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The many disadvantages of Land Based Tours
Historically tourists that have gone to Galapagos have done so on a yacht or a ship based trip. This is still by far the best and most comfortable way to see Galapagos but as the number of people who want to visit Galapagos continues to rise, more and more companies are starting to try to take advantage of this demand by offering land based options as an alternative to a cruise on a yacht or ship. These tours have a number of very serious disadvantages which you should understand before you decide to book such a tour. Although land base tours can be a lot less expensive, they RARELY are the best choice for touring Galapagos for the following reasons;
Land based trips use small boats to transfer people between islands and these small boats tend to be fairly uncomfortable even in calm seas. In rougher seas, they can be down right miserable. This is going to be especially true for any group traveling with children. Although you may believe that a land based trip will shield you from some of the sea sickness issues, in actuality the opposite is going to be true. Traveling by yacht will provide you with a far more comfortable mode of transportation.
Land base tours waste a lot of your time in Galapagos and you will see far less during the same period of time. The Baltra airport is not close to the town of Puerto Ayora and requires a bus ride, followed by a ferry ride, followed by another long bus ride, followed by a taxi ride just to get to the hotel. You will be dealing with your luggage during this entire time moving it from one mode of transportation to the next. This long transfer will cause you to lose the entire first day of your time in Galapagos. By the time you get to the hotel and are situated, there will be no time left to do a tour that day.
If you fly into the San Cristobal airport the transfer to the hotel is much easier but there are very few tours to other islands offered simply because of the islands geographical location and there is only about a day’s worth of tours you can do on the island.
By comparison, on a yacht based trip, as soon as you arrive into Galapagos you are transported to the vessel by the guide. The crew deals with your luggage and as soon as all passengers and luggage are on board, the yacht moves to the first visitation site and the first tour begins.
The same is true for your final day in Galapagos. Instead of doing one final island visit before your flight back to the mainland like you would from a yacht based trip, you will need to use this time to make your way back to the airport.
On the days you are in Galapagos for the entire day, each day will begin in the town where your hotel is located and at the end of each day after the tour you will return to that same town. After breakfast you will check in for your tour and board a small boat which will then navigate from the town to the island you are going to visit. This will consume the majority of your morning. After arriving to the visitation site and spending several hours there, it will be time to navigate back to where you started. This means that much of your day will be spent navigating and half of your navigation time is wasted navigating back to where you came from. All this wasted time means you will only have time to visit one visitation site per day. Basically this means you get 2 – 3 hours of touring in each full 24 hours you spend in Galapagos. Before and after each tour you spend time sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food.
Land based tours are not as cheap as they appear. The incidental expenses of getting to Galapagos are the same regardless of what kind of tour you are doing. Hotels can range from $15 to $500 or more per night but you could get a decent place (nothing fancy but clean and acceptable) for about $100 to $150 per night. No meals are usually included so you eat in restaurant for all your meals which as you know can add up fast. If you want to visit other islands (which you should) day boats are about $200 per person per day depending on what island they visit. All of these expenses will add up fast.
BUT the biggest disadvantage of land based tours is that you will be precluded from visiting many of the very best areas in the Galápagos. Every island and even different areas within an island are different from each other and thus attract different types of wildlife. To see the greatest diversity of wildlife you should visit as many of the islands as possible. The islands are fairly far apart so you will visit far fewer islands during your stay on a land based tour. The day boats can only travel to islands that are close to where you are staying because they have to go back to the same island every night so there are many islands that are too far for the day boats to reach.
Sometimes snorkeling is offered on some of the day tours. However as there are no fresh water showers available you will be covered in salt water making the long ride back to the hotel even more uncomfortable.
Compare all of this to a yacht based tour where none of your time is wasted. The yachts will navigate during the night while the passengers are sleeping. When you wake up in the morning you are already at your visitation site and your breakfast is ready. You eat breakfast and head to shore. When you get back on board, lunch is served as you motor to the next site. Very little of the daylight hours are wasted which enables you to visit 2 sites per day plus it leaves time for other activities such as snorkeling, dingy rides, and kayaking. You will do 2 to 3 times as much in one day on a cruise as you would staying in a hotel so a 7 day trip on the cruise would take you 14 to 20 days to do as much.
Most importantly navigating during the night and never returning to the same island enables the yachts to reach all of the islands in the archipelago including those that are quite far from the towns.
Snorkeling is ALWAYS part of the activities offered on yacht based trips. Afterwards you go to your cabin for a warm fresh water shower. Then you either relax in one of the common areas or take a nap in your cabin as the yacht navigates to the next visitation site.
A few of the above listed disadvantages can be somewhat overcome by doing an “island hopping tour” where you stay on a couple of different islands in various hotels. However you will be spending a great deal of time packing and unpacking and moving your luggage. Plus you may take a pounding on the long ferry rides between the islands.
Comparison of the activities of a 8 day land based tour verse a 8 day yacht based tour:
Land Based Tour
Day 1 – Arrive from mainland Ecuador into Galapagos. Transfer from the airport to the hotel moving your luggage a number of times between various modes of transportation. After check in you will need to find a restaurant for dinner.
Day 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – After breakfast you will go to the public dock and check in for the uncomfortable 2 to 3 hour boat ride to a different island. After you arrive you will do a 2 to 3 hour land tour plus maybe snorkeling then it will be time for the uncomfortable 2 to 3 hour boat ride back to the hotel. Find a restaurant for dinner
Day 8 – transfer from the hotel back to the airport moving your luggage a number of times between various modes of transportation.
Total number of tours = 6
Yacht Base Tour
Day 1 – Arrive from mainland Ecuador into Galapagos. Transfer to the yacht. Unpack your clothes followed by your first land visit. Dinner on board. Navigation to tomorrow’s first visit.
Day 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – Two land tours plus snorkeling plus possible other activities. All meals on board.
Day 8 – final land tour followed transfer to the airport for you flight back to the mainland.
Total number of tours = 14
In summary a land base tour will be far less comfortable, offers far fewer activities each day, visits far fewer islands, and will misses many of the best visitation sites because they are beyond the range of the day boats. The price will NOT include most of your meals which will increase the amount you actually end up paying.
Galapagos Adventures strives to only provide only the best possible experiences to our clients and we do not feel land based tours live up to this standard. Therefore even though we could increase the company’s revenues/profits by selling these tours, we have decided against offering land based tours to our clients.
Thank you for your interest.
Pres. Galapagos Adventures, Inc.