Another fantastic trip thanks to our travel planner, Allie, found through the Wendy Perrin’s WOW List. We just returned from The Galapagos Islands with our adult children, our 6-year old granddaughter and our adult nephew and his partner. It was a trip we will all remember.
Working with Allie was a pleasure. She responded quickly and thoroughly to every question asked and, whenever we threw her a curveball (i.e. we’d like to add two more people to our group; or could this trip be done more economically), she just made it happen. At each stop, we were met at the airport by local guides and escorted to our destination. Allie fully prepared us for what we would need at the airports, and her people on the ground negotiated the airport transfers smoothly.
Our trip started in Guayaquil, where we had one day before heading to The Galapagos Islands. Allie sent us to La Danesa, a gorgeous, working hacienda! We visited the cacao plantation and participated in making chocolate from start to finish. Delicious! We also milked cows, went horseback riding and bicycling, and had a wonderful lunch. The grounds are beautiful and luxurious and we could have spent much more time there.
We traveled to The Galapagos the next day, where we met our wonderful guide, Viviana. She was truly one of the highlights of the trip. As a native of The Galapagos, she was knowledgeable and could share information in a way that was interesting to all of us. Even our 6-year-old peppered her with questions! We stayed on land at the Ikala Hotel, which had nice rooms, a lovely breakfast and restaurant area and a pool and lounge area which we all enjoyed. In our five days on the islands, our time was filled with varied and fascinating activities. We went to the Giant Tortoise Reserve; saw the lava caves and tubes; spent an incredible day walking along the beach at Tortuga Bay and snorkeling in the calmer area. We were met there by a photographer who spent an hour taking photos, which will be made into an album. We had days of boating to areas where we could go snorkeling and there we saw turtles, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, iguanas, pelicans, baby sharks and schools and schools of fish. One of the standout activities was a morning at Las Grietas, which is a swimming hole at the bottom of a lava-created crevasse. It was completely private and truly one of the highlights of our trip. On our last day, three scuba-certified family members went diving and they absolutely loved their day! I could go on and on because every activity that was planned for us was incredible. My only regret – we should have stayed longer!
We typically have planned our own trips and after reading the posts on this website for many years, we decided we would use a Wendy Perrin specialist for our bucket-list trip to Ecuador, the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian Amazon in late spring. We could not have made a better decision than working with Allie. Our trip was perfect and we did not have a single hiccup despite several flights and transitions. Every guide, driver, flight, restaurant, lodging were excellent as were the ship Allie suggested (Endemic) and the lodge in the Amazon (La Selva). Knowing someone else (Allie) had planned this trip, trusted the guides/lodgings and that we had a contact if needed for any issues took away the various concerns of making your own arrangements.
Allie recommended we base our trip dates on the Galapagos dates. For us, there was no question that we would do a water-based trip vs land-based. We initially had difficulty settling on a sail date and boat due to availability (we planned the trip 5 months out) and our request for a boat with a balcony off the room. Following Allie’s advice, we also wanted a two-hulled catamaran to help minimize potential seasickness. Allie was patient and continued to come up with suggestions until we found a boat and itinerary that worked.
Once the boat was selected we were able to plan the rest of the trip around those dates. If you are headed to the Galapagos, most travel planners suggest allowing at least a day in Quito in case of any travel issues, and we decided to add on a 2nd day in Otavalo before heading to the islands. Allie arranged our day in Quito (altho we could have made changes of course with our guide) visiting the Teleferico, Old Town, the Equator and a lovely restaurant on the edge of a volcanic crater. In Otavalo, we visited a number of locations with the guide and on our own including the fruit market, the craft market, a family that designs and makes their crafts in their home and a sacred waterfall that we were able to walk to from the hotel and felt very safe. We were concerned about the elevation at Cotopaxi or we may have gone there instead, altho we loved our overnight in Otavalo which gave us a bit more time to explore on our own.
Our guide (Henry) and drivers (Patricio and sons) the first 2 days were gems. Our guide shared interesting and relevant information non-stop about Ecuador, Quito and Otavalo and the driver drove expertly thru the narrow and crowded streets and windy highways of Quito and its environs. Our lodging in Quito, Mama Cuchara, was a beautiful restored Spanish Colonial home with great staff, a fun rooftop bar area, an incredible breakfast buffet and delicious, traditional dinner items. In Otavalo we stayed in a sister hotel, equally as beautiful with dedicated staff, serving another round of tasty meals.
The date for the Galapagos we ended up with was a bit later than we had planned to go and we were a bit concerned about the weather/water temperature but ultimately the timing was right. The weather in the Galapagos in early June was a perfect temperature (high 70’s/low 80’s). The water temperature was warm enough that some fellow passengers chose not to wear the full-length wetsuits we were given. Most of us wore them to aid in the buoyancy that they provide. Every member of our crew on the Endemic were excellent and very attentive. The bed was very comfortable and the rooms were very spacious due I guess to having a wide double hull, as were the communal areas, allowing us to relax and share stories with fellow, friendly travelers ages 32-75. The ship was immaculate and the chefs and crew worked extremely hard to make sure everyone was happy. The post-excursion refreshing juice, treats and washcloths for cooling off provided were a delight.
Our Naturalist guide, Harry, born and bred in the Galapagos, was very knowledgeable, very patient and made each excursion entertaining. You can’t go wrong with any itinerary. We had been told that but now that we have experienced it, I would agree. We swam with sea turtles, penguins, sea lions, sharks and an array of fish. On our hikes, we observed tortoises, flamingoes, iguanas, sea lions and several varieties of boobies and birds. We were briefed the night before so we knew what to expect the next day.
Our next stop was La Selva Lodge in the Amazon. We had done our own research and decided if we were going to visit the Amazon, we would like to do so in Ecuador. Allie helped us decide where to stay. This was a fascinating adventure from the moment we landed. The transportation to the lodge, a motorized large canoe (water taxi) on the Napo River followed by a smaller canoe, is an adventure in itself. The accommodations and food were excellent, including the box lunch we were given on our way to the lodge from Coca. The staff at the Lodge as well as our Naturalist Guide (Danny), who was from the local indigenous community along with his uncle who worked with him, were all amazing. They could spot the smallest of creatures even in the dark of the jungle.
The Amazon is naturally hot and humid and you definitely have the feeling of being in the jungle. We rarely saw a mosquito as Ecuador is working with other countries to eradicate malaria. Unlike the Galapagos, it is much more hit-or-miss with wildlife and somewhat dependent on time of year but we were lucky to see diverse selection of flora and fauna including a sloth, caimans, spiders, several varieties of monkeys, birds, tree frogs as well as a large variety of interesting plant life and trees. A highlight was visiting the local indigenous community and seeing a snapshot of their life.
As with most wildlife excursions, you are up early almost every day both in the Galapagos and the Amazon. In both locations we had time midday when the sun is at its strongest to read, rest (or have an amazing massage at La Selva). We both have a gluten intolerance and at every location, we were expertly and tastefully accommodated. Allie made sure our hotels, the Endemic as well as La Selva, were made aware in advance. The clothing lists suggested are essential – quick dry, long sleeves, long pants, sun hats etc as well as hiking shoes, water shoes and a pair of flip flops and you are set. Enjoy!
I went to Ecuador, visiting Quito and the mountains near Otavalo in April and early May 2023. I contacted Allie to expand a pre-arranged trip to the Galapagos islands that I had booked with my sister previously. Initially, I was hesitant to have someone else make all the arrangements, but I am so glad that I did this! Although I met my sister on the islands, the first part of my trip was by myself. I speak very basic Spanish and had concerns as a female adult traveling alone. Allie listened to my concerns and found amazing guides and locations for me to visit. I felt safe the entire time and had incredible local guides who showed me places I never would’ve found otherwise.
Allie called me on Friday afternoon just to make sure I was ready for the trip and see if I had any final questions.
After a bit of a rough start to the day with the airline, I arrived in Quito and Patricio met me at the airport. He gave me a great mini tour of the area on the way to the hotel. Casa El Eden is just a beautiful spot. The room is beautiful and the building is fascinating. Mario met us at the door and carried my suitcase upstairs. He welcomed me like family. I met some other lovely people who were staying at the hotel and traveling to interesting places, and spent some time chatting on the roof terrace.
Alejandra gave me a tour of Quito. We saw the presidential palace and the horses being prepared for the changing of the guard. I learned that Lady Liberty is not blind here; she carries a torch and an ax. We visited a number of churches, and the architecture was not only stunning, but we observed how the artwork has changed through the centuries. We had a short stop at a museum of cacao, where I learned about how broad this industry is in Ecuador, and we also visited a hat maker who showed me reeds woven as fine as fabric. Amazing artistry. Ecuador is known for its coffee and its chocolate, and both have been exciting to learn about and taste. I’ve decided that I could really like a country where roses, chocolate, and coffee are the main exports!
We visited the top of the mountain with a ride on the Telefèrico. We walked a bit at the top, but altitude exhaustion is very real! I was too lightheaded to be able to walk all the way to the swings, but we did get to enjoy some wonderful views at roughly 13,000 feet. We visited a restaurant, hidden away on the edge of a volcanic crater. The food was amazing and the views were stunning. Then we went to a museum at the center of the earth. The tour guides were hysterical and shared history of Ecuadorian provinces as well as some science about being at this particular location. There were some hands-on exhibits where we got to move a small sink between the northern and southern hemisphere, and watch how the water changed just 10 feet apart, and we got to balance an egg on the head of a nail on the 0° line. It was a lot of fun.
Alejandra dropped me at the Basilica at my request, where I spent some time looking at the gargoyles, which are animals, and the amazing stained glass windows filled with flowers. The next morning, she shared some of the history of why these images were chosen at the Basilica.
After an excellent breakfast at Casa El Eden, Alejandra picked me up and we drove to Otovalo. We stopped at the condor park, where I saw the almost extinct Andean condor, harpy eagles, falcons, and even a bald eagle named Blanca. The condors were magnificent and the park was beautiful and filled with flowers. On the way, we stopped so that I could take photos of some nearby volcanoes and a mountainside glacier. The landscape in this part of Ecuador was simply stunning. In the Otovalo area, we visited a family of traditional weavers and learned about backstrap weaving. They dye their wool with natural dyes, and her spinning wheel and spindle were amazing! I was fascinated by their work and how beautiful it was. We went briefly to the market before we got caught in a downpour, so we did not spend much time there and rushed off for a wonderful lunch instead. I spent a few days at Hacienda Cusin. The grounds were beautiful, and the staff were very kind. I went horseback riding, although we stayed at a fairly low altitude (relatively) for my benefit. I made it back to the market and spent a few hours there, haggling for gifts and having a blast. I also asked the hotel to get me a taxi to take me to Cascada de Pegucha, a local waterfall that is sacred to people in the area. Absolutely gorgeous and worth a side trip.
My guides picked me up and brought me to the airport for a trip to the Galapagos, which I had pre-arranged with my sister. I highly recommend visiting the Galapagos! The guides have a depth of knowledge that is truly amazing and there is no place else on earth like these islands. Patricio met me at the airport when I returned to Quito and brought me to the hotel, making sure I was all set for my trip home.
From start to finish, they took great care of me, shared a depth of knowledge that I would never otherwise have found on my own, and showed me points of interest that only a local would know. I’m so glad that I made the decision to work with Allie. Everything was arranged beautifully and it was the trip of a lifetime for me.
We planned our trip to Quito and the Galapagos, Ecuador in mid-April with Allie Almario. It was my wife’s 60th birthday bucket-list trip. Allie was very attentive and responsive throughout the planning process, during the lead-up to the trip and afterwards with follow-up. She did a great job of planning arrivals and pickup at the airport, the hotel and day tours in Quito and the surrounding areas, and helping us choose a boat and itinerary in the Galapagos. Everything went off without a hitch. Unbeknownst to us, Allie had a couple of surprise birthday celebrations — one overlooking a stunning caldera for lunch and another on the boat in the Galapagos that were much appreciated — she really made me look good :). It was truly one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.
My family of four (two parents, 10yr old, 12yr old) took a one-week Galapagos cruise in early April aboard the Elite. Allie Almario planned the trip. EVERY aspect of the journey was incredible and none of us wanted to leave.
We plan 90% of our travel on our own, but with a trip like this, which we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we wanted to be 100% sure we got it right. We are so happy Wendy linked us up with Allie. Allie was essential to helping us sort through the blizzard of options (Land-based or boat-based? Which of a hundred boats? Large or small? Monohull or cat? Four day or longer, etc.). She helped us make it perfect. So perfect that maybe it won’t be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
With Allie’s guidance we chose a small boat (the Elite has a 16-person max). Small boats can be rocky, so she steered us toward a catamaran for more stability to minimize the risk of seasickness. The water was generally smooth, but on one or two nights with bigger waves, we were very happy to have two hulls, especially while watching how tippy the monohulls were. We didn’t really think about it beforehand, but being aboard a catamaran allowed for a wider beam and more spacious rooms on board.
The reason to go to the Galapagos is the geological and natural history, so I’ll start there. We saw blue-footed boobies, courting frigate birds, gulls, Galapagos hawks (hunting and eating marine iguanas!), a few types of marine and land iguanas, and more. We encountered a number of Galapagos tortoises in the wild. In the water, on numerous snorkeling activities we saw more types of reef fish than I could name, from little gobis and half-inch baby puffers, up to tuna. Small sharks skimmed the bottom, oblivious of us. Penguins flashed by, within a few feet, as they hunted, and we actually saw them catching fish. We never sought out sea lions, because as soon as we hit the water, they found us, swimming within inches of us in circles and loops trying to get us to play with them. Pods of sea turtles munched on algae as we floated above, swimming so close to us at times, that we actually had to struggle to swim away in order not to contact or disturb them. It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close.
Our guide Carlos was amazing. Having grown up in the Galapagos, he knew the islands, flora and fauna inside out. He had a great sense of humor, limitless patience with the guests (not that anyone was difficult, but the age range of guests was 7 to 85, with a similarly wide range of interests and physical stamina), and seemed to truly enjoy sharing his home with us.
Due to the small number of passengers, we quickly got to know everyone aboard and also rapidly were on a first-name basis with the crew. Very friendly atmosphere. We thought ours might be the only kids aboard, but among the other guests were two other families with kids, so that was a big bonus. While motoring from one island to another the kids played tournament after tournament of soccer in one of the cabins using a stuffed animal as a ball. The other guests were engaging, and we all had a good time sharing stories of what we saw, enjoying cocktails, watching sunsets, etc.
The crew was top-notch. Every single one was very helpful, very friendly. My 12yr old was captivated by being on a boat, and got to know Marcello, the captain, and Rey, the first mate. They let him take the wheel a few times. Both were great with the kids aboard. On the zodiac boats that took us from the Elite to the shore, the guys who drove those boats also let our kids take the helm a couple times. The whole crew was super friendly and seemed committed to sharing their beautiful islands and making sure everyone left having had an extraordinary experience. They all had their specific jobs which they took seriously (it was a boat, after all, so it’s all serious at some point), but when they had time, they stepped outside their appointed roles to help guests or to point out interesting things. For example, one of the crew, Francis, snorkeled whenever he could, and did a great job enhancing our experience, pointing out hard-to-spot creatures like sea cucumbers or rays camouflaged on the ocean bottom.
One unexpected aspect of the trip was the beauty of the islands. Had we never stepped ashore, the trip would have been memorable just for the gorgeous islands, striking sunsets, impressive vistas, and stunning beaches.
As far as boat details, the food was excellent. The rooms were spacious and clean. I’ve never slept in a more comfortable bed. Jose, the bartender/server, was ever-ready with juices and snacks after every expedition, and his warm personality made cocktail hour a pleasure.
I genuinely cannot think of anything that could be improved upon. We badly want to go again, bringing aunts, uncles, and cousins to share this exceptional experience.
Allie Almario was essential in making our 10-day trip possible (March 18 to 27, 2023). Most importantly, the trip was a huge success! Our planning with Allie started about a year prior to our actual journey.
We were a group that included 6 adults (parents and grandparents) and 4 children (ranging in ages from ten to thirteen). We started our trip by visiting Guayaquil and the relatively nearby Hacienda La Danesa, a fabulous working farm with over-the-top accommodations, excellent and creative food, and activities that included: tubing down a river, actually making chocolate from cacao beans grown on the farm, and milking cows. For a bunch of city-slickers, the farm experience was a real treat.
In our group we had one child with food allergies and several of us had food preferences (or more particularly, non-food preferences!). All the various food issues were communicated in advance by Allie to every place we visited, and they were ready for us!
After Guayaquil we spent 4 nights and 5 days on the Horizon, a trimaran vessel, touring the Galapagos Islands. The Horizon accommodates a maximum of 16 guests. The staff was excellent and the food quite tasty. As Allie suggested, four nights and five days was just the right length for our group.
Something to be aware of is a large part of the Galapagos experience is snorkeling. Visitors to the Galapagos should fully understand this. If visitors planning a trip to the Galapagos are not fans of snorkeling, much of the value of the trip would be “lost.”
After the Galapagos we flew to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The altitude of Quito is 9,300 feet and visitors should avoid alcohol for at least the first two days to give your body time to adjust to the thinner air and to mitigate possible altitude sickness. Do not be overly concerned about altitude sickness, but read up on it and be smart by not over-doing activities.
In Quito we visited Cuicocha Lake (a 2-mile-wide caldera and volcano crater lake), Otavalo Market, the Andean Condor Park, and the Intinan Museum (a family-friendly Equator park). In reading the suggested itinerary prior to our actual trip, these Quito activities seemed “hokey” to a few in our group. They were definitely not and were very much enjoyed by all ten of us!
Our Quito guide, Henry, was one of the best guides I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve traveled the world!
Ecuador has two seasons. Wet and less-wet. If possible, I’d recommend traveling during the “less-wet” season. We traveled at the end of the wet season and lucked out with a lack of rain. The week before our trip was apparently quite rainy, which would have been rather unpleasant.
Some other recommendations:
Prior to leaving for your trip, ask Allie to provide a simplified itinerary that recaps, by day, each activity you will experience. Also on the simplified itinerary, ask Allie to list the recommended gratuity to be provided to each guide, driver, or other service provider you will encounter. Print the simplified itinerary and bring it with you. The “fancy” online color itinerary provided by Allie may be interesting to look at while at home, however it does not print well (formatting issues) and is difficult to view while on your trip.
Bring quick-drying clothing which would include long pants, long-sleeve shirts and water shoes that dry quickly (look on Amazon). The long sleeves and long pants are for sun protection.
None of the toilets anywhere in Ecuador allow the flushing of toilet paper. After you “do your business,” the toilet paper is placed in a plastic-lined trash can. You might consider bringing single-use “tushy” wipes with you. You can find these on Amazon. Be certain to bring a wide-brim sun hat and sunscreen. As there is no cell service or Internet available on a ship, be sure to bring plenty of reading material with you (or a Kindle), as you will not be able to download anything while on the ship.
When we went to the Galapagos ten years ago with our daughter and her family, we were sorry to leave behind our son’s family. They were just too young for the trip, and one grandson hadn’t even been born. But, never fear, ten years later, and Allie Almario made all of our dreams come true. With Jennifer’s family we spent time in Quito. This time, however, we asked about Mashpi Lodge, and Allie highly recommended this as a destination prior to boarding our ship in the Galapagos.
Well, Mashpi is an amazing destination. The 3.5-hour drive is a bit daunting, but the destination is well worth the travel time. We traveled with our son, his wife, and their three boys, ages 13, 11, and 7. We asked Allie to arrange for a private guide for our family of 7, and she was very happy to set this up. We totally appreciated the continuity this afforded. Mashpi is in the cloud forest, which proved to be a wonderful experience for each of us. The lodge is beautiful and fits seamlessly into the area, while providing lovely, spacious rooms and an extremely comfortable experience. The food was outstanding. Anderson, our guide, is a former researcher at Mashpi who changed his focus to guiding several years ago and was knowledgable about the entire area. Our first hike took us to the Life Center, where we were mesmerized by the bird life, including beautiful toucans and parrots. Soon, a tayra showed up and we watched this weasel-type animal. Our oldest grandson is not fond of butterflies. But Anderson took him aside and gradually introduced him to the butterfly enclosure. Returning to our rooms, our ever-observant 11-year-old grandson noticed a sloth outside his window. Some of the lodge staff came running to see this slow-moving animal. When Anderson asked if we would like to hike in a river, we pictured a calm stream. However, we have wonderful memories of hiking in a fast-moving river where our son and his family swam under a waterfall. The highlight was when Anderson decided to venture out our last night during a heavy rain to fulfill our grandson’s dream of seeing a glass frog. At the last minute Anderson located this elusive frog, and everyone got to hold it.
We only had two nights at Mashpi, and would perhaps suggest another night, but we were busy every minute and have lasting memories of Anderson and the lodge. Soon we were back in Quito and boarding our flight for the Galapagos.
Our last trip to these amazing islands was aboard a ship that accommodated 100 guests. This time, we were on the Theory, with a capacity of 20 passengers. Traveling with 3 active grandsons, I was a bit apprehensive about this smaller ship. Would our grandsons have enough room to expend their energy? Never fear, Theory met and surpassed every expectation. Our trip was during spring-break time, and there were three other families on board, two of which were multi-generational, like ours. There were an additional three children, all within our boys’ age range. We saw all of the highlights, blue- and red-footed boobies, frigate birds, marine and land iguanas, and the huge tortoises. We snorkeled with the sea lions as we looked down to see our guides, and the ship captain, swimming behind white-tipped sharks and using their video cameras to take photos. One highlight was when our guide spotted orcas from our panga (zodiac) and we followed them, along with the other pangas, for about half an hour, racing through the blue waters of the Pacific. Hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and just relaxing on the beaches of the Galapagos archipelago filled our days. Again, Allie arranged for Pepe, our private guide, and he made sure we “did it all.” Our son is trained as a chef, and he raved about the delicious food, asking the Theory chef for several recipes. The six children on board quickly befriended one another, and one night declared there would be a “kid’s table” at dinner.
I have used WOW travel planners for Spain, Morocco, Australia, South America, Montana and Wyoming, Norway, and other destinations. All have been very approachable, great listeners, and planned trips for us down to the last detail. Allie did the same for Ecuador, with Mashpi and the Galapagos. Thanks for the memories, Allie!
By the way, since I had used a number of WOW travel planners, we were eligible for a WOW Moment. It was so exciting when the captain invited us to the bridge for a special visit. There were appetizers and a toast. The captain had some props for the children to wear and captain’s gear for the rest of us.
Our travel specialist, Allie, did an outstanding job helping us to plan and coordinate the trip in a short period of time and managed to do so with multiple schedule/date changes. Allie made sure that we were taken care of every step of the way; and her selection/advice regarding hotels, restaurants, and excursions was spot-on in every instance. The trip itself was amazing, We traveled on the Theory, one of three twenty-passenger luxury yachts run by Ecoventura. The ship was immaculate, spacious and well-run by an outstanding crew. The two guides were very knowledgeable and helped to illuminate the amazing diversity of unique land and marine wildlife & fascinating geology in an interesting and entertaining manner, The food was plentiful and delicious and the (open-bar) drinks were tasty and freely available. A typical day started out with a breakfast buffet, a short trip by Zodiac out to an island for a guided tour, then a snorkeling excursion, then lunch, then kayaking, then another shore trip, then dinner and a briefing about the following day’s planned agenda. As you will note, they were busy days and each day felt like a new, unique adventure. It really was an outstanding trip.
If you are considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands, I am sure that many of you can probably figure out how to organize and arrange many of the details yourselves, but if you are looking for a professional travelers’ advocate to help navigate and handle the unexpected, and provide experienced guidance on where to go and what to do, you won’t go wrong selecting Allie and her team.
We enjoyed a wonderful January 2023 trip to the Galapagos that Allie helped us plan. We often plan our own trips, but for more challenging locations like Africa and Turkey, we have always used one of Wendy’s WOW Listers and as always, it didn’t disappoint for our January 2023 trip to the Galapagos. We actually came to the process late in the game, and would suggest that anyone planning this trip start 9-12 months out due to limited availability and high demand. Allie Almario was our wonderful connection who managed to find travel dates that fit our schedule despite a shorter timeline than we should have had. She listened to all our needs and goals for the trip (it was for our anniversary, thank you Allie for the lovely note and bubbly at our cabin!). We wanted a high-service, comfortable, small boat and, because one of us gets seasick, we wanted a stable vessel. Allie selected the Horizon because it is a trimaran and the dry-season months tend to have calmer seas (many passengers wore a Scopolamine patch)—and she made sure we had a lower cabin away from the engine.
After our plans were made, the ownership changed hands and the company refused to honor previous reservations. Allie managed to get us on a catamaran of the same size and dates (we had already made airline reservations) and she got us an upgrade to a suite. However, in reviewing the itinerary with her, we agreed that it had too much time on Santa Cruz, where we planned to spend four days after for scuba diving. Allie somehow managed to get us back on the Horizon for our original 5-day cruise (the B itinerary is fantastic)! The Horizon had been refreshed and was beautiful, all cabins have balconies. We had 14 guests (the boat has 8 cabins and holds 16) and 13 staff. They gave us reusable water bottles (as did Allie and the Finch Bay). The food was very good and plentiful and the service was outstanding. The naturalist, Andres, was fantastic (the government requires one guide for every 16 passengers). The boat had kayaks, wet suits (we brought our own snorkel/mask/fins but they have those as well) and walking sticks (handy on uneven terrain). The Horizon itinerary is active and full, with two snorkels (or kayaks for those who don’t swim) and two hikes a day.
In advance, Allie asked for information on food allergies/sensitivities that was shared with the boat. The chef made sure I had options that worked and the cruise director let me know about anything on the buffet I couldn’t eat. For anyone with food allergies, this is critical and Allie’s advance planning and the staff on the boat made my trip safe and easy. The same was done at Finch Bay, our hotel on Santa Cruz. Allie even had the allergy list translated into Ecuadorian Spanish! Allie is very organized and responsive, answering our many questions over the months leading up to the trip patiently and thoroughly. She kept us apprised of entry and Covid requirements, recommended footwear and clothing, restaurants, explained wet vs dry landings, emergency info, etc. She even asked for feedback after our trip to answer some questions for clients who were doing the same trip so she could provide the most current information.
All the logistics went off without a hitch, including airport pick-ups and drop-offs. We flew to Guayaquil and Allie requested that we have two nights there in case of any problems (we didn’t have any, but some people have). She arranged a half-day tour which had a nice guide, though the city is not that interesting. We stayed at the Finch Bay hotel, which is lovely, after the cruise for scuba diving (arranged on our own with Scuba Iguana, an excellent team and the most amazing place to scuba dive). The half day in Santa Cruz on the Horizon duplicated most of what we planned to do on land while there, but if you are just doing the cruise, it’s great. The most incredible part of the trip is of course the amazing opportunity to be up close with wildlife. We saw sea lions, giant tortoises, blue-footed and red-footed boobies, penguins, frigates, finches, flamingos, iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, tons of fish, sharks, manta rays, sting rays, eagle rays, and sea turtles. The abundance of life on land and in the sea is breathtaking.
Allie helped us plan a 2023 family trip to the Galapagos aboard the Petrel. Having just returned, it was one of the best family trips we have taken. We wanted a high-service, small boat setting and the Petrel was perfect. We had 15 guests and 12 staff members on-board. Accommodations were beautiful, food was terrific, service was outstanding. We spent two days diving from Santa Cruz then 5 days aboard the Petrel. We had unique memories and experiences each day: abundant sharks, turtles and rays. We were snorkeling with sea lions, penguins and manta rays. Unique bird life. Great naturalist. Unlike any trip we have taken. Thanks Allie!
We went to Ecuador and the Galapagos at the beginning of December. Allie Almario was our agent. We usually do all the arrangements ourselves but felt we needed assistance because we were becoming overwhelmed by the number of different boats to choose from. I would definitely recommend Allie, as she is very knowledgeable about the area. We started planning the trip in March because we thought travel would pick up later in 2022. We spent 2 days in Quito, which was more than enough—one day would have been fine—2 days in the Mindo Cloud Forest, hiking, visiting a butterfly preserve, an orchid garden and bird watching, and 8 days/7 nights in the Galapagos. The Cloud Forest was amazing and very enjoyable. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in birding. Our guide, Christine, who was also our guide in Quito, was very knowledgeable about the history of Ecuador and about birds and flora. We could not have asked for a better guide for our mainland stay. We booked our Galapagos trip on the Letty, a first class boat that held 20 passengers. Although it was fully booked when I looked about 3 weeks before our trip, there were only 11 people on our tour. This allowed us to have our cabin upgraded because of the amount of business Allie’s office gives Ecoventura. This was also the 3rd to the last tour for the Letty, as it is being replaced with another luxury boat. We could not have asked for much more from the trip. The guides were very knowledgeable, the crew friendly and helpful and the food was fine and plentiful. All in all we had a very enjoyable trip and are glad we went.
We just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Allie Almario was our true partner in the planning of this special experience. Allie is a great listener. She really learned the kind of trip we wanted and the diversity of activities and pacing we needed with three teenagers (ages 19, 16 and 16). As a consequence, Allie made great selections for us. We loved all of our hotels on the trip, including Hotel Mama Cuchara in Quito and Golden Bay Galapagos hotel in San Cristobal. She also made practical restaurant recommendations.
One of Allie’s best decisions was selecting Gustavo Cabezas as our guide on the mainland of Ecuador. He was the perfect guide for our family – deeply informative, fun, and energetic. Gustavo’s special connections enabled us to have special and unique experiences and his love of his country was contagious. Highlights of our time on the mainland include a visit to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world at the equator line) and taking the TeleferiQo cable car up the Pichincha volcano.
Our time in the Galapagos Islands was flat-out incredible. We saw sea lions (including hundreds of newborns), giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, parrot fish, sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, sergeant fish, sharks and green turtles. We really enjoyed our hikes, snorkeling and kayaking. We also enjoyed the Coral I, the 35-passenger ship, selected by Allie. We met wonderful people from all over the world and our teenagers made friends.
One area in which Allie and her team really shine is logistics. Every pick-up and drop-off ran perfectly, including one pick-up at 3:15 a.m. The help at the airport at numerous points of the trip was outstanding too. The airport in Quito is strangely confusing and we were happy for the assistance. At one point, we decided to change a scheduled activity and Allie was responsive at 6 a.m. in the morning and helped us make some adjustments. Overall, the trip was an A+. We will be forever grateful to Allie Almario and her team for a priceless experience.
We are living in Quito for a year. This little country offers so much magnificence to the curious traveler, and we are trying to cram it all into twelve months. Allie Almario was essential to creating our trip to the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador’s Amazonia. She put our trip together, found the right lodge for our family, and got the perfect rooms at a time that was ideal. It was tough because we did not start planning long enough in advance, but Allie’s knowledge of lodges and the region made it possible to get everything lined up in an instant. Without her expertise, I would have spent weeks doing research, and that likely would have meant missing out on getting rooms. Allie also got us a private guide, which was not necessary, but we thought it would allow us greater flexibility since we were travelling with kids. Turned out to be a great idea.
Napo Wildlife Center is a world-class lodge owned and run by the small local Añangu Kichwa community. They have committed to using ecotourism to save their community and their corner of the Amazon rainforest. Bottom line: They are knocking it out of the park. I cannot express how impressive their work and commitment is. In 1998, they were a small community, dealing with acute poverty, threatened by development, oil exploration, and the contamination of their water and forest. In that year, with little knowledge or experience in tourism, they decided they’d stave off the despoliation of their corner of the rainforest by starting a five-star ecotourism program. Learning about where the Añangu community was when they started this idea, and seeing all they have achieved in a couple decades…well…I just cannot wrap my head around their achievements or put into words how remarkable it all is. I am just brimming with awe and admiration for the Añangu and what they have accomplished.
The reason to go to Amazonia (or El Oriente, as it is called in Ecuador) is to see wildlife in hyper-diverse Amazonia, and wow did we ever see wildlife. We flew 1/2hr from Quito to Coca, Ecuador, hopped in a comfortable (not fancy) power boat for two hours, then transferred to a six-person canoe for the two-hour paddle to the lodge with the two guides who would introduce us to the Amazon rainforest over the next five days.
On that trip we saw weaverbirds and innumerable weaverbird nests, which are two to four feet in length. Just a marvel of construction. On the paddling portion of that journey, about 50 squirrel monkeys crossed the creek above us, within 30 feet of us, many with babies clinging to their backs. We also saw woolly monkeys. And we hadn’t even arrived at the lodge yet!
The lodge itself was magical. The staff was as friendly and helpful as could be. Really made us feel at home. In the TV room out back where the employees live, my son and I watched the World Cup finals with a bunch of staff and locals who had paddled in for the game. We were welcomed warmly, and we joined in and cheered with (or against) the rest of the crowd.
The bartender made delicious drinks. The food was tasty and plentiful. (I have no complaints at all, but to be frank, the food wasn’t at the same level as the rest of the place. Not that the food was bad by any measure, but maybe just that everything else set a tough standard to meet. ) The rooms were comfortable. The other guests were interesting, and we had fun sharing experiences with them all.
The guides are top-notch. Ecuador has a great system for educating and licensing guides. Many were from the local community. They knew every animal and plant in Spanish, English, Latin, Kichwa, and often local nicknames. Their ability to spot animals in the jungle thicket was extraordinary, and they did a great job finding ways to get us closer.
We brought our two kids, both around 10yrs old. The schedule for viewing animals was full, and the heat and humidity were a factor (85 or 90 degree highs, 80%+ humidity at all times), and that exhausted our kids. The staff was great about helping them with their exhaustion. I mean, our kids were not in any trouble, they were just beat. But the staff went above and beyond to help. It didn’t feel like they were trying to provide great service; it just felt like they cared, and wanted the kids to bounce back and enjoy their stay. Our guides smoothly revamped our schedule on the fly so the kids could rest, and we didn’t miss too much.
Another good thing Allie helped us with was getting us the one room (or one of the only rooms) at Napo WC that has a jacuzzi. With young kids, we knew they’d need a diversion in the midst of a lot of structured activities and nature expeditions. The jacuzzi was a big help.
While at Napo Wildlife Center, we saw six species of monkeys, and so many parrots, macaws, grebes, flycatchers. We saw snakes, frogs, and crazy looking crickets. We watched caimans and paiche (400lb river fish) from the boardwalk in front of our room. All to the spectral drone of howler monkeys in the distance, like a cold north wind gusting outside your door.
And Napo Wildlife Center has nearly no biting insects! Magical place.
Amazing. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We were looking for a multi-generational, active vacation with a strong nature component to it (group of 8 ranging from 8 years old to 75, with two very keen birdwatchers). Ecuador fit the bill and Allie organized an outstanding vacation for us. We started in Quito with a trip up the cable car on a perfect day where we had views of all the volcanoes surrounding the city, then lunch on the edge of a caldera, a visit to a museum on the equator (granddaughters loved this) and a quick tour round the old town. The next day it was off to the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon basin. We had beautiful weather, great accommodation and Allie had arranged two private guides, one the top birder in the Amazon region of Ecuador and the other a more general guide for the rest who wanted a more varied trip (visit to the parrot clay licks, cultural center and views of the many species of monkeys). After three nights there, we headed off for four nights in Mashpi, an outstanding luxury lodge in the middle of the cloud forests. Again we had two different guides so everyone could participate in the activities they wanted. The final leg of our trip was in the Galapagos, where the remaining 6 of our group went on board a luxury catamaran (The Ocean Spray) with 10 other passengers and 12 crew, including an excellent naturalist. The group dynamics were outstanding and with a combination of snorkeling and land based-trips we had great views of most of the Galapagos wild life. Think hammerhead sharks, penguins, sea lions and turtles swimming next to you, and birds galore and giant tortoises on the land. The trip was a four-night trip which included one of the outer islands and I think was perfect length for our group. Our final night was in Hotel del Parque in Guayaquil and finished with an outstanding meal on the terrace at Casa Julian, surrounded by the sounds of an Ecuadorian wedding. All transfers worked perfectly, all flights were on time and no lost luggage. Thank you Allie!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We just returned (May 2022) from a fabulous trip to the Galapagos that was originally scheduled for May of 2020. The original trip planned with the help of Allie Almario included both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos and got postponed 2x during the pandemic as has happened to so many travelers.
In January as Covid was surging again, we decided to break the trip into 2 pieces as we did not want to risk entry into 2 countries. Allie quickly jumped in to help us secure the original 8 day Galapagos cruise as planned, and we are now planning an extended trip to Peru in May 2023. The pandemic has forced us all to make choices with ever changing information, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of her help in adjusting our original plans.
For the Galapagos, Allie listened to what we wanted from the trip and suggested a newer small boat that provides balconies for each cabin and accommodates only 20 people. In fact, we had only 14 guests when we arrived! Before we left, Allie got a call from the boat company, who was trying to accommodate a family group, offering us a free upgrade to a suite. What a testament to her connections that she got the call! It was a treat to have bigger windows from which to see the beautiful vistas!
Prior to our trip, Allie asked for information on food allergies/sensitivities that was shared with the boat. At each meal, the chef made sure I had options that worked for me, and the cruise director made sure I was clear on what was in each dish on the buffet line or plated for dinner. For anyone with food allergies, this is so important, and their help made the trip safe and enjoyable for me! The boat also provided walking sticks and full wetsuits for each of us which was much appreciated.
At the end of the trip, Allie ensured that a nurse came to meet us at our hotel the day before we flew back to the US to perform required covid testing with results that were returned by email within hours. That allowed us to provide necessary documentation to check in the night before our flight. The value of having this part of travel made easy cannot be over-stated!
With Allie’s help, we had a truly fabulous trip!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Allie is spectacular. She planned and executed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador that could not have been better. Her planning prior to the trip, selection of boat and hotels were beyond expectations and the service throughout the trip was exceptional.
We would easily book another trip with Allie, so amazing.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Were we going or were we not? All plans were up in the air. This trip to the Galapagos for our 50th wedding anniversary was originally booked for 2020, rebooked for 2021, and rebooked again for 2022. Two weeks before we were ready to depart, one of our traveling companions tested positive for Covid. Through it all, Allie was a calm and patient guide. From the beginning, after getting to know us and our expectations, she planned an exciting trip tailored exactly to our needs and desires. By the time we got back all negative tests a day before we were to depart, we were so glad that we had Allie working for us to make our dreams a reality.
Once we departed until the end of the trip, everything worked without a glitch. That was part luck and part Allie’s planning. Flying into Quito was the first breathtaking moment as our plane came through the mountains and its the stunning valley. We were picked up by Gabby from South Expeditions and taken into the Old Town where we were checked into Casona de la Ronda. The charm of the hotel immersed us instantly into everything Ecuadorian. Walking up the stairs was no problem as our luggage had been quickly carried to our room. The front desk recommended the restaurant next door for dinner, Casa Los Gerranios. What a gem. It was our first chance to try the local drink, canelazo. The flaming potato soup was both a show and delicacy. My husband ordered another delicacy, the guinea pig. He’s more adventurous than me.
Early next morning, a nurse came to the hotel to give us the necessary PCR test required to get into the Galapagos. It was processed while we were out touring the city. The hotel printed and delivered the results to us before the promised time. On the tour, Alejandra was a fun and knowledgeable guide. The day was filled with history, interesting sights, and good food.
Quito was just a tune-up, though, for the main feature, the Galapagos Islands. The excitement was building as our panga took us out into the harbor to board our expedition yacht, The Letty. It was just as Allie had described it. We weren’t interested in luxury. Our priorities were a small passenger-to-guide ratio and intimate feel. There were 14 passengers with two naturalists. Perfect. Everything on The Letty was well-maintained and worked well. The yacht was kept extremely clean from rinsing all feet and equipment after snorkeling or hiking to having beds made and rooms cleaned while we were at breakfast. The rooms were a little tight, but it just added to the more authentic, remote feel we were going for. Covid seemed like a very distant thought as all on board had been tested, and we basically saw no one else the whole week.
But, of course, it was the experiences that were the highlight. We saw every one of the “bucket list” animals, birds, or marine life that we hoped. And, the excitement of the guides was catching as we would see something special like a 2-day-old sea lion, mating frigates, or dancing blue-footed boobies. Animals and birds barely noticed us. A few times, someone would say, “Don’t step on that iguana” as one would be resting right on our path. Snorkeling was special. There was always a guide in the water who would poke his head up and call, “Coming your way” so we didn’t miss anything special. Two pangas with crew were always nearby keeping an eye out for anyone who needed help or was ready to get out of the water. I even got comfortable with the non-aggressive “Galapagos” sharks. And as we boarded The Letty, we were always greeted with treats and something special to drink.
Our captain, David, was accessible and skilled. He made small adjustments as circumstances dictated. A big one, though, was the night we went off our course to get a view of Wolf volcano erupting. All the passengers voted to be awakened in the middle of the night to see it. We all trundled on to the deck to see the show. Two hours later, the captain woke us again for an even better view. No one wanted to miss that experience.
After our wonderful week in the Galapagos, Allie arranged for us to spend a couple of nights at Hacienda Zuleta about two hours north of Quito. The stay was extraordinary. Zuleta was owned at one time by the president of Ecuador. It is absolutely beautiful, but, with family pictures still sitting on surfaces, making it feel like you’re a guest in someone’s home. In fact, you are as family members come stay often. We took a carriage ride up to the condor sanctuary, arranged by Allie, and rode horses to a nearby waterfall. Each evening there would be a fire in our wing’s fireplace with cheese from the farm and wine set out for us. What a perfect end to our trip.
We felt absolutely secure knowing that Allie and her team had the knowledge and resources to help us if we experienced any problems either big or small. Allie’s expertise and attention to detail simply translated to an amazing trip.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We had a fabulous trip. Allie did a great job customizing the trip to fit our interests and goals. We started the trip off the beaten path at the Hacienda Zuleta which was simply fabulous. I love historical inns and at 400 years old it hit the mark for me. The hiking and horse back riding was superb. The staff was incredibly friendly and tried to make everything perfect for the guests. One of my daughters is a skilled rider and she and her horse guide (Jose who was an angel) went out galloping through fields, mountain trails and back roads each day for hours. She had a tremendous time.
The next stop was the Galapagos Islands which we did via a land based tour. Again the hotels were unique and charming with first rate staff. Our guides were outstanding. They went out of their way to make sure everything went smoothly and we were having the best experience possible. Most importantly the wildlife was spectacular, abundant and ruling the land and sea. All of our tours were either private tour or small group tours (2 families) so we felt our experiences were unique and we were not on a conveyor belt.
Everyone we connected with was friendly, interesting and happy to share their paradise with us. I would highly recommend a trip to Ecuador and Allie’s crew.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Allie Almario planed a 2-stage trip for 5 five of us ranging in age from 18-53 yrs, visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos from 12/27 to 1/10/2022. The first week was in Quito and the surrounding mountainous areas including Mindo and Otavalo. The last week was spent on an out-of-this-world cruise in the Galapagos.
First of all, without Allie there is no way we would have been able to correctly negotiate the shifting sands of COVID regulations in Ecuador, the Galapagos islands and for our return to the US. I mean this. Talk about value. It would have been a full-time job to get everything in order for all 5 of us and likely, we would have failed to do it all correctly, getting turned back and losing our money.
Over the month prior to the trip she sent weekly and then bi-weekly emails updating us on the requirements and forms, which kept changing. She had us send copies of all tests results etc… to her and she kept them on the ready in case we encountered any difficulties. The cruise company that Allie set us up with and the agency, required travel insurance of some sort. Allie gave us good recommendations on this, such as check with your credit card, it may have coverage, and if not, here are recommendations. Allie made certain that both our driver and guide were fully vaccinated and they both wore N95 or KF94s the entire time. They spoke beautiful English but were also willing to let a few of us try out our Spanish when we felt up to it. As our travels from Reno began during the biggest storm we have seen in 10 years, Allie she kept in touch with the staff on the ground in Quito regarding our delays. Sure enough, when we exited the plane in Quito, our driver, Daniel, whisked us out of the airport and directly into our Mercedes Sprinter as he collected our bags. Unfortunately, given the delay due to the storm, our bags missed the connecting flight. Daniel went to speak to the baggage office in Quito before we even left the airport grounds. The local travel agency started making calls and sure enough, the bags were delivered to our hotel the following day without incident. Super. I had wanted to go straight to the Galapagos cruise, but Allie had strongly advised that we leave lead time in Quito beforehand – just exactly for reasons like this! If we hadn’t planned the trip with the lead time, we wouldn’t have had our luggage for our 8-day cruise!
Allie booked us in at spectacular but smaller places, thereby avoiding crowded areas. The mild weather allowed most of our touring to take place outside. We were impressed with how organized, efficient and strict, but sensible, the Ecuadorians were regarding COVID safety. Allie’s local partners chose the perfect driver and guide for us. They both had university degrees in tourism. Additionally, our guide, Kristina, had a second degree in Environmental Science. She was an absolute fountain of information and perfect for science geeks like us! Kristina and Daniel were a great pair, we always felt perfectly safe, and were so impressed with how smoothly they organized our transitions. This was particularly key when we had to swing through the Quito airport and get pre-Galapagos PCR testing, as well as when we went back for our Rapid Antigen test prior to our trip home. They had it so dialed in that we waited no more than 10 minutes despite the long line of people. Again, talk about value! Who wants to spend an hour waiting in line at the airport clinic multiple times during the trip? Additionally, Allie emailed us repeatedly reminding us to email results to her and print them out at the hotel as well. Then Allie made sure to email our Galapagos PCR test results to the cruise ship and confirmed their receipt! All of this was crucial as vaccination status, test results and temperature checks came, at times, unexpectedly and we had to be ready.
All in all, despite the initial luggage delay, everything went seamlessly and almost unbelievably, we all tested negative each time.
So… what are the can’t miss parts of our trip?
1) That Galapagos cruise with Ecoventura (we were on the Theory) !!! Indescribable experience. Small ship – only 14 people on a 20 person ship. Both of the other families had college/young adult kids. We were a perfect match and this was not entirely an accident. Their sister ship, the Origin, traveled in tandem with us and had a very different passenger mix. Our crew struck the perfect tone between high-level service and a more casual, friendly attitude, to match the young people on the boat. This was worth the price tag!! Trust me!! Our naturalists were top notch. As a bunch of science nerds we were impressed! really! Perhaps most notable was that absolutely everyone, from Captain Peter, on down to our panga drivers was equally excited the wildlife sightings. You could see the excitement on the staffs’ faces as they ran to grab cameras and Go-Pros when a pod of pilot whales followed us or when penguins were sighted diving in front of us while snorkeling. Our captain took the ship 2 hours out of its way so that we could get a good view of the volcano that started erupting on Isabella, necessitating a longer nighttime navigation for him and his first mate. When you added the almost unbelievable geology and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands to the outstanding ship and crew, it was magic!
2) Otavalo and the Hacienda Cusín outside of Quito. The Hacienda is such a special place. Highlights include; the buildings dating back to 1605, the game room, old fashioned squash courts, horseback riding, beautiful monastery, the hot water bottles at the foot of your bed and the private cooking class that they designed for us on their expansive back lawn. I would go back in a heartbeat and stay longer. The surrounding area is beautiful with San Pablo Lake and the Parque Condor which houses injured birds of prey including the Condor! We visited traditional indigenous weavers and Andean instrument musicians and craftsman as well as the lively and well-known Otavalo market.
I am out of time and breath, but could go on and on. The experiences were unforgettable, but none of them would have happened without Allie’s understanding of our interests and her sensational organizational skills. Thank you Allie and thank you to the local staff at South Expeditions, as well as our beloved crew of the Theory! And thank you Wendy and staff, without whom, we would not have found these folks.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Allie was fantastically responsive and made sure we had all the information we need. She steered us to a great cruise ship and we had a fantastic time. She saved our bacon twice on the trip: once when the airline abruptly moved our flight two hours earlier at the last minute (she had a man at the airport hold the flight and usher us through) and again when our COVID test didn’t come back on time (she made some calls and miraculously the lab sent the results immediately). Very glad to have had her in our corner!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL This trip with another couple was initially planned for fall 2020 (planning began months before COVID hit) and was cancelled, postponed, rescheduled and rescheduled again- and then right as we were leaving, Omicron hit and travel rules (and concerns) changed by the day. Allie made all the difference in keeping us sane and secure in our decision to travel, whether it was keeping us informed about rules and the situation on the ground (by gathering intel from recent clients), advocating for us (since obviously travel insurance covered none of the cancellations due to COVID), to COVID logistics.
After using WOW List planners for years, I’d never considered planning this trip on my own, but this was one where having an experienced planner made a HUGE difference. The recommendations for the specific Galapagos boat (Elite) and Mashpi Lodge were a perfect fit for us and would recommend both to anyone who want a truly unique experience. There were a few on-the-ground glitches (one extremely disturbing one that should have NEVER happened) that she worked fast and hard to fix quickly, and apologized for other’s service disruptions.
It was so great to travel internationally again. In many ways we felt more comfortable and safer (COVID-wise) than domestically, since everyone was vaxed and tested (in our case 3 times before getting on the boat) that we felt like we were in a safe bubble with others on the boat for that week. Similarly, Mashpi had a very strict protocol for guests and staff.
And the Galapagos was EVERY BIT and MORE than I’d hoped for.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL For our December 2021 trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, we sailed seven nights on Endemic, the 16-passenger luxury catamaran, and spent two nights in Quito and two in the Andes at Hacienda Zuleta. Allie was on top of all Covid testing requirements, which changed after the time we left home and prior to entry into the Galapagos, and she arranged all additional testing needed. She is a world-class travel planner. Suites on Endemic were luxurious for a sailing vessel, our onboard naturalist was top-notch, and the service was outstanding. For example, when a guest dropped his SLR camera from the panga upon returning to the boat, the crew immediately marked the spot, and the captain was able to scuba to a depth of 60 feet and retrieve it. As for Hacienda Zuleta, the country home and working farm of former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza, it was magical. The horseback riding, hiking, and condor rescue center were glorious, and our two-hour conversations each evening with Margarita, daughter of Galo Plaza, were filled with stories and laughter.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Extraordinary! Allie’s expertise and organizational skills are top notch. Even though we have traveled much of the World, this was our first trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, South America. There was no way we could have traveled to this destination without Allie’s expert guidance and oversight. Every step of the way was detailed, organized, and memorable. The hotels and hacienda Allie chose were super! The in-Country Staff were outstanding: Patty, Alejandro, Gabriella, Jonathan, and Stephy. Each one represented their Country with honor, dignity, and respect; and their knowledge of their history and culture was so impressive. From land to sea, our transfers were right-on! Loved the Coral II, their entire Staff of 11, our two expert National Park Guides: Alejandro Villa (Sr.) and Berto! Their expertise, humor, and fellowship while touring the Islands for five days was beyond any experience we have had. It was magical, but very thought provoking! Every step of the way we felt safe and cared for by the entire Staff (dingy operators were outstanding); the meals were fantastic (thank you Andres and Staff). Christian, the on-ship restaurant/bar manager, was always there to make every meal an event full of laughter and comradery. The Ecuadorian people are warm, kind, loving, and humble…..authentic! Their arts and crafts are impeccable. We were so impressed with Allie’s professionalism and knowledge and our desire to see more, we are planning another trip back to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands next year! Allie is a super-star! We are forever grateful to her for this remarkable adventure.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Trip to Galapagos and Ecuador – November 9-18, 2021
The planning that Allie and her team did was outstanding. We especially enjoyed the hotels and accommodations that she set for us. Each of them was unique and very impressive. In the hotels, it seemed we received the best rooms that they had and we appreciated the beauty and location of each. In addition, all of our contacts were exactly as Allie had said they would be; the people who met us at the airport and hotels at exactly the right time and our trip was logistically flawless. Allie also helped us select the right itinerary for our trip to the Galapagos. The 5 days and 4 nights ship fit our needs exactly. The land trips, both wet and dry landings, were outstanding. The naturalist on board was spectacular as both a guide and a naturalist. The trip to Quito and the hacienda were great – the highlights of each area.
The most important thing was Allie listened to our needs and goals and her suggestions were “spot on”. Without her unique insight we would not have seen what we did. The trip would not have matched our needs. Allie is a true expert and we would recommend her highly.
During these Covid times, we had to be flexible, but Allie provided us with options and kept things going. Thanks to Allie and the Wendy Perrin WOW List.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We planned our trip with Allie to Ecuador pre-pandemic, in 2019, for March 2020. We actually took our trip post-pandemic, in March 2021. Back in those halcyon pre-pandemic days of 2019/20 when we planned the trip, Allie was fantastic at accommodating our complicated schedules (kids and I flying in from West Coast, my husband joining us later in the trip from the East Coast). It’s rueful to look back on those days when our busy lives meant we “had” to leave on a certain day and could “only” make certain sailings. How naive we were! Nevertheless, Allie was able to put together an amazing trip on limited notice even with our (now laughable) schedule demands – demands we now know were so artificial and that we will probably never see again for a long time (“we have to be back for school”; “I have to attend this industry conference with five thousand other people and will join you later”).
The pandemic hit two weeks before our departure. We thought we had lost everything as we had already paid for the entire trip. Amazingly, Allie was able to retain ALL of our bookings. Honestly, I don’t know how she did that. And it’s not something I could have ever navigated. This is exactly why you use a talented and experienced agent. The only thing we lost was our international airfare — which I had handled. (Note to others — use only legacy carriers for the foreseeable future. I often used small, budget carriers pre-pandemic. For the next few years, I will only use legacy carriers. It was impossible to recover my $7K of international airfare with the low-cost carrier. By contrast, I was able to secure a $12K credit of international airfare with a legacy carrier for my cancelled summer 2020 Europe trip.)
In March 2021, we actually took the trip. Allie was even more amazing in this post-Covid world. A week before our departure, Ecuador changed the rules, allowing vaccinated people to skip Covid testing. Allie informed us within the hour of this happening — although it was still news to the airline desk agent when we checked in! Travel in the post-Covid era is challenging. Flight schedules seem to change daily, even during our trip! Allie was always there to make the necessary adjustments. Our international arrival and departure changed, our domestic flights changed repeatedly (with one even being cancelled), our ship changed. Allie handled it all. We never could have done any of this on our own. And most importantly, we never had to worry or fret about it, because we knew Allie was taking care of it all.
It was incredibly reassuring to know that we had Allie watching our back during the trip, to troubleshoot for us. During our trip, one of my sons was ill, which, to put it mildly, is distressing during pandemic travel — Allie knew via the lodge and texted us immediately. (He was fine.) The details on one of the PCR tests for our US return was incorrect — Allie was able to immediately contact the lab and get a corrected report emailed to us. Her calm and grounded demeanor gave us great comfort, especially with pre-trip jitters and generalized low-level anxiety during the trip. I knew that if anything went sideways in Ecuador that we weren’t alone.
Travel is unpredictable in this post-Covid world. A WOW List planner is vital to ensuring a successful, enjoyable trip no matter your travel history or expertise. We are experienced travelers, have lived abroad, and, pre-pandemic, travelled internationally five to six times a year. But we absolutely could not have done this trip without Allie.
It goes without saying that Allies hotel picks, scheduling, transfers etc. were top-notch. She recommended a few days in the Highlands at Hacienda Zuleta, which wasn’t on our radar at all and ended up being one of the highlights and my kids’ favorite hotel. And her recommendation of La Selva Jungle Lodge was spot-on. This was our second time in the Amazon. La Selva blew our last experience (Brazil) out of the water. I felt I was taking a collegiate level tropical ecology/biology course. It was everything that I dreamed the Amazon would be. The Galapagos are as fantastic as reported, you feel like you are living in a National Geographic special (I could almost hear Sir David Attenborough’s voice).
We don’t know why it took us so long to visit Ecuador — it is an amazing destination and should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.
We had a wonderful trip to the highlands of Ecuador, then an 8 day/7 night cruise on Theory, a Relais and Chateaux boat touring the Galapagos. There were no particular problems or issues, but whenever I had a question, no matter how minor, Allie replied within an hour or so! We spent two days in Quito, then two days at Hacienda Zuleta. What a wonderful find! It’s a working dairy farm owned by the family of two former Ecuadorean presidents. The daughter/granddaughter Marguerita joined us both evenings for cocktails and shared stories of growing up on the farm with her family. Our rooms were heated by wood burning stoves with hot water bottles in our beds. Wonderful food, great hiking – it was a wonderful way to spend a couple of days.
Allie was very helpful in choosing the boat for the Galapagos. We were on Theory with no more than 20 guests. Each guide can have a maximum of 16 guests, as a result there were two for the boat making for smaller groups touring the islands. The crew was wonderful! We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Galapagos. Our group was my husband and I, our two adult daughters and their boyfriends. There were a lot of activities, and plenty of space on the boat to relax.
Allie Almario did an excellent job of planning our trip to the Galapagos, from providing very useful information on hotels, restaurants, and sights for our first stop, Guayaquil, to securing our cabin on Ecoventura’s Theory ship for an outstanding Galapagos tour. I had already identified this company when I spoke to Allie, and she confirmed it was a very special cruise. This trip now ranks as one of my top five trips of all time, and I’ve traveled quite a bit in my 58 years.
Our airport/hotel transportation in Guayaquil was terrific, with very courteous, English-speaking drivers and spotlessly clean vehicles. We were escorted to the counter at the Guayaquil airport by our driver, and handed off to another very helpful and friendly person, George, who helped us check our baggage and move forward to the gate.
The Wyndham hotel in Guayaquil is not a luxury hotel, but it is wonderfully comfortable and in a great location. It also has an excellent restaurant. And the service is more like a four-star hotel. We were upgraded to a suite with a Jacuzzi on our return trip, when we spent one night in Guayaquil. We loved overlooking the river/malecon, and strolling the area. There is also a great new fine dining restaurant/bar 50 yards from the hotel, Porto y Barca, in a modern setting overlooking the river.
I would definitely call Allie again and use her services. Because our ship provided binoculars and water bottles, I wish we had not spent money on these items, as Allie told us we needed to bring these things. On the other hand, she recommended we buy a digital camera, and we were so glad we did because if we had used our iPhone, the battery would have run down very quickly, and we would have missed a lot of great photo ops.
The Galapagos cruise was amazing. Our guides were superb, and the ship captain and crew provided very good cooking and services. Go upstairs for breakfast. Come back down and your cabin looks like you haven’t lived in it. And what cabins. The layout and the space for your things is ingenious. Lots of cubby and closet space, etc. for a small boat. We had a barbecue party on the upper deck one night, serenaded by the ship band, and then danced to pop tunes. There were lots of options to snorkel or walk the islands, and if you wanted to skip something and relax on the boat, no one made you feel like your choice was the wrong one. I am still sleeping like a baby six nights after getting home too. The wildlife is better than you can imagine, just extraordinary.
Allie Almario was beyond excellent. Every step of our vacation was perfect. Someone was always where they were supposed to be and ready to get us on our way. Prior to our trip to Galapagos she talked with me many times to customize our trip to what exactly we wanted. Our Ship the Infinity was wonderful with an excellent staff and guides. Sam and Eric could not have been better. When we arrived at Miami airport on the way to Ecaudor we discovered one
of our family had her expired Passport. A call to Allie on that Saturday was responded to and new travel plans were made. all worked out to the best.
Our guide in and around Quito ( Wilson ) was fantastic Allie could not have been better just a perfect trip.
Starting with the least and ending with the most…
We traveled to Ecuador from October 19 to November 3, 2019, using Allie’s expertise to help us plan what we hoped would be the trip of a lifetime. Originally planned for 2018, we had to cancel because of a health issue, so Allie had to deal with us for two years instead of one! Because we were going for the exposure to nature, we wanted only a little bit of time in Quito to hit the highlights. Unfortunately, the riots in Quito had literally ended just a few days before we departed, so out of an abundance of caution, Allie rebooked our Old Town accommodations (Patio Andaluz) to the financial district (Le Parc). This was a responsible move, of which I approved; unfortunately it meant an awful lot of driving to get to the teleferico (gondola) ride and our tour of Old Town. Ecuador traffic rivals any busy American city you’ve ever seen, minus the rules. Our visit to the Equator was touristy but fun, the teleferico less so because the view was obscured by clouds and at that elevation it’s really hard to breathe. Still, we did get glimpses of the city of Quito as a long, long ribbon set in the valley. The Old Town city tour was moderately interesting — I’m not a big fan of church architecture — but we loved seeing locals going about their business and hawking their wares on the street. The razor wire was still all over the place (from the riots) as were armed guards. I think I might have been the only one to notice.
Next, it was on to Mashpi in the rain and cloud forest, a 3.5 hour drive from Quito in a comfortable private car. Allie had let the staff at Mashpi know that we were celebrating our 11th anniversary and — I don’t want to give away the surprises — the staff helped us celebrate with two wonderful, unexpected moments. The place itself is gorgeous with the most abundant bird life and never ending fascinations. Our guide Manolo was stellar and we appreciated that he was local. Our time in Mashpi was full of excursions, yet relaxing and soothing too. Highly recommend.
Another day in Quito before heading out to the Galapagos. We spent the day in Otavalo and visited the indigenous market there. It’s famous for being the largest indigenous market in S. America, but the majority of the wares being sold are mass produced. Still, you can find some truly original pieces but you’ll pay for them. Next door, the covered farmer’s market was jaw-dropping. Really, don’t miss it. We had lunch and a workshop at a private home in Quito where we learned about the culture, the process of weaving, and even the etiquette of how women dress from a delightful woman who spoke no English (our guide translated). It was very interesting and a glimpse into real life there.
Finally, the Galapagos trip, on the Grace, a small boat with a storied history. I had harassed Allie endlessly about whether to pay the significantly higher fee to travel on the Grace versus other ships. She used the Socratic method of answering me, not pushing me one way or the other, but was sure to give me not just the highs but the lows of traveling on a yacht that size. A small boat is susceptible to more ocean movement than a larger one. So when we chose the Grace we went armed with seasick medicine and a good thing too. We encountered some truly memorable turbulence on our long navigations, but we were prepared and had no problem. In fact, because we weren’t the slightest bit nauseous, we treated the pitching and rolling and crashing like a very expensive theme park ride! I won’t even go into what happened during our visit to the Galapagos Islands because no words can describe how wonderful it was. One other tip Allie gave me turned out to be so true: on a small ship like the Grace, you are also paying for the quality of the guides. And ours was preternaturally gifted. I can’t imagine experiencing the Galapagos without him.
Everything that Allie told us/prepared us for was accurate, including her admonitions about sunscreen. All the transfers and shuttles and pick ups (except for the last one at the Wyndham) were on time and seamless. We never had to think about a thing. All we had to do was focus on the place, the experiences, and each other. We did indeed get our trip of a lifetime. I would not hesitate to recommend Allie to help you plan YOUR Ecuadorian trip of a lifetime!
We had a very good trip to Ecuador. Allie put together our entire itinerary with very little input or help from us. We knew we wanted to go to the Galapagos, we knew we wanted to spend a few extra days exploring the rest of the country, and we had a very short window of time available for the trip to accommodate our teenagers and their busy schedules. Allie took the information we provided and put together a great itinerary. We were well taken care of during the entire trip – almost spoiled with all of the assistance and care. The boat in the Galapagos was exactly as she described it. We saw amazing, beautiful wildlife and met very interesting people. We loved our hotel in Quito and our guide was excellent. Many of us experienced altitude sickness (Allie had warned us) and the guide was flexible and accommodating with our schedule. Our last stop was a night at a grand Hacienda that we all enjoyed very much. I would highly recommend working with Allie to put together your trip. The more information you provide to her, the better she can plan your adventure. We also fell in love with Ecuador and hope to visit again soon.
1st: She very energetically and creatively catered to my needs as an individual traveler and not to be in groups.
2nd: My wish not to be in groups
3rd: Stay in the Simon Bolivar Suite in Hacienda Andaluza; visit both sets of lava tunnels in Royal Palms and Bellavista on Santa Cruz since they are both quite different
Avoid two train rides in Aluisi since there is only a half hour on the train and the rest of the time in tourist traps.
Allie steered us right into an awesome trip to the Galapagos with time at the end of the trip spent in a grand Hacienda in the Andes north of Quito.
The entire trip went off without a hitch. Their Ecuadorian partners were knowledgeable, friendly and flexible when we hit a spot of rainy weather.
The “Grace” exceeded all of our highest expectations.
Accommodations were perfect giving us a good feel for the local culture.
For help putting a “once in a lifetime” Galapagos trip together you will not do better than Allie.
Is it Ecuador? Is it the people of Galapagos? Is it Allie? Yes, yes and yes. Every single person we encountered, especially the extremely well trained naturalists, were incredibly knowledgable and capable and earnest in their love of the Enchanted Islands. Despite all the sand, and rock, salt air and salt water- all our accommodations and boats on our primarily land-based tour were super clean. The staff at the Angermeyer were very conscientious and communicative, as well as personable.
We were incredibly lucky in terms of visibility and animal sightings, but the guides were so in tune, they knew exactly where, when and how the animals would appear. Cue the sea lions, schools and schools of fish, rays, sharks, penguins, boobies, turtles, tortoises, iguanas and whales! And the food- bring on the langosta, prawns and patacones! Even a quick layover in Guayaquil turned into a surprisingly restful and luxurious moment. Most special was the private boat tour Allie and her team arranged – who wouldn’t feel safe with a former fisherman and his first mate with a trained guide? We arrived at a favorite spot when the tide was just right and the other boats had gone. Our guide made sure we knew how to snorkel, and our equipment was working. Then all the moments we hoped to experience actually happened. You don’t even feel like you are snorkeling- you are just IN the sea, waiting your turn for the sea turtles in front of you to finish snacking and having their shells cleaned by tiny little fish, and you are just one of the creatures resting upside down in the water like your buddies the sea lions.
Any small (very small) logistical hiccups were addressed immediately, and we had 3 contact phone numbers (which everyone personally answered) and an email just in case. Worth it!
Allie was instrumental in the planning stages of our trip to the Galapagos as she was well informed about the different live aboard options & the itineraries. Not only was she able to get us booked on our first choice ship, the Alya, but at a far better rate than the published price! It was a fabulous segment of our trip. We also were more than grateful that, when our original flight into Guayaquil, Ecuador was cancelled and our new flight arrived at a very late hour, she made sure there was someone at the airport to pick us up and deliver us to our hotel at that late hour. That was so appreciated! She understood our desire to experience the real culture of Ecuador and arranged many wonderful day trips to the countryside & coastal areas of Guayaquil and the mountain communities near Quito. Our visits to local farms, a banana plantation and a cocoa plantation were memorable. Everyday, the food was better than the day before! Our guides were all exceptional and our accommodations at historic hotels and haciendas were more than expected! La Casona de la Ronda, our hotel in the center of old town Quite, was wonderful! In short, Allie took care of every detail to insure we had a wonderful experience! We definitely recommend Allie to any travelers who want an amazing trip to Ecuador!
PS: Tricia celebrated her birthday on the day we left the Galapagos & arrived in Quito, Ecuador. Both the staff on the ship and the hotel were informed of this & had small complimentary celebrations for her birthday. Such a nice surprise!
We visited Guayaquil, the Galapagos Islands and Quito. I started the planning process just a few months before we left, which I knew wasn’t ideal. Allie Almario helped book the perfect trip for us, taking into consideration the diverse interests of my family members. She was able to secure reservations at hotels that were ideal for our family, book tours that we all enjoyed including a fun day at working farm outside of Guayaquil where we made our own artisan chocolate and where we went tubing in a river. I would highly recommend Allie for help in planning a trip to South America. She was extremely professional and organized and I appreciated her attention to detail. She helped us find places and things to do that we wouldn’t have found on our own. And on top of her expert advice, she was a pleasure to work with. My advice for working with Allie is to give her detailed information about your specific interests and needs of each family members. She is extremely knowledgeable. Armed with information, she can work magic.
Allie gave us an incredible mixture of the country of Ecuador from the Amazon to the Andes and then on to the Galápagos Islands. Our trip started with a focus on the Galápagos but with her expertise and ability to read our group she added two beautiful stops beforehand. We felt like we had such a perfect chance to really see many sides of the country. The properties she picked for us and locations were perfect, our guides were very knowledgeable and caring and a true pleasure to spend time with that made the trip extra special. A big thank you to Allie for those arrangements. We would not have changed a thing. A wonderful and educational and relaxing experience
Allie planned a very smooth and enjoyable trip to the Galapagos for us. We flew to Guayaquil for a day and a half and were met by a charming guide who showed us around the city. We stayed at the Wyndham Hotel which was lovely and very well located. Our guide whisked us back to the airport and got us settled for our flight to the islands. The boat that Allie helped us select, the Ocean Spray, was fantastic. Lovely large cabins with balconies, and only 14 guests total on the boat (I think there was a crew of 12). Our naturalist took us out on three expeditions each day and we saw many different environments and animal species. We had a briefing before dinner each night and it was most informative. Thank you Allie for an outstanding trip.
Allie did an excellent job for our group on our trip to the Galapagos. We are four couples who have traveled extensively, and we had high expectations for this trip. Allie helped us select an outstanding catamaran, the Alya. The ship was nothing short of luxurious–it was spacious, the crew was pleasant and accommodating, and the food was excellent. Our naturalist guide was knowledgable, and dedicated to making sure we all saw everything we wanted to see. All of the logistics were perfectly handled–we were met at each juncture and transfers were seamless. We enjoyed the beautiful Hotel du Parque where we stayed in Guayaquil prior to transferring to the ship. I would recommend Allie without reservation for her knowledge, her helpfulness and her professionalism. She succeeded in planning a trip for us that we will never forget!
We contacted Wendy Perrin for our family trip to the Galapagos because we wanted a high quality unique experience organized by someone who knew the destination well. She connected us with Allie Almario. Our desired travel time was the first week of January, and we first called her in June. Initially, we were told that everything of quality was sold out for that time, as it was one of their prime seasons. About a week later, we got a call that there had been a cancellation on one of the better caliber ships….Galapagos Legend, so we booked it. In addition to the cruise, we were looking for transportation to and from the Ecuadorian airports, and personal tour guides in Guayaquil and Quito for our group of five. Allie’s team set all of that up for us, in addition to the air travel to and from the Galapagos. The tour guides were pleasant and knowledgeable, and the transportation vans were roomy and on time. The hotel they arranged in Guayaquil was probably one of the best there, and the restaurant that the guide took us to in Cumbaya (Quito), was excellent.
The cruise on the Galapagos Legend was an activity packed eco-tour. We were busy from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day. The naturalist guides were very knowledgeable and accommodating. We saw everything that we wanted to see on our 5 day, 4 night tour. Blue footed boobies, sea turtles, giant tortoises, sea lions, land and sea iguanas, all kinds of other birds, etc. We got to swim with young sea lions and sea turtles. The animals there really have no fear of people, and we were able to see everything up close in their natural habitat. The ship itself was a refurbished 1960s era Vietnam hospital ship. It was clean, the staff was very nice and accommodating, but I wouldn’t describe it as luxurious. It did the job. The food was good, but the hours of operation were a little narrow. Overall, I would rate the eco-tour part of things a 5 star experience, and the cruise component 4 stars.
My family was coming to Ecuador after a prior week that I had arranged in Brazil and Argentina. We were told that we did not need any specific immunization shots to go to Ecuador, so we did not bring our yellow immunization books with us. Our airline in Brazil initially did not let us board our flight to Ecuador because we did not have proof of immunization for Yellow Fever, something that they said Ecuador would require since we were coming from Brazil. We managed to sort things out, but it was a little nerve racking. Allie knew we were coming from Brazil, so it would have been better if we knew to bring our immunization booklets. Also, one other small item, we did not know what airlines we would be travelling on from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos until we arrived in the country. It turned out that both flights were on Avianca, and they are partner airlines with an airline that we have frequent flyer miles with. I am now retroactively trying to get mileage credit for these flights, but it would have been better if this was inputted up front.
Given the task of securing us a cruise for specific dates in their high season, I think Allie did a very good job of coordinating all of the details for us. Thank you Wendy Perrin.
Allie did an excellent job of connecting us with local guides and drivers who could take care of the logistics of getting us to and from the Galapagos and the countryside in Ecuador. She was also helpful in giving us input on little details like what to pack to make our trip more comfortable. The hotel she recommended in Galapagos was excellent for such a remote location and their staff took great care of us, coordinating our transportation seamlessly with our cruise ship.
Allie was fantastic from beginning to end! She listened carefully to what we wanted and helped us plan an amazing trip. She walked us through points of interest in Peru and Ecuador. Introduced us to places we would not have known to visit, recommended excellent, beautiful hotels and ships and even advised me on the best places to shop for local artisan wares. The guides she chose for us were Exceptional! They were able to convey a lot of information and history in a way that made it feel very alive and never dry or boring. They were passionate about their countries and excited to share what they knew. They came well prepared—one guide had his backpack filled with snacks, extra suntan lotion, a first aid kit, maps, and anything else you might need. The drivers were wonderful. We always felt we were in good hands and never worried about our safety. We have traveled extensively with guides and these were among the best we have had. Allie and her people on the ground in both countries were available when we had a problem with flights from Cusco to Guayaquil. Because of weather all flights were canceled that morning. She had wisely advised us to allow for an extra day in Guayaquil before our flight to the Galapagos to meet our ship. Instead of arriving at 3:00 we did not get there until 11:00 PM. They had a friendly face waiting for us at the airport to escort us to our hotel and make sure all was well. It was quite reassuring to know people were looking out for us.
That was the only glitch during the entire trip and it was due to weather which none of us can control!
I highly recommend Allie and her team!! They are exceptional.
Usually, we do not use travel agents unless the trip demands it. In this case, we had certain dates we had to accommodate and I called people and found Allie to be the most responsive and the least pushy. We thought she did a terrific job helping us to make choices for the boat and arranging hotels. In retrospect, we spent 2 days on one island before boarding our boat and I might have chosen another island because there were limited activities on the one we were on. We did have a few “glitches”, only one potentially in Allie’s control. We contacted her en route and She followed through and planned a tour for us in Guayaquil in response to concerns- all in all, I found her very easy to speak with – she had ultimate patience and she was very professional throughout. I plan to travel to other areas of South America and will use he in the future.
From the minute my husband and I spoke with Allie about a trip to Ecuador, we realized right away that she was the right person to help us in planning our trip. Her knowledge of Ecuador was very impressive. She listened carefully to what was important to us. For example, my husband’s interest in photography, our interest in the daily life of people, the culture, local arts, and heritage. The itinerary that she proposed fulfilled all of our expectations. The guide that she arranged for us for the land portion of the trip was outstanding. As a matter of fact, in passing, this local guide mentioned how impressed she was with Allie’s knowledge of Ecuador when they met last year, confirming the initial impression that we had. The division of time that Allie suggested prior to the Galapagos cruise portion of the trip was perfect. As for the cruise, we were uncertain about the length of the cruise and size of ship to take and her expertise helped us make what turned out to be the right decision for us. At all stages of the planning, she promptly answered my emails, something I always value when planning a trip with any travel specialist. We are both looking forward to using Allie to plan a future trip to South America.
Allie was a wonderful planner for our trip to the Galapagos in January 2018. She understood our wants and concerns and planned a perfect itinerary for my husband, twenty-five-year-old daughter and me. We had a land-based trip which required many logistical issues, and everything on our trip went seamlessly. Allie was patient and very knowledgeable. I have used other Wendy Perrin specialists before, and Allie was by far the easiest to work with. I recommend her without hesitation. Madge Silverman
Excellent experience having Allie arrange our trip!
Most people plan Galapagos vacations far in advance but my wife and I tend to do things last minute. When we decided, in early November, to take our family of six to the Galapagos and Quito during Christmas week, we turned to Wendy Perrin’s list of Trusted Travel Experts because we’ve had good experiences with Wendy’s recommended agents in the past. Happily, this time was no exception.
Despite the lateness of our request, the limited number of options still available, and our somewhat restrictive requirements regarding the type of accommodations and activities we desired, Allie made it all happen and the trip was a great success. We had great guides each day and a perfect boat for visiting other islands. The lunches that were served on board were delicious too.
Allie was easy to work with, made a point of understanding our needs and wants, communicated well and kept her cool even as we procrastinated a bit during the planning. When we had a small glitch with one of the hotels we stayed at, she was even able to secure a small refund for us from the hotel. All in all, great service and I highly recommend using Allie for your trip planning needs.
I worked with Allie to create a wonderful trip to the Galapagos and would highly recommend her! Allie is extremely knowledgeable about Galapagos/South America and will help you select the very best itinerary, hotels, and ships that fit your interests and requirements! Allie also made sure we understood the required international travel requirements and documents. Allie attended to every detail so all we had to do was enjoy our adventure!
We have worked with Allie Almario for more than fifteen years, including trips to Ecuador and the Galapagos, Patagonia, Peru and elsewhere. Each trip left us with only good memories. Allie understands our interests, but she feels free to suggest things to see and do that are a bit off the usual path. Without fail, our trips have been extraordinary for us and our kids, who have traveled with us as young children and now as young adults. Whether it was glacier climbing in Patagonia, horseback riding in Otavalo, Ecuador, staying in an eco-lodge in Quito or a fabulous hotel in remote Patagonia, Allie’s itineraries are always interesting, varied and surprising. In countries where not everything runs on schedule, our guides have always been waiting for us, and they managed our comings and goings without a hitch. And they are always flexible — if you prefer to take an afternoon off, or add something, not on the schedule, it happens.
Allie is also mindful of our budget. On one trip to Argentina, when we planned to go only to a couple of popular locations where she thought we would do well on our own, she suggested that we not book a trip with her. Instead, she suggested some things to do, and places to stay without booking a tour through her. That worked well, too.
Allie is unfailingly easy to work with and responsive to questions about background reading, local customs, tipping, etc.
Allie was very attentive and responsive to all of our questions. She did an amazing job with the logistics of the trip.
Allie is top notch! Allie planned an incredible trip to the Galapagos and Quito for us in March 2017. Her attention to detail, communication skills, and expertise was superb. She helped us pick the right ship for our needs and also made sure we were totally prepared for our trip. This was the trip of our lifetime and it exceeded our expectations!
Hi, my name is Sam Marchiano. My husband and I traveled to Quito and the Galapagos in March with our two children, aged 12 and 8 expecting the trip of a lifetime because we had heard such great things from other travelers to the Galapagos about Wendy Perrin. In fact, we hardly did any research and put our faith in the expert’s hands. It was a huge mistake.
The time spent in Quito was moderately interesting. We can all check, “Been to the Equator” off the bucket list, but aside from that, it was a disappointment. We spent way too much time in a bus driving around after two lengthy plane rides plus an authentic “chocolate making” activity took place in a storefront and had my kids rolling their eyes. The bright spot was a knowledgeable and kind tour guide.
In the Galapagos, they simply booked us in the wrong hotel for our trip. During the planning stages, we were not presented context when choosing a hotel or presented with several options so we could understand the context. We had no idea what the range available and eventually switched ourselves because we were so miserable at ours. On our first day in Santa Cruz, I saw The Finch Bay Eco Hotel and asked: “Why weren’t we booked here?” It’s beautiful and rated #1 by National Geographic. It was never even presented to us as an option. I highly recommend it and if you know you want a land based trip to the Galapagos, just book everything through Finch Bay, you won’t be disappointed like we were. It is worth it. It is its own ecosystem, with excursions, etc.
Aside from pointing out wildlife, our tour guide in the Galapagos didn’t teach us anything about the area during the excursions. She fell asleep on the boat. And one day she even invited herself out to lunch with us and then thanked us for paying for her. Our first excursion took place on a dilapidated boat that lacked proper life jackets for the children. They served inedible food. I could go on and on but honestly, I am glad the trip is over and don’t want to relive it any longer. And I believe I have made my point.
Response from Allie Almario:
I’m so very sorry that the trip I arranged for Sam Marchiano’s family and the other family of four that they traveled with did not live up to Sam’s expectations. The Galapagos is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the world, but it is not for every family—and, as in any adventure travel, there can be hiccups that occur but that we always try to rectify them ASAP.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to address Sam’s concerns and hopefully share information that will be helpful to other families thinking of traveling to the Galapagos.
I book travelers into the Finch Bay Eco Hotel frequently. But when Sam and I first spoke, she said that they live in Manhattan and that the kids might get bored in a remote setting and they wanted to stay close to town so that the children would have access to shops, restaurants, etc. For that reason, I didn’t mention some specific, farther-out hotels we have used in the past, including Finch Bay, which requires a boat ride from town plus a 6- to 7-minute walk from the dock to the hotel. Instead, I recommended a hotel that was right in town where the kids could walk outside and be in the middle of the action. I gave them the name of the hotel and suggested they take a look online and see if they liked it. When they arrived and didn’t like it, that was not a problem—I found available rooms at a higher-end hotel and secured the presidential suite and a villa for the two families—but Sam decided it was too far away from town (repeating her original preference to stay close to town). I’m happy that space at the Finch Bay did open up at the last minute and that they were able to move there.
I take the feedback very seriously regarding the quality issues with the boat. I’m so sorry to hear that the children got seasick on the boat and that they were unhappy with the ceviche lunch. I take pride in providing authentic regional meals and ceviche is a very popular Ecuadorian dish; however, I understand that travelers of all ages have likes and dislikes. This is why I send all travelers a preference form—so that they can let us know, among other things, about eating requirements, and so that we can plan meals accordingly. Had the families told me that the group didn’t like seafood or that they would have preferred—as many parents do—American-style food choices for the kids (burgers, sandwiches), I would have gladly arranged for a different meal. I have done this for other families in the past and it is no problem. In the future, I will make sure I discuss this with parents in more detail. It is now listed as one of the items to discuss in my pre-departure phone calls to families.
As to the complaint about having to carry bottled water to an excursion where lunch is included, I’m glad I have the chance to explain that reasoning—and I will strive to be clearer about it going forward. The reason is that, on these very protected islands, they try to reduce plastic bottle waste by encouraging guests to carry a reusable water bottle filled with their own filtered water. At any rate, I stepped in and made sure that the next day the boat provided a different lunch and the guide brought separate family-friendly snacks and bottled water.
Regarding the chocolate making: Because the family arrived later than anticipated, the chocolate making took place in the Pacari Chocolate Gallery’s store rather than in the showroom where it is normally held. Since they weren’t happy with the chocolate stop, I refunded the $200 cost.
Working in a third-world destination can always bring unexpected surprises, and I know that these cannot always be anticipated, even by experienced travelers. So I’d like to share what we did to alleviate several issues that arose during the trip, in the hopes that future WendyPerrin.com travelers can understand how I work:
* When the other family arrived in Quito with a sick daughter, our local operator and I arranged for a doctor to visit her at the Quito hotel. I changed their Galapagos flights and transfers to the next day, and I booked an extra night for them at the Quito hotel. That gave them a day to recuperate before joining the other family in the Galapagos. I paid the extra charge immediately ($1,852 total for 4 people) so that they wouldn’t have the added stress of paying for the emergency on top of their daughter’s illness, and then I waited to bill them until after their return home. I advise all our Galapagos travelers to purchase travel insurance so that medical costs can be reimbursed in emergency situations like this, but even in cases where the travelers choose not to buy insurance (as in this case), I still make sure they have any medical attention they need.
* When I learned that the families were not happy with their hotel, I offered to compensate them with an extra boat excursion on their day of leisure. They agreed, so I paid $1,720 for it ($215 per person x 8 people) to ensure there were spots for them onboard two days later. However, I learned later that the group chose to stay by the pool at their new hotel rather than go on the excursion.
* I learned that the group’s flight from the Galapagos back to Quito was significantly delayed. This would mean missing the planned Quito hotel day use and farewell dinner I’d planned for them, and potentially missing their connecting flight back to the USA. I rebooked the group on an earlier flight and upgraded their farewell dinner.
Wendy, I can completely understand their disappointment with the Galapagos hotel choice—sometimes things simply look different once you’re on the ground. I am experienced with that kind of scenario, and I did the best I could in all the situations brought to my attention. I have learned from these experiences, and I sincerely hope Sam and her family have gained better insight into their own travel preferences. I wish them the best on their next adventure.
Allie Almario is one of the best travel agents I have ever worked with. Her attention to detail is phenomenal. I found her thru your WOW List, and I was not disappointed! She helped my daughter and I navigate thru the myriad of choices (boats) for the Galapagos and we were extremely happy with our ultimate choice — The Origin, owned and operated by Ecoventura. She also discussed in detail with me the various options of where to fly into —Quito vs Guayaquil. She was extremely professional and efficient and never tired of my endless questions re what to pack, what to wear etc! She even sent me pictures of people hiking around the islands so I could get a sense what people wore! She called me several times prior to our trip and walked me thru the detailed itinerary, etc. One call was to tell me the experience of another client who went on the Origin a week or two prior to us; the boat is only a year old. She put in place an emergency plan with her cell phone numbers in the event there was an emergency there or back home (my husband was home) and we could not be reached due to lack of cell service or internet while on the cruise.
Unfortunately my daughter and I had to delay our departure by a day (we made the decision several days before we were scheduled to leave), due to the fact she had been sick with a very bad cold and was advised not to fly until she felt better We had been planning to take a private tour of Quito etc the day before we were scheduled to fly from Quito to the Galapagos. My only issues are that we were not refunded the monies for the tour we had to forgo even though we gave approximately 3 days’ notice. Also, we did not like the hotel in Quito (extremely deserted and desolate). There was a last-minute change to put us there, and I do understand why Allie chose it. She informed us she had had negative feedback with the original hotel we were scheduled to stay at. It did seem expensive, however. Had I known, we would have preferred at the end of the trip to just stay at the airport lounge during our layover for our flight back to the US. I am hoping to recoup monies forfeited and extra charges incurred due to our last minute change of departure date thru the trip insurance I purchased. Allie has been very helpful in assisting me in providing the appropriate documentation to file the claim.
My daughter and I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos — I would recommend Allie to everyone! I only wish she could help me plan future adventures in other places!
Allie is an expert on the Galapagos, having been there more than a dozen times. She knows which size and boat vibe might suit your travel style, and did well by us. She advised us to go small, and that resulted in an intimate experience on board and with the amazing wildlife. She also tried to save us money where she could. The only glitch was a missing pass to Machu Picchu that was rectified once we discovered it. We highly recommend Allie.