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Posts Tagged ‘Galapagos Islands’

Where you should travel with your tax refund

Tax season is officially over and you might be expecting a refund check in the near future. The average person will receive a tax refund of about $2,755, according to the IRS, which can come in handy if you want to get away on an international vacation. To help, I’ve broken down a few suggestions for where you can travel at a few different price points.

If you’re looking to stay under about $2,000 per person, I recommend:

  • A Taste of China or Beijing & Tokyo. Visiting China is the trip of a lifetime for travelers interested in exploring a culture truly different from their own. The country has impressive modern achievements and an ancient, rich culture. Beijing, China’s capital, and Shanghai, often called the “Paris of the East,” are two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an, a large industrial city, is the site of one of the world’s most important archaeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers buried to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
  • A Taste of Ireland or Discover Ireland. As I’ve said before, whether you have Irish roots or just a love of Irish culture, there has never been a better year to visit Ireland. That’s because The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Irish ancestry with clan gatherings, festivals, sporting events, music, and concerts, is going on this year. This event only adds to the lush countryside, friendly and wonderful people, and the array of beautiful destinations — Dublin, Kerry, Killarney, Kilkenny, Limerick, and more — in Ireland.
  • Captivating Costa Rica or Costa Rica Pura Vida. From jungles, cloud forests, and active volcanoes to its rivers and Caribbean and Pacific coasts, travelers need to experience everything that makes Costa Rica the jewel of Central America. This destination has beautiful resorts and adventurous travel opportunities — making it the perfect place for every kind of traveler. And the location is out of this world: the island contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. (more…)

Saying goodbye to Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises

A CONSERVATION ICON: Lonesome George, the last known
Pinta Island tortoise, has passed but his legacy lives on

Lonesome George, famously known as the last of the Pinta Island tortoises, sadly passed away at the end of last month. Estimated to be about 100 years old, Lonesome George was discovered in 1972 in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. George was the only living Pinta Island tortoise and spent 40 years as an icon of the Galapagos Islands’ conservation efforts.

Long before George’s time, whalers hunted giant tortoises nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Farmers then introduced goats to the islands, and they consumed most of the giant tortoises’ food sources, which depleted the population even more.

A researcher discovered Lonesome George in the ’70s and moved him to the Charles Darwin Research Station to protect him. In an effort to keep his species alive, mates were provided for George, though all mating attempts failed. He became a symbol for wildlife conversation, both for the islands and internationally. His image is used as the logo for the Galapagos National Park, which we visit on some tours, and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

The government of Ecuador used George’s plight as motivation to restore the tortoise populations on the islands and improve the status of other endangered and threatened species. Lonesome George’s passing reminds us that the power of change and preservation is in our hands, and that we must continue to make an effort to protect all species.

New travel regulations will better protect the Galapagos Islands and improve touring

You might have heard about the new regulations going into effect in 2012 to better protect the Galapagos Islands. If you haven’t, Gadling covered them in the recent blog post, “New Galapagos Islands regulations will change 2012 tours.”

The new regulations will make it possible to limit the number of people on a given island at a given time. No vessel will be permitted to visit the same island more than once in a 14-day period.

When Friendly Planet Travel was advised of these changes, we applauded them! The Galapagos Islands are precious and fragile, and we want to be sure the islands are protected in the future.

Some travelers might assume that these new regulations will affect the tours we offer to the Galapagos Islands. There will some minor changes to the itineraries, but it’s only for the better.

Since we have several tour programs, both cruise and island-hopper types, and are heavily involved in tourism to the Galapagos, we expect to be able to provide excellent programs at affordable prices, just as we do today.

In fact, we plan to continue to grow our programs to the Galapagos in the coming years. And just as we’ve done in the past, we will do it fully respecting the fragile environment so that these precious islands continue to be a source of wonder and discovery for generations to come.

When we make changes to the itineraries of the Galapagos Island Hopper, Galapagos Island Explorer, Ecuador and Galapagos Cruise, and Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos Cruise, we’ll let you know right here on our blog.

Our in-depth look at Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, part three

In part two of Ruthie Stein’s guest post on her trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, she told you all about the island of Santa Cruz and the breeding and rearing program of the giant Galapagos tortoises.

Now Ruthie will take you along the last leg of her tour to the islands of Floreana and Isabela.


I departed Santa Cruz on a two-hour boat ride on the Pacific Ocean towards Floreana, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, home to only about 130 people. My ride to the island was on one of  the smaller boats, but the sizes do vary. A majority of them fit a maximum of 20 people.

Here’s how the boats are set up. The front of the boat is covered and has four rows on each side that seat two people each, for a total of 16 passengers.The back of the boat, which is not covered, seats another four passengers for a total of 20. As I learned, if you’re more prone to getting seasick, sitting in the back relieves that feeling somewhat, but you’re also more likely to get wet during the ride. ;)

My ocean-front cabin on Floreana

When I arrived on Floreana, I checked into the Red Mangrove Floreana Lodge. One of the things that amazed me during my trip was how my luggage got from one island to the next. I never had to lift a finger! I’d hand my luggage over when I checked out of one hotel and by the time I arrived in my next hotel room, my luggage was already there. The Red Mangrove’s level of service was exceptional.

The lodge is made up of 10 independent cabins. The wood paneled rooms make you feel like you’re in the middle of the wilderness, until you hear the crash of the waves outside your door. That’s because every single lodge is ocean front!

When you step out of your room, there’s a wooden walkway that ‘s about six or eight feet wide separating you from the beach. The view is spectacular. I was able to see hundreds of sea turtles coming in and out of the water. And the cool breeze from the ocean kept me so comfortable at night that I didn’t need to turn on my air conditioner or use a blanket.

And keeping with their eco-friendly practices, the lodge provides your soap and shampoo in a dispenser, not in little plastic bottles. By refilling the dispensers, the lodge is creating less waste. This is just one of the many steps they take to protect the ecosystems on the island.

A Floreana finch

What set this lodge apart from all the other ones I stayed at was that it did not have a kitchen. Instead, you get to eat your meals with a local family. I ate breakfast with seven or eight other tourists with a family on their outdoor patio. Our hostess served eggs, a plate of cheese, fresh fruit, and yogurt. We also had a choice of cereal, coffee, tea, and fresh juice.

Getting the chance to eat with the local people was not only a delightful experience, but it gave me a chance to understand their culture, and as a bonus, providing meals for tourists helps maintain their livelihood. In addition, every person I met was welcoming, warm, and friendly. Most of the locals speak Spanish, which I do not. But nevertheless, they went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable.

When I was finished fueling up for the day, I spent a lot of time hiking. It’s the best way to see different kinds of indigenous animals and birds. I walked up to the Asilo de la Paz (Peace Asylum), the site of an artesian spring, one of the few year-round sources of fresh water in the Galapagos.

Galapagos penguins

Then I went to the Cueva de los Piratas (Pirate’s Cave), where pirates carved temporary shelter out of soft stone. This was also where Margret Wittmer, one of the original settlers, gave birth to her son Rolf, who promotes responsible tourism to the Galapagos Islands through his foundation. Afterwards I saw a profusion of Floreana finches on Cerro Pajas (Bird Hill) and more Galapagos tortoises at another reserve.

After two days of exploring life on Floreana, I hopped on another two-hour boat ride for Isabela. The amount of wildlife you see when approaching the island is unbelievable. I saw sea turtles, sea lions, and tropical penguins in the turquoise water. But that was nothing compared to what I saw on my tour of the bay.

Some colorful crabs

The blue-footed boobies, colonies of marine iguanas, and crabs were just stunning. I’ve never seen more colorful animals in my entire life. The crabs were a brilliant red and orange, and there was a small canal where you can go snorkeling. I opted not to, but the canal was full of resting white-tipped reef sharks. I was able to see them above the water as the snorkelers swam around them.

But my most memorable moment on this trip happened on Isabela, and it doesn’t include any of the animals I saw. It came in the form of a very tall volcano — Volcan Sierra Negra, to be exact. It’s the second largest volcano in the world and I hiked that baby. :)

We took the cheetah, which is the big truck with a heavy axle and big wheels from the hotel to the base of the volcano. Our naturalist guide led us up the four miles to the top of the volcano. (That’s right. I said four miles.) It had rained a few days prior so the hike was muddy, which made it even more adventurous.

Our trek to the top of the volcano

The route was surrounded by vegetation and lava rock. And just like every other place I had hiked so far, we were not allowed to pick up anything — not a single piece of lava rock or a petal from a flower. This is all done to protect the delicate ecosystem. The only thing we were allowed to take was wild guava fruit that grew along the trail, which was delicious and refreshing.

When our group reached the top of the volcano we explored the caldera and the fissures in the ground from the last eruption (it’s dormant now!). I also took some time to relax and take in the spectacular view of Isabela from the top. Then we began our descent back to the Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge. It was the perfect place to relax after a long hike. The oceanfront lodge has a beautiful wooden deck by the sea and a rooftop terrace with sea vistas for miles.

After my time on Isabela, I went back to Santa Cruz for a night before departing for Quito, which would eventually bring me back home to the U.S. I was sad to leave the beautiful islands, but I was coming home from one of the most amazing experiences of my life that I will never forget.

I was so fortunate to get the opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands. I can say first-hand that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth that we should never take for granted, and we should do everything in our power to protect and preserve it.

A rainbow over Floreana

Our in-depth look at Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, part two

The other week I introduced you to Ruthie Stein, Friendly Planet Travel’s Group Department Manager, who recently returned from a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. When I last left you, Ruthie had just finished telling you about the two days she spent exploring Quito, Ecuador.

I’ll turn the typing back over to Ruthie to give you the inside scoop on the island of Santa Cruz.


Arriving via ferry on Santa Cruz

I departed Quito, Ecuador for the Galapagos Islands on a plane that landed in Baltra, a small island in the Galapagos. It really only consists of an airport, so from here you can take ferries to your desired island. My first stop was Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos after Isabela.

When I got off the boat in Santa Cruz, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid 80s, and it stayed pretty much at this temperature during the remainder of my time there.

The first thing that became evident when I got off the boat was the respect the locals and the tourism industry have for the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos. I can attest to the fact that I did not see one piece of trash on Santa Cruz, or any of the islands for that matter.

Inside the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge

I checked into my room at the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, which was gorgeous and is true to the photos Friendly Planet has on their website. What’s special about the Red Mangrove hotels is that they are eco-friendly and are designed to blend into the natural surroundings.

They do such a good job at this that if they didn’t have a blue walkway to get from one part of the lodge to the other, I might have found myself out in the mangrove!

To further prove how well it’s integrated, marine iguanas were sunning themselves everywhere on the hotel’s deck. And the staff had no intentions of asking them to leave — we were on their turf.

Marine iguanas sunning themselves on the hotel’s deck

The iguanas weren’t alone either. Further down the deck, two sea lions made themselves right at home. When another sea lion approached, the one would bark until the other retreated. Those sea lions weren’t budging.

Seeing these animals was just the tip of the iceberg. I saw dolphins, sharks, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, storks, flamingos, pelicans, finches, and more. But the animals I got to know the best on Santa Cruz were the giant Galapagos tortoises when I visited the Charles Darwin Research Station.

The Charles Darwin Foundation has its Research Station on Santa Cruz. Here there is a 600-acre private reserve where giant Galapagos tortoises freely roam, graze, and sleep. But what makes this even more unique are the great lengths the Foundation takes to protect the breeding of these indigenous animals.

A seal taking a snooze on the dock

Hundreds of years ago when missionaries, explorers, etc., came to the Galapagos, they brought invasive species with them. These species included rats, pigs, dogs, cats, and others. They began decimating the tortoises and their habitat.

Since the Galapagos Islands are the only place where giant tortoises are indigenous, the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park teamed up almost 50 years ago to establish a breeding and rearing program to rebuild the giant Galapagos tortoise population.

Now every tortoise on the Galapagos Islands is fitted with a chip so the Station can monitor them. The chip not only aids in the protection of the species, it also facilitates the hatching of eggs.

When the Station is alerted to the fact that a mature female tortoise has made a nest, the location will be monitored and the eggs will be removed to prevent the nest from being invaded by predators. The eggs are carefully taken from the nest and brought back to the Station, so they can hatch in a safe environment.

Pink flamingos taking a dip

Once the eggs hatch, the little tortoises are reared in small areas that are similar to their natural habitat until they’re about two years old. During this time they’re slowly introduced to the natural terrain, which includes the volcanic rock that the Galapagos Islands are made from.

When they reach the two year mark, they’re transitioned to a larger area until they’re about four or five years old. As they grow during this time, they’re introduced to more difficult terrain and a wider variety of vegetation on which they feed.

At seven or eight years old they are released into the natural habitat of the islands. The computer chip will allow them to be monitored for the rest of their lives and to ensure the continuation of the species.

Today, about 364 giant Galapagos tortoises reside on Santa Cruz. When I was finished learning about this fascinating process, I got to meet some of the tortoises. I was able to stand near the tortoises, but no one is allowed to touch them. We were told, if they approach you, just remain still.

Giant Galapagos tortoises at the Darwin Research Station

One lady standing close to me sat down on a rock. A very friendly, inquisitive tortoise, probably about 500 pounds, walked right up to her. It was huge! These creatures are just magnificent. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to make their acquaintance.

After my time at the reserve, I walked back to the hotel close by. Another fascinating detail about Santa Cruz is there is really only one major paved road.

In fact, there are very few paved roads anywhere on the Galapagos Islands. I believe the reason there are so few tarmac roads is because they want to maintain the natural beauty of the Islands and not disturb the ecosystem.

Some areas of the Galapagos Islands don’t have any roads at all, so the locals and visitors negotiate the land via heavy-duty trucks called chivas. Much of my traveling on the Islands was done by foot, or via chiva through rough terrain, along mud-packed trails and over volcanic rock.

Now that I’ve visited the Galapagos, I believe we must all be totally committed to the conservation of all ecosystems, natural and urban habitats, and the well-being of all people. We must support and contribute to the preservation of the environment, scientific investigation, education, and the promotion of environmental awareness among the local communities and guests on the islands. This can only be achieved by our direct participation in the operation of sustainable tourism.

I’ll tell you more in my next blog post what it’s like getting around the islands of Floreana and Isabela and the volcano I scaled.

An in-depth look at Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Ruthie Stein, Friendly Planet Travel’s Group Department Manager, got the opportunity to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands a few weeks ago. She experienced much of what our travelers will see on Friendly Planet’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and Galapagos Islands Explorer tours.

When she returned, she was armed with notes, photos, and memories of what she calls the most wonderful experience of her life. I asked her to share the details of her trip with us on the blog, and she happily agreed.

Over the course of nine fun-filled days, Ruthie spent time in Quito, Ecuador and on the islands of Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabella in the Galapagos. She begins her blog post series about her trip with her two-day stay in Quito, which she found to be surprisingly charming, friendly, and full of historical and fascinating sites.


I left Philadelphia on July 18, flying via Miami to board my flight for Quito, Ecuador on LAN Airlines. I landed in Quito later that day. The first word that comes to my mind to describe Quito is magical, and here’s why.

As my plane descended, the city came into view. It’s nestled in the valley of the Andes Mountains. Once you step outside, you see the magnificent mountains and snowcapped volcanoes, including the still-active Mt. Pichincha, surrounding the city.

A glimpse of the Andes Mountains from the valley Quito sits in

No matter which direction I looked, there was never a bad view or an obstructed one. The mountains just towered over the city. The blue skies and white clouds made it seem like I was looking at a postcard. Because it’s in a valley, it puts Quito over 9,000 ft. above sea level, making it the second-highest capital city in the world.

Knowing this fact before I booked the trip, I was nervous about getting altitude sickness. Luckily, I worried about nothing. When I got off the plane I wasn’t nauseous and didn’t have a headache, but my breathing was a little labored. I adapted quickly to the change in altitude, and my heavy breathing disappeared relatively quickly.

From the airport I settled into my room at the Sheraton Quito Hotel. It’s a lovely hotel where the food was outstanding. I highly recommend the salad bar, it was top notch. ;) The hotel is located right in the heart of Quito’s shopping district and is convenient to almost all the major attractions.

Statue of Virgin of Quito overlooking the tight streets of Old Town

I only had two days to spend in Quito, so I set out right away to sightsee and shop. Now in Quito there are two main parts of the city, the old and the new. The new town looks like most modern cities, with high-rises, multi-story apartment complexes, restaurants, and more.

The section I fell in love with was just 20 minutes away — Old Town. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site where I spent a lot of my time. The Spanish influence on Old Town is evident in the colonial architecture that overwhelms every tightly packed street I strolled down. The colorful buildings and churches date back to the early 1500′s when the Spanish founded the city. And it seems that at the top and bottom of every street you see the Statue of the Virgin of Quito overlooking the city.

I also walked through the Plaza de la Independencia. It’s the beautiful main square of Quito that is surrounded by the 19th century Iglesia de la Cathedral, city hall, the archbishop’s palace, and the government palace. Here I got to see the changing of the guards.

Otavalo Market

The following day I was off to the Otavalo market where I spent a couple of hours. It’s a well-known market in Latin America that is famous for selling alpaca blankets, sweaters, and all kinds of products laboriously handmade by the indigenous Otavaleño Indians.

Otavaleños are one of the only tribes, if not the last,  in Ecuador who still make and wear their traditional dress. The women vendors wear intricately embroidered blouses with lots of beaded necklaces, all of which are handmade. And the men have long braided hair, and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos, and sandals.

Unfortunately, my shopping spree at the market was cut short. My guide reminded me that I should leave room in my suitcase for the beautiful leather products that I intended to purchase at our next stop on the itinerary, the beautiful little town of Cotacachi. It’s named after the Cotacachi volcano, which is located close by.

Here I found numerous shops selling handbags, shoes, belts, wallets, and other items, all made by the indigenous tribes people, and very inexpensive. Not too far from Cotacachi, we stopped at Peguche, another small town inhabited by the local tribes. I was fortunate to see one of the few remaining loom weaving workshops in the home of a local family. Beautiful tapestries, shawls, and blankets are all handmade without the aid of any patterns or templates.

One foot in each hemisphere

The next morning, my journey took me about 45 minutes from Quito, where I visited the Mitad del Mundo, which is Spanish for “middle of the world.” This is where the Equatorial Monument commemorates the exact place where Charles Marie de la Condamine established the equator.

I felt like a real tourist that day when I took a picture with my one foot in the northern hemisphere and my other foot in the southern hemisphere.

By the time I was done hopping between the hemispheres it was time to leave Quito for the Galapagos. I was disappointed that I didn’t have more time to explore the city further and to travel north to visit the Amazon rainforest (that’s the next stop on my wish list), but I was excited and looking forward to seeing the Islands that Charles Darwin explored almost 200 years ago.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my trip to Santa Cruz island, and what it’s like jetting around from island to island on a the Islands’ ferries. I’ll also share with you the lengths that the Charles Darwin Research Station takes to protect the breeding of the indigenous Galapagos tortoise from the invasive species that were brought to the Islands hundreds of years ago by pirates and explorers.

Save $300 on Friendly Planet Travel’s Galapagos Islands tours before Aug. 2

In June I told you about our two new tours to the Galapagos Islands. Both were priced so low that many departure dates filled up within days.

But if you’re still looking to go to the Galapagos don’t fret. We’re offering travelers the same deal again until Aug. 2! SAVE $300 when you book the seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper or the nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer before Aug. 2.

That brings the seven-day tour down to $2,199 and the nine-day tour to $2,499. As I’m typing this, there are only 10 spots available for each departure date, so don’t hesitate if you’ve ever wanted to experience the preserved beauty of the Galapagos Islands. Hop back to my previous post to get a refresher on where you’ll go, what you’ll see, and what’s included in the price.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. If you want to be the first to find out about exclusive savings such as this one, sign up for our Hot Deals mailing list.

Get a jump on two new Galapagos Islands tours

Just last week I told you about two new Greek Island hopper tours, and this week I have more island hopping to tell you about. No, we’re not in Greece anymore. We’re hopping right out of the Aegean and diving into the Pacific, headed for the Galapagos Islands. The Islands remain protected, but offer scientists, nature lovers, and travelers alike the chance to experience life just as Charles Darwin did when he voyaged to the archipelago in 1831.

Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and Explorer

Friendly Planet’s brand new, seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer tours give you the chance to cross paths with giant Galapagos tortoises, stroll past colonies of penguins, and see the endemic flora and fauna that have drawn visitors here for hundreds of years.

We still offer cruises to the Galapagos Islands, but I wanted to give you another way to be transported back 200 years in time and experience one of the few places where ecosystems remain untouched. Island hopping gives you more flexibility and time on Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela to experience these islands’ biodiversity, history, and natural beauty.

A Galapagos tortoise

We worked closely with Red Mangrove lodges to get you the most intimate, gorgeous, and eco-friendly spaces available. Its goal is to protect and preserve the Galapagos environment while seamlessly weaving its beautiful lodges into the scenery. I can tell you, there isn’t a more beautiful place to stay when island hopping 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

Both of the tours, Hopper and Explorer, begin in Quito, Ecuador, the city that’s surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. On the Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer, you spend two nights and a full day in Quito touring the city’s colonial architecture in Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and more.

Then you fly to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands to begin your island adventure. On the Hopper tour, you spend a night in Quito before traveling to the Galapagos, and another night in Quito when you return, allowing time for you to visit Quito’s main sites before returning home.

After arriving in Baltra, it’s off to Santa Cruz. You’ll tour the Academy Bay at La Loberia and enjoy a thrilling snorkel with sea lions. If you prefer land-based exploration, you can hike to Los Gemelos (the twins), two enormous collapsed lava chambers, through the Scalesia Forest. It’s draped in liverwort and inhabited by large and small tree finches, the adorable Vermillion Flycatcher, and much more.

Next up is Floreana Island, where you’ll find plenty of rich red and turquoise colored marine iguanas sunning themselves on the black lava rocks. Floreana is one of the least populated of the Galapagos Islands, with fewer than 200 local inhabitants.

Travelers are fortunate to enjoy an opportunity to stay overnight there and experience a quiet and calm evening before hopping to Isabela where you’ll be greeted by sea turtles and penguins swimming in the stunningly clear turquoise water. Finally, head back to Santa Cruz to depart for Quito.

On the Hopper tour, this is when you’ll have your chance to tour Quito. For those on the Explorer tour, this is your second day in the city. On both tours, you can extend your stay in Cuenca, another UNESCO World Heritage site, also considered one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador. It feels like spring every day of the year, and most travelers appreciate the opportunity to see more of Ecuador on this fascinating and well-priced extension package.

The very best part of these two wonderful packages is the included features we’ve packed into the low prices. Both tours include round-trip flights from Miami via LAN Ecuador with fuel surcharges; all ground transportation and transfers; superior accommodations; 14 meals; comprehensive sightseeing tours with a naturalist guide on the Galapagos Islands; a professional, English-speaking tour guide in Quito and Cuenca; Galapagos National Park fee ($100); Transit Control Card ($10); and more.

In just the short time that these tours were posted, many of our departure dates have already been filled, so I recommend booking without delay if you want to be included in these awesome, new tours. You can book the seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper for $2,199 or the nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer for $2,499 by July 30, or as long as space lasts.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Customer testimonial: Feeling like honorary Ecuadorians

Hearing what a wonderful job our tour guides do always makes me proud. I love getting feedback about our trips, and I recently received some rave reviews about our Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands tour.

I wanted to share one with you from a couple who found their tour guide to be above and beyond their expectations.

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"In writing our evaluation, we did not have enough room to tell you about our guide, Patricio. He was, without a doubt, the most friendly, patient, and knowledgeable guide we have had out of many tours we have taken. We hope that you will pass this information on to the Friendly Planet office in Ecuador, as we feel that he should be given special recognition for the superb representation of your company. We had two medical emergencies with travelers in our group. He was able to get doctors for them and arrange for one of them to join our trip the next day.(The other man refused treatment, as this wasw an on-going medical problem, and was fine the next morning.) Another time, while telling us of the exportation from Ecuador of roses, he asked our driver, Jose, to stop for a moment. He came back a few minutes later with roses for all of the women on the bus! These were just two of the many kindnesses he extended to our group. He really understands the meaning of "guest service" and is to be commended for the way he conducts a tour. We came away feeling like honorary Ecuadorians!"

– Cathy and Rich Sholtanis, Tamworth, NH

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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