We knew that someday we’d visit the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, and knew just how we’d do it. A trip-of-a-lifetime deserved the best. Years ago we pored over the photos in the National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions catalogue, chose our room (the least expensive), and took note of the price. Years later, the time had come to plan our trip in earnest. That’s when we learned something new: how to plan a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Maybe it was lucky that, when we looked up the cost for the April 2016 Natiional Geographic and Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos Islands, “sticker shock” whacked us with a price tag starting at $6,990 per person. Maybe it was lucky that friends recommended another boat and that, during our annual medical checkups, our doctor -knowing we travel – handed us a printout showcasing her wonderful trip to the Galapagos she’d just taken with another company. All the signs were there: we needed to look into other more affordable options.
At the beginning our research wasn’t focused, looking at 30 boats, skipping from cost to how the interior of the boat was configured and decorated. Stop already! We realized this was a ridiculous way to plan a trip to the Galapagos. Clearly, we needed to focus on the important first decision: what did WE want to see? Only then could we find the best operator for OUR choices.
We wanted to see the giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands but realized we didn’t even know on which island or islands visitors were most likely to see them. The answer: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. (This is a photo of an African spurred tortoise, not Galapagos, but it’s the only tortoise photo we’ve got.)
We discovered the amazing online resource, “The Galápagos Islands, 2009 & 2013”. We pored over all the information to narrow the choices down: an 8-day cruise to include the islands of Isabela and Fernandina, (newer, wild, volcanic islands with flightless cormorant and Galápagos fur seals) as well as Genovesa (breeding colonies of great frigatebirds and all three species of boobies (Nazca, blue-footed, red-footed).
Since we planned to snorkel (and Beth likes her water to be warm), our trip is planned for April when the water temperatures are at their highest.
With 7 tour boat finalists at this point, we mapped out their itineraries and a clear winner emerged for our trip: Ecoventura. We’ll be able to visit all 3 islands we chose plus 4 more. Ecoventura stops at Punta Vicente Roca, one of the best snorkeling beaches and where the wildlife is supposed to be terrific. It goes to the rarely visited island of Rabida with interesting rare birds. Another stop is the Santa Cruz Highlands where the Giant Tortoises roam free.
The cost of $4,300 is considerably below National Geographic and Lindblad’s fare. Will the guides be as good and will the educational aspects of the trip keep us happy? We’ll see.
It took a lot of reading and planning to make our decision. The process taught us an important lesson in trip planning: be clear what you want and only then can you find the place, the tour operator, the way for it to all happen.