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Galapagos Unbound

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Santa Cruz, Ecuador
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About Galapagos Unbound
The only tour in the world that allows you to camp on the beaches inside of the Galapagos National Park! You'll swim with sea lions, hike up volcanoes, explore the local culture, kayak around the islands, watch Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos Tortoises, iguanas and more in their natural habitat. A truly unforgettable adventure perfect for all ages!
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Galapagos Unbound
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Dave L wrote a review Feb 2020
Maryland16 contributions12 helpful votes
We can't imagine a more fun, more efficient, more interesting manner of experiencing the real Galapagos ecosystem than ROW's nine day Galapagos Unbound itinerary. On our dozen Himalaya - C. Asia trips, + Peru, Chile, Argentina, Africa, NZ, etc., we always go small-group or on our own as possible. That's hard to do efficiently here without ROW. If going land-based on your own, you'll waste much of your trip on logistical arrangements. Most boat cruises miss much on land, & they aren't small (we had four of us; ROW's max. is 12.) Yes, the first two days of amazing kayaking & two stunning nights at the unique beach campsite are highlights, but the rest of the eight days are wonderful in different ways (one day in Quito was interesting but quite enough.) It is literally impossible (the Dec, 2019 review below is incomprehensible in this regard) to not see stunning wildlife up close while kayaking. On those first two days, we paddled to within mere feet of big green sea turtles, many marine iguanas, spotted eagle rays, dozens of sea lions, ~50 small sharks, blue-footed boobies, diving pelicans, herons, numerous frigate birds (bright red mating displays), and much more. We had insightful, eagle-eyed interpretation from guides Sebastian and Christian who along with the top-of-the-line Necky double sea kayaks make the 8 and 7 miles days of paddling fine for those with just limited paddling experience. Better if you've done a bit of flat water kayaking. Tents, food, sunsets, and stars at the campsite were as good as it gets!....particularly contrasted with the overly touristy Puerto Ayora or packed cruise ships. Relatively few visitors get to the biggest but lightly-populated Isla Isabela which was a three-night highlight. Likewise, the Dec. 2019 review below has a misconception about guides. ROW excels in contributing to the local economy by hiring several dozen local fisherman, local boat captains, and, yes, local nature guides, a different one on each island. This "spreads the wealth" and, contrary to the review below, guides are not misled but given the schedule...each knows they'll be with us (we had just a four person group) for the established time on just their island (not other islands.) Our guide for the whole trip, Quito to Quito, was Sebastian. His proficiency in interpretation and information was perfect (not too much, never too little), his attention to detail, language proficiency, manner, humor, and experience (including wilderness first aid training) were world-class; top 5% that we've seen on our many dozen trips worldwide. Emily, Morag, and the ROW staff in Idaho always responded in a timely fashion. ROW's new 2019- policy of having the overall guide tip the ~100 folks that do work for you is brilliant and vital. ROW's new (2020) accommodations (midway between Quito and the new Quito airport) are at Casa Ilayaku, a wonderful, perfectly-located oasis run by the engaging and ever-generous Marco and his wife Carmen. We did a fun 45-minute premium chocolate-tasting there (where nobody could sell you chocolate or anything if they wanted to; don't know what the Dec. 2019 review below could be complaining about.) We had sit-on kayaks and snorkeling on three days each with, just a few feet away, big sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, mating rays, mating blue footed boobies, small sharks, stunningly colorful fish, sea horses, etc. A Galapagos penguin swam up and pecked at my snorkel mask. We loved the dramatic, immersed-in-solitude 11 mile round-trip hike to the rim of the world's 2nd biggest volcanic caldera and its 2018 lava flow area. Equally fun was a visit to the 70-year-old Adriane Cabrera's sugar mill and moonshine still farm, demonstrating how he's done it since 1968 at his Santa Cruz island farm, with ROW's local guide Erika telling stories of growing up on the island with no electricity in the 1970's with a sailboat captain father. And we haven't even mentioned the amazing, up to 170-year-old giant land tortoises in the wild; Erika was impressed at the (relative!) speed one one defending his territory from another. There might be a better way to truly experience the Galapagos, but we can't imagine how.
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Date of experience: February 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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MarcStl wrote a review Jan 2020
Saint Louis, Missouri50 contributions20 helpful votes
This trip is an amazing way to see the Galapagos. We considered other options including a cruise boat and other land based tours. Ultimately, we picked this tour based on the amount of active days. We ended up with three families of 4 with children ages 17-27. I think this type of trip has a natural selection process attracting families with travel experience and willingness to try new things. Because of this, the four families, while all very different, bonded well. The first two days of kayaking were a bit strenuous for those not as experienced at kayaking. But, definitely don't be scared away by this. The camping was rustic but everybody appreciated the ability to see the islands differently and the staff did an excellent job of setting up, food preparation, etc. Our day snorkeling at Kicker Rock was not good but based on conversations w/ others it sounds as if we just had a bad weather related day. The other snorkeling days were outstanding. The hotels on Isabel and Santa Cruz were both nice but not extravagant. Meals during the entire trip were surprisingly good. While on Santa Cruz, make sure to have dinner at the food stalls on Charles Binford Street.The best day of the trip was the Tuneles w/ a fascinating boat tour and then snorkeling w/ great variety of wildlife. Our guide, Nacho, was outstanding. He was knowledgeable, patient and had the right mix of telling us what we needed to know without overwhelming us with information. The naturalist guides that accompanied us on each of the islands were also excellent. As I mentioned in the title, this trip is great but you need to know what you're getting. It's camping and waking up early multiple days and not luxury.
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Date of experience: December 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
3 Helpful votes
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Lindsay W wrote a review Dec 2019
Houston, Texas21 contributions9 helpful votes
It took me some time to reflect on the trip and look at everything before I put this review together because I wanted it to be thoughtful to other users who are considering using ROW and heading to the Galápagos. Our travel experience is fairly good, we’ve been to South America several times and Africa several times so we know what to expect from a travel perspective. We typically like to stay away from group tours because we like to take our time to explore things but understood that the Galápagos is a sensitive area and we may not have such luxury. We selected a land-based tour, and it came down to two tour operators. We ultimately selected ROW because of the camping on the islands which is not offered anywhere else, and the visit to the Tuneles was included. We did 10 days Galapagos tour then took off for 4 days in the Amazon (Cuyabeno) A few observations specific to ROW: - We couldn’t get timely responses via email from staff members, it took repeated attempts to get any response out of staff. - The cost was astronomical, this coming after two African Safaris, and didn’t even include every meal (though included most) and most tips were included except for the guide, we tipped him separately because he was pretty amazing - You get charged an additional $1,000 if the group is not bigger than a certain amount, but to get that money back you have to ask for it repeatedly. It took us almost 6 weeks to get it back. - We learned that the guides are treated interestingly. They book the guides well in advance, but if the group is not a certain amount, the guide will not be with you the whole time( is what we were told) This impacts not only your trip but how the guide gets paid. This is unique because this is how guides make money in South America and they can't book any other trip during this time with any other companies. This makes it difficult for them to make a living. We are sensitive to this kind of thing because we want to help the locals. Luckily for us, our group was big enough so our guide was with us the whole time. Notes about the trip: - Upon arriving, we had to call the hotel to get us around 2 am. Now this may not have been the hotels' fault, our flight was severely delayed but we were communicating each delay to ROW. We assumed that they were not being communicated to the hotel since they never responded to anything else. - There’s not nearly enough time in Quito. Quito is pretty cool and it would have been cool to wander around a bit more. - Along with the note above, considering how much we dropped on the trip, we didn’t like forced to spend an afternoon looking at chocolate and having time in a chocolate shop. I get there are perks around this for tour operators, but I would have much rather have that time looking at the historic sites of Quito. This is one of the reasons we avoid group tours, where you are encouraged to spend even more money in places that we don't normally spend money. I’d rather go find something that means something to me. - The sea kayaking was good and all, but we didn’t see anything along the way. It was a lot like sea kayaking for the sake of sea kayaking. Several hours of sea kayaking is cool, but I came to the Galápagos to see animals. - You stay in some swanky places. For us, these were almost a bit much. We normally stay in hostels so it was quite a change but for others, this might have been right on. It depends on your preferences, so take that note as you wish. It isn't a complaint, just a note. - Another personal preference, a lot of people in our group really were into plants and less into the animals. Our guide catered to the group majority and spoke to the plants which I understand but I was more interested in seeing the animals and while we saw a lot of birds, I would have loved to have seen more animals. - When we went to the Tuneles and then snorkeling nearby, our naturalist didn't bring our snorkel masks and gear. Thankfully a nearby boat was able to outfit us so nothing was lost. Observations about the Galápagos that had nothing to do with ROW: - Everything is heavily regimented by time, and you have to be in and out by certain times. Unless you're in the towns, you don't get much exploration times. - You have to have a naturalist with you at all times that is specific to that island. Their knowledge varies. When asked about dates and years and numbers of species, you will get completely different answers depending on who you ask. This isn't a problem, just something to know. - The snorkeling was pretty cool, if you're a good swimmer you can see more than most by getting closer and getting around faster. There are a lot of sea turtles and sometimes they bump you. If you're not a good swimmer, it's ok too, you can float around and the animals are kind of everywhere. - Kicker Rock is pretty cool and you do see a lot of stuff. If you like coral, there is a lot of coral along the rock with a lot of colorful fish along the rocks. If we had another shot, what would we do differently? We would go land-based but we have enough experience that we wouldn't go with a tour operator. There's a lot more to the islands than we expected and there are a lot of places that offer day tours. Sure, you might lose the camping, but you can kayak in the bays and you can visit the tuneles, the volcano, and some of the same sites we went to on the tour. The only thing different is that we wouldn't have been as efficient with the time but that is ok. It would have been our own. There are naturalists available and the towns are big enough that you can plan some of these things on your own as long as you can get to the islands, which didn't seem as hard as we had thought either. There are hotels and nightlife, restaurants and supermarkets.
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Date of experience: November 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
4 Helpful votes
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R3200QAruthm wrote a review May 2019
Lake Macquarie, Australia17 contributions15 helpful votes
I want to do it all again, love love loved this trip. Thanks Nacho, MeMe and Christian, best guides ever! This was a fabulous mix of activities and experiences and chance to mingle with the local way of life - guides on hand 24 hours a day (almost) to ask all those little questions you think of! ROW Adventures clearly only engages the best guides,their knowledge was astounding and they were passionate about sharing their part of the world with us. This trip was so much better than I thought, loved Kicker Rock snorkeling - incredible! Learning and seeing all the local animals was wonderful and lots of time in and on the water. Camping was great, very comfy tents and sleeping mats, fabulous cook and excellent camping amenities, leaving not a trace of our stay behind. It was also great to visit a local farmer and seeing their ingenuity of farming practice. I hope they offer single sea kayaks in the future! JUST DO IT!!
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Date of experience: April 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
2 Helpful votes
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Response from ROW A, Manager at Galapagos Unbound
Responded Jul 3, 2019
We are so glad to hear how you enjoyed your trip. We are very proud of our excellent guides! Where to next?
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809RobinjoH wrote a review Feb 2019
Yakima, Washington21 contributions7 helpful votes
The activities are already planned, and we had an experienced and very knowledgeable guide with us the whole time. We all really bonded with her, as she met all our needs and knew the answer to every question. We felt well-informed and taken care of. This is a rigorous trip that includes hearty kayaking, snorkeling, a long hike in the wilderness, lots of boating on the ocean. The wildlife is incredible and right in front of you, and scenery is unsurpassed. There are naturalists that inform you of your surroundings and what to look for all the time and how to keep safe at all times.
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Date of experience: January 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
1 Helpful vote
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Response from ROW A, Manager at Galapagos Unbound
Responded May 9, 2019
We're so glad you were able to make the trip, and thank you for your kind review. Hoping we can help you plan another fantastic adventure soon!
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