Ecuador tourism sector set to increase costs up to 12% in February 2010   Leave a comment

DATE: FEBRUARY 1st, 2010

In an effort by the central government of Ecuador to generate more funds, stricter financial and tax legislation are being implimented. A direct effect is on the Ecuadorian tourism sector.

The Galápagos Islands are at the edge of their carrying capacity, absorbing some 120,000 tourists yearly, a figure that almost trebled in the past five years alone.

In 2005, Ecuador attracted 860,000 tourists of the 18.1 million visitors to the South American continent, up 5.1 percent over the previous year.

Top countries of origin of incoming tourism, according to Ecuador Tourism Ministry figures, were Peru, the United States, Columbia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany.

An integral marketing plan of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism continues to be ambitious, targeting increasing those numbers significantly in the coming years. Targets include attracting 1.1 million incoming tourists this year, and boosting that figure to 1.7 million by 2010. Hence the strategy to encourage travelers to Ecuador to experience the capital Quito, parts of the Amazon rain forest, the highlands, its volcanoes, its culture, its Pacific coastline, its beaches or its gastronomy.

Different sources estimate that in 2008 tourism generated aproximately USD $450 million, while recent figures estimate tourism to generate aproximately $1 to $1.5 billion US dollars.

In the early days of 2010, the tourism sector (mainly Galapagos related) is in a period of great uncertainty – mainly due to new financial and tax legislations that are focusing on capturing more funds for the central government. As a direct result numerous Galapagos cruise operators are increasing their previously published 2010 cruise rates up to 12%, while a smaller number are planning on maintaining their rates.

Galapagos sea lions moving from the islands to Peru   3 comments

Scientists report colony of Galápagos sea lions in northern Peru

January 28, 2010
Original source:  Andean Airmail & Peruvian Times

The Organization for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals, or Orca, says a colony of sea lions endemic to the Galápagos Islands have established a colony off the coast of northern Peru as a result of increased sea surface temperature in the region.

The colony includes 30 sea lions that traveled 1,500 kilometers, about 932 miles, from Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands to the Foca Island, located off the coast of Peru’s Piura department, daily El Comercio reported. The president of Orca, Carlos Yaipén, says the Foca colony is the first reported outside the Galápagos archipelago and due to an increase in sea temperature caused by climate change.

“Never before has a residency of Galápagos sea lions been reported outside of the islands. Individual sea lions have been reported stranded in Ecuador and Colombia, here as well, but never a colony,” says Yaipén. “This is due to their adaptation to climate change. The conditions of the sea around Piura are now similar to the Galápagos. This could result in the arrival of more sea lions as well as other species.”

Surface sea temperature around off the coast of Piura has reportedly increased over the last 10 years from an average of 17 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius. Sea temperature around the Galápagos Islands averages 25 degrees Celsius.

The Galápagos Islands is an archipelago of 19 volcanic islands located at the confluence of three ocean currents about 604 miles west of continental Ecuador. The islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution.” In 1978, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Posted January 29, 2010 by sangay in GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

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Earthquake report in Galapagos region   2 comments

JANUARY 29/2010

The USGS reports the following:

Magnitude 5.0
Date-Time
Location 1.979°N, 90.303°W
Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program
Region GALAPAGOS ISLANDS REGION
Distances 325 km (205 miles) NNW of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galapagos
330 km (205 miles) NNE of Puerto Villamil, Isabela, Galapagos
1245 km (770 miles) WNW of Guayaquil, Ecuador
1335 km (830 miles) W of QUITO, Ecuador
Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 13.1 km (8.1 miles); depth fixed by location program
Parameters NST=121, Nph=121, Dmin=293.4 km, Rmss=1.18 sec, Gp=144°,
M-type=body wave magnitude (Mb), Version=7
Source
  • USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
Event ID us2010sba6

Galapagos economic boat GABY – warning   Leave a comment

As a public courtesy, and following Sangay Touring’s constant ethical and professional approach to Galapagos cruises, we publish the following regarding the economic Galapagos Islands boat, M/Y Gaby (aka Gabi):

Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism

Oficio No.- MT-GRG-2010-0013

Date: January 21, 2010

To all tour operators and agencies we inform you of the report by the Puerto Ayora Port Captain [see below excerpt section].  In addition we take this opportunity to inform you that, due to numerous complaints regarding the incompletion of services provided by the operator of the Gaby, the respective legal department of the Minsitry of Tourism will be exectuting in the following days, in conjuction with the Direccion Juridica, the respective administrative and legal procedures to ensure that all the pertinent and legal procedures are applied.

Official communication [translation of pertinent sections] from Capitania de Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Date: January 18, 2010

The boat, Gaby, is currently prohibited to navigate due to the incompletion of Internaitonal security regulations.  The boat, due to damages to its motor and generator, cannot navigate December 28th, 29th & 30th 2009 and after 3 inspections conducted by the Puerto Ayora Port captain to verify the boat’s condition has decided to stop its operation until such time as the boat returns to satisfactory conditions.

Galapagos cruise considerations   Leave a comment

GALAPAGOS BOAT & CRUISE SELECTION TIPS
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS …..

CRUISE LENGTH

Selecting a short cruise (i.e., 3 or 4-nights) when a longer cruise is what you want; or selecting a long cruise (i.e., 7-nights) when a shorter cruise is really want you need.

What is not commonly stated is the following: The first and last day of any given cruise are short days (as they are based on the flight arrival and departure schedules into/out of Galapagos).  Cruises really start with the arrival of your flight into Galapagos between 09h30 and 11h30 the morning of the first day of the cruise in Galapagos, and end between 08h30 and 10h30 in the morning of the last day of the cruise.  Most classify Galapagos cruises as 4-DAY, 5-DAYS and 8-DAYS when these cruises really translates into 2, 3 and 6 full days, respectively (or 3, 4 and 7 full nights, respectively) in the Galapagos Islands.  The two partial days at the beginning and end of the cruise are mainly occupied traveling to and from the islands.

In my years of experience I have equal numbers saying that a 4-night cruise was the perfect length, while others stated that the 7-night experience was without a doubt the best.  If you want to cover as much of the diversity that the Galapagos has to offer, the 7-night cruise is the best and only option for you.

TYPE OF VESSEL

Selecting a cruise ship when a smaller vessel is more your style; or selecting a sailing boat when a motor or cruise ship is really what you’re after.  The vast majority of the non-cruise ships are, on average, for 16 passengers (allocated into 8 double cabins). There are a small handful that carry less (i.e., 10 passengers) an equal number that can carry up to 24 passengers.

PHYSICAL ASPECT: There are different advantages and disadvantages of the various types of vessel (cruise ship, motor catamaran, motor-sail catamaran, motor boat, sailing and motor-sailers).  The larger and heavier the vessel, the more stable it is in the water.  The most stable (important for those extremely sensitive to sea sickness) are the large capacity cruise ships (i.e., Eclipse, Evolution, Galapagos Explorer II, Galapagos Legend, Isabella II, La Pinta & Santa Cruz).  These vessels carry between 32 to 100 passengers, have spacious and well acquainted cabins & facilities, spacious decks and social areas and highly qualified and trained crew members.  Cabins are generally allocated on two (or more) different decks.  Several boast jacuzzis, gyms and other perks.  The possible disadvantages (depending obviously on one’s point of view) are the following: (1) generally attract an older and higher socio-economic clientele; (2) a greater number of fellow passengers; (3) the activities are generally geared towards older passengers so are not demanding (for those wanting a more active cruise – plenty of snorkeling & hiking etc – a smaller vessel is better suited for you); and (4) slower boarding and debarking of the vessel (i.e., for island visits) as passengers are divided into smaller groups of 16 to 20 passengers each.

Turning to the non-cruise ship options, you have (1) the catamarans – motor & motor sailers – that include Valkiria, Archipel I (aka Galapagos Journey III), Archipel II, Nemo II, Queen Beatriz (aka GAP VI), Queen of Galapagos, Seaman II, Treasure of Galapagos, Anahi, Athala & Nina; (2) sailing & motor sailers like Angelique, Encantada, Beagle, Cachalote, Mary Anne, Nautilus, Sagitta & Alta; and (3) the motor boats – which is the largest list of vessels in Galapagos.

The heavy, wide motor catamaran version (i.e., Archipel I & II, Anahi etc) are not only well appointed, but due to the width of the vessel are spacious in terms of cabins and social areas and stable.  Some even have onboard jacuzzi to soak into after a long day hiking the islands.  The lighter motor sailing catamarans (i.e., Valkiria, Nemo II etc) are comfortable and relatively spacious, but not as stable as their heavy motor brothers above.

The sailing boats (most of them are technically motor sailers – when there isn’t sufficient wind, I think you would be glad that they can still navigate under motor power!) are long and narrow by nature.  This makes them vulnerable to swaying (or rocking) in the seas … even when anchored.  Most of these vessels have small and somewhat cramped cabins and limited deck and social areas.  However, vessels like the Beagle, Cachalote, Mary Anne, and Alta have an attractive and cozy atmosphere aboard.  These vessels are, without a doubt, geared more towards your adventurous and active passenger.  They provide and intimate experience – something that is hard to replicate on a large cruise ship.

The bulk of the Galapagos cruise vessels fall into the ‘motor’ category – from your small, old & basic economic motor boats like the Amigo, Rumba & New Flamingo right up to the luxurious and relatively spacious Galaxy, Voyager & Grace and Tip Top IV etc.  The wider and heavier the motor boat is, the more stable it is.  Many (but not all) of these motor vessels have cabins allocated on two (or more) different decks.

CABINS: While most Galapagos boats only have double cabins (cabin for two people), a very limited number have single and/or triple cabin arrangements.  The standard bedding arrangements are upper/lower twin bed berths (bunk beds), while a good number – generally in the First and Deluxe classes – may have several cabins that have one double bed and/or two lower twin beds.  With very few exceptions, almost every cabin on the various Galapagos boats has its own private facilities (i.e., shower, bathroom, hot/cold water etc).  Cabin location can be important.  Generally speaking (but depends on the mechanical layout of the boat in question) the father forward and up the cabin is, the farther away you will be from the motors/generators.  This translates into less noise, vibration, heat and possible fuel aroma.

Regardless of the vessel, they all navigate and operate in a similar fashion – the major inter-island transitions (i.e., from Espanola over to Floreana, for example) are done on the overnight hours.  That way, when you awake the next day, the boat is already anchored off the island to be visited that morning.   This maximizes the daylights hours, and thereby attempting to reduce transitions during the day to a minimum.  There are occasional transitions done on some boats between the morning and afternoon visit (these transitions may be to another point on the same island or to a nearby island).  These however are generally not that noticeable as passengers are enjoying lunch aboard during the transition.

That being said, there is no one Galapagos cruise that is perfect for everyone. Each person has his or her particular likes and dislikes, expectations and requirements. Some prefer the large, comfortable cruise ships that carry 40 to 100 passengers while most prefer a more intimate, smaller option.

Part II to follow shortly … which will cover important aspects as itineraries, naturalist guides, boat classes, time of year etc.

Galapagos cruise money warning / advise!   1 comment

It appears as though there is an increasing trend and probability that on numerous Galapagos Islands cruises – even high-end deluxe class cruises – that the chance of having money ‘go missing’ from one’s cabin (for cruise boats that do not supply a safety deposit box or other security measures) is becoming more frequent.

The whole tip issue and security for money, requirement to have large sums of money on hand, only asks for this kind of trouble.

The main problem is that expecting to have to pay large tips IN CASH sets up a security problem. There are no safes in the rooms. There was major crew turnover half way through the trip. It only takes one bad apple. I took $1000 cash, my wife about $500. Some other system needs to be in place. A safe, keys to room with only one crew member having access…something.

Again, a wonderful cruise in many respects, but tainted by the missing $100 and the safety concerns are also very real.

Sangay Touring® strongly urges clients visiting the Galapagos to take all necessary precautions and steps, if travelling with sums of cash to beware, becareful and cautious …. especially if your hotel or boat does not provide guests a safety deposit box or other secure method to store your valuables.

Increased flight rates for Galapagos Islands (2010)   Leave a comment

Aerogal & Tame airline fares have increased due to governmental airport taxes effective immediately (January 7th, 2010). For those passengers already paid in full, sangay Touring will absorb this increase.

January 1st to April 30th / June 15th to September 14th / November 1st to December 31st

GALAPAGOS FLIGHT RATES – HIGH SEASON

ADULT | CHILD | ROUTING

$422 | $217 | QUITO – GALAPAGOS – QUITO
$403 | $208 | QUITO – GALAPAGOS – GUAYAQUIL
$400 | $205 | GUAYAQUIL – GALAPAGOS – QUITO
$372 | $191 | GUAYAQUIL – GALAPAGOS – GUAYAQUIL

May 1st to June 14th / September 15th to October 31st

GALAPAGOS FLIGHT RATES – LOW SEASON

ADULT | CHILD | ROUTING

$367 | $190 | QUITO – GALAPAGOS – QUITO
$349 | $181 | QUITO – GALAPAGOS – GUAYAQUIL
$346 | $178 | GUAYAQUIL – GALAPAGOS – QUITO
$328 | $169 | GUAYAQUIL – GALAPAGOS – GUAYAQUIL

Note: ‘Child’ is anyone under 12 years of age / ‘Adult’ is anyone over 12 years of age.