Galápagos - choice anxiety?

Posted by Marianne Salmans

Promotie B van Aves Travels

“We relieve you of the anxiety of choice and, on the basis of a few questions, we can determine what the best options are for you”

I once read an article which mentioned that only the anticipation of a beautiful holiday contributes greatly to the overall feeling of happiness. We understand that going to the Galápagos is a special choice, often made after a process of years thinking about it. The spread of animal species across the archipelago and the vastness of this nature reserve make it important to make choices in advance of where you want to go. You have probably already searched for information online, but the real possibilities remain unclear. One of my clients described it very nicely when she called me the first time: “Marianne, I am totally stressed for choice!”. When planning your trip, many questions arise: do I go island hopping or take a cruise expedition? If I choose this ship and this route, will I see what I want to see?

More than with any other destination, it is important for the Galápagos to take a number of established factors into account beforehand:

There are around 65 expedition ships to choose from, in different categories, each with their own routes and departure dates.

4 of the approximately 20 islands that can be visited offer hotel accommodation. Some islands can be visited on day trips, others only on a multi-day cruise expedition.

176 official visitor locations (91 on land and 85 at sea) have been designated by the National Park authorities. These can be visited almost all exclusively under the supervision of a professional guide.

45 bird species, 42 reptiles, 15 mammals and 79 fish species are endemic. They are present on a number of islands and some only a few months a year.

The combination of all these aspects makes the number of variations to create the best experience almost infinite. Making choices and properly mapping out your ideas and wishes ensures that you will have a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience that you will embrace in your heart.

Stay at a hotel or stay on a ship?

To go straight to the point: if you really want to get to the heart of nature and all that is Galápagos, a cruise expedition has the absolute preference over staying in hotels. The ships sail to your new destination at night, so that you can snorkel, hike or enjoy the animal life with a panga trip immediately at dawn. You also reach areas that can only be visited with an expedition ship.

When staying in hotels on land you can take day trips to visit the uninhabited islands in the vicinity. Unfortunately, with this type of stay you always lose valuable time traveling back and forth between your hotel and the destination. You effectively see fewer locations on a day than during a cruise expedition and you can undertake fewer activities.

When is a stay in hotels the better choice?

You are reluctant to spend the night on a ship: you may feel very uncomfortable with the idea of spending your nights at sea.

You really can’t do without WiFi: the Galápagos Islands are the perfect place for a “digital detox”. Outside the inhabited islands you have no reception with your mobile phone. A handful of ship offer WiFi; however, the connections are very slow and expensive. In fact, it is precisely this fact that is one of the aspects that contributes to the beauty of the archipelago and when you visit the Galapagos we recommend that you turn off your phone and store it deep at the bottom of your suitcase until you return home. It is the combination of total detachment and the blending into tangible nature that will make your trip unforgettable. However, due to circumstances you may not be able to say goodbye from the digital world; in that case we advise you to stay in hotels.

Budget: a cruise expedition generally costs more than staying in hotels in combination with day excursions. Depending on your budget, it may be better to choose the comfort of hotels over a 2-star cruise expedition.

The choice of the ship

When you start looking online which ship would be best for you, you will see that the category classification of a ship is not always the same. How is the comfort level of a ship determined? The system that was established by the national park in 1995 is now very outdated. At the time, ships were classified according to class A (private cabin with bathroom and air conditioning), B (no air conditioning) or C (no air conditioning nor private cabin). Nowadays almost all ships would fall in class A, but there are major differences in this class. In order to make a distinction, the travel industry itself has started to make classifications. You will find either a distinction in stars or a distinction according to indication as Luxury, Tourist Superior, Tourist and Budget class.

What makes the difference in comfort?

General maintenance: every ship has to go into dry dock to be completely renovated every other year. However, what is the level of maintenance during the cruise? How quickly are broken items repaired? Does the air conditioning actually work and can it be self-regulated in your cabin?

Personal space: How spacious are the cabins? How spacious is the deck? Is there sufficient choice of covered and uncovered deck space and enough choice of seats for all passengers to use this?

Professionalism of the crew: is the crew always very attentive? Does the crew give that little bit more in its service? Is there a cruise director or doctor on board?

The guide: there is a difference in level of knowledge. Is he / she easily understood in English? Does he / she share the information with enthusiasm?

The kitchen: Simple meals versus meals with multiple choices, attentive service, can the ship take into account your diet or any food allergies? Quality and range of snacks during the day.

Furnishings and decor: Is the furniture comfortable, the decor is nicely finished, the interior has atmosphere?

Extras: Does the ship offer extra services such as a swimming pool / jacuzzi, entertainment including a library, games, television , etc.

In general, the categorisation of the travel industry is quite accurate, but because there are no written guidelines, Aves Travels likes to visit the ships itself to be able to give its own judgment. Contact us and we will give you the options that fit your needs.

The choice of islands

The choice of which islands you want and can visit is determined by four factors:

The flora, fauna and geology that you want to see. Some animals are scattered throughout the Galápagos archipelago and you will be 100% sure to see them like the Galápagos sea lion. Others are rare, such as the Galápagos flightless cormorant. If you are particularly interested in the fascinating volcanic background of the islands, the island of Santiago, for example, offers an impressive landscape of various types of lava. If you have very specific requirements, this will by definition determine your journey.

Your preferred stay: hotel or expedition cruise. The following islands can only be visited by expedition cruise: Genovesa, Fernandina and the west of Isabela.

The distances you want to cover. The Galapagos Archipelago is large, the total area is 45,000 km2, of which only 8,000 km2 consists of land. This means that only 18% of the archipelago is land and the distances between the various islands can be large. A ship will usually cover the longest distances at night, so that you can optimally enjoy the activities during the day. If you prefer not to be on a ship for a long time, you will limit your choice to the central islands in the Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal area.

The time you have. The “time” aspect is obvious. Every ship sails a fixed 15-day route, whereby you can usually choose to travel 5, 8 or more days from this route. The longer you travel, the more different islands you will be able to visit.

Our website offers you a lot of background information about the ships and islands. Scroll through the pages to be inspired and contact us. We relieve you of the anxiety of choice and, on the basis of a few questions, we can determine what the best options are for you.

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