So, I Took an Intrepid Tour – to Galapagos

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.

Hiking the volcano on Isla Isabella.

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.

Glum accommodation on San Cristobel, last night in Galapagos.

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.

INSIDE the cabin of a inter-island boat.

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.

Keep the sun off but feel the wind on your… face?

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.

Our guide talking about local fruit.

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.

Final night dinner on San Cristobel.

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!

11 comments

  • OMG you are sooooo Intrepid! (sorry, I had to…)

    Sounds ok though. I did a tour of Tasmania once – I won it, so I thought “why not”? I usually do everything independently, but I did appreciate having everything thought out and organised for me – it gives you a bit more time to just kick back and take things in. I still prefer independent travel though.

  • I’ve never been on a tour. The idea of having everything planned for you is good but I just couldn’t share a room with someone. I think in the end for something like this is all about the people you meet, they can make it or break it. But as you say, sometimes you don’t have an option of travelling independently (which for me will always be option 1).
    Overall though, did you think it was all done professionally and that the guides were good?

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • hey Frank thanks for commenting! I’ll be going through the whole tour diary style (well sort of) in the future. Our guide was young and I think didn’t really take into account the different ages and abilities of the group however it was professional enough I guess considering when you think of the way it’s a complete group of strangers every two weeks or so that turn up and you never know what you’re going to get. It was not in any way a high end tour. more to follow in a few weeks

    • it could have been more professional for sure and the guide was a little green, however it was a tour aimed at backpackers. still there were certainly things that could have been done better

  • Thrown among a group of strangers with little or no control over your actions; that sounds like the military. Your pictures were quite nice; they surely justified whatever torments you had to endure. 🙂

  • amazing article.. galapagos seems like heaven on earth to me…i had enjoyed my vacations there alot and the memories are still fresh in my mind..there are following thins to note about galapagos:

    Ecuador uses the dollar
    They charge an absurd amount of interest in credit card purchases so try to pay cash
    Wifi is virtually non-existent so expect to be “disconnected” during your time there. Some hotels have wifi but in my experience it never worked in the room and only in the lobby. If more than a few people were on at the same time or didn’t work. When it did work it was slower than dial up internet and I couldn’t watch any video of any type, couldn’t view Snapchat, etc. It was ok for sending WhatsApp messages
    Bring bug spray or repellent bracelets (I got eaten alive)

  • thanks for writing the most exciting tour memories with us….i feel so relaxed after reading your post…giant tortoises appeals me the most …i wish i could go there at least once in a life

  • I took tours once a while when I want to skip the queue lines (especially in Rome! lol). But usually, I don’t use a tour unless if it makes the travel easily..Thank you for sharing this, Andy!

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