Replies: 15 - Last Post: Mar 1, 2012 12:10 PM Last Post By: mpjohans
Feb 16, 2012 11:19 PM
Authentic experienceI am taking my daughter for her 30th to South America in August/September. We wish to have as authentic/amazing experience as possible in the Amazon Jungle and the Galapagos Islands. We are both experienced hikers (and myself a scuba diver). Budget is not an issue. Any suggestions for accommodation, tours etc to these destinations and any others in South Americia would be greatly appreciated.
Feb 17, 2012 3:23 AM
1some fantastic suggestions at #1
probably not what the ladies want though
small boat in the Galapagos not big cruise ship
small lodge in jungle not catering for bus loads
if you go where everyone goes then all you will see is people
whatever you see will be fantastic
you haven't stated interests so don't know what you are looking for
often a day drive in the countryside can be more interesting than all the tourist attractions
Feb 17, 2012 5:25 AM
2I flew to the Galapagos on a flight mostly reserved for a National Geographic Explorer Tour -- that would most probably be a very exciting and rewarding excursion. Otherwise, it is recommended to wait until after you arrive in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, before locating a cruise -- talk directly with the ship's captain and ask advice from the locals. I stayed in an apartment in Puerto Ayora for 5 days, and that was a base for many people taking day tours and also going out scuba diving. A couple with a 5-year-old managed to find a week-long cruise much cheaper than many others after negotiating for a few days. Puerto Ayora itself has an array of accommodations, from luxury lodges with gourmet cuisine to budget hostels. There are speedboat ferries (2 hours each way) to Isla Isabela and Isla San Cristobal. A walking tour of Charles Darwin Research Centers acreage is free -- Lonesome George tortoise is there with his female companions. The finches everywhere are very tame -- you need to watch where you step because they do not fly away. The local bus will take you up to the highlands area to see the tortoises out in the wild. Tortuga Bay is within walking distance.
Feb 17, 2012 12:43 PM
3I know an excellent english speaking travel agent in Quito that could help you plan an amazing trip. He has helped me with trips a few times and has worked with various friends with varying budgets, including high-end personalized trips. If you want his email address feel free to private mesage me.
Feb 17, 2012 1:52 PM
Feb 17, 2012 7:07 PM
5There are trips to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador -- use the Search All Forums above right to find the previous postings. I went to the Tambopata Sanctuary in Peru. I flew to Puerto Maldonado (alongside Rio Madre de Dios) and went with Wasai http://www.wasai.com which is recommended by Lonely Planet. They have excellent lodges in Puerto Maldonado and in Tambopata (4 hours boat ride from Puerto Maldonado). I went on their Macaw Claylick tour and Lago Sandoval tour in 4 days/3 nights. The most pristine Amazon rainforest with the most wildlife is Manu, nearer to Cuzco, Peru. It is more expensive. Make sure that you get a tour inside the refuge, not just on the outskirts.
Feb 18, 2012 1:38 AM
6THE best Galapagos tip - don't take a tour group cruise! Stay in a hotel or homestay and cruise/speed boat to get to the isalnds you want to visit or take day trips. Who wants to be ushered back to a boatload of tourists every night and be stuck there until your morning activity, when you could be exploring the local nightlife, resturants, bars etc until you please! You will be missing out on having a drink and a dance with a local, playing night beach volley ball, watching sports by the beach, going for a cool night stroll - its safe! Having breakfast at a local cafe.. The only exception I would make for staying on a boat would be if it was your own or a privately charted boat, or if you are highly concerned about the impact of land based tourism on the islands.
Feb 18, 2012 9:33 PM
In Ecuador I did a 4day/3night tour in the Cuyabeno region (flooded forest). It was great. Lots of hiking, canoeing, and it included a visit to a shaman and a local community. The village visit was pretty cool I have to say. The whole tour was - great guide, great people and great sites.
But if you are looking at Peru for your Amazon trip (???), I did a 4day/3night tour in the same area as trekker502 and would happily recommend it. The only thing I want to really stress is to make sure you do at least a 4day/3night tour. The reason being because it takes so long to get deep into the jungle from Puerto Maldonado. Although the journey there is all part of it, I felt as though a 4d/3n tour was in effect only a 3d/2n due to the time taken to get there - consequently a 3d/2n would feel like a 2d/1n. And if you are looking at Peru for the Amazon why not look at doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - a truly amazing experience!
Another recommendation for the Amazon wherever you go - make sure you go on the night hikes (you'll probably be given a choice). It was a real highlight for me purely for the sounds - the Amazon really comes alive at night! On one in particular we stopped for a few minutes, just stood there, torches/flashlights off and totally quiet, just listening. The whole time I had the video camera running, just to capture the sounds. Awesome! It was what I couldn't see that was my highlight!
For the Galapagos I'd recommend doing some research on which islands you want to visit. This can help when deciding on a boat as the itineraries do vary. Also, not all islands can be visited when basing yourself on one of the few islands that do offer accommodation. When it comes to the Galapagos, authentic (and amazing) in my opinion relates to the wildlife - humans are a relatively recent occurrance on the islands and so the stuff mentioned above is not really the reason you're heading there (I'm just taking a stab in the dark there). You can do that stuff anywhere. The wildlife and the islands themselves on the other hand are the very reason for going and are best seen on a boat cruise/tour. I did a 7 night cruise and was on a boat with 10 people and it was great. It was a budget class boat, but still awesome. Given that budget is not so much of an issue for you I'd suggest finding the boat/itinerary you want and booking in advance so as to avoid possible disappointment if you wait till the last minute.
One last suggestion - if you have the time include more of Ecuador - especially Banos and the volcanoes!
Feb 20, 2012 7:28 PM
8Highly recommend Sacha Lodge for an Amazonian experience. Guides at that lodge are exceptional. I also had a wonderful time at Bella Vista Lodge near Mindo for birding if that does anything for you (again, outstanding guides!) Being on a sailboat (Mary Ann) for 7 nights in the Galapagos was one of my highlights.. small group travel with an excellent crew and naturalists. If you want to dive, you need to be on a dive boat. I found that snorkling was sufficient for me.
Feb 21, 2012 12:43 AM
9For Galapagos, I can recommend a specific boat, the Beagle. It will provide an authentic experience because of the large deck space and sails. I did it a long time ago, so can't give advice on what itineraries they do, or how to book.
For quality jungle experiences, check out the Tambopata Research Center in Peru. I have not been there, but it gets great reviews and I would certainly go there, if time and budget was no issue. You will see many animals. You can fly there from Cuzco.
For something more authentic, but with less wildlife: Go to Yurimaguas in northern Peru, and take the river boat towards Iquitos, About half way down, is a town called Lagunas. Find the office of the local guides' association and hire them to do a multi-day hiking/camping trip in the Pacaya-Samiria reserve. This is as authentic as it gets, and reasonably safe if you are able to find the real guides' association and negotiate with them (do you speak spanish?). Timing may not be predictable so you need to plan at least 2 weeks of time for this leg alone (Yurimagua-Lagunas-hiking trip-Iquitos).
The obvious thing to do while you are in Peru, would be a visit to Machu Picchu.
You could finish the trip with a few days in Brazil - Iguazu waterfalls and Rio.
Feb 21, 2012 10:54 AM
Feb 21, 2012 1:33 PM
Feb 21, 2012 11:39 PM
Feb 24, 2012 2:13 PM
13If we have th choice which shiip would be best to explore the Galapagos; Mary Anne or the Beagle.
Feb 24, 2012 2:42 PM
14Hmmm.... I just checked out the Mary Anne's specs. So she was built in 1997, is larger than the Beagle and has more passengers, while the Beagle is smaller, more intimate and "old school". If I had to choose, I would choose the Beagle again.
Both ships are the highest category you can find, so there is nothing you can do wrong with either of them.
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