A Dream Galapagos Trip


In 2005, Howard & Linda Payne made the decision to follow their dreams of pursuing the open road, exploring the world, and documenting their travels along the way on their website. The couple recently did some exploring with Southern Explorations, experiencing the Galapagos Islands and the incredible flora & fauna they'd always dreamed of seeing for themselves. This is their story.

My wife, Linda, and I had a trip to the Galapagos Islands near the top of our bucket lists. I’m the researcher and looked at so many options. It was quite overwhelming.

Do we do a land-based trip? Do we do a small ship? Do we do a cruise on a larger ship? There were pros and cons to all the options, but we ultimately decided to go on a small ship.

We are nature lovers and we didn’t want to just go to say we’d been to the iconic islands filled with numerous endemic species of flora and fauna. So, a three- or four-day trip was out of the question. We wanted to visit as many of the islands as possible, but we knew that was going to be expensive.

The good news for us is that we are extremely flexible in our schedule. We live and travel in our RV and run a website for those that want to follow in our footsteps. We don’t have to answer to anyone, and we can take lengthy trips pretty much anytime we want as long as the funds hold out.

I contacted several travel companies to get quotes, and only one followed up: Southern Explorations. Our South America and Central America America travel expert Marisa was patient with us, as we wanted to do a two-week trip. The problem with two-week trips in the Galapagos on small ships is that the itineraries are actually a combination of two, three, or four shorter itineraries, and often the same sites are visited.

But Marisa found us a few last-minute tours that didn’t re-visit the same spots. They had openings for 10 to 15 days, and she gave us a range of price points. Because she got us a deal at 2/3 of the usual rate on a luxury yacht, we decided to splurge for a 15-day cruise. It was our 30th anniversary year, and Linda’s birthday was in the middle of the trip, so we used those special occasions to further justify the decision.

Marisa arranged for a couple of nights in Quito, Ecuador and then we flew to the Galapagos for our 15-day tour. All the transfers went without a hitch, and we were able to relax and enjoy the multiple daily excursions with our top-notch guides.

We sailed on the Sea Star, considered a luxury yacht. I suppose it depends on each individual’s definition of “luxury,” but the cabins were unbelievably large and there was a tremendous amount of space for the 16 passengers.

We visited nine major islands and a few other smaller islets with no overlap. We saw lots of wildlife up close and swam with sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, iguanas, cormorants, sharks, and lots of tropical fish. We’re also bird lovers, and we were privileged to see several species we can’t see anywhere else in the world. It was without a doubt a trip of a lifetime and worth every penny.

Details of each day in the islands are documented on our  website – NatureTravelers.com. We invite you to start with Day 1 and by the end, we’re pretty sure you will want to contact Southern Explorations and set up a bucket-list trip of your own.