Last year at the start of October I began my South American Adventure with a visit to Galapagos. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it, I wasn’t sure what the best way to visit it was to be honest. It seemed to me that I really needed to consider taking a tour because doing it solo wasn’t very straight forward.
I ummed and ahhed and compared prices for months. I considered a tour on a boat and a land based tour. It seemed most people who’d been there recommended taking a tour. I looked at hotel prices and the day tour prices and really I don’t think that I would have saved an awful lot of money doing it that way and this was all organised for me.
Then there was a discount on Intrepid Tours and I booked it. They called it a ‘nine’ day tour. In fact it was eight nights, but days one and nine hardly counted as part of the tour, we had a dinner-time meeting on the first day and on the last we were free to leave at any time from Quito. Two nights therefore were in Quito. The flights to and from Galapagos were included in the price.
I got 15% off by booking in February 2016, and then another $150 off if I paid by the end of June 2016, meaning I paid less than $2000 Australian – around $1500 US. Eight nights accommodation, transfers on three boats between islands, day tours, flights from and back to Quito, it’s possible that I even saved money when you think about it all. Food (bar a couple of breakfasts) was not included and tipping is pretty much a rule in Ecuador. I still would say I probably came out on top. Oh – also had to pay for entry to Galapagos which was $US120.
So how did I find it? If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I rarely take tours and usually they are just day tours. But sometimes there isn’t a viable choice. And don’t forget we had a guide every day of the tour, organised transfers and all that, not to mention important information handed out when we needed it.
Now – the reality of the tour for me. I had to share a room. Got to be honest – I don’t like sharing, I don’t like not having control of when the light goes out. I am particular and I don’t want to put that on a stranger, just as I don’t want strangers having to cope with my snoring, which I believe can be thunderous.
I don’t like others setting my time table either, and for over a week at that. There were many early mornings. Many. Two of them around 4am, two or three more at 530-6am. With reasons of course, usually to catch transport. Meh but I am NOT a morning person! I like to see things in my own time and my own way.
Fortunately there were a couple of ‘free time’ opportunities. One such day I swam with the sea-lions. Remember that?
The whole thing was go – go – go. We arrive, meet in 10 minutes for a briefing. Then we are off to here and to there. Sometimes I like a chance to catch my breath. The group was lovely with a real mix of people from different countries and with different ages. I think we had 16 in the end, pretty much the maximum for such a trip.
Strangely though, it got cliquey quickly, which was odd and a little uncomfortable for those who were aware of it. I swear it was almost like there was a bunch of ‘cool kids’ in the group. Then there was a volcano hike on the third day on Isla Isabella. It was an incredible place – so much molten rock to hike over. I got seriously left behind because my fitness wasn’t at the same level as the others that chose to hike the difficult bit. Boy did I have an interesting blister.
But for all that there were some good evening meals enjoyed with wine. And I never had to sit down and plan an itinerary or work out what restaurant would suit me. Two of our three hotels on Galapagos were quite nice, the final one however wasn’t a shadow of the standard we’d become used to – although it was classed as a ‘hostel’ on the pretrip itinerary.
We really did see a lot of giant tortoises, which I thought were amazing, however the itinerary took us to three specific places where they are bred and looked after, so I might have limited that to one if I was doing it solo.
One advantage of the tour was the organising of the boats between islands. I should warn people that this way of crossing is not for everyone – the speed boats do move quickly and I think all trips (three in total) were around two hours or a bit more. We went from Santa Cruz to Isabella on the first day, and returned a few days later. Then to Isla San Cristobel from there.
The boats get very hot inside, so it’s a good idea to go at the back. Mind you then you deal with a lot of spray, but you are less likely to get sea sick. Being part of a group our guide got us on the public boats FIRST, so we were able to choose exactly where we sat. A good call.
So – did I make the right choice? Possibly, I have nothing to compare it to. With all the other things I got up to on my mad South American Adventure, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have to plan out Galapagos as well, however I am pretty sure I could have done everything we did by myself in retrospect. Would it have been cheaper or more expensive? That I don’t know. I have to say I think I’d probably do it by myself if I had my time again. I am planning a full review of the tour coming up after my Bangladesh series is completed – probably will take two or three posts.
Have you ever been on a tour? How did you find it? Was it for you? Do you always take tours? Or do everything independently? Please comment below, and May the Journey Never End!