Being an individual traveller has advantages and disadvantages when booking a tour. Meeting new and interesting people is great but occasionally a really obnoxious person will turn up amongst these good people and try to spoil the experience for everyone.
Such was the case when we booked a tour for the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. We landed in Quito and immediately were struck down with altitude sickness. Resolving to get to the islands as quickly as possible we trawled tour agencies but were so overwhelmed by the amount of different itineraries, quality of boats and prices that we couldn’t make a decision. This was possibly because we were experiencing lightheadedness and low concentration levels. Not ideal conditions to make rational decisions and part with a wad of cash.
We decided to fly out to Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, stay there and then book a tour (because the travel books said it could be cheaper). However, the books also pointed out that in high season flights, tours and accommodation were full for weeks in advance. This claim was backed up by tour agencies who said we were better off booking through them although they had no vacancies for at least a week. Therefore, we were not surprised when we could not find any flights to the islands for the next 9 days on the internet. Desperate to leave the migraines and biting cold behind we headed for the nearest aviation company office ready to beg on bended knees for any cancellations. Imagine our surprise then when asked by the computer operator when we wanted to fly and I replied tongue in cheek “tomorrow” she replied “at what time?” We flew out the next day and by 6.00pm had secured a room (easy) and booked a quality tour (at very good discount) which sailed in two days from our arrival.
It was an amazing trip, well worth the money. Highpoints included swimming with seals, watching the blue footed boobies make out, looking into the eyes of miniscule dinosaurs, jumping out of the way of rays in the surf and watching seal pups feed from their mothers. Because the animals seem to have no fear of humans there are certain rules that tourists were asked to adhere to in order to preserve the ecosystems. The most important being:-
1. Only a certain amount of tourists are allowed on the island at one time therefore boat tours are allotted a time slot that they can stay on the island.
2. Keep to certain footpaths for obvious reasons.
3. Do not feed, touch or encourage the animals to interact with you.
We had misfortune to have obnoxious man on our tour. Middle aged and obsessed with taking photos, his moods swung from high humour to very bad temper tantrums. Having paid his money he felt that he could do anything he liked including trying to kiss baby seals, touch the wild life, wander off designated paths, lagg behind the group refusing to keep up. When our female guide reminded him about the rules he generally spat the dummy out and had an extremely nasty temper tantrum. Swearing, shouting, stamping up and down, making intimidating gestures he spat out crude and personal comments about the guide. When the other passengers protested at his behaviour he abused them as well and actually deliberately knocked one of the older gentleman in the back. The guide was at a loss what to do. She toId us that if she couldn’t curtail his behaviour she would be reported to the authorities by other guides and could lose her licence. He on the other hand, would get away scot free. This guide had already been through the emotional wringer as on her last trip the boat sunk and she was lucky to get out alive. Before the situation could escalate obnoxious man, who had a tendency to stampede off the boat when it landed in an attempt to get onto an island first, fell into the sea with all his photography equipment. Did anyone rush to the rescue or sympathise about the ruined equipment – like hell they did. We watched him flounder in the shallows, exchanged glances that conveyed mutual satisfaction at his demise and did not lift a finger to help. He sulked in his room for some days leaving the rest of us to enjoy the trip in peace.