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Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

Atlanta, Georgia
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Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

My husband and I are planning to visit Galapagos islands for a week and we are interested in island hopping tours for 6D/5N. We have looked at a couple of tour agencies and all of them have similar itineraries and prices. Do these agencies have dedicated sail boats and guides or shared ones? Do the more expensive agencies like Red Mangroves handle tours differently? Does it matter which tour agency we book with or are all of them similar? Any suggestions regarding tour agencies would be appreciated.

Bristol, United...
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1. Re: Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

Most island hopping is between the unrestricted parts of the populated islands. This means anyone could in theory set up a tour with a few public ferry tickets and without a national park guide or even anyone that speaks English. So with island hopping tours, it is more important who you book with. The cruises are different because a boat can only take the route given to it by the national park - regardless of who took the booking, and it has to have an approved guide per 16 passengers with both English and Spanish language.

Some island hopping tours add on day trips to restricted islands which are likely to be shared with other passengers. You could also book these yourself for any spare days you have.

Red Mangrove have accomodation on Santa Cruz, Isabella and Floreana so you can do a triangle tour between them without having to return to Santa Cruz. This can allow you to do 3 islands with only 3 boat crosssings instead of 4 - and perhaps even better gets you an early morning visit to the Floreana highlands. The Floreana accomodation is basic but comfortable and clean.

The Finch Bay hotel have their own boat going to various islands so they can combine hotel stays on Santa Cruz with day visits - not really island hopping as such but an alternative.

Dave Peters

DP Software

Atlanta, Georgia
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2. Re: Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

Thanks for the reply Dave.

In addition to Red Mangrove and Finch, we were looking at island hopping tours by Julio-Verne, Nature Galapagos, Zenith Ecuador, (still waiting to hear back from Galapagos Alternative), etc. Red Mangrove does offer stay in Floreana that others don't. But the price premium of the former two is over 2x. Wondering if it is worth the premium.

Also, other than time spent on boats (getting from hotel to point of interest), will we be missing out on anything important (I know it is subjective) by taking island hopping vs. cruises - for tours that are comparable / go to same islands.

Oceanside...
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3. Re: Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

In most instances, you won't go to different landings on a day trip or a naturalist cruise that both go to the same island. (The exception is Floreana, where you go to completely different places.) One difference will be that the naturalist cruises are on the landings first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon, when wildlife often are more active and the light is less harsh and better for photography.

The main difference, in my opinion, is that the wildlife live considerably further from the paths on any landing that is visited by both day trips and naturalist cruises, likely due in large part to greater volume of human traffic. On our naturalist cruise, we went to all of the islands that you can get to by day trips from Santa Cruz as well as a number of islands that can only be visited on a cruise. The difference in the experience with the wildlife--how close they are, how they just live their lives while you walk, quite literally, around them--was dramatic. If you only go to islands on day trips, though, you'll never know the difference. For me, it wouldn't be enough of the "essence" of what makes the archipelago so extraordinary. But people who do day trips only report having a good time even with this more limited exposure.

Tina

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

Bristol, United...
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4. Re: Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

For the day trip islands that you add on as day trips to restricted islands like N. Seymour, Bartolome, Plaza there are no differences between the cruise and the day trip except that the day trips are mostly towards the middle of the day and the cruise visits towards the start and end of the day. You would only get one island with a day trip and 2 each day of a cruise. This assumes the cruise is going to the close islands that you can get day trips to. The outer islands are a completely different experiance which you can only do by cruise.

For island hopping between the populated islands, there are different landing points to the cruises:

On Floreana, the island hopping normally takes you to the highlands where you might see the medium tree finch, plus you see semi-captive tortoises which are inter-bred between islands, maybe the water source of the island and the farm. There is also a place to see sealions maybe with pups. On the cruise you might see Punta cormorant with flamingos and post office bay where you can famously leave cards for other visitors to collect and deliver for you if they live near the destination address. Recent reports seem to suggest that devils crown, one of the best snorkel sites cannot be done on day trips - but check the itinerary.

On Isabella, the island hopping could take you to the town, beach, wall of tears, tortoise breeding and might include the shark viewing/iguana islet tour or the volcano hike. On a cruise you might get the same plus there are many other landing points on the west coast which have completely different things and are not accessible without a cruise. For example uplifted seabed, darwins lake, more colourful land iguanas, lava walks, flightless cormorant (main site is Fernandina).

On Santa cruz most things are the same but the cruises can also visit black turtle cove and bachas beach. The island hopping might go to Tortuga Bay which is a nice more remote beach not often visited by cruise.

In my opinion (having done both on more than one occasion) the best, most amazing sites of the Galapagos are the more remote islands that you can only reach by cruise. These are Genovesa, Espanola and Fernandina. Not only are there unique species there but they are in far greater numbers and you can get very close - even to young chicks. If visitors were allowed to roam freely here it would do great harm so they are only excorted walks. They are also beyond the range of day trips.

One that you can do as a day trip is Bartolome which has the best view in all Galapagos - although not a great deal of wildlife on land, you may see penguins in the area. Its a full days trip from about 5:30am due to the distance of travel.

Another close second island is N. Seymour which can be done as a day trip.

In terms of Red Mangrove versus other island hopping, I would check the accomodation you are getting as it does vary quite a bit in Galapagos. Food choice can be very different too, the best hotels might offer international dishes and the most basic only the local fish/chicken, rice and beans.. If you can find out the name of the hotel, you can check reviews here. If it doesn't state the hotel or at least the class then I would be suspicious. Depending on your style of travel, you may decide the most important thing is the wildlife and not worry about your accomodation - only you can decide that.

Hope that helps.

Dave Peters

DP Software

5. Re: Request for suggestion on island hopping tours

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