DAY 1 (Sunday): Baltra Airport & Las Bachas Beach
Fly from the Ecuadorian mainland to the islands on an early morning 90-minute flight. As you prepare to land in Baltra, look out the window. The landscape below will seem otherworldly – you’ll truly be landing in a place like no other. The Galapagos Islands are completely unique and you’re about to see why. Your bilingual naturalist guide will greet you at the airport and meet you after customs. During lunch your guide will introduce you to the islands, specifically the flora and fauna that you will encounter at our first destination, Las Bachas Beach.
On the sandy white beaches of Las Bachas you will get a close look at a sea turtle nesting area as well as a lake frequented by pink flamingos and other migratory birds. Afterwards, you’ll cool off with a dip in the beautiful, blue Pacific Ocean. As this is the first evening together, the crew will invite everyone to a pre-dinner cocktail on the yacht before the welcome dinner. If the night is clear, as it usually is, the stars above will sparkle; look for the Southern Cross, the Big Dipper (turned up-side down!) and Orion. (Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 2 (Monday): Genovesa Island – Darwin Bay & El Barranco
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). Genovesa is known as one of the best places to see large populations of unique, Galapagos birdlife and is a highlight of any itinerary.
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 in a horseshoe shape around the beach. After a wet landing on a coral beach the trail begins in an area where there are several swallow-tailed gulls. 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. Along the way, you’ll see Great Frigatebirds, Nazca Boobies, Blue-Footed Boobies, sharp-beaked finch, large cactus finches, large ground finches, and mockingbirds. Nearby tidal pools in the volcanic rock are places for wandering tattlers, lava gulls, whimbrels and turnstones to hunt for seafood. As you walk back from the beach, you’ll see a variety of Opuntia cactus and mangroves. You will have an opportunity to snorkel after this and/or the next visit.
You’ll visit El Barranco, or Prince Philip’s Steps, during the afternoon. This is the only other visitor site on Genovesa aside from Darwin Bay. You’ll first visit the beach and continue on the trail to see nesting birds like red-billed tropicbirds, storm petrels, and red-footed boobies. Hopefully, you’ll also be able to spot the adorable Galapagos short-eared owl and perhaps the Galapagos fur seal.
After this very full day, we then return to the boat for dinner and overnight. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 3 (Tuesday): Bartolome Island & Sullivan Bay
Bartolome Island contains one of the most photographed vistas in the archipelago. This island is quite young and quite volcanic; therefore, it’s relatively unpopulated with only a small handful of die-hard plant and animal species having survived long enough to call this lava-land home. The land visit here is more about the amazing view of the pinnacle standing straight out of the sea; the volcanic formations of the Islands; and get in an invigorating hike. After our short hike up the wooden stairs, you’ll return to the nearby beach for some very fun snorkeling. Here at Bartolome, you’ll have a very good chance of snorkeling alongside the unique Galapagos penguin. The colony of penguins here seem to love flying through the water as snorkelers swim in the calm bay.
After the visit to Bartolome Island you’ll visit nearby Sullivan Bay. At the turn of the century a huge lava flow spilled right down to the sea and today you can stroll across this black volcanic expanse, admiring its time-frozen ripples, bubbles and ropes. This is a fascinating area for seeing the differences in the volcanic creation of the Islands. There are two nearby beaches also where sea turtles lay their eggs and you may find broken egg shells here left behind by the baby turtles. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 4 (Wednesday): Daphne, Black Turtle Cove, & Cerro Dragón
Early in the morning you’ll arrive to Daphne Island, a conical Island, which is home to thousands of birds such as blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, tropic birds, and many more. You won’t go ashore here, but the group will navigate around this volcanic cone and get as close as possible for you to observe the birds without disturbing them (of course, binoculars are recommended to make sure you get a good look at the birds). Daphne has been a great research site on which many scientists have spent years studying the behavior of Darwin’s finches.
After this visit you’ll move on to our next site, Black Turtle Cove, which is a red mangrove lagoon on Santa Cruz and is a nursery for many sharks and rays. It’s also a great location to observe mating turtles around this time of year. You’ll see large groups of resting White-Tip Reef Sharks, schools of Golden Rays and Spotted Eagle Rays, and a few juvenile Scalloped Hammerhead sharks and Black-Tip sharks. The water very calm so paddles are often used rather than the loud panga engines to move around the area. You’ll go for a naturalist walk here and snorkel in the nearby water with your guide.
After lunch you’ll navigate for a couple of hours to Cerro Dragon, where you’ll make a dry landing on lava rocks. Cerro Dragon is a small bay on the west coast of Santa Cruz and got its name from the many land iguanas that live in the area. Land iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos Islands where they have found good mating and nesting areas. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 5 (Thursday): Santa Cruz Island – Charles Darwin Station & Highlands
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, including Lonesome George, the last survivor of his subspecies. Of course, you’ll also visit the station’s Tortoise Rearing 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. If there is free time, you can explore the town a bit on your own and shop for souvenirs.
After our stop 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 fly in and out of the moss-covered trees. From this high vantage point you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding archipelago.
In the late afternoon you’ll return to town. For those who wish to check out the nightlife, this is your chance; the boat will be docked in port most of the night. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6 (Friday): Floreana Island – Post Office Bay, Mirador de la Baronesa, Punta Cormoran, & Devil´s Crown
When you wake up and look out from the boat deck today, you will see Floreana, one of the greenest islands in the archipelago. Your guide will tell you about its mysterious history laden with rumors of witches, murderous baronesses, blackmail, and dubious disappearances.
Your first stop is Punta Cormorant, where you’ll follow a footpath to a lagoon inhabited by flaming-pink flamingos. You will also pass by Carolina Beach, a Sea Turtle nesting area and a superb spot for watching sea birds and sea rays.
Back on the yacht, you’ll skirt the island’s coast until you arrive at La Corona del Diablo (the Devil’s Crown), a sub-marine crater that offers some of the most spectacular snorkeling in the Galapagos. This is a great spot for seeing the wide array of tropical fish, many endemic to the islands, including purple sea stars and spiky sea urchins. The crater’s most thrilling undersea creatures, however, are the white-tipped sharks. As with most of the creatures in the Galapagos they are unperturbed by your presence, so you can swim in their company freely and fearlessly.
After returning to the boat for lunch you’ll sail on to Post Office Bay, where the islands’ original post office (really only a wooden barrel) was established in 1793. The current system still functions as it did three centuries ago: Visitors drop off unstamped letters and postcards AND pick-up whatever mail they can hand deliver themselves when they return home! (Try it, it actually works!). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 7 (Saturday): Española Island – Punta Suarez, Bahia Gardner, Islote Gardner, & Islote Osborn
Espanola is one of the most magical of all the islands. It is a place where the animals reign supreme and we humans are merely guests. As your dingy brings you to shore you’ll see Sea Lion pups sunbathing with Marine Iguanas and Blue-footed boobies nesting in between, and nearby may be a Galapagos Hawk. If it is Booby mating season watch the bonded pairs do the infamous Booby dance (if it’s not mating season, ask your guide to demonstrate — after all it’s their job to teach you about the local fauna!).
As you follow the footpath around the island, you will pass hundreds of Blue-footed booby nesting sites including one colony of masked boobies. There is also a good chance you’ll see the thief-like Frigate Bird (which has the habit of stealing other birds’ food), as well as the stunning Red-Billed tropicbird and the nocturnal Swallow-Tailed gull.
If it is the right time of the year (mid-April to December) you’ll also encounter the giant Waved Albatross. Apart from a few pairs that breed on Isla de Plata, off the Ecuadorian mainland, all of the world’s 12,000 Waved albatross breed on Española Island. At the end of the breeding season, the entire population leaves the island and heads out to sea, where they spend years without touching land; four or five years may pass before the fledglings return to Española. These large, quirky, and beautiful birds are wonderful to see at any time of year — but perhaps the most charming event to witness is their curious mating dance. Count yourself even more lucky if you get to see this spectacle!
As you make your way around the island you’ll pass by El Soplador, a giant blowhole that explodes to heights reaching 25 feet. In the nearby tide pools you can often find lounging sea lions enjoying the blowhole’s misty spray. Following lunch on board the yacht, you’ll visit Garner Bay, a great place for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. Lionfish, flycatchers, and Galapagos hawks will keep you company as you relax under the rays of the evening sun. Dinner on the yacht completes your day. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 8 (Sunday): San Cristobal – Leon Dormido, Centro de Interpretacion, & Airport
On day 8 of visiting the Galapagos you’ll arrive early in the morning to San Cristobal, the capital of the Galapagos. The first site will be Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido, a tuff volcanic cone that has been eroded by the wind and marine currents giving it the shape from the distance of a sleeping sea lion. This site is now home to Blue-footed boobies and Frigate birds amongst many others, which have turned this area into their nesting site. After navigating around Kicker Rock you’ll continue on to the Interpretation Center in Puerto Baquerizo, the local branch of the Galapagos National Park Service, where your guide will explain the formation of the islands, how the flora and fauna arrived and were established in Galapagos, as well as visit the corrals where there are several species of giant tortoises under the care of the National Park Service. Before taking the flight back to the mainland you will have some time to visit the town on your own for last-minute shopping or people watching in the Galapagos. (Breakfast)
Please note that itineraries are always subject to change without previous notice due to operational purposes, policies of the Galapagos National Park authorities, weather conditions, and for comfort of our passengers.