My daughter (15) and I went to the Galapagos in June 2012. We traveled through the Natural Habitat Adventures and went on their ship the "Letty". After our tour, we stayed at the Hilton Colon and met plenty of other people who had just completed their tours of the Galapagos. We discovered that our tour was unique in so many ways that I felt I should tell people about it.
First of all, the Letty holds only 20 guests with a full contingent of staff. It has two Pangas and the guests are broken into two groups as they tour the islands or go snorkeling. Each group has a tour guide, and people just kind of go with whomever they feel like going with that day. It's not an assigned group. The tour guides are marvelous. We were constantly amazed by their breadth of knowledge, positive, fun attitudes and endless energy.
All ships in the Galapagos are assigned their destinations by the park authorities. The Letty, being small, can access coves that big ships cannot access. In fact, I never saw a big ship all week. We were in lovely coves with the sea lions and flightless cormorants and other animals. It was fantastic.
Here are some excerpts from a portion of the journal I kept on the trip:
"June 11, 10:30 pm
As I write this the anchor is lifting and we say goodbye to beautiful Isla Genovesa.
This afternoon we went on the pangas for a “wet landing” on a beach with sea lions and an amazing amount of nesting red-footed boobies, great frigates and swallow-tailed gulls. We strolled along a path that in some parts was more like climbing giant flat rocks. Along the way we found bones from a frigate and a sea lion skull, and observed the beautiful scenery of a series of wading pools. It got pretty hot, so we relaxed on the beach until sunset. To be surrounded by the wildlife with a soft breeze and great view was heavenly. Grace swam for a while off the beach with some sea lions! They are so playful!
We had dinner after the briefing for tomorrow’s events. Tonight’s pork dinner, a kind of sweet and sour, was very good. Our two naturalists, Roberto and Veronica, ate dinner with us and we enjoyed a nice long conversation about life, family, recipes and fun things."
"Wednesday, June, 13, 3:30 p.m.
Fernandina Island: Punta Espinosa
We rode through the night to Fernandina Island, and it was smooth sailing all the way. At 7:00 a.m. we were wakened for a nice breakfast of poached eggs with salmon, and some more of the delicious fresh fruit they serve at almost every meal, with some other things.
Next we went on a tour of Fernandina, the youngest island, full of volcanic rock shaped the way lava pours out. This is some of the youngest dry land on the planet! We walked through magical mangroves on landing and headed out into the sunshine and grey ground. At first it looked like a desert of black and grey in swirling patterns. Here and there were the cactus that are among the first flora that begin to turn the lava rock to soil. Then we cam across a whale vertebra and some maine iguana bones. Eventually, we found hundreds of marine iguanas, many lava lizards, flightless cormorants, a yellow warbler, a couple of pelicans, a blue-footed booby, a tall grey heron, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and sea lion cubs. Our touring companions were, once again, Deb & Anthony, Dana & Gail, and our guide was “Vera”, short for Veronica. We were on the island for hours and really got to see so much of what Galapagos is all about; new earth, endemic species, a newness and ancient feel all at one time.
Back to the Letty, and after a quick snack of fruit dipped in chocolate, we put on our wet suits to go snorkeling. Snorkeling was supposed to be cold, but we found it refreshing. And, there was an unbelievable amount of life under water. Sea turtles and sea lions were swimming around. Marine iguanas were feeding along the bottom. It was magnificent.
We had a late lunch which was Mexican and very good, of course. Tonight Grace and I are invited to dine with the captain and I think Grace will have her surprise. (Her surprise was a birthday cake and everyone sang Happy BIrthday. There was no extra charge for the cake and the decorating of the dining room.)
After lunch, some people are having a siesta before the afternoon activity. Others are gathering for the 4:00 p.m. slide show of underwater life. Nice. Roberto and Veronica (our tour guides) are making certain we know what we are looking at while we are out there in the beautiful sea. "
I hope I can remember all the islands we visited:
Genovesa (Prince Philips, Steps)
Santa Cruz: Bachas Beach
Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
Isla Isabela: Punta Moreno
Isla Isabela: Urbana Bay
Isla Isabela: Tagus Cove
Santa Cruz: Itibaca Canal
Santa Cruz: Wild Tortoise Camp and Highlands (To sleep at a campsite and observe the Galapagos Tortoises! We had an Ecuadorian dinner, an Ecuadorian guitarist, candlelight . . . it was great!)
Santiago: Puerta Egas
So, It looks as though we were on seven islands, which is pretty good! We saw various parts of a couple of islands, and they were quite different in nature.
I think the most important thing to look for when taking this type of trip are excellent guides. Second to that, I'm interested in good food and sleeping arrangements. Third, I want value for my dollar. That is what I was looking for when I selected this company. The people on the telephone were able to answer all my questions in a 45 minute phone call, and several follow-up calls and emails, so I was satisfied. But, I still didn't expect such a wonderful adventure.
I hope you enjoy your time in the Galapagos. It's not to be forgotten!Edited: 3:15 pm, August 02, 2012