Galapagos tips

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Galapagos tips

Post by John Gunthe » Mon, 01 Dec 1997 04:00:00


Hi group,

We (two ***s, two kids) are planning our first trip to Ecuador and the
Galapagos. Due to work requirements, we're pretty well limited to a
(northern hemisphere) summer schedule. My travel style has always been
low budget, adapt-as-you-go, get to know the locals -- but that was
before I had kids. The health and crime danger level I can now accept
has gone up somewhat on their account, but not to extremes. My wife and
I have extensive on-the-ground experience in the Guianas and Brasil, but
not in "Spanish" South America, although we speak very rusty Spanish and
will brush up prior to the trip. We are all very outdoor-oriented, and
really like to avoid artificially-maintained tourist environments like
international hotels and tinted-window tour buses.

Research indicates there is no economical way to see the Galapagos.
Fine, but would anyone care to supply some info on ways to get the most
for the money, and - more important - minimize the schlock content of
such a trip? We will be flying to Ecuador on American Airlines award
certificates from our Hudson Valley, New York home, and spending
(hopefully) 4 weeks. The actual Galapagos portion will doubtless blow
most of the budget, so other activities will have to be economical. How
is "South America on a Shoestring" Ecuador coverage?

Since any reservations or arrangements that impact flight dates must be
in place by 1/6/98, the most pressing issue is with whom we should we
book the Galapagos tour.

Any helpful info will be appreciated. Particularly:
    good or bad tour operations
    good or bad places to stay in Ecuador with locals
    specific Ecuadorian dangers or scams
    interesting off the beaten track activities and transportation
    anything relevant to making the trip especially rewarding for a 10
and 13 year old

Thanks in advance for any time you care to spend imparting your
experience to us. We'd be happy to tell some of our South America travel
or Alaska living stories, or offer computer advice, to anyone who cares
to help.

John Gunther
Bucks vs Bytes Computer Consulting

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by JDeis18 » Mon, 01 Dec 1997 04:00:00




>Any helpful info will be appreciated. Particularly:

    good or bad tour

Quote:>operations

I used Galasam in 1995 and was very satisfied with them.  Since all Galapagos
tour operators must be licensed by the government, there are certain minimum
standards, i.e. they must include a certified guide and follow sanitation
directives, etc.  My only suggestion would be to avoid the "budget" or
"economy" (lowest cost rung) level boats.  These will be totally devoid of
amenities.  Even under the most economic of circumstances, you can count on
spending in excess of $100 per day per person.  Check out the South American
Handbook (Footprint Press) section on Galapagos for listings of tour operators.
 The SAH coverage of Ecuador is excellent.

    good or bad places to stay in Ecuador with locals
    specific

Quote:>Ecuadorian dangers or scams

Ecuador is no less safe than anyplace else in Latin America.

    interesting off the beaten track activities

Quote:>and transportation

Spend the night in Riobamba and take the Riobamba to Guayaquil train.  You
could then fly to the Galapagos from Guayaquil.  It transects the country from
the Andes to the ocean.  You can ride on top.  Your kids will be thrilled!
(You will be too)

    anything relevant to making the trip especially

Quote:>rewarding for a 10

and 13 year old

Your kids will be the envy of all their friends after a trip to Ecuador.
Verify that your Galapagos tour company permits children under 16 -- some
don't.

On the mainland, some of the things that I found most fascinating were the
rural markets, (there's a huge one in Riobamba) some of the most interesting
that I've seen in SAm.  Once again, check the SAH for which days of the week
the markets are in any given locale.  It is fascinating to see the animals --
llamas, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, baby chicks -- and the
buying and selling that goes on.  Eat 'cuy frito' (fried guinea pig) if you
dare.  You can sample fruits like chirimoya and guayaba that we never see in
North America and get a real feeling for what life is like.  

Have a great time in Ecuador.

saludos,
Jessica Deis

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Hilda Miche » Tue, 02 Dec 1997 04:00:00


Hi John,
        We have travelled with kids in tow to various parts of the world
including Latin America, since they were born. Now the two youngest are
12 and 13. We travelled with them in Ecuador when they were 10 and 12
and they had a great time. They liked Ecuador because there were fewer
military types than in some places we've been. We did not go to the
Galapagos because of the expense involved.
        We did however travel for 4 weeks from Quito to Cuenca. The train trip
is very memorable from Alausi south of Riobomba to Guayaquil. There are
also wonderful hikes in the many natural park areas near Riobomba,
Cuenca, and Latacunga. The volcano mountains of Chimborazo, etc. are
spectacular. We also spent several days in Banos and took a bus down a
scary exciting road to Puyo and beyond to the Amazon tributaries basin.
        The ruins of Ingapirca was another site that they found interesting and
memorable. The authentic markets in Latacunga and Riobomba and the
tourist market in Otavalo were all favourites and they loved shopping
and bargaining. We also spent time in city and town playgrounds where
they had informal games of soccer and basketball with local children.
These are among their favourite memories.
        It's odd, but my kids rarely discuss their experiences or adventures
with their friends. Over the years I have noticed this. It seemed
puzzling to me at first but now I think I understand why.
        I hope you and your kids have a great time. Travelling is such an
opening opportunity for kids. Their world in North America is really so
narrow, and going to Ecuador will really enrich their views.
        Regards, Hilda

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Christian Kaise » Wed, 03 Dec 1997 04:00:00


hi John

you can get some info about tour operators in Ecuador at:
http://www4.ecua.net.ec/turismo/operador.htm

I have been to Ecuador in October and was VERY pleased with the organisation

we found (I talked with many of them) - Surtrek - email:

in reality we got on a boat of Rolf Wittmer the TipTop III but there are
cheaper ones (but not so fast...).

also I am putting together a page of my trip - at the moment its nearly
completed in german - but the english version is just growing...
- available at my home page

hasta luego

chris
--
---------------------------------------------------------------

(Z)entrum fr (I)nformatik(D)ienste
Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration
Augasse 2-6, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
Tel.: +43 (1) - 313 36 / 4040
---------------------------------------------------------------
http://olymp.wu-wien.ac.at/usr/adv/kaiser/
---------------------------------------------------------------
life's a beach and then you dive
---------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by John Gunthe » Thu, 04 Dec 1997 04:00:00


Thanks very much to all respondents for the tips and advice. For the benefit
of the group, I'm enclosing copies of the very helpful email replies I
received to date. I've removed senders' full names and email addresses as a
privacy precaution.

John Gunther

Message 1:
    The Galapagos, at least any part of it you are allowed to see, is
intrinsically an artifically maintained tourist environment. Tourism there is
extremely strictly regulated. You do exactly what and when you are told. One
more thing: you can't avoid the tourist problem by going with Ecuadorians!
Mainland Ecuadorians in the Galapagos are just as touristy as Americans in
Yosemite. Of course in the mainland this does not apply, in just they way you
must have experienced elsewhere.    (There is only one town in the Galapagos,
and my experience there is atypical because it was Christmas day and only the
tortoise farm was open.)
    I went there two years ago. I used a US travel company called Wilderness
Travel. They are an "adventure travel" company that runs two yachts, the 85
foot Samba and the 105 foot Andando. Their tours are 7 to 14 days. I was on
the Samba for a week. We had three children (10, 11, and 14) on this trip, and
they were absolutely ecstatic. However, they were ardent outdoors types to
begin with, and great snorkelers.
    These boats take about 10 passengers. I extremely highly recommend these
people. Not Cheap. They will do their best to avoid the tourist syndrome. But
their trips are really truly all-inclusive. These people also offer trips to
other areas of Ecuador, but most of these you can probably book on your own
cheaper. I'm going on their trip called "Headwaters of the Amazon" next
summer.
    There are other "adventure travel" operations that likely will do as well,
including Mountain Travel-Sobek. Obviously there are other operators as well.
Some are more upscale than others.

Message 2:

Quote:>Anybody have any suggestions re the various yachts/ships sailing the

Galapagos.  Is 7 days about right for non-divers?

My wife and I were in the Galapagos Islands several years ago.  Our tour
included the Galapagos and some of the rainforest.  We travelled with Voyagers
Interna. We prepared a diary of our trip.  I will send it to you if you are
interested.

Quote:>I would appreciate receiving your diary.  How long were you in the islands?

Was it the right amount of time?    Thanks for your help.

The boat we were on carried 16 passangers and 8 crew.  We were out about 7
days.  It seemed to be about the right amount of time. But of course we do not
know what we missed.  We did not see "all" of the islands.  Since each island
is unique, I am sure there were other things to see.

Here comes the diary:
                       GALAPAGOS/LA SALVA JOURNAL
2-5-94  Saturday
     Left the house at 7:01 p.m., had to return at 7:15 for Carol's malaria
medicine.  Stayed overnight at the Red Roof Inn near the airport.

2-6-94  Sunday
     6:15 a.m. had breakfast at the airport.  Dean dropped Carol off at the
airport so she could leave her winter jacket in the car.  Airport was not
crowded at all at that time of the morning, so Dean was able to help Carol
carry the luggage to the American check-in counter.
     10:30 a.m. arrived Miami.  Carried our luggage to the SAETA counter for
check-in (was just a matter of going up the elevator and over to the right).
Then, we had 5 hours to kill until our flight left at 4:00.  We found a corner
of the airport, plopped down and began to read.  About 1:00 4 more people in
our Voyager's group came by and we introduced ourselves.  We kept watching for
the other people in our group, but did not see them until we were boarding our
flight for Quito.  One member of their group - Nancy - had missed her
flight out of Boston and had just arrived in Miami at 3:10. They were trying
to make sure her luggage was there.
     The SAETA flight was something else.  The entire plane was called their
"premier" class:  extra leg room and first class service.  As soon as we were
seated on the plane, we were served orange juice before we left, and then
drinks and a small pastry.  For dinner, they placed a cloth on our tray
complete with carnation.  First course was salad and rolls; second course was
choice of chicken, fish, or beef; third course was choice of ice cream or
cheese cake.  Wine and drinks were complimentary.
     During the flight, there were monitors on board which showed the location
of the plane on a map and a subsequent screen showing statistics of altitude,
flying time, arrival time, outside temperature.  During dinner, everyone
watched the complimentary movie "In the Line of Fire".
     In Quito, the people from Nuevo Mundo were responsible for picking us up
and taking us to our Hotel Sabastian.  At the hotel, we found their version of
"Mineral Water" in our bathroom (bubbly, carbonized water that is bottled).
We used this water for brushing our teeth.

2-7-94   Monday
     Had a great "American" breakfast at the hotel.  Buffet included breads,
fresh squeezed juices, fresh pineapple and red papaya, meats, and waffles.
Hotel Sabastian is brand new.  We left 2 suitcases at the hotel (which
contained our clothes and equipment for La Salva).
     11:00 we left for Guayaquil and then on to the Galapagos which are
located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  The flying time from Quito was a
total of 2 1/2 hours, including the stop in Guayaquil.
    We were taken out to our boat - the Dorado.  We met the other passengers
on board and were assigned our cabin (through a drawing) -"Leon Marino" - Sea
Lion, located on the top deck behind the bridge.  We took a ride out to the
"Sleeping Lion" (rock formation) and saw ***ies, Masked ***ies, male
Frigates with their pouches extended -kind of like seeing Eagles for the first
time.  We rode around the rocks, but the birds were really at quite a distance
for viewing.
    We went back to the harbor at San Christibol for the night.  Sea Lions
were everywhere.  They were lounging in and on boats we passed enroute to our
ship.  Also, saw pelicans everywhere.  Frigates are a beautiful bird in flight
- they steal food from other birds.
     Lunch was fish - we ate Granola bars.  Supper was better -spaghetti,
chicken soup and coconut ice cream.  Drinks were extra while on board the
oat.  The choices were the bottled, bubbly mineral water or coke (without ice
cubes).  Amazing how quickly you get used to drinking warm coke or warm water.

     The Group of 16 passengers seem very congenial.  Most seem to be
interested in snorkeling.  Marcia (veterinarian) and Glen (farmer) from
Idaho.  David (optometrist) and Sally from Michigan.  Paul (retired professor)
and Martha from Maine, Nancy from Maine, Patrick (clinical surgeon) and Morag
(physician)
from New Zealand, Theresa and Maria from Germany, Terry (RN) from New Jersey,
*** and Diane from Ohio.
     On the way back to the harbor, saw two sea turtles (looked like they were
on top of each other).  Also, was raining - this is the rainy season.
     Albatrosses are gone - they are in the islands June thru Dec.
     Unpacked our suitcases which entailed throwing things in a drawer (one
for each of us) and*** up a few items.  We have our own toilet and
shower.  No need for plug adaptors. Already re-charging one of the batteries
for the camcorder.
     Had our first briefing on what to expect tomorrow. We'll leave at 2:00
a.m. for the island of Espanola so we are there for breakfast.  We'll do one
landing in the a.m. and Gardner Bay after lunch.  Our guide, Diego, explained
the landing procedures and what we would need to take with us on each
excursion.

2-8-94   Tuesday    Espanola
     7:00 a.m. breakfast.  Carol slept through the alarm.
     7:45 a.m. wet landing - walked ashore in shallow water. Then we dried our
feet and put on our hiking boots.  Walked on a clearly marked path and saw
Blue Footed ***ies, Masked Bobbies, red marine iguanas, and sea lions.  Had
to be careful where you walked so as not to step on the animals/birds.  There
were many blue footed and masked ***y babies.  They'd be nesting right beside
our path and
completely ignored us as we walked by and/or took their pictures.  Tiny lava
lizards.  Walked right up to the
birds/animals and they didn't move - not even a flinch. Sally Lightfoot crabs
all over the place.  Had to be careful to stay on the marked path.  Watched a
Blow Hole.  Myriads of birds all over the place.  Also saw yellow warbler,
ground finch, immature night herron, oyster catcher, swallow-tailed gull.  Sea
lions were playing in the water.  Red billed tropic bird.  Red marine iguanas
didn't move much.
     Rained during breakfast, lunch and dinner - stopped in between when we
were on our walks.
     Afternoon we snorkeled at Gardner Bay.  Saw a Sting Rey, large parrotfish
(gorgeous blue color), cornetfish, angelfish - no sharks.  White-tipped sharks
are common here, but we didn't see any.
     Then, we watched baby sea lions on shore.  They would come right up to
us.  Saw a mama sea lion and 3 babies body surfing in the waves.
     Everyone turned in early - another busy day tomorrow. It's 9:15 and we
are both ready to turn in.

2-9-94  Wednesday   Floreana
     In the morning we went ashore at Punta Comorant.  Saw ghost crabs
disappearing into the sand.
     At Flamingo Lagoon, we saw beautiful flamingos feeding in the brackish
waters.  There were over 100 of them.  At the White Beach (on the other side
of the island), we saw sea turtles mating, and tracks in the sand from where
sea turtles had come ashore to lay their eggs and then returned to sea.
    Then, (all in the a.m.) we went snorkeling at Devil's Crown.  Devil's
Crown is the top of an extinct volcano that is mostly underwater.  The water
was so clear.  We saw beautiful blue and red star fish.  A sea lion was also
swimming with us.  Lots of colorful fish.
     After a quick shower, we headed out to an island nearby where male
frigates could be ...

read more »

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by John Gunthe » Fri, 05 Dec 1997 04:00:00


Thanks very much to all respondents for the tips and advice. For the
benefit
of the group, I'm enclosing copies of the very helpful email replies I
received to date. I've removed senders' full names and email addresses
as a
privacy precaution.

John Gunther

Message 1:
    The Galapagos, at least any part of it you are allowed to see, is
intrinsically an artifically maintained tourist environment. Tourism
there is
extremely strictly regulated. You do exactly what and when you are told.
One
more thing: you can't avoid the tourist problem by going with
Ecuadorians!
Mainland Ecuadorians in the Galapagos are just as touristy as Americans
in
Yosemite. Of course in the mainland this does not apply, in just they
way you
must have experienced elsewhere.    (There is only one town in the
Galapagos,
and my experience there is atypical because it was Christmas day and
only the
tortoise farm was open.)
    I went there two years ago. I used a US travel company called
Wilderness
Travel. They are an "adventure travel" company that runs two yachts, the
85
foot Samba and the 105 foot Andando. Their tours are 7 to 14 days. I was
on
the Samba for a week. We had three children (10, 11, and 14) on this
trip, and
they were absolutely ecstatic. However, they were ardent outdoors types
to
begin with, and great snorkelers.
    These boats take about 10 passengers. I extremely highly recommend
these
people. Not Cheap. They will do their best to avoid the tourist
syndrome. But
their trips are really truly all-inclusive. These people also offer
trips to
other areas of Ecuador, but most of these you can probably book on your
own
cheaper. I'm going on their trip called "Headwaters of the Amazon" next
summer.
    There are other "adventure travel" operations that likely will do as
well,
including Mountain Travel-Sobek. Obviously there are other operators as
well.
Some are more upscale than others.

Message 2:

Quote:>Anybody have any suggestions re the various yachts/ships sailing the

Galapagos.  Is 7 days about right for non-divers?

My wife and I were in the Galapagos Islands several years ago.  Our tour

included the Galapagos and some of the rainforest.  We travelled with
Voyagers
Interna. We prepared a diary of our trip.  I will send it to you if you
are
interested.

Quote:>I would appreciate receiving your diary.  How long were you in the

islands?
Was it the right amount of time?    Thanks for your help.

The boat we were on carried 16 passangers and 8 crew.  We were out about
7
days.  It seemed to be about the right amount of time. But of course we
do not
know what we missed.  We did not see "all" of the islands.  Since each
island
is unique, I am sure there were other things to see.

Here comes the diary:
                       GALAPAGOS/LA SALVA JOURNAL
2-5-94  Saturday
     Left the house at 7:01 p.m., had to return at 7:15 for Carol's
malaria
medicine.  Stayed overnight at the Red Roof Inn near the airport.

2-6-94  Sunday
     6:15 a.m. had breakfast at the airport.  Dean dropped Carol off at
the
airport so she could leave her winter jacket in the car.  Airport was
not
crowded at all at that time of the morning, so Dean was able to help
Carol
carry the luggage to the American check-in counter.
     10:30 a.m. arrived Miami.  Carried our luggage to the SAETA counter
for
check-in (was just a matter of going up the elevator and over to the
right).
Then, we had 5 hours to kill until our flight left at 4:00.  We found a
corner
of the airport, plopped down and began to read.  About 1:00 4 more
people in
our Voyager's group came by and we introduced ourselves.  We kept
watching for
the other people in our group, but did not see them until we were
boarding our
flight for Quito.  One member of their group - Nancy - had missed her
flight out of Boston and had just arrived in Miami at 3:10. They were
trying
to make sure her luggage was there.
     The SAETA flight was something else.  The entire plane was called
their
"premier" class:  extra leg room and first class service.  As soon as we
were
seated on the plane, we were served orange juice before we left, and
then
drinks and a small pastry.  For dinner, they placed a cloth on our tray
complete with carnation.  First course was salad and rolls; second
course was
choice of chicken, fish, or beef; third course was choice of ice cream
or
cheese cake.  Wine and drinks were complimentary.
     During the flight, there were monitors on board which showed the
location
of the plane on a map and a subsequent screen showing statistics of
altitude,
flying time, arrival time, outside temperature.  During dinner, everyone

watched the complimentary movie "In the Line of Fire".
     In Quito, the people from Nuevo Mundo were responsible for picking
us up
and taking us to our Hotel Sabastian.  At the hotel, we found their
version of
"Mineral Water" in our bathroom (bubbly, carbonized water that is
bottled).
We used this water for brushing our teeth.

2-7-94   Monday
     Had a great "American" breakfast at the hotel.  Buffet included
breads,
fresh squeezed juices, fresh pineapple and red papaya, meats, and
waffles.
Hotel Sabastian is brand new.  We left 2 suitcases at the hotel (which
contained our clothes and equipment for La Salva).
     11:00 we left for Guayaquil and then on to the Galapagos which are
located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  The flying time from Quito
was a
total of 2 1/2 hours, including the stop in Guayaquil.
    We were taken out to our boat - the Dorado.  We met the other
passengers
on board and were assigned our cabin (through a drawing) -"Leon Marino"
- Sea
Lion, located on the top deck behind the bridge.  We took a ride out to
the
"Sleeping Lion" (rock formation) and saw ***ies, Masked ***ies, male
Frigates with their pouches extended -kind of like seeing Eagles for the
first
time.  We rode around the rocks, but the birds were really at quite a
distance
for viewing.
    We went back to the harbor at San Christibol for the night.  Sea
Lions
were everywhere.  They were lounging in and on boats we passed enroute
to our
ship.  Also, saw pelicans everywhere.  Frigates are a beautiful bird in
flight
- they steal food from other birds.
     Lunch was fish - we ate Granola bars.  Supper was better
-spaghetti,
chicken soup and coconut ice cream.  Drinks were extra while on board
the
oat.  The choices were the bottled, bubbly mineral water or coke
(without ice
cubes).  Amazing how quickly you get used to drinking warm coke or warm
water.

     The Group of 16 passengers seem very congenial.  Most seem to be
interested in snorkeling.  Marcia (veterinarian) and Glen (farmer) from
Idaho.  David (optometrist) and Sally from Michigan.  Paul (retired
professor)
and Martha from Maine, Nancy from Maine, Patrick (clinical surgeon) and
Morag
(physician)
from New Zealand, Theresa and Maria from Germany, Terry (RN) from New
Jersey,
*** and Diane from Ohio.
     On the way back to the harbor, saw two sea turtles (looked like
they were
on top of each other).  Also, was raining - this is the rainy season.
     Albatrosses are gone - they are in the islands June thru Dec.
     Unpacked our suitcases which entailed throwing things in a drawer
(one
for each of us) and*** up a few items.  We have our own toilet and
shower.  No need for plug adaptors. Already re-charging one of the
batteries
for the camcorder.
     Had our first briefing on what to expect tomorrow. We'll leave at
2:00
a.m. for the island of Espanola so we are there for breakfast.  We'll do
one
landing in the a.m. and Gardner Bay after lunch.  Our guide, Diego,
explained
the landing procedures and what we would need to take with us on each
excursion.

2-8-94   Tuesday    Espanola
     7:00 a.m. breakfast.  Carol slept through the alarm.
     7:45 a.m. wet landing - walked ashore in shallow water. Then we
dried our
feet and put on our hiking boots.  Walked on a clearly marked path and
saw
Blue Footed ***ies, Masked Bobbies, red marine iguanas, and sea lions.
Had
to be careful where you walked so as not to step on the animals/birds.
There
were many blue footed and masked ***y babies.  They'd be nesting right
beside
our path and
completely ignored us as we walked by and/or took their pictures.  Tiny
lava
lizards.  Walked right up to the
birds/animals and they didn't move - not even a flinch. Sally Lightfoot
crabs
all over the place.  Had to be careful to stay on the marked path.
Watched a
Blow Hole.  Myriads of birds all over the place.  Also saw yellow
warbler,
ground finch, immature night herron, oyster catcher, swallow-tailed
gull.  Sea
lions were playing in the water.  Red billed tropic bird.  Red marine
iguanas
didn't move much.
     Rained during breakfast, lunch and dinner - stopped in between when
we
were on our walks.
     Afternoon we snorkeled at Gardner Bay.  Saw a Sting Rey, large
parrotfish
(gorgeous blue color), cornetfish, angelfish - no sharks.  White-tipped
sharks
are common here, but we didn't see any.
     Then, we watched baby sea lions on shore.  They would come right up
to
us.  Saw a mama sea lion and 3 babies body surfing in the waves.
     Everyone turned in early - another busy day tomorrow. It's 9:15 and
we
are both ready to turn in.

2-9-94  Wednesday   Floreana
     In the morning we went ashore at Punta Comorant.  Saw ghost crabs
disappearing into the sand.
     At Flamingo Lagoon, we saw beautiful flamingos feeding in the
brackish
waters.  There were over 100 of them.  At the White Beach (on the other
side
of the island), we saw sea turtles mating, and tracks in the sand from
where
sea turtles had come ashore to lay their eggs and then returned to sea.
    Then, (all in the a.m.) we went snorkeling at Devil's Crown.
Devil's
Crown is the top of an extinct volcano that is mostly underwater.  The
water
was so clear.  We saw beautiful blue and red star fish.  A sea lion was
also
swimming with us.  Lots of colorful fish.
     After a quick shower, we headed out to an island nearby where male
frigates could be ...

read more »

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Jennifer and Bria » Sat, 06 Dec 1997 04:00:00




Quote:> Hi group,

> We (two ***s, two kids) are planning our first trip to Ecuador and the
> Galapagos.  My wife and I have extensive on-the-ground experience in the

Guianas and Brasil, but not in "Spanish" South America, although we speak
very rusty Spanish and will brush up prior to the trip.

Quote:> Any helpful info will be appreciated. Particularly:
>     good or bad tour operations
>     good or bad places to stay in Ecuador with locals
>     specific Ecuadorian dangers or scams
>     interesting off the beaten track activities and transportation
>     anything relevant to making the trip especially rewarding for a 10
> and 13 year old

> Thanks in advance for any time you care to spend imparting your
> experience to us. We'd be happy to tell some of our South America travel
> or Alaska living stories, or offer computer advice, to anyone who cares
> to help.

> John Gunther
> Bucks vs Bytes Computer Consulting

We travelled to the Galapagos Islands in 1996.  We booked the trip when we
arrived in Quito through Angemeyer's (they are very good).  We tried to get
a "last-minute deal" and were somewhat successful.  Everyone who will be
aboard the ship will be paying a different price (it makes for an
interesting dinner conversation).  Generally the people who booked "out of
the country" paid a huge premium.  Prices ranged from a low of about $800
to well over $2000 for an 8-day voyage (including airfare).  you'll
probably want a smaller craft.  We sailed on the Sulidad - a ketch - which
was pretty good.  You'll probably hear good stories and horror stories
about different ships.  We based our choice on "taking the middle road"
i.e. not the cheapest nor the most expensive choice.  Most of the bad
reports were from the lowest budget ships although every once in a while
someone lucked out.  The cheapest trips were apparently arranged once you
got to the Islands (if you have the time and patience).

When we traveled we got by with our "tourist Spanish".  Our crew spoke
enough English to get by and you are bound to get at least one
Spanish-English translator as part of your group.

We were either lucky or cautious, but we had no problems wherever we went
in Ecuador.  Definitely see the Otavalo market but stick around for a
Sunday tour by Zulaytours...well worth the cost of the "tour".

I'd be interested n swapping stories on South America and Alaska (our next
trip??).  Check out our web page at www.passport.ca/~jpayne for other
information.

Talk to you soon
Brian and Jennifer

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Joseph A. Ca » Sat, 06 Dec 1997 04:00:00






> >Any helpful info will be appreciated. Particularly:
>     good or bad tour
> >operations

> I used Galasam in 1995 and was very satisfied with them.  Since all Galapagos
> tour operators must be licensed by the government, there are certain minimum
> standards, i.e. they must include a certified guide and follow sanitation
> directives, etc.  

Like Jessica,  I also used Galasam Tours in 1995 and found their trip to be
very enjoyable.  I was on the motor yacht "Antartida" a comfortable 55ft
boat with space for 10 passengers. The other boat only took 6 passengers
and was much smaller.  

I booked from Australia and paid nop more than a Spanish family who booked
at the last minute in Ecuador to fill some empty spaces.

The Guide was excellent,  the crew very freindly and the program well
organised to avoid being on the islands with passengers of bigger boats.  
The program included several snorkling trips and some off the program
excursions organised by the guide for people who were not interested in
going shopping.  

I wrote a detailed review of this trip for Against the Grain -  a local
publication for photographers.  It's too long to post here but anyone who
would like a copy of the text can email me & I'll gladly email them a copy.

The total cost was approximately USD $1500 including airfares ex-mainland,
cruise, tips for the crew and port taxes.    The only this this cost didn't
include was drinks at the bar.

This trip was 7 packed days. ie the 7 days were all active When I was
looking for atour company,  the worst I came across was a company that
charged $2000 for eight days but this included tours of Quito and***
around airports waiting to be transferred.   The cost didn't include
airfares.  When you worked it all out it was $2400 for 5 days on the
islands.  

Slide film is not available in the islands and no film is sold on the
boats.  I shot 15 rolls during the week.  Non-photographers on the boat
took two rolls for the week and were out of film by the second day. Bring
lots of film even if you are not keen photographers.

I don't need to wish you an enjoyable trip,  I know you'll have one.
Regards
Joe

--
Joseph A. Cali                            

Canberra Australia

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Doug McDonal » Sun, 07 Dec 1997 04:00:00



> We travelled to the Galapagos Islands in 1996.  We booked the trip when we
> arrived in Quito through Angemeyer's (they are very good).

My trip to the Galapagos was also done with that outfit through
a US representative. I agree that they are very good.
My trip cost at the top of the range they quote, but was
on a very luxurious boat. Wonderful food.

Doug McDonald

 
 
 

Galapagos tips

Post by Joh » Sun, 07 Dec 1997 04:00:00




<sniped question re: Galapagos>

Quote:> Any helpful info will be appreciated. Particularly:
>     good or bad tour operations
>     good or bad places to stay in Ecuador with locals
>     specific Ecuadorian dangers or scams
>     interesting off the beaten track activities and transportation
>     anything relevant to making the trip especially rewarding for a 10
> and 13 year old

The tours around the islands are very tightly regimented (and this is no
bad thing). This means that you wont be allowed to e.g. pick a flower,
take home a sea shell, or even leave the established footpaths. Some
children will not be able to cope with the resrictions, whilst some
will understand and comply. Some tour companies will not take young children,
so this is an issue you do need to consider. Only you can decide on this
one! (When we went there were two girls of about 12yrs on our tour, and
they did NOT enjoy the experience).

If you book your trip in Ecuador, it should be cheaper. Also I sincerely
hope you dont need to use the following info but, just in case:

If your Galapagos trip goes wrong (boat breaks down, food really bad, captain
changes itinerary and goes fishing instead, or whatever), then to stand
any chance of getting a refund you MUST lodge a statement of the facts
with El Capitania in Peurto Ayora. He licences the boats that run the
tours and the operators do not want any trouble with him. No matter what they
promise you, do not leave Puerto Ayora until you've made him aware in writing
of your problem. If you booked in USA or Europe then this may be unecessary
as you can probably get it sorted by virtue of the consumer protection
legislation, but if you booked in Quito its essential.

As with other posters I would commend you to read Barry Boyce's book, it
is money well spent, and will give you a really good idea of what to look
for in a tour.

--
John            * If things dont change,     *
                * they'll only stay the same *