Unlock the Power of Storytelling
Immersion into Creative Practice in the Galapagos
Featuring Lisa Weinert with Suleika Jaouad and Kate Johnson
February 2 – 13, 2020
Trip at a Glance
- February 2–13, 2020
- Stay on two of the loveliest inhabited islands of the Galapagos archipelago, Isabela & San Cristobal.
- Fly between the islands via two private chartered flights
- Enjoy sightseeing and snorkeling excursions
- Small group tour: limited to 16 guests
- Early bird price of $5599 USD per person (based on double occupancy)
- Guests must submit their deposit before June 1 to qualify for Early Bird price.
- Please check “Price & What is Included” tab below for what is included in this price
Join Lisa Weinert, creator of the Narrative Healing Program at Kripalu, along with teachers Suleika Jaouad and Kate Johnson for a full body, full spirit storytelling experience. This immersion will combine meditation, yoga, and writing prompts to foster creativity and compassionate listening amidst the most creative environment on the planet. There is valuable, life-changing medicine in our stories that can heal us personally and as a society. To tell our stories, we must first find them. Sometimes they are locked within our body, sometimes they are hiding behind the swirling thoughts in our mind, sometimes they are shrouded by old stories that no longer serve us.
Narrative Healing applies a three-pronged approach to unveiling our personal narratives: meditation helps to still and clear the mind, yoga allows the body to speak, and writing prompts allow stories to surface. This immersion is a true integration of mind, body, and spirit and exploration of the wild wild world.
The Galápagos Islands are considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing–and wildlife photography! These UNESCO World Heritage islands, isolated 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, are home to diverse and unique flora & fauna–many are found nowhere else on the planet. We’ll be staying on two different islands on this land-based tour, and we’ll take plenty of boat excursions to reach the treasured, remote vistas of this otherworldly volcanic archipelago.
Puerto Villamil, Isabela
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal
February 2 You’ll arrive in Quito, Ecuador and enjoy a good night’s sleep at a comfortable hotel near the airport before your flight to the Galapagos tomorrow.
February 3 You’ll fly from mainland Ecuador to Baltra Island off of Santa Cruz (via Guayaquil). From there you’ll take a charter flight to the relaxing and beautiful island of Isabela.
February 4 – 7 You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy several group excursions–snorkeling, kayaking, or even volcano-hiking! Isabela’s long sandy beaches, flamingo lagoon, and tortoise breeding center, along with its charming cafes, make this island perfect for exploration.
February 8 You’ll say goodbye to Isabela & head out on another private charter flight to San Cristobal and your beautiful waterfront accommodation.
February 9 – 12 You’ll enjoy several water-based and land-based excursions around San Cristobal, with plenty of opportunities to witness sea lions in their element.
February 13 Say goodbye to the Galapagos–for now!–as you head home or on to your next adventure.
About Lisa Weinert
Lisa Weinert is passionate about powerful voices and the potential for storytelling to heal and transform lives. In 2016, she launched Narrative Healing: Unlock the Power of Storytelling, an annual program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. She is currently teaching a publishing course at Wesleyan University and is presenting online course The Age of the Storyteller, a one-of-a-kind online course on publishing and marketing, with The Authors Guild. She offers mindfulness-based publishing services, including coaching packages, classes, and workshops designed to provide practical marketing tools while keeping the creative process at the center of the experience. See more at www.lisaweinert.com
About Suleika Jaouad
Suleika Jaouad (pronounced su-LAKE-uh ja-WAD) is an Emmy Award–winning writer, speaker, and cancer survivor. She wrote the acclaimed New York Times column Life, Interrupted and is the subject of the accompanying video series, which chronicled her journey with leukemia throughout her early twenties. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, NPR, Vogue, and Glamour, among other publications. Suleika’s highly anticipated debut memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, is forthcoming. Listed among Mogul’s 35 Under 35 most influential and inspiring young women worldwide, Suleika travels the globe sharing her story of making the most of a life, interrupted and empowering others to find purpose in pain and transform challenges into creativity. See more at suleikajaouad.com.
About Kate Johnson
Kate Johnson is a Buddhist meditation teacher, writer and organizational consultant who brings her experience in creativity and social change to all of her work. She has been practicing in the western Insight/Theravada tradition since her early 20’s, and is empowered as a meditation teacher through Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Kate teaches regularly at the Rubin Museum in NYC and the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. She is thrilled to be a featured presenter in the first ever Kripalu Women’s Week in Fall 2019, entitled “Revolution Within.” She is a mentor in Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s Mindfulness Meditation Certificate Training Program. Kate is a core faculty member of MIT’s Presencing Institute. She holds a BFA in Dance from the Alvin Ailey School/Fordham University, and MA in Performance Studies from NYU. Her first book will be published in July 2020 by Shambhala Publications. See more at spiritrock.org/kate-johnson
Lisa Weinert, Suleika Jaouad, and Kate Johnson offer an integrated approach to the creative practice and will work together to offer a holistic method using meditation, creative writing, and yoga.
On this journey, we will explore:
+ Group writing workshop
+ Meditation practice
+ Restorative yoga offering is designed to soak up the creative energy of the Galapagos and inspire deep relaxation and restoration:
+ Practice in the craft of writing: creative writing and group work to stimulate the senses and explore the craft of writing
+ Workshops will foster a supportive environment for creative practice, tools for creative play, and opportunities for feedback from peers and major literary voices
+ Compassionate listening skills: practical and playful practices to spark deep listening, both inward and outward
+ Important practical tips on how to manifest your stories and launch your work into the world
+ Creative inspiration!
+ Connection to nature and animals
Detailed Daily Itinerary
Your practice time will be woven gracefully throughout the Galapagos activities detailed below!
Welcome to Ecuador! You’ll arrive into the capital, Quito, and stay overnight at a comfortable hotel just minutes from the airport. You’ll get a good night’s rest—the excitement starts tomorrow!
You’ll be transferred to the airport to fly to the Galapagos on a jet (via Guayaquil, Ecuador; 40-minute flight to Guayaquil, 40-minute wait on the same plane, then 90 minutes to the Galapagos Islands). Upon your arrival at Baltra airport off of Santa Cruz island, you’ll hop onto your small charter flight to the precious island of Isabela (30-minute flight). Isabela is one of the youngest and largest of the Galapagos islands, formed by the merger of 6 volcanos (5 of which are still active!) When you see it on a map, Isabela appears to be shaped like a seahorse–quite appropriate for reasons you may soon see.
You’ll spend 5 nights in Isabela’s main town, Puerto Villamil, a quiet and charming town full of friendly faces and fresh seafood. There are plenty of cafes to enjoy meals, snacks, and even sunset cocktails.
Two excursions are included during your time here, and you are left with plenty of free time for optional activities and self-exploration in addition to your practice with Lisa, Kate, and Suleika.
Your first full day on Isabela, you’ll travel a short distance but feel a world away at Las Tintoreras (the colloquial name for the abundant white-tipped reef sharks here). A lava formation just off the coast of Puerto Villamil has created a sheltered bay which is rich in life, from penguins to rays, sea lions to green sea turtles. You’ll take a guided walk on top of these lava formations and get face-to-face with a large colony of marine iguanas. You’ll also have the opportunity to snorkel in the bay, which may give you the chance to witness how graceful these iguanas are underwater, as well. For those of you feeling adventurous, if the tide is right, you can snorkel in channels filled with said tintoreras sharks!
The next days are an opportunity to Choose Your Own Adventure, all of which we can help you arrange. We have included one more excursion, your choice! You can opt to take a day hiking trip to Sierra Negra, one of Isabela’s five active volcanos. Sierra Negra boasts the second largest volcanic caldera in the world. On this guided tour you’ll explore the surreal lava landscape dotted with vents and fumaroles. Or you can opt to stay closer to home and kayak and snorkel around Los Tintoreras, or even revisit the Tintoreras excursion from a couple days ago. One of these options is included in your journey!
You may wish to add on an excursion to Los Túneles or The Tunnels. These namesake tunnels and arches were created by lava flows, creating a landscape unlike any other. You’ll have an opportunity to snorkel on the outskirts of the tunnels in the mangroves, rich with sea life including–can you guess? The Giant Seahorse! You never know what you’re going to see, but this is the place to see the amazing Giant Seahorse, typically with a tail wrapped tightly around a mangrove root. After exploring underwater, you’ll take our boat further into the maze of arches and natural bridges and you’ll explore a bit on foot, as well. These calm, crystal-clear waters are a favorite for green sea turtles. The landscape, full of lava arches, cactuses, and aquamarine water, is beyond surreal.
The last full day is free for you to do what you wish! You can explore the coastline, from the white sandy beach to the wetlands. Isabela is also home to a Tortoise Breeding Center that is a lovely 30-minute nature walk from town. Nearby there is a lagoon that is home to many flamingos, black-necked stilts, and ducks. You can also choose to view the relics of the island’s dark human history by visiting the Wall of Tears, evidence of Isabela’s former penal colony and its brutal punishments. You can also rent a bike and cruise around town in style.
Want to get back in/on the water? If you can’t get enough snorkeling, there is a protected area a short walk from the harbor, La Concha y Perla, where you may see some penguins glide by you!
On February 8th, you’ll take another small chartered flight to San Cristobal island, on the eastern side of the archipelago (~50-minute flight). You’ll be staying in the main city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which also serves as the capital of the Galapagos Province of Ecuador. The first thing you’ll notice is that this town is more lively than Puerto Villamil on Isabela–it even has a stoplight (!) Here the restaurants and bars are more plentiful, along with a spa and quirky souvenir shopping.
This island is where Charles Darwin first disembarked on his renowned 1835 voyage, which greatly impacted and informed his theory of evolution. You can see the statue of Darwin from high stop Frigate Bird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas) or hike out to see it close-up on your way to snorkel in the aquamarine bay. We’re lucky to have a west-facing view of the sunset, both from a beach in town (Punta Carola) and a nearby beach, La Loberia, just a short taxi ride away. Both beaches house large sea lion colonies and are a true joy to experience at sunset.
Your first full day you will head to Isla Lobos–that’s right, the Island of Sea Lions (or “Sea Wolves” as they are called here!) You’ll share the waters with these playful sea lions (or, more accurately, they’ll graciously share the water with you!) and perhaps get a glimpse of them gliding around in their element. Don’t let their clumsy behavior on land fool you–they are amongst the most elegant and agile creatures on the planet. You’ll also take a nature walk on the small islet itself, which is a favorite nesting spot for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. This adventure will be combined with lunch and time on a beautiful nearby beach, with a bit of time for walking, resting, or swimming.
Want to see a different side of this island? You’ll also visit the highlands of San Cristobal and enjoy a visit to the Galapaguero de Cerro Colorado, a giant tortoise breeding center to marvel at these seemingly ancient creatures.
You’ll have two entirely free days with lots of options for you! This town offers some wonderful educational activities, including the Interpretation Center, where you learn that the history of the Galapagos is even stranger–and more scandalous–than fiction. Follow the path past the Interpretation Center up to Frigate Hill for a gorgeous view of the bay and Kicker Rock.
There are a couple beaches to choose from should you want to bask like a sea lion, and you can even snorkel in Darwin Bay over by Frigate Bird Hill (bring your buddy, though!) The town has a lovely spa, lots of beach-view bars and cafes, and plenty of opportunity to shop for souvenirs.
Or perhaps you want to add on a visit Kicker Rock, or León Dormido; obviously the British thought this monolith looked like a shoe, while the Ecuadorians thought it looked more like a sleeping lion–what do you see? Kicker Rock, the eroded cone of an extinct volcano, is a local favorite for snorkeling and diving*. This is a great space to see spotted eagle rays and sharks–even hammerhead sharks, if you’re very lucky! But don’t forget to look up, too, as the towering rock formations are home to blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, brown pelicans, and more. (Kicker Rock excursion is ~$100. Divers can opt to upgrade this activity and turn it into a diving trip, although the general consensus is that the snorkeling trips are preferable.)
On the morning of the 13th, you’ll bid farewell to the Galapagos and fly from San Cristobal (via jet) back to the mainland (via Guayaquil again). Included in the trip is a stay (up to 18 hours) at the airside “Layover Stay” lounge at Quito Airport, as most international departures leave late at night and we don’t want to leave you hanging!
Are you ready to head home yet or are you keen for more adventure? We can help arrange a trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon if you desire! Let’s talk!
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Price & What is Included
This early bird cost for this journey is $5599 USD per person (double occupancy) when you register and submit your deposit before June 1, 2019.
- A nonrefundable $1000 deposit saves your space.
- Your second installment of $3000 is due on September 5, 2019.
- The balance is due on November 4, 2019.
If you submit your deposit after June 1, please contact us for rates, as prices are contingent on flight prices and availability.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $799 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.
- Hotel night in Quito on February 2, 2020
- All accommodations in the Galapagos
- 2 dinners (1 welcome dinner on Isabela island, 1 farewell dinner in San Cristobal)
- 2 lunches (during included day tours, in the San Cristobal Highlands and Isla Lobos)
- Scheduled flight from Quito to Baltra airport
- Charter flight from Baltra to Isabela
- Charter flight from Isabela to San Cristobal (charted flight price total included is $480, but well worth it to avoid the stomach-churning, hair-raising boats between the islands!)
- Scheduled flight from San Cristobal back to Quito
- Isla Lobos excursion (San Cristobal)
- Las Tintoreras excursion (Isabela)
- San Cristobal Highlands tour
- One more activity of your choice on Isabela: Sierra Negra hike, kayaking/snorkeling at the Tintoreras, or return to the Tintoreras
- All breakfasts
- Short wetsuit rental on excursion days
- Isabela tourist permit
- Carbon offsetting (via CarbonFund.org) for your personal flights to and from Quito and our group flights in the Galapagos
- Tips to all Galapagos Naturalist Guides on excursions
- Entrance to the landside lounge at Quito Airport upon departure (good for up to 18 hours)
- Assistance with choosing international flights and the flight to the Galapagos
- Assistance in helping to arrange any trip extensions (the Amazon, etc)
Price does not include
- International airfare from your home to Ecuador (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- $100 USD Galapagos Park Entry Fee (payable upon arrival in the Galapagos at Baltra Airport)
- $20 USD Ecuadorian Immigration Transit Control Card (payable at the airport in Quito before your Galapagos flight. We will complete this online on your behalf before your departure).
- Dinners and lunches (except for 2 dinners and 2 lunches; every breakfast is included)
- Note: we intentionally did not include food on this trip, to allow guests to eat inexpensively or to indulge in local lobster every night! Your average lunch is going to cost between $8 and $15 and your average dinner is going to cost between $12 and $25, depending on your tastes. That would mean $175 on the medium-low end and $300 on the medium-high end; as everywhere in the world, the sky’s the limit if you want to indulge. We will advise you about your restaurant options on the islands.
- Travel insurance (required)
- Optional excursions (that is, any not listed explicitly as included above, such as Kicker Rock (León Dormido) excursion (~$100), Los Tuneles excursion (~$75)
Please expect ~$1000 USD for all services, flights, hotels, and food not included.
- There is a minimum of 8 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up. Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.
- If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 4 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.
Please refer to the “Price & What is Included” tab for specific information about price, payment plan dates & what is included on your journey.
We accept payments via check and credit card (via PayPal). For guests not paying from a U.S. account, please contact us for options.
- Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
- Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below. Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance (click here for help).
Registration Questions & Contract
Please visit this link or the blue button below to complete the questionnaire and contract (you’ll need your passport information).
At the end of the contract, you will see a “submit” box—please hit that button. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.
Suggested Packing List & Temperature Averages
Average temperatures in Galapagos during this time of year: 74 – 86°F
Water temperature in the Galapagos in February: around 75°F
Snorkel gear will be provided on all of our excursions, but if you choose to bring our own for a perfect, comfortable fit, you are more than welcome. BJ is a fan of the full-face snorkel mask, such as those found here. Lauren is more of an old school purist with the traditional masks. We’ll be covering the cost of short wetsuit rentals on the excursions, should you choose to wear one.
Note: Depending on how long you are staying in Quito before or after the trip, please do bring enough warm-weather attire for your stay there, particularly chilly mornings and nights.
- 8+ pairs undergarments (you can have clothes washed on the islands or wash in your room, or you can bring a pair for every day, your choice!)
- 1-2 swimsuits (if you don’t want to run the risk of having to put on a damp bathing suit, best to bring two to rotate)
- Swim shirt. Waterproof sunscreens have a ton of chemicals dangerous to you and to the wildlife, so we try to minimize the need. We love swim shirts, especially long sleeve ones! This minimizes the risk of sunburn when we are on our swimming and boating excursions. Here are some examples on Amazon. We also like using Zappos.com, so you can try on and return your choices without any return postage fees.
- Light windbreaker jacket/rain shell for our boat rides (and possible splashes) or the occasional shower. You will definitely want this!
- 4-5 shirts or blouses. One lightweight long sleeve shirt is very nice for sun protection for our land excursions.
- 3-5 pairs of shorts, lightweight pants, or skirts
- Cover-up or sarong for boat excursions or beach time
- Sleeping attire
- Comfortable walking shoes for our land excursions or for the land-based part of our boat excursions. Sports sandals such as Tevas, Chacos, or Keens (Lauren’s current obsession) work great.
- Sandals or flip-flops for beach time
- A brimmed hat for sun protection. (You will want a hat that fits very well and/or has a chinstrap for windy boat excursions.)
- A small dry bag for our boat excursions, to keep your camera, towel, cover-up, etc completely dry.
- Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better (and for those of you coming from afar, it can help you recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by this—click here to read an article he wrote on the topic.)
- Good sunscreen is critical, for your health AND the health of the fragile Galapagos environment. RetreaTours requires reef safe sunscreens for this journey. For our non-water excursions, Lauren prefers mineral-based sunscreens: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones. For our swimming/snorkeling days, Lauren likes this one a lot. We will give more reef safe sunscreen recommendations and links before the trip.
- Daypack or camera bag
- If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around. BJ and Lauren are a big fan of the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 or FZ2500 for zoom wildlife photos, but you know that BJ can give recommendations for ANY camera needs!
- A waterproof camera may be a fun investment for this trip. Although we will be using a GoPro underwater and sharing the pictures, you may wish to capture your own memories!
- If you DO bring a waterproof camera or GoPro, it’s a good idea to have a floating wrist strap to avoid any accidental offerings to the ocean floor.
- If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
- You may wish to bring binoculars for wildlife sighting
- Toiletries (including preferred shampoo and conditioner, if required–with so much exposure to sun and saltwater, your hair might need extra conditioning).
- Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
- Plug adaptor for electronics for those of you coming from outside the U.S. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well. This is the type of electrical outlet used in Ecuador.
- Photocopy of your passport.
- A small travel umbrella. It can work for rain OR as a parasol.
- Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter medication. We recommend bringing:
- Imodium or similar anti-diarrheal (just in case!)
- Anti-nausea remedies for boat rides (could be simple Sea Bands, ginger candies or pills, or the equivalent of Dramamine, although remember that most anti-motion sickness pills, including Dramamine, can make you drowsy).
- Electricity is consistent throughout the Galapagos, and wifi is often present although very slow. Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.
- We actually require the download of WhatsApp on the smart phone you bring with you (if you are bringing a phone!) This is an easy, free way to stay in touch “after hours” about schedule changes or making plans with other guests!
If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. In addition, Ecuador requires medical insurance of every Galapagos guest, although their exact requirements have yet to be released as of January 2019. Should anything change, we’ll let you know ASAP.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
FAQ (visa, vaccines, food, money & more!)
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, Travel Insurance
- Money & How to Get Local Currency
What do I need to know about the visa?
First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section). Ecuador offers 90-day visa-free visits to citizens of most countries, including the U.S, Australia, and Canada.
I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?
Seafood is obviously a big deal in the Galapagos! Omnivores and pescatarians will thrive. Vegetarians will find vegetable-based options, although the selection is somewhat limited. Vegans might find it more difficult, as the vegetarian options will often include cheese as a base ingredient. Email us and let’s talk about your veg preferences of you are concerned. Gluten-free guests should not have trouble, although we request you print this card out to carry with you for clarification. Please contact us directly for other dietary concerns.
Usually all meals are included on your trips–why is this one different?
Included are your breakfasts and two dinners in the Galapagos (one our first night together and one on our last night together). (In addition, four light but delicious lunches will be provided on the days we have boat tours.) We’ve decided to give you more freedom in your lunches and dinners in the Galapagos due to the wide range of options there. On all the islands there are more value-oriented meal options (between $6-15) and more high-end options ($25+). We know that some of you might just want to have fresh lobsters at every chance, and some of you may be more content with simple Ecuadorian dishes. Also, as we will have a lot of free time on this journey, we didn’t want to set group mealtime that may interfere with your optional activities!
Can I drink the water?
In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.
What vaccines do I need?
None are required to enter Ecuador, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the American CDC’s Ecuador recommendations and the Scottish NHS recommendations by clicking here and here.
What about malaria? What about Zika?
Malaria is not a risk on our itinerary (Quito & Galapagos). As always, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information about malaria. This is what the U.S. Center for Disease Control is currently advising about Zika in Ecuador. *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.
Do I need travel insurance?
We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind! When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation. We also highly recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances. We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the company and policy that is right for you.
If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (you can see our suggestions here). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.
How much money should I bring?
This all depends on how much you’re looking to bring back home in souvenirs, how many extra excursions you want to go on, and how many bottles of the local beer you’ll want to kick back with! To break down what you’ll need on hand:
- $20 USD for the Transit Card you’ll receive at the mainland Ecuador airport on your way to the Galapagos
- $100 USD for entrance into the Galapagos (payable upon arrival at the airport on the Galapagos).
- Money for meals. To be on the safe side, you may want to bring around $300 USD for meals, although you can do it for less.
- Money for any souvenirs
- There is a spa on San Cristobal that our guests have loved! However, they also take credit cards.
- We take care of all tips on the Galapagos, to our naturalist guides and boat crew and hotel, but we’d never take away the opportunity to add more.
- There is a place to have laundry done very close to both of our hotels, should you need it.
How do I get the local currency?
The local currency in Ecuador in the U.S. dollar.
Make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Ecuador, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. Although there are ATMs on the Galapagos (except on Isabela, our first island), we’d recommend getting money or changing money on the mainland, just to be safe.
What kind of hotels will we be staying in?
All of our hotels are, simple, comfortable and well-located for self-exploration. The hotels have wifi, air conditioning, and hot water, but as you can imagine, the wifi can be rather limited and slow given our location. Before the trip, we will make sure you have the hotel names and contact information to pass along to your loved ones.
How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?
Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our hotels to pass along to your loved ones. If you choose to bring your cell phone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.
One more question: Why aren’t we going to Santa Cruz island?
Although we do fly into Baltra airport, just off of Santa Cruz island, we immediately make our way to Isabela via charter flight. Why are we skipping the most populated island in the Galapagos? From experience, we feel that Isabela and San Cristobal represent the very best that the islands have to offer, for both land and water excursions. Many cruises leave from Santa Cruz, which is one big reason why most tourists go through that island. Because Baltra airport is a 75-minute drive from the main town of Puerto Ayora, we feel that staying even 1-2 days is a waste of precious time (getting to and from the airport). Don’t get us wrong–Santa Cruz is a lovely island and her people are warm and welcoming, but in order to make the most of your experience in the Galapagos, we ultimately decided to omit this island.
Suggested Fitness Requirements
What to Expect Physically in the Galapagos
We will enjoy several snorkeling excursions in the Galapagos. We do recommend that you have tried snorkeling at least once before this trip (even if it’s just in a pool). While you should feel comfortable in your swimming ability, you can also wear a life vest during these excursions in the water. In fact, even strong swimmers sometimes like to wear a life vest just so they can have more fun floating and taking in the gorgeous underwater vistas around them. On our snorkeling excursions, we will jump from the boat into the water (or get help being lowered down) and will climb a ladder back into the boat.
Some excursions will include brief bits of walking over volcanic rocks (not an even path); we’ll always let you know when to wear shoes with more support (that is, not flip flops!) (Please see an example photo below.) In addition, both of our hotels on the islands have multiple stories (3) and no elevators. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace on San Cristobal, 3 floors up. If you prefer a room on a lower floor, please let us know and we’ll do the best we can to accommodate you.
About the Altitude in Quito
Altitude Sickness Prevention
You will fly through Quito, Ecuador in order to get the Galapagos. Although you won’t be in Quito long, it’s still an impressive 2,850 meters (9,350 feet). If you fly through Quito, there is more to see and do there, should you arrive early. Alternatively, if you don’t go into Quito city and stay only near the hotels near the Quito airport, the altitude of that area is only approximately 8000’. That is the same altitude that airplanes are pressurized to and not likely to cause 99% of people any problems at all. Your hotel in Quito is by the airport at ~8000 feet.
However, if you know you are sensitive to altitude or you plan on spending a longer time in Quito city after the trip, please read on:
Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician. Certain medications are utilized to aid acclimatizing to high altitude; please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.
Click here to read BJ’s take on how to prevent altitude sickness, as someone who has traveled extensively at high altitudes and never had ill effect and is an avid reader on the subject.
Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a specialty in the world of dietary supplements.
*All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.
Question? Thoughts? Please write to [email protected] If you don’t hear back within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder!
BJ Graf & Lauren Rathvon created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, we moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours!)
The Galapagos is near and dear to our hearts and is one of our favorite places to visit! We’ve spent a ton of time and resources vetting the “best of” activities and making connections directly on the islands, all to make your precious time in the Galapagos even more valuable. We understand that this is truly a “bucket list” trip and we don’t take your trust lightly. Although we will not be with you on site, you are in very capable hands with our partners and your trip leaders!
We take great pride in the itineraries we create, and we can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. We craft each element of the trip with intention. Fueled by passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of our destinations, we are able to set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime.
We are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” we pride ourselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.
In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of our most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, RetreaTours make everything easy for you. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you! So….let’s get going!