Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Meena’s Trip to Galapagos.

Meena emailed me the account below of her trip to Galapagos and gave me permission to share it with you.

Dear Michael,

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.

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1 Comment

  • At June 29, 2010
    3:28:26 pm
    Max said:

    I have fond memories of our 2006 visit to the Galapagos as well. It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that exceeded what I’ve seen on TV and in film in terms of sheer natural diversity and amazing wildlife encounters. It also happened to be one of the more fun and relaxing “adventure” trips my wife and I have taken, thanks to a nice mix of land excursions and snorkeling adventures every day. Swimming with curious, playful sea lions was a real highlight.

    Beyond the nature experience, spending a week living on a boat with other folks from around the world was a fantastic way to travel. It wouldn’t have been the same without making new friends from the UK, Germany, France, and Canada.

    Max