Meena emailed me the account below of her trip to Galapagos and gave me permission to share it with you.
Thought I would share my wonderful vacation experience of my recent Galapagos trip ., especially in the thread of the travel agent going the extra mile . We chose KleinTours , and it turned out to be a great choice . My travel agent, Ximena, was extremely prompt in answering every litttle question I had, from arranging vegetarian meals to the choice of hotel .
We started in Quito and stayed at Hotel Quito , an excellent hotel with very helpful staff . This was one of the few trips where we did not have a problem chasing after a good place to get vegetarian food ! The guides were right there , to pick us up and made sure we were well settled in the hotel before leaving . They filled us in with important particulars like taking only cabs with orange plates and asking the driver to return to pick us up when visiting places where cabs were hard to find . They not only recommended places to eat on our free evenings , but made sure to mark out maps , after dropping us off at the place .
Klein Tours seems to have very well informed English speaking guides and we were fascinated by the detailed history of Quito as told by the very pleasant guide.
We flew to Baltra and had our first panga [skiff. MK ] ride , when it took us to the ship Legend , which has been renovated to be very comfortable. The 5 days of Galapagos cruising were very hectic , as we left every morning for our hike through the different islands, all set with our life jackets and by the last day had become quite adept at getting in and out of the boat to board the ship!
The sights we saw and the animals we literally walked with were truly unique , especially , with the detailed explanations for their peculiarities , by our guide . It was amazing to be standing next to a group of sea lions , who were totally at ease with humans . One of them dashed out of the water and snatched a package of plastic bags on a counter of a waterfront store and dived back before we could take it in!
And then there were the iguanas. One almost felt like comparing Florence belonging to Michaelangelo to Galapagos belonging to iguanas . They lay all over the place, even plastered up on the rocks huddled to stay warm and we had to watch our steps to avoid treading on one . They even put up an impromptu show of an iguana fight between a bully and a young one, who fought bravely, but had to retreat.
And of course the highlight was the visit to see the tortoise Lonesome George at the charles Darwin center . One can’t believe walking along with these enormous tortoises , nearly a century old, not to mention the ingenious way , the naturalists have learnt to breed them.
Every island had its own animal, bird and plant life and made up a page of geography and history and it was almost too much to absorb, as the guide described the peculiar habits that these animals had acquired in their evolution.
We hiked over rocks and crossed creeks and climbed steps , swam and snorkeled , and were always “rewarded ” on our return to the ship with a special delicious treat , including chocolate dipped strawberries and ice cream streaked with syrup . Good that we could work off all the extra pounds with the hikes! They even had a special party night with an improvised, hilarious stage play.
The only rough time we had was one night when we were really tossed about on the seas and learnt what it was to sway one’s way through the ship . The cruise staff managed to nudge us to keep to the time , with such a tightly packed routine , without nagging , a real feat .
It was like leaving an enchanted land when we returned from the ship to the airport on the way home . The Ecuadorian people are one of the warmest hosts and one could sense their pride in the way the country is slowly building itself , with its free education for children , while accommodating their work schedule.
It is definitely an experience not to be missed , especially with a well organized tour company . Meena
I’ve never met the people at Klein Tours, but this is not the first time that I have head good things about them. I am impressed with the guiding details like waiting at the hotel to make sure guests are settled in. It shows that they are taking the trouble to select and train good guides.
The company that I recommend for Ecuador and Galapagos is Quasar Expeditions Galapagos. The owners Eduardo and Delores Diaz have been friends for many years. Over the years I have recommended them to dozens of people and always gotten excellent feedback.
In 1991 Yolanda, an old friend and I wanted a private trip to Galapagos. I asked the Diaz to find us an affordable boat for 3 guests. I told them that we were willing to forego comfort and amenities, but that a top guide was vital. If they did not have a good guide available we would postpone the trip.
They found us Josefina (Pepita) Arevalo. I was so impressed that a year or so later, after checking with Eduardo I hired her to manage Monteverde Lodge. She staid for a season, fell in love with a biologist from the US and returned with him to Galapagos. Years back she emailed me to say the she had a child. Haven’t heard anything since, but we often wonder how she is doing.
The trip of course was magical, but more so because of the company than the place. Even in a place as special as the Galapagos for me who you are with and who you meet are more important than what you see.
Here we are. Pepita is on the left with the binoculars.
How young and thin we were!
Please share accounts of trips guides and the people you met along the way.