Cruising the Galapagos

Jan 19th, 2012, 11:48 AM
  #61  
 
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I am checking them out now and thanks for the effort it took to put the album together. As a watch enthusiast I do appreciate the Tissot shot.
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Jan 20th, 2012, 02:28 PM
  #62  
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Percy, of course I get my feet wet. There is no getting around it.

SelfPropelledTripod, yes, those are BIG droppings and they were all over. You need the foot there to show the scale. Those were baby sea lions ... and unfortuanely, we saw the dying ones too. Now you understand the "leave your bleeding heart behnd" comment.

There are many Lava Tubes / Lava caves. They are all over and spread out on quite a few islands.

The one we went to is located at the Santa Cruz Island, not too far from the Tortise Santuary. I think it is one of the biggest one. The farmer charged $3 per person and will provide boots when it is raining.

It is almost a mile long and there are some lights but not too much (or too bright). Some sections had collapsed but is still passible. I think the majority of the sections are safe.

Larry, the shot was taken at over 13,000 feet. I had that Tissot T-touch for many years. I bought one of the earliest one when it first came out and it was my hiking and travelling watch. It served me well until 3 yeras ago when it was exposed to -20 temperture for an extended period of time. (Don't wear it skiing or hike in sub-zero weather for extended period of time anymore.) I had to sent it back to the factory for repair (out of warranty). What they did was replaced everything on the inside and call it a day, so I pratcially get a new watch when I got it back. But they charged me like buying a new one too ...

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone, ,much appreciated.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 24th, 2012, 12:04 AM
  #63  
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One fianl comment. You really should be in decent physical shape to truly enjoy the Galapagos even if you are in a luxury boat. On my post in the South America forum regarding the Machu Picchu trip, I came across people stating that they plan to take their 80+ year old parents (who tghey claim is in good physical conditions) to Machu Picchu first and then to the Galapagos island or the Amazon jungle.

Understanding that there is a daily 6:30 a.m. wake up calls plus daily physical activities, a cruise to the Galapagos is really not for those who is not in good physical conditon, and that include those who maybe very out of shape or with disabilities.

Don't get me wrong, you can still enjoy it, but it will be discounted by the fact that you cannot take part in all the activities. As long as you know you had paid for it, but can't particiapte, then it's okay.

Belief it or not, DW "trained" for this trip. My son took her to the pool to get her more comfortable with the water activities, and she get into better physical shape by walking lots prior to the trip. At the end of the day, she still needs oxygen at Cusco, but she was part of the group of only 5 that made it to the Sun Gate. She took a pass on the deep water snorkelling as she was not comfortable with the idea of sliding off a dingy into the ocean with sharks around.

I can't imagine us doing this trip (and enjoyed as much activities as we did) without some of the preparations that we had gone through before hand.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 27th, 2012, 05:18 PM
  #64  
 
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Just had to look at your pictures again.

How can anyone get tired of looking at Machu Picchu or the Galapagos!!
Percy is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2012, 03:00 PM
  #65  
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Thanks Percy ... I am getting a lot of hits on those pages. It is in the thousands of views weekly since I posted them. I think my Alaska pictures were more popular still but they had been posted there much longer so more accumlated hits.

Keep re-visiting and feel free to download them if you want. We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time with the mating season. Those male frigate birds close up are lucky shots, as were the courting dance of the blue footed boobies.
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Feb 8th, 2012, 02:28 PM
  #66  
 
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I just saw this thread and thought I'd drop in a comparison. I did the Galapagos with Lindblad who now partners with National Geographic, so my observations are regarding the differences between Nat Geo and Explorer II.

In general, I think you're right that they'll go to the same places, do the same hikes, and cruise the same waters. One notable difference I can tell from your TR, is that Lindblad tends to be more all-inclusive. I noted that certain things, like the wet suits and snorkeling gear, were an extra charge on your cruise, whereas with Lindblad these were all included.

Also, the organization of the excursions were different in that we weren't put into groups upfront. They let people self-select for each excursion dependent on what it was. For example, there could be a "fast" group, a "slow" group, and a "photographers" group for a hiking excursion. The fast and slow group are pretty self-explanatory. The photographers group would usually skip right ahead to the photogenic locations and spend more time there.

Also, I've noticed that Lindblad tends to carry specialist guides, like pro photographers, who focus on certain aspects of the trip.
lifelist is offline  
Feb 8th, 2012, 03:44 PM
  #67  
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Hi Lifelist, thank you for your comparison which is most helpful as a lot of people are actually interested in the NG ship.

First question I have about the NG ship: Is there a "no TP in the WC" policy on the NG ship as well?

The wetsuit and gear rentals is mimial. I think I paid less than $50 per person for the duration and those who used it once and returned it did not get charged at all. On the last off zodiac snorkelling, only 30 showed up (out of 100 passengers). I sort of like the idea of paying for what I need. I knew people who brought their own personal gears.

Once the groups were formed, you are free to "trade" or move, within reasons. The "slower" passenegers were given options for alternate activities, and there were only a handful of them.

I like the fast and slow group idea. But who will decide who is fast and who is slow? Very Interesting that they have a "photo" group as well.

From a practicality stand point, I would be hard pressed to make a choice. I would like to be on the fast group, and also on the photo group as well. Yet my wife will not be interested in the "photo" group and we don't want to ahve separate excursions.

The Explorer II have a very competent photographer on board and she took very good pictures of us (and teh scenes and wildlife too) throughout the entire trip. She is also very personable and more than willing to take our cameras and took pictures of us with our camera. She wasn't too concern with selling us her pictures. (We bought her CD of pictures anyway as they were good) She is going to Madrid after her 1 year contract is up and further her studies in photogrpahy.

The Explorer II has a "head" naturalists and a team of 8 gudies. We had the various guides in rotation. It appears that they all do the same job but each have their own specialties as during conversation with them, some were more knowledgable on certain aspects than others, where the naturalist hosts the daily talks, and get into the Darwinism and the finch migration and otehr developemnt of the various species etc.

I am not sure what the NG ships charges but they were quite high in comaprison. So the question would be what you get for the extras. Reading other people's posts, I am finding that on a smaller boat, you are more dependent on the competency of one or two individuals whereas on the bigger boat, you won't have that problem as you have multiple staff members doing the same job (example: stuck with a bad local guide)

Do you plan to share your experience with a TR?
Eschew is offline  
Feb 20th, 2012, 12:51 PM
  #68  
 
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I honestly don't remember if I could flush the TP down the toilet or not. I would guess probably not - I'm pretty sure I would have remembered if I couldn't.

The fast and slow groups were self-selecting. Basically, you decided for yourself. One thing about Lindblad/National Geographic is that the demographics for their customers skews older. I saw an article today where they mentioned that over 40% of their passengers are over 65. So, I think the emphasis on the "slow" group was for those passengers who had difficulty moving over rough ground. The "fast" group really wasn't that fast - more like a normal, walking pace.

The photo groups were specialized. Lindblad/National Geographic has professional photographers who serve as photo guides. The group would have the regular naturalist to guide and explain the flora and the faunta, while the photo guide would help people with their photography - giving them tips on the function of their camera, composition, etc as well as, getting people to the most photogenic locations. Additionally, there was a videographer who captured video of the passengers during the cruise.

My trip was a number of years ago, so I don't think I could construct a trip report from memory, I'm afraid. I will say that the cruise was exceedingly well organized and I enjoyed it very much. I was able to take advantage of multiple last minute discounts, so I didn't pay too much of a premium for this trip.
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Feb 22nd, 2012, 09:55 AM
  #69  
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Hi lifelist, thank you for your update. The grouping makes a lot more sense to me now. On our cruise, there were probably less than a handful of people that would fit into the NG "slow" group, and the ages were much more diversed and definietly much younger on our cruise.

On our particular cruise, there were a couple teenagers or young adults, a few between 35-45 and I would say a majority were between 45-65, and maybe 20% were 65+.

It is unique to have someone on board for a special interest group for photographer on teh NG ship. If I was a solo traveller, I might be interested in the group but definietly not when I have a travel companion.

We are mass market ships cruisers and I suspect a lot of people who cruise through the cruise forum here are mass market ships cruisers as well.

The Galapagos is such a different and unique cruising experience from the customary mass market ship cruises, that I thought a TR that highlite the differences would be a fun thing to post.

It is such a great destination that regardless which ship you travel on, it would be a great experience anyway.
Eschew is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2012, 10:59 AM
  #70  
 
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Can anyone who has been to the Galapagos tell me when they went? We were thinking about end of August, but now I see on some weather site that the seas are very choppy then. And it's cloudy. Wonder if we'd still be able to snorkel.

(The temperature drops too, which is not a bad thing to me, especially if we want to hike.)
kenav is offline  
Feb 24th, 2012, 09:36 AM
  #71  
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Hi Kenav, we were there in early November.

The Galapagos Islands are lcoated along the equator, in the middle of the ocean. They really don't have any distinctive seasons like summer or winter. The ocean currents plays a very large part in affecting their weather.

Being right on the equator, you can expect sunrise at 6 a.m. and sunset at 6 p.m., daily. Days don't get longer or shorter.

The air temperature is very consistent as well. It will be between 70 to 80 during the day, closer to 70 when it is cloudy or rainiing and closer to 80 when it is sunny.

The water temperature is very similar to the air temperature, maybe a degree or two lower. You can snokel in cloudy weather, just that the visibility will be not as good in deeper water (below 15 feet). I wouldn't snorkel if the water current is too strong, but if you are close to shore, that should not pose any problems.

January to April is consdiered to be their "rainy" season, and the rainy season can start as early as late November and may go well into late May.

In terms of the sea being choppy, it is open water (ocean) so if there is any kind of a wind, it will be choppy regardless of time of year.

Hope this helps.
Eschew is offline  
Feb 25th, 2012, 07:37 PM
  #72  
 
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Hi Kenav, I was there in May, which is between seasons. It was fantastic. I get the impression that any time of year is a great time to visit.

Eschew is right on the button regarding the equator and therefore no variation in sunrise and sunset times throughout the year. However, due to the changing ocean currents, all climate charts I've seen show a bit more variation in temperature between the cool/dry season and the warm/wet season. E.g., here's a chart with average air and water temps:
http://www.galapagosislands.com/gala...s-weather.html
And this one is more detailed showing average highs and lows for air temperature:
http://www.galapagosisland.net/galap...s/climate.html

I totally agree with Eschew that the snorkeling should be great whether its cloudy or sunny! As for choppy conditions, I'd expect the boat operators to know of sheltered places for snorkeling, so you should be fine unless things are particularly rough for some reason. In the cool/dry season, a wetsuit would make things more pleasant. I think most ships have them to borrow or rent.
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Feb 25th, 2012, 07:55 PM
  #73  
 
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I went at the end of August and the weather was terrific.

We never had a bad or cloudy or raining day.

If you go at the end of August I hope your weather will be as trouble free as mine was.
Percy is offline  
Feb 26th, 2012, 03:58 AM
  #74  
 
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SPT - Can I ask about packing for May - did you need any cold weather type gear at all for your time in Quito? I'm really trying to pack light for this trip and get that the temperature doesn't change much even in Quito due to being on the equator. What I'm seeing says 60-70 degrees there but at that altitude I'm thinking jeans and fleece - anything more than that needed do you think?
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Feb 26th, 2012, 08:15 AM
  #75  
 
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Leslie_S

I do not know if this will help, but in August when I went , I remember how coool it was in the evening.

We were touring the Old Town so we did a lot of walking about.

I remember saying, "I should have brought my sweater...it is no good to me in the hotel room."!!

You can always bring a warm sweater... if it gets a bit too warm , you can take it off...but if you are cold... well I guess you just look at the goose bumps on your forearm .

Let's see what SPT says about May !
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Feb 26th, 2012, 12:09 PM
  #76  
 
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We were told that the cruise we're considering supplies snorkeling equipment for free but that wet suits are $40/pp. If the water is 70 degrees I'm figuring a wet suit would be necessary. I've never worn one so that should be an adventure in itself.

For those who spent some time in Quito, what neighborhoods did you stay in? Pluses and minuses? We'll probably be there for 2 days. Will we need air conditioning in the room? (End of August beginning of Sept.)

We know that mountain areas, no matter where and what time of year, get cold at night and in the AM. We'll be bringing sweaters and light jackets.
kenav is offline  
Feb 26th, 2012, 06:49 PM
  #77  
 
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@Leslie_S -- I don't quite remember, as I had very little time in Quito, but what I do remember was basically the same as Percy's comments: very pleasant in the day, but cooling off quickly in the evening. I wear long pants, a t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and TravelSmith travel blazer (used to prefer LL Bean's travel blazer, but they stopped making them) across a wide temperature range. I'm guessing that's what I wore, with maybe a light windbreaker shell (which I had packed in case of rain) on top. In the Galapagos, I'd wear the same thing, minus the shell except when it rained, and the blazer (no need for convenient pockets for cell phones, passports, and boarding passes! )

@kenav -- I stayed in the Radisson. Nice hotel, I'd happily stay there again. But the area wasn't particularly distinctive -- just a business district in a big city. Old Town was charming and atmospheric, but I'm not sure if I'd want to stay there, as it was very crowded when I was walking around, and I usually prefer a bit quieter surroundings. (I'm sure I would have been happy had I been there, though.) My trip was very Galapagos-centric, so part of my decision to stay outside Old Town was to make sure I wouldn't run into traffic problems getting to the airport at some unpleasantly early hour in the morning.
SelfPropelledTripod is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 08:55 AM
  #78  
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We packed really light on our trip. I had one carry on (25 pounds limit) and that was it for 3 weeks!

I had a light weight wind breaker and that's all the clothing I had for cooler weather (and rain as it is water proof). It could be folded into a small 3 by 6 pouch. If you looked at my packing list posted earlier, long sleeves t-shirts are must and I wore them daily. The wind breaker and long sleeve tee combo would be sufficient for the cool evenings at Quito and the Galapagos (air conditioend ship).

At Quito, it cools down to about 60 at night and that's about it. We stayed at the Hilton Colon, and make sure you get a room at the tower building, facing the park and the hill.

I have a link on this thread to some pictures I have posted on line (just look back on the older messages above), The view from my hotel window is the first picture on the South America album. A storm was rolling in when I took the picture from my room.

It was safe to walk around the hotel (and we did) and cabs were cheap. We took a cab to a restaurant recommended by a friend of ours and it was only $3 for a 15 to 20 minutes cab ride. make sure you know the fare before getting into the cab.

Quito has one of the largest colonial quarter and make sure you spend time there. The churches are magificent. The Equator Museum (privately own) is definitely worth a visit.

Make sure you made it up to one of the hill and have a panaromic look of the city view.

I did snorkel without a wet suit on one occassion but I had a wet suit on teh rest of the time. If you cehck back on my post, on the "deep water" snorkel, you will get sea swells and waves. Be safe and wear a float vest, infated properly.
Eschew is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 09:39 AM
  #79  
 
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Percy - "
"I have to add though , that a friend of mine went a year later, on a 16 passenger Yacht, and found it cramped and the food average."

Do you remember the name of the yacht? We are considering the Millennium, which also carries only 16 people, but it's a catamaran.
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Feb 27th, 2012, 01:02 PM
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Hi kenav

I have a friend from Toledo Ohio who went on a 16 passenger yacht and she also said the whole trip was rather mediocre.

I went on the Isabella II, it is labelled as a luxury yacht.

It takes 40 passengers only, but we had only 36 because some people came in groups pf threes.

I can say that the Isabella was absolutely terrific.
The food was excellent and the guides were top notch.... all University graduates with Biology,Zoology and Marine Biology degrees.

I booked with a tour company out of Quito.

As I boared the Isabella II, I learned that a week prior Morgan Freeman was on this same yacht doing a documentary.
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