the receipt without really looking at the exact weight. Had they been grossly over the limit, they might have done something. But I wouldn’t sweat the weight of a few tubes or bottles of sunblock.

      Tina

      Like

  19. Michelle Becker says:

    We leave for the islands in four weeks! Hooray! One question…how convenient was it to change from water shoes (for wet landings) into socks and sneakers for the hiking of the trails? Must we sit down on the ground to wipe our feet and change our shoes? (age has rendered me with not a lot of grace!)

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Michelle–

      I can certainly relate to this! Most of the wet landings are on beaches, which don’t have many other options than sitting on the sand to change shoes. Occasionally, we had some boulders we could lean on, but those were more the exception rather than the rule. In our group of Elderhostel oldsters, we just had to plunk down on the sand and then give each other a hand up to get standing again.

      I was having lower back issues at the time and I brought a collapsible hiking staff along. It gave me something to rest on and use for stretching. It might have helped me up from the beach too, although I didn’t try that.

      Don’t let the lack of grace mar anything. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime!

      Tina

      Like

  20. Pingback: Galapagos Islands – Overview | Sharon and Lee - Just another day

  21. Eileen Hinds says:

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful information. We’re looking at doing this trip, probably through Road Scholar, next fall. It looks like it would be on the Tip Top III. I have a question about food. While we eat fish and chicken, we don’t eat red meat (beef, pork, lamb) at all. Do you think this would be a problem?

    Tina writes:

    I don’t think this will be a problem. As I think back about our meals, I can’t recall a meal that had red meat (although I suppose I could be forgetting something). I too am not a fan of red meat, although I do eat it; so I think I would have remembered. The meals I recall were chicken and lots and lots of fresh fish. But to be sure, I’d make sure to tell the person you work with from Road Scholar (if it’s Laura Hare from Holbrook Travel, tell her I said “hi!”). That person can make sure that the staff on the boat know your preferences. You might also mention it to the naturalist guide when you first board the boat. He/she will be your primary conduit of information to that often-only-Spanish-speaking staff.

    We had a vegetarian on our trip (not totally strict, but she definitely preferred vegetables over meat) and the chef made sure that each meal had a delicious non-meat option.

    Like

  22. Jane Atkinson says:

    On the issue of glasses inside snorkel masks – a very helpful woman told me some time back that you can see better under water without your glasses than you expect. I had avoided snorkeling for this reason, but although I would never drive without my glasses, I snorkel without them and do fine. Something about the refractive quality of water!

    We are going to the Galapagos on January 9 on the Tip Top II and are enjoying your postings. Thanks.

    Like

  23. Bill Barmettler says:

    2012 now, and we’re scheduled to go to the islands in September just like when you went. My wife and I are in the process of reading every bit of it. More helpful advice in one place than all the others combined that we’ve come across so far. I was feeling badly that we’d scheduled in the “low” season but reading about your trip is making me feel better!

    Like

  24. Adita Blanco says:

    We leave in two weeks! Thank you for all the great information. Did you bring a towel in your day pack on the days you went snorkeling? Do the cruise ship provides towels or did you bring your own?

    Tina writes:

    We generally didn’t take a towel with us for snorkeling. On our itinerary, the snorkeling was always at the end of a walk or else we left from the boat or the pangas. So we generally just got back in the panga from the water and headed back to the boat to change. If your itinerary were different—say, a snorkeling opportunity followed by a walk—I suggest that you take a lightweight pack towel, which you can buy at any outdoor/camping store (for example, http://www.rei.com/search?query=pack+towel ). A terrycloth towel would be rather bulky in a day pack, but packtowels are super-absorbent and extremely thin. They wring out really easily and can also be used to dry off your feet after a wet landing, if you want to put on walking shoes. Very handy!

    Like

  25. Sunder Raj says:

    Hi Tina- I have the following schedule from TipTop IV, the iternary looks different, wanted your input into what I can expect from the one below vs. the one you have blogged about. Would appreciate your input

    mar-16
    VIERNES

    BALTRA
    NORTH SEYMOUR
    mar-17
    SABADO
    DARWIN BAY

    PRINCE PHILLIP’S STEPS
    mar-18
    DOMINGO
    JAMES BAY

    ESPUMILLA BEACH/SALT MINES/BUCCANEER COVE
    mar-19
    LUNES
    PUNTA VICENTE ROCA

    PUNTA ESPINOZA
    mar-20
    MARTES
    TAGUS COVE/URBINA BAY

    ELIZABETH BAY
    mar-21
    MIERCOLES
    TINTORERAS/HUMEDALES
    CCAT/WALL OF TEARS
    SIERRA NEGRA VOLCANO
    mar-22
    JUEVES
    PUNTA CORMORANT /CHAMPION ISLET

    POST OFFICE / ASILO DE LA PAZ
    mar-23
    VIERNES
    CHARLES DARWIN STATION

    Tina writes:

    This is a point well worth noting. Since we visited in 2009, all of the boats’ itineraries have changed, since they had to go to a 15-day circuit (visiting a particular island no more often than every 2 weeks rather than weekly). The itinerary you read about here is a pretty typical “eastern” itinerary, which includes the 2 spectacular islands of Española in the southeast and Genovesa in the northeast. Many boats will have one itinerary like that and another one like the one you write about above–a western itinerary that focuses on the newest islands of Isabela and Fernandina in the west of the archipelago. I especially like the Tip Top IV itinerary above because not only do you get to Isabela and Fernandina, but they throw in Genovesa as a bonus! That means you get 3 out of the 4 most amazing, far-away islands on this itinerary. Readers can find more information about choosing an itinerary under the page “Choosing a cruise.”

    Like

  26. Ronnie L Field says:

    Thank you so much for all that great info! We are leaving in a week and, as others have mentioned, it’s hard to find all the answers to question one has about the cruises! But, thanks to you, those questions have been answered for me!

    Like

  27. T-B says:

    Wow, this is just wonderful. Thank you so much. I came here from your posting link on tripadvisor.

    If you are a very fit gal in your 30’s, and hike in the mountains frequently, do you still think you would need a walking stick?

    Tina writes:

    Nope–I don’t think you’ll need a hiking stick, given that description. The paths are wide and flat (and you have to stick to them—so no off-path scrambling!). There may be an occasional short stretch of boulders you wend your way through, but nothing challenging. If I hadn’t been having lower-back issues, I wouldn’t have needed it at all. And I was the only one in our group of “elders” who had one. So you should be just fine.

    Like

  28. C Rupert says:

    Tina, what a wonderful contribute to all of us. Incredibly well written and easy to follow. Thank you so much. I’m glad I found this well in advance of our trip. You most certainly anticipated most all of my questions from selecting an itinerary to packing the right stuff.

    I’m thanking you in advance as your comments and advice will most surely enhance my trip.

    Like

  29. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    Did you or anyone else on board have a laptop? Is it even feasible?
    Again I cannot tell you how much I value your blog. Thanks again
    Nancy

    Tina writes–
    This is a good question; I’ll add some text about my thoughts on this issue. The utility of a laptop will vary, depending on what you want to do with it. If you want to have Internet access, it’s probably not worth dragging it around. Most of the boats don’t have Internet access while you’re underway. If you have a landing in a town (our itinerary put us in only one town–Puerto Ayora), you can probably find access there. But really–aren’t you going to the Galápagos to get away from that sort of thing? 😉

    If you want to use it to backup photos, that’s perhaps a reason to bring it. But if your camera can be hooked up to an external hard drive for downloading, that would be much smaller, lighter, and easier to travel with. But it can still be something extra to worry about. If that’s what you’re worried about, just buy lots and lots of memory sticks for your photos. Some people in our group used a new stick for each day; we just loaded all of our photos onto the same stick, deleting the truly dreadful ones at the end of the night, and sorted them out at home. You can buy so much memory for so little money–and the sticks are small and easy to pack. We bought about 8G of memory and didn’t use that much at all (although we came home with more than 800 photos). But it was good to know we had plenty on hand.

    Like

  30. Pete Postlewaite says:

    Tina – I just discovered your blog and what a delight! My wife and I leave in a month for the Elderhostel (I’m sticking to the name that I’ve known for years) trip on the Tip Top, and reading your blog has answered many of our questions. I do have one question. You indicated that walks following wet landings tended to be relatively flat and easy. Would it reasonable then to take those walks wearing water shoes, rather than struggling to change into (and out of) shoes and socks while sitting on the beach?

    Tina writes:

    I received 2 questions about shoes in one day, so clearly I had not written enough about this issue here! I’ve added some text about footwear for wet landings and a caveat to consider about traditional hiking boots.

    Like

  31. George n Kathy Burnett says:

    Wow…you’re doing such a fantastic job. Thank you for sharing all this useful information. George n Kathy Burnett

    Like

  32. Nataliya says:

    Dear Tina, we are back from 8 days Galapagos cruise. There were few things which I took with me only due to your recomendations and they really helped me: walking stick, binocular and long trousers. Our cathamaran Nemo II was for 12 passengers. Smaller and cheaper then yours, but it was very nice. I liked everything: crew, guide, meal and of course Galapagos by themselves. Thank you once again.

    Like

  33. Kathy Ito says:

    Thank you for such detailed information. We won’t be going until next year, but I like to start researching early, especially since I’m so excited about going.
    This site is now in my favorites list and I’ll be referring to it many times, I’m sure.
    Thank you again!

    Like

  34. Nataliya says:

    Dear Tina, thank you for this great job. I find your notes very usefull. We are going to cruise in May and you have helped me a lot. My question is about cash. Was it safe to leave cash in your cabin on boat? Does they have safebox? Or we should keep all the cash with us all day long?

    Tina wrote back:

    The availability of an in-room safe varies by boat, so check on your specific situation. I’ve heard that some boats have a central safe that the captain oversees. On the Tip Top II, each cabin had an in-room safe that you set to your own combination. (Be sure to do a test run of that combination without anything important in the safe!) We left all of our important papers and spare cash there. The reality is that at least 1 person on the boat can access all of the safes (in case you DIDN’T try that test run first!). However, if something were missing from a safe, it would be pretty easy to trace who had access. And the higher-end boats pride themselves on their reputations for honesty and service. So we felt no qualms about leaving our valuables in the in-room safe.

    Like

  35. shamba says:

    THIS is an amazing blog! I’m getting all sorts of information that I’ve been looking for for weeks! Thanks so much for writing it — ALL of it!

    Like

  36. margaret says:

    I don’t see any mention of an electrical converter for USA products. What type of outlets are at the hotels? Also, did you carry all your cash and valuables with you on each trip or does the hotel room have a safe? Thanks

    Tina wrote:
    I’ll add this information to this page. Ecuador uses the same style of plugs as the US does (typically called Type A and Type B). So hotels as well as the boats have this style of outlet. Our boat (and most of the boats, I imagine) had a generator; an inverter changed the generator’s DC current into AC current. So again, anything we could use in the US, we could use there. Here’s a useful Web page that lets you look this up for other countries.

    Like

  37. Stephanie Welsman says:

    Your site is wonderful, thank you so much for the great information. Did you take binoculars? and if so the details?

    Tina wrote back:

    My husband and I are avid birders, so we both had our Zeiss Classics (10×40). But those were more than was necessary for non-fanatical birders in most situations in the islands. In our group of 16, a number of people didn’t carry binos at all. The rest (except for us) had small, travel-sized binos–perhaps 7x or 8x magnification. Those seemed ample in almost every instance. I can only think of 3 or 4 times when I handed my binos to someone else for a better far-off view. So if you don’t have a pair already, you can probably get by without buying a new pair. If you have a small pair, that should be just fine—no need to spend money on a really expensive pair. But don’t forget a camera or 2 with lots of batteries (or your recharger) and memory cards!

    Like

  38. Jane Neilson says:

    Take for all the great tips and pictures. We go in 10 days.
    Wondering what would be better for the islands considering the walking and the wash off of shoes transferring between boats: a)Leather hiking boots which are Sno-Sealed or b) Nike Walkers (non-high top) with synthetic tops that the rain doesn’t penetrate (breathable)?

    Tina wrote back:

    Personally, I think you’d find the leather hiking boots overkill for the outings. You’ll always be on paths during the island excursions, so you won’t need the extra support that comes with the heavier-weight boot. On the dry landings, I was always in something that sounds a lot like the Nike Walkers you refer to—they were low-cut, sturdy walking/hiking shoes with synthetic tops and a Gore-Tex lining. When hosing off shoes, all that really matters is the soles, so the tops don’t get very wet. But it was good that it didn’t really matter if they did get a bit of overspray. So I’d vote for the Nike Walkers for the dry landings. If you don’t have a pair of water sandals for the wet landings, you can always just take them off and put them back on on the beach (as long as you’re okay with beach walking in them).

    Like

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