NOTE: The “West Itinerary” starts right after you arrive to the islands. If possible, please wear clothes comfortable enough for a visit to the Darwin Station of Santa Cruz: comfortable walking shoes, a hat for sun protection, accessible SPF, shorts or pants.
DAY 1 (Saturday): Arrive Baltra Airport & Santa Cruz Island: Darwin Station
Early in the morning you will catch your flight from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos. Arriving to the airport, you must first pay the National Park entrance fee of U.S. $100 per person before collecting your luggage. Leaving the arrival hall, the National Park Guide of the Mary Anne will be waiting for you and will accompany the whole group on your first excursion to the Darwin Station in Puerto Ayora. After this visit, you will travel to the Mary Anne for the evening.
Here, we will see tortoises from different islands. The animals are found in large semi natural pens for their protection, but also to ensure an easy view for the tourists. The pens are divided according to four different stages: eggs, neonates, juveniles (held here until they are mature enough to be “repatriated”), and adults. Afterwards we will head back to Puerto Ayora, where we will have some time to explore the town and shops by ourselves before boarding the S/S Mary Anne at around 17:00. Once on board, we will be welcomed by the crew and captain, have a short security drill and enjoy dinner and the briefing for the next day´s activities. (Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 2 (Sunday): Floreana Island: Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown Snorkeling & Post Office Bay
This morning you have a wet landing on the “Green Beach” of Punta Cormorant. Depending on the light conditions, the sand shines green because of the high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand. On an easy walk you come to a big salt-water lagoon with flamingoes, white-cheeked pintail ducks, black-necked stilts and, depending of the season, more migratory shore birds. After another short walk you come to the “White Flour Sand Beach,” made of white corals. It’s a famous nesting beach for marine turtles; making sure not to disturb their nesting sites, you may be lucky enough to see the remains of tiny turtle egg shells lying on the beach. Often you can see a lot of stingrays in the shallow water.
After the walk, you travel a short way to Devil’s Crown, the remains of a volcano now sunken into the ocean and whose sharp rocks make the shape of a black crown. This is one of the most famous snorkeling places in Galapagos, but it is only suitable for experienced snorkelers. Here, you are likely to snorkel alongside sharks, eels, turtles, sea lions, and an assortment of dazzling fish.
Before lunch, you make a short visit to the famous barrel in Post Office Bay. This “post office” is simply a barrel and was first used in 1793 by the whalers. They used it to receive and send letters home and to have contact within them; this tradition continues with the visitors who come to the Galapagos today. A nearby beach is also lovely for wandering, swimming, or snorkeling on your own. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 3 (Monday): Floreana Island: Black Beach & Whale/Dolphin Watching
This morning we will visit Floreana Island´s black beach, to learn about the intriguing human history of the island and it´s first inhabitants. Floreana was the first islands in the Archipelago to be inhabited, since it has one of the very few fresh water sources. We will visit this fresh water source known as “Asilo de La Paz”, as well as the caves that served as hideouts for pirates and where the first “Galapegueño” was born, according to Floreana stories, which involve the infamous Baroness Eloise Wagner von Bousquet and her lovers, which mysteriously began to disappear after settling in the island.
After our visit, we will have the best opportunity for a not so usual but well beloved activity in the Archipelago, a full afternoon navigation to look for Whales and Dolphins. The waters of the Galapagos form the second largest marine reserve in the World, and this marine reserve have a very rich wildlife. The biggest representatives of the underwater Fauna are the different species of Whales and dolphins found here. We will navigate form Floreana to Isabela Island while looking for these fascinating creatures, which tend to show themselves in this area. This afternoon is completed by the impressive landscapes of Isabella and the Cerro Azul volcano. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 4 (Tuesday): Isabela Island: Punta Moreno & Elizabeth Bay
You now begin your exploration of some of the most far-flung and wildlife-rich sites within the Galapagos archipelago. The western Islands of Isabela and Fernandina are usually the top highlight of any cruise due to the large populations of iconic Galapagos animals and their unusual relationships with their environs. You make several stops on Isabela because it is such a massive Island with incredible diversity at each stop along the way due to lava flows which isolated many animals.
Early in the morning you hike on the rough lava field of Punta Moreno. Here you can see all three species of Galapagos cactus: candelabra cactus, prickly pear cactus and lava cactus. Hopefully, in the middle of the lava field amidst some brackish water pools, you will find flamingoes, common gallinules, white-cheeked pintail ducks and paint-billed crakes. Afterwards on a dinghy ride, you can see flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and huge marine iguanas.
Later in the day, you will travel to Elizabeth Bay which is ideal for snorkeling and wildlife viewing. You are likely to come across Galapagos penguins, Blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, sea turtles, sea lions, and sharks. Outside of the mangrove cove you make a dinghy drive around the small islets, the Marielas. These islets are important nesting places for the Galapagos penguin and Blue-footed boobies are often seen resting in the steep cliffs. The flightless cormorants are also easy to spot on these islets as well. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 5 (Wednesday): Isabela Island: Urbina Bay & Fernandina Island: Punta Espinosa
You disembark at Urbina Bay (wet landing) onto a black sand beach, nesting site for Green sea turtle. You take a brief hike inland in search of land iguanas and giant tortoises (seasonal) that migrate to and from the highlands. Colorful land iguanas, tortoises, and rare Flightless Cormorant also reside here. From the beach, you will admire the remains of a geological uplift exposing coral heads and marine fossils; and if the sea conditions and time are on our side, you will also snorkel in these waters.
The hike at Fernandina may feel like the most remote and scenic excursion during your entire cruise. Fernandina’s stark black landscape is juxtaposed by neighboring Isabela’s lush volcanoes and the turquoise ocean in between. But this visit is about much more than scenery since you have the opportunity to see an abundance of marine iguanas, Sally light-foot crabs, flightless cormorants, sharks, and sea turtles. It’s common here to snorkel in a bevy of sea turtles feasting on sea grass alongside swimming marine iguanas and penguins on the hunt for fish. Fernandina is probably the most pristine of all the Islands in the Galapagos and an extremely worthwhile visit. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6 (Thursday): Isabela Island: Tagus Cove & Punta Vicente Roca
Tagus Cove is a protected cove that was a favorite resting site for the early pirates and whalers who also carved and painted their names in the high cliffs of the cove. Here, you embark on a scenic walk uphill to Darwin Lake, a saltwater crater lake, and then a bit further on, you have a wonderful view overlooking the lava fields of Darwin Volcano. After the hike, you have a zodiac ride along the cliffs to look for Galapagos Penguins and flightless cormorants. If the water is clear, Tagus Cove is a fascinating snorkeling spot with a great amount of marine invertebrates to be found on the vertical walls.
After a short cruise, you arrive at Punta Vicente Roca, a spot where you can observe dramatic volcanic scenery and amazing snorkeling. The volcanic activity here at the north end of Isabela Island created a tower cliff above the sea and twin, bright blue coves. On land, you will probably find masked (Nazca) boobies, blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, land iguanas, and Darwin finches. Once snorkeling, you may encounter Galapagos penguins, rays, sea turtles, and perhaps the bizarre sunfish. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 7 (Friday): Santiago Island: Espumilla Beach & Puerto Egas
After three days exploring the fabulous western islands, we sail to central Santiago to disembark at Espumilla (wet landing), onto a golden-colored sand Green sea turtle nesting site. A forest trail will take you through some of the largest specimens of Palo Santo on the islands to observe Yellow Warblers, the unbelievably tame Galapagos Flycatcher and the ever-intriguing Darwin’s finches.
Puerto Egas, aka James Bay, is home to the fascinating Galapagos hawk as well as Galapagos oyster catchers and Galapagos lava lizards. You will walk to the coastline where you observe tidal pools and an abundance of Galapagos sea lions. Here the Galapagos fur sea lions bathe in the sun. While snorkeling, you swim alongside reef sharks, turtles, and rays. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 8 (Saturday): North Seymour Island; Depart Galapagos
Your Galapagos experience ends with a fantastic visit to North Seymour Island, a place to observe abundant and entertaining birdlife. On North Seymour, Blue-footed boobies make their nests on the ground right below nesting Magnificent Frigate birds. You will likely see the male frigate birds inflate their incredible neck pouches, hoping to attract some lucky females flying overhead. The trail ends at a scenic beach where loads of sea lions love to sunbathe.
After this visit, you will be dropped off at the Baltra airport. Your guide will explain the check-in process and you will board your flight back to mainland Ecuador (either Guayaquil or Quito). (Breakfast)