Holiday review by Doctor Keith Gerdes
Name: Doctor Keith Gerdes
Date of trip: 16/05/2019
Number of people: 2
Basically everything. Walking alongside waved Albatross as they waddle ungainly back to their nest to sit on their egg was amazing. seeing all the birds and the courtship ( and mating) activities of the albatrosses, frigate birds and all 3 types of boobies. I hadn't appreciated how exceptional the snorkelling would be and how important it was to fully embrace that aspect of the trip. Our family have snorkelled in many of the top locations in the world and this is the best place we've been to. The first deep water snorkel off Espanola where we descended directly into a huge school of Razor Surgeonfish and then were accompanied by a group of playful sea lions for 45 minutes was some introduction. Subsequent days had us swimming with sealions and Galapagos penguins and actually swimming towards the guides when they called out shark - and following them in the water. Also crossing the Equator and visiting Genovesa inspired me to finally give a 30 minute talk that fellow travellers and staff had requested on the evolution of the islands and why they look so different - which linked neatly into the magnitude 8.0 earthquake we all felt when we returned to Guayaquil!
Once dialled into the National Geographic package of logistics and organisation the trip was excellent. Connecting logistics from this end for us to get onto the cruise package were not smooth - fortunately NG staff kindly took on our cause at the airport and hotels. Definately the best way to get the most out of a Galapagos visit - the size of the vessel made the trips to the farther flung islands such as Genovesa efficient and enjoyable in comparison to the rougher rides we observed on smaller vessels.
Our contact and engagement with Paul was very good with some useful tips. All the information from Lindblad arrived in a timely fashion. The Ecuadorian end was a bit hit and miss - on arrival the hotel pick up had left with someone else before we got out of customs and we were not on any personnel lists even though we sent our full flight details. The local cruise staff called the hotel (even though they had no knowledge of us) and 30 minutes later a replacement pick up turned up, but that was an unnecessary, anxious late night hassle.
I've travelled all over to remote places for business and leisure and I realise more than most that stuff happens - but didn't expect these gliches at the airport and the hotel given the amounts we paid for the trip.
Cruise trip manager, Emma Ridley simply outstanding. Guides were generally pleasant and enthusiastic clearly had specific interests/expertise, only one true "all-rounder". Guides would benefit from some leadership training - simple "Do as I do, not as I say" responsibilities of a team leader e.g. group told on no account to wear flip-flops or sand shoes for wet landings and hikes - and then all the guides wear either flip-flops or go barefoot! Need 2 guides on snorkel trips, one with face in the water looking for wildlife the other face out of the water making sure no-one is having difficulties as the swells for some of the deep water snorkel sites were heavy and the groups were very much mixed ability. These are suggestions for improvement - we saw absolutely everything and much of that was down to the guides skills as much as the time of the year.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
The local organisation are very proud and gave regular briefings on all the conservation and educational work they have sponsored for many decades (and continue to do) on the islands with the money we give them.
Its clear that the work protecting the ecosystems is beneficial, and all the latest themes such as no single use plastics onboard are adhered to.
On Santa Cruz you could get a sense that the human condition was almost being ignored by comparison. There is clearly subsistence farming and some real poverty on the inhabited islands and a bit of urban sprawl developing. The reach of the material benefits from tourism outwith of those involved in tourism was less convincing. I've seen tensions develop in other parts of the world where conservation strictures are interpreted as constraints on lifestyle improvement for the most disadvantaged and could see the same thing easily happen here.