I had the pleasure of staying at the Grand Wailea…
I recently had the opportunity to experience small group travel to The Galapagos Islands with Mountain Travel Sobek. Although the trip was originally marketed as a FAM trip with three cabins set aside for agents, I was the only agent that signed up! The other cabins were filled with “regular” travelers. An active couple in their early 60’s, another active couple in their mid to late 40’s, two retired gentlemen in their 70’s (who’s wives were together on Safari in Tanzania) and a single woman in her mid 50’s. All very well traveled and very well educated. There were eight of us in total with one amazing naturalist guide and seven crew members!
I flew into Quito, two days prior to the Galapagos adventure, on Copa Airlines via Panama City. I was met at the Quito airport by Fausto, a local rep for MTS, and transferred to Swissotel, Quito. My room was upgraded upon arrival to a lovely suite on the 11th floor and on the table there was a small birthday cake for me. I had told Aimee Graham, a MTS sales rep, that this trip was a bucket list trip for my big birthday this year. From the moment Fausto picked me up to the moment Fernando returned me back to Quito airport for my return flight home, every detail was flawless!
The following day I had an early start for a city tour of old historic Colonial Quito. It was the first city to be declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The tour also included a stop to Mitel del Mundo, where you literally have one foot in the southern hemisphere and one foot in the northern. I arranged this tour at the very last minute through the local MTS Quito tour office and they were very easy to contact and work with, even on late notice.
Pablo picked me up at 8am and for the next 7 hours he told me all about the current climate (politically and weather wise) of the area and shared the history of Quito and Ecuador. He was very informative, however he also made it clear that he really wanted to move to New York with his daughter who aspires to be a singer!
I met my group on that Friday evening. Luis Die, our AMAZING naturalist guide, briefed us on what to expect for the next week as we traveled the Eastern Galapagos Islands. The following morning we had a 5:00am wake up and headed to the airport. We traveled to Baltra Island, had a quick ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island where we would board the Reina Silvia in Puerto Ayora, our home for the next week. Once we arrived on Santa Cruz Island we had a van tour through the Highlands and to the giant turtle reserve where they roam freely. It was amazing to see these giants! By 6:15pm we finally boarded our beautiful ship, The Reina Silvia.
The ship, or boat if you will (only 90 feet long), is equipped with six spacious cabins each with a full private bath and shower. Beds can be configured as one “King” or two “doubles”. Some cabins have the option to add a third person with a Pullman style wall bed. Although it can accommodate 16 people – I feel that would be pretty crowded. We had 8 and never felt cramped, but double that would be challenging! Please note the boat is not owned by MTS, but rather one of several chartered by them.
The food on board was amazingly delicious. Each and every meal was great and they had no problem catering to dietary restrictions. We had one gal that was vegan and one gentleman with lactose intolerance and others with food allergies, but each meal the chef prepared them was equally as delicious. They even made fresh almond milk while on board so that a passenger could have some morning cereal! Our guide was incredible, several guests on board had dietary restrictions and they handled it beautifully and creatively.
Make no mistake, this is an ACTIVE trip billed as adventure travel and it certainly is that! We had very little down time during the week. Each day we explored either two different islands or two different areas of the larger islands. We began our days with breakfast every morning at 6:30am and were off the boat by 7:15am for 1 of 2 daily hiking adventures that were from 2 to 3 hours in duration. Always transported by small zodiac rafts. Upon returning from the first hike, we would change and go on a snorkeling trip! Most days had only one snorkel trip, however the last 2 days had two snorkel trips and two hikes!!
Snorkeling in the Galapagos was an amazing experience, most notable for the sea lions. I have swam with turtles, sharks and hundreds of fish before (all of which we also did), but never with sea lions! They were super cool and literally swimming only inches away from us!
After snorkel, which generally lasted over an hour, we had about an hour to relax before lunch. After lunch was our second hike of the day! We would come back and have between 30-60 minutes to shower and get ready for dinner. Needless to say, by 8pm we were all wiped out and hit the hay early!
After our farewell dinner, the chef and crew presented me with a delicious chocolate birthday cake with the yummiest whipped cream frosting ever! Not sure how he created it on board a moving boat, but he did and it was such a surprise!
MTS did a fabulous job! For the right clients, I would highly recommend MTS for their next adventure.
~ Terri Gabriel