View Full Version : Galapagos Aboard Endeavour Review

March 12th, 2011, 10:02 PM
Where to begin! I visited the Galapagos in early Feb. 2011 with Nat Geo on the Endeavour. This was a photography expedition, which is the main reason I picked this date. I signed up early, and this date coincided with free airfare from Miami to Guayaquil. I arranged my own air to Miami, leaving plenty of time to make that flight. You may want to consider flying down a day or more before to avoid any weather hassle. The day I left, Dallas was shut-down due to snow. At the gate, we were met by a Nat Geo rep who was very nice. She checked my name off the list and remained with us until we boarded the plane. I joined the others waiting for the flight. Not everyone was on this flight, but met up with us at the hotel in Guayaquil.

The flight took about 4 hours, with a meal and movie being offered. Upon arrival in Guayaquil, we waited to clear customs, picked up our luggage, cleared another secure area and exited to a waiting area full of locals waiting for their loved ones. There were several Nat Geo reps waiting to direct us to a bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck and we rode the bus for about 5 minutes to the Hilton Colon. We were given info on how things would work etc. As we entered the hotel (it was also 11:30 pm) we were greeted with cold minted scented towels, and a free drink. We had an express check-in and I headed right to my room. A few minutes later, my luggage was delivered.

The next morning's wake up call @ 5:45 was late, but I couldn't sleep. Our bags had to be outside by 6 and then I headed to a buffet breakfast (the chocolate banana bread is really good). We were then taken to the airport and given our boarding passes. We got our luggage, cleared security and headed to the gate. There was a VIP waiting area, but it was small and we were only there for 30 minutes. The 1.5 hour flight to San Cristobal was pleasant, with a nice breakfast and a touchscreen entertainment center in the seat. Upon arrival in San Cristobal we cleared the park "security" and boarded a bus for another short ride to the dock. Our luggage was taken care of and later delivered to our cabins. At the dock we were greeted by lazy sea lions and a light rain. We were given a life jacket and rode a panga out to the ship. Before boarding we got a crash course on how to get in and out of the pangas. Once on board, we were led to our cabins. Snacks (fruit, etc) were served in the lounge (as they were each morning and evening) and we were given a briefing by the hotel mgr and expedition leader (Willy & Jason). Lunch was served and a lifeboat drill followed. Next came a snorkel/kayak briefing and then we went to get our snorkeling gear. We were given a mask, fins, snorkel, shortie (I brought my own full wet suit),
inflateable vest (if you wanted), and a bag to carry it all. From there we took a panga ride around the coast, then has some time on the beach at Cerro Brujo. At 7 there was a cocktail party, recap of the day, briefing for tomorrow, then followed by dinner. Most went to bed after dinner.

The food was plentiful and wonderful-how I lost weight I don't know (other than eating lots of fish and fruit, plus all the activity). I had brought some protein bars in case there wasn't anything available before a pre-breakfast hike. The lounge has 24 hr soda, water, beer (the latter on an honor system). There are snacks and drinks in the library as well. You are given a stainless steel water bottle to use during the trip. There are water/ice filling stations on the ship to fill them up, and the pitcher in your room. You can drink the tap water, but think rusty pipes. Breakfast and lunch are buffet, with dinners being full service (minus the first night). One night we had a bbq on deck that was wonderful! Each morning you sign up for either a meat, fish or veggie meal at dinner (you can always change your mind). There is a full service bar, but some people bought stuff at the duty free shop in Miami to use. Everything is charged to you room (alcoholic drinks, shopping in the gift shop which was nice, and spa services). There is a small gym on board, small salt water pool, and a
dryer. Laundry service is also available.

For this trip, we made stops at San Cristobal, Espanola (wonderful beach in the am, and the hardest hike of all in the pm-1.75 miles but took us 3 hours. Lots of small boulders and rocks to walk over, but an amazing hike if you do the long version), Floreana, Santa Cruz (spent all day ashore-Darwin Research Center, shopping, lunch at Altairs, Highlands, farm and more time in town), Daphne Major, Bartolome (another tough climb up 376 steps, but you can stop and rest. The view is soooo worth it), Sombrero Chino, Genovesa, and disembarking in Baltra.

You really have very little down time. This is not a relaxing cruise vacation, unless you stay on board (why would you want to). We had about 8 kids (10-18 yrs) and I never saw one with a video game. The staff even rounded them up for some activities like coloring and learning to drive the pangas. There are optional early morning hikes starting around 6 (wake-up calls anywhere from 5:15 on came over the pa by Jason's soothing voice. Someone make a recording and email it to me please! You can mute them). Generally the mornings we had from 6-12 on the island, then we moved to another spot where we could stay until 6. You weren't on the islands the entire time though. I highly recommend getting up for the early morning activites as one, it is cooler, and 2 the light for photography is no where near as harsh as it is later in the day. Some animals come out then to start warming themselves up. If you are doing this trip, you are doing it for the sights, not to sleep in! Do it all and you will be rewarded! We had a 95 year old man on board and he did pretty well (on the really easy hikes). There are options such as shorter hikes, beach trips, deep or beach snorkeling (do the deep as the beach can be murky), sea kayaking, panga rides, exercise/stretching classes, massages on a glass bottom boat, etc. You will be given info the night before about what to expect, what to bring, best shoes (I brought a pair of Tevas and Merrill hiking shoes. Next time I will add flip flops for the ship, though I and others often went barefoot.). As for clothes, I brought a hat with a drape down the back for my neck, swim suit, 2 pairs of sunglasses in case one broke, wicking tees and several Columbia fishing type long sleeve shirts. They provided sun protection, were cool to wear, and washed in the sink easily. I also brought a pair of zip of Columbia pants and shorts. For on board, I had a sweatshirt, a few tees and capris-nothing fancy, though some were dressed "smart casual".

There are two US plugs in the room, along with a decent hairdryer (the Hilton in Guayaquil also had US plugs and a hairdryer). I was in a single cabin and it was just fine for the amount of time I spent in there. I had a closet with some drawers, coat rack, on the wall, a night stand, one porthole, and a desk/mirror/chair unit. I stored my rolling duffel bag under the bed. There are no locks on the door (except when you are inside you can lock it), but the desk drawer locks with a key. I never had any problems with stuff disappearing. There is a satellite (corded and cordless) available, but it was very $$$$ (like $8 a minute). There is also internet service, but it is really slow and $$$$ ($50 for an hour I think). Some said you spend the majority of the time just signing on, so maybe write your emails, or address them before signing on and sending them. There is an ethernet cable in the cabin should you want to use it.

The crew was wonderful! The maids are in your room 3x a day (turn down service at night with yummy chocolate. Eat them as they melt very easily!). The maids also double as wait staff. The naturalists are very knowledgeable and friendly. They will often join you during meals. I did most of my outings with Jan and Walter, but they are all very good. You don't have a choice as they are randomly assigned as you board pangas. They will be with you ashore at all times. Each night they write a recap of the day which is posted to the internet. I didn't know this, but you can sign up to have it delievered to you family/friends back home. It is on their website (DER or daily expedition reports). There are lectures after lunch (serious snooze time for many-you can listen to it in your cabin over the pa) about the islands. Walter gave an astronomy lesson on the bow one night. There was also a band and local dancers (their dresses are beautiful) that perfomed one night. A videographer will be out taking videos which you can purchase at the end of the trip ($50 for 1st, $25 for additional-I paired up with another solo traveler and split the cost). We also submitted 3 photos for a slide show at the end, but this was a photo trip so it might not be an option. We also had 3 professional photographers on board to offer instruction, guidance on some of the hikes, and some hands on training. Don't worry though, some of the naturalists are are certified photo instructors as well. Do be sure to bring extra batteries, some way to store/backup your photos and lots of memory cards as they can fail. Also consider some sort of dry bag to protect your camera on the panga rides. A few lost their cameras to salt water spray!

The last day, we were up at 6:15 with bags out by 6:30. We had breakfast then waited in the lounge until 7:15 ish when we said our goodbyes. A quick panga ride and short bus ride took us to the Baltra airport. The naturalists escorted us and we waited a while to get through check-in to the gate. Then we waited at the gate (there is a bar-Coke is free, but nothing else). It was hot too. There are little shops outside-do that before checking in. You can get a stamp in your passport at one shop. We then boarded the plane and headed back to Guayaquil (some to Quito). Once there, we checked into the Hilton. A bus tour was put together (had to have enough people). 4 of us got a cab from the hotel and headed to the Malecon (riverwalk area) and Las Penas (444 stairs to the top of a hill for an awesome view). Our cab driver waited for us-be sure the hotel gets your cab and have the driver wait for you for safety reasons. Leave the big cameras in the hotel along with other obvious valuables. Several people chose to hang out at the hotel pool and casino. For dinner, several of us walked across the street to a steakhouse (El Mato)-lots of food and dirt cheap! Many said our goodbyes after that as our group was split into an early morning and late morning flight to Miami (or elsewhere). Same procedure-bags out, eat breakfast, get the bus to the airport really early-after waiting in the check-out line for almost an hour I now understand! Don't be alarmed if you are paged-they do random searches of your checked luggage, and everyone's hand luggage is screened at security, then hand checked just before boarding. There are some nice duty free shops past security for last minute items.

As for size of the ship-I am glad I went for the larger one. We had 97 out of 99 possible passengers and it was nice to get a chance to meet people from all over. I became good friends with a few of them too. Everyone was super nice. Nat Geo is no longer allowed to collect and hand out people's email addresses and other info, so you might consider bringing some business cards to give to the person in charge of collecting emails (that was my job, and I couldn't read some people's handwriting).

The experience was A-one all the way. This was the first trip where I did not want to return home (even though my kids were waiting for me)! We almost had our wish when the anchor got stuck! No words can fully describe what you will see and do. It is that amazing. I had 10 days with no stress, and had so much fun I felt young again. I am already planning to go back in a few years with my kids, once they are old enough to appreciate it (and behave). Please feel free to ask me questions. There is so much to cover that I could spend days writing!

March 13th, 2011, 07:34 AM

Really enjoyed reading your review - it brought back fond memories of our trip in '05 on the Polaris. We've been on the Endeavour a couple of times and it is a much better ship for this itinerary. Anyone doing Galapagos with Lindblad should consider the Peru-Machu Pichu extension - truly oustanding!

I assume that SC is for South Carolina, right? We live on Isle of Palms. Our next Lindblad trip is on the Lord of the Glens in June - really looking forward to it.

March 13th, 2011, 01:52 PM
Your review was so helpful and got me all excited, as we are leaving for the Galapagos this Saturday!

hrprof, since we're doing the MP extension, I wonder if you can tell me about the transfer day from the G to Lima. It sounds like we have an early flight from Baltra to Guayaquil, but then our flight doesn't leave Guayaquil for Lima until 7:30pm. What do you do all day?

March 14th, 2011, 08:15 AM

I searched our records for the G-MP trip, but couldn't find data on the transfer. However, we do recall that we flew to Guayaquil, dropped off passengers going on to Miami and we contiued on to Lima on the same plane. However, the arrival in Lima was late enough to provide time only for an orientation meeting - no touring that day.

March 14th, 2011, 11:02 AM
We live on Lake Murray near Ballentine in SC.

You're going to have an amazing time! I wanted to add MP on but time (I have 2 small kids that stayed home with the hubby) and money were issues. Sounds like they had some damage and flooding from the tsunami, but things were up and running the next day.

As for your layover time-if enough people are interested, they may offer a bus tour of Guayaquil. That was offered to us, but then we were staying overnight. We got a taxi from our hotel and walked around El Malecon and up Las Penas to the top of the hill and lighthouse for a wonderful view of the city. Be prepared for a long check-in procedure (took about an hour I think) at the airport, though it might be different for you. There are some nice duty free shops once you clear security too.

March 14th, 2011, 09:14 PM
Thanks so much for the amazing review!
Can you answer two questions for me? I've posted below, as we are bringing our two kids on this cruise this summer and the littler one still naps. Although she can skip a nap once or twice a week, life is so much more pleasant if she can sleep 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon!

If I want to be on the ship most afternoons (like between 1 and 4) in general, how much time will I be missing. Do you go out the entire day? Or, do they run people in before lunch so I'd just miss the afternoon activities?

Also, I obviously can't snorkle with the little one. Will this mean that sometimes there will be nothing I can do, or are there usually alternatives to snorkelling?

Obviously, this isn't ideal, but the trip is a gift (a very generous one!) so we are definitely going to go.

March 15th, 2011, 08:28 AM
Thank you both for your replies. I feel like we'll be very well prepared, because of all the information I've found here on CC.

March 15th, 2011, 10:44 AM
A typical day can start as early as 5:15 (if you want-best to catch the best light, just rising sun and cooler temps). You can be on the islands at 6 am. Breakfast is served as early as 7 until as late as 9. Right after that another activity was planned (snorkeling, kayaking, panga ride, glass bottom boat ride, beach trip, etc). You are back on board by 12 and lunch follows. Many times after lunch (when most people crashed as the days went by) there was a lecture while the ship moved. This would be a good time to get a nap in and not miss much. You can listen to the lectures over the pa system in your cabin, adjusting the volume as needed. Then around 3 or a bit later, the activity would start up again (hike, snorkel, beach, panga, etc). I skipped the sea kayaking and did the snorkel vs glass bottom. You could do the glass bottom so your little ones could see the fish. You are back on board by 6 pm. Around 6:45 you meet in the lounge for a recap of the day, briefing for the next day (what shoes to wear, conditions, type of landing, etc) and maybe a short video. Dinner is usually served around 7:30 and is sit-down (vs buffet like breakfast and lunch). After dinner there maybe a story, video, local entertainment, special speaker, etc. Most people head to bed after dinner or the extra session.

The only all day ashore is Santa Cruz. You still have control over how much you want to do. That day started at 6:00 with coffee and fruit, etc served in the lounge (as it is every morning). Breakfast was 6:45-7:30, immediately heading ashore with a short walk (maybe 5-8 minutes) to the Charles Darwin Center. It was very muggy and hot (you are inland, and it was a bit rainy). You spend about an hour walking around the facility in the pens with some of the large tortoises, learning about how they preserve and protect the vegetation/animals, etc. You see some land iguanas, baby tortoises (hard to believe those little things get that big!) and Lonesome George. From there you walk into town (you can catch a cab if you need to-might have to have one called for you). The walk may have taken 15 minutes-1.5 miles. I stopped to look in some shops and take some photos. You have until 11-11:30 to shop, walk around town, etc. Check out the fish market! The birds and sea lions are lined up just waiting to get a scrap. Starting at 11 they run buses from just past the main dock to Altair (in the highlands and cooler temps) which is really nice. You have the option to get off and walk, jog, or even rent a mountain bike part of the way. It is about a 30 minute ride to Altair via bus (time for a quick nap for the little ones). The place is so pretty. Flowers everywhere, banana trees.....reminds me of a little hacienda. It is a small resort with a pool and hot tub (which you can use), changing rooms (one had a pair of nesting barn owls in it). There was a lady selling some of her silver jewelry, bead works (which sold out fast) and some signed coffee table type photo books which I picked up. You get a wonderful lunch-half of a fire roasted chicken, bean salad, potatos (or was it cassava or yuca), and jello. It was a lot of food (I would've been happy with a bowl of fruit).

Next is where you control what you want to do: 1. you can get back on the bus and head into town where you can do some more shopping or head back to the ship. 2. you can head to a farm to visit wild tortoises which migrate through the fields (if muddy they will give you boots before you board the bus....you sign up your sizes a few days before), then go back to town/ship. I highly recommend you at least do this. To be able to watch them eat, move around freely, pose with them was the highpoint before and after my trip. I thought the Darwin Center would be it, but this was just amazing! Your kids will always remember this part as the tortoises will probably be bigger than them. Your 3rd option is to head to the Scalasi rain forest to look at some huge volcanic craters, do a short walk along a path looking at the trees. You also get a better view of how people live on the island too. From there, you then go to farm, and back to town/ship. If you were to skip anything, skip this option as for me, it wasn't a big deal. Sometimes you can see orchids, and other flowers, but we didn't see any. And as always, we were back on board by 6 and dinner at 7:30. This was a long day, but a nice break from being on the ship. It is the one day of civilization too. In the late afternoon, at the main dock there is a lot of local activity: volleyball games, families out and about, kids on the playground, etc. We grabbed some ice cream and sat and watched for a bit which was fun.

Hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect. There is some down time, and more if you choose to skip some options. Your kids might also like some of the beach options, especially if there are sea lions. I could have spent hours just sitting and watching them. They are like little kids. In the water they're so playful as well. If you're lucky, they will come up and interact with you. Don't forget to take lots of pictures of you little ones! They grow up so fast and you won't get this opportunity again! I can't wait for mine (9 & 5) to get a bit older so I can take them. They're already begging to go after looking at my photos!

March 15th, 2011, 01:44 PM
Hey SCMOM - we lived on Lake Murray - in Lexington - Power Point Lane from '91 to '98 when we moved permanantly to IOP. Those were great years. Thanks again for your Galapagos review.

March 15th, 2011, 04:48 PM
Thank you so much! That gives me a wonderful sense of the flow of things.

March 15th, 2011, 07:56 PM
Cool! IOP is very pretty too. We often run our boat down the Cooper to Patriot's Point or Beaufort with the Sea Ray group.

RachelEllen-glad I could help! Any other questions, ask away!

April 9th, 2011, 06:41 PM
Thanks for the wonderful review scmomof2. We are going this summer and looking forward to it.

Couple of quick questions: will hard toe tevas be sufficient for hiking? Is it worth the investment to buy an underwater digital camera?

April 9th, 2011, 10:42 PM
Footwear-I wore a pair of Merrell hikers (more like sneakers) on most outings. For wet landings and easy walks, I wore Tevas. On one of the tougher walks, our guide took off his shoes and went barefoot! As long as your closed toed Tevas have good traction and your ankles are pretty strong you should be fine. The worst hike was over small lava boulders for the majority of the hike (the longest too). My legs were like Jello about mid way through and my neck was sore from constantly looking down where I was stepping. Some of the boulders were loose. You certainly want closed toed shoes for walks like that to protect your toes.

Underwater housing is a definite must, depending on your camera. They sell the drug store type tourist cameras on the ship, but some had problems getting theirs to work, and the photos were not good. Others had the underwater Olympus type cameras. Problem with those is that they're not very fast, and not the greatest for snorkeling (I have one for swimming in pools, etc). I didn't want to spring for the Ikelite housing for my dslr (if I get back into scuba diving, then I will get one). Instead I used my Canon G11 with the Canon underwater housing. If you go this route, you need to preset your camera to the scene you want, and any manual controls before putting it in the housing. Some controls you couldn't change underwater (like scenes), and then trying to fidget with other settings you will miss shots. Do be sure to test your housing in the tub/pool/bucket of water before you put your camera in it. One tiny speck of sand or a piece of hair/lint in the seal can cause a leak. Watch for bubbles coming out. After being in the water, let it soak in your sink while you eat dinner, and dry it off very well before opening it. And unless you have a strobe off camera, don't bother using your flash as it will pick up all the tiny particles in the water making your photos look like a snowstorm.

One other note-you might want to invest in a full wetsuit and bring it along. I'm not sure if they swap out the shorties for longer ones in the summer. The water temps in summer are pretty chilly (50-60s I believe) due to the Humbolt current (and several others) coming up from Antarctia. When I was there in Feb, temps were in the low 80s which was nice. There is not a lot of coral (ie like in the Caribbean) due to the extreme temps. You will see lots of barnacles (look closely and you'll find little fish hiding out inside), some sponges, sharks, turtles, fish, rays, manta rays, lava tubes, starfish and urchins galore. You'll see a lot more fish and larger marine life than I did with the colder, nutrient-rich waters. The sea lions are a blast in the water. If you're lucky to have one around you, start doing somersaults and twisting around in the water. Blow bubbles too. If they're feeling frisky, they'll play along and mimic you.

April 10th, 2011, 10:58 AM
Excellent advice!!! I can't wait!!!