Active Galapagos trips get an A+ rating across the board

Back, way back in 2001 somewhere in Puerto Ayora, the eminence grise* of the Galapagos guiding community Greg Estes and CNH Tours owners Marc & Heather (before CNH Tours existed...) were talking over lunch on a hot, steamy March day about "the ideal Galapagos expedition cruise".  We were working at the Darwin Station at the time and had somehow crossed paths with Greg a couple of years earlier.  He impressed us with his knowledge, focus and leadership type personality. We had hired him to lead our “Galapagos Amigos” not-for-profit cruise set up for our friends, shortly after our arrival in Galapagos.

"Galapagos Amigos" trip in 2000.  Marc Patry, Heather Blenkiron (and Émile) circled

Greg was about 40 at the time and had been guiding already for several years, while we were just contemplating getting into chartering ships for Galapagos expedition cruises on a more regular basis.   

"You know", Greg said, "I really feel sorry when folks get on a ship whose crew and naturalist guide take a lackadaisical approach to visiting the islands – what a missed opportunity".  He went on to explain that in too many cases, the ship experience was being managed like a holiday, and not an expedition. “The guide has guests get up at 7AM, they have breakfast, and they are off by 8AM on their first outing of the day.  That’s two lost hours of daylight – and two of the best hours for wildlife in Galapagos”.  For Greg (and we agree), visiting Galapagos should be approached as a rare privilege – one that should not be approached nonchalantly.  “And then the naturalist guide rushes through a trail so that he can let them lounge on a beach”.

Greg Estes at the Galapagos "Post Office", Floreana Island (back in 2000) 

You only have a short time here – and there is so much to be exposed to, to experience, to see, hear, feel and witness” he added. We agreed again. It was during that conversation that the term “Active Galapagos” came up. What if we organized trips that were designed for people who were keen to get the most “Galapagos” out of their time in the islands? What if we told them this trip would be active  – that we’d get them up at the crack of dawn (or even earlier…) to ensure they got to see the wildlife at its most active?  What if we took our time on the shore excursions, spending 1.5 hours on a 1-mile (1.6km) hike, stopping frequently to just take it all in? What if we took full advantage of all the snorkeling/kayaking opportunities? 

It was that discussion that led us to develop the “Active Galapagos” trip.  CNH Tours first chartered the 16 guest Lobo de Mar for our trips – but soon the ship dumped us in exchange for a large contract with a big international travel company.  We had to find another ship.  It’s no longer clear how we came across the 14 guest Samba – but the fit was perfect.  Locally owned and operated, the Samba is 100% “on-board” with the Active Galapagos philosophy.   We started with 4 charters / year, but quickly realized that the desire to get the most out of a Galaagos trip was widespread.  We added more and more departures and now, we run between 20-24 Active Galapagos charters / year. 

Samba anchored off Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island


To be sure we stay on top of things, we survey all of our returning guests over a comprehensive list of indicators, measuring their satisfaction with various aspects of the trip. Guests rate their experience on a 1-5 scale. Using a simple algorithm, we translated that into a percentage rating.  We proudly present the results below:

CNH Tours Active Galapagos trip report card

Clearly, our guests are very satisfied with their trip - and embarrassingly, it seems one of the indicators that has the greatest room for improvement is our own responsiveness (only 94.6% satisfaction rate...). 

Post Samba time in Galapagos receives the lowest score at 83.2% (still very good after all) - that refers to the two (optional) extra nights we offer to our guests, giving them the time to get their land legs back and enjoy some down time after their full days on board. We are happy to give people a chance to get to know what life is like for those living in Galapagos - and these 2 days do just that.  Perhaps for some, the shock of disembarking from a cozy small ship, after having sailed to the remote corners of the archipelago, and to be re-introduced to a busy urban area is a let-down?  


* With his wife Thalia Grant, Greg is the co-author of the book: "Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World" in which they publish the results of their extensive work retracing Darwin's day to day travels in Galapagos.

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