Galapagos News

Politics in Ecuador - Never Boring!

Politics are certainly never boring in Ecuador.

While overall political stability has been relatively constant for the last decade or so, the current President has been governing (or trying to govern) amongst a very challenging group of National Assembly members, many of which are no longer supported by the general electorate in Ecuador.

Amidst an impeachment trial, the President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, has used constitutional powers to dissolve the country’s National Assembly. The opposition-led National Assembly was to cast its vote Wednesday May 17 on whether to impeach, with chances that it would be a close vote. According to the BBC, analysts believed that 88 lawmakers (out of a required 92) would have voted to impeach during the trial. The cause for the trial was an accusation of ignoring embezzlement. However, the President’s party believed that the cause for the impeachment trial (similar to a vote of no-confidence in parliamentary systems) was purely politically motivate.

President Lasso is now using a constitutional clause (called "Muerte Cruzada" in Spanish, roughly translated to "mutual death") to call early elections, in addition to dissolving the National Assembly. Lasso's decision is defended as allowing the population to decide on his ousting or resumed presidency, as well as to elect assembly members.

Certain groups within Ecuador have mentioned a possible intention to protest, notably the confederation of Indigenous groups known as Conaie; however, the military, police, and the greater majority of the population approve of the actions of the President, as they are constitutional. Chances of disruptions or major protests seem slim.

From the BBC, quoting Lasso, "It is a democratic decision not only because it is constitutional but because it returns to the Ecuadorean people the possibility to decide."

As one of our colleagues in Quito reports, things are calm and the day-to-day of the country rolls on. Both public and private functions are operating normally and it is very unlikely that any negative activities would impact the tourism sector in particular. (Since 2014 with the price drop in oil, the Ecuadorian economy has depended much more heavily on tourism as a main source of income and aim to avoid any sort of disruptions to it.)

The CNH Tours team, in particular our in-country colleagues, along with our many partners, will be monitoring the situation very closely.

 

 

Source for stats on voting: BBC

In-country source: Mercedes Murgueytio

Small plane crashes at sea

(Versión en español mas abajo)

(The following story was kindly written by Isabel Grijalva, who accepted our offer to do so.  We met Alberto Andrade a few years ago - he's a charismatic, natural born leader.  A former fisherman, for several years now, he has been putting his boundless energy, optimism and enthusiasm to excellent use in Galapagos, encouraging residents to get engaged in conservation and community development initiatives)  

 

"Alberto, we're safe, they're coming to rescue us!"

These words, spoken with emotion and relief by pilot Julio Vizuete, would be etched in Alberto Andrade's mind for the rest of his life. Despite growing uncertainty as the hours passed, both men were rescued by the Ecuadorian Navy coastguard vessel "Darwin" after their small plane went down in the vast ocean surrounding the Galápagos Islands.

Alberto and Julio's odyssey began on Wednesday, April 12, at 10:00 am at the airport in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristóbal Island, the capital of the Galápagos province. United by their passion for nature and adventure, the two men embarked on an expedition that they would never forget. However, fate had other plans, and their journey unexpectedly turned into a nightmare when their small plane's engine began to fail, forcing them to perform a forced water landing miles out at sea, triggering a desperate search and rescue operation. For 22 agonizing hours, they struggled to maintain calm and hope as they faced the uncertainty of their rescue.

Julio and Alberto - at San Cristobal aiport, just before taking off on an adventure they would never forget

 

About the Expedition

The expedition, organized by adventurous Ecuadorian pilot and entrepreneur Julio Vizuete, aimed to document marine life in the Galápagos and Hermandad marine reserves. The plane had already made 10 previous flights, carrying scientists, fishermen, and public officials on board. On the aforementioned date, it was Alberto's turn, the leader of the civil organization "Frente Insular de la Reserva Marina de Galápagos", an NGO that had played a critical role in the creation of the Hermandad Marine Reserve – an expanded version of the original Galapagos Marine Reserve. Alberto decided to join this exciting mission as a volunteer, with the intention of seeing with his own eyes the wonders of the Marine Reserve that his collective had helped create since December 2021, without knowing that his resilience and previous experience as an artisanal fisherman would be put to the test to survive.

 

How did the accident happen?

The accident occurred as they returned to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno after flying over the Hermandad Reserve and the islands of Darwin and Wolf on a trip that lasted about four hours. Unexpectedly, the plane's engine began to fail. Julio immediately searched for a safe place to perform a forced water landing 50 nautical miles southwest of Isabela Island. Julio asked Alberto to find the life raft, which was in the back of the plane. As Alberto was struggling to reach behind, he suddenly Alberto felt a jolt, realizing seconds later that the plane was beginning to sink – he had to abandon the raft to escape the sinking plane.  Both he and Julio managed to get out, but they both realized it was imperative to go back for the life raft as their survival depended on it.

Shortly after the forced sea landing - thankfully the seas were very calm.   

 

Alberto's experience as a fisherman proved to be the salvation for both men in this situation. Thankfully the light aircraft though waterlogged, did not sink.  Alberto was able to dive and enter into the submerged cockpit to retrieve the life raft, as well as a GPS device, cell phones, food, water, and hydrating salts.

Once in the life raft, the two castaways organized their supplies and got rid of all the heavy items that could sink the plane. A floatation buoy was activated, further helping keep the plan afloat.  Finally, they devised a solution to prevent the plane from being dragged by the strong current characteristic of the southwest region of the archipelago. Lacking an anchor, they extended the plane's flaps to create resistance against the current and thus reduce the dragging speed. Thanks to this maneuver, they managed to keep the plane and their life raft near the area where their water landing occurred, thus increasing the likelihood of being rescued. Fortunately, the sea was calm, allowing them a moment of peace amidst adversity. At night, all alone in the vast ocean, they marveled at the beauty of the Milky Way during a clear, starry night.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, the Galapagos regional government activated the Emergency Operations Center committee to coordinate search and rescue efforts. The families and friends of Alberto and Julio, consumed by anguish and worry, awaited news with bated breath.

Meanwhile, back on the raft, after a beautiful ocean sunrise the next morning, the life raft accidentally collided with the edge of the plane's wing and deflated. Fortunately, the men managed to activate the emergency parachute to prevent the plane from sinking and to increase the chances of being detected from the air, thanks to the red color of the parachute. Although they were prepared to fish and collect rainwater, their situation remained desperate. But at the least expected moment, fate intervened again. On Thursday, April 13, at 11:30 a.m., after nearly a day as castaways, an Ecuadorian Navy vessel suddenly appeared on the horizon. Julio was the first to spot the ship and immediately told Alberto: "Alberto!  We're safe, they're coming to rescue us!" Both men felt indescribable relief knowing that they would not die alone, of thirst and starvation, way out at sea.

About to be rescued after nearly 24 hours at sea - the plane's pink emergency parachute was an easy beacon to spot

 

Once aboard the Ecuadorian Navy vessel, they received food, fresh water, and medical checkups. The Ecuadorian Navy jubilantly announced that Alberto and Julio had been found alive and in good health, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Ecuadorian rescue services. Upon arriving at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Alberto and Julio were received as heroes by the local community, to whom they expressed gratitude for their support and expressions of affection. A day later, they arrived in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. The emotional reunion of the two survivors with their wives, families, and friends was a deeply moving moment, filled with hugs and tears of happiness.

Alberto and Julio expressed their sincere gratitude to the Ecuadorian Navy for rescuing them safe and sound. The successful outcome of the search and rescue operation was a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the Ecuadorian Navy personnel and all the government institutions involved. The families also extended their gratitude to the authorities and all those who contributed to the search and rescue efforts.

This survival story in the Galápagos Sea is a reminder that with determination, ingenuity, and solidarity, even the most desperate situations can have a positive outcome. Despite facing an uncertain and dangerous situation, Alberto and Julio managed to maintain calm and hope. Moreover, they used their experience and ingenuity to survive in the ocean until they were rescued. Their struggle and determination to survive have become an anecdote that will inspire the inhabitants of the Galápagos Islands to use experience, creativity, and teamwork as key factors in overcoming adversity.

Alberto Andrade - safe and sound, back home

 

 

CNH Tours welcomes stories from Galapagos.  Please contact us if you have an idea for a good story.   

 

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Amarizaje forzoso en Galápagos: La inspiradora historia de supervivencia de Alberto Andrade y Julio Vizuete

Escrito por: Isabel Grijalva

"¡Capitán, estamos a salvo, vienen a rescatarnos!" Estas palabras, pronunciadas con emoción y alivio por el piloto Julio Vizuete, quedarán grabadas en la mente de Alberto Andrade durante el resto de su vida. A pesar de una creciente incertidumbre conforme transcurrían las horas, ambos fueron rescatados por el buque guardacostas “Darwin” de la Armada Nacional del Ecuador tras un accidente aéreo en el vasto océano de las islas Galápagos.

La odisea de Alberto y Julio comenzó el miércoles 12 de abril a las 10:00 am en el aeropuerto de Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal, la capital de la provincia de Galápagos. Unidos por su pasión por la naturaleza y la aventura, los dos hombres se embarcaron en una expedición que cambiaría sus vidas para siempre. Sin embargo, el destino tenía otros planes, y su viaje se convirtió inesperadamente en una pesadilla cuando el motor de su avioneta comenzó a fallar, obligándolos a ejecutar un amarizaje forzoso en el inmenso océano de las islas Galápagos, desencadenando una desesperada operación de búsqueda y rescate. Durante 22 angustiosas horas, lucharon por mantener la calma y la esperanza mientras enfrentaban la incertidumbre de su rescate.

 

Julio y Alberto en el aeropuerto de San Cristobal - momento antes de despeguara para su viaje inolvidable

Sobre la expedición

La expedición, organizada por el intrépido piloto y empresario ecuatoriano Julio Vizuete, tenía como objetivo documentar la vida marina en las reservas marinas de Galápagos y Hermandad. La avioneta ya había realizado 10 vuelos previos, llevando a bordo científicos, pescadores y funcionarios públicos. En la fecha mencionada, llegó el turno de Alberto, líder de la organización civil “Frente Insular de la Reserva Marina de Galápagos”, institución fundamental en el proceso de creación de la Reserva Marina Hermandad. Alberto decidió unirse a esta emocionante misión como voluntario, con la intención de poder ver con sus propios ojos las maravillas de la Reserva Marina que su colectivo ayudó a crear desde diciembre del 2021, sin saber que su temple, y experiencia previa como pescador artesanal, serían puestas a prueba para sobrevivir.

¿Cómo sucedió el accidente?

El accidente ocurrió cuando regresaban a Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, después de haber sobrevolado la Reserva Hermanda y las islas de Darwin y Wolf, luego de un viaje aproximado de cuatro horas. Inesperadamente, el motor de la avioneta comenzó a fallar. Julio inmediatamente buscó un lugar seguro para realizar un amarizaje forzoso a 50 millas náuticas al suroeste de la isla Isabela. Julio solicitó a Alberto, que buscara el bote salvavidas, el cual estaba localizado en la parte trasera de la avioneta. Sin embargo, el tiempo no fue suficiente para lograrlo. Cuando menos lo esperaba, Alberto sintió un leve choque, percatándose segundos después de que la avioneta comenzaba a hundirse. Inmediatamente, Julio y Alberto salieron a la superficie. Sin embargo, se percataron que era imperativo regresar por el bote salvavidas, puesto que de ello dependía su supervivencia.

Momentos después del amaraje - suerte de que el mar estuviera tan en calma

 

 

La experiencia de Alberto como pescador resultó ser la salvación de ambos en esta situación. Alberto se sumergió y logro recuperar el bote salvavidas, así como un equipo GPS, celulares, alimentos, agua y sales hidratantes. Una vez en el bote salvavidas, organizaron sus suministros y se deshicieron de todos los elementos pesados que pudieran hundir la avioneta. Además, inflaron una boya de flotación y activaron un plan de contingencia. Por último, idearon una solución para evitar que la avioneta fuera arrastrada por la fuerte corriente que caracteriza la zona noroeste del archipiélago. Ante la carencia de un ancla, extendieron los alerones de la avioneta para crear resistencia en contra de la corriente y así disminuir la velocidad de arrastre. Gracias a esta maniobra, lograron mantener la avioneta y su bote salvavidas cerca del área donde ocurrió su amarizaje, aumentado así la probabilidad de que fueran rescatados. Afortunadamente, el mar estaba tranquilo, permitiéndoles un momento de paz en medio de la adversidad. Al llegar la noche, se maravillaron ante la belleza de la vía láctea durante una noche despejada y estrellada.

Mientras tanto, en tierra firme, el Consejo de Gobierno del Régimen Especial de la Provincia de Galápagos activó el comité del Centro de Operaciones de Emergencia para coordinar los esfuerzos de búsqueda y rescate. Las familias y amigos de Alberto y Julio, consumidas por la angustia y la preocupación, esperaban noticias con el corazón en vilo.

Al segundo día, el bote salvavidas chocó por accidente con el filo del alerón del avión y se desinfló. Afortunadamente, lograron activar el paracaídas de emergencia con la finalidad de evitar el hundimiento de la avioneta, así como para aumentar las probabilidades de que fueran detectados desde el aire, gracias al color rojo del paracaídas. Aunque estaban preparados para pescar y recolectar agua de lluvia, su situación seguía siendo de angustia. Pero en el momento menos esperado, el destino intervino nuevamente. El jueves 13 de abril, a las 11:30 a.m., después de casi un día como náufragos, el buque Diana de la Armada Ecuatoriana apareció repentinamente en el horizonte. Julio fue el primero en divisar la embarcación, e inmediatamente le dijo a Alberto: "Capitán, estamos a salvo, vienen a rescatarnos". Ambos sintieron un alivio indescriptible al saber que sus vidas no terminarían en la inmensidad del mar de Galápagos.

 

 

A punto de ser rescatado después de casi 24 horas en el mar: el paracaídas de emergencia rosa del avión era un faro fácil de detectar

 

 

Una vez a bordo del buque de la Armada del Ecuador, recibieron alimentos, agua fresca y revisiones médicas. La Armada Ecuatoriana anunció con júbilo que Alberto y Julio habían sido encontrados con vida y en buen estado de salud, gracias a los incansables esfuerzos de la Dirección Regional de Espacios Acuáticos y Guardacostas Insulares. Al arribar a Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Alberto y Julio fueron recibidos como héroes por la comunidad local, a quienes agradecieron su apoyo y muestras de cariño. Un día después arribaron a Puerto Ayora, isla Santa Cruz. La emotiva reunión de los dos sobrevivientes con sus esposas, familias y amigos fue un momento profundamente conmovedor, lleno de abrazos y lágrimas de felicidad.

Alberto y Julio expresaron su sincera gratitud a la Armada Ecuatoriana por rescatarlos sanos y salvos. El resultado exitoso de la operación de búsqueda y rescate fue un testimonio de la dedicación y profesionalismo del personal de la Armada del Ecuador y de todas las instituciones gubernamentales involucradas. Las familias también extendieron su gratitud a las autoridades y a todos aquellos que contribuyeron a los esfuerzos de búsqueda y rescate.

Esta historia de supervivencia en el mar de Galápagos es un recordatorio de que, con determinación, ingenio y solidaridad, incluso las situaciones más desesperadas pueden tener un desenlace positivo. A pesar de enfrentarse a una situación incierta y peligrosa, Alberto y Julio lograron mantener la calma y la esperanza. Además, emplearon su experiencia e ingenio para sobrevivir en el océano hasta ser rescatados. Su lucha y determinación por sobrevivir se han convertido en una anécdota que inspirará a los habitantes de las islas Galápagos a hacer uso de la experiencia, creatividad y trabajo en equipo como factores clave para sobrevivir ante la adversidad.

 

 

Alberto Andrade - de regreso a casa, sano y salvo

 

WOW WOW WOW

Here are the most recent comments received from returning guests who travelled on our "Active Galapagos" trips, on the Samba - unedited / nothing has been deleted.  Such comments are pretty standard around here.  We're very glad to have such a close working relationship with the Samba.  The Samba is one of a handful of truly locally owned AND operated ships in Galapagos.  

 

  • Absolutely exceeded our expectations in every way. It truly was the trip of a life-time. We felt that we got to be totally immersed with the wildlife. The pace is wonderful - up at daybreak to experience amazing wildlife activity as the day begins, then snorkeling that was incredible; snorkeled several times a day, and often multiple jumps in each snorkle outing to make sure we got to experience as much as possible. Afternoon was repeat - snorkle, hike. The crew is amazing and kept everything running so smoothly. Our guide, Harry, was phenomenal. He made sure we didn't just "see" the Galapagos, but experience it. We felt we were part of the Galpagos and experienced it on such an intimate level. We have already recommended it to several of our friends.

 

  • Wow wow wow. Far exceeded my expectations. We swam with whales!

 

  • A trip on the Samba is like no other; trip of a lifetime! Local folks in Galapagos know of and revere the Samba and its crew. It’s legendary.

 

  • CNHTour company is so recommendable, I will be doing so for sure, and hope to travel with you again. Top Drawer! Thank you to all who work for you.

 

  • What an outstanding experience! We look forward to a return voyage!

 

  • The Active Samba Galapagos tour was all that it advertised and more. The naturalist guide was informative, energetic and fun. He is a skilled teacher and photographer who shared his photographs and videos with us. The crew were so welcoming and responsive and the food was excellent and plentiful. We saw so much new wildlife on land and underwater. We were there during late November and early December when new births ( sea lions) and mating rituals (Albatross and Frigates) were on display. Very exciting. The Samba is a small boat meaning that our group of 14 made for quick transitions into new actives without a lot of logistics to manage large numbers. I would do this again in a heartbeat.

 

  • Wonderful to experience the Galapagos on a small boat such as the Samba. Staff and naturalists are top notch. Highly recommend this group!

 

  • We waited 3 years for this trip post pandemic and it didn’t disappoint. Superb from start to finish

 

  • Wow! What an amazing trip! We just returned from a week in the Galapagos on the Samba with guide Jimmy Patino, Captain Jose and their fabulous crew. We were up early every day for a new adventure. Swimming with Pacific Sea Turtles, Galapagos Penguins and Galapagos Sea Lions; snorkeling as the Blue-footed Bobbies were diving underwater for fish; getting close ups of the Galapagos Hawk and Marine Iguanas; spying on Galapagos Giant Tortoises mating; hiking across a lava field to see Greater Flamingos at a watering hole; watching Red-footed Boobies feed their chicks; the list of amazing encounters with wildlife goes on and on. Everyone on the Samba, travelers and staff alike, shared in the wonder and delight of the natural environment on the Galapagos Islands. The crew fed us tasty healthy food (catering to the many dietary restrictions among our group), ferried us to shore and snorkeling spots several times each day, and helped us get our wetsuits on and off, always with good humor. We are recommending the Samba to all our friends and family!

 

  • We booked our trip on the Samba through a Canadian outfit, CNH Tours. Although we were pleased with the booking process, they really shined at the end of the trip when I left my passport on the airplane coming back to the Ecuadoran mainland. Three of us spent about 45 minutes with little to show for our calls to the hotel, airline, and US embassy. Feeling overwhelmed, I called Heather at CNH Tours, hoping for some guidance on how to get a new passport and a timeframe for rebooking my flight home. Heather’s advice, “Sit tight. We’re going to get your passport to you!” I was instantly reassured, as Heather began tapping into her network. Our fellow travelers Jo-Anne and Gordon helped by retrieving the passport in Quito and getting it to our “courier.” Five hours later I was at the Guayaquil airport picking up my passport from one of Samba owner Juan Salcedo’s cousins. I don’t know how many people Heather contacted to make it all happen, but I sure felt like I was part of the Samba family when it was over. I would never expect anyone at a travel agency to go to such lengths for me, but that’s Heather, CNH and the Samba Way!

 

  • I had read so much about the Galapagos prior to our trip but nothing had prepared me for how close we would be to the array of biodiversity. Truly the trip of a lifetime. I am so grateful to Morris and all of the Samba crew!!!!

 

  • Very much a recommended trip!

 

  • It was an amazingly fun and active trip with incredible sights and experiences, but also being immersed in that natural environment, you get an appreciation of how delicate a balance everything is in and how it all needs looking after.

 

 

 

 

 

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Naturalist guide joins our Galapagos travel advisor team

Things are hopping at CNH Tours.  We are getting more requests for help in organizing Galapagos (and Antarctica) trips than we can comfortably manage.   Because we want to keep true to our motto: “Proud of our Unmatched Personalized Service”, we were happily compelled to invite another very experienced and highly knowledgeable Galapagos expert to join our team. 

Daniela Aguirre Schiess is a third generation Galapagueña, born and raised in the Galapagos islands. She learned to walk on lava fields. Finches, iguanas, giant tortoises and sea lions were her daycare companions.

 

 

Daniela at Punta Espinosa, Fernandina Island - with her childhood friends, the marine iguanas

We naturally turned to Daniela Aguirre Schiess for help.  Daniela had been already part of our team as our local Galapagos "fixer", arranging all the logistics involved in the land-based activities any of our guests engaged after or before their expedition cruise.  We've known her parents since 1998, when we first arrived in Galapagos (and Daniela was just a baby!).  She's familiar with CNH Tours and our company spirit.    

Her grandfather arrived from Switzerland in 1948 – getting away from the post war gloom in Europe.  Her mother used to run one of the archipelago's most iconic and beloved restaurants - “La Garrapata”.  It was the weekend go-to place for Darwin Station staff, and a popular meeting spot for locals and and visitors alike.  As a teengager, Daniela worked there, serving tables, learing English, and meeting all kinds of interesting people from around the world.   Her father is a widely known figure in the islands, having worked for the Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos regional government.  Her extended family is involved in tourism, running small hotels, and even one of the small expedition cruise ships.  

With her parents' example Daniela grew up playing in the waves by the coast, developing a deep connection with nature.  After high school and a year abroad she settled in Ecuador’s main coastal city of Guayaquil city where she obtained her university degree.  But she couldn't escape the draw of her native islands… In 2016 her love for nature brought her back to Puerto Ayora, where she studied to become a certified naturalist guide for the Galapagos National Park. 

Since then, Daniela has had the chance to experience a wide range of different tourism options available to visitors in Galapagos, acting as a naturalist guide in both large and small cruise ships throughout the islands, and on land-based day trips.  Given her extensive first-hand experience, she is extremely well-placed to provide excellent advice for those requiring help in planning their Galapagos trip of a lifetime.  

Daniela joins Kelsey Bradley and Heather Blenkiron on our “front office” team.  Welcome Daniela!

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CNH Tours helps allocate $113,000 for community and conservation projects

CNH Tours is a long time, full member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators’ Association (and we've been elected to its board of directors for three consecutive electoral cycles - we were directly involved in selecting the grants outlined below). IGTOA was created to support sustainable tourism in the islands.   It does that through advocacy – as it dialogues with government organizations, and through the support of community based projects on environmental education, conservation and engagement. 

For every guest that travels to Galapagos, we contribute $20 to IGTOA’s conservation fund – 100% of which are sent to the islands (we also pay an annual membership fee which covers IGTOA’s management / overhead costs). 

When booking a Galapagos trip - it's not a bad idea to book with an IGTOA member (by the way, the large companies such as Celebrity, Silversea, Hurtigurten, National Geographic... are not members).  

The following is taken directly from IGTOA’s website: 

This month, IGTOA awarded $113,000 to six organizations working on the frontlines of Galapagos conservation, science, education, and community activism and outreach.

The grants, which were funded by IGTOA's member companies and donations from their guests, further IGTOA’s mission of protecting and preserving the Galapagos Islands and promoting engaged, responsible tourism to the islands. 

Since IGTOA was founded in 1997, we have awarded over $1,000,000 in grants to critical projects and initiatives in the island, including efforts to restore ecosytems, improve biosecurity, eradicate invasive species, support quality environmental education for young people, and to enhance protection and monitoring of the Galapagos marine reserve. 

1. Association of Galapagos Guides (AGIPA): The Community Library on Santa Cruz, $30,000

 

As the only public library in the Galapagos Islands, the community library on Santa Cruz provides critical access to information to people of all ages and from all backgrounds, supports life-long education, and provides internet access to many who would otherwise lack it. It also serves as a venue for educational workshops, symposiums, and cultural events and activities.

The library, which receives no government funding, operates under the stewardship of AGIPA, which took on responsibility for administering it in 2018 after previous funding sources dried up and the facility fell into disrepair. With funding from IGTOA, AGIPA was able to restore and renovate the library, buy new books and equipment, and hire a full-time librarian. Since then, thousands of Galapagos residents have used the library's resources and attended discussions and workshops there, covering everything from literacy, conservation, mental health issues, and vocational training. 

IGTOA’s $30,000 grant will be paid out in quarterly installments and will cover the bulk of the library’s 2023 operating expenses.

2. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF): Drone Monitoring of Sea Turtles in Tortuga Bay, $25,000

 

IGTOA has always prioritized funding projects that strive to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of tourism in the islands. One such impact, the effect of passenger vessels on sea turtle populations, is being studied by scientists at the CDF using state-of-the-art drone technology. 

Drone surveys will monitor sea turtle density, distribution, and movement in Tortuga Bay, where collisions between passenger vessels and sea turtles are an all-too-common occurrence. The data collected will be shared with environmental authorities, who will use it to establish tourism practices and guidelines designed to limit boat strikes and human impact on turtle populations across the archipelago. 

IGTOA’s $25,000 grant will be used to help cover staff salary expenses, purchase equipment, and fund field excursions and community outreach programs.

3. ECOS: Empowering Youth Conservation Leaders through Experiential Education, $25,000

 

We believe that the most important thing that we can do to support Galapagos conservation in the long run is to help empower young people to become engaged and informed stewards of their own natural heritage.

This is why IGTOA is once again to support the important work of ECOS, which provides immersive, hands-on environmental education and field activities for Galapagos youth.

IGTOA’s $25,000 grant will be used to purchase tents and other equipment for an educational field camp that will serve up to 15 students and two teachers at a time. This year, ECOS plas to operate 10 (one for each school on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela) four- to five-day immersive environmental learning programs at the camp. Each program will include 30 to 40 hours of hands-on instruction and an outing within the Galapagos National Park. IGTOA’s funds will also be used to sponsor at least one school group.

4. Island Conservation: Drone-based wildlife monitoring, $25,000

 

Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index recently reported that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970. Sadly, islands experience the greatest frequency of extinctions, with 75% of all reptile, bird, amphibian and mammal extinctions reported worldwide occurring on islands. Invasive species, which primarily spread around the globe via human transportation systems, have been implicated in 86% of all recorded extinctions on islands. In the Galapagos archipelago, a host of human-introduced invaders, from mosquitos, to rats, cats, and pigs, and to a variety of plant species, pose a real and constant threat to its myriad endemic species. 

This is why IGTOA is once again proud to support the critically important work of Island Conservation. With our support, IC is employing cutting edge drone technology to aid them in their efforts to control and eradicate invasive species and to successfully reintroduce native and endemic ones. This work requires the extensive monitoring and tracking of both invasive and native species over large areas that are often difficult to access. Integrating drone aerial tracking into IC’s Galápagos projects will not only improve the cost effectiveness of research, but will also enable them access to areas and terrain types where it would be incredibly difficult—or even impossible—to collect data via traditional ground-based telemetry methods. Preliminary research projects using a Wildlife Drone system for animal tracking have seen increases of 20 – 360% in surveyable area, and time efficiency gains of up to 1900%, when compared to traditional ground telemetry methods.   

5. Naveducando: Galapagos Infinito an “Oceanic Classroom” for Galapagos youth, $14,500

 

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. That’s why IGTOA has made it a priority to support programs that empower Galapagos youth to explore, understand, and appreciate their remarkable island home. 

One such program is Galapagos Infinito, which utilizes existing tourism infrastructure (including time on the Samba, one of our "go-to" ships) to provide transformative educational programs in the field for the islands’ 500 or so seventh graders, many of whom have had limited exposure to the protected areas of the Galapagos National Park. In partnership with local cruise providers and with support from IGTOA, students will have the opportunity to participate in a full day of sailing, snorkeling, and immersion into the wonders of the islands in the company of educators and local experts.

IGTOA’s grant will be used to purchase equipment, pay staff salaries, and cover some operational expenses. 

6. Frente Insular Marina de Galápagos (FIRMAG), #GalapagosMiResponsabilidad Radio Program and Student Workshops, $7,200

 

FIRMAG is a community-based, grassroots organization dedicated to educating and  motivating the citizens of the Galapagos to get involved in important social and environmental issues and to give them a collective voice on important subjects. 

The centerpiece of this activity is the #GalapagosMiResponsabilidad radio program, which has become a vital platform for keeping a wide swath of the Galapagos community informed about important environmental, social and cultural news. The weekly, commercial-free radio program is an independent voice that seeks to “link the community with the environment” by providing news and perspectives that local people may not otherwise have access to. The problem of single use plastics and the need for better protection and monitoring of the Galapagos Marine Reserve are just two of the issues the program has kept at the forefront of public attention in recent years.

The radio program also provides workshops that give young people in the Galapagos the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, including public speaking, radio production, journalism, and more. 

IGTOA’s grant will be used to help cover operating and production expenses and to sponsor youth workshops.

 

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New CNH Tours Antarctica Destination Expert - 18 years in the making!

Goodbye Jane, Hello Kevin:  As one seasoned Antarctica expert moves on, we’re very privileged to welcome another recognized specialist.

Jane Wilson was our first Antarctica expert – she helped us wrap our heads around travel to Antarctica, and she was instrumental in helping our guests plan and carry out their dreams of visiting this remote part of the world.

But the risk we run in having such experts on our team is that others will take notice and snatch them away from us.   In Jane’s case, an expedition cruise ship operator asked her to be their operations manager.  That’s a big job – one that Jane decided to take.  She’s officially leaving us on 28 February – but will continue to accompany the guests that booked a trip with her, until those trips have taken place.   

For the past several weeks, CNH Tours has been using its global networks to identify just the right person to replace Jane.   We have been in touch with several candidates – all with very good credentials.  But in the end, we asked Kevin Sampson if he’d be willing to be our “Antarctica Concierge” and he has accepted.  

Kevin at his Grand Manan island home

Kevin has been involved in the adventure travel world for more than 40 years, eighteen of which had him in Antarctica.   He has been on more than 160 expeditions both in Antarctica and in the Arctic, where he worked on 14 different ships, following a variety of distinct itineraries.   Over the years, he has led over 1,000 kayak adventures in Antarctica/Arctic and has acted as a guide for more than 50,000 people world-wide. 

 “For over forty years, I’ve been very involved in work that has me attuned to the expectations, the needs and interests of those in my charge.  I understand that planning a trip to Antarctica can be overwhelming – but working closely with people, we can come up with options most suited to their travel styles – ensuring that expectations are not disappointed.” 

Widely recognized by the industry as person of integrity and ability, he has been asked by several operators over the past 5 years to help them set up new on-board programs designed to enrich guest experience.  Several recent additions to the fleet of ships operating in Antarctica have benefitted from his knowledge and skills in this regard.  

Kevin at work in Antarctica

So – Kevin passes the most fundamental CNH Tours test for destination specific travel advisors:  He knows what he’s talking about! 

Kevin was born in Ontario (some say born in a kayak).  He eventually found his way to the sea, settling on Grand Manan Island, just off the coast of New Brunswick, where the rhythm of the ocean is manifested daily.  During the Antarctica off-season, since 1989, he has been running his small 150-year-old heritage inn and restaurant there, along with a kayaking/outfitting business  “… but now it’s time for me to focus on things closer to home” he says – and the opportunity to be the CNH Tours Antarctica expert aligns well with this stage in life.  

Welcome aboard Kevin.

 

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Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region

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Packing and Tipping Guidelines for Galapagos

We've been sharing these guidelines with our guests for years - but only just now have made them available publicly on our website.   

Weather in Quito and the Andes is surprisingly cool at night and can even be fresh in the day, particularly if it's overcast.  Rain happens from time to time - sometimes shortlived, or sometimes the city is "socked in" for a few days.   Galapagos can be cool-ish in the evenings beetween May and December - but is otherwise comfortably warm to hot.  The Amazon and mainland coast Ecuador tend to be warm and humid.

And there there is the gear - footwear, headgear, swimsuits... etc.  You'll find it all in our guidelines. 

Tipping can be awkward for some.  Our guidelines will help you navigate that aspect of the trip.   Surprise - you don't need to tip in restaurants or hotels.  We provide the reasons.  

Check out our Packing and Tipping Guidelines for Galapagos and the Mainland.  

 

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Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 25 seasons in the region

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Our "Go-to" baseline ships FYI

We’ve been helping people plan their Galapagos trips since (!!) 1999…  We’ve fielded thousands of calls, responded to tens (hundreds?) of thousands of emails during that time.   After “Galapagos” the words we hear/read most frequently have to be “I’m completely overwhelmed / it’s totally overwhelming”.

The internet is a fantastic tool – there’s no doubt about it.  But one thing it can’t do is to cut through the chaff.  Search for “quality Galapagos cruise ship” or any such combination of words, and your search engine will return hundreds of responses, leaving it up to you to try to make sense out of them. 

Indeed, finding the ship that's just right for you is a big challenge.   Price / itineraries / reputation / amenities / hidden costs / availability / approach to guiding … there are many factors that come into play.  Also, you’ll find that the same ship will be offered by a gaggle of different travel companies – at prices that appear to vary enormously, causing further confusion (hint: Always be sure you’re comparing apples to apples). 

Our approach to helping people find the ship that’s best for them usually starts first by trying to understand our prospective guest’s interests / expectations and of course, comfort level.   Typically, we will start off by highlighting our two “go-to baseline ships” that we believe are representative of the best of their class (based on many years of experience).   Starting from there, and understanding that no ship is perfect, we will bring in other ships that compare favourably – allowing our prospective guests to develop and understanding of the various trade-offs that need to be made when choosing a ship.  Itinerary?  Availability? Price?  Guiding reputation?  Size? 

Our two baseline ships are:

Samba:  14 passengers, tourist superior

 

 

Integrity:  16 passengers, luxury: 

 

Both ships are among the last to be locally owned and operated.   The owners (Galapagos families) take great pride in their operations, focusing on quality maintenance, service and guiding.  These ships also have what we consider top quality itineraries (non-circuitous, uninterrupted 8 days, higher than average number of visitor sites / day, minimal time spent in human settlements).  

While we firmly believe that you can’t go wrong with these ships, we also fully endorse many other ships in the islands. Sometimes the dates don’t work out – or our guests will be keen on a catamaran.  Others are keen on shorter itineraries.   We’re glad to report that overall improvements in the fleet of Galapagos cruise ships since we first set foot in the islands (1998) has been tremendous, giving you a wide range of quality vessels from which to choose.  

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Webinar: The Great Bear Rainforest - History and Travel Tips

While CNH Tours focuses mostly on Galapagos and Antarctica, we dabble a little in other exotic destinations, offering the occasional custom trip there, designed to our high standards. 

In October this year, we're offering a one-time-only 10 day trip to the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR), on Canada's west coast. 

It will be the height of the salmon run, and bears (grizzly, black, and the fabled "spirit" bears) will be gorging themselves before the onset of winter.   

We've chartered a very comfortable 24 passenger ship for a 7 night / 8 day cruise.  We'll explore the protected waters of the remote wilderness fjords and inlets that snake through the snowcapped coastal mountain ranges bordering the Pacific Ocean. Besides bears, expect to see plenty of whales, sea lions, ravens, eagles and possibly even the rare coastal wolves, that have adapted to life in the intertidal zone.  

The GBR is the world's largest protected rainforest.  Threatened over many decades by industrial logging, hydroelectric projects, massive aluminum smeltering plants, natural gas liquification plant, the local First Nations group (Kitamaat and Gitga'at nations), with the support of conservation groups struggled for years to establish limits to development. 

Part of our trip to the area will include a two day pre-cruise exploration of these developments, hearing from First Nations groups and from corporate representatives, to learn how they are working together to find a balance between conservation and development.  These insights will help us better appreciate the history of the area, and the hard-won results obtained through years of tough slogging and late night negotiations. 

For those interested in joining our trip, or for those simply interested in knowing more about this unique part of the world, we invite you to sign up to our webinar.   Here are the details:

WHEN:   Thursday, 2 February 2023, 7-8PM (Eastern Time - Montreal / New York / Miami)

WHERE:  On-line via zoom.  Register here.

FORMAT:  A dynamic 30-minute presentation given by CNH Tours founder Marc Patry, followed by a Q&A session.  

We hope to see you there!

 

 

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Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 25 seasons in the region

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Samba's near perfect score: 281 guests can't be wrong

When our guests return from our trips, they receive a survey asking them for feedback.  We like to know how things went and if there are improvements that could be made.  Until yesterday, 280 people had responded. 
This morning, we received response #281 from from a guest who had been on our highly acclaimed "Active Galapagos" on the Samba, last month.  Here are some of her comments:

𝗢𝗡 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗡𝗔𝗧𝗨𝗥𝗔𝗟𝗜𝗦𝗧 𝗚𝗨𝗜𝗗𝗘:
"Jimmy was an outstanding guide. In addition to being warm and kind and friendly, he demonstrated excellent communication skills. He is extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife of the Galapagos. His enthusiasm for every activity was contagious."

Average rating for guide quality on the Samba (281 respondents, scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is best): 1.14

Jimmy Patiño - top naturalist guide
𝗢𝗡 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗖𝗥𝗘𝗪 𝗢𝗙 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗦𝗔𝗠𝗕𝗔:
"I cannot imagine a better crew! Everyone was so attentive and professional, as well as kind and caring. Having never before snorkeled, I felt they had my back at all times, and I felt completely safe. I had never before been on a cruise or participated in an organized tour. My outstanding experience with the Samba and CNH Tours sets a very high bar."

Average rating for crew quality on the Samba (281 respondents, scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is best): 1.04


Samba crew and guests - welcome aboard!

𝗢𝗡 𝗖𝗡𝗛 𝗧𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗦:
"I am so grateful for the knowledge, patience and attentiveness of the CNH staff in helping us figure out the details of a perfect extension tour. We are especially thankful for the amazing connections and problem-solving skills when y travelling companion lost her passport on the plane."

Average rating for the Active Galapagos trip (281 respondents, scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is best): 1.09


"Crossing the Equator" Ceremony on the Samba- can you find: 
The penguin, the giant tortoise, the finch, Darwin, the mermaid, and Neptune?


One of the last Galapagos family-owned and operated ships

CNH Tours has been chartering the Samba for our signature ACTIVE GALAPAGOS trip since 2005.  Designed for those who are keen on getting the absolute most out of their time in the islands.  Up early, and out on the water / land until late in the day (with a few breaks for siesta and meals), you'll spend more time exploring above and below the sea, accompanied by top naturalist guides and a very attentive crew.   

AM I FIT ENOUGH?  Almost certainly yes!  We call it "ACTIVE" because we focus on getting out and about as much as possible.  This doesn't mean we're running uphill marathons or swimming across vast expanses of oceans.   Galapagos is above all a place where the focus is on intimate encounters with nature and wildlife.  And that's done by walking slowly, stopping frequently, and taking the time to develop a sense of place - something our naturalist guides are very good at helping you with.  

We don't ask that you be an Olympic athlete - but you should be up to walking 1-2 kilometers (1-1.5 miles) over a 1-2 hour stretch of time on wilderness trails that can be uneven at times.  To get the most out of your trip, you should also be willing to snorkel - underwater Galapagos is a big part of the thrill.   

Our guests typically range in age from their 30's to their 70's (and beyond). Families are welcome. 


CNH Tours trips are carbon neutral.  We also provide complimentary emergency medical evacuation insurance. 
Contact us:  hello@cnhtours.com

141 tonnes of CO2 offsets

In 2022, CNH Tours started purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions generated by our guests while travelling in Ecuador, Antarctica and southern Africa.   We tally up the emissions on a biannual basis. We just purchased 141 tonnes of offset for our guests that travelled in the last six months of 2022.  

For Galapagos, these cover the average emission generated by a domestic flight from mainland Ecuador to Galapagos, along with a 7 night cruise.  For Antarctica, they cover the emissions generated by an 8 day cruise, while for southern Africa, the cover the emissions from our 14 day trip there (domestic flights, ground vehicles).  

In 2019, the United Nations World Tourism Organization determined that about transport-related emissions from tourism account for about 5% of world emissions of CO2 (about 1.6 million tonnes).  

While the emissions generated by CNH Tours guests is comparatively minuscule, every bit counts.  We challenge other travel companies to do the same.  

To learn more about carbon offsets, see our handy explanatory note

 

 

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Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 25 seasons in the region

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Seasickness: Are catamarans better?

Over the years, we’ve been asked this question more times than we can remember.   A lot of people are worried about getting seasick and in an effort to control as many variables as possible, many will often raise the issue of whether they should consider a catamaran or a monohulled ship. 

First, it’s important to note that very few people experience serious seasickness while on a Galapagos cruise.   We’ve surveyed hundreds of returning passengers on this question, with the following results (where 1 = not a problem whatsoever and 5 = I wanted to get off the ship).  Here are the results:

 

 

They show that nearly 92% of respondents were hardly, or not at all bothered by seasickness on their cruise.   None experienced it to the point of wanting to get off.  Only 2.5% felt it had affected their enjoying in a significant way.  

Still, at CNH Tours, we wanted to get a definitive answer on the catamaran vs monohull ship question.  Was there a difference?  Popular belief held the catamarans could be more stable (makes sense it seems... two hulls instead of one?), but a lot of folks we talked to didn’t agree.

    

The EcoGalaxy - two hulls make it a catamaran

To resolve this dilemma once and for all, we sought the expertise of two US naval architects based in Japan, Nigel and John. They responded in terms of a ship’s “seakeeping ability”, which is a measure of a ship's suitability to sea conditions while in motion. 

John stated that a ship’s seakeeping ability depended on various factors, such as the speed of the ship, the relationship between the wavelength and hull length, the angle at which the ship is sailing in relation to the waves, and the length-to-beam ratio (whether the ship is long and slender or short and wide).   

In general, John leaned towards monohulls, but he hedged his comment, saying that catamarans can also perform well.  He concluded his argument by saying that "A fast, fat monohull will be worse than a fast, slender catamaran or a slow, slender monohull is better than a fast, fat catamaran”… and so on. 

The Grace - a classic monohull; long and slender

Nigel added to John's comments by discussing seasickness, which is often caused by a ship's heaving motion (up and down). He mentioned that this motion is most distressing to people who are not used to the sea, and that age can also play a role, with teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s being most vulnerable.  He made the interesting point that in seas with significant swells (long-wavelengths), it hardly mattered what kind of ship you were on (unless it was a massive, 4,000 passenger cruise ship), as the swell would push the ship up... and then down again, like a cork.

Nigel also mentioned that for shorter seas (more common in Galapagos), the motion of the ship would depend on resonance and that monohulls tended to roll more (side to side) while catamarans tend to pitch more (bow up, then bow down). The location on the ship and the direction of travel in relation to the waves would also affect the movement of the ship on the water.  Nigel  didn't think there would be a significant difference between catamarans and monohulls in terms of causing seasickness, but he did not that many people held strong, opposing views on the matter.

CONCLUSION:

Based on our discussions with the two naval architects, we didn’t come back with a definitive answer.   It all seemed to boil down to “it depends”.   Now, when people ask us whether a catamaran or a monohull is better to limit the chances of getting seasickness, we answer: “it doesn’t make much of a difference according to naval architects”.

 

CNH Tours has been helping people arrange their Galapagos trip of a lifetime since 1999.

 

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Mother-daughter bonding cruise

What a wonderful way to end the year for the CNH Tours team.  We really do get a sense of fulfilment when receiving notes such as the one below. 

Rebecca J.  travelled with her 12 year-old daughter in August this year. They had originally booked for a trip set to depart in August 2020, but we all know what prevented them from travelling then...

Kelsey is the CNH Tours' senior associate - with 8 years of experience living and working in Galapagos.  She knows what she's talking about. Kelsey first starting helping Rebecca plan her trip in early 2019... she stayed in touch with her throughout the COVID lockdowns.  The trip was postponed once to August 2021, and then again for a final time to August 2022.

There were other kids on board - making for an ideal environment for both adults and children.  

A Galapagos expedition cruise is a wonderful way to forge lasting memories and shared experiences, brining family and friends so much closer together.  

 

From: Rebecca 
Sent: December 31, 2022 6:24 PM
To: Kelsey Bradley <kbradley@cnhtours.com>; Heather Blenkiron <hblenkiron@cnhtours.com>
Subject: Thank You

 

Dear Kelsey,

This note comes very late, but I hope you can forgive the time it took me to distill the many words I have to describe our Galapagos trip into a few thoughtful lines. 

This trip was the absolute highlight of our year, and it was 100% worth the wait. In fact, I'm glad we waited, because it gave my daughter time to grow and mature, and it allowed us to be grouped with the most wonderful travel companions - I could not have hand-picked better people. There were 7 kids between 10 and 17, and they formed a tight-knit group that got along so well. Melody was never bored or lonely and there were days when I hardly saw her because she made a great effort to board the other panga with her friends instead of me. 

The adults were (to channel Jane Austen) most amiable and pleasant - One multigenerational family of 7, one young couple, one older couple, another single mom, and another pair of parents. We, as our guides encouraged, mixed up our seating arrangements with every meal and we all got to know each other so well.  

Our guides, Fabricio and Pepe were the best we could have had. Of course they knew their stuff, but they worked well together and gave us a great experience. It was absolutely clear how important the Galapagos and the conservations efforts are to them. On top of that, they were both just interesting dudes to talk to. The crew and captain were friendly and capable - one of the chefs occasionally came ashore with us to assist our oldest shipmate - in his 80s - when there was rough terrain. Luis, our bartender and meal server, knew everybody's dietary restrictions and preferences from the first day and never made a mistake. It was amazing. 

Lastly, I am thankful for your hard work in keeping our trip on track for 2 years and especially for your advice in choosing a ship. The Letty was perfect for us, and the entire staff was a joy to work with, end to end. Your frank and honest guidance gave me confidence that I was making the right decisions as we planned out what was truly the trip of a lifetime. Thank you so much. Happy New Year

Sincerely,

Rebecca 

 

Attached are a few highlight pictures as well as the link to my Google Album.

kids on deck of a ship

 

woman with giant tortoise galapagos

 

 

Man with sea lion on Galapagos beach

 

 

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Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 25 seasons in the region

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Our guests support the community library

While the main town in Galapagos (Puerto Ayora) has a public library, there are very few resources to keep it going. As a result, unless the community comes together to support it, the doors remain closed.  A few years ago, the Puerto Ayora Naturalist Guides Association (AGIPA) took over the management of the library in an effort to keep it open and relevant for children and youth of the town.  While books remain important, the library also is a place for workshops, arts & crafts activities, games, internet access and more. 

CNH Tours has been a long-time supporter of the library.  In 2006, we ran a library fund-raising cruise in cooperation with the Canadian Library Association.   We donated all the proceeds from the trip to the library. Over the past several years, we’ve been encouraging our guests to bring down some supplies with them.  If they spend time in Puerto Ayora, we have occasionally arranged to have them visit the library (as was the case with the Masucci family earlier this week – see picture).   Otherwise, we arrange to have the supplies delivered to the library.  We’re also members of the International Galapagos Tour Operators’ Association and through our fees, we provide additional support to the library.

 

If you’re heading off to Galapagos and are keen on helping out, please let us know.

 

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Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 25 seasons in the region

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When the Int'l Association of Antarctica Tour Operators comes calling...

Earlier this month, CNH Tour’s very own Jane Wilson, our Antarctica expert, was invited by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to serve as an IAATO Observer on a voyage to Antarctica. With over 30 years of experience working in the region as a scientist, scientific Voyage Leader, expedition guide, expedition leader, and operations manager, IAATO considers her uniquely qualified for the role.

Of course, at CNH Tours, we're very proud to have such an internationally recognized Antarctica expert on our team.

The purpose of the observer program is to work with new ship operators in Antarctica to ensure that they properly implement a comprehensive range of safety and environmental standards required by IAATO, which in turns ensures compliance with the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol, established by countries that have ratified the treaty.  It serves as the foundation for IAATO's standards, which are designed to promote environmentally responsible visits to the region.

IAATO is a member-operated organization that works to ensure that private sector travel to Antarctica is conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Over the course of the voyage, Jane had the opportunity to observe and review a range of operational, safety, and environmental procedures, and she produced a report for the membership to review.

At the next IAATO Annual General Meeting in May 2023, a vote will take place to determine whether the new operator will be accepted or deferred. The observer process was a positive experience for all involved and everyone went away a little wiser.

Overall, IAATO's commitment to responsible tourism in Antarctica is essential in ensuring the preservation of this unique and fragile ecosystem. The observer program is an important part of this effort, as it helps to ensure that new operators are meeting the highest standards for safety and environmental protection.   CNH Tours is very proud that the experience and knowledge of its Antarctica expert is well-recognized by IAATO.   If you’re considering a trip to Antarctica, few are better placed to help you choose a trip that’s right for you than is Jane Wilson. 

 

Lost Passport? This is a job for SUPER TRAVEL AGENT!

Our sales team (Heather and Kelsey in Ottawa, Mercedes in Quito and Valeria in Galapagos) really do get a thrill helping people plan their Galapagos holidays.  But it's when there are problems to solve that they really get into high gear. 

Here's the feedback from a guest who travelled with us just last week. She called Heather saying "𝗜 𝗹𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁!" the day before her flight back home... This is what she wrote:

"We booked our trip on the Samba through a Canadian outfit, CNH Tours. Although we were pleased with the booking process, they really shined at the end of the trip when I left my passport on the airplane coming back to the Ecuadoran mainland. Three of us spent about 45 minutes with little to show for our calls to the hotel, airline, and US embassy. Feeling overwhelmed, I called Heather at CNH Tours, hoping for some guidance on how to get a new passport and a timeframe for rebooking my flight home. Heather’s advice, “Sit tight. We’re going to get your passport to you!” 

I was instantly reassured, as Heather began tapping into her network. Our fellow travelers Jo-Anne and Gordon helped by retrieving the passport in Quito and getting it to our “courier.” Five hours later I was at the Guayaquil airport picking up my passport from one of Samba owner Juan Salcedo’s cousins. I don’t know how many people Heather contacted to make it all happen, but I sure felt like I was part of the Samba family when it was over. I would never expect anyone at a travel agency to go to such lengths for me, but that’s Heather, CNH and the Samba Way!"

We’ve had to step in a number of times in the past, when things go wrong.  We once managed to spring a guest out of a Galapagos prison after the sniffer dogs found a joint in his bags… When COVID hit, we put in several 18-hour days ensuring all of our guests were safely out of Ecuador and back home before things completely shut down.   While Heather and Kelsey are “full-on” during regular times, I get the impression that they go “turbo” whenever a problem arises,  pulling out all the stops to make sure our guests are taken care of.

We’re currently helping a traveller (not even one of our guests!) who was looking for help getting a hotel key back to the Galapagos Suites hotel in Galapagos.  She accidentally brought it back to New York with her.   She checked the price of a couriered package (over $120) and turned to social media to see if anyone could help.  CNH Tours stepped in – we have guests in New York leaving shortly, and we’re arranging to have them bring the key back. 

Though Kelsey and Heather have managed to “pull a rabbit out of a hat” on many occasions – please don’t assume that they can do anything… we still encourage our guests to do all they can to avoid having to rely on our “super travel agents” in the first place…   😉

Revenge Tourism?

This terms rubs me the wrong way…

It conveys the message that we're all embarking on journeys motivated mostly by spite, even if it's directed at a virus.  But I'm confident that folks considering a trip to Galapagos are motivated by a deep and longstanding desire to get to know this iconic, even fabled archipelago.  Still, revenge tourism is a term you’ll likely have come across if you’re reading anything about tourism these days.   According to industry experts, after having been locked up by COVID since March 2020, we’re all charging out with a “damn the torpedoes – full steam ahead” attitude when it comes to leisure travel.

The Economist, a news / business magazine with a global readership recently published a short piece entitled Take that, covid! “Revenge” tourism takes off where they forecast tourism numbers in 2023 will nearly match those of 2019.  In the article, they state that:  


"International tourism arrivals, up 60% in 2022, will rise by a further 30% in 2023, to 1.6bn, still short of 2019’s figure of 1.8bn. But tourist receipts in 2023 will almost equal the 2019 total of $1.4trn, if only because inflation has pushed up prices"

 

At CNH Tours, our 2022 numbers were 80% of 2019 numbers, with this December being the strongest in our history.  Discounting those unlucky travellers who were caught up by COVID and finally embarked on their postponed trip this year, I feel that our 2022 numbers pretty much reflected those cited in The Economist. 

While early 2023 numbers are nothing to write home about (we also see that occupation rates on Galapagos ships are not as strong as they should be for that period), April and May are very strong and we’re getting bookings now for the summer months.   We’re even seeing a good number of bookings for 2024 – unusually early, but likely a sign of what’s to come.

So, what’s the moral of the story?  I think that it’s too early to talk about “Revenge tourism” for 2023.  While numbers are certainly bouncing back following the worst of COVID, they still have a way to go before reaching pre-COVID levels.  From where I stand, I do see some signs of a robust 2024 – given the level of bookings we’ve received already for trips more than 12 months into the future.

What does that mean for you?  As always, the more in advance you book, the likelier you’ll be able to find the ship, the dates, the itinerary, and the berths of your choice.  The larger your party, the more this applies. Also, as the 15 days or so around Christmas and the New Year are THE most in demand for Galapagos – if you’re contemplating something for Christmas 2023, now is certainly the time to seriously look into it.  

COVID policies in Ecuador

There are currently no COVID related restrictions in Ecuador (as is the case for most countries in the world).  There are no vaccination requirements nor are there any testing requirements.  A very small number of ships still call for proof of vaccination.   

La Niña: Back for yet another visit

We’ve all heard of El Niño, when the usual easterly trade winds over the equatorial Pacific tend to slow down in December, resulting in the back splashing of warm surface waters back to the coast of South America.  During a strong El Niño, sea Surface temperatures rise considerably, and rains can be heavy over lands close to the sea.

I first visited Galapagos in April 1998, at the tail end of the strongest El Niño in many years.   It was unbearably hot and humid, while the water temperatures were nearly fit for a bath.   The vegetation was very lush thanks to generous rainfall.   While these conditions favoured most land animals (and plants), the warm waters meant lower oxygen levels, but more importantly fewer nutrients.  This was catastrophic for any creature relying on the sea for survival – from fish, to marine mammals and even to sea birds and marine iguanas.   On my first cruise in the islands, just a few months later, there were desiccated marine iguana carcasses everywhere, along with a few sea lion skeletons here and there.   The Galapagos penguin population crashed.  Animals starved to death. 

El Niño conditions:  Waters warmer than usual in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (Galapagos circled)

 

When La Niña strikes, conditions are completely reversed.  The water temperature goes down, it’s oxygen and nutrient rich – ideal for marine life, sea birds and marine iguanas. But it’s cooler and drier on land – vegetation can be sparse, making it difficult for land animals.   This year marks the third in a row with La Niña conditions manifesting themselves. 

La Niña:  Cooler waters around the Galapagos archipelago. Note that most northerly portions may tend to have warmer waters.

 

As a visitor, the greatest impact will be felt when you get into the sea.  Water temperatures will be a few degrees lower than average.   Expect them to be as low as 16C or 17C on the western shores (61-62F) and a bit warmer, up to 21 or 22C elsewhere (70-72F) in the coming months.  The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that La Niña conditions will end in about by February/April.   But to compensate, marine life will be rich and diverse.   Enjoy!

Heather is going to the Okavango... as your tour leader

"We very rarely do this..." explains Heather. 

"My husband Marc, with help from Dr. Karen Ross (a.k.a. the Champion of the Okavango) and a local travel partner, developed our Okavango trip just before the pandemic.   Our first trip ran this past May - it went absolutely swimmingly" she continues.  Thanks to that success, CNH Tours organized two other Okavango trips in May 2023.  

While these are usually led by other experienced tours leaders, a fortuitous set of circumstances has compelled Heather and Marc to take up that responsibility for the 1-14 May trip this year.  

The 14 day trip starts in Cape Town for a few days, spends time in the northern Kalahari, then we move on to the heart of the Okavango Delta, along the shores of the Okavango River, and ends at the famous Victoria Falls.   

FOUR WORLD HERITAGE SITES

We'll be visiting four UNESCO World Heritage sites during the trip:

  1. Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (South Africa):  Recognized for the collection of globally unique species of flowering plants;
  2. Okavango Delta (Botswana):  The largest inland delta on Earth, attracting rich and diverse fauna;
  3. Tsodilo Hills (Botswana):  Rock art site dating back tens of thousands of years;
  4. Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe):  The spectacular natural wonder.

If you’re willing to arrive a day earlier in Cape Town, where the trip starts, we’ll join you on a visit to Robben Island World Heritage site, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 17 years. 

You’ll find all the details on our website.   We have four spaces remaining on this trip.

 

 

 

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