I too am curious about booking with Ecoventura, especially since their website doesn't seem to be working right. Anyone know anything about them?
I've booked dozens of people on Eric/Letty/Flamingo constantly receive wonderful reports. Good ships, well run and with the benefit of having only 10 people per naturalist guide (as opposed to the maximum 16 most other ships work with).
we are considering flamingo or eric and also Alta and Parranda. price not as much of an issue as guide quality (and ratio to passengers) and ship/cabin quality and spaciousness - do you have any thoughts? thanks! Claire
We just returned from a week on the Eric. It was wonderful! The ship is well maintained and very comfortable; the food is good; the staff is outstanding! I can't say enough about the service staff-the crew was truly exceptional, very experienced and knocked themselves out to help you.
The Eric has a covered top deck which was nice-I didn't see a lot of boats with this feature. It was great having the two guides on the ship. We also felt the itinerary was a big plus. We saw Genovesa, Fernadina and Isabella. Every day we saw new animals-and lots of them.
You'll love it! It's truly a trip of a lifetime.
P.S. Take lots of sunscreen and appropriate clothes for hiking in strong sun.
Nice youtube video that shows the ship and the food!
If the link does not work go to the you tube site and search galapagos ecoventura
Trip review – Galapagos- Flamingo (Eric/Letty/Flamingo by ecoventura)
We have just returned from our cruise in the Galapagos March 1-8, 2009. We were seven on the Flamingo, one of three sister ships operated by Ecoventura (note the ecoventura also runs a dive ship, the Skydancer). We had a wonderful time. The below is designed to tell you what to expect if you choose an Ecoventura cruise, but not really a review of the islands (which are wonderful).
First, a little about us. We were two senior couples (sorry Mom!) and their three adult children (late 30’s- or so). I have always dreamt of going to the Galapagos, and the parents wanted to see the birds. I planned the trip, and spent a lot of time trying to pick a cruise. I am sure there are many that are excellent. We chose the Ecoventura based on the companys reputation of being an excellent cruise company with great naturalists and a 10:1 guide ratio, as opposed to the typical 20:1. Frankly, we thought with this many family members we might need a ship that split up into two groups at times. Also, ecoventura has a good reputation for leaving a minimal environmental fingerprint (one boat, the Eric, even has solar panels to offset some of its consumtion). Heather Blenkiron from CNH tours was our travel agent. Heather was extremely patient with our over 40 emails with small questions (what to pack, can they handle food allergies, etc) so big kudos to her. Special thanks for not laughing or turning us into the authorities when one of us asked if they could bring their fishing gear. (Um, NO!)
So we started our trip two days early with a flight to Guayaquil. We were concerned that Quito is at a high altitude and preferred to stay at sealevel. Thjere seems to be only one daily flight to Guayaquil, so we went a day early. We stayed at the Hotel Oro Verde which was great – see my review. Sunday morning we arrived three hours early to the airport (yes, we have some anxious travelers among us). We then went and paid the $10 tax and got our card to enter the Galapagos. Well, the Ecoventura person showed up about two and a half hours before the flight, and kindly informed us that all of that was taken care of and we double paid the tax. He said that he would have to refund us through our travel agent, but actually found us at the wirport when we finished our cruise and refunded our $10 then, so that was a nice touch. Also, apparently the whole flight to the Galapagos had been charted by ecoventura, so that was nice. Plus they put us in first class and led us to the AreoGal preferred lounge. We should have just waited for the ecoventura rep as he took care of everything for us. Note that the flight to the Galapagos starts in Quito, flies to Guayaquil, then to the Galapagos. So we saved some time by staying in Guayaquil.
We arrived in the Galapagos and immediately met one of our guides Ivan. He put us on a little shuttle and took us to the boat. We had a little orientation, met our second guide Orlando, then lunch. We then traveled to playa Ochoa for our first hike. I will leave the rest of the itinerary to what you can find on their website, and instead talk about things you cant learn form the website.
Note that the three ships of the Ecoventura travel together. This was fine, we staggered our arrivals at each island so we were not in eachothers way. However, when the marina fueling station was broken and our ship was low on fuel, we were able to hop on the sister ship, travel 20 minutes to the next stop, take our walk and our own ship Flamingo was there waiting at the end of the walk. So if your ship has a problem, it is good to have a sister ship nearby! Ecoventura is also lucky enough to go to Tower Island, where the big ships can’t go.
Our daily schedule was this: wake up call at seven (Ivan gave us wake up calls with cheesy songs – like Lady in Red), breakfast, then the first hike of the day. By 11 or 1130 we were back on the boat, with our waiter Jairo waiting for us with juice and empanadas or some treat. Lunch at noon, siesta, then the second hike at 2. Back to the boat by 5, with more treats. Orientation for the next day at 7 and Dinner at 730. Most of us turned in by 930 or so. The other guests were really great, everyone was friendly, we felt very lucky to be traveling with them. There was only one young adult at 13- he handled the trip well.
Our guides were really great. Ivan is young, the son of a professor, with a zest for life and music and diving. He would get so excited, pointing out things that were new to us but that he had seen for most of his life. Orlando was mature, having worked at the National Park and done research before becoming a guide. He would tell us stories about meeting the Grants, or what the islands were like before conservation became a priority. He had a great perspective on life. We could not have been happier with our guides. They were both excellent, we never felt that we had to try to be with a particular one. They were particularly mindful of our safety. Ivan went out of his way to try to teach my mom to snorkel. When we realized she could handle breathing through the mask but was uncomfortable with having her feet off the ground, he put her in a lifevest, had her hang on to the ladder of the panga(zodiac), and had the driver slowly drive around the reef. She was thrilled, and it was the experience of a life time for her. The guides were also great about the hikes. There were some that were too strenuous for our group- but the guides were careful to send the panga driver to walk with us and turn back when the lava got too much – we all really appreciated their special care of us! Ivan even made us all a CD with photos of our trip!
The food was good, with a fish option and a meat option for each meal. And soup to start lunch and dinner.
We all really enjoyed our trip, no one got seasick but I suspect that depends on the weather. Please email me with any questions, I would be happy to answer them.
I just returned from a trip to the Galapagos on the Eric. The crew and guides were excellent and the trip was pretty good, not "over the top" outstanding as many here have said. Since you've read plenty of good stuff, here are a few of my concerns:
1. Termites in our beds. We woke up on Wednesday to termites (live) in our beds. To their credit the crew reacted quickly and fumigated all cabins. But you wonder why this wasn't done in advance.
2. Six snorkels in six days. this would have been good if i were going on a snorkeling trip but not what i wanted for a Galapagos tour (and an expensive one at that)
3. Inconsistent schedule. We had two great days followed by three pretty soft days on Bartolome, North Seymour, Santiago and Santa Cruz and then a great last day on Espanola. The middle days were low activity, little wildlife and four poor snorkeling events in cloudy water.
4. worst time of the day. We went onto North Seymour and saw blue footed boobies, some displaced albatrosses head for Espanola, a lone owl, etc. Good viewing but at the heat of the day from 2:30 to 4 PM, no one was happy or comfortable being out in the sun at probably 90+ degrees. The photography was crummy due to the high sun and the animals being mostly inactive.
5. My biggest concern was the food. If you like fried food this is trip for you. When we came back to the boat from activities, the crew graciously had snacks for us. Fried empanadas (2x), chicken nuggets, some unidentified fried thing, etc. Each lunch meal had a fried item, fish, turkey, chicken, they can fry it all. The salt content was pretty high too. Finally, most food was prepared well in advance of consumption so by the time we got to it, the food was pretty dried out. This happened pretty consistently with our fish dishes. A beautiful piece of sea bass (not fried) was served severely overcooked.
Please don't take me to be grumpy or unappreciative because I'm not putting this on the crew, but rather the company (Ecoventura). People from the Flamingo had a different view and said there food was very good so maybe we had a bad chef. (or maybe they were satisified with the food as it was.) Most people did comment on the salt and fried food content.
Our Ecoventura Galapagos trip on the ship Eric (April 19-26, 2009) met and exceeded all of my expectations! This was my third trip to Galapagos. Our friends Mark and Barbara on the trip were especially happy with my pick of Ecoventura, as were my parents. This trip was just as good as Wilderness Travel's cruise.
Bright conditions and dense wildlife most every day ensured great photography. I was pleased to add a Galapagos Hawk, Red footed boobies, and Waved Albatrosses to my photo collection (not seen on previous trips). I was surprised how many penguins on land and in sea we saw during snorkeling.
The itinerary was excellent as expected, visiting the greatest variety of islands and wildlife versus other companies (Red footed boobies on Tower; large colonies of big sea iguanas and live erupting volcano on Fernandina; Waved Albatross on Espanola; plus the usual blue footed boobies, land iguanas, giant tortoise, and so forth), transported by fast boats.
Food was excellent and healthy, usually with many choices a la cart for breakfast and lunch; and meals were always prompt. Each time we returned from an outing, fresh juice and a snack (often a tasty fried item) would be offered directly on deck, as if we didn't already have enough to eat during the generous 3 meals. The chef went out of his way to provide gluten free meals for my wife Carol. Meal service was timely and spotless, with large portions of healthy food. Carol and I surprisingly lost weight on the trip, maybe due to all the snorkeling in cool water.
Our guides Alexis and Harry were effective, had an enjoyable sense of humor, and were very responsive to the needs of passengers. Our great boat the Eric (with nice wood decks) travels with sister ships Letty and Flamingo, providing good security, back up, and booking flexibility versus other companies.
My wife Carol and I were on the same cruise as Steve (who wasn't as positive about certain aspects of the trip, described in the adjacent comment).
Weather and water conditions on our trip unfortunately made for mostly cloudy water during snorkeling, nowhere near as good for visibility compared to my 1994 and 1986 trips (with Wilderness Travel), though we had about 2 good snorkeling days. Weather is a random element for any trip.
My wife Carol used a Scopalamine patch which immediately cured her sea sickness throughout the cruise. Three sisters on the trip unfortunately suffered from sea sickness (and an allergy to Scopalamine kept at least one sister from the Scopalamine patch cure).
Excursion times of day are basically the same on any Galapagos cruise, defined strictly by the National Park rules, including HOT afternoon hikes, which are relieved by good cabin air conditioning in the boats and snorkeling in cool waters.
I wish I could agree with you about the excursions. Talk to someone who was there the same week as us on the Van Os tours. They were out to photograph at 7 AM and had breakfast afterward and they went back out around 4PM, avoiding crowds and heat of day excursions.
If you charter the entire boat, you can arrange anything from about 6am and ending the afternoon visit at 6pm. Since this means leaving before breakfast, it has to be a group charter where everyone has signed up for that. This is what I am arranging for my 2011 tour. You can find similar tours in photo magazines.
If you stay on Santa Cruz, you can of course start early yourself but day trips are even worse as you get the middle of the day.