Several friends, my husband and I are planning a trip to the Galapagos next summer. After much thought, we decided to do a land-based tour. We have now narrowed it down to two options: a GAP adventure tour and an Active South America tour. The itineraries are almost identical but the GAP tour is about $900 cheaper than the Active tour. One of my friends is pushing really hard for the GAP tour because it's cheaper and because she's travelled with GAP before and enjoyed herself.
I'm concerned because I've read some VERY NEGATIVE online reviews about GAP tours in South America that give me pause. Some have said that GAP prices its tours cheaply and does a bait-and-switch once you're there, charging extra "local fees" and tips that are not advertised in the written materials. Others have said that GAP tour guides cater to the "drink til you drop" crowd at the expense of other travelers. (I'm 33 years old and my beer bonging days are over.) Still others have said that the tour guides are unhelpful, inexperienced, and even dangerous.
Does anyone know whether we'd be likely to have a better experience with GAP or Active South America? Basically, while $900 is a lot of money, I'd be willing to pay the extra if it meant I was going to have a substantially better travel experience. This is a trip I'll only do once in my lifetime, and I want it to be great.
Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide!