Day 1: Friday – Depart US
Arrive in Guayaquil Ecuador and transfer to hotel.
Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde 5* or similar
Day 2: Saturday – Guayaquil
Optional half-day tour of Guayaquil with guide. Rest of day at leisure to explore. (B)
Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde
Day 3: Sunday – Galapagos
Morning flight from Guayaquil to BALTRA, the Galapagos. We board our Small Luxury Motor Sail Catamaran and depart.
We will disembark at North Seymour Island, where we see frigate birds, the clownish blue-footed booby, and of course sea lions. With luck we will witness the striking courtship display of the male frigate bird, during which he inflates a red balloon-like sac below his throat and struts his stuff for all of the young females. Seymour North, Plaza Sur and Plaza Norte, Baltra, northeastern Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and part of Española, were formed by uprisings of underwater volcanic lava. They were part of a volcanic lava table deposited in sheet form along cracks on the ocean floor. The uprisings occurred sporadically and lasted more than a million years. Many marine fossils are found in these islands. The best specimens are found on the North Channel side of Baltra, dating from the Pleistocene period.
Day 4: Monday – Galapagos
SANTA CRUZ: Finca Primicias Highlands & Charles Darwin Station.
After breakfast you’ll sail to Santa Cruz Island, where you’ll visit the world-famous Charles Darwin Station, a non-profit institution that dedicates itself to studying and protecting the flora and fauna of the Galapagos. This is one of the best places to see land tortoises.
Then you’ll visit the station’s Tortoise Breeding Center. Here you can find baby, hand-sized tortoises, between the ages of one and five, and marvel at how they achieve such large sizes as adults (500 lbs. or more!). Galapagos tortoises are believed to have a lifespan of over 100 years, so the young ones have a long life ahead of them as long as they receive the protection they need.
Aside from the Station headquarters, Santa Cruz Island is home to the largest town and economic center of the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora. In this portside town you can buy souvenirs (postcards, t-shirts, books, etc.) of the islands.
After shopping in Puerto Ayora and lunch on the boat (guests may dine in town if they desire), you’ll explore the upper region, “parte alta” of the island, which is a moisture-rich area with fertile volcanic soils. You’ll learn about the vegetation and animal life of this zone, often strikingly different than that found at lower elevations.
Darwin’s Finches, Yellow Warblers, and Bright Red Vermillion Flycatchers will dart in and out of the moss-covered trees. From this high vantage point you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding archipelago. We visit a farm to wander and witness the giant land tortoise in the wild. A climb through a huge lava tunnel is a highlight as well.
Day 5: Tuesday – Galapagos
ISABELA: Punta Moreno – Elizabeth Bay & Urbina Bay
After night navigation we arrive in Punta Moreno on the west coast of Isabela Island, a dry landing on a lava field. The vegetation found in the area is small and concentrated mainly in the mangrove area and around the lakes. It should be noted that all three kinds of cacti are found here. The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amid black lava flows: Here there are several species of birds with a panoramic view of three volcanoes: The most active in the Galapagos that Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul of Isabela Island and La Cumbre of Fernandina Island.
After lunch on board we continue on our way to Elizabeth Bay, located on Isabela Island’s west shore: this is extremely important for observing marine life. We motor past a few islands where you usually see Galapagos penguins. One of the best areas to take photos! A colony of these magnificent birds inhabit a rocky islet at the entrance to Elizabeth Bay. We let our boat drift through a small passage lined with mangroves as you emerge into an enclosed cove. We turn the motor off and look in the sheltered waters for marine turtles, rays, flightless cormorants, sea lions, and circling overhead, Galapagos hawks.
Day 6: Wednesday – Galapagos
ISABELA: Caleta Tagus – FERNANDINA: Punta Espinoza & Punta Vicente Roca
The visitor’s site of Tagus Cove is located west of Darwin Volcano on Isabela Island. The trail route is about 1800 meters and was a favorite spot for pirates and whalers. The road, mostly gravel, leads into the interior, along Darwin Lake. During the walk, you can see various land birds as we identify the characteristic vegetation of the arid zone. We arrive at the lava fields of Darwin Volcano.
Back on board for lunch and short navigation to Elizabeth Bay on Fernandina Island
Punta Espinoza is a narrow ledge of lava and sand that extends from the base of the volcano to the sea. There is a vivid description given by Captain Benjamin Morrell that from the boats anchorage at Bay Banks they witnessed an eruption of Fernandina in the decade of the 1820s. In 1975 there was a more recent which is why the pier built for landing can only be used during high tide.
Punta Espinoza is a place famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas and is the habitat of unique species like the flightless cormorant (only Island to see them), Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk, and Galapagos snake, among others. It is an ideal place to observe the lava cactus, which grow on young lava and survive with little water. After visiting Fernandina we will start our navigation to the central part of the Galapagos and on the way we will see from the boat Punta Vicente Roca, part of a mostly eroded and destroyed volcano which now is a great site for seeing blue footed boobies, frigate birds and other marine birds.
Day 7: Thursday – Galapagos
SANTIAGO: Puerto Egas, Espumilla Beach, Bucanero Cove
Egas Port we disembark and follow a footpath across Santiago island, admiring the grinning marine iguanas, Darwin finches, rainbowed lava lizards, and endemic Galapagos hawks along the way. A special sight on Santiago is the endangered fur seals (the only place to see them) cooling off in the shade formed by the seashore grottos.
Day 8: Friday – Galapagos
RABIDA: Sullivan Bay
Wake-up in the morning to the sound of barking sea lions and the lapping of the sea. After breakfast travel by dingy to the seashell-pink sands of Rábida Island. Here we will see a pelican nesting area on the beach, and then we will set off on the short path across the island, gazing at the sea birds whirling overhead. After stopping at two photo-worthy viewpoints we will return to the boat for lunch.
Rábida Island that consists of a red sand beach, a coastal lagoon behind the beach, and a loop trail. The approximate distance of the trail is 1.1 kilometers. The color of the rocks and sand on the beach is due to the very porous volcanic material, which with the help of environmental factors (rain, salt water and sea breeze, has acted as an oxidizing agent. The main attraction is the red sand beach, scenery, and the presence of native and endemic species.
Awe-inspiring Sullivan Bay. At the turn of the century a huge lava flow spilled forth and right down to the sea; today you can stroll across this black volcanic expanse admiring its time-frozen ripples, bubbles and ropes.
Day 9: Saturday – Galapagos
GENOVESA: El Barranco – Darwin Bay
Early in the morning you’ll have breakfast and then you’ll disembark at Genovesa “Tower” Island, which is located in the northeastern part of the Galapagos (less than half a degree north of the equator).
At Tower Island you’ll anchor at Darwin Bay, which is located on the southern part of the island, and is actually the caldera of an extinct, partially eroded volcano, with the surrounding cliffs forming the inner lining of the rim. While the origin of the name “Tower” is not known, one can imagine it had something to do with these towering cliffs. The tour will be a long, fairly easy walk, but it is usually hot and dry here, so you may want to carry some water. After a wet landing on a coral beach the trail begins in an area where there are several swallow-tailed gulls. As you walk back from the beach, you’ll see a variety of Opuntia cactus and mangroves.
Tower is an outpost for many sea birds (as Española is in the south). This is the only island where we will see the red-footed booby (only Island). Interestingly, there are almost no land reptiles on Tower, only very small marine iguanas. This is attributed to the direction of the ocean currents, which wouldn’t have carried the terrestrial animals here.
Visit El Barranco during the afternoon then return to the boat for dinner.
Day 10: Sunday – Galapagos / Guayaquil
After an early breakfast we will disembark at North Seymour Island en route to Baltra Airport. Here we will see frigate birds, the clownish blue-footed booby, and of course the ubiquitous sea lions. Transfer to airport for flight to Guayaquil. (B)
Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde
Day 11: Monday – Depart to US
Transfer to Airport for flight back to US. (B)
The itineraries and program are subject to change without prior notice, due mainly to adjustments in the policies and regulations of the Galapagos National Park, weather conditions, seasonal changes and safety reasons.
* Itinerary subject to change