Category: Health and Fitness

Review Of Andando Tours: Galapagos Luxury Worth The Cost?

The Galapagos Islands are not an easy place to describe because of all the places I’ve been to, I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. When Andando Tours invited me to try one of their tours, scheduling conflicts nearly had me declining what turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. No, I was no paid to write this and it’s not an advertisement. There are other ways to visit the Galapagos on a budget but this particular $4500 Andando trip, onboard the Mary Anne sailboat, ends up being a value if you can afford the upfront cost. Watch the video above or read on to find out why.

Comparing The Competition

No matter how you get to the Galapagos, there are costs upfront: tickets – and visa if you need one – to Ecuador (flights to the Galapagos can only leave from their mainland) and the Galapagos permit required of all visitors. Round trip flights from Ecuador to Galapagos plus the permit will be at least $500 total. Once you’re in the Galapagos, you’ll have to take a small dinghy to the only major settlement, Puerto Ayora. Without opting for a cruise, add in hotel (minimum $60 daily) and meal prices as well.

andando tours mary anne

The Galapagos are an archipelago of 21 islands spread over several hundred kilometers in the Pacific. Not all of them are easy to get to but there are 4-5 points which can be done as day trips from Puerto Ayora. Those would be primarily hiking trips, with a guide, leaving around sunrise and returning at dusk.

I’m laying all of this out to because the most frugal ways to visit the Galapagos limit what you can see with day trips to select spots on nearby islands, for roughly $1500 for 8 days if you’re very careful with spending. Other Galapagos cruises tend to stick to those primary islands as well, running about $2500-$3000 for short 3-5 day trips, or closer to $4000 for trips of a week.

What You Get With Andando

Given that the cost of the Andando Tour onboard the Mary Anne is just above those prices ($4500), these are the three area you’re really paying for broken down:

  1. The Boat
  2. The Experience
  3. Time

andando tours review

Let’s start with the boat. The Mary Anne is a former German racing sailboat, the only sailboat operating in the Galapagos. There are 14 tourists on the boat and roughly that many crew. The vessel is spacious, comfortable, and doesn’t feel like a floating hotel. The rooms are spartan, beds and small bathroom pretty much, but the rest of the boat is where you’ll be spending a most of your time. There’s a short boat tour in my video here.

2. The Experience

Again, I’m referring you to the video but the 8-day trip is broken down daily by your guide. In my case, our guide Fernando Ortiz whose credentials are impressive to say the least, split the days into several activities. Andando it seems gets priority in scheduling island visits (they’re limited to avoid over-tourism) and hiking activities are generally arranged to avoid the hottest parts of the day when the equatorial sun is especially strong.

nazca booby

You’ll hike, snorkel, kayak, see unique wildlife close up since they have no natural fear of people, across 2-3 activities a day. Between each activity you return to the boat for a meal or snacks, giving those who want to stay behind an chance to do so. Which basically was just this blogger and this one staying behind once or twice to shoot videos for their travel blogs.

The efficiency in which all of this is coordinated, the boat transfers, the rooms being clean whenever you’re not in them, the timing of the meals, when to snorkel with seal lions at their most playful, all of it was very, very impressive. I kept looking (and expecting) cracks in the presentation. You know, crew that looked miserable when they thought nobody was around, dinghies being late, a guide who bull-shot the occasional answer to a question – and encountered none of that. There was a warmth and personality of the crew, guide, and Captain Mario whose authenticity could not be faked, even for our benefit.

3. Time

Many of the outlying islands of the Galapagos archipelago cannot be done as day trips from Puerto Ayora because of the distances involved. Andando offers several itineraries, and the eastern route I was on covers many of them. Because of the biodiversity of the Galapagos, you often find multiple ecosystems within a very small area. The spots you’re taken to are planned for the best time and the efficiency of the route, day planning, and crew ensure in 8 days you see a lot.

andando tours blogger

Cruise Options

To compare everything, I planned out an individual trip for myself to see what it might look like. There are two major constraints I found. The first, is reaching the outer islands. Missing those mean you would miss albatross returning to land, for example. Additionally, trying to recreate this route using Puerto Ayora as a base would make each activity of the Andando trip (2-3 daily) a trip of an entire day. Not to mention most of the sites are limited to certain cruises, so individually they wouldn’t be as accessible (i.e. you would need to opt for one of the higher-end tours from any company to reach those destinations).

Ultimately, if an Andando Tour is way out of your budget, then there are alternative ways to visit the Galapagos Islands. But if their prices are just a bit higher or around what you were planning to spend, I can certainly recommend their tours. Galapagos is a special place and suggest you treat this as a once in a lifetime type of trip – if you have the opportunity and the means, it’s not a place you want to skimp on.

How Good Is This Portable USB Humidifier?

People who travel frequently often look for the portable versions of most things. (Myself included.) So, although you might not need a portable humidifier, you might want one for your home, and look for a travel-sized version. The USB-powered MZTDYTL is just such a device and I picked one up to review. You can see my full review terribly named MZTDYTL, which is designed for home, hotel, or car, in the video above.

There Are Lots Of Animals In Galapagos But Here’s Photos Of Just Sea Lion Pups

sea lion pup

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth, in fact, 97% of the land animals there can be found nowhere else on the planet. During the week I spent visiting the archipelago as a guest of Andando Tours, I took over 300 photos and more than 12 hours of video footage of blue-footed boobies, lava lizards, giant tortoises – as much wildlife as possible.

There is though, one animal any camera seems unable to avoid, so much so, it became a running joke onboard the Mary Anne: sea lion pups always steal the spotlight. Our guide Fernando Ortiz (whom I can’t recommend enough) confirmed every group is the same – unable to resist the baby sea lions.

To be fair, the sea lion pups often do their best to pose and grab your attention.

sea lion pup galapagos

I’ll be posting more about the Galapagos and its wildlife as a whole soon but these photos are a reflection of what happens as you hop from one island to another. At most stops there are more than a few cute sea lion pups hanging out, and no matter how many you see, you’ll take 40 more pictures of them.

sea lion pup galapagos

The general rule is to stay 2 meters (~6 feet) away from all the animals in the Galapagos where possible. With even an average zoom lens, you’ll be able to capture shots like this.

sea lion pup

Sea lions for the most part behave a lot like dogs, except the adults ignore you, and the pups are cautious but inquisitive.

sea lion galapagos

They…

sleeping sea lion

…also,

sea lion cute

sleep…

sea lion family

a lot.

sea lion pup sleeping

For the most part during the first year of their life, sea lions stay on land not venturing out beyond a few meters into the water. (Nearly always under the attentive eye of an experienced mom.) Otherwise sea lion pups are vulnerable to shark predation; instead they spend much of their time entertaining tourists.

sea lion galapagos

As they grow older and become more independent, adult sea lions will start to spend weeks at sea eating fish. (The book Why We Sleep explains how this is possible – sea lions lightly sleep half their brains at a time in the open ocean.)

Still, when they return to land, they’re adorably tired.

galapagos sea lions

The adults leave the posing to the pups while they take a well-earned rest. Even in this state, sea lions are incredibly photogenic, despite being the occasional snotty sneeze. (The 2 meter rule is more for you than them.) I’ll have more on what travel to the Galapagos Islands is like, showing the incredible animal diversity here in the coming weeks – but as they did during my trip – the sea lion pups have taken over for now.

Save Money On Utah’s Mountains By Visiting In Summer

alta mountains

Right now it’s a frosty few degrees below freezing, with light snow in Alta, Utah, an idyllic place to ski, but such popularity on this very expensive real estate comes at a price. Starting at over $500 a night during the cold months on average, come summer, hotel prices drop to well under a hundred dollars in what’s some of the best hiking territory in the Rocky Mountains.

Road Trip It

The first time I visited Alta was by happenstance during a road trip I took when Ford gave me a car. Wandering up into the mountains after visiting the “Up” house (long story) before the next day’s drive, I came across Alta Lodge. Inside was mostly empty in the cozy ski lodge posing as a summer hotel. The regular rate for a four-person suite was $99 a night which they gladly reduced even further with a bit of gentle negotiation.

alta lodge utah

The hiking is incredible and these views you’ll have pretty much all to yourself, are genuinely special.

alta utah lodge

Salt Lake From Above

Those of you visiting nearby Salt Lake City on a road trip adventure of your own should considering adding Alta as one of your stops.

alta utah skiing

Off-season prices are less than a quarter of ski season with some of the most accessible hikes of all levels in this part of the United States.

alta utah

Aside from an excuse to post these pictures, I write this because Alta is so simple that without the skiing, it’s not a destination you’ll find much about during the greener months.

best photos alta utah

For many people who love the outdoors though, Alta is a unique spot neglected by large groups of people – much like Iceland in winter.

Travel Sports Headphones That Actually Stay In Your Ears: RHA MA390 Review

The most important test of any sports headphones is whether or not they stay in your ears when running. Earphones that fall out or continuously need to be adjusted when you’re working out won’t be used very often, no matter how good the sound quality is. Manufacturers have come up with a few inventions to get around this problem, from over-ear hooks to weighted neckbands – the latter often being more trouble than its worth.

The RHA MA390 do a good job of pulling off what most competing earphones fail but lacks in other areas for more sedentary travelers. Here’s my full review of the RHA MA390 earphones in the video above or read on.

The Basic Basics

RHA’s MA390 earphones have slick packaging, marketed directly to travelers; you’ve probably seen some in an airports electronics shop. Don’t be fooled though, these are earphones that don’t sound as good as they look. Not that the RHA MA390 are bad, they’re just solidly average from audio to built-in microphone. But if you’re running or otherwise working out, premium sound quality isn’t necessarily critical (and completely irrelevant if the buds keep falling from your ears).

RHA MA390 earbuds

There’s no accompanying RHA app to adjust sound levels so they play it safe by keeping the MA390 to a generic bell curve, with a preference for mid-tones. Those of you who like strong bass in your music won’t find a good thump in the MA390.

Neck Stability

No bass thump but probably no finger-constantly-tapping-earphones thump either, even as you get sweaty. IPX4 rated means the MA390 can survive a solid splash of water or constant barrage of sweat throughout it’s roughly 8 hours of battery life. To help balance in your ears, RHA use a slightly thick, weightier band that rests around the back of your neck. The neckband, which attaches the two ear buds offsets any motion, distributing it from your body and head to the band.

rha ma390 headphones

What results are earbuds that stay in your ears when running. Unlike the NuForce BE Sport3 headphones [full review here] whose weight is unevenly distributed, RHA’s MA390 don’t start to slip when they get wet with sweat.

Portable Price Point

The neckband is inconspicuous while running – RHA has also made it flexible enough to be awkwardly stuffed into the small case they come with. Average sound quality, the MA390 aren’t going to come close to the premium Bose 20i [full review here] though to be fair, RHA aren’t trying to. Competition is more in the $50-75 range, like the previously mentioned BE Sport3.

Between the two, advantage goes to the RHA MA390 with the caveat that you’ll use them while running or working out. For travelers who, despite their best intentions, know they won’t be exercising a lot but want inexpensive, light earbuds, the BE Sport3 might be all you need. Everyone else who (like me) have struggled to find earphones that can handle a solid run outdoors or inside on a treadmill, the RHA MA390 are an affordable, reasonable purchase.

Map Of Recreational Marijuana Laws Around The World (Updated Regularly) So You Can Enjoy Weed Legally

washington monument

This map is now available in app form! GrassFox is available on the App Store and Google Play.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
Have you ever visited a new city, caught a strong whiff of something familiar, then thought: I wonder if marijuana is legal here? This is a question I had in Uruguay most recently, since cannabis was being smoked everywhere. At the time Uruguay was the only country to have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. (Hello Canada!) Since then, other countries, cities, states, and various jurisdictions have developed a highly patchwork set of rules that can be confusing for travelers.

The Map Of Recreational Marijuana Laws

Information in the map below shows you where recreational marijuana use is legal, decriminalized, illegal, and all of the restrictions, conditions, plus grey areas from the legal jargon; developed using official sources and updated as the laws change. And although there is a lot of red on the map indicating “illegal”, if you click on any of the icons there are often more details indicating things aren’t quite so cut and dry (check out Spain, for example). Disclaimer time: remember, the map is intended to be used as a guide only, remember you’re responsible for knowing, following, and obey all local laws.

  • Last update: January 17, 2019

Unlike alcohol, which is typically either legal or not, cannabis is most often decriminalized rather than legalized in places with more liberal drug laws. I developed this resource because a lot of places where you might assume cannabis is legal or decriminalized isn’t, much of the information online is simply wrong, or the details from the law poorly interpreted on other websites.

Updates And More Information

Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me if you believe any of the information requires an update or clarification. By making this a collaborative effort the map can help more travelers (often hesitant to ask or relying on local hearsay) understand and obey local cannabis laws.

marijuana graffiti

Be sure to read the details on the entries of the map, including U.S. states, for details. Always assume entries with no data mean cannabis is illegal and don’t equate decriminalization to mean legal. Red entries indicate cannabis is illegal, yellow represents decriminalized, and the green leaf, you guessed it, legal. All of the data is regarding recreational marijuana use, not medical, or other circumstances.

I have also developed an associated app, GrassFox for iOS and Android, that has user experiences travelers can share with each other as well as details on what some grey legal areas look like in practice.

Before You Get High

There are a few things to keep in mind before you go attempt to obtain marijuana anywhere, especially when traveling, that didn’t fit on the map. (More grey areas.) Several countries where marijuana is illegal forbid visitors, citizens, and residents from having used cannabis abroad, even in places it was legal. Additionally, many companies have restrictions on their employees using cannabis. Also, don’t travel with cannabis.

Lastly, in many places shown above where marijuana has been decriminalized, possession may be permitted but purchasing or selling are not. Clearly, never do the latter, and be reasonable. In case all of this has thrown you off, there’s a more widely accepted psychoactive drug that’s a lot easier to find in much of the world.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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