Arrangements for Ecuador

As my grandchildren graduate from junior high, I take each on a trip anywhere he or she chooses. In June ’07 I took my granddaughter Alli to Ecuador and the Galápagos.

Alli and I at the equator in Ecuador.

As with most trips I take (I’ve been to 110 countries), I checked the Internet to see what was offered and got information from tours advertised in ITN. This time, through the Internet I booked with Virgin Vacations (19021 120th Ave. NE, Ste. 102, Bothell, WA 98011; 888/937-8474,, not knowing anything about the company. It was one of the best trips I have taken.

If I had any questions, and I had many, I just telephoned the company. Since I had been to Ecuador before, I knew what I wanted to show Alli. Besides the three nights and four days aboard the Santa Cruz in the Galápagos, we spent three nights in the 5-star Oro Verde in Guayaquil before the cruise and five nights in the 5-star Mercure Alameda in Quito after the cruise. Virgin used Metropolitan Touring in Ecuador.

Seal floating on his back enjoying the sun. Photo: O’Connor

Including airfare from Miami, superior accommodations in hotels, the cruise, tours and extra meals, our trip cost about $3,200 each.

I was worried about arriving in Guayaquil at 11 p.m. alone with a 14-year-old girl, but Metropolitan was there with not only a driver but an English-speaking guide. The next day, the two took us on a 5-hour private tour of their beautiful city. They were always available and on time when picking us up. We also took a one-day tour with them to Cotopaxi National Park, via the Chiva Express, and a one-day tour to Otavalo.

In Quito, we also found a private guide, Carlos Andrade-Marin (phone 2236-128/098-540714 or 098-571525), who spoke perfect English and had his own car. He took us around the city and also to the nearby Solar Museum and the site Middle of the World. He charged about $45 for both of us for eight hours.

Blue-footed boobie chick just hatched. Photo: O’Connor

I have traveled with many tour companies, and Metropolitan Touring and Virgin Vacations were outstanding.

• Two years ago I took my children and grandchildren, 12 in all, on a tour of KENYA and TANZANIA. I was the tour leader and booked everything on the Internet with Discover Kenya Safaris, Ltd. (P.O. Box 45524 [00100], Ojijo Court, Ojijo Road, Parklands, Nairobi, Kenya; phone [254] 20 375 41 90, fax 375 41 89, Since there was no middleman, I saved $5,000 a person on a 5-star trip.


Park Ridge, IL