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Peru/Galapagos/Amazon Extension - - any info or suggestions please!

Peru/Galapagos/Amazon Extension - - any info or suggestions please!

Old Jul 24th, 2010, 02:41 PM
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Peru/Galapagos/Amazon Extension - - any info or suggestions please!

My husband and I have just made our bucket list. Since we are two old farts we feel that we should do the itinerary involving the most travelling first while we still have enough zip. The trip we are considering is put on by Avalon Waterways, and starts out in Lima Peru - to Cuzco - Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu back to Cuzco and on Quito Ecuador. From there (day 9) it's on to the Galapagos Islands for a 4 day cruise ending up back at Quito (day 13). The Amazon extension begins here with a flight to Coca and then travel by canoe to the Sacha Lodge until day 17.
I've been doing my homework for about a year, and am quite comfortable with all tours and Hotels in Peru, but have never been to Ecuador/Galapagos or the Amazon. The good ship "Santa Cruz" is our home in the Galapagos. We will be taking a canopy tour in the Amazon rainforest, - hiking - fishing - canoeing and trying to avoid 30 foot anacondas and 8lb toads that eat birds!
If anyone out there has done this trip I would LOVE to hear from you. In fact ANY relevant info. or suggestions from ANYONE about ANY part of this trip would be most welcome. We could live for a year on what this trip will cost, and I'd be most twitchy if I thought that we were throwing our hard earned $$ away. We won't be going until March 2011 so we've plenty of time to get our ducks in a row.
Thank you.

Montanabrit
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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Is it this trip?

http://www.avalonwaterways.com/produ...E&content=itin

I'm not familiar with Avalon but its owner Globus gets good reviews.

A few comments about the itinerary.........

- the itinerary is a bit rushed for my taste - for example the 3 night Galapagos cruise is a LOT of cruising and bypasses the Darwin Centre (which means you won't see the famous tortoises - if that's an issue).
- it's a large boat (43 cabins) which might mean a lot of standing around waiting for pangas to load and offload. We went on a boat with max 40 people and 4 pangas which means they can move everybody at the same time.
- Also the Sacred Valley/MP part feels rushed too
- I believe you could save money (or alternatively extend the duration of the trip) by booking via a local tour operator (or possibly two) that are recommended on this site. That would likely give you the added bonus of an independent tour with your own transportation - but do you prefer a group tour?
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 03:57 AM
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Have done Globus Tours in the past not that one they are

great but quite expensvie not local just resellers/packagers

www.saexplorers.org good to join and do research

and go direct to save...

Personally find it better and cheaper to self-guide

www.casanaturahotel.com makes a nice base cheaper

to tour Galapagos from...www.andeantravelweb.com

for Inka Trail stick with 2010 Licensed DIRECT providers

to save like www.perutreks.com www.qente.com

for combo MP/Galapagos custom tours from locals at good prices

www.kuodatours.com

www.latinamericaforless.com

or cheapo budget trips at great prices with air

www.gotmyfare.com

Have done them all personally enjoy self guiding best...

Have fun do lots of research to save...
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 07:38 AM
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HI Montanabrit,
It looks like lots of fantastic activities are in the itinerary! As a recommendation of a local tour company, I have used Columbus Travel, based in Quito. http://www.columbusecuador.com/ They offer packages that include the same destinations as Avalon, but are a local company, which I feel more comfortable booking with. A suggestion about the Galapagos portion would definitely be to cruise for 7 days, rather than the 4/5 combo. You will lose some crucial time on the shorter cruises, as the days you fly in and out of Galapagos will take away from your visitation time. If you are going to splurge out on a once in a lifetime trip, then I d definitley splurge for the extra days! Also, I agree that a smaller ship is a more recommended way to tour the islands. I cruised on the Athala which is a new catamaran to the islands and had a fantastic time. The Machu Picchu portion of the trip with my mum was incredible! (It was on HER bucket list!) You will have a fantastic time! Keep up the planning and research, and good luck!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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WOW!!! What a fantastic response so far. I promise to read EVERY one of the suggestions and recommendations - - Thank goodness I have plenty of time before booking anything.
Elisabeth S. The trip is WGGE 17 days from Lima to Quito. We don't prefer Group Tours, - - we are both fiercely independent, - - it's just that I don't know if I could tackle all the bookings myself,- - - my last two trips have given me nightmares over cancelled and delayed flights etc. We did one group Tour with Globus about nine years ago - to Egypt and it really was a fantastic experience, - - except the boat on the Nile must have been just one step up from the Ark, and nearly as ancient. About the cruise. I can see where you're coming from, but this one does includes the Darwin Centre as an optional stop. I wish we could take more time and just ramble instead of rush, but we can only take about two and a half weeks at the most. Animals and freezing creeks makes it difficult to find house/animal sitters willing to mush through the snow and break ice at feeding time.
Quovadis. Thanks for all your suggestions. I too prefer to self guide, - - been at it for 56 years now, with few exceptions, but this one seems such a huge chore, - - I'm not lazy - just get tired at the thought, have limited time - - -so thought a splurge of letting someone else have all the responsibilty and just pay up and look pleasant. However, I'm thrifty at heart, not quite a cheapskate but close! The thought of how much this is going to cost gives me the willies. My justification is, we lost half of our hard earned retirement savings when the bloody market went bust a couple of years ago, so the present thinking is spend it on a dream trip and spoil ourselves while we're still kicking. What a dilema!!
Galapagos Expert.
Thanks a million. I would love to splurge on a longer cruise, and a smaller boat - - but we have a definite time frame which we have to stick to, and it doesn't allow us any extensions. I wonder if we're biting off more than we can chew, trying to pull all this in in one trip, My husband is 81 years old (old fart) and I'm not far behind (younger fart). We are both healthy, take care of a small ranch by ourselves, play tennis, swim - hike etc., - - but we both are finding that the energy level is dropping and we're knackered at the end of the day.
Anyway, with the help from people like you all, - - I think chances are that we'll be able to work out something fantastic.
Thank you all so much.
Montanabrit
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 07:48 PM
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HI Montanabrit,
I am glad everything was useful! You are bound to have an amazing experience down here, and I wish you the best of luck! I know you ll have blast (it´s the trip of a lifetime, no matter your age! Heck, Lonesome George is over 150! ) have fun!
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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I've done a jungle trip and it was a really good time with my family. I'm sure you will love it and remember to bring a good camera with a zoom lens.

http://savvyroundtheworld.wordpress.com
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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I second the vote that it's a shame to do such a short cruise in the Galápagos. A 4-day cruise is really only 2 full days on the boat, since the 1st day is just an afternoon and the 4th day is just a morning, given all of the transportation issues. I understand you have constraints, but you really won't do the archipelago justice in such a short time. I suppose 2 days is better than none, but I'm not really sure about that. You'll miss a lot of this extraordinary piece of the planet.

Tina
trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 01:09 PM
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Thanks again everyone for your input.
Qwovadis, I have been to EVERY website which you recommended and really got stuck on Kuodatours. They are on the ball and offer such wonderful suggestions that my mouth is watering! Trouble is their price. Estimated right now at $10,000 EACH not including flights. I still haven't come up for air! The price for the Globus Tour was about $17000 total and even that was giving us the Willies.
Elisabeth S, forgive me for not answering your 1st question, - - yes, - you have the correct website.
Since the general feeling is that 4 days doesn't do justice to the Galapagos cruise, we are trying to add a couple of days. Ain't easy!! Hope to hear more from you all if you have any more suggestions. I'll let you know when we decide what to do.

Montanabrit
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 02:21 PM
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montanabrit - may I suggest you contact the travel planner/guide I used in Cusco and ask him for a quote for the Amazon/Ecuador portion? His name is David Choque and he has many positive reviews here on Fodors.

http://www.cuscotoptravelperu.com/index.html

Here is a link to our blog for the Sacred Valley.......

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/l...lake_titicaca/

It was 2006 we were in South America, but even so the $17,000 total for 17 days seems awfully high to me - especially considering it's a group. Does that include your air from....well, I assume Montana?

Re your itinerary - I know it's hard to cut things, but I would consider cutting the extra days in Lima and Quito - they can be added to the Galapagos cruise. I can't comment on the number of nights in the Amazon as we didn't go there - but hope to one day so look forward to your trip report!
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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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Hi Elizabeth S, - once again thank you for taking the time to help with suggestions. I shall check the websites you recommended. I agree that $17,000 seems awfully high, but it does include air from Montana. I have checked the fares independently and the cheapest is $2,700 to $3,000 total, depending on which day of the week we leave and return.
I also like your idea of cutting time from Lima and Quito, - - in fact if we didn't have to fly into one and leave from the other, I wouldn't even bother to go there. I've come to the conclusion that we MUST try to get a couple of extra days in the Galapagos. Than goodness we're not going until next March!!
Thanks again, Montanabrit
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Old Sep 22nd, 2010, 04:36 PM
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I just returned from this trip in August. We did the exact same itinerary except we didn't do the Amazon extension.
I think you will really enjoy the trip. The hotels were all excellent, especially the one in Quito! I was impressed by the quality of the included meals as well. My daughter took pictures of some of the meals so she could show some friends who are cooks. Everything was beautifully presented. The Machu Picchu part was awesome. I do think that there should have been a message about the fact that there is a lot of physical climbing on stairs that were not uniform and didn't always have places to hold on, so if someone was unsteady at all it could be an issue. We had an excellent local guide (Darwin)who was very well informed, and two of our party climbed to the Sun Gate with him the second day.
The Galapagos part was very good. The scenery was fantastic. The decor on the boat was a little dated but comfortable and the staff worked their socks off to make everything function well. The naturalists were excellent as well.
The only somewhat negative thing I could say was that it was a very tiring trip. It was pretty much go-go-go. I know that's so we could see and do as much as possible, but I think all of us found it tiring, even the younger ones. Other than that I couldn't say anything negative. One day when my daughter was ill she stayed at the hotel while we went on an excursion, and our tour guide phoned the hotel to check on her, as did the hotel staff. They also were ready to make arrangements for a doctor if we felt it was needed. All in all, I was very happy with the trip. We were well taken care of the whole time.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me.
dfrance
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Old Sep 22nd, 2010, 06:16 PM
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montanabrit,
my husband and I were at Sacha Lodge in February '08. Never saw bird eating toads or giant anacondas - we did see a baby anaconda though. The birds are fantastic, if you are into birding, you should request a special bird guide. A large troupe of squirrel monkeys came through and we had much fun watching marmosets. No other large animals. The place is clean, food excellent, the guides quite knowledgable. Unfortunately we had rain and some of our hikes and the trip to the clay lick had to be changed/cancelled. Just the 2 hour boat ride down the Napo river is fantastic -well worth the money/time.
We flew into Quito - loved the city, history and ambience. We had 2 days to explore Quito and market towns. From there we flew to Galapagos to join a National Geographic tour of Galapagos for 7 days and I would not have wanted a day less. National Geographic/Lindbladt offers a Peru extension we did not take, but now wish we had done.
I made all the Quito and Sacha Lodge arrangements, National Geographic did the in country flights and and 2 nights in Quito (included in the Galapagos trip before and after the ship). We were gone for 15 days and if I remember correctly, it was about 4000$ per person, flights from a small town in Indiana included. You might want to check into that, National Geographic was very helpful.
However you do it, it is a fantastic trip and you will love it.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2010, 04:40 AM
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p.s. Be aware that when you take the train up to Machu Picchu, you will only be allowed to take an overnight bag with you. The rest of your luggage will be taken to the hotel in Cusco that you will be staying in the night after your Machu Picchu excursion. So plan what you can take with you. If you're a couple, it might be wise to pack one overnight back to leave at the hotel when you get to Aguas Calientes and the other to take up to Machu Picchu, because you won't have checked in to your hotel room before you go up there, but you can leave your overnight bag at the hotel if you want.
I believe (don't know for sure) that the same may have applied to the Amazon extension because you have to travel by canoe to the lodge they can't carry the large luggage, but you will be allowed to store luggage at the hotel in Quito to await your return.
dfrance
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Old Sep 23rd, 2010, 02:51 PM
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Hi montanabrit,
I forgot to mention - the flights from Quito to Coca take not quite an hour, are jet service, and fly several times daily. A Sacha Loge rep waited for us at the Quito airport, helped with check in and all. No Problems with large luggage. Sacha Lodge people picked us up in Coca, transported our bags and all to the lodge. Yes, after the river there is a hike and a canu ride to the lodge, but personell take care of the luggage. The lodge seems to have specific days for their program, so they had a large group to pick up. The plane was full both ways, with tourists and a large number of oil workers. On our way back, during the hike in pouring rain, I walked with the grandson of the owner. Very nice, he had studied in the US, has an MBA from some Texas university. When my husband went through security, they found his swiss army knife, which he had forgotten to put into the checked luggage. No problem - the grandson talked with people, both he, my husband and a security guard checked through the luggage, found my husbands bag, and added his army knife. Needless to say, without his intervention we would never have seen this knife again.
As far as animal sightings is concerned, we saw way more in Costa Rica, especially on the Osa Peninsula. But the rain forest is magnificent because a large part of Sacha consists of primary forest.
Hope some of this helps.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2010, 10:32 PM
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Most of the Amazon Lodges also function as travel agents. You may get a better rate for the same excursion by contacting them directly. Sacha has combined Galapagos/Amazon/Quito itineraries.

If you are able to afford two separate trips it might be more satisfying than rushing to combine so many things in one itinerary.

I also think you could do better with a local Peruvian guide who could tailor the Sacred Valley/Cusco/MP portion to your interests and abilities. You may not want two days in MP, for example, if you aren't physically able to explore more than the central part of the site.
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 09:51 AM
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I did a recent combined Galapagos Machu Picchu tour with a Peruvian travel agency called Totally Peru, and there were excellent. Though the price of this kind of tour was really more expensive than we originally planned on paying. We took a 4 days cruise on the Coral I yacht which was really excellent, and I am glad that we opted to pay a little extra, as some of the budget boats were...well a bit on the budget side.

this was the tour that we took http://www.totallylatinamerica.com/g...r-combined.php
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Old Oct 6th, 2010, 01:58 AM
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Another option for a quite similar itinerary (for $5785 per person from Montana in March) is from Overseas Adventure Travel: http://www.oattravel.com/Trips/2011/...agos-2011.aspx

I traveled with OAT to Peru a few years ago and was very happy with the trip; I've since been back to the Amazon independently (and do usually travel independently/solo) but at that time, as you've said, I wasn't feeling up to dealing with all the connections/research needed to do the trip on my own. OAT only does small group tours, up to 16 people, which I find to be a plus. You might be able to get an additional discount by contacting someone who's been on an OAT tour.
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Old Oct 6th, 2010, 10:39 AM
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If i have to recommend a good way to travel, is to find a good local tour operator. That way the cost of your trip will be not too expensive. I would recommend the companies recommended on this site, but also a localy owned peruvian company called pachatoursperu. We had friends who traveled with them and they said they were pretty good on organizing and giving travel ideas about Peru.
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