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Galapagos-Land or Sea

Johnstown...
Level Contributor
42 posts
2 reviews
Galapagos-Land or Sea

Hello all

We are a group of six(3 couples) planning a 15 day tour of Mainland Ecuador & Galapagos islands in 2019

Some of the things we are considering

4 days at Sacha lodge

Cotapaxi national park

Quito city tour & middle of the world

Devils nose train & Inca ruins

Cuenca city tour

Guayaquil

4day Galapagos cruise aboard the Cormorant catamaran

As we continue with our research I am finding that a lot of people choose to do the Galapagos by land

Would you please weigh in on your experience, And also those that are familiar with the Cormoran cateraman please share your experience as well

Thanks in advance

15 replies to this topic
Calgary, Canada
Level Contributor
21 posts
6 reviews
1. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

Hi,

There are a lot of super knowledgeable people in this forum but I will throw my 2 cents in. I did an 8 day boat tour in the Galápagos 12 years ago and it was incredible. So incredible, we are heading back in 2 weeks to do another 8 day boat tour. Due to unforeseen circumstances we have some extra time on either end of our cruise so we are doing some island hopping. On a tour boat, you will go to many more places than you could get to doing a land based tour and organizing a land based tour is hard, unless you are hiring it out and especially if you have limited time. The ferries only run at certain times and the crossings are long. If you are not on a tight budget, get yourself on a boat and go for 8 days!

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
Level Contributor
11,351 posts
101 reviews
2. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

The Top Questions on the right are a good place to start your research. Two topics in particular pertain to your inquiry: "Should I take a cruise...?" and "How can I save money?" The latter has a link to an extensive thread detailing how to go about setting up a land-based trip. The TQs are not visible on phones.

For the rest of your trip, I think you're trying to cram too much in a short amount of time. You should sit down with a calendar and pencil and write down where you expect to be, day by day, with travel times. Have you thought how you will get from place to place? Andestransit.com can help you get an idea of travel times.

The time you've allotted for Galapagos is not very much. Four days will translate to just two whole days on the boat, which won't get you to the more remote uninhabited islands (which to me are what Galapagos are all about). Keep in mind it will cost $500-600 per person in airfare, transit card, and park fees just to get there. For that kind of money you could spend more time on the mainland in relative luxury (like, a private driver maybe) and see more.

Or, cut out some of the mainland destinations and spend more time in Galapagos.

Edited: 04 August 2018, 05:00
Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
270 posts
3. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

While I am a strong advocate for "Land-based" Galapagos trips... 4 days??? That is way too short an amount of time to enjoy the land based experience properly.

On such a short time frame in my opinion it is likely that a cruise is your best bet (and even then it is likely that you will leave craving more).

I personally believe that about 7 days is the minimum necessary for a reasonable land based experience (and only then if you focus on just 2 of the 3 main islands and miss out on 1 altogether).

Of course this is just my personal opinion... everyone is different.

Jake

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
Level Contributor
3,591 posts
19 reviews
4. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

Dear Mayab,

one reason why a lot of people are choosing to do Galapagos by land is that there are no limits imposed by the government on how many people can do so, while visiting by ship is strictly controlled by the total number of berths the Galapagos fleet is allowed to have. As a result, while the number of people visiting by ship has been flat at about 70,000 / year for the past 20 years, the number of land based visitors has skyrocketed from perhaps 20,000 in 2000, to close to 200,000 these days and projecting that trend into the future is not all all comforting for Galapagos conservation. Another reason is that it is usually cheaper.

I agree with those above - Galapagos is a unique place on the planet. It is on top of the destination pyramid in terms of nature/wildlife destinations. To get a real sense of what it's all about, 4 days will just not cut it. Sure, you'll have the bragging rights on your return home, but you will have only had a glimpse of the place. Perhaps you can leave it out for now, and come back another time when you can allocate at least 8 days, which is the standard amount for a good cruise throughout the archipelago (I spent 4 years there...). For a land based trip, I think a good 12 days are necessary.

As for land vs cruise - many have expressed their opinions, but of the few who have done both, the majority will say that their cruise based visit was more rewarding. From my perspective, while a land based visit must, by design, include a disproportionate amount of time and effort on logistics (checking in / out of hotels, packing / unpacking, taxis, getting to / from your daily activities, long and boring and bumpy speedboat rides, arranging for meals...), a cruise removes all of those. You wake up and you are already at your destination. You sleep in the same bed during your entire visit, you don't have to figure out where to eat all the time, you're not dealing with all the tiring little issues that distract you with what the islands are all about (full disclosure, I run a Galapagos cruise agency).

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Edited: 04 August 2018, 11:12
Johnstown...
Level Contributor
42 posts
2 reviews
5. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

Thank you all for your well thought out responses.

Of the fifteen days we are allocating for this trip I think we will try to solely focus on the Galapagos cruise & the Sacha Lodge

In regards to the cruise ships,Can anyone weigh in on the midsize( 15-20 people)

Thank you all again

Novato, California
1 post
6. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

We are a 70 year couple who mostly enjoy snorkeling and hikes. We will be visiting the Galapagos mid September, 2018. Leaning towards a 7 or 8 day cruise and one whole day in Puerta Ayora. I can get sea sick. Can anyone suggest a local tour company to maximize snorkeling on a modest budget.

Dusseldorf, Germany
Level Contributor
932 posts
294 reviews
7. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

First of all, Sacha Lodge is an excellent choice. Read my comprehensive review which includes a lot of practical advice. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReview…

Second, 4 nights in Sacha Lodge will be a fantastic experience. Quito is a very beautiful historical city and deserves 2 days. But the rest of Ecuador cannot really compete with Galapagos, so my recommendation would be to spend as much time as possible on the islands.

Third, land-based or cruise. In my experience, you see much more on a land-based tour, especially wildlife - simply because you can spend much more time with the animals.

But you need at least 5 days for a land-based trip (we, in fact, spent 12 days on the three inhabitated islands San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela, and could easily have spent a couple of days more).

A land-based trip is easy to organize: You just book flights and accomadation. That's it. Between the islands there are high-speed ferry boats, very inexpensive.

Isabela is the most beautiful island, but has no airport. So, if you have just 5 days, you have to fly into Santa Cruz, stay overnight, take the boat to Isabela, stay for 3 days there, take the boat back, spend another night on Santa Cruz, and fly back. If you have 6 or 7 days, you can spend the additional on Santa Cruz. If you have 10 days, fly into San Cristobal, take the boat to Isabela (via Santa Cruz), back to Santa Cruz, and fly out of Santa Cruz.

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
Level Contributor
3,591 posts
19 reviews
8. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

Dear Traveller,

have you taken a cruise?

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Dusseldorf, Germany
Level Contributor
932 posts
294 reviews
9. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

I tell you two types of experiences:

1) A typical cruise excursion

You land on an island (either dry or wet landing) with a group of 12, 16 or 20 people. You will have a guide who is friendly, knowledgable, speaks decent English and is more or less humorous. The first thing is that he (or she) tells you the basic rules: Stay on the trails and do not touch the animals! Then the whole group will walk a trail. From time to time, the guide will stop and show you plants, animals or geology and give lengthy explanations. The, say, 16 people in the group are pushing each other to get to the best photo spot. On your videos the voices of other tour members will be heard. Always some arm or leg of another tour group member will be on the pictures of wildlife. When 16 or more people circle around an animal that is tree or four metres away, always makings noises, photographing, handling selfie-sticks, pushing, shouting, giggling, you feel like an intruder. You will have one of these excursions per day and also a water-related activity, like snorkeling.

2) A typical land-based excursion

You will walk along the beach. In a cove, you will see sea lions lounging on the beach, breast-feeding their babies. You sit down on the sand or on a rock (or on a foldable stool) and watch the animals. The young sea lions playing in the rock pools. The bull swimming around and barking from time to time. The bull chasing rivals. You walk a bit further. You will see marine iguanas. You sit down again and take your time to watch them. They will nod at you, a sign of defending their territory. They will walk along the beach, sometimes considerable distances, and climb rocks. You will follow them with your camera, always keeping your distance of two metres. They will swim in the sea or in a lagoon. You might get into the water and swim with them. You walk a trail. While walking, you will encounter a dozen giant tortoises, some of them right on the trail. It will be very quiet and peaceful. You will be alone with nature. You have all the time in the world to watch, to make photos and videos.

And logistics?

Well, you leave the airport and enter a taxi or hotel shuttle. After a short drive, you pay $1.50. You stay in a nice hotel right on the beach, have breakfast under palm trees, with Darwin finches picking bread crumbles. You walk whenever you feel for walking, you swim whenever you feel for swimming, you go to a snorkeling bay and encounter sea turtles, rays, sea lions and a multitude of fish. Even if you don't snorkel, you can watch all these critters in knee-deep, crystal clear water.

And then the boat rides between islands. It is like this. You buy a ticket, either online or a a ticket booth in the harbour ($35). While waiting for the boat, you watch sea lions, pelicans, marine iguanas playing around on the pier. Some sea lions will ignore the 2-metre rule and sniff at your hands. Then, a water taxi brings you to your boat. The engines start and 800 horsepowers dart you across the sea. During the 90-minute ride, you will enjoy the views of the coastline, an occasional whale or a school of dolphins jumping along.

And then, dinner. Either you go into your hotel restaurant or you go out and walk a few steps to an independent restaurant. You pay $5 for a decent native-style dish, $10 for a grilled bruja fish (arguably one of the best fishes on the planet), or $25 in one of the tourist traps which are frequented by the cruise ship groups (whose guides get commission).

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
862 posts
15 reviews
10. Re: Galapagos-Land or Sea

Traveller, I don't think you have been on a Galapagos cruise, or if you did, it was a terrible one. The day you describe bears ABSOLUTELY no relation to my own experience on the Islander. I'm sure you had a great time on your land-based trip, but please do not mislead other travelers.

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