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Galapagos
Old 05-27-2017, 05:31 AM   #1
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Galapagos

DH & I have toyed with the idea of a Galapagos trip but haven't planned it yet. We love nature & animals. However, it's expensive, we don't like or have the wetsuits for cold water diving, and it's hard to get to.

For those of you who have been, did you think it was worth it? If you SCUBA dive, what unique things did you see? Would appreciate your input so we can decide whether to prioritize this on our travel bucket list, which is pretty long.
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Old 05-27-2017, 05:43 AM   #2
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Just got back from there last Monday. No SCUBA, but plenty of snorkeling.

If you're not aware of it, over 97% of the Galapagos archipelago is national park. You can't enter unless you're in the company of an official certified naturalist. That's why it's almost entirely done by means of organized groups.

The wildlife, both marine and land, is utterly amazing and well worth as much time as you want to spend watching it. And it is all so tame (no predators for the most part) that you can be within a few feet of them and they will pretty much ignore you.

Even though it's just a speck on the map, the various islands are fairly spread out and you can't see everything without visiting a number of islands. Another good reason for the organized week-long trips.

Yes, it's quite expensive but for a once in a lifetime trip we felt it was well worth it.

ETA: It's right on the Equator, so forget about cold water.
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Old 05-27-2017, 05:53 AM   #3
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Thanks Braumeister. I've read that the best diving is June-Sept. and water temps underneath the surface are 62-68 F, which definitely requires a thick wetsuit. Even though it's on the equator, cold water currents come down and make the water very chilly at depth.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:19 AM   #4
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A lifetime dream of mine was to see the upland giant tortoises.

We went in May 2016 I can't remember Ms G complaining about the water temperature, all I heard was Wow Wow. Galapagos penguins, White tip reef sharks, Green Sea turtles, Sea lions, are just a couple of our favorite critters we saw only snorkeling.

I hate/love making the comparison, but on the islands it is like the animals are in a zoo but without cages.

Small ships are best because of the limits on the number of tourists on an island at one time. Imagine 25 folks at a time and 150 on a boat, you would spend all your time on the boat waiting. This is why small boat cruises get expensive.

We sailed on La Pinta and were really happy with our trip. We went on to Peru and Machu Picchu while we were in the neighborhood.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:24 AM   #5
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Haven't pulled the plug on this one yet- don't know if I will. If I do it will be with UnCruise Adventures, which I've taken in Alaska and Central America and which is very nature-focused. Unfortunately, it starts at $9K pp double occupancy (excluding airfare, but including just about everything else including alcohol) and I'm a single so it would be more.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:51 AM   #6
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Small ships are best because of the limits on the number of tourists on an island at one time. Imagine 25 folks at a time and 150 on a boat, you would spend all your time on the boat waiting. This is why small boat cruises get expensive.
The largest group allowed ashore is 16 per naturalist. And the ships are limited to 96 max.

We were on a 48 pax ship with four naturalists, so it was just about ideal. For snorkelers, the water temperatures in mid-May were in the mid 70s (F), but they still had shorty wetsuits available if we wanted to use them.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:56 AM   #7
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We are going in November. Bucket list trip.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:57 AM   #8
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Haven't pulled the plug on this one yet- don't know if I will. If I do it will be with UnCruise Adventures, which I've taken in Alaska and Central America and which is very nature-focused. Unfortunately, it starts at $9K pp double occupancy (excluding airfare, but including just about everything else including alcohol) and I'm a single so it would be more.
We used Lindblad/National Geographic for both Alaska and Galapagos. Very happy with both trips. Top notch service and totally dedicated to nature and photography.

We would definitely consider them again for any similar trip.
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Old 05-27-2017, 07:13 AM   #9
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We used Lindblad/National Geographic for both Alaska and Galapagos. Very happy with both trips. Top notch service and totally dedicated to nature and photography.

We would definitely consider them again for any similar trip.
Yeah, I've read about Lindblad/NatGeo and they seem like my kind of cruise line, too. Of course, I'm now getting nice discounts from UnCruise after multiple trips so I'm reluctant to switch!
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Old 05-27-2017, 09:40 AM   #10
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I'm thinking of ordering the 3-D version of Galapagos Island from David Attenborough after reading this thread.
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Old 05-27-2017, 10:00 AM   #11
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If you are a wildlife enthusiast, the Galapagos is the place to go. I visited more than thirty years ago and it is still one of my favorite places. Blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigate birds, and of course the tortoises were fabulous. Not the easiest place to get to nor inexpensive, but well worth the effort and expense.
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Old 05-27-2017, 10:18 AM   #12
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Go! Ecuador is trying to balance revenue generation with preserving the park and revenue seems to be slowly winning. So go soon.

Most ships (the number working in the Galapagos is limited to something like 60) are 16 passenger. We don't like cruises at all, but 16 passengers is quite tolerable. Itineraries are planned and registered with the park a year or so in advance to reduce crowding and minimize impact on the park.

All the travel agencies are selling the same boats. I spent quite a bit of time identifying the actual boat operators (PM me for a spreadsheet), where I expected to be able to negotiate the best discounts. It worked in 2009 when things were slow & yielded about a 40% discount.

Ships come in many varieties. Some fully enclosed decks (why?), some debarking to Zodiacs via ladders, some debarking via a water-level door in the side of the hull. Same-o for diving. So look at a variety and see what you like.

Prices can be a shell game. The airfare from Guayaquil and the park fees can be included or extra. Be sure you are comparing apples and apples when looking at prices.

HTH
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Old 05-27-2017, 12:30 PM   #13
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Good advice oldshooter, we switched vendors and ended up paying a few $k more but for airfare and machu pichu included, smaller boat as well.
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Old 05-27-2017, 01:28 PM   #14
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It's right on the Equator, so forget about cold water.
BZZZZT! Google "humboldt current". The only place in the world where penguins are north of the equator. You can usually win a bar bet on that, because people think penguins are in the north pole, but they're only south pole creatures.

I went snorkeling there as a teen, without a wet suit, and I couldn't take it for more than about 2 minutes.

These pictures are from 1973 at "the seal grotto". I'm the one closest to the camera and my cousin is the one getting into the water. When I got in the water, I really wanted to stay-in because the seals were really fun...they were very curious and swam close to us. But it was so dang cold, I had to get out.
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Old 05-27-2017, 01:46 PM   #15
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I went snorkeling there as a teen, without a wet suit, and I couldn't take it for more than about 2 minutes.
A couple of weeks ago we snorkeled for hours at a time without wet suits and were very comfortable. So there is obviously a lot of variation in the water temps.
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Old 05-28-2017, 06:10 AM   #16
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DW and I went to the Galapagos about 10 years ago. It was one of my favorite trips. We went sort of high end and booked with Inca Tours on an 18 passenger yacht, with great food, roomy berths, and excellent guides. I dive but this was a land and snorkel tour. The snorkeling is among the best I have encountered and I talked to other people who were on dive tours who loved that as well. I took a shorty wet suit I primarily used for windsurfing and was very comfortable with that. Galapagos is a great trip. Here are a couple of photos from snorkeling.
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:22 AM   #17
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DW and I went to the Galapagos about 10 years ago. It was one of my favorite trips. We went sort of high end and booked with Inca Tours on an 18 passenger yacht, with great food, roomy berths, and excellent guides. I dive but this was a land and snorkel tour. The snorkeling is among the best I have encountered and I talked to other people who were on dive tours who loved that as well. I took a shorty wet suit I primarily used for windsurfing and was very comfortable with that. Galapagos is a great trip. Here are a couple of photos from snorkeling.


Wow - amazing photos, thanks for sharing! Does anyone know of a land/dive/snorkel combo cruise? There seem to be liveaboard dive boats or land/snorkel cruises, but not both. I don't want to miss diving if we do that trip, but would also want to see the land animals and do some snorkeling.
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