Galapagos to cruise or not to cruise?

Old May 9th, 2012, 04:30 PM
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Galapagos to cruise or not to cruise?

Planning a trip to the Galapagos islands. I have never been a big fan of cruising. In addition to sea sickness, both my husband and I have gotten food poisoning on prior journeys. I understand that there are decent hotels on Santa Cruz from which you can take day trips to the surrounding islands. Limiting my time on a boat sounds most appealing to me, but would we be missing out on the essence of the Galapagos by not taking a cruise?
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Old May 9th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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Your best replies will come from someone who has done both.

I've only done cruises.

Sorry about the food poisoning (it happened on prior journeyS meaning on more than one cruise??) but I would not let that stop you from a Galapagos cruise.

For land only, check out these options of day trips. Don't know personally about the companies, just using them as a guideline on where you can get on day trips.

http://www.naturegalapagos.com/codig...ela/index.html

http://www.julioverne-travel.com/ind...mid=57&lang=en

Note the islands you can potentially visit, depending on what itinerary your choose are:

Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz

These would limit your experience IMO.

To get a full description of the various islands, look at Barry Boyce's book A Traveler's Guide to the Galapagos Islands.

Here is my summary of the islands based on 2 trips.


Espanola/Hood—Most itineraries include this island since it has such a diversity of animals. The Waved Albatross are here except Jan-Mar. They come here to mate and raise their young. You can watch the bonding rituals that include open-beak kissing and you can see young birds learning to take off from the cliffs. Usually big colonies of blue footed boobies live here. But on the April trip there were more blue footed boobies on Seymour. The Marine Iguanas with their bright “Christmas tree” colors are present and are some of the biggest of the islands. The Hood Mocking Birds are unique to this island and you can approach within a meter or two. Nazca boobies are here. Sea lions are here, but they are most everywhere.

Fernandina—The most marine iguanas are here. Lava lizards sun themselves on the heads of the marine iguanas. This is lizard land. This island is one of the few places to get a good look at the flightless cormorant. You can get close enough to see the blue eyes. Most pristine island.

North Seymour—Blue footed Boobies live here too, along with Nazca boobies. This island has the largest colony of Magnificent Frigate birds and also the Great Frigate Birds—in Aug their pouches were not inflated, in April most were. Good sea lion activity, sometimes surfing.

Tower/Genovesa—This island is in the north and not often included on the shorter trips. The red footed boobies live here. Little black marine iguanas live here. The swallow tailed gull is here, but you can see that elsewhere.

Santa Cruz—This has the Charles Darwin Research station and every tour visits this place. There are tortoise pens here. You may also take a road trip to the highlands where wild tortoises roam. The highlands are a good place to find the vermilion flycatcher. You can take a panga ride (small boat) through Black Turtle Cove and see rays, reef sharks, and marine turtles. Turtles are more common Nov-May.

South Plaza—Bachelor colony of sea lions here. You can see the red billed tropicbirds and swallow tailed gulls fly along the cliffs. This island has a desert-like atmosphere with cactus that support the land iguana.

James/Santiago—The fur seal (not sea lion) grotto is here. It was also one of the best places I found for Sally Lightfoot crabs. I got within a couple meters of several Galapagos Hawks here.

Isabella--If you take a panga, you can see penguins along the rocks. You can also snorkel here and get close to the penguins. The waters around Isabella are very good for whale watching. On the Aug trip we saw sperm whales, humpbacks, orcas, and a minke right next to the boat. The whales were not just seen near Isabella. Just a couple of whale sightings in April. But in April we snorkeled near bottle nosed dolphins.

Rabida--Red sand beaches with flamingos and sea lions.

San Cristobel—Frigate birds, both Magnificent and Great, are here.

"would we be missing out on the essence of the Galapagos by not taking a cruise?"

I think so, but this has been discussed before so a variety of opinions are out there.

Good luck.
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Old May 9th, 2012, 06:41 PM
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Found just a few questions on land only

http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...udor-visit.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...-land-only.cfm


This company gets you to North Seymour with land only--just saw the name of the island in the activities option, did not investigate.

http://www.galapagosalternative.com/tours-activities/
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Old May 10th, 2012, 05:14 AM
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atravelynn, I appreciate your feedback. In fact you had provided me with some wonderful advice in the past for our Rwanda/Kenya trip recently (loved Lewa BTW).

In addition to the above mentioned islands I discovered you can also easily see North Seymor and Bartolome. So there are a quite few options to see many different islands from a land based perspective. In fact one property we are looking at, includes all tours and activities.

Did you visit the Amazon in Ecuador during your previous visits?
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Old May 11th, 2012, 06:46 AM
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You might want to keep in mind that the day trips to other islands from Santa Cruz (and the travel between the inhabited islands of SC, Isabela, and San Cristóbal) all involve travel on small speed boats--at times, for more than 2 hours one way on what can sometimes be a very choppy sea. A number of travelers have reported folks getting seasick on those trips. If the waters are calmer, seasickness doesn't seem to be as widespread a problem--but you never know what Mother Nature has in store for you.

From SC, you can get day trips to Bartolomé, N. Seymour, Santa Fé, Plaza Sur, and Floreana. All of the day trips go to the same landings as the cruises do except for Floreana. There, you don't go to Post Office Bay or snorkel at the renown Devil's Crown; instead, you visit the inhabited highlands and snorkel at a different spot. These trips typically aren't offered every day and some can fill up quickly. So you may just have to settle for what's available, if you don't go with a tour company that guarantees your spots.

Tina
trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/
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Old May 12th, 2012, 05:48 PM
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Kch124,

I did an approximately weeklong cruise on the Flotel Orellana on the Agua Rico in Ecuador, but not in combo with Galapagos. It was nice, but not one of my top travel experiences.

Funny you should mention Amazon. I am looking at jungle trips in Peru, a place I have never been.

We may just cross paths some day!
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Old May 13th, 2012, 05:11 AM
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Atravelynn:

We are looking at possibly combining the Amazon, Napo Wildlife center or Sacha with a trip to the Galapagos. The reviews of both properties are very good, however I am a bit curious as to why none of the "big name" travel agencies send clients to the Amazon. I can find plenty of trips to Ecuador/Galapagos/Machu Pichu, but none that include the Amazon. Any idea wht that might be? Is the Amazon roughing it a bit too much for most people?

Quite possibly our paths just might cross one day!
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Old May 13th, 2012, 05:54 PM
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Rather than roughing it, I think THE Amazon (as opposed to the Amazon basin or headwaters or whatever) is a tough place to see wildlife. The river is huge across and the jungles are thick.

If you are going to Machu Picchu, maybe you'd like to visit a jungle lodge or do a jungle cruise in Peru. I am currently investigating:

Tambapota: Heath River and maybe Sandoval lake Lodge
Manu Research Ctr

Those are south and have macaw clay licks. Don't think Ecuador has those.

In the north, flying into Iquitos, 2 boats look interesting--
Clavero and Ayapua, both operating in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Also Muyuna Lodge

I recall some positve feedback on Napo and Sacha.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 02:18 PM
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I went to the Galapagos Islands last year and stayed for 5 days at the Finch Bay Hotel. I booked a complete package that includes transfers, boat excursions, all meals and hotel accommodation.
I had a really good time, great guides, food was delicious and I could see all the typical animals of the islands: big tourtles, marine turtles, seals, boobies, finches, iguanas, lizards, etc. They gave us time for snorkeling and diving.
I really recommend them!
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Old May 15th, 2012, 08:12 AM
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Atravelynn:
I've done both a land-based tour and a cruise, and I would say they both have their advantages. Going on a cruise allows you to see more remote islands in a shorter period of time, since most cruises make two landings per day. Most of these islands cannot be reached in a day tour as they are very far apart. Keep in mind you do most of the long distance traveling at night so perhaps you could sleep through any possible water turbulance. To avoid sea sickness, I was told either a catamaran or a larger boat are both more stable.
The benefit of doing a land tour is that you invert money in the local communities by supporting local tour operators, restaurants and hotels. While traveling on a small speed boats can be quite a choppy ride, I would recommend buying a small pill called mareol at a local pharmacy. I took half a pill to avoid drowsiness and I traveled without getting sea sick.
Doing a land tour you can base yourself on one of the main islands (Santa Cruz, Isabela or San Cristobal) and make day tours from there. From San Cristobal you can travel to Floreana (although more tours leave from Santa Cruz), Kicker Rock for some awesome snorkeling and rent a taxi for the day and see the three main touristic sites: a salt water lagoon called el Junco, the Giant tortoise Breeding Center and Puerto Chino, a beautiful pristine white sandy beach.
From Santa Cruz, you can take day trips to Floreana, Bartolome and North Seymour as well as tons of interesting excursions around the island.
Isabela is the biggest island (2.5 hour speed boat ride from Santa Cruz) and has the most attractions, such as the lava tunnels where you can see sharks, sea horses and other marine wildlife; the Sierra Negra Volcano, tintoreras island where you can see sharks and penguins, as well as many different highlights in the highlands.
Keep in mind that in the land tours your hotel is a great resource for organizing your day trips so make sure you choose a hotel wisely.
In terms of the Amazon, I was looking into it and noticed that this company does all three tours, Machu Picchu, Amazon and Galapagos http://www.haugancruises.com/adventu...gos-tours.html. The Amazon, Galapagos and Machu Picchu are definitely the highlights of South America for me, along with Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
If you need more advice or more specifics, don't hesitate to write again! Safe travels!
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Old May 16th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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TravelEcuador:

You mentioned that the land based tours are by speed boat. How many passengers did the speed boats hold? Were they covered so you could get out of the wind/sun/rain?

Were you with a group? Do you happen to know if larger boats are available, even if that means hiring them privately?
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Old May 16th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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"The benefit of doing a land tour is that you invert money in the local communities by supporting local tour operators, restaurants and hotels."

That is a benefit worth noting. Thanks TravelEcuador.

Question: How did you access the Sierra Negra Volcano?
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Old Jun 4th, 2012, 09:32 AM
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As many travelers noted, a cruise will certainly give take you to the most remote islands and you will get the chance to see other more wildlife, as those places don’t receive much visits so animals haven´t moved so much away form he shores.
Still a land tour is not a bad at all, you can go from Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) to North Seymour, Plazas South, Bartolomé, Santa Fe or Dragon Hill. It is kind of a bad idea to get this once you are on the islands since they get easily crowded.

I suggest you get land package with overnights at Isabela, and Santa Cruz or Santa Cruz and San Cristobal (Isabela is the nicest from my point of view!) and ask the agency to arrange a full day trip to any of the other islands. You may try to go from December - May (as the sea is stronger on July - October) so you avoid getting too much seas sick on the speed boats and enjoy warm weather.

Both times I have traveled to Galapagos were my own, as I am Ecuadorian so it was easier for me. I have beer to Bartolomé and North Seymour and stayed at nice accommodations on Santa Cruz and Isabela (not first class, but they were ok). Some friends from USA got a nice package from the Nature Galapagos & Ecuador company and enjoyed it quite a lot. I cannot talk first hand, but they were pretty pleased with them.

For me land tours are better, as I like to get more involved locally and enjoy walking around a lot so I love the freedom of it, and of course saving some bucks! It all depends on what you are looking for

Hope you enjoy your trip!
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