Review – Intrepid Tour to Galapagos. Pretrip, Days One & Two

So here it is, a step by step record for anyone who might be interested of my ‘Nine Day’ Intrepid Tour to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. I’ve written about this tour before but I really wanted to get down to some details in not quite ‘diary’ style but I wanted to cover it well.

So. The tour I took is called (now, I think it was something different) the ‘Galapagos Venture’ tour – you can follow the link to the Intrepid page. As it’s telling me from Australia, it starts at around $2600 Australian. I got 15% off for booking at the Flight Centre Expo and a further $150 off for paying by the end of June for the departure on the 6th of October. I paid less than (just) $2000AUD all up, but there would be plenty of costs on the trip. It’s a land based trip and hence is a bit cheaper than the trips where you spend the nights and much of your time on a boat. I think there are pros and cons for both types of trips.

There are two major expenses and several smaller ones I encountered. Firstly there are the meals you need to pay for. According to the current Intrepid website all the breakfasts are now included in the price, for me last year we paid for all bar two or three I think it was. All lunches and dinners are at your own expense and you won’t get the chance to self-cater.

Also, a number of excursions are optional and you pay on the islands for them. I think the one I did cost around $50 US which was for a half day snorkelling trip. But others can be upwards of $150US if you choose them. Then there is $120 in fees to enter Galapagos – $20 at the airport in Quito, $100 at the airport on Baltra Island. You also have tips, and fees when you enter islands.

DAY ONE

As I have said before the ‘nine days’ thing is a bit misleading. It really is seven days and eight nights, as the first day is merely an evening meeting and the final day is not really part of the tour at all. It started at the Hotel de San Francisco in Quito, where I met the others on the tour and the Intrepid team in Quito.

Exterior from the street.

I should make it clear that the guide, Mateo, who was with us all the time we were in the Galapagos, we didn’t meet until we got there. And this is relevant because we were given a lot of information at the pre-trip talk which turned out to be, at best, inaccurate. It mostly involved the fees for various things especially the optional tours from the islands. We were able to put stuff into a different bag and leave it at the hotel in Quito which was a blessing as we could lighten our loads considerably.

We were taken through the itinerary on a basic level, and also it was made clear to us all that tipping is part of Ecuadorian culture and therefore very important that we tip. Especially our guides. We received the wonderful news that we left at 430am the next morning, so sleep was a priority for myself at least. Some went out for dinner. Quito was strangely quiet for the most part of a night anyway.

DAY TWO

The most manic day of the whole tour to be honest, was Day Two. It involved a long sequence of transport to get us to the hotel on Isla Isabella. At 430am I was hoping for a hot shower, but no hot water eventuated. So anyways, we all made our way down to the minibus and we were driven to Quito Airport.

At Quito Airport.

Travelling to Galapagos there was a special x-ray section for those headed there. Fruits and similar food were not allowed on the flight, and we had to pay a fee of $20 for exactly what I’m not sure. The flight was at 6.10am so before we knew it we were up up and away on our way to Galapagos. We took the Columbian Airline Avianca, you can read my review of the airline HERE.

Coming in to land was amazing, we could see so many little islands from the plane as we descended. Once we touched down we walked to the terminal from the plane. To enter here we paid a $100 fee, and we had the option of getting a Galapagos Island stamp in our passport.

We met our guide, Mateo, there at the airport and he got us onto a packed public bus that took us to the south of Baltra Island to a ferry. The crossing to Santa Cruz Island was not a long one, but in the absence of a bridge it was this small ferry that we took. Again it was a public bus that we got onto. Not as packed as the previous one. I think I fell asleep.

Ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz Islands, at the end of the pier.

There didn’t seem to be much on Baltra Island and that bus ride was only a short one. The island wasn’t full of vegetation. But the bus ride through Santa Cruz took us from the north to the south of the island, through green farmland at one point which was rather strange and unexpected. Then down to Puerto Ayora.

Here we had lunch and left our bags at the hotel we were told we’d be staying at when we returned to Santa Cruz. As it turned out, it was full and we were lodged elsewhere. The lunch was in a local place and quite nice, although I was recovering from food poisoning and just braved the soup.

Pier at Puerto Ayora.

Then it was a speed boat to Isla Isabella. The port was quite beautiful with amazing blue-green water and there were sea-lions hanging around nearby for photographs. The boats weren’t allowed to leave from the pier as it would cost them extra in tax, so we took a taxi-boat out to the speed boat. We were the first on board, Mateo liked to get on first so his group could get the best seats – the ones at the back. You get a little wet and are in the sun, but less likely to get sea sick.

Amazing ocean colours as we approach Isla Isabella.

I’d heard warnings about people getting very sea sick on these crossings and people throwing up is very common. But luckily our group (of 16 by the way) seemed to make it across the ocean pretty much without incident.

Then we were taken to our hotel on Isla Isabella, which is the biggest of all the Galapagos Islands. We stayed at the very new Hotel Iguana. We checked in – I had the same roommate for the whole tour. The rooms were big, very nice indeed. Then fifteen minutes before a briefing about the next day. Down to the beach for a walk and more talks about ground rules and dos and don’ts on Galapagos. Like, don’t take iguanas with you (apparently people have tried). Or indeed any animal. Oh and tipping is very important,

Out for dinner. Well, I grabbed a small sandwich and headed to an early bedtime. I was utterly exhausted. And day three started at 630am.

But that’s for another post! May the Journey Never End!

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