Galápagos and Ecuador with Galapagos Travel
My husband and I went on a magnificent 16-day trip to Quito, Ecuador, and the Galápagos Islands, Jan. 6-21, ’03, with Galapagos Travel (783 Rio del Mar Blvd., Ste. 49, Aptos, CA 95003; phone 800/969-9014, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
I chose Galapagos Travel because it is one of the few tour companies that offers more than seven nights in the Galápagos. Many companies offer a 10-day trip, which means seven nights in the Galápagos and three nights in Quito. I wanted to see more of the Galápagos on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I am only sorry that I did not take one of their 14-night cruises.
From the first e-mail to the last phone call the day after we returned, Galapagos Travel was a delight to work with. Barry Boyce, author of “A Traveler’s Guide to the Galápagos Islands,” owns and runs the company. His staff is well versed in the Galápagos and can provide information and advice in planning the trip. A few days before the trip, they called to review all of the last-minute details and to make sure I had no more questions.
Galápagos National Park requires one naturalist for each group of 16 people. Galapagos Travel provides two top-of-the-line guides per 16 people (and we were only 14 on this trip).
The tour itinerary was very active. We often were awakened at 5:30 and off to an early morning hike by 6. This enabled us to see the islands in the cool of the morning and watch the animals while they were the most active. After a wonderful breakfast and a rest, we would go on a deepwater snorkeling expedition usually lasting one to two hours. The afternoon, after another rest and a change in location, provided a twilight hike and sometimes a second snorkeling expedition. I loved the active itinerary, but this may not be for everyone.
We decided to spend extra days in Quito (not included in the package), and the company’s sister company, Galapagos Travel, Quito, provided excellent service in setting up two one-day trips for my husband and me. We took a full-day Imbabura tour to visit various towns, including the Otavalo market, and another full-day tour to Cotopaxi National Park.
The guide that they hired was terrific, and the drivers were extremely capable and pleasant. In addition, they handled all the Quito transfers and gave great assistance in choosing dinner locations and sightseeing sites. I strongly recommend spending the extra days in Quito. It is a wonderful city.
This trip cost $3,550 per person, which included three nights at Hotel Alameda Real in Quito as well as 10 nights aboard the Tip Top III (double occupancy) in the Galápagos. Not included were the flights from the U.S. to Quito, the flights to and from the Galápagos ($389 per person for us) and the $100-per-person national park fee. The day trips cost $129 each for the Imbabura tour and $133 for the Cotopaxi tour, both of which included lunch in charming haciendas.
P.S. If you are looking for dishes or pottery, there is a great outlet called Matisses (12 de Octobre; phone 02-2556205) across from the Swiss Hotel in Quito. They did a wonderful job of packing the dishes for us to take on the plane. (Out of a complete service for 16, only a couple of saucers broke.)
New York, NY