-Land or Sea? I prefer sea because you can get to more of the islands, even though I am not a cruise person.
-Choose your tour company carefully. Ask for recommendations from friends who have been to the Galapagos, keeping in mind their interests and personalities. Read reviews online. The tour company organizes your experience and that will be fundamental to whether you enjoy yourself and are satisfied with the itinerary and range of activities.
-Promises, promises. Read all of the tour materials carefully. If an amenity is not specifically mentioned, it is not available. Be sure to as many questions as you can before you book. Do you need internet? Do you want a double bed? Would you like air-conditioning? Need a special diet? Refrigerator for medications? Everything has to be specified before you book. Once you book, you have no leverage.
-Who else will be there? For best results, recruit people you enjoy to go along. That way you know what your company will be. We were fortunate to be with family and an interesting group of fellow passengers, but there are no guarantees. If you are an outgoing, friendly person you’ll be fine, but not everyone has that gift.
-Check to see that your guides will be appropriate. There are highly qualified guides that do not speak English. If you do not speak Spanish make sure that you will have guides of the highest qualification level who are also English speaking–or who speak the language you want.
-Keep your expectations reasonable. Every group sees the Charles Darwin Research Center, but not every group sees everything else.
-Take responsibility/do your homework. Some months the weather is hot and you can burn easily on the water. Other months the water is frigid and the days often overcast. You won’t get sunburned, but you might feel chilly.
If you have your heart set on seeing an albatross, or a white-tipped shark, find out when and where you are most likely to see them. Ask about it before you book, too, as the odds of seeing particular animals vary by season and location. You don’t want to get there and find that you are in the right place, but at the wrong time, or that you are on a ship with a different itinerary than the one that would take you to see your favorite animal.
-Have a great time. Once your plans are made, relax and enjoy the trip. The stark landscape is beautiful and if the animals aren’t posing exactly where you would like them to be, it’s still beautiful all around you. Talk to the other passengers, learn new things and enjoy the experience. Sitting on deck in a lounge chair or a hammock with a cold drink and a book can be as worthwhile an experience as seeing a giant tortoise. Trust me, I’ve done both…..