I had high hopes for this trip, having read previous reviews, and was not disappointed. Tourism on the islands is carefully controlled, which allayed any concerns I might have had about encroaching into the natural territory of the abundant wildlife. The opportunity to see these creatures in their natural habitat ane experience their environment was truly wonderful. The accommodation, food and hospitality - both on Cachalote and in the jungle (we did the rainforest extension) - was excellent.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
There were many great moments on this trip. Walking amongst wandering giant tortoises, stepping over myriads of marine iguanas, watching sea lions at play......
Seeing a whale and calf breach the surface of the ocean ahead of the yacht - even momentarily - ranks pretty high. As did cruising with a pod of Dolphins at our bow - who remained with us, leaping and dancing, for some minutes - especially as our guide had assured us Dolphins don't do that in the Galapagos! Also not forgetting the snorkelling with large numbers of turtles, sea lions and the occasional penguin.
Generally, it was the wildlife that provided the highlights - which is what you would expect and the reason we chose the trip.
- What did you think of your group leader?
I would single out Esteban, our mainland guide in Quito, for special praise. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He is clearly passionate about his country and went to great lengths to ensure we got the most out of our time in Quito and had the opportunity to see as many of the highlights as possible while we were there.
The joining instructions advised we would be meeting Darwin (who has received many good reviews) in the Galapagos Islands. Our guide in fact turned out to be Franklin, who was knowledgable about the area and the wildlife, and keen to share his knowledge - and his opinions. We were a small group (initially there were just five of us) joined part way through by others (a family of three) and we felt Franklin could have done more to stimulate group cohesion. He also had his own views about what we should want to see, rather than group members' specific interests. We also all felt a little bit abandoned on the first evening on board Cachalote after Franklin left to go to a meeting and the crew retired leaving us to our own devices!
In the jungle David was knowledgable but the real star there was Hugo, our local guide, whose wildlife-spotting capabilities were amazing.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Just go - you won't regret it, but don't forget the seasickness pills. (Better to be safe than sorry.)
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
- The rainforest extension is well worth doing. It would seem a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity having gone all that way! It's hot and humid (as you would expect) but the lodges are comfortable and it provides a contrasting wildlife spotting experience after the Galapagos Islands. A minor word of caution, though. When you arrive at the Napo Centre you are "grouped" with the people you arrive with. We were the only two Exodus travellers with two other couples, both of whom were considerably older (and less fit) than ourselves and, bizarrely, seemed to have little interest in wildlife. In order to get the most out of this short extension we had to persuade the guide to split the group for some activities.