Barry Boyce, founder of GALAPAGOS TRAVEL, followed his personal passion for Natural History with a visit the Galapagos Islands in 1988. He enjoyed his trip of course, but was frustrated by the lack of information available to help him plan his adventure. Barry decided to return to the islands, where he would research and write the first-ever all-inclusive guide book to the islands. Over the course of the next few months he lived in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Besides numerous yacht inspections and interviews, he also naturally interacted with a great many tourists, nearly all of whom were having a grand time. Sadly, many also complained of not having the educational experience they were hoping for, or of a trip too short in length to really see the islands. The first edition of the guide book, A Traveler’s Guide to the Galápagos Islands, was published in 1989 (the book is currently in its fourth edition, with a fifth edition "in the works").
That same year Barry founded GALAPAGOS TRAVEL. From the start the focus has been on educationally oriented, Natural History workshops, that spend a significant amount of time in the archipelago. Barry's first organized tours, which he personally led, were offered in 1990. We now have a pool of hand selected, highly educated, wonderfully personable, Galápagos specialists to lead the tours (in addition to the park required Naturalist Guides).
Today we offer anywhere from 24 to 36 Natural History Workshops to the Galápagos each year - all with our unique Natural History focus, and all spending either 11 or 15 days actually aboard the yacht in the archipelago.
We are honored to have been selected by many universities, colleges, museums and zoos to coordinate educational expeditions for their members (often on an annual or semi-annual basis). Past groups have included the Galápagos Conservancy, Saint Louis Zoo, Hiram University, Harvard Museum, Santa Cruz Natural History Museum, Chapman University, Brookfield Zoo, Berea College, Clemson University, University of Washington, Sonora Desert Museum, Desert Turtle & Tortoise Society, Wilderness Center, Girl Scouts, Central Oregon Community College, and NSTA (National Science Teachers Association).
Our office is located in Aptos California - a small town on the Monterey Bay in central California. We have been in the same space since 1998. As a tour operator within California we participate in the California Seller of Travel Program (registration #2051010-40) which provides restitution to passengers in the case of default by a California operator.
I joined the GALAPAGOS TRAVEL staff in 1994, following my own visit to the Galapagos Islands (on a short tour with another tour operator - arranged locally while briefly living in Quito and studying Spanish). My introduction to the islands came much earlier though - long letters from my mother as she traveled the islands on a cattle freighter and then a fishing boat in 1981.
Julie and Debbie round out our California staff and have both been with us since 1996. Each of us has numerous Galapagos trips under our belts, in addition to expeditions to Antarctica, Easter Island, Midway Atoll and Cuba. When not in the office you can often find one or the other of us on the road - traveling to some of the remote corners of the US or abroad.
In the mid-90’s GALAPAGOS TRAVEL founded the Becario Scholarship Program through the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos Conservancy. This program sponsored Ecuadorian graduate students while they completed their thesis work in the islands - we feel very strongly that educated Ecuadorians will be the best voices for the conservation of the islands in the future. Between our past passengers and GALAPAGOS TRAVEL, this program has donated over $175,000 to the Research Station, and funded 13 graduate students.
Other projects we support in the islands include the Scouting program (boys and girls) on the island of San Cristobal, including assisting with establishment of the local library. We were also early financial supporters of the Guide’s & Children’s Library on Santa Cruz Island as well.
Outside of the islands GALAPAGOS TRAVEL supports the South Georgia Heritage Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), World Wildlife Fund, Long Marine Lab, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum among others. The company also supports volunteerism in the staff. I have been a board member on two non-profits, most recently the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, in addition to extensive fund raising for AIDS service organizations in California. Debbie has devoted a huge amount of her free time to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where for more than 10 years she worked directly with the penguins. Julie, in addition to being in school (pre-nursing) volunteers with a feral cat adoptive program, and a local fish hatchery.
We have a sister company in Ecuador, GALAPAGOS TRAVEL PROINVERTUR (GPT), which handles all land arrangements for us there. The ownership of the two companies is different, although GTP was formed (in roughly 1991) expressly to provide all of our mainland services. We, and our passengers, enjoy their full energies and support in every way.
Over the years a number of our past passengers have put a bit of pressure on us to take them on another great adventure. While Galápagos will always be our focus, we do occasionally hand select other remarkable areas rich in wildlife and natural history that we feel we can do justice too. Current occasional departures include: Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia; Madagascar; the High Arctic; Cuba; and Easter Island.
We work with/charter a variety of wonderful 16-passengers yachts in the Galápagos Islands. The focus of our tours is not luxury (or even on the yachts for that matter), but we still want our passengers to be safe, comfortable, and well taken care of. Most workshops are aboard either the M/Y Tip Top IV or Tip Top III. The Tip Top Fleet is owned and operated by Rolf Wittmer Turismo in Ecuador (all yachts in the islands must by law be Ecuadorian owned and flagged). Rolf Wittmer was the first person born in the islands, and his family were some of the first to work in the burgeoning tourist industry in the islands, with a series of yachts over the years all bearing the Tip Top names. They are recognized by Ecologic Ventures for their energies towards improving pollution and waste, and their vessels are recognized by the Smart Voyager programs for conservation measures.
In early 2008, after nearly 14 years at GALAPAGOS TRAVEL, I purchased the company from Barry (he had been semi-retired and living out of state for several years at that point – working on a novel, traveling, and exploring the San Juan Islands). Barry continues to lead the occasional workshop in the islands for us (the islands are a huge part of his life to this day), and in all major ways we continue as the same company we have always been - focused on providing in-depth, educationally-oriented, Natural History workshops in the Galápagos Islands.
We look forward to an exciting future.
president, gti Galápagos Travel corp.