Name: Happy Gringo Travel Agency
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Happy Gringo Travel
Lizardo Garcia E7-11 y Reina Victoria
La Mariscal, Quito
Review: There is lots of advice going around the travel circuit about the best way to book your Galapagos tours. It’s generally accepted that the cheapest way to do so is to wait until you arrive in Ecuador and book a last minute special. This works better if you’re traveling alone and willing to share a cabin with a member of the opposite sex. Of course, waiting until the last minute limits the available boats and if you’re going to spend a large amount of money for a once-in-a-lifetime-experience do you really want to get stuck with what you get stuck with? I opted for the second best option…using a travel agency based in Ecuador (rather than an agency based in North America or Europe) and can very happily recommend the Happy Gringo agency in Quito.
From the very start, Eva at HG was extremely efficient and helpful. It was a bit unnerving to send large sums of money via wire transfer to a faceless person in a foreign country but Eva and HG made it very easy by providing all of the required information and even having a U.S. bank to wire the money to. This simplified the transaction considerably (and the transfer was cheaper to a domestic bank). Eva kept in constant contact regarding the status of my tickets, a change in flight itinerary and was generally very helpful. I can highly recommend this agency for your Galapagos booking (and I’m sure they do a great job with their other tours as well).
I booked the Nemo II catamaran in large part because it is one of the few boats with a complete 8 day itinerary rather than two 4 day itineraries pieced together. The boat was very comfortable with a spacious dining area, private bathrooms in the cabin and they arranged a female roommate for me as I was traveling alone. The food was fabulous and our guide, Juan Carlos, was very enthusiastic about the islands and conservation as well as speaking excellent English. The itinerary was also good and when we had a minor mechanical problem with the boat the crew was able to quickly adapt and make sure we got to see all of the promised species (in particular the giant tortoises).
The boat has 7 double cabins for a capacity of 14 but two people on our tour had single cabins so we only had 12 people. This was a great size group as you get to be comfortable and close over the week and it’s easy to get around with a small group. I definitely recommend a catamaran for people who may be prone to sea sickness as it is less “wobbly” than some of the other yacht-type boats in rough seas. There are ample places to sit and enjoy the scenery, both shaded and unshaded, and the crew of 7 (including guide) go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.
The only slight downside to this boat is that since its considered one of the nicer boats in the islands, it tends to draw an older crowd (I was the youngest on board at the old age of 30). This was fine for me as we had a great group of folks but for someone looking to travel with a more active and younger group I would probably book in the tourist or tourist-superior category. Otherwise, Nemo II is highly recommended.
Would I book with them again: Yes, definitely
Tags: 99 - South America Reviews, Quito, tour agency