Visit the Galapagos with Us!

Posted by Arlo on May 5, 2010 under Life of Arlo, Postcard Valet, Travel

Our group from the Floreana, January 2010

Have you ever thought about going to the Galapagos Islands?  How ‘bout this fall?

Here’s the deal.  Oksana and I will very likely be passing through Ecuador around October or November and I can’t imagine not taking her out to that amazing archipelago.  Unfortunately, it’s going to be way outside our budget of $100/day.  The rest of Ecuador is quite inexpensive, so we might just settle down for awhile and save up for the trip, but I’m hoping we can find another way…

When I was there in January, our group paid for a seven-day tour of the islands.  For the entire week, our home was the 78’ motor yacht, Floreana.  There’s room for 16 passengers (8 rooms), and everything from an English-speaking naturalist guide to three meals a day was provided.  Our itinerary generally consisted of two land excursions and two snorkeling excursions every day, with a couple of nights out on the towns (Puerto Ayora and San Cristóbal.)  Although there were only five people in our group, we quickly bonded all the other tourists and had a fantastic time!

The Yate Floreana

Every time I bring up my trip to the Galapagos, someone says, “Oh, I’d love to go there someday.”  It gets me thinking.  How hard would it be to fill the Floreana with friends and family?

This is me, inviting you to join us on a Galapagos trip!

Let’s discuss the details a bit:

Giant Land Tortoise

  • Right now, Oksana and I don’t know when we’ll be getting to Ecuador, but my best guess is late-October, early-November.  Obviously, if this Galapagos trip comes together, we’ll adjust our itinerary accordingly.
  • I would suggest taking two weeks off from work/school for this trip, but you could probably get away with just 10 days if you had to.  We’ll be spending an entire week on the boat, plus you’ll need a couple days from travel from the U.S.  If you’ve got a bit of extra time, we can tour Quito, visit the equator, and go to the renowned Otavalo market.

Cost estimate:

  • Round-trip airfare from the U.S. to Quito (or Guayaquil): ~$1,500
    (I think it cost us $1,800 from Juneau, but it can probably be done cheaper with advance planning.  Also, don’t forget: You could save a lot by using your airline miles!)
  • Round-trip airfare, Quito-Galapagos: ~$425
  • Galapagos park fee: $100
  • Seven-day boat tour: ~$1,000, plus tips
    (We paid $1,000, but that was arranged after we arrived at the islands.  Prices in Quito were around $1,250 for the same trip, but if we really can reserve the whole boat as a group, I’ll bet we’ll be able to negotiate $1,000 again.  Note that this will cover everything for the entire week, excepting sodas/alcohol and possibly incidentals in the port towns.)
  • Extras: Maybe $500.
    If it were me, I’d probably budget an extra $500, just to be safe, but if you want to pinch pennies, you can get by on $20 for every extra day spent in Ecuador (which will cover food, transportation, and a clean hostel room, but probably not any extra tours or souvenirs.)  Maybe double that in the Galapagos, $40 per day, for any time not spent on the boat.  Obviously you can upgrade to the Hilton in Quito, if you like, but that will be much more like U.S. prices!
  • And if I can convince you it’s worthwhile: $100 to Oksana and me…
    …in exchange for taking on any and all arrangements that you’d like us to take care of!  We’ll reserve the yacht, the hotels, the Quito-Galapagos airline tickets, we’ll meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel or hostel, we’ll give you a tour of Quito (or of other parts of Ecuador, if you have the time!), and we’ll make sure to have you back at the airport in time for your return flight home.  (If 14 people to join us, and if those 14 each chip in an extra $100, it’ll just barely cover one of our own trips.  Still wouldn’t be quite within our budget, but it’d be close enough for government work!)

Sunrise in the Galapagos

So what are we looking at, total cost-wise?  I think you could do this for $3,500. (And hey, you Alaskans can knock that price down if you throw your dividend at it, right?)

Yes, that’s a lot of money, but let me assure you, a week in the Galapagos is so worth it!  There really is no place like it in the world.  The animals are completely fearless and you will be right up next to giant tortoises and both land and marine iguanas!  If you like birds, you’ll see blue-footed boobies, albatross, frigate birds, pelicans, pink flamingos, Darwin’s famous finches, and probably even penguins!  In the water, you’ll swim right up to sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and sea lions!

Blue-footed Boobies

Galapagos Hawk

Oh, the sea lions!  I’d go again just to swim with them.  I can’t tell you how amazing it is to swim with the same sea lion pup for half an hour, playing follow-the-leader, blowing bubbles at each other, and looking each other in the eye.  Magical.

Sleeping sea lion

Video framegrab of Arlo swimming with a sea lion

Video framegrab of sea Lion under water

I wish I had the time right now to put together a video of our last trip there (I have literally hours of footage and no time to go through it.)  The pictures sprinkled throughout this post will have to do for now.

So.  Are you interested?  Even a little bit?  Well then… we need to hear from you!

Land Iguana

Marine Iguana

I’ve organized trips like this for the university before, and what I like to do in the early stages is just get a feel for who’s thinking this might work for them.  What you need to do is send me an email (or get in touch with me another way) to let me know how likely you are to go with us.

Something like:

100% — “Count me in; I’m going no matter what!”
75% — “I really want to go, but it’ll depend on the dates.”
50% — “I have the time this fall, but I’ll have to see how much money I can sock away this summer.”
10% — “I’d love to go, but I don’t know how it’ll ever work.  Keep me informed, I’ll pray for a miracle!”

Really, the percentages don’t matter much.  If you’re interested at all, let me know!  I’ll form an email list and we can take it from there.

It may be that only two or three people want to go.  That’s okay; it’ll be super easy to find a tour that can fit a smaller group.  If, however, we get more than 14 people interested, I’ll probably have to form a waitlist of some sort.  In that case, your percentages will be much more important.

So what are you waiting for?  Send me that email already!

Sally Lightfoot crab

Sea Turtle

(You don’t have to swim next to the sharks if you don’t want to.)