Returning Guest Survey Results on our Active Galapagos Trip

Four years ago, we instigated an automatic survey for all our returning guests.   They receive an exhaustive survey by email a few days after the trip.  We monitor the responses regularly to ensure our trip quality doesn’t slide, and to look for ways to improve it.   

The responses are generally all very positive – and for the sake of transparency, we are publishing them here.     

Respondents are asked to rate the various aspects of the trip on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the best, and 5 the worst.    



We make it a point to be very responsive to our guests, from the moment they first contact us to the point where they return home and even beyond.   We’re always trying to improve our communications.  



We’ve worked hard over the years to ensure that your trip overview document is complete, comprehensive, yet succinct.  This document contains all the critical information pertaining to your specific trip, including any modifications.    It contains the day to day itinerary, pick-up times, extension details, domestic flight details, emegency contact information and more.   


We have been using the Mansion del Angel hotel for about 15 years now.   It is owned by a distinguished Ecuadorian gentleman who spent time in Switzerland during his youth, training in the art of hospitality.    The hotel is small (16 rooms) and lavishly appointed in late 19th and early 20th century décor.   It’s like staying in a museum in that regard.   The restaurant is intimate and offers top quality cuisine with a great degree of emphasis on service and presentation.    The owner operates another beautiful hotel near Otavalo. 


Our Active Galapagos trip includes a full day in Quito prior to flying out to the islands.   We’ve included this both as an opportunity to get a quick glimpse of what we consider to be the most beautiful capital city in South America (and UNESCO World Heritage site), but also as a “buffer day” – providing our guests with a bit of insurance against the vicissitudes of international flights to Ecuador.   

We have modified the Quito City Day Tour recently, following constructive criticism received (which generated lower than desired ratings).  Specifically, we have found a new guide (he is singled out in our guest reviews), we stopped visiting the monument to the Equator (it required a 45+ minute bus ride out of town, and back and the experience was considered too “touristy” – crowded, canned and circus like).   We replaced that with an option to take the cable car to the top of a nearby volcanic peak adjacent to the city (weather permitting), from where a leisurely hike affords you with a impressive view of the city below, and/or a more relaxed and comprehensive visit of the city, founded nearly 450 years ago.  


We asked our guests to rate their overall impression of the ship.   The Samba is a smaller but immaculately operated and maintained ship carrying only 14 passengers.  It has 7 cabins, 6 of which offer bunk-beds (with the lower bed being almost the width of a double bed).    It’s cozy and intimate, but with a variety of deck space allowing guests to find their own spot to enjoy the trip when they’re looking for time out. 


We try to make it clear from the outset that the Samba’s stable of naturalist guides are top of the line.  One of the guides is the Samba’s owner (along with his family) and he invests a great deal of time in selecting and training the guides that work on board when he’s taking some time off.   The naturalist guide can make or break your trip.  You can be on full bells and whistles luxury ship – but if the guide is mediocre, your overall impression of the trip will be tainted.   Based on our survey results, we feel that the Samba’s owners have done an excellent job.


One element of a ship that doesn’t always get credit is the crew.  While the guide is the person who will be getting your attention on a regular basis, the crew is the team that works behind the scenes to ensure your trip runs as smoothly as possible.    We’re proud to say that the Samba crew receives even better ratings than its top rated guides.   To illustrate our point:  The Samba’s captain will regularly get in the water with guests, helping those who are less comfortable, ensuring the get the most out of their snorkeling sorties.   Few if any ship captains are known to do this in the Galapagos.  

This wonderful team spirit was developed thanks the owner’s policy of treating crew like family.  Among many policies that help build a great team, the owner runs an annual “family cruise” onto which the crew can invite family members to get a chance to see what it’s like to embark on a Galapagos cruise (very few Galapagos residents ever get that chance, and few if any other ships do this as far as we know).   


The Samba’s galley is minuscule.  One comment we often receive from returning guests is “I couldn’t believe the magic the cook could work out of that tiny kitchen!”.   Besides well-balanced and diverse meals, rich in fruits, vegetables, local products (coffee, fish, meat) the cook also provides a variety of tasty hot and cold finger foods on your return from each excursion.     Do you have special dietary needs?  No problems – the cook has seen it all.  


Of course, the main reason people want to go to Galapagos is to get up close and personal with the wildlife, landscapes and seascapes there.   We understand that our guests have been “champing at the bit” from the day they first committed to the trip – and are all very eager to get out and about on the islands and in the water.    The Samba makes the assumption that you are very keen to get out there and that you want to maximize your exposure to what the islands have to offer. 

Based on these assumptions, you will be asked to get up before dawn on occasion, and to land at a visitor site just as the sun rises (any earlier is against park regulations) when the guide considers that this would be the absolute best time to witness animals at their most active / intriguing.    You might even be asked to get into the water as the sun rises at some visitor sites, because that’s when the hammerhead sharks are still gathered together and easy to see.   The guide will have you spend 2 hours walking a 1 mile (1.6km) trail – ensuring that you have frequent stops on the way to just sit and contemplate the world around you, take pictures, and let your mind engage in the meaning of it all. 

It’s important to note that many other ships will not make these assumptions.  It won’t be unusual for Samba guests to be returning to the ship at 8:30AM, after having spent over 2 hours on land (during the prime wildlife observing hours and before the heat gets oppressive), only to cross paths with a group that has just landed for their morning visit, having been awoken at 7AM for a leisurely breakfast before disembarking.   

We are happy to see, from the results below, that our assumptions on Samba guest eagerness to get “out and about” appear to be correct.


This is a very common concern for our prospective guests: “I’m worried about getting sea-sick”, or “I tend to get sea sick – is this a problem?”.    Based on the results below, we can say that only 2.9% of respondents indicated that sea sickness had been a significant barrier to having enjoyed their time on the Samba.   Over 90% of guests indicated that it was not a problem at all, or just a minor one, while another 6.7% felt that it had been a problem, but one they were able to manage.   

In our experience, sea-sickness will be felt mostly on the first day or two of the trip, after which time your body acclimatizes.   It’s important to note that choppy waters aren’t what contributes to sea-sickness (though they may contribute to difficulties moving about the ship or sleeping).  Sea-sickness is brought about by the uuuuupppp and doooowwwnnn motion caused by ocean swells.   Even the largest Galapagos ships will feel the swells to a certain extent. 

There are several measures that can be taken to minimize the impact of sea-sickness, or to eliminate it altogether.   The “patch” and other products are available.  Consult your doctor for suggestions.


Our 13 day “Active Galapagos” trip includes 2 nights at a family owned hotel in Puerto Ayora, the main town in Galapagos.   We are glad to give our guests a chance to get a short glimpse of life on this remote volcanic archipelago.  The group’s guide suggests activities, and will join those who want to do something together - but nothing is organized ahead of time.  It’s an opportunity to relax at your pace, or for a bit of independent exploration for those so inclined. 

The town of Puerto Ayora has been growing over the years.  It’s doing its best to grow in a way that reflects its privileged location – adding in features such as bike paths and closing streets at night for dining under the stars.  We assume that most of our guests are keen on experiencing this part of Galapagos.   Of course, for those on a tight time frame, you can opt out and return to the continent after disembarking from the Samba.

While most of our guests are delighted by their 2 days on land in Galapagos, they will also admit that anything after 8 days on the Samba will be anticlimactic.   Despite these comments, 74% of guests indicate having appreciated their post-cruise time in Puerto Ayora. 

We have considered scheduling the 2 nights in town PRIOR to the cruise, but we think that would be close to torturing our guests who are so very keen on getting on with their expedition cruise.  


We have been using the Hotel Fernandina for over 15 years now.   This family owned establishment is just 2 blocks away from the main “tourist” street and waterfront.   The owner was one of the first employees of the Charles Darwin Research Station, back in the last 1960’s.  He soon saw an opportunity when he noticed that visitors to the Station were desperate for a place to stay.  He began with a rustic 4 room place, and over the years, has transformed it into a 30 room establishment with a small pool.  

Hotels are expensive in Galapagos.  The price of a room at the Mansion del Angel in Quito will get you a basic room with a shower in Galapagos.   In an effort to control the trip prices, we have decided to stay with the Hotel Fernandina over the years.   It’s not a luxury place, but the simple rooms are clean and well maintained.   As per our survey results, 67% of our guests were satisfied to very satisfied with it.   We do also ask our guests if they would be happy to pay $300 more for their trip if that meant a more luxurious hotel in Puerto Ayora, and 75% said “NO”.    

We have investigated other places, but there are few options in Puerto Ayora that combine both the feel of a family run establishment, reasonable price and location.  



The best trip of our lives” is not an uncommon statement made by our returning guests.