This educational trip was by G Adventures, who's headquarters are in Toronto, Canada. They very recently started selling in the US. G Adventures in a small group adventure travel company. They are for people who do not just want to see a destination from a bus - but go out and experience it.
I traveling at the beginning of September, which is the start of the low season in the Galapagos. The weather averaged 73-78 with many overcast days. Surprisingly the currency is US and no converters are needed for the electrical outlets, and the high altitude definitely did bothered me.
I flew into Quito, Equator for an overnight stayed at the Hilton Colon Quito. Beautiful hotel right in the middle of the city. Did a private sightseeing tour of the city for the day with 2 other agents. The # 1 highlights for me was The Equator Museum in Quito. Directly on the equator, sun dials face upward and not horizontal, eggs can be balanced upright on the head of a nail. We saw first hand as water drains straight down a drain on the equator, while just south of the equator it drains in a clockwise direction, and counter clockwise just 6 feet north of the equator. Awesome!!
Also, not to be missed is the Teleferico, which is a cable car that takes you up 4050 meters on the summit of Cruz Loma. Gives a spectacular view of the city and its surroundings including more than 14 peaks of the Andes.
The next morning up very early for our flight from Quito to Isla Baltra in the Galapagos with a stop in Guayaquil on AeroGal. Flying time 2.5 hours.
G Adventures has 4 ships in the Galapagos - the G3, 4, 5 and 8. All with different levels of comfort. We were on the G5 which holds 16 passengers. It was nice and clean, but a bit to simple. I would sell the level up from there which is the G8. The number one reason would be the bathroom. The sink did not have hot and cold water, just luke warm. Due to the size of the ships pipes, toilet paper had to be put in the waste basket, not the toilet.
On board purchases, which would only be alcohol must be paid in cash.
Our Itinerary was the Northern and Central Islands
Santa Cruz We took a 45 minute van ride from a dry desert setting into the tropical rain forest of the interior, to visit the Wild Giant Tortoise Reserve, . This is the only place in the Galapagos that you will be guaranteed to see these rare creatures. So, if your clients have their hearts set on seeing them make sure this is on the itinerary!
Mosquera Island Known for its large sea lion colony. We took a small boat to this tiny island and were allowed to walk around freely in the finely ground sand observing the sea lions. Being careful and respectful of the animals is always number one. Our naturalist told us not to get any closer then 6 feet from an animal at all times. If they approach you, like curious babies do, back up and always maintain distance.
The sun was going down when we left, which made for great pictures.
Genovesa Island Mangroves and birds. Massive colonies of Frigate Birds, Red Footed Boobies and other seabirds. So many cute fluffy baby birds in there nests to count. We had the opportunity to snorkel afterwards from the shore, where a mother and pup played with some of the people in the water.
In the late evening we went back to the island only this time to another area - very different then the mangroves from this morning. This area was up high on a cliff with white sand, leafless trees and black lava rock. Home to the Nazca Boobies. These were my favourite animals of the trip. As we walked around hearing there prehistoric calls among the leafless Holy Trees (as they are called) all I could think of was what a great setting for Halloween!
South Plaza This small island has one of the largest populations of land Iguanas. It is the only place where land and sea iguanas interbreed.The vegetation here is quite different as well. The ground is covered with a beautiful greenish red plant called carpetweed and large yellow flowering cactus. Bright orange Sally Light Foot Crabs were all over the volcanic shores.
Santa Fe Afternoon snorkelling with the sea lions before landing on this remote dry island. Basking sea lions lined the shoreline. They are so cute, to watch. A hike to the top of a very high, very steep cliff was in store for those of us who were game. The view of the island from the top was beautiful. Would I do that again- no
San Cristobal One of the oldest of the Galapagos islands. Sea lions along the beach, Sally Light Footed Crabs scurrying back and forth from the waters edge to their homes in the sand was what greeted us. Here, perched on the lava rock looking over the crystal clear water was a Blue Footed Bobbie. They only one we saw on the whole trip. They are very shy birds and not as abundant as they use to be. So we were very fortunate. Back to the boat for one last snorkelling trip. This time around a large rock formation called Kicker Rock. Snorkelling temperatures averaged 69 degrees, but here due to being out in the open water 65 degrees. All week Pedro our naturalist promised sharks, here they were. Schools of them. Graceful and beautiful in the waters below.
Our afternoon flight back to Quito left from San Cristobal with a stop once more in Guayaguil. An overnight was needed due to our late return. They next day I and 2 others had 1130pm return flights home. So, we decided to hire a driver to take us to the famous Otavalo Market 2 hours away from Quito. The Ecuadorian countryside was beautiful and worth the long ride alone all by itself. Otavalo Market was incredible - beautiful handmade clothes, alpaca blankets, spices, live stock, unusual food and lots and lots of color !!
Many of the sellers there are native Otavalos. The women were wearing strings of gold necklaces and dressed in long black skirts with white embroidered shirts, while the men wore a black hat and a dark-colored poncho. Their long hair was braided and wrapped with colorful ribbons. If you are in Quito on a Saturday this excursion should not be missed.
Sound like the way you’d like to travel? If so then talk to Sheri Koch at First Choice Travel and Cruise. I’m sure she would be happy to tell you all about the Galapagos Islands and G Adventures trips around the world.