Galapagos News

Cases of bird flu decrease in Galapagos

Bird flu has devastated marine bird species all over the world this past year or two.  The virus is transported in large part by migratory birds who travel great distances.  The first cases appeared in Galapagos only in September and officials were braced for the worst.  But apparently, the latest evidence seems to indicate that Galapagos will have been spared big mortality figures.   The following is a translation from a recent Galapagos National Park Directorate press release.

Starting on September 19, since the announcement of the presence of avian influenza in at least two colonies of native and endemic birds of the archipelago, the Galapagos National Park Directorate implemented a monitoring plan in sites with an abundant presence of birds, in order to evaluate the levels of contagion in the different bird populations.

The monitoring consists of observing the environment and taking samples from live and dead birds in 29 sites such as Punta Pitt and Isla Lobos in San Cristóbal; Punta Cevallos, Punta Suárez and Colonia Central in Española; Genoese; Seymour Norte, Isabela, Fernandina, among others, to then carry out the analysis at the Galapagos laboratory (LABGAL). So far, 20 monitoring trips have been made, visiting each site at least once a week.

During the first three weeks the results of the samples taken in Punta Pitt and Genovesa - the only colonies in which the presence of avian flu was confirmed - were positive, especially in red-footed boobies, the species most affected by the disease.

The last two weeks of monitoring represent good news for the Environmental Authority. The positive results of the samples taken have decreased significantly, even for two weeks only negative cases were evident. “We believe that the wave of avian influence on the islands has passed and although it generated a small number of dead birds in some species, the populations are healthy and able to recover,” said Danny Rueda Córdova, director of the Galapagos National Park.

Despite this encouraging news, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park with the support of the Agency for the Regulation and Control of Biosafety and Quarantine for Galapagos, the Charles Darwin Foundation and the San Francisco de Quito University, will maintain monitoring of the sites, take of samples and application of biosafety protocols implemented to reduce the risk of new infections.

The Galapagos National Park Directorate confirmed that, if negative results continue during the following weeks, the relevance of opening the visiting sites that remain closed will be analyzed.

Booby (guess which kind...)


An elegant (and jet-lag free) way to cross the Atlantic

Planes can be fast… but a zen experience they are not.  CNH Tours co-founders Heather Blenkiron and Marc Patry are on day 5 of an 8-day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2).   This is the third time we’ve moved between the new and the old worlds by ship.   

The trip is a far cry from a Galapagos or Antarctica cruise.  First of all, it’s not a “cruise” per se, but a “crossing”.   We’re not sailing around from visitor site to visitor site, disembarking/embarking.  No – we are simply going from Southampton to New York City, heading home after several weeks in Provence, where we house sat for old friends and did some research for a trip we’re planning there (September 2025).  

Position of the Queen Mary 2 on Friday 24 November, 9AM ship time

We’re quite keen on these crossings.  If you have the time, they are a very elegant, very comfortable and surprisingly inexpensive way to cross the Atlantic.  It’s like spending a week at a higher end “all-inclusive” resort with all the usual accoutrements. 

The QM2 offers a variety of dining options, from fancy restaurants, buffet style, pub food and more, all with extensive wine, beer and cocktail menus.  There is a wide-ranging program of activities and lectures, live music (their jazz ensemble is stellar) and stage performances.  Sailings may be themed - we happen to be on “Literature Festival at Sea” trip – with a few dozen journalists, authors, radio personalities and more on board offering all kinds of talks, presentations and discussions.  Looking to stay in shape? There's a good gym, two pools - and five times around the main deck will get you one mile under your belt. 

Over the course of the week, for those who are keen, the ship will host 2 or 3 “formal dinner / gala / dancing” evenings.  To participate, you will be required to dress accordingly (black tie, evening dresses etc..).  Our impression is that about ¼ of the guests on board take part.   While there is an effort to re-create the “grand old days of Atlantic crossings” type of feel in terms of dress code (you don’t see much of sweatpants / t-shirts / crocs at all on board), the overall mood is pretty relaxed.  

One of our favourite lounges - the Commodore Club - offers a commanding view of the ship's bow and the sea beyond.  A great place for your morning coffee.

The ship is large and handles the seas very well.  We had gale force winds yesterday and the waters were “somewhat lively” shall we say!  There was definitely some heeling going on, but very manageable.  I suppose it comes with the territory when crossing the north Atlantic at the end of November… On our previous two sailings, during summer months, we were hard-pressed to feel any motion at all during the entire crossings

A typical balcony stateroom

Based on our observations, about 90% of the people on board are in their 60's and 70's and from what we could gather, they are quite a well-educated group of people with interesting life stories. Encounters with other guests are common, be it at a shared pub-style table over lunch or sitting next to each other at one of the evening performances.   Folks are generally keen to chat – but as we have CNH Tours work to do while on the ship (such as, for instance, writing news items for our website...), we have been able to easily eclipse ourselves for parts of the day, either retreating to our comfortable cabin or finding a quiet corner somewhere in one of the several cozy lounges (the internet is quite good). 

The jazz band in the Chart Room - playing on the Queen Mary 2 for many years.  It doesn't get much better than that.

We’ve taken the time to carry out a thorough inspection of the ship, its cabins (“staterooms” to use the local vernacular), various restaurants and venues.  We’ve taken note of the pros and cons of different cabin classes in different parts of the ship.  There are a number of variables to keep in mind – upper decks vs lower decks, forward vs aft vs mid-ship berths, sheltered / regular balconies or no balcony, solo cabins, interior berths, location of cabins in relation to the different staircases/elevators (the ship is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall), port vs starboard sides… 

It's well worth choosing a strategically located cabin - it can make a big difference to your on-board experience (we recommend mid- to mid-aft ship, lower decks, near, but not directly in front of the C staircase...).  

A lively stage production at the 1,100 seat Royal Theatre

CNH Tours is registered with Cunard – we can help you book a stateroom best suited to your travel style.  Prices start at about US$1,200 / person shared for the 7-night / 8-day crossing (inside cabin).  For about US$1,700 / person, you can book a cabin with a deck. There are about two dozen attractively-priced solo cabins (book early, they go fast). The ship offers more spacious Princess and Queen class cabins in the US$3,00-$4,000/person range.  If you really want to go all the way, it has a handful of staterooms fit for royalty, as spacious as a small house...  We're here if you have any questions.

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Are Galapagos Expedition ships a source of water pollution?

We regularly come across concerns about whether expedition ships in Galapagos may be a source of water pollution.  We go over the issue in this short article.   

What waste? 

Ships do not throw inorganic rubbish into the sea.  It is collected and disposed of when the ship returns to port at least once a week – joining the rubbish produced in towns and sent to a landfill once any recyclable materials are taken care of.  Ships don’t dump oil or fuel into the sea either – they have no interest in doing so.  Fuel is used to power the engines, and exhaust, like for all internal combustion engines, is released into the air.   Organic kitchen scraps are allowed to be disposed into the sea (at least 2km from shore), but only after having been chopped up. Such scraps quickly decompose and are the source of nutrients for marine organisms.  We focus on human wasted in this article.

It’s true that ships release human waste into the ocean as they navigate throughout the archipelago.  Whatever is flushed down the toilet (and almost all ships ask you to flush nothing but human waste down the toilet, providing a covered waste basked next to it for the paper) does end up in the sea.  Regulations require that wastewater pass through a type of industrial blender (primary treatment), turning it into more of a sludgy liquid before being released.

Is human waste a pollution concern?  We look at it in two ways:

  • Waste composition: Are the actual components of human waste harmful to the Galapagos marine environment?
  • Waste volume: Is the total amount of human waste released into the sea a concern?

Does the nature of human waste harm Galapagos?

Human waste is pretty much the same as waste generated by other animals such as fish, sea lions, whales and blue-footed boobies.  It’s a mix of organic matter, bacteria, high in nitrogen, fat and other organic compounds and elements.  There may be varying concentrations of different compounds between species, but at the end of the day, it’s the same kind of thing.  

Is this waste bad for the marine environment?

Biologists understand that animal waste is a rich source of nutrients.  Farmers spread manure on their fields to enrich them – and many of us do the same in our back-yard gardens.  Typically, if amounts do not exceed certain levels, animal waste is considered as a very valuable input into marine ecosystems, bringing in highly prized nutrients in waters that are generally nutrient poor.  Plankton thrives when nutrients are available - and in turn, the plankton forms the basis of a rich food chain leading right back up to whales, sea lions and sharks.   In this regard, one can conclude that human waste, by its composition, is actually beneficial to the Galapagos marine environment, like fertilizer is beneficial to a garden. 

However, it’s possible to overload an ecosystem with nutrients.  Doing so leads to eutrophication – a condition that occurs when an excess of nutrients leads to runaway algal growth. Algae proliferates, dies and is consumed by bacteria, which use up all the oxygen, turning such waters into dead zones for animals.  Eutrophication usually occurs in enclosed waters (lakes, slow moving rivers, estuaries or inlets) and rarely in the kinds of open waters one finds in Galapagos.  Still, there’s no harm in looking at the volume and concentration of human waste being released into the sea as a possible indicator of negative impacts.

Does the volume and/or concentration of human waste harm Galapagos marine ecosystems?

The best way to answer this question is to get a sense of the relative importance of human waste vs Galapagos wildlife waste that is released into the waters.   The Galapagos marine reserve is home to dozens of species that are larger than humans.  The weight of a single adult blue whale (up to 300,000 pounds, or 136,000kg), for example, is about the same as the total weight of all humans aboard expedition ships on any given day[1].  Arguably, the daily waste a blue whale generates must be in the same order of magnitude as the daily waste generated by all those people.  Don’t forget – when a blue whale has a bowel movement, it all happens in one spot, while human waste is dispersed over a vast expanse of ocean.  Yet eutrophication of Galapagos waters has never been a concern – it doesn’t happen because the relative amount of nutrients remains very much below the threshold that could lead to eutrophication. 

A whale of a bowel movement...


Getting back to that blue whale – it shows how just one individual of one species can produce as much waste as all the humans on board expedition ships – that alone should make it clear that human waste is a minuscule part of all the animal waste released into the Galapagos marine reserve every day.   If we just look at whales – the fact that over a dozen species of larger whales make Galapagos waters their home and they number in the thousands further illustrates the inconsequential nature of contributions made by humans.

But let’s keep on considering other sources of animal waste.

Occasionally seen in superpods containing 1,000 or more individuals, dolphins are very common in the islands.  It’s not unreasonable to conclude that tens of thousands of them spend a lot of time in the Galapagos marine reserve – and each one weighs on average over twice as much as a human.   You’ll also notice many sea lions while exploring Galapagos.   Their population has been estimated at about 50,000 – and each one is close to the size of an average human.   We’ve not even mentioned the millions of fish in the sea around Galapagos. From the tens of thousands of larger sharks, rays, tuna, to the ubiquitous smaller fish. And then there are all those seabirds.

Each one of these animals releases waste into the water.  It’s easy to conclude that the proportion of animal waste released into Galapagos waters that can be attributed to humans on expedition ships is infinitesimally small and that its incremental effect on the environment is literally no more than the proverbial drop in the ocean.   

A non-issue at sea, but not near towns

It’s clear that human waste released by people aboard expedition ships has no negative effect on Galapagos marine ecosystems.

However, there are waters in Galapagos that are demonstrably negatively affected by human waste.  These are found in the bays around which the main human settlements are built and where we find hotels, restaurants and more.  This is particularly the case in Puerto Ayora.  Here, approximately 15,000 people live around Academy Bay – and the town has no sewage system.  Used waters are flushed (in a best case scenario) into little more than holes dug into porous volcanic rock.  They easily flow into the bay.  Studies have shown the the levels of faecal coliform bacteria in the near shore at Academy Bay, along with other indicators of leaching sewage, are high enough to pose a risk to human and ecosystem health[2].  There has been talk about developing a functioning sewage treatment system in Galapagos for decades - but little has been done to date.  

So, rest assured, your time aboard your expedition ship is not contributing to the contamination of pristine Galapagos waters. 


[1] 65 ships, with an average capacity of about 25 guests, a 1:2 ratio of crew to guests and an average occupancy rate of about 75% means that, on any given day in Galapagos, there are a little over 1,800 guest and crew members on Galapagos expedition ships.

[2] Mateus, C.; Guerrero, C.A.; Quezada, G.; Lara, D.; Ochoa-Herrera, V. An Integrated Approach for Evaluating Water Quality between 2007–2015 in Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. Water 201911, 937.

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Avian flu puts penguins in peril?

In a press release today (see text below), the government of Ecuador announced the likely presence of avian flu in Galapagos.  Avian flu has been circulating widely around the world in 2023, affecting domestic livestock (chickens, turkeys, ducks) and wild birds alike.   The virus is transmitted in large part by wild birds, most particularly aquatic birds such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls, and terns, and shorebirds, such as storks, plovers, and sandpipers. As a number of migratory shore bird species move from as far as the Arctic through North, Central and South America to and through Galapagos, it is not surprising that the flu appears to have made it here. 

The flu can cause significant mortality in wild birds but poses little risk to humans.  Combined with the current El Niño conditions in Galapagos, marine birds in Galapagos will likely be under significant pressure in the coming months.  Of particular concern may be the Galapagos penguins whose natural population numbers tend to reach no more than 2,000 to 3,000 or so individuals.  


Range of the Galapagos Penguin


In response to the detection of the H5N1 virus, the park has closed visitor sites where it was detected.  It is also asking all tour operators to redouble sanitation protocols when going to visitor sites.  If you are on an upcoming trip to Galapagos, and if you were planning on visiting some of these sites, it’s likely that alternative sites will be proposed during your visit. 




Recently, naturalist guides have been reporting an unusual number of dead birds on several Galapagos island.  In response to these reports, the technical team of the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DPNG) and the Agency for Control and Regulation of Biosafety and Quarantine for Galapagos (ABG) carried out some sampling and laboratory analysis to determine the cause of death of the animals. Preliminarily, of the five specimens examined, three of them tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza; The collected material will be forwarded on to the National Health Research Institute Public (INSPI) in Guayaquil, for confirmation.

In response, the National Environmental Authority in the archipelago has activated the biosafety protocols to reduce the risk of dispersion of the virus. Among the first actions, the closure of the visitor sites where affected birds have been detected was ordered: Genovesa and Punta Pitt (San Cristóbal Island) and preventively Punta Suarez and Punta Cevallos (Española island).  In addition, a communiqué was issued to tour operators to strengthen the disinfection process of footwear and clothing when accessing other visitor sites, and to continually disinfect outdoor common areas and tenders that are used for the disembarkation of passengers.

The DPNG and the ABG monitor the habitat and nesting areas of the populations of endemic birds such as penguins and Galapagos cormorants and today, it deployed several teams to other parts of the archipelago to evaluate the situation. Naturalist guides, who are the eyes of the Park, have been asked to  reinforce their monitoring of animal behavior and to immediately report any unusual observations.

“The Park deeply regrets the arrival of this virus to Galapagos. We have mobilized all our resources and experts to implement measures that reduce their impact on this unique ecosystem. However, we make an urgent call to the population: If you find sick or dead birds, do not touch them or pick them up,” said the Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, José Antonio Dávalos.

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United Nations to Ecuador: “You must control runaway land-based tourism growth in Galapagos”

(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) manages the implementation of the World Heritage (WH) Convention.  Under the terms of this Convention, the 193 countries of the world that have ratified it have undertaken to identify and conserve, for the benefit of their citizens and for all of humanity, the world’s most outstanding natural and cultural heritage sites. 

Every year, UNESCO organizes the meeting of the intergovernmental WH Committee.  Made up of 21 signatory countries, elected among their peers, the WH Committee oversees the work of UNESCO in implementing the Convention.  Acting like the bouncers in a private club, the WH Committee also keeps an eye on the state of conservation of WH sites around the world – and if they consider that things are not going particularly well in a site, they will request that the country in which the site is located take specific measures to ensure the site’s values for which it was recognized, are not lost.   

The WH Committee receives information on the state of conservation from various sources.  The government of Ecuador submitted its own Galapagos report in 2022.  While governmental reports can provide valuable information, one is not wrong to suspect that such reports may not want to focus on issues that might raise undue alarm. 

The WH Committee also receives a State of Conservation report jointly produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNESCO’s own experts at the WH Centre.  This report relies on a variety of information sources and tends to raise issues that the government would rather gloss over. 

Specifically, the IUCN / World Heritage report includes the following statements in relation to tourism in Galapagos:

… statistics publicly available at the website of the Ministry of Tourism show a steep and continuous increase of visitor numbers ( from less than 12,000 at the time of inscription in 1978 to more than 270,000 in 2019 before the start of the pandemic. Notwithstanding the temporary decrease in numbers as a result of the COVID pandemic, tourist visitation numbers from January to March 2023 are reported to be 78,507, which is over than 9,500 more than in the first quarter of 2019, prior to the pandemic. The reported opening of a new flight connection to Galapagos from the city of Manta in March 2023 will only further exacerbate this trend.

Since 1998, when a cap was established on the total capacity of the cruise ship fleet, most of this growth is land-based visitation, which carries even larger risks of introduction and dispersal of alien species compared with ship-based tourism.

The WH Committee is meeting in Riyadh these days.   It has been assessing the state of conservation of WH sites around the world.  When it came to Galapagos, they made the following request to Ecuador:

The WH Committee reiterates its continued concern on the steady growth of tourism and commercial flights to the property and urges again the State Party to develop and implement a clear tourism strategy with a clear action plan with urgent measures to achieve the zero-growth model, including maintaining the moratorium on construction of new tourism projects and the limits on the number of flights, and to submit this strategy and action plan to the World Heritage Centre for review.


 A busy day at the Darwin Bay visitor site, San Cristobal Island


The ball is back in Ecuador’s court.  They are part of the prestigious “World Heritage” club.  Galapagos was the first site to every have been recognized as World Heritage, back in 1978.   If Ecuador wants to keep its membership in good standing, it has to do what it takes to ensure that the values for which Galapagos was recognized in the first place are not undermined.  

Unlimited tourism growth in a remote oceanic archipelago like Galapagos is a major factor when it comes to the introduction and dispersal of alien species.   Alien species are the greatest single threat to Galapagos biodiversity.   With increased visitation numbers comes an increase in:

  • the number of flights from the continent;
  • the frequency of cargo ships offloading supplies from the mainland;
  • immigration from the continent, leading to rapid population growth.

These increases all facilitate the inadvertent (and sometimes deliberate) introduction of alien species to Galapagos.   They help neutralize the critical ecological isolation that was key in making Galapagos what it is today – a place where one can easily witness the graphic manifestations of biological evolution in action.   It’s why Galapagos is on the World Heritage list.

Ecuador won international recognition among proponents of sustainable tourism when it established a strict and well-regulated expedition cruise ship tourism model in the islands back in 1998.  It set a firm cap on ship sizes and total fleet capacity.  Since 1998, ship-based tourism numbers have been flat at about 72,000 / year.   It is now time for Ecuador to do the same for land-based tourism.  It needs to find a way to establish a firm upper limit to how many land-based visitors can come to the island each year.  


Las Grietas, near Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island

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Dr. Keith Alverson: Our “go-to” person for climate change related questions

Keith (a New Hampshire native) may not be directly involved in matters pertaining to Galapagos, but he did spend a part of his childhood in rural Botswana, where his parents were immersed in and studying the local culture.  In fact, he’s one of the characters in the book his mother Marianne wrote about their time in Botswana: “Under African Sun” – so CNH Tours, which runs one or two trips to Botswana each year, has some basis for highlighting Keith’s work!

I first met Keith in about 2007 while I was working at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris.   He was UNESCO’s head of Ocean Observations and Services at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission as well as director of the Global Ocean Observing System.  Not a bad mandate.  While our paths didn’t cross regularly, we did chat on occasion and he struck me as a no-nonsense kind of guy, telling it like it was (a bit of a fresh breeze when you’re working in a large multilateral organization). 

And then I didn’t see him in the hallways anymore.  In 2011 he’d left for a job at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, hired as the director of its Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch.  It turns out that I also ended up in Nairobi in early 2014 working as UNESCO’s senior representative of its Culture sector (which included World Heritage issues).  So we bumped into each other again – but this time, our families got to know each other and we developed stronger ties.

It was our turn to leave when, later in 2015. I decided to quit my job, take the family back to Ottawa and join my wife Heather in running CNH Tours.   In the meantime, Keith left Nairobi in 2016 to take up the directorship of UNEP’s International Environmental Technology Center in Osaka, Japan.  By 2020, with COVID in the picture, he also decided to call it quits and he and his wife Min moved to Ottawa (she was raised here), of all places.  So we’ve rekindled our old friendship again.   It’s nice to have some local friends who have shared the same kind of expat life we did.

It didn’t take long for Keith to get back into his professional groove though – he was hired as the executive director of the World Climate Research Program’s Climate and the Cryosphere Project (CliC) based out of Amherst, Massachusetts, where he spends some of his time.  Among other activities, CliC is very active in Antarctic science, including working on defining essential climate and cryosphere variables to include in an annual Antarctic report card, which may include environmental impact of tourism - so he has a direct link to our Antarctica trips as well.  To add a feather to his already heavily laden cap, Keith was recently appointed as the secretary general of the International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences in Berlin this past July. 

CNH Tours is lucky to have such contacts, helping us better understand climate change and how it might relate to the work we do.

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Special Guest on our Integrity Trip

We had a special guest on our Ocean Safari trip on the Integrity recently.  Romina Cahuana is an environmental education assistant at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos. She's a Galapagos native - having been born there around the time CNH Tours owners were living and working at the Darwin Station themselves. 

It turns out that we had some unsold spaces on our charter – and we wondered if and how we could make best use of them.  We approached the ship owners (the Sievers family – whose patriarch arrived in Galapagos from Switzerland in the 1950’s and whose sons, still Galapagos residents, are now mostly in charge of the ship).  They enthusiastically supported the idea of inviting someone for the Charles Darwin Research Station to come aboard, at no extra cost. 

We approached our friend, Rakan Zahawi, the director of the Station and asked him to help find a suitable candidate.  He in turn offered the opportunity to Romina.  Romina has a bachelor’s degree in Education Sciences, obtained in Quito.  In 2021, she volunteered with the Charles Darwin Foundation's Community Education and Outreach Program and currently works in the program as an Environmental Education Assistant and is committed to supporting efforts to improve education in her community.

Selfie on the Integrity (Leon Dormido / Kicker Rock in the background)

We asked her how the trip might have influenced her perspective on things, how it might have contributed to her ability to do her work.  She responds:

The Integrity experience has been an opportunity to fall in love once again with the place where I was born and grew up. It has also been a time for me to pause and observe unique details that the flora and fauna of Galapagos has that I had not realized before. Observing the birds, both marine and terrestrial, was my favorite part and my curiosity to continue learning about them has only grown.

This motivates me to continue working to cultivate curiosity and wonder in more local youth so they will love the place around them every day.

The Station director also recognized the value in offering this kind of opportunity to his team:

Thanks Marc for this opportunity and apologies I didn’t get back to you quicker.  I was traveling last day or so and this is a great example of how fast some opportunities move in Galapagos!  Anyway, glad you took the liberty of reaching out to us and that helped to get this moving.  Hopefully you can accommodate Romina onboard - a fantastic opportunity for a staff member and chance to engage with visitors - and thanks for thinking of us!



Rakan A. Zahawi, PhD
Executive Director 
Charles Darwin Foundation


More on the Integrity

The Integrity is a 16-passenger luxury ship. It’s one of the few remaining ships in Galapagos that is locally owned and operated.  It’s one of the ships we first turn to when guests approach us looking for a full-on Galapagos experience with top quality guides, while also wanting a bit of extra comfort on board.  Having good personal relationships with the ship owner brings a lot of advantages to us, and by extension, to our guests.   It’s one of the criteria we rely on when deciding which ships to work with in Galapagos.

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To El Niño or Not to El Niño? That is the recurring question

We’ve been monitoring the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website on El Niño ever since it existed it seems to us.   You’ll find news items on El Niño on our website that date back several years. 

What prompts us to write about El Niño? Typically, we start seeing increasing mentions of the phenomenon in the traditional/formal media.   That’s usually followed by signs of general public interest in the event, as manifested in mentions on social media.  We start seeing posts from folks planning a trip to Galapagos, asking if El Niño will affect their trip.   This happens every 2, 3 or 4 years.  Things typically spiral up from there, with more mentions in the press, leading to a positive feedback loop and increasing levels of anxiety amongst travellers.    

We’ve found that almost always, the concern about the impacts of an El Niño on the visitor experience in Galapagos is misplaced.  While an El Niño occurs fairly regularly, not every El Niño is the same.  Some are stronger than others, some last longer than others, some affect one region more than another on one occasion, and vice versa on another.  Only in a minority of cases do these El Niño’s have a significant impact on the visitor experience.  The last time this happened was in 1997-1998.   We where there during the tail end of that El Niño, and the impact was impressive.

For the time being, having looked at the data published by NOAA, our conclusion is that it’s too early to tell if this year’s El Niño (currently considered weak by NOAA, but expected to strengthen) will have any significant impact on the quality of a visit to Galapagos.   The chances are small – but of course, never zero.  

How does a strong El Niño affect Galapagos?

In Galapagos, waters usually start to cool down in May – at the start of the Garua season.   During a strong El Niño, they generally stay warm, and may even get warmer.   The increased water temperatures lead to more humidity, which feed more big rain events.   You end up with low nutrient, warm sea waters that starve out marine life (from fish to sea lions to penguins, including marine iguanas and sea birds) and high productivity terrestrial ecosystems benefitting land plants and animals.   Marine life becomes scarcer, while terrestrial life flourishes. 

How long does a strong El Niño last?

A strong El Niño will typically result in a missed “cool / garua” season.  Instead of waters cooling down from May to December, they will stay warm.  You end up having hot season conditions from January of one year, all the way to May of the following year (apx. 16 months).

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Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information

254 tonnes of carbon offsets!

Starting last year, CNH Tours has been purchasing carbon offsets equivalent to the emissions generated by the in-country activities of our trips.   Galapagos, Antarctica, Okavango/Kalahari - we're doing our best to reduce the impact of your emissions while you are travelling with us.   

There are many agencies out there doing great work in carrying out carbon offset projects - but it's important to be sure that the one you choose to work with is serious and operates transparently.  There are always a few who are perhaps a little less rigorous in how they run their operations.  

After having evaluated several options, we chose to work with The Gold Standard. According to its website:

"Gold Standard was established in 2003 by WWF and other international NGOs to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity and also contributed to sustainable development. With the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, we launched a best practice standard for climate and sustainable development interventions, Gold Standard for the Global Global Goals, to maximise impact, creating value for people around the world and the planet we share."

The Gold Standard has received support from a variety of sources, including:

  • Governments of Australia, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland
  • European Union, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Climate Change Convention Framework
  • World Bank, InterAmerican Development Bank
  • World Wildlife Fund, Goldman Sachs, FairTrade
  • .... more


Given that list of august partners / supporters, we are confident in The Gold Standard's integrity. Every six months, we tabulate the number of guests that have travelled with us and purchase the equivalent carbon offsets.   Here's our latest certificate emitted by The Gold Standard:



The Gold Standards offers up a variety of specific projects to support when purchasing offsets.  We have chosen to purchase your offsets under the heading "Climate Portfolio - Variety of Projects" - giving the folks at The Gold Standard the freedom to allocate them where the need is greatest.  

For a detailed description on carbon offsets - what they are, how they work, why they're important, see our very own "Carbon Offsets 101 Illustrated Guide"

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

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

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information

Not-for-profit Galapagos trip Feb/Mar '24

This 12 day trip, with just about everything included, is actually better-priced than "just the 8 day cruise" as advertised on the ship's website.

Full details on the trip



Join us on the very comfortable 32 passenger Evolution, for our not-for-profit trip to Ecuador and Galapagos.  All usual commissions made on such a trip are being re-invested in the overall experience, giving you unbeatable value for money.   The trip will be led by CNH Tours founders, Heather Blenkiron (TripAdvisor Destination Expert for Galapagos) and Marc Patry (former United Nations point man for Galapagos conservation).  Both were also former staff at the Charles Darwin Research Station.  

DATES:  22 February - 4 March 2024


The trip includes:

  • 2 nights at a comfortable hotel in Quito (2 breakfasts)
  • Quito World Heritage City Day Tour (lunch) with guide: 9AM – 4PM
  • Transfer to airport for domestic flight to Galapagos
  • Domestic flight to Galapagos (return) / Park entrance fee / Transit Control Card
  • 7 nights aboard the 32 passenger luxury ship Evolution (all meals; coffee / tea / soft drinks / water; snorkeling gear / wetsuits / kayaks; naturalist guides; daily excursions; medical doctor on board)
  • Transfer to hotel in Galapagos (2 breakfasts at hotel)
  • Meal and live music (last evening in Galapagos)
  • Transfer to Galapagos airport for flight back to Quito
  • All tips and gratuities
  • Carbon offsets
  • Emergency medical evacuation insurance
  • Two tour leaders – ensuring all aspects of the trip run as smoothly as possible 

PRICE: From US$8,528 / person (shared).   PLEASE NOTE:  The ship's own website prices for 2024 start at $8,850 (includes park entrance, wine, beer, dinks on board) for just the cruise.  Our not-for-profit trip is clearly a very good value for money trip. 

This trip was conceived as a fund-raising initiative for the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, the alma mater of CNH Tours co-founder Marc Patry.  This small pre-university college hosts 200 students from 50+ countries and is located on Vancouver Island.  There will be a few graduates on board - but the trip is open to the broader CNH Tours community.  A US$200 / participant donation to the collage is included in the price.  

You can find all the details here.  


The Evolution at anchor, Buccaneer Cove, off Santiago Island.  Charles Darwin spent most of his time in Galapagos in the hills behind the ship.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

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

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information





Can I bring my drone to Galapagos?

There are strict regulations regarding the use of drones in Galapagos.  This ensures the protection of the unique ecosystem and wildlife and also considers the fact that not all visitors to the islands want to witness them with the buzz of a drone overhead. 

The regulations include:  

  1. Prohibition in Protected Areas: Drones are generally prohibited from flying in the Galapagos National Park, which covers 97% of the islands. 

  2. Special Permits: In certain cases, individuals or organizations could apply for a special permit from the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) to operate drones for scientific, conservation, or educational purposes. These permits require prior authorization and adherence to specific guidelines.

  3. Authorized Operators: Only licensed and authorized drone operators could fly drones in the Galapagos Islands. These operators were usually affiliated with recognized research institutions, conservation organizations, or the GNPS itself.

  4. Aerial Photography and Videography: The use of drones for commercial aerial photography or videography purposes is not allowed without special permits from the GNPS.

  5. Strict Flight Guidelines: If granted permission, drone operators must follow strict flight guidelines, including altitude restrictions, flight paths, and time limitations. 


CONCLUSION:  Leave your drone at home.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information


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

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information

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.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

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

 Contact us for more information




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

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information


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.



Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information

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.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

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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.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert for Galapagos

Antarctica:  Our expert has worked for 18 seasons in the region - you can hardly get better advice in planning your trip

Okavango / Kalahari / Vic Falls: Our trip was designed and is led by the National Geographic's "Champion of the Okavango", Dr. Karen Ross

 Contact us for more information

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.

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.

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

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

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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!

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

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

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