Galapagos Islands with Red Mangrove

Chris from Into Latin America recently enjoyed a trip to the Galapagos Islands with her husband, Justin.  Here is what Justin thought about the trip.

The Galapagos Islands are by far the biggest tourist attraction in Ecuador, known for both their natural beauty and historical importance.  On Monday night, we headed down to Guayaquil, only to have our heart broken when we realized the river crab shacks we’d been daydreaming about were closed.

On Tuesday morning, we flew to the island of Santa Cruz, and checked in at Red Mangrove. Unlike most Galapagos trips, which travel the islands in a small cruise ship, Red Mangrove has hotels on three different islands, and delivers you between them. We were on Darwin’s Triangle Short trip, which allowed

us a chance to see not only Santa Cruz, but also Floreana and Isabela.

The first day was light, with a trip to the beach. The next morning, we went to see Los Gamelos, two enormous volcanic craters. Afterward, we went to a reserve to check out the giant tortoises, one of the jewels of Galapagos wildlife. With lifespans of about 200 years, these creatures were around before their neighborhood went to hell with all of us tourists. However, they seem to be taking it all in stride.

After lunch, we headed out to Floreana, a mostly unpopulated island on which Red Mangrove is the only hotel. As you would expect from an island with only 100 inhabitants, the experience was more rustic, although still very comfortable (except for the swarms of mosquitos). After dropping our bags, we went snorkeling, where not only did we see sea turtles and fish, but a frisky sea lion who showed off by frolicking between us. On the way back from dinner, we took a walk to check out the stars, which were absolutely breathtaking. The next morning, we went to check out some more turtles and the residuals of pirate hideouts.

According to our guide Carlos, there is a movie about the first settlers of Floreana starring Javier Bardem in the works, but there’s no evidence of this on IMDB.

Jumping back on the boat for another two hour cruise, we headed to the island of Isabela, which not only features wildlife and a volcano, but a endless, beautiful beach. After lunch, we went on a boat ride to check out some wildlife… turtles, sea lions, small penguins and the for-some-reason famous blue footed boobies. When we got off on one of the small volcanic islands, we got quite a show. A family of sea lions was on the beach when a male interloper repeatedly butted in, only to be quickly and impressively chased off by the male. That must have gotten him in the mood, because he then tried for a while to mate with the female, who wasn’t having any of it. It may have been the kids that extinguished the spark, because after she fought him off, she went up to the mangroves to care for a tiny offspring, still covered with hair. Maybe if he helped out more with the housework…

That night, we said

goodbye to our guides Carlos and Bolivar, who were staying with Susanne and Jackie, two friends from Connecticut who were on Isabela for an extra day.  On Saturday morning, with our new guide Juan, we checked out the flamingos and wildlife on Isabela, and spent some more time on the beautiful white sand beach. We headed back to Santa Cruz, where we were placed in a sick suite, and enjoyed a farewell dinner with Brad and Amanda.

The next day we sadly tore ourself away from our beach view TV room and Red Mangrove. Although we obviously can’t compare it to a boat trip, we have nothing but positive things to say about the experience there. All of our guides, and the rest of the staff, were great, the rooms were impressive, the food was tasty… good times all the way around. On Sunday, we took the short trip to Finch Bay Hotel, a high-end hotel on Santa Cruz. The big draw was the beachfront pool, which we lounged by for most of the

day, with extended breaks to the TV room to watch the NFL Championship Games.

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Rio Carnival Hotel and Last Minute Galapagos

Having problems finding somewhere to stay in Rio for the Carnival?  Rio hotel rooms at Carnival can be hard to find but we have a special offer on a great room for the nights of 20, 21 and 22 of Feb.

The Rio room is a double with its own terrace and fantastic views of Rio.

View from private terrace in Rio Hotel

View from private terrace

Colorful and comfortable room in Rio for Carnival

Experience the color of Rio at Carnival time

Contact us for details

Last Minute Offer for Galapagos Cruise

Fabulous 4 Day Cruise aboard the Luxury Class M/V Galaxy

Dates: Jan 21-24 – US$1845 incl flights from Guayaquil / Quito and transfers

Or 5 Day Cruise

Dates: Jan 24-28 – US1995 incl flights from Guayaquil / Quito and transfers.

Contact us for details of this and other Last Minute Galapagos deals.

Community Tourism in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a good place to get closer to the country and people by visiting or staying in a communtiy tourism project.  Esteli in the north of the country probably has the most well known project with many family homes where you can stay, eat local food and go hiking and horse riding.  The island of Ometepe also has plenty of fincas and family homes where you can stay.  Into Latin America’s Central America consultant recently visited the village of Santo Domingo in the Chontales region of Nicaragua to discover what there is to see and do there, and to stay with a local family.  You can read all about it here

Sloth in Nicaragua

The very lazy sloth in Santo Domingo

 

Santo Domingo Panorama

Santo Domingo, Nicaragua Panorama

Tips for Planning Tours in South America to Save Money

In the current economic climate we are all looking for ways to get more value out of our hard earned cash.  South America remains a great value destination in general and is as popular as ever with visitors from all over the world.  Read on to learn about ways to help you get great value while maximising your South America experience.

Wherever you go, travel advisors at Into Latin America will know how you can save money and still have a wonderful trip.

  1. Chose a few key destinations.

Choose the main ‘must sees’ for your trip and then look at what can be visited from there.  For example, in Patagonia instead of flying to multiple destinations, look at visiting a couple of main destinations and then making short trips.  From El Calafate in Argentina, you can visit Perito Moreno Glacier, El Chalten for excellent hiking,  and then travel over to Chile for Torres del Paine National Park as well as the Sorreno and Balamaco GlaciersPerito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

2. Consider travelling by bus. 

Peru has excellent, safe and comfortable buses; especially convenient for travelling in Southern Peru.  Remember the days when airlines were like this; with reclining seats, meals, in-seat entertainment and high levels of service?  Consider travelling by bus for destinations in Peru such as Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, Nazca and Ica.

3. Connect to your final destination on the same day.

It is a nice idea to arrive in the main city, spend a night and then continue to the next destination.  If you think you can face it though, consider connecting to your short internal flight on the same day.  It will save on airport transfers and hotel bills.

4. Try the lunchtime menus.

There are lunchtime menus to suit all pockets

Meal at Ciccolinas

In all Latin American destinations, local restaurants serve good set lunches at a much lower price.  These are often three course meals, including a drink and cost around a half of the price of a regular meal.  There may be one or two options; or only one choice for that day but they are served quickly, and are generally good quality.  Look out for the restaurants with queues out of the door and ask for the álmuerzo or ‘menu del dia

5. Shop when you get there.

small girl wearing two hats

Buying hats in Peru can be a great experience

 

Don’t go shopping for clothes for your trip; buy your clothes when you arrive.  Cusco and Puno in Peru and Otavalo in Ecuador are perfect places to buy warm sweaters and hats; Argentina is the place for leather goods and Rio has trendy Havaian flip flops (thongs) at cost a fraction of the usual price.

6. Travel out of season.

Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Rio, Iguazu and Santiago have definite seasons where hotels increase their prices dramatically.  These high seasons might not only coincide with the busy tourist season, but also during conference season,  or when a city is hosting a large music festival as well.  Ask Into Latin America
when is the best time to travel.

7. Investigate stays in lodges and haciendas.

Beautiful and peaceful haciendas in the plains of Patagonia and amongst the volcanoes of Ecuador or the Brazilian countryside are wonderful places to stay.  They may appear more expensive on first looking but when you count in the activities and meals there can sometimes be little difference in price.

8. When a saving isn’t a saving after all.

Sometimes it may seem a good saving to take a group rather than a private tour – but consider how much more valuable it is to you to go at your own pace  and have a guide who can answer your specific questions.  Some places suit a group tour; while others you might want to savour on your own.

Glaciers in Argentina

What’s the big deal about Perito Moreno?  How can I climb into an ice cave?  Are there any glaciers near Ushuaia?  Read our handy article on glaciers in Argentine Patagonia.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Howlers and Hanging Vines on Nicaragua’s Volcanoes

Into Latin America’s Karen plus Little O (aged 3) just got back from a fun-filled visit to Nicaragua – where you just can’t avoid the volcanoes.  More on Nicaragua”s Volcanoes

Active volcano Masaya

Peering into the very active Masaya Volcano

 

Mombacho Volcano

Wake up to howler monkeys on top of Mombacho Volcano

 

ometepe sunset

Sunset on the volcanic island of Ometepe

 

Tunnel Mombacho

Tunnel formed by lava on Mombacho Volcano

 

Charco Verde Swing

Vines make perfect swings in Charco Verde Reserve, Ometepe

 

More on Nicaragua’s Volcanoes

Ecuador at the Beach

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

Ecuador BeachEcuador Beach in May-JuneEcuador Beach in May-June

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador Beach