Galapagos Islands

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Black Knights
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Galapagos Islands

Post by Black Knights » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:56 pm

For an upcoming anniversary, I'll looking for a quality tour of the Galapagos Islands. I would be interested in any recommendations or experiences Bogleheads have had with such tours. The primary criteria (in order) would be:

(1) The quality of the natural history content: college/graduate level preparatory reading, knowledgeable guide(s), actual time spent in observing/studying flora and fauna, etc. Requirements to write papers or do field work would be okay.

(2) Accommodations. Rustic (even camping) would be okay, but luxury is not a problem and would be preferred assuming criterion (1) above is met.

I assume that the best place to start looking would be museums, natural history institutions, and/or universities. That's a large field, so I would appreciate any help Bogleheads could provide.

For those who have taken such tours: How much time would you recommend to do the islands justice? What's the best time of year? (I suspect the various Darwin anniversaries coming up may impact scheduling.) Any unusual gear/clothing recommendations that one might not think of? Any other helpful tips?
Jed

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We honeymooned in Galapagos this march

Post by diasurfer » Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:51 pm

I strongly recommend CNH Tours (I think they are having website issues right now but don't let that deter you). Our guide was fantastic. (You have to have a guide). He is a level II guide, college educated, and spoke excellent english. The only difference between level II and III guides is III typically speak a third language other than english and spanish. Avoid Level I guides as they are not very knowledgeable and may have poor english.

CNH is run by a former employee of the Darwin Center. She is a Canadian now living in Paris, which is a little odd, but she knows her stuff and her customer service is excellent. She knows how to put a good tour together.

Forget staying on land. You want to see it in a small ship/yacht. There are many different islands. With a cruise, you travel at night and wake up in a new destination every day. Often you would cruise to another nearby site during lunch. If you stay on land in a hotel (by far the most likely place will be Santa Cruz) then you see all of the sites other than Santa Cruz on day trips in much smaller boats. So if you are worried about seasickness, you are ironically much more likely to get seasick if you see the islands this way. You will also waste precious daylight hours traveling between islands.

Each ship has its own itinerary. These are tightly controlled by the government, which is good. You will be here by this time - you will be out by that time. It keeps the foot traffic and overlap to a minimum and helps preserve the sites. I'm a scientist and my wife is a marine biologist so it was hard for us to "stay behind the lines" so to speak like any other tourist, but it is for good reason and we had an excellent time. You can forget about camping, it's not going to happen AFAIK. You can't eat or go to the bathroom on most islands, so I doubt you can camp.

CNH charters the M/Y Samba. It's better when one tour company books the entire boat instead of many companies booking a spot here and there, as there is only one entity that has to answer for quality. The Samba is a fun but tightly run ship with friendly crew. Good food. There were 14 passengers, ship's crew was 5, and the guide, so it is one of the smaller ships. It is comfortable but not luxury. The Samba's itinerary is very good. They tour the west side of Isabella island, which most ships don't see at all. Also, their itinerary is a true 7 day tour. By far most 7 day tours are combinations of 3 day and 4 day tours. You don't want this because you'll waste an entire day in port loading and unloading, and you'll spend the first half of your trip getting to know some of your fellow travellers, and then they leave. Don't even think about doing less than 7 days.

Having good travel companions on your ship really adds to it. CNH bills its tours as "active", and we were up early every morning with days full of hiking and snorkeling. You're not going to get that on the luxury cruises. Because of this, our group was full of active people for the most part. We were the youngest (in our 30's). The rest were retirees or near-retirees. This is mainly because it is very expensive to go there so you're not going to see backpacking college kids. But because our cruise billed itself as active, everyone new what they were getting into and we weren't held back by the older folks.

If you go on a luxury ship, you will see less because it's more like a cruise ship atmosphere than an expedition. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what you want. We were looking for full-on wildlife 24/7 and that's pretty much what we got.

If you want to dive, you have to go on a special dive tour. I think you have to give up too much touring on land to do this. The snorkeling was amazing. Excellent fish, coral, sea stars, sharks, but I can't decide if the highlight was playing with the sea lions or swimming with the giant manta ray. If you want to dive, keep in mind it is expert only due to strong current.

Our tour was priced fairly at around $2500 including 3 days on the mainland, one in Santa Cruz, 7 nights on the ship, and airfare from Quito to Galapagos. You can spend a lot more if you want luxury. I would not recommend spending much less. This trip is going to cost you a lot of money either way and you don't want to be on a crummy ship with mechanical problems, bad food, etc. National Geographic tours offer cruises with expert speakers, but these are way more expensive and more like luxury cruises with large numbers of passengers.

We preferred to read books beforehand and then maximize seeing the nature up close with a good guide in a small group than sit around listening to experts on the ship. Write a paper? Why would you want to do that? IMO if you do the trip right, you're going to be observing nature all day and you're going to have a hard time keeping your eyes open after you're finished with dinner. Keep a few notes in a journal if you wish and write a paper when you get back home.

Look on websites or books on the islands to see month-by-month what the weather and wildlife are doing. It was our honeymoon was our time to go was pretty much set for us. February is actually an excellent time to go. My wife was bummed that the albatross were out to sea while we were there, but otherwise we saw pretty much everything and had great weather.

As you can see, I'm pretty enthusiastic about the place. We're spoiled having traveled the world for science and living in Hawaii, and still, for us it was the trip of a lifetime. That's why we did it now. We've got our first little one on the way already and who knows when we'll get to do something like that again!

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Post by sarak » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:46 pm

Before you go, you should definitely check out the National Geographic documentary series called Galapagos. My boyfriend and I saw it in blu ray and it was phenomenal! You will absolutely be itching to go once you see it. It also helps to understand the nature of the islands before you go so that you can plan to see the things that interest you the most. The most vegetatively developed islands are East of the seahorse shaped island and will be the most evolutionarily advanced with regards to both plants and wildlife.

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Galapagos

Post by Jazztonight » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:10 pm

I HIGHLY recommend the trip to the Galapagos. It was one of the high points of my life, and it will be of yours, too.

The tour we took was over 10 years ago, and we can't find the info. What I can tell you is that the size of our boat was perfect. Not too small, not too large. There were approx. 30 guests plus the crew. 1/3 of the guests were Spanish speaking, and we divided up into 3 tour groups on 3 boats--two English speaking the third Spanish-speaking.

I can tell you that pretty much anyone you meet on this type of tour is going to be interesting and worth talking to. The meals were buffet style, so even though I don't eat meat there was plenty to choose from.

We stayed for the full 7 night tour--we had a choice of 3 nights or 4 nights. This was wise on our part, because the day when others were coming in or getting off, those of us who stayed for 7 were treated to a special tour and got up close to the giant tortoises on a private reserve. Very cool!

I still wear my Galapagos t-shirts (buy several!) and people ask me about the trip all the time.

Finally, we spent a couple of nights in Quito before we went to the Galapagos islands. Although we climbed to the first refugio on Cotapaxi, and went out to dinner with people we met on the plane who live in the city, it was the only place I've ever visited where I was scared to walk down the street at night. We met young tourists who were robbed at gunpoint, and all the hotels had armed guards outside them on the street. Just a word of warning.

If I had it to do over again, I would have combined the trip with a visit to Machu Pichu.

Have a great visit--you won't regret it. The wildlife is incredible.
"What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." Nietzsche

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Post by tonythered » Thu May 20, 2010 2:56 pm

Resurrecting an old thread since I'm definitely interested in more Bogleheads opinions/tips/updates on their Galapagos tours.

It doesn't look like the OP is still active here but I hope he'll return to let us know how the trip was!

I have to burn off vacation time this summer (so... not too much time to plan, but I have lofty goals). This caught my eye:
http://www.geoex.com/adventure-travel/g ... apagos.asp

It is incredibly expensive though, especially when seeing the cost of Diasurfer's trip.

Any current suggestions for Galapagos tours? Also - is this a trip that would be recommended for one? I'll most likely be traveling alone. Is this something best experienced with a friend/loved one?

Thanks all!

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Post by diasurfer » Thu May 20, 2010 3:43 pm

I stand behind my recommendation of CNH Tours. http://www.cnhtours.com

It was incredible, as I described above. We also did Maccu Picchu on this trip (it was our honeymoon) but arranged it ourselves. I think the asking price of the trip in your link is about what we spend for two of us to do Macchu Picchu and Galapagos, and we did not go the "cheap" route.

I recommend emailing Heather at CNH and asking her advice. I would be surprised if she has any available spots in her own cruises this summer (if there are any at all) as these usually get booked months in advance. But she also serves as a broker and can help place you in a good boat.

Being alone is not a big deal as long as you don't mind sharing a cabin with another single. You'll become friends with the other passengers either way. Being alone and booking relatively last second can actually save you a lot of money because you can step in after another cancellation or fill a final open spot in a boat at a discounted rate. Heather can help you find a spot like this. The drawback of course is you have to be flexible.

Good luck. It's an amazing trip.

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Post by Gill » Thu May 20, 2010 4:06 pm

If you wish to do it a little more luxuriously, try the Celebrity Xpedition, a 96-passenger ship that has weekly tours of the Galapagos. It requires a flight from Quito, Equador and then a week in the islands. You live aboard the ship with all your meals and a private cabin and each morning and afternoon you travel to a different island by Zodiak accompanied by a Park guide. The ship never docks. It's an experience of a lifetime.
Bruce

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Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 21, 2010 3:51 am

tonythered wrote:Resurrecting an old thread since I'm definitely interested in more Bogleheads opinions/tips/updates on their Galapagos tours.

It doesn't look like the OP is still active here but I hope he'll return to let us know how the trip was!

I have to burn off vacation time this summer (so... not too much time to plan, but I have lofty goals). This caught my eye:
http://www.geoex.com/adventure-travel/g ... apagos.asp

It is incredibly expensive though, especially when seeing the cost of Diasurfer's trip.

Any current suggestions for Galapagos tours? Also - is this a trip that would be recommended for one? I'll most likely be traveling alone. Is this something best experienced with a friend/loved one?

Thanks all!
It looks like this is an El Nino year (they are blurring and are less sharply defined than prvious, the pattern of seasons in Galapagos is definitely changing).

When we were there early this year you were already seeing abandoned baby sea lions. It COULD be a lot worse by now, and generally wildlife will be badly affected (the fish go away).

This is something you need to check.

We were on with an English tour company called Naturetrek. It was fantastic: we had 14 days of cruising (the order which you do the islands is dictated by the parks authority, so there is a lot of to'ing and fro'ing, which is not always comfortable in rough seas-- take seasickness pills).
Last edited by Valuethinker on Fri May 21, 2010 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by magicmom » Fri May 21, 2010 4:35 am

I have never been but I think National Geographic runs a trip also.

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Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 21, 2010 8:31 am

magicmom wrote:I have never been but I think National Geographic runs a trip also.
They do, and we saw their boat. It is the largest allowed in the islands (52 cabins ie 104 passengers, I think).

The ideal boat size is probably 25 cabins or less.

With a bigger group you get less ashore time (the time to load and unload the rubber panga boats is longer) and when ashore, all groups have to stick together in marked areas, you cannot roam freely.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Galapagos-Natur ... 65&sr=1-34

is well worth reading before going on the trip.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Galapagos-DVD/d ... 604&sr=1-2

is essential viewing before going (note the US DVD will use a different standard, and you can't watch this European standard on a US DVD player without 'locking' it).

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Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 21, 2010 8:41 am

MBMiner wrote:If you wish to do it a little more luxuriously, try the Celebrity Xpedition, a 96-passenger ship that has weekly tours of the Galapagos. It requires a flight from Quito, Equador and then a week in the islands. You live aboard the ship with all your meals and a private cabin and each morning and afternoon you travel to a different island by Zodiak accompanied by a Park guide. The ship never docks. It's an experience of a lifetime.
Bruce
All tours are on this basis as you describe, however I would say a boat with fewer than 48 guests would be better-- more time on land.

Note that the boats vary greatly in quality and it is worth searching blogs for reviews.

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Post by tarnation » Fri May 21, 2010 9:13 am

Valuethinker wrote:
magicmom wrote:I have never been but I think National Geographic runs a trip also.
They do, and we saw their boat. It is the largest allowed in the islands (52 cabins ie 104 passengers, I think).

The ideal boat size is probably 25 cabins or less.

With a bigger group you get less ashore time (the time to load and unload the rubber panga boats is longer) and when ashore, all groups have to stick together in marked areas, you cannot roam freely.
Never been, but have been looking. It looks like National Geographic has two. The other one is 24 cabin / 48 passengers.
http://www.expeditions.com/Ship_Detail92.asp?Ship=9
Image

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Post by Valuethinker » Fri May 21, 2010 10:24 am

tarnation wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
magicmom wrote:I have never been but I think National Geographic runs a trip also.
They do, and we saw their boat. It is the largest allowed in the islands (52 cabins ie 104 passengers, I think).

The ideal boat size is probably 25 cabins or less.

With a bigger group you get less ashore time (the time to load and unload the rubber panga boats is longer) and when ashore, all groups have to stick together in marked areas, you cannot roam freely.
Never been, but have been looking. It looks like National Geographic has two. The other one is 24 cabin / 48 passengers.
http://www.expeditions.com/Ship_Detail92.asp?Ship=9
All boats are operated by local tour companies, the holiday companies here simply contract with them.

Accordingly there are companies you can just sign on with in teh Galapagos through local tour cos in Puerto Vallero (and the other main town), although the quality of the berths, crews, guides and food varies greatly.

We heard of one boat where the guide actually dug in the sand to unearth baby sea turtles! That would actually be a crime.

It's worth doing the digging to get a good boat and guide.

A FEW OTHER THINGS

Don't go in the rough season-- some of those landings are not doable in rough seas. and the seasickness would be ferocious (these are small boats).

Take good seasickness treatments (Sturgeron worked better for me than Gravol) and start on them before you board the boat.

Alcohol on the boats is very expensive: I limited myself to beer (Ecuador has a significant German population and the beer is nice).

Pack number 50+ sun lotion. You are at the Equator, and it is direct sunlight-- gringo skin is not up to it (especially redheads of course).

Sunhats are essential-- many of the islands are treeless. Sunglasses of course.

Take lots of batteries and memory cards. The pictures and video you take will be precious. The boat had a recycle point and we took ordinary alkaline batteries, which have much longer life than rechargeables.

Pack insect repellant-- some of the bugs on the islands are pestilential.

Pack spare shoes. They are rightly hugely concerned about cross contamination between the islands-- one could inadvertently wipe out a species. You have to hose down your shoes after every visit. You'll need separate shoes for the boats.

We took shortie wetsuits and had special masks made (lenses adjusted to our eyes) for snorkelling excursions. I wish we had taken our own fins (the boat fins hurt our feet).

There's lots of sitting time on the boat, airports etc. so I was very grateful I packed a couple of decently dense books (history or Raymond Chandler thrillers in my case).

Ecuadorians are a talkative, and fiercely proud and nationalistic people. Remember the sensititivities and the Latin macho. Do that, and you will find the people wonderful and helpful.


Remember to do as little damage to the environment in every way you can, in the time you are there, and to make donations to the museums and wildlife conservation centres-- especially the Tortoise breeding centres.

Alarm clock very useful-- it's much better to see many of the islands at 6am than at 10.30, if the guide will organize it. Out on the laval it is *hot*.

I would not wear bare legs on the walks: the lava is very sharp in many places (it will cut through a leg of cloth, but at least some protection).

It is, in the end, a sublime experience, the privations of travel well rewarded by the uniqueness of the experience.

In the same way as travelling in Syria, say, is like travelling at the dawn of western civilisation, and travelling in Africa is to become closer to the dawn of the human race, so travelling in Galapagos is travelling at the dawn of the journey of life on this Earth. The gap between us and those little lungfish that crawled out of the sea seems suddenly, very small.

It felt, as if in some way, we were being shown what the world first was like when animals crawled out of the sea onto the still steaming lava. It felt profound, an insight into The Creation. A glimpse of the Creator's Hand at work.

I was, and still am, moved.

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Post by Gill » Fri May 21, 2010 4:18 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
MBMiner wrote:If you wish to do it a little more luxuriously, try the Celebrity Xpedition, a 96-passenger ship that has weekly tours of the Galapagos. It requires a flight from Quito, Equador and then a week in the islands. You live aboard the ship with all your meals and a private cabin and each morning and afternoon you travel to a different island by Zodiak accompanied by a Park guide. The ship never docks. It's an experience of a lifetime.
Bruce
All tours are on this basis as you describe, however I would say a boat with fewer than 48 guests would be better-- more time on land.

Note that the boats vary greatly in quality and it is worth searching blogs for reviews.
I can't see where it would make any difference. The Xpedition sends off about eight Zodiaks with about ten passengers and a guide per Zodiak. There is always a choice of several different excursions. You spend as much of the day as you would like on the islands or snorkeling in the ocean.
Bruce

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Post by rustymutt » Fri May 21, 2010 5:23 pm

Will the Gulf oil leak affect these islands?

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Post by diasurfer » Fri May 21, 2010 5:41 pm

Valuethinker wrote: Take good seasickness treatments (Sturgeron worked better for me than Gravol) and start on them before you board the boat.
Because of the side effects, I would think twice about that unless you already know you are prone to seasickness. We were on a much smaller boat (14 passengers) and only one person had ongoing sea sickness which he fought with medication (he slept more than anyone). Of course, it depends on conditions.

My only health issue was that the night before we started in cruise, I decided in a fit of madness to try a bowl of muscle civiche. Boy was I sick the next day. And still I hobbled out of my cabin and didn't miss a thing. With each island, you have once chance to see it, and I wasn't going to miss a thing.

With our small group and "active tour" billing, there wasn't a day that we weren't in the zodiacs and heading for the island by 6 am.

As VT said, it is awe-inspiring. I stood on a small cliff and watched a huge male sea lion catch a tuna and rip it to shreds in front of me. With all the blood, the sharks went insane, trying to beach themselves to get a piece. I was so close a flying shred of tuna landed on me. Most of the animals have no fear of humans. It is an amazing experience. I'd love to go back.

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Post by tonythered » Sat May 22, 2010 9:57 am

Thank you all! This is excellent information. I wrote the company that Diasurfer recommended and am awaiting a response (will call on Monday if I haven't heard back by then).

The information on the ships and how the cruises work is very helpful, as is Valuethinker's packing list.

The El Nino warning is also helpful - from what I've read, the next several months will be ugly. In fact, the best time to go just ended (I think they recommend November-May). Might take my chances or might go elsewhere this Summer, and look to book Galapagos for next year, which honestly might be more realistic. Still, this sounds like a trip that's definitely worth taking, so thank you all again!

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Post by Valuethinker » Sat May 22, 2010 12:22 pm

rcasement wrote:Will the Gulf oil leak affect these islands?
Since there is the Continent of South America in the way, it will take a long time for the oil to get from the Gulf into the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. Unless it can somehow get through the Panama Canal.

Long run, who knows? We know surprisingly little about the bottom of the sea.

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Post by Valuethinker » Sat May 22, 2010 12:28 pm

MBMiner wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
MBMiner wrote:If you wish to do it a little more luxuriously, try the Celebrity Xpedition, a 96-passenger ship that has weekly tours of the Galapagos. It requires a flight from Quito, Equador and then a week in the islands. You live aboard the ship with all your meals and a private cabin and each morning and afternoon you travel to a different island by Zodiak accompanied by a Park guide. The ship never docks. It's an experience of a lifetime.
Bruce
All tours are on this basis as you describe, however I would say a boat with fewer than 48 guests would be better-- more time on land.

Note that the boats vary greatly in quality and it is worth searching blogs for reviews.
I can't see where it would make any difference. The Xpedition sends off about eight Zodiaks with about ten passengers and a guide per Zodiak. There is always a choice of several different excursions. You spend as much of the day as you would like on the islands or snorkeling in the ocean.
Bruce
Sounds like your trip was very different from ours.

Each island has a quota on how many boats can visit it in a day. So we would often sail overnight, anchor, and pay an early morning visit. Normally the tour guide would give us about an hour or so (you are absolutely NOT allowed to deviate from the group, and from the marked trails-- except when sunning on the beach, no one was ever more than 300 feet ahead or behind the party).

Often we would then have an hour or two snorkeling off the beach or sunbathing. More adventurous souls would take a panga (rubber boat) out further in search of colder water (more sea life).

Then over lunch and nap time we would sail (under power) somewhere else, then usually another visit from about 4pm-7pm (sunset).

So in no place where we ever more than about 4-5 hours (say 2 for a visit, 2 for a swim) at anchor. Unless we could do 2 visits from the same anchorage.

The number of ships that can visit any particular island site per day is strictly regulated by the park authorities (the result is you dash around a lot).

Given the time available for the visits, the fact that we had 2 pangas (20 people) meant loading and unloading went very quickly, and that meant more time actually on shore. A bigger boat there would be less of that.

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Post by Valuethinker » Sat May 22, 2010 12:32 pm

tonythered wrote:Thank you all! This is excellent information. I wrote the company that Diasurfer recommended and am awaiting a response (will call on Monday if I haven't heard back by then).

The information on the ships and how the cruises work is very helpful, as is Valuethinker's packing list.

The El Nino warning is also helpful - from what I've read, the next several months will be ugly. In fact, the best time to go just ended (I think they recommend November-May). Might take my chances or might go elsewhere this Summer, and look to book Galapagos for next year, which honestly might be more realistic. Still, this sounds like a trip that's definitely worth taking, so thank you all again!
The best sea life (and therefore bird life as well) is when the water is cold.

Means some of the islands will be pretty solid rain, though (the microclimates are remarkable-- hot sun on one side, rain on the other, on the same day).

And the roughness of the seas would be a concern. Both in terms of loading and unloading (some of those boat landings are tough) and also in terms of snorkelling (you'd really need to be used to that, and although you can usually rent a wetsuit, we were happier (being quite tall) having our own, that we knew fit-- I think ours are 2mm neoprene (not sure)).

Also I was as seasick as I have ever been the first day (which might be a me thing). Hence my caution about seasickness remedies.

It's definitely worth checking out your particular tour boat-- some of the boats and some of the tour companies are much better than others. I think Lonely Planet Guide has some tips on how to do that.

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Post by JMacDonald » Sat May 22, 2010 1:11 pm

Hi Tony,
Thanks for restarting this interesting conversation. It has sparked my interest in going to the Galapagos.
Best Wishes, | Joe

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Post by taichifan » Sat May 22, 2010 2:58 pm

We visited the Galapagos with an Elderhostel (now Exploritas) group two years ago and it was amazing. On one island there is a wooden walkway that winds around and around up to the top of a "peak" with an amazing view. Walking back down, I was alone between two groups of people, and for a minute, could hear and see not another living human being. There was absolute quiet except for the waves and wind (none of the electronic hum that is so ever present in the world today that I was largely unaware of until that moment). It was like nothing else I have ever experienced. I would return in a minute if I could.

Pamela

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Post by RootyToot » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:59 pm

My husband and I traveled to the Galapagos in October 2008. We used Galapagos Travel. Small group (13); excellent naturalist and tour leader.
They specialize in this part of the world and have 10-day and 14-day trips -- all of that time is spent on the islands. We highly recommend them.

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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by Alf 101 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:02 am

While there are many Galapagos threads here on the Bogleheads site, I'm bumping this one. My wife and I will be heading to the Galapagos now in just under 4 weeks. We'll be on a nine day boat trip with G Adventures, and priorities #1-10 are to see wildlife. Factors such as comfort, luxury, and nightlife are almost completely off the list. We are not combining this with an Inca Trail hike, or similar overland adventure, due to time constraints.

We feel like we have a decent handle on things, but I'm curious if anyone can give some 2018 advice. Here's are some of my questions:

1. We have pretty much a day in Quito at the start of our trip, and an afternoon/evening on the way out. Any recommendations on things to see or do, or great Ecuadorian food?

2. We're planning on spending all the time allocated for snorkeling in the water, and bringing our own wet suits. This is in the 2nd half of August. Would you go with a wet suit top or a shorty?

3. I have a question about footwear. I know there's a lot of getting on and off the boat, in and out of the water, concerns over cross-contamination, and hiking over volcanic rock. I was going to go with one pair of shoes -- some Keen hiking sandals.

4. Anything anyone can share about life on the boat, in general? We made a point of getting on a small boat (around 15 people), and paid a little more for an upper cabin (less engine noise). My guess is alcohol is expensive, but otherwise this is the first time I'll be on a boat for several days.

5. If there are any other high points anyone can add, that would be wonderful. My wife is a biologist and active birder; I'll just be elated if we see iguanas and tortoises. We're reading up, but always interested in what others may have found the most memorable.

Thanks...

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Cyclesafe
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by Cyclesafe » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:08 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:02 am
While there are many Galapagos threads here on the Bogleheads site, I'm bumping this one. My wife and I will be heading to the Galapagos now in just under 4 weeks. We'll be on a nine day boat trip with G Adventures, and priorities #1-10 are to see wildlife. Factors such as comfort, luxury, and nightlife are almost completely off the list. We are not combining this with an Inca Trail hike, or similar overland adventure, due to time constraints.

We feel like we have a decent handle on things, but I'm curious if anyone can give some 2018 advice. Here's are some of my questions:

1. We have pretty much a day in Quito at the start of our trip, and an afternoon/evening on the way out. Any recommendations on things to see or do, or great Ecuadorian food? Took 15 day Galapagos cruise in Nov '17. The airport is not so close to Quito and there can be lots of traffic. I would suggest that with little time available that you book a private tour of the city with an English speaking guide. Your hotel has details. Cost us about $80 for two. Well worth it, plenty of interesting things to see.

2. We're planning on spending all the time allocated for snorkeling in the water, and bringing our own wet suits. This is in the 2nd half of August. Would you go with a wet suit top or a shorty? The water is FREEZING. Bring your wetsuit AND wear the one provided by the boat over your own. If you're bringing a 7mm, you're good to go, but anything thinner....

3. I have a question about footwear. I know there's a lot of getting on and off the boat, in and out of the water, concerns over cross-contamination, and hiking over volcanic rock. I was going to go with one pair of shoes -- some Keen hiking sandals. You'd be better with closed toe shoes, but you can get by with Keens if you are careful.

4. Anything anyone can share about life on the boat, in general? We made a point of getting on a small boat (around 15 people), and paid a little more for an upper cabin (less engine noise). My guess is alcohol is expensive, but otherwise this is the first time I'll be on a boat for several days.Make a point of trying to get along with everyone. You'll appreciate a nice cabin for privacy, however. DW and I saved the drinking for when we were in port.

5. If there are any other high points anyone can add, that would be wonderful. My wife is a biologist and active birder; I'll just be elated if we see iguanas and tortoises. We're reading up, but always interested in what others may have found the most memorable.Bring a waterproof camera for snorkeling and binoculars/camera for birding. In our two weeks we saw virtually every animal advertised and many that weren't. You'll get sick of sea lions and turtles because they block your view of more interesting stuff. Highlights were snorkeling with hammerheads off Kicker Rock and snorkeling with ocean sunfish the size of beach umbrellas off Fernandina.

Thanks...

cadreamer2015
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by cadreamer2015 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:27 pm

Note that Quito is about 9,400 feet in elevation. If you are not coming from a high altitude origin you should consider getting altitude sickness medication to take before you arrive. Take it easy and drink plenty of fluids. An escorted tour is a great idea. We had one that we enjoyed.
De gustibus non est disputandum

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:32 pm

Cyclesafe has it right. Even in August, the Humboldt Current makes the water unbelievably cold. COLD!

You made the right choice to go on a small boat/ship. You will love this trip.

InMyDreams
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by InMyDreams » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:10 am

I melt in the sun, and there are few trees on the uninhabited islands. I had left my umbrella in Quito (limited luggage allowed on the plane to the Islands). It was the only time on my trip that I wanted the umbrella!

I hope you go to a traveler's clinic before you go, or read a tour book carefully. There's info about the correct type of taxi to take in Quito that's important.

Traffic in Quito was terrible, and we spent a lot of time traveling between points of interest.

We were in the Galapagos in March - water temp was just right, only one person wore a wet suit - to protect herself from the sun.

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praxis
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by praxis » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:10 pm

https://www.naturalistjourneys.com/?utm ... dium=email

Naturalist Journeys was our tour company. Our particular trip included a week in the Ecuador mountains and a week on a 20 passenger/10 stateroom power yacht with excellent chef and crew including doctorate student guides. Our focus was birding but included all round exposure to all nature experiences available there. They did a great job. Owner is Peg Abbot, a world class naturalist and birder and hosts tours all over the world. Email her, she's very knowledgeable and helpful. She has around 25 international guides on staff.

Our experience was truly amazing every day. The smaller boat allowed us access to many landings that larger boats needed shuttles to move their guests from boat to shore. We snorkeled with sea lions and penguins and turtles. Many of the bird species we saw on the islands had so little fear of humans that you could walk up to them. Meals were delicious. I witnessed local fishermen pulling up to the galley and offering our chef a choice of seafood for our dinner. We spent the week on board with our guides so education was ongoing.

Our week on the mainland included a bird sanctuary lodge near Quito and a mountain chalet in the Cloud Forest. We saw condors and perhaps 15 species of hummingbirds and so many glorious tanagers and parrots and ampitas. Ecuador is a lovely Latin country.

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praxis
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by praxis » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:16 pm

For homework, I read several guidebooks and My Father's Island and Beak of the Finch. They gave me helpful background and I enjoyed them

ZinCO
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by ZinCO » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:54 pm

Just came back from there last Monday. Can't tell you anything about Quito as we went through Guayaquil. Water temperature was 71/72 everywhere. Those who wore wetsuits only wore shorties, many of the younger people didn't use them at all. The water is very choppy right now, our boat had 46 guests/32 crew and at night, when repositioning, it was swaying all over the place. Seasickness pills provided for those who needed it.

I wore Keens everywhere, no issues unless I got sand in them. Some of the beaches have no rocks whatsoever so you will want to make a wet landing with no shoes at all.

Hope that you get to see the currently-erupting volcano on Isabella. From the East side you can only see steam plumes from lava entering the ocean, but from the West... we made a special trip at night, close enough that we could see lava splashing around in the cone as well as multiple trails of lava down to the sea. I'd guess we were less than 10 miles offshore.

As mentioned above, you will get sick of Sea Lions and Iguanas because on certain islands they are so plentiful. Lots of sharks to see, as well as penguins, cormorants, rays, and unfortunately some jellyfish...

Emilyjane
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Re: Galapagos Islands

Post by Emilyjane » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:26 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:02 am
My wife and I will be heading to the Galapagos now in just under 4 weeks. We'll be on a nine day boat trip with G Adventures,
Hi Alf 101,
How was your trip, and any recommendations for future travelers?
"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance", Confucius

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