We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

Helsinki
Level Contributor
276 posts
87 reviews
Save Topic
How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

We are a group of friends and we have two offers for the next Xmas for 1 week tour at Galapagos for the same price of 1300 usd/person both options. I think it is very difficult to review which option suits us the best. We are not looking for any luxury, but more like adventurous and independent way of sightseeing and seeing the Islands.

Our options:

-An economic class boat SULIDAE -budget yacht Dec. 21-27

-A hopping tour (visit during the day and sleep in hotels during the

night, transport between the islands in speed boat).

We are first timers at Galapagos (though travelled a lot elsewhere), so we are looking for the best option of course. It is hard to decide between these two options as they are on the same budget level.

The budget boat Itinerary is like this:

Fri. San Cristobal - Galapaguero

Sat: Española Island

Sun: Florerana Island

Mon: Santa Cruz Island

Tue: Isabela Island

Wed: Santa Cruz

Thu: North Seymour Island

Island hopping itinetary:

Day 1: Arrival in San Cristóbal

Day 2: Highlands of San Cristobal

Day 3: boat tour to snorkel to Lobos Islands and Kicker Rock

Day 4: In the morning we?ll fly to Isabela

Day 5: Hike to Sierra Negra volcan

Day 6: Early departure by speedboat to Santa Cruz.

Day 7: Today well have a daily trip to Floreana island

Is there something important we might miss if choosing hopping-itinetary or likewise if we choose the cruising option? What are the benefits of choosing the island hopping? What are the benefits of choosing the cruise-option?

Thank you so much for all the comments and tips already.

Mentioned in this post
North Seymour Island
North Seymour Island
243 Reviews
Baltra, Ecuador
Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock
898 Reviews
San Cristobal, Ecuador
Sierra Negra
Sierra Negra
339 Reviews
Isabela, Ecuador
San Cristobal
San Cristobal
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Isabela
Isabela
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Deep
Boat Tours, Scuba & Snorkeling
Via Natura Galapagos
Boat Tours, Scuba & Snorkeling, Eco Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Enchanted Expeditions
City Tours, Multi-day Tours, Boat Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Galapagos a la Carte
Multi-day Tours, Boat Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Private Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Oceanside...
Level Contributor
1,867 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

One big advantage to the above cruise is that you get beyond the inhabited areas a bit. In late December, you might not see many (or any) Waved Albatross on Española (they begin to leave around mid-Dec., although I've heard of a few folks who lucked into seeing a couple in early Jan.). But even without those marvelous behemoths, Española is a lovely, out-there island. If you get to snorkel at Devil's Crown off Floreana, that's a marvelous spot. You'll also waste less time traveling to the day's outing--and you'll get 2 landings and at least 1 snorkeling opportunity most days. That's more landings for your buck.

The island-hopping option of necessity keeps you more closely tied to civilization, which isn't what most folks go to the archipelago to enjoy. (You can enjoy interesting cultures for a lot cheaper elsewhere.) It looks like you spend 2 of the 7 days moving between islands, which seems like a waste (although perhaps they just didn't provide enough detail there--you might check that out). If that flight to Isabela is on Emetebe, beware! Folks have written about problems with that airline lately on this forum. Plus the day trip to Floreana doesn't visit spots that are as interesting as the cruise visits (and definitely doesn't let you snorkel at Devil's Crown).

I'd vote for the cruise.

Tina

trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

So I personally would opt for the cruise.

Mentioned in this post
Isabela
Isabela
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
901 posts
997 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

Tonppa --

I assume your $1300 does not include airfare to the Galapagos.

If that's the case, it would seem like your group could easily arrange the same land itinerary for about half the price. I've seen no reports that this is at all difficult.

Your boat trip is at a peak time (Xmas), so it may be more difficult to negotiate a rock-bottom price, and waiting until the last minute could present some problems. That said, I think everyone here would say $1300 for an economy class boat is no bargain. It would seem like you should be able to get tourist class -- or better - for that price.

Mentioned in this post
Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
Level Contributor
3,376 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

Dear Tonppa,

Confirm the Sulidae is a cruise ship, and not a day tour ship. Are you sleeping on the ship, and cruising at night between destinations? The Sulidae must be one of the oldest ships in Galapagos - it is certainly economy class. I was under the impression that it no longer had a cruise ship license, but only a day trip license. Make sure you do this with your eyes open. If your expectations are properly adjusted, you'll have a great time.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Mentioned in this post
Helsinki
Level Contributor
276 posts
87 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

1300usd includes only the tour, not flights.

The Sulidae will do a cruise and we should sleep in.

Key Features of Sulidae:

Classic “Pirate” Ship

Private Bathrooms with Cold Water

Air-Conditioned Rooms

English Speaking Naturalist Guide

What is the proper price we should target, if we are a group of 8-10 adults?

I think we will choose a cruise based on these comments, but for a what price then ;) ?

Bristol, United...
Level Contributor
850 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

The national park website lists the Sulidae as licensed for cruises but without air conditioning up to 31 jan this year. Since they have not updated the national park website its not possible to tell which boats have licenses for 2012 or if there is now air con. In might be worth confirming with the boat if the rooms are really air conditioned if that matters to you.

The boat is early 1900's and is bottom of the range - but the price reflects that. You get to see Espanola and N. Seymour which are more special than the populated islands and more wildlife. I am not sure where you can get a cruise of that length cheaper at that time of year except for last minute bargains which you would not get with a large group.

I think it is a great shame to go to Galapagos and only see populated islands however if you have never been spoiled by doing a cruise you will certainly still enjoy a land visit very much - as you will see from reports of those who have done it. My preference is for a cruise and then some time on land without a specific schedule.

The only thing that bothers me about bottom of the range is thats often where you find problems with hygiene, maintainance and safety - but I haven't seen any specific complaints about this boat except for one that dates back to a time when it had no license. That was an Internet report so I cannot verify it.

With your group size, it may be worth asking someone like happygringo.com about chartering a whole boat. There are some boats that only operate like that and so are not always found on websites.

Dave Peters

DP Software

Mentioned in this post
Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
901 posts
997 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

The problem with determining a "proper price" is that prices are all over the place. The general rule is that the further in advance you book, and the further you do it from Puerto Ayora, the more you pay.

Given the size of your group, it definitely seems like it would be wise to try to get your own yacht for the trip. As Dave Peters notes above, you could contact a mainland Ecuador travel agent like happygringo and see what they can put together for you. This will, of course, involve a middleman (and I'm guessing 2 middlemen) It would obviously be better to do your business direct with the folks in Puerto Ayora. Unfortunately, no one here has ever posted the necessary contacts to do that direct. But wouldn't a Puerto Ayora travel agency (maybe Moonrise?) be a better place to start than a Quito-based agency?

Mentioned in this post
Puerto Ayora
Puerto Ayora
Santa Cruz, Ecuador
Quito
Quito
Pichincha Province, Ecuador
Bristol, United...
Level Contributor
850 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

If you are booking well in advance then most agents in Galapagos or Quito are going to quote you the list price. Some may cut into their profit to give you some discount but most don't.

If you use an agent overseas then they often add an extra markup or they bundle transfers , flights, hotel and the add a markup. You need to research the total cost of everything you are being offered to see if its a good deal or not. But don't forget it takes time and effort to put together a package yourself.

When you get close to departure time, you may well get some real bargains especially if you travel to galapagos and book there - but you need flexibility on dates and boat choice. Do your homework first as its difficult to research in the shop. You can't do this if you have a group of 10 though.

Booking direct with a boat is possible but for individual cabins you will normally be quoted the list price and teh boat owner will just avoid paying the agents.

For charters, you may be able to get discount booking direct regardless of the booking date - you are effectively an agent responsible for selling the cabins. You are however then responsible for the entire boat price even if you don't fill it. I don't know of any that will compete with the prices being talked about here. For a charter in 2011 we were looking at $30,000 including discount.

Mentioned in this post
Quito
Quito
Pichincha Province, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Level Contributor
1,529 posts
147 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

Tonppa,

I always go to Galapagos to cruise and dive. Your budget offer (usd 1300) for seven days looks great!

Definitely the way to do Galapagos and see more is by live aboard boat. Which landing sites of Isabela is the Sulidae offering you? please let us know.

Saludos cordiales,

Dennis Yepez

Edited: 11 March 2012, 14:40
Mentioned in this post
Isabela
Isabela
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Helsinki
Level Contributor
276 posts
87 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

Sulidae offers landing on:

AM Isabela Island: C:C Arnaldo Tupiza / Wetlands

PM Isabela Island: Tintoreras

Are they the best?

Mentioned in this post
Isabela
Isabela
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Oceanside...
Level Contributor
1,867 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: How to choose: A budget boat tour or island hopping tour?

The most spectacular landings on Isabela are all on the western shore, which none of these are. These are all around the town of Puerto Villamil. However, I think folks here have reported that snorkeling around Las Tintoreras can be good.

Tina

trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Mentioned in this post
Las Tintoreras
Las Tintoreras
728 Reviews
Isabela, Ecuador
Isabela
Isabela
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Puerto Villamil
Puerto Villamil
Isabela, Ecuador