Booking a trip to the Galapagos is a huge investment, and something I was very dubious about doing – eventually I bit the bullet and headed to the islands with my wife aboard the M/C Anahi via lastminuteGalapagosdeals, so here’s my review of the ideal tour itself – I’ll be posting a follow up blog on how can your tour go wrong and i will call it the nightmare tour.
The package I ended up going with was based around our budget but in the same time we wanted a quality class cruise. The Anahi was a first class yacht coming in at around $287 per day. Included in this cost were 8 days with 7 nights sleeping on board the 16 berth catamaran, all food drinks and snacks (minus alcohol), snorkel equipment, all activities and an educated guide throughout the whole experience. In comparison with a lot of trips I looked at this was great value for money – some of them were paying well over $450 per day and on some occasions not getting the matrimonial suite and the quality service we got! In total the whole thing cost for a Galapagos cruise $2300 per person not including the $495 flight to the islands with AeroGal – who I had a brilliant experience with as our boat assigned an airport guide assisting us through the entire luggage and passport process.
My first impressions of the tour were superb. From the office I knew who our guide was, he just had that look about him! Galapagos-Islands1When he finally found us he had an identifying board of the boat name visible, great smile, well spoken, greeting us with few jokes always a good start. After a brief introduction we headed to the bus and ferry transfer over to Santa Cruz Island. offered to help us with our luggage walked and talked with us and was concerned about our safty the whole time. In saying that though he got more chatty towards safty, boarding the boat and talked about what we’d be up to, his background on the islands and such like. we got to the marina promptly and in one piece!
My biggest worry on our trip was the boat. It was our home for the next 8 days and a quick search on TripAdvisor and such 066like brought back some great reviews leaning towards the bad and the good. I was however instantly impressed by it, it was more than great horay. The boat was clean, tidy and had enough room. More importantly it stayed clean and tidy throughout the entire trip. The matrimonial suit I stayed in with Tania was spacious enough for a boat room (I’ve stayed on boats before so was prepared for a slight lack of space!) and I had enough room to pack away all my stuff. It came with air con, a very clean toilet and I was able to have the best hot showers throughout – better showers in fact than anywhere in Quito! The other guests shared twin rooms which had adequate storage facilities and air con. They all slept well throughout but I can’t say we all slept well when the boat was moving from an island to another island in rough sea conditions, but let’s face it you’re living on a boat – you can’t expect it calm all the way through!
The itinerary over the 8 days broke down as follows; DAY 1, Friday Arrival at Baltra airport AM: Flight to Galapagos from Quito Airport. The flight from Quito to the Galapagos takes approximately 2½ hours. Upon arrival at Baltra airport, Map_galapagos_cruiseall passengers have to go through an airport inspection (to make sure no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands) and pay the park entrance fee of $100 USD, and the $10USD for the INGALA transit control card, both mandatory to enter the National Park. After this, our guide will meet us, help us with the luggage and escort us on a short bus ride to the harbor. A small boat, called ‘Panga’ (dinghy) will transport us to the M/C Anahi, where the crew will welcome us onboard. After departure and lunch, we will proceed to the first visit.
PM: Bachas Beach
These two small beaches are found on Santa Cruz Island. Their sand is made of decomposed coral, which is white and soft,2061319474_be46ade5de_b making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind one of the beaches there is a small brackish water lagoon, where is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. The other beach is longer and has two old barges (hence the name of the beach) that were abandoned during the Second World War, when the US Army used Baltra Island as a military base to protect the Panama Channel. DAY 2, Saturday Genovesa Island AM: Darwin Bay This bay originated when the crater of the island collapsed below sea level. The wet landing (jumping from the panga to the shallow waters of the shore) is on a beautiful white coral sandy beach. This is a favorite island for birdwatchers: red footed-boobies, masked boobies, wandering tattlers, lava gulls, whimbrels, yellow-crowned, and black-crowned lava herons, and yellow warblers can usually be seen in the area. Continuing on the trail, we will climb to the edge of the cliff to see red footed-boobies nesting in the Mangrove trees below. Bird watching includes sightings of sharp-beaked finches, large cactus and ground finches, Galapagos doves, and swallow-tailed gulls.
PM: El Barranco
This visitor site is located on the southern part of Darwin Bay, on Genovesa Island. The trail is made of volcanic rock and hasgalapagos_islands62 a length of 1.5 km, which we will walk in about 2 hours. The youngest area of the island, from a geological point of view, is found here. The natural erosion that has occurred in these lava flows has transformed the place in the ideal spot for nesting Storm Petrels. We will see two species of petrels that nest in cavities and holes in the lava. One of the main predators of this place is the short-eared owl. The Nazca booby is also present on this island. During the panga ride along the cliffs we have the possibility of watching fur sea lions and other several species of seabirds. DAY 3, Sunday Plazas and Santa Fe Islands
Plazas Island is located to the east of Santa Cruz, and despite its small size, some of the most interesting and outstanding540 species of the Galapagos are found here. The Plazas land iguanas are smaller than its relatives of the rest of the archipelago. Throughout the island we will find several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana, these unique animals, recognizable at first glance by their black/gray color, with a land iguana’s crest, have the face and tail of the marine iguana. The big iguanas’ population is due to the presence of tunas, their favorite food. We will also find swallow tailed gulls nesting in the rugged cliffs along with other sea birds such as: the Audubon shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, and brown pelicans.
PM: Santa Fe
Located in the southeastern part of the Galapagos, this island was formed from ocean floor uplift and not a volcanic3413235-this-adorable-sea-lion-is-playing-on-the-shore-of-santa-fe-island-in-the-galapagos-islands eruption, and thus its mostly flat shape. There are some theories which assure this could be the oldest island in the Archipelago. Santa Fe is home to a number of endemic species like the Galapagos hawk, the Galapagos snake, the Galapagos mockingbird, rice rats, and one of the two species of lands Iguanas of the islands. After disembarking in the beautiful and clear waters, we will visit one of the many sea lion colonies. Along the trail we will see many salt bushes as well as the giant Prickly pear cactus; gigantism is a characteristic of oceanic islands. There are also great possibilities for snorkeling with sea lions and tropical fishes. DAY 4, Monday San Cristobal Island
AM: Punta Pitt
This place is located on the north part of San Cristobal Island. Here we can find endemic species such as the lava lizard andIL041413 the red-footed booby. We will walk to the high part of the island for an impressive view. This spot is also home to the Chatham mockingbird, only found here on San Cristobal. PM: Kicker Rock Also known as the Sleeping Lion because of its shape, this islet is located off the coast of San Cristobal. The remains of a lava cone eroded by the sea and the two vertical rocks that rise 500 feet from the ocean surface form a small channel suitable for small boats. This natural monument has become a favorite sight for cruises because of the many tropical birds, frigates, and boobies that live in the place. Beneath the sea, the crystal clear waters offer a superb show of colorful tropical fishes and invertebrates. Lobos Island to reach Lobos Island we will navigate an hour from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here, we will find a small population of blue-footed boobies and common frigate birds nesting on the site. We will observe the two species of sea lions present in the archipelago. During the tour we will pass a dry vegetation zone, substrate of volcanic rocks and a sandy area. During the panga ride is possible to see brown pelicans and several species of shorebirds. And when snorkeling, it’s common to see juvenile sea lions, manta rays and sea turtles. DAY 5, Tuesday San Cristobal Island
AM: Interpretation Center.
The Interpretation Center will help us learn about both the geological and human history of the islands, conservation issues,wizard-hill-beach-on and natural history. The older Museum of Natural History aims to the preservation of the natural history of the islands. Frigate Bird Hill The trip to the Hill takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Once there, we are going to be treated to a spectacular view of the white beaches and a panoramic view of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The hill is often visited by frigate birds, hence the name. Both magnificent frigate birds and great frigate birds are usually seen on the site, making it the perfect place to compare and learn how to distinguish them. PM: La Lobería This coral sand beach is a piece of coast that has been named for the large number of sea lions resting on the rocks and sand. Despite being outside the boundaries of the National Park area, the park staff obliges for its care and maintenance because of its great importance. Here, we will see button mangrove, white mangrove, chala, palo santo, cotton, Tiquilia, morning glory and other species of the coastal zone, such as the cacho de chivo, whose seeds are the main source of food for several species of finches. Besides the sea lions, yellow warblers, frigates and various species of finches are usually present. DAY 6, Wednesday Española Island
AM: Punta Suarez
This rocky point sustains one of the most impressive and diverse colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos. High cliffs rise up628 from the sea along the southern shore, affording us spectacular views of soaring birds and of the blowhole, where water is squeezed through a fracture in the rocks and is expelled up to 50-75 feet into the air. PM: Gardner Bay Located on the north coast of Española, Gardner Bay is an excellent beach for relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and also presents a terrific opportunity to observe sea lions and sharks in the crystal clear waters. DAY 7, Thursday Floreana Island
AM: Punta Cormorant
Here we find probably the best flamingo lagoon in the Galapagos and one of the largest in the islands. It is located between two tuff lava cones that give the area a particular atmosphere. There are a variety of species of shorebirds besides flamingos; the most frequent are common stilts, white-checked pintail ducks, and other migratory birds. A very interesting thing to do is to observe The two distinct beaches: “The Green Beach” (with a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and the “Flour Sand Beach” which is made up of coral.
Devil’s Crown Devil’s Crown is located just off Punta Cormorant and offers some of the best snorkeling 940in the Galapagos, In fact, the only way to see the Crown is on the water, as it is termed a Marine Visitor Site, and no land visits are allowed. This is actually an almost completely submerged volcano, and erosion has transformed the cone into a series of jagged peaks, that resemble a black crown. PM: Post office bay, The Cave & Baroness Lookout
Historically, this site is actually the old location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since then by sailors and tourists as a post office. The idea is that each passing person carries the letters or postcards directed to his/her destination by hand. Just a few meters behind the site of the post office is a cave with rickety steps and ropes as hand holds. It’s not a site for the wary and only a few lucky travelers even get to hike into the underground caves that might once have been inhabited by pirates. At least my groups think that they are lucky to have this adventure – until they find themselves submerged to their waists in cold water. Still, it’s always an una1048nticipated and happy highlight of a trip to Floreana when we are able to take this detour. We will continue to the north of the island to then ascend to an elevated slope to enjoy a view of the Baroness lookout. It is said that Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner loved this place and spent several hours watching the landscape, which covers the coastline from the Ender by islet to Post Office Bay, as well as Cerro Pajas, the pool of flamingos and wide forest of Palo Santo. DAY 8, Friday Santa Cruz Island
AM: Charles Darwin Station
Although most Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate the natural wonders, it ́s also interesting to learn1113 how the protection and conservation of the islands is carried out. The main attractions here are the National Park information center, the Van Straelen Exhibition Hall, the Breeding Center for young tortoises, and the adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.
Closing thoughts of the itinerary.
Throughout the itinerary I had a wonderful time and got the most amazing photographs to prove it (here’s my Top Galapagos Shots), Today was to be our last day on the Anahi. We were all bereaved to leave such a poignant atmosphere. In a closing procession, we marched one by one with bittersweet steps back towards the bus that will take us to the ferry- transferring us to the other side of Santa Cruz where Ayora Airport is located and off we go to catch our flight back to Quito.
The Guide Captain and Crew
For me the tour guides captain and crew can make or break a trip – in our case we couldn’t have been hap079pier with our trip to Galapagos. We really enjoyed it. Everything went very smoothly and we felt well cared for by the Anahi captain and crew whom was incredibly friendly and attentive, and dealt with slight issues before we even had a chance to ask, our tour guide, Roberto, was so friendly, so helpful, and great in so many ways. He was very knowledgeable with a large personality and fun and interesting to spend time with.
For myself (a non fussy eater with no dietary requirements) the food throughout the entire cruise was unbelievably good gorgeous delicious and well displayed. Breakfast was a mini buffet affair with fresh juice, breads, cooked breakfast and granola on offer whilst lunch and dinner were a good mix of fresh fish, meat, chicken, rice, pasta, and includes a great variety of vegetables fruits and salads etc … and we had a great opportunity to sample Ecuadorian cuisine with the freshest of produce and fish. What makes a chef “Great”? Not only cooking skills, but a mix of creativity, talent, and good communication, Our Great chef who stood every dinner serving us wearing his white clean uniform, The evening always concludes with a mind-blowing full-service dinner of amazing appetizers, entrees and desserts, I’ll pause for a moment here to say that for the 16 of us that were sat at the dinner Table, there were easily 4 people that scurried around us, working diligently to replenish bread, drinks and bring us food as well as help during the prep of our dishes. Cruise food is also a high point of the adventure, with menus featuring a combination of both local Ecuadorian and international dishes it was just superb and kept me fueled well throughout.
Personally for me the trip was the best trip ever; we have many fond memories and over 1000 photos from the Galapagos,1011 our memories of this amazing trip keep us smiling. Thank you for creating the vacation of a life time for us. Every aspect of it was wonderful! No detail was missed — the perfect itinerary, the extraordinary boat captain and crew all crew members we encountered were very friendly and professional. I wanted to thank you so very much for your help in creating the trip of a lifetime! I was amazed at your impeccable service and attention to all the key details. We will be forever grateful for all your efforts for us. We will certainly be highly recommending you and your company. With Heartfelt Appreciation –Reda & Tania