DAY 1 BALTRA / MOSQUERA
Early flight to Baltra, in the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide, who will assist with the transfer to the Monserrat, moored in Baltra. Have some lunch and your adventure begins as you begin your exploration of the Galapagos with a snorkling trip to Mosquera Islet.
Flights from Quito to Baltra depart between 6:40am and 9:40am depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into the Galapagos between 9:30am and 12:30pm with a short refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane). You will generally arrive onto the boat in time for lunch on Day 2 before your afternoon activity.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist.
Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named.
Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are now a National Park. The Galapagos National Park is the institution that controls the preservation of this environment, assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. Inaugurated in 1964 and based in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the one place where visitors can easily see the famous Galapagos Tortoises, which may live up to two hundred years. This is also the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors landing at more than 40 approved sites on the islands, and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station.
The National Park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD, payable on arrival, which funds Park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the National Park System are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.
DAY 2 ISABELA
In the morning, hike the Sierra Negra Volcano which has the largest basaltic caldera in the Galapagos. Along the hike, see smoking fumaroles and the ""sulphur volcano"" where you see large amounts of sulphur deposited around the fumaroles. The volcano last erupted in October 2005, making it the most recent eruption of the Galapagos.
In the afternoon, visit Las Tintoreras, a small island in front of Puerto Villamil. The bay in front is known to be home to a colony of white tip sharks. You'll also have the opportunity to see the Wall of Tears, which pays homage to prisoners forced to build the wall of huge blocks of lava between 1946 and 1959 when a penal colony was on the island. Many prisoners died during its construction. Check out the tortoise breeding centre to see some of the famous giant tortoises of the Galapagos.
DAY 3 CHINESE HAT / RÁBIDA
In the morning the boat arrives to a small little island off the southern tip of Santiago called Chinese Hat, for it's unique shape. Here it is often possible to see Galapagos penguins and the marine life is fantastic for snorkelling. There is also a large sea lion colony here as well as many marine iguanas that can be seen on our guided walk amongst the volcanic scenery, with good views to the cone of the island's volcano.
In the afternoon we will make our way to Rabida Island, where we land on a red sand beach. From here a short trail leads to a salt water lagoon.Another trail goes past the lagoon to the interior, where the revered palo santo trees grow. When burned, the branches of this tree give off a pleasing aroma and ward off mosquitoes. Back on the beach among low-lying bushes nest the prehistoric-looking pelicans. This is the best area for close viewing of these nesting birds, and it's a rare treat to watch parent pelicans return with gullets full of fish for the squawking youngsters.
DAY 4 ISLA SANTIAGO
Morning excursion to Puerto Egas to see the salt crater as well as a dark sand beach and tidal pools and the ever friendly, Fur Seals. Continue to Playa Espumilla, one of the most idyllic beaches in the Galapagos islands, with thick mangroves along with sea turtle nesting sites. Head to Buccaneer Cove to witness the towering cliff wall rock formations.
Santiago Island has seen it's share of human activity from whalers and pirates over the years, and despite the introduction of goats to the island many years ago, the wildlife of Santiago has flourished otherwise and provides outstanding viewing opportunities. The island boasts marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles among others, which provide great wildlife viewing both on land and in the water.
DAY 5 NORTH SEYMOUR / BALTRA / QUITO
Set sail for North Seymour, just north of Baltra, home to sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, magnificent frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Seymour Island is probably the most exciting island photographically. Bird life abounds, and close to the trail you will find many nesting pairs and young chicks. Seymour is also home to the Galapagos’s largest colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds. Their mating ritual is an ostentatious display: males expand the red sack at the base of their throat and perch atop a bush with wings fully extended, flapping furiously. Interested females circle overhead, and if so inclined, may join the male on terra firma. Further along the trail we can observe a colony of sea lions.
Following this we transfer to the airport on Baltra Island for our flight to Quito.
Flights from Baltra to Quito depart between 10:00am and 1:00pm depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into Quito between 2:30pm and 5:30pm with a refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane).