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Leslie_S Feb 27th, 2012 02:45 PM

Thanks for the info on packing for the weather. Boy, this is hard to do on my blackberry - I'll read your report again when I get home to my desktop next week and look for more tips.

Thanks to you too Percy and SPT!

JaneB Feb 27th, 2012 03:50 PM

Percy, can you tell us the tour company that you booked with?

Percy Feb 27th, 2012 05:22 PM

JaneB

I booked with Martin Slater at

[email protected]

I just e-mailed him to find out if he is still doing bookings

for the Galapagos and if he is still with the same company.

I have not heard from him in over a year. We used to e-mail each other about 3-4 times a year.

I for sure will let you all know if I here from him.

Eschew Feb 28th, 2012 12:18 AM

kenav, I think we crossed path with the Millennium in the Galapagos. You'll be amazed at how many ships you come across on a daily basis, and some ship almost daily. (example: the NG ship has almost identical itinerary and we saw them everyday). One of the guide used to work on the Millennium and he mentioned that it is about 10 years old. It is a catamaran but didn't look like one, especailly when you see it from the sides. He said it was quite nice inside when he worked there, but was quite a few years ago.

Leslie, feel free to ask more questions. The TR was posted a couple months ago so I might have forgotten what's there and what's not. Between Percy, SelfPropelledTripot, myself and others, I am sure you will get an answer here.

Jane, have you consider booking with the ship directly? Both the Galapagos Explorer and Isabella have their own web sites and they will look after everything for you, from air travel to and from island, transfers, accomodations etc. I am quite sure other ships will do the same. Your local travel agent may also be able to offer you suggestions.

Back to the weather a bit ... the weather charts shows average temperature and is not a true indication of how hot or cool it is. There are other factors in play such as dew point, wind speed etc.

As I have said earlier, the ocean currents affects the weather and temperature the most. Since it is near the equator, they don't have distrinct seasons like winter or summer. They have wet and dry season, and that's it. Wet season is generally from January to April, and is slightly cooler when it is raining or cloudy.

The only rule of thumbs I can offer is that it would be hot when the sun is out and cool when clouded over. :D I honestly can't remember if I ever checked the temperature daily while we were there.

We wore the same "set-up" everyday: a pair of long pants (with zip-off pant legs that can turn it into a pair of shorts), cotton long sleeve tees, a hat, a light wind breaker and a small back pack that carries the accessories (sun screen, bottled water, small face cloth for sweat, and storing anything that we took off when it gets too hot)

kenav Feb 28th, 2012 05:43 AM

Just heard it's El Nino year. Does anyone think that will effect a cruise at the end of August?

Eschew Feb 28th, 2012 09:46 AM

Nope.

Percy Feb 28th, 2012 10:17 AM

JaneB:

Boo Hoo, my e-mail was returned .

Now I have to wait for Martin to e-mail me when he thinks of me...hey that could be never :)

SelfPropelledTripod Feb 28th, 2012 11:59 AM

Hey, I was on the Isabella II, too! Like Percy, I give it a big thumb's up. On my trip, I lucked out with only 27 people guests on-board. I booked via expeditiontrips.com, whom I recommend highly because they took great care of me when my Antarctica trip got disrupted.

Eschew is exactly right about the currents dominating the climate. A really bad El Nino year can change the timing of the season changes, the food available for the wildlife, etc. I recall reading and hearing from the guides that... ah, check this webpage out, last few paragraphs near the bottom:
http://www.geo.cornell.edu/geology/G...osClimate.html
If it's a really bad El Nino, the land animals do well with more rain, but the sea life suffers due to the lack of the nutrient-rich cold Humbolt Current. Even with an extreme El Nino year, I'm sure it'll still be an amazing trip -- don't let this stop you!

Eschew Feb 28th, 2012 12:59 PM

When we return to the Galapagos, I got to take a serious look at the Isabella now ...

Before we depart, the head naturist told us that they are working on a brand new itinerary for the Galapagos Explorer as the stops that they are making now are getting too crowded as other ships are all stopping at the same places, hence keep running into the NG ship and their groups, and other smaller crafts on an almost daily basis.

We probably will look at a return to the Galapagos around February, March, April or May, the opposit time of our earlier November visit.

We were lucky in that we were there during the bird's mating season, and nursing season for the sea lions. We saw a lot of things quite by accident, not knowing that it was the "right" time to go if you want to experience that sort of things. The weather, was not part of the equation or consideration on when to go. We escaped our North American winter, if that counts towards weather consideration.

Before we return to the Galapagos, I would probably look at timing such as sea turtles laying eggs, hatching season and other "timings"; experience what we couldn't experience the first time around.

Standing there up close watching the courting dance of the blue boobies for almost half an hour was definitely a highlight, we would have stood there for another half hour if it wasn't for the local guide who ushered us along. But then, it was he who made it interesting by whispering in detail what the birds were doing and why they are doing it.

We saw the puffed up red chest of the male frigate birds, and how several of them were jockeying for position and attention of the female.

Those were, for me, a once in a life time experience. Unless we went back around the same time, I doubt it that I will see it agian.

So, what are some of the the nature's finest that we would like to see at the Galapagos? Next, we find out what months those events occur and then we plan the travel around that. Would that be a better strategy or just book it when time convience, pricing, or weather come into play?

SelfPropelledTripod Feb 28th, 2012 08:10 PM

Eschew, eagerly awaiting your future trip report! :-)

I read that the Galapagos national park authorities have forced all ships to abide by new rules to spread out the visits and reduce crowding. This also means new sites to visit! I think the new rules are supposed to be something like that each ship can't return to a site more than once per week, so ships can't just do the same weekly itinerary over and over again.

It'll also be great to hear your comparison of two different ships. I wonder sometimes whether I should splurge for a big name operator (National Geographic, Lindblad, Quark, etc.)

kenav Feb 29th, 2012 06:58 AM

I have heard rumors that Punta Pitt is closed. However, I was just assured by my agent, after he consulted with captains of other vessels as well as the Millennium, that it is open to those vessels that have permission. Just wanted to let people know.

Eschew Mar 3rd, 2012 09:25 PM

SelfPropelledTripod, if the Galapagos National Park forced all ships to spread out the visits, it would be curious to see the compliance rate. Some of the stops are almost "must see". Can you imagine going to the Galapagos and didn't see the pinnacle rock, or the land tortise etc?

I came across this web site recently and it is quite interesting. Kenav, it listed the Millennium as a "first class" boat. The Isabella and the Explorer are listed as "luxury" boats. I am not sure what are the classification difference. There are other lassifications: superior", "toursit" and "economy". There are also ship reviews. You might want to check them out.

http://www.galapagos-travel-advisor.com/

kenav Mar 4th, 2012 06:22 AM

eschew - The luxury boats (vs the first class) are more expensive; that's the difference I see.

Leslie_S Mar 4th, 2012 08:16 AM

Eschew - I re-read your great TR. I think I read it a while ago on cruisecritic. I just realized that we'll be on the same ship so it was interesting to read about the specifics of the daily routine.

I don't think you talked about this above but some people have said when they got back on their ship after a landing they had to leave their shoes/sandals at the rear of the boat and not just rinse them and keep going. It sounded like your experience was different - you rinsed them but then were allowed to wear the same shoes around the boat - is that correct?

Also when you say no sandals in the dining room at dinner - that seems very strict since most women even if wearing a skirt or dress would wear sandals with it in warm weather. Do you mean no sandals only for men? And if so, what did most men wear, boat shoes or running shoes or? My husband will not be taking wingtips to the Galapagos! :)

Eschew Mar 7th, 2012 09:37 PM

Kenav, when we book, we did not spent too much time looking at rates as we are "mass market" crusiers and wanted to be on the bigger boats. All we did was check prices on 3 ships, the Explorer II, the Xpedition, and the NG ship. The reason why we picked those 3 as they were similar sized, holding the same number of passengers (max 100 allowed).

We picked the Explorer II for a number of reasons, but the most important one was the timing (sail date and end date) and how it was seamlessly merged with our Peru land tour prior to the crusie. As it turns out, it was the cheapest of the 3 but not by much. I am not sure what the smaller ships would charge so I can't comment on price comparison between the "luxury" and "first class" or what are the differences between them.

Leslie, when will you be sailing? My trip was in November 2011 so it was relatviely recent and was after the Aug 2011 refit of the ship. I don't recall posting this particular TR on cruise critic, and if I did, it would be after the TR was totally completed here as it was written in segments. I like the interaction on a TR here as oppose to the crusie critics where your post and that's it.

They used warm water to hose down your feet and footware after a wet landing. You wore your wet shoes or walk with wet feet up the steps and go to either the back of the ship to drop off or clean your wet gear, or into the lobby (where they put towels on the floor to help keep the floor dry).

Once you get your cabin key from the front desk, you typically will return to your cabin and change into dry shoes.

You are correct in saying that you were allowed to wear the same shoes around the boat. I certainly wouldn't be wearing them anywhere if they are wet.

On a dry landing, they have a mat/tray with running water that you must stepped on so your shoe shouldn't get too wet, and it should be dry when you get up the steps.

I cannot stress the importance of proper footware. You may want to revisit the footwear section on the type of shoes that we used and what the guides used. You certainly wouldn't want to have shoes that stay wet for any period of time, or flip flops for any type of excursions on the Galapagos.

Proper attire was requested for dinner in the dining room, the usual no tank top, cut offs, shorts etc. Breakfast and lunch is pretty well anything goes. To be honest, I can't see them refuse service even if you were not dressed "appropriately".

When I said no sandals, I was thinking about flip flops. Men typically don't wear flip flops with dress pants or even jeans going to a restaurant anyway. I see the dress code for dinner (smart causal or country club casual) is a guide line; see the paragraph above about refuse service.

Back to the shoes one more time. In the dining room during dinner time, I typically saw dress shoes (with dress pants), or running shoes (with jeans); there were more men wearing dress pants than jeans. Dress shoes does not equate wing tip in my books so a pair of loafers, or walking shoes probably would do the trick, and they are probably comforatble worn thru-out the ship.

Some, like me, wore cheater shoes that looks dressy but was really hiking shoes or wet shoes. Again, refer to the footwear section in the TR on what DW was wearing and what I brought along. Those shoes may take some time to get used to, so if you intend to wear them, buy them now and break-in.

I have posted some pictures of the trip on line. All the links are in the TR but here is one of them.
http://travel.webshots.com/album/582034887dLHsDS

Lastly, thank you for your kind comemnt about the TR. I hope you find the info useful and helped you with your planning and setting the expectation.

I did not go into the detail of each stop and each excursion as what you will see is rally dependent on the timing. We were lucky that we were there during the bird's mating season. You go at a different time, you may see the same wild-life, but the settings are different, and what they are doing are also different.

Leslie_S Mar 8th, 2012 05:27 AM

Thanks again eschew for the explanation of what happens with shoes. I think we have the kind of footwear we'll need for wet & dry landings.

I must have gotten confused about cruisecritic, I could've sworn I read your TR there -- oops.

I really enjoyed your pictures - how cool to have sea lions swimming so close to snorkelers! Since we'll be there at the opposite time of year (if that makes sense) in May I imagine we'll have quite different experiences. I'm getting excited - only 2 months to go now!

Eschew Mar 8th, 2012 08:10 PM

Leslie, post a TR after you are done. Would love to hear about your experience. We are looking at possibly going back in a few years time, and looking at a May Juen time frame so it would be great if we knew what your expereince were.

If you are going to be on the Explorer II, say hi to Cezar (local guide) and Daniella (photographer) if you come across them.

Cezar has a great sense of humor and he is extremely helpful. He is the "lead" guide but not the head naturalist. As to Daniella, she is leaving the ship after her contract is up and she was planning to go to Spain to further her studies. She will take your pictures for you with your camera if you ask. That doesn't happen on the mass market ships as they want you to buy their pictures. She does sell her pictures and she will seek you out and get you the pictures you ordered and collect the money. The ship will have pictures she took shown on the TV in your cabin. If you want to buy a certain puicture, go talk to her directly.

She also sell picture CDs on the last day but I knew of a couple situations where the CD was faulty, and I have not heard back about the results of their request for replacement. Unless you can check the CD and see if they work, I will say be careful. The CD I bought worked fine. The resolution of the pictures on the CD, however, is not hi-res.

By the way, Daniella's nick name is tinkerbell. You will have to find out on your own why she was called that. :D If you still don't know after you get back, I will tell you.

Internet. It is available but you should buy a package unless you get it included as part of your cruise fare. Check out your cruise contract and see if internet is included or you were given a credit for internet. If it is nit, ask your TA ans see if the ship is willing to throw in some credit. The wi-fi works good all over inside the ship.

Leslie_S Mar 9th, 2012 08:55 AM

I'll do a trip report when I get back. I say that and will TRY to force myself to do it. By the time a few weeks has passed after returning from a trip I sort of move on to the next one in the planning pipeline and never get my energy back up for the previous one's report.

It's nice to hear the staff gets two thumbs up. I'll keep an eye out for Cezar and Tinkerbell. :)

Eschew Mar 10th, 2012 09:30 PM

Leslie, have a great trip. Just rest up before you go. The daily early wake up calls and the daily excursion can be very tiring. As long as you know wha the challenges were, you can try to avoid them or make the best of it. I really want a TR so that we know my experience isn't one off.

Leslie_S Mar 11th, 2012 06:27 AM

Thanks, Eschew! I'll take lots of notes so I can give you a TR to compare with your experience.

Part of the reason we chose this particular trip is my mom's great experience last spring with the same company/same ship. So I think if she has the energy required to keep up I'll be okay ;)

Her tour continued on after the Galapagos to Machu Picchu but since we've been there already we're only doing the 8 day Galapagos/Quito tour. Quick and limited, I realize. I'm not used to such short trips - it does seem wasteful to go all that way and not see more but the international air was included with the tour price and dates are set in stone so you can't extend on either end -- so we're going with the flow on this tour and will tack on a visit to my mom on the Gulf coast of Florida on the way home.

Anyway, thanks again for your great report and advice. Look for mine in June!

Eschew Mar 19th, 2012 12:13 PM

The ship has been renovated since last Spring (Dry docked last August) sp the ship should be in even better shape than what your Mom experienced.

Take lots of pictures and post them!

Leslie_S Mar 22nd, 2012 10:21 AM

Oh, good to know as she thought it was a lot nicer than she expected. I'll take pix. The problem will be narrowing them down to a postable amount but that's a chore I look forward to :)

Librarylass Mar 26th, 2012 10:25 PM

Hi Eschew,
Thank you for such a in-depth description of your time in the Galapagos on the Galapagos Explorer II! My sister and I will be leaving for Peru and Ecuador in 2 weeks covering some of what you did on your trip. You answered so many questions that I had about what to expect!
I have to say that I'm really curious about what happened to you in Ollantaytambo. You mentioned that you hurt your arm--did you hurt yourself while looking at the ruins? Is there something about visiting the ruins that we should be careful of? I hope your arm has healed by now.
P.S. Great photographs!

Eschew Mar 28th, 2012 03:27 PM

Librarylass, thank you for your comments.

My "injury" at Ollantaytambo was a total accident, and I blame myself for being a bit careless. At the time of our visit, it was the start of the raining season and it had been raining for a few days prior to our arrival at Ollantaytambo.

We walked up the steps to the top and the rocks were wet and slippery. It was raining steadily te whole time. The grounds were muddy and water was running down from the top, through the trail and the steps.

Two of us decided to take the terraces' steps to go from one terrace to terrace, to experince what the Inca people had done for years. Those "steps" were rocks that just stick out on the side of the wall of the terrace. (You will know what I mean by the terrace steps once you see it in person, and it is hard to show it on a picture.) That was fine as we were extra careful on those steps.

Once we were done with our "stunts", we got back to the regular path (and steps). On our way down, I slipped and started to slide down the side (not good) so I extended my right hand to break the fall (and slide). I ended up jamming my thumb and my right arm all the way up and to the shoulder very hard. It was quite a jolt, especially cosnidering my "advanced age" ;).

What to watch out for? Slippery steps when it is wet. :)

I was careless as I thought it would be nothing after racing through the Terarce steps. I was sort of "hurrying" to catch up to DW so that might have added to my extra opportunity for the mis-step.

I was okay the first day other than the bruises on my rear end and the back side. DW took a picture of the black and bruised rear end for "posterity" but it wouldn't be suitable for pubic viewing.:D (to Percy & Larry, you can hold back your laughter now)

The day after, my palm and my thumb started to swallon up (I can't even hold a pen to sign my name to check into the hotel). My neck and my shoulder get realy stiff and I lost some movement. i can only turn my head up to about 15 degrees (not very much) and I only have limited range of motion on my right arm becasue of the stiff neck and shoulder. As of to date, I am almost back to normal (as ormal can be).

By the way, I have added a handful of pictures to the Galapagos albumn. the additions were snorkelling with the sea turtles, the land bridge, and the "shell" game. I was surpirse that I did not post them earlier.

Have a great trip and I would love to hear about your adventure on a TR here!

Librarylass Mar 31st, 2012 08:20 AM

Ouch! Oh Oh Eschew --it sounds like something I would do. Last November--( perhaps while you were falling down ruins in Peru) I was in Kauai--running to tell my DH about the amazing whale spout I just spotted-tripped over a small lava rock planter and landed on a cement patio--fractured wrist (still bothering me) and ended up sporting multiple bruises and pizza-skin patches as well. I have a history of falling down while excited about seeing swell stuff. Now will make extra effort to be careful at Ollantaytambo/Peru ruins.
Enjoyed your added photos. We leave for Peru/Ecuador in 8 days!

Eschew Apr 1st, 2012 11:39 AM

Librarylass, I had good hiking boots on at the time. The combination of mud on my shoes, slippery rocky steps, and steady rain did not help.

If you are adventurous on your footware, you should check out the footware selection that I had worn at the Galapagos. At this point, we may return to thr Galapagos in May (in 2 to 3 year's time) and stop in other islands.

Are you going to make stops at Puno (Lake Titicaca) or Pisco/Ica to see the Nazca lines?

kenav Apr 2nd, 2012 05:29 AM

What shoes did you wear while on land in the Galapagos?

Eschew Apr 5th, 2012 10:49 AM

My Vivo minimalist or the Vibram 5-fingers depending on the terrain. If it is strictly hikes, Vibram. If it is hike & beach or snorkel, Vivo.

Vivo are very easy shoes to get used to. The Vibram, on the other hand, take some getting used to. You can definely use Vivo for all ocassions (except for sharp volanic rocks, you want a thicker bottom layer for that.) If you don't want to try Vibram, normal hiking shoes will do for the sharp volcanic rocks.

If you do not wear fins for snorkelling, the Vibram will work fine for beach & snorkelling as well. You can defineitly get both shoes wet with no issues. They are meant to get wet,a nd dries relatively fast. The Vibram may takes longer to dry than the Vivo (depending on which Vibram model you bought).

If you are not adventureous with your footware and do not want to try minialist shoes, Crocs would certainly do the trick for all wet landings and comfortable.

Librarylass Apr 6th, 2012 06:58 AM

Hi Again Eschew,

Yup, I have light hiking boots (Merrill waterproof)for walking the ruins and the rough parts of Galapagos. My trusty old Teva's will work for wet landings in the islands.
Do you recall if you did wet landings and rough terrain walks in the same panga trip? If so I may attempt barefoot landing and take my boots with me. I hate getting pebbles and stuff in sandals while on trails==ugh.
Oh, unfortunately we won't go to Lake T or see the Nazca lines--sigh. Really fun to see your pix of those spots!We are traveling with a Smartours itinerary so will not see as much cool stuff as you did. Thanks again for taking the time to give us such a comprehensive report--it was sooo helpful!
Chow for now!

Leslie_S Apr 6th, 2012 07:51 AM

Librarylass -- Hope you enjoy your rapidly approaching trip. Will you be writing anything up when you return? We're also doing a smartours Galapagos trip (not until May) and would love to hear your opinion (unless it's awful - then I don't need to know!!).

We're only doing the Ecuador portion because we've been to Peru recently.

I'd be especially interested to hear about the shoes you end up using & would recommend. Some make it sound like real hiking boots on lava are good to have but some have done it in flipflops (I would never do that) so there's quite a range when you read about other people's thoughts on footwear.

Librarylass Apr 6th, 2012 07:11 PM

Hi Leslie S,
We are flying to Miami tomorrow! I'm not much on keeping a journal--so don't plan to do a comprehensive review--but certainly will be willing to respond to questions! We will return home (CA) on 4/24--so will check back then and let you know what I see re: shoes. My sis plans to wear her regular walking shoes--not hiking boots--so we will make a comparison. She also has Tevas for wet landings.
Chow for now!

Eschew Apr 6th, 2012 10:13 PM

Librarylass, we have done wet landing and then hike (landed on the beach with volanic balck sand) If you plan to remove shoes, go barefoot when borading the zodiac, bring a small towel. Wet landing, wipe feet, put on shoes. That's where the minimalist shoes and Croc shoes comes in handy. I hope you catch this reply before you leave. Have a great trip!

Librarylass Apr 26th, 2012 07:36 AM

Hi all,
Just back from my SmarTours trip to Machu Picchu and Galapagos (5 days 4 nights) "cruise" on the MV Explorer II..and I'm still in the "wow--did all that really happen?!" stage of adventure travel. If you have any particular questions--ask me soon--I didn't have the time or energy to keep a journal--so don't know how long the gray matter will hold on to it all--and it was truly an action-packed and amazing journey! wow!

Leslie_S Apr 26th, 2012 08:23 AM

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great trip from the little bit you wrote above. Did you think smartours did a good job? No problems with the hotel in Quito or the touring there?

Can you give me a hint about the level of "dressiness" on the ship for dinner? I'm hoping to be very casual - or did people get done up in the evenings?

Also - can you tell me what kind of shoes you wore? The whole wet landing thing perplexes me. I have some teva-like sandals that are waterproof but will I want to change out of them after getting on land into something sturdier and covered up? Should I take for example running shoes in my backpack and switch once we land?

Should I be doing research on Quito as far as restaurants near the Hilton (assuming you stayed in the same hotel we will be in a couple weeks) or are there good options close by?

Thanks for any answers or other advice!

Librarylass Apr 26th, 2012 01:53 PM

Hi Leslie S! Yes SmarTours did an excellent job of taking care of us--that's the way you will feel--well taken care of. I hope you get William Arevalo for your Ecuador Tour Guide--he is excellent! We were surprised to discover that he was to go with us to the Galapagos as well--and it was so good to have him there with us. He really filled in all the little blanks for us and made sure we were happy with everything. Oh the hotel in Quito is really nice--the Hilton Colon--right? Just like Eschew we bingoed with a view of the park and mountains from our 9th floor room on the first go around--but didn't get that view on our second visit--however the room and service were still excellent. We left our big luggage in the hotel storage(free service through smarTours) and took a duffel bag of appropriate clothing with us to Galapagos. When we returned from the islands our big luggage was already waiting for is in our new room---great service. Some folks decided to take their big luggage with them--which is OK if under 44 lbs. We didn't want to be bothered with our clothing from the Peru part of our trip. There are a couple good restaurants in Quito that William recommended and several folks went to and were very pleased with the food, etc. Be sure to only use taxis that are approved by the hotel and verify the fare before you get in the taxi. When you leave the restaurant to return to hotel have them get a taxi for you--then you know it will be an honest driver. A couple ladies had a bit of a problem with a taxi driver they waved down on the street --he wanted to keep the fare open to reveal at the end of the trip--not! Frankly, my sis and I ate in the hotel--the food was fine... and we were too exhausted at the end of each day to bother with finding a restaurant, etc.
On the ship-- dinner is about 8:00-ish each night and the most dressed woman up I saw had a dressy top with sparkly bits on it. Nothing anywhere near cocktail dressy. I wore white capri pants and nice tee shirts and sandals. There were no " appropriate clothing police" and some folks even wore their tevas or sneakers to dins. A couple ladies wore summer dresses--but nothing really fancy.
As far as footwear to/on the islands --I wore teva sandals for the wet landings--I'm glad I didn't go barefooted because there were small rocks even in the sandy parts and I personally didn't want to take chance with bruising my feet.
Once we had a wet landing with a hike--and they recommended that we take walking shoes along if we wished. I opted to just wear my tevas for the landing and the walk and later regretted it. I should have done as Eschew suggested--taken my walking shoes with me to put on after the landing. The tevas just didn't give me the stability I needed for parts of the hike. I thought the hike was going to have a smooth path--but it didn't--silly me. My sis wore her regular walking (tennis/running) shoes for all the hikes and the dry landingd. For the dry landings I wore my lightweight hiking shoes (Merrills) because I really appreciate the extra stability they give me. A couple of the dry landing hikes (especially on Espanola)you are walking on lava rocks (seemed more like boulders to me sometimes!)--I felt that the potential for me to twist my ankle was high ( I will be 70 in a few months--and just not as nimble on my feet as I wish I could be!) the hiking shoes gave me confidence and stability--that and watching nearly every step I took!
Oh-- when we returned to Quito our guide William offerred an optional day trip to the cloud forest for the last day there. Since I'm not a big shopper (anymore) and love to do birdwatching, and other nature stuff-- so me and my sis took that trip ( most of our group did) and wow! was it wonderful--if it sounds like something you might be interested in doing--let me know and I will tell you more about it. Some people opted to stay in town and shop, etc and they had fun too.
Have you received your final itinerary from SmarTours yet?It will have the name of your guide for the trip.
Chow for now,
Librarylass

Leslie_S Apr 26th, 2012 02:55 PM

Hi Librarylass -
Wow thanks for all of the helpful info. We have a different guide, Henry Teran the itinerary says, so hopefully he'll be as good as yours.

I'm thrilled to hear smartours came through - the prices on their trips are so cheap it seems way too good to be true. I've taken one trip with them previously to India/Nepal and thought it was fabulous so I was willing to take a chance on the Galapagos trip with them.

So glad to hear dinner on the ship is not dressy. I'm trying to pack super light and that'll be much easier if I don't need frou-frou clothes and shoes. I think we'll each have one small roll-aboard piece and a backpack so maybe we won't leave any luggage behind in Quito. We're not doing the Peru portion of the trip so we'll have less than you guys did.

And I'm happy to have the low-down on footwear. I'll wear the waterproof sandals I have but take my trail shoes - running shoes but a little sturdier -- to change into for hikes.

How did you do with snorkeling? Was the water an ok temperature? Any up close & personal experiences with critters -- sharks, penguins, sea lions? I'm a little bit wimpy but I'm going to force myself to snorkel unless I see sharks and then I am outta there!

What about the temps in general - I'm imagining in Quito we might need some warmer clothes - will a fleece be enough do you think? I remember Cuzco, Peru at night being very
chilly so I want to make sure to be prepared. Once you're in the islands was it cool in the mornings or night - any need for warmer clothes there too?

The cloud forest trip sounds great - I'd rather do that than shopping. I'm glad to know it's worthwhile from your firsthand experience. I hope it's offered to our group also.

Again, I'm so glad you had a wonderful time!

Leslie

Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 11:47 AM

Hi Leslie S,
Oh I'm sure your guide is going to be super--SmarTours contracts with South America Tours for the guides and they have all been excellent. Yup, we had a small group of 22 and then 4 more joined us in Quito for the Ecuador portion. Our group had several birders (birdwatchers) so we asked our guide for a chance to bird in the mountains and that's how the cloud forest tour happened for us. Your guide will have some good options for you as well. BTW no one opted for the Quito at night w/dinner tour for $49.00 that was offered in the written itinerary.
Snorkeling--well, I am used to bobbing around in a protected cove to snorkle (ala Hawaii) so did rent all the gear only to discover that the currents were a bit rough for me--I'm not a strong swimmer. My sis,however, is a good swimmer and she did snorkle. She said the best snorkeling was the Ribida tour--she saw tons of colorful fish. She was bummed because she wanted to do the snorkle where you jump of the boat--but her mask was leaking and the snorkle tube wasn't working right so she had to cut that trip short. The pangas/zodiacs are right by you most of the time and watch you very carefully. Be sure to take 2 swimsuits unless you don't mind putting on a wamp/wet swimsuit the next day--it takes a couple days for suit to dry in the cabin and water stuff is offered once each day.
Critters?--oh the sea lions are plentiful and curious and fun to watch ( the babies are so cute). We did not go to an island that had penguins--but saw pretty much everything else that you anticipate seeing. Also saw Albatross and Swallow-tail gull hatchlings--what a treat. Rabida also had two "scout" flamingos that gave everyone a treat to see. I was a bit surprised that many of the islands reminded me so much of the dry sides of the Hawaii islands--but of course they are all volcanic islands.
Warm clothing? You should do fine with a fleece and windbreaker. Out guide said to expect four season--in one day! and that was about the way it went. My windbreaker was waterproof--and we did get rained on a few times.
Oh--also, if you have a camera and or binoculars--be sure to put them --and any other easily damaged items --into a plastic bag before putting in your backpack when you are taking the panga/zodiacs to the islands. Waves can hit you and also it may rain. A couple folks in our group killed their cameras when a wave washed up into the pangas.
Better run for now--chow!

Leslie_S Apr 27th, 2012 12:35 PM

Thanks again!
I have a waterproof backpack so we'll have that for the cameras in the zodiacs.

Ah, I forgot about renting the snorkel gear - do you guys also rent shortie wetsuits or was the water warm enough to not need them? If you choose not to snorkel do you have another option during that time period?

Fleece + rainjacket sounds like it should cover it then. 4 seasons in one day - that makes it challenging to pack light!
That plus the fact that washing clothes in the sink is probably not going to work if it's so damp that stuff doesn't dry. I have some great wool t-shirts that I travel with that dry overnight but maybe not in this kind of environment.

Not sure if you live in Hawaii or have just visited there but either way, lucky you!

Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 02:07 PM

Oh--weather-wise I forgot to mention--it was REALLY HUMID in the Galapagos--and I was pretty happy with cotton and lightweight breathable clothing...some I did wash in the sink and they got about 2/3rds dried in one night--but not the swimsuits. Oh I just flopped around in the shore water while my sis snorkeled. One day there was an option to take the little glass bottom boat --for folks who don't want to do any water stuff. Be sure to go to the front desk and sign up immediately if that becomes available. I toyed with the idea and waited too long --and the 2 glass bottom boat trips offered on the same day filled up. The folks who did it said it was fun (aka better than nothing, I think) OH--don't forget insect repellent! Yikes the mosquitoes were pretty heavy on a couple of the islands. I know Deet is nasty stuff--but at least bring it along on the islands to use if you feel you need it.
Nope, don't live in Hawaii--yet! But we have thought about it... a lot! We live in San Francisco Bay Area and try to make it to Kauai (our favorite island) at least once a year..sigh.
When do you leave for Ecuador?

Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 03:00 PM

PS. I doubt if you will use the fleece in the Galapagos--it never really got cool enuf--however, you most likely will need to use a rain jacket/windbreaker/rain poncho at some point --either on the zodiac or the hikes. I don't recall ever feeling cold in the Galapagos...but it did get a bit cool in the evenings in Quito--and that's where you might need the fleece.
Oh, and a wetsuit for snorkeling? They do have them to rent--but the water was pretty nice--there were a couple people who had on their own shorties but most folks did not.


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