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The trip to the Galapagos Islands was total immersion in the culture as well as an in-person introduction to sea lions, giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, iguanas, penguins, sharks and more.
I wanted to go on this trip solely because of the animal viewing -- and the tour definitely delivered. Our Galapagos Islands package was an ideal way to visit the famous islands on a pretty modest budget. I had been looking for an affordable package here for a couple of years and hadn’t come across anything for less than $3000 per person -- not including airfare.
Because the terrain here is pretty difficult to get around, and there’s just so much to see and experience, going with a guide is your best bet to get the most out of the trip at a few of the world’s most ecologically protected spots.
The trip began in the tourist hub of Quito, and we stayed in a hotel that was a good base for exploring the local markets and hitting the city's trendy restaurant area before setting out for the islands.
One of the benefits of the package is that the tour groups are small (20 people or less), and my group ended up being only seven people. It was a perfect size. We felt like a family by the end of the trip, and it was small enough to informally explore Quito and the islands’ towns as an entire group in the evenings.
The Charles Darwin Research Center was one of the most standout times of the trip. The research center, which is open to the public, is home to more than 100 scientists working on conservation projects. But the real draw is what’s on four legs: from the baby tortoises in the breeding center to the adult ones roaming around. While there we learned about Darwin’s seminal work in the 1800s along with current ecological conditions affecting the islands and the waters around it. Be sure to see Lonesome George, the last known tortoise from the island of Pinta, making him one of the rarest animals alive today.
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