Galapagos News

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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Provence Discovery:  September 2025 

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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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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



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

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

 Contact us for more information

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

 Contact us for more information


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

 Contact us for more information

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

 Contact us for more information






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

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

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

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

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

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

Samba crew and guests - welcome aboard!

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

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

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

One of the last Galapagos family-owned and operated ships

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

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

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

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

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

141 tonnes of CO2 offsets

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

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

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

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

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

Galapagos:  We are TripAdvisor's Destination Expert

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

 Contact us for more information



Seasickness: Are catamarans better?

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

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



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

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


The EcoGalaxy - two hulls make it a catamaran

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

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

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

The Grace - a classic monohull; long and slender

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

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


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


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

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Mother-daughter bonding cruise

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

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

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

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

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


From: Rebecca 
Sent: December 31, 2022 6:24 PM
To: Kelsey Bradley <>; Heather Blenkiron <>
Subject: Thank You


Dear Kelsey,

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

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

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

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

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




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

kids on deck of a ship


woman with giant tortoise galapagos



Man with sea lion on Galapagos beach

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