Monserrat Yacht / 8d-7n Thu-Thu
DAY 1 BALTRA / SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
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 Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. Visit the Charles Darwin Station, see giant tortoises and learn about Charles Darwin’s studies of Galapagos wildlife. Free time to do some shopping and exploring..
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 SULLIVAN BAY / BARTOLOMÉ
Visit Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island in the morning to witness the striking and fascinating giant lava formations. Very few plans have managed to survive on this island due to the harsh environment and relatively new lava floe. Enjoy a walk along the lava formations before coming to a white coral sand beach, where plentiful sally lightfoot crabs and sea lions can be seen.
Bartolomé Island (also called Bartholomew) has 2 main areas of interest. A hike to the summit of the island provides a clearer perspective of the islands' not-too-distant volcanic origins, and the panoramic view is one of the best among the islands. From here are visible the double-sided beach of Bartolomé directly below, the volcanic tower rising out of the water next to it, and Santiago in the distance. After the summit hike, stop at the beach to relax in semi-tropical tranquility. There is great snorkelling among the submerged volcanic rock and around the base of the tower. A short hike to the beach on the opposite side is worth the minimal effort. It is not unusual to see sharks in these shallow waters, and marine turtles nest here from January through March.
DAY 3 BACHAS BEACH / CERRO DRAGÓN
Visit Bachas Beach in the morning, located on the northeastern tip of Santa Cruz Island. A great beach to stroll on with crystalline waters perfect for swimming, Bachas Beach also gives us the opportunity to see frigate birds, blue-footed boobies and sea lions.
In the afternoon we will visit Cerro Dragón, on the west coast of Santa Cruz Island. Here we will see land iguanas as well as another salt water lagoon frequented by flamingoes and various species of birds.
DAY 4 SANTA CRUZ / MOSQUERA
Sail to Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. In the morning we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see and learn about giant tortoises and Darwin's famed studies and explorations.
Santa Cruz is the most populated island within the archipelago, and Puerto Ayora is its main town. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a 10 minute walk from the centre of the town. Here, an exhibition centre displays photos of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. A corral houses adult Galapagos Tortoises, and a nursery cares for young tortoises until they are about three years old, when their shells have hardened enough to resist attack from feral dogs.
After lunch we will sail to the north of the islands for our afternoon excursion at Mosquera Island and walk along the beach and observe the vast sea lion colonies.
DAY 5 ISABELA
This morning, 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.
In the afternoon, 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.
DAY 6 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 take an excursion to Rabida Island, where we will land on a red sand beach. From here a short trail leads to a salt water lagoon, often home to wading flamingos. 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 7 ISLA SANTIAGO
Morning excursion to Playa Espumilla, one of the most idyllic beaches in the Galapagos islands, with thick mangroves along with flamingo and sea turtle nesting sites. Continue to Puerto Egas to see the salt crater as well as a dark sand beach and tidal pools.
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 8 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).