Summary : Discover the Galapagos Islands onboard a spacious vessel with a great education program, high-quality service, Jacuzzi, kayaks, and sun deck. The Galapagos Islands are considered one of the most spectacular and pristine National Parks in the world. Visitors delight in the abundant, unusual, and surprisingly approachable wildlife--from Galapagos giant tortoises to playful sea lions to the fascinating blue-footed boobies.
We strongly recommend two pre-cruise nights and one post-cruise night in Quito or Guayaquil. Please inquire about adding these or other services to your trip.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
Free Galapagos Airfare
Free National Park Entrance + Transit Card
$6,200 to $7,950
Arrive on San Cristóbal Island, the easternmost of the Galapagos Islands and the first island which Charles Darwin stepped foot on in the Archipelago! Upon arrival board the Evolution and have lunch and a quick briefing en route to your first visitor sites: Isla Lobos.
The tiny island is separated from much larger San Cristobal by a narrow channel and little bay. This basalt island outcropping lives up to its name of Sea Lion Island, and is home to a noisy population of frolicking and barking beasts. It is also a nesting place for blue-footed boobies and an excellent spot for snorkeling with sea lions. Walk the trail for some baby sea lion and bird watching amidst the sands beneath the salt bushes. After the walk, change grab your snorkeling gear for some swimming with sea lions! The sea lions like to dart past, and then swim up to you to blow bubbles at your mask. On occasion they have been known to leap over, and then dive in front of unsuspecting snorkelers.
Your afternoon comes to a close as we head south back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Enjoy your first Pacific sunset aboard the ship by celebrating happy hour atop her sky lounge.
In the morning, visit South Plaza Island, one of the smallest yet most colorful islands in the Galapagos. Yellow land iguanas wander through bright red carpet weed, waiting from prickly pears to drop from green cactus. Orange Sally Lightfoot crabs dot the blackened lava above the landing site, all surrounded by turquoise waters. See swallow tailed gulls nesting along the up-tilted end of the tiny island. You may see red-billed tropic birds, Nazca (masked) and blue-footed boobies catching rides on the wind currents.
Enjoy early afternoon snorkeling at Punta Carrion where you can stay in the shallow, protected cove or venture out toward the deeper waters where white tipped-reef sharks and the occasional hammerhead inhabit the channel and tuna and red-tailed snapper pass through. Ashore you will see blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, Galapagos herons and great blue herons.
Located between North Seymour and Baltra is the small island of Mosquera. The island consists of a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks and tide pools. Created by geological uplift, the island has a flat look to it rather than the conical shape of the volcano formed islands. A stroll down the beach offers views of the brown pelicans, boobies and colonies of sea lions that like to laze here.
Your landing site at Sombrero Chino is a tiny crescent shaped cove with sandy white beach cradled between black lava rocks and the crystal turquoise waters of the channel. A sea lion colony likes to rest on the warm white sands, while the rockier sections of the coast are alive with fiery colored sally lightfoot crabs. Marine iguanas sun themselves atop the rocks after foraging for algae in the channel. American oyster catchers stalk the tide pools stabbing at shellfish with their bright orange beaks. A quarter mile (400 meter) trail sets off into the island’s volcanic interior to explore its rock formations, including excellent examples of pahoehoe lava resembling black rock ropes. The area is inhabited by ground hugging red sesuvim plants and curious lava lizards.
Back at the cove you will not only have another opportunity to snorkel with sea lions, but rockier sections of the coastline are inhabited by Galapagos penguins that dart past unsuspecting snorkelers. Or you can look for the penguins on a panga ride. Paddlers will have the opportunity to kayak here.
In the afternoon, visit James Bay which has a snorkeling site that is accessed from the shore instead of a dinghy. The sandy beach slopes off into a rocky bottom where a multitude of sea turtles like to hide by blending in with the rocks. But these rocks move and will swim right up to you. At certain times of the year large schools of golden rays and spotted eagle rays also glide by.
The southern part of Genovesa Island is an ocean-filled caldera of a mostly submerged volcano. The island sits to the northwest, slightly removed from the Galapagos archipelago. It is also known as "Bird Island". Landing on the white coral sands of Darwin Bay and walking up the beach, you will be surrounded by the bustling activity of great frigate birds. Puffball chicks and their proud papas—who sport bulging scarlet throat-sacks—crowd the surrounding branches, while yellow-crowned herons and lava herons feed by the shore. Farther along you will discover a stunning series of sheltered pools set into a rocky outcrop. Watch your step for marine iguanas, lava lizards and Galapagos doves that blend with the trail. The trail beside the pools leads up to a cliff overlooking the ocean filled caldera, where pairs of swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal gulls in the world, can be seen nesting at the cliff’s edge. Lava gulls and pintail ducks ride the sea breezes nearby.
In the afternoon visit to Prince Philips Steps. This is the best Galapagos landing site to see red-footed boobies perched with their big red feet wrapped around tiny branches. Crossing through the sparse vegetation, you will come to a broad lava field that extends toward the sea—this forms the north shore of the island. Storm petrels flutter out over the ocean in swarms, then return to nest in the cracks and tunnels of the lava field but not without hazard. Short-eared owls lay in camouflaged wait and make their living feeding off the returning petrels.
Visit North Seymour, a good nesting site for frigate birds and Blue-footed boobies. The Island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile. This island is teeming with life! You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana; blue-footed booby nests sit beside the trail where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rain to bring them into bloom.
The snorkeling site at North Seymour offers a chance to see many types of rays including marble rays, golden eagle rays, spotted eagle rays, sting rays and even manta rays. Schools of king angelfish and yellow tailed surgeonfish swarm the rocky shoreline and pass the occasional parrot and damselfish. Sea lions pay visits from both Seymour and nearby Mosquera Island as sea turtles and the occasional hammerhead shark can been seen down in the depths.
In the afternoon, visit Santa Fe which offers one of the more beautiful and sheltered coves in the islands. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. Land on a sandy white beach among one of many sea lion colonies. An ascending trail leads toward the cliffs, where a dense thicket stands to the inland side of the island. The cliff side provides an expansive view of the ocean among a grove of giant prickly pear cactus.
Floreana has had a colorful history of pirates, whalers, convicts, and a small band of somewhat peculiar colonists. A Baroness was among them and chose a Robinson Crusoe existence that ended in mystery and death. Visit Post Office Bay, where in 1793 British whalers set up a barrel as the island‘s Post Office, to send letters home on passing ships. The tradition continues to this day, simply by dropping a post card into the barrel without a stamp. You can also take a post card from the barrel and see that it gets to the right place.
Continuing a bit farther inland you will have the opportunity to enter the underworld of Floreana in the form of a lava tube. The lava tube descends fairly deep into the earth back toward the ocean, where you can swim in a subterranean grotto beneath the tide. Bring a good waterproof flashlight. Snorkeling in Post Office Bay offers choice encounters with waiting sea turtles and tropical fish.
Enjoy an afternoon at Punta Cormorant and visit Flour Beach formed by the erosion of coral skeletons. Walk along the trail and stop at a lagoon frequented by flamingoes, pintails, stilts and other wading birds.
Later in the day, swim with the sea lions in the waters off Champion Islet and be surrounded by an assortment of tropical fish including yellowtail grunts, amberjacks and schools of king angel. You may spot sleepy white-tipped reef sharks hugging the bottom. Sea turtles glide by, while torpedo-like Galapagos penguins may also be encountered.
Alternatively depending on weather conditions, you may snorkel at Devil’s Crown which is located some 250 meters (700 ft) north of Punta Cormorant. The crown is an old submerged volcanic cone that has been worn down by waves. Devil's Crown is home to a myriad of marine species including several species of corals, sea urchins, and many other creatures including a great number of fish species, making this place one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos.
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the economic center of the Islands. This morning visit Puerto Ayora, home to both the Galapagos National Park Service Headquarters and Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of the great restorative efforts taking place in the park, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you'll visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program run by the research station, which began by rescuing the remaining 14 tortoises on the island of Española in 1970. This program has restored the population of animals there to over 1,000 today.
In the afternoon discover the Highlands of Santa Cruz, where the dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush wet fields and forests overgrown with moss and lichens. Your destination is the Tortoise Reserve, where you will have a chance to see these lumbering gentle giants up close, walk through lava tubes, and see the Gemelos twin collapsed craters.
Today your Galapagos cruise comes to an end, but before you bid farewell to the Grace visit Black Turtle Cove, a mangrove estuary on the northern shores of Santa Cruz Island. Drift quietly via panga to observe many rays, sea turtles, pelicans and other wildlife live among the mangroves.
Afterwards, return to the Baltra airport for the flight back to the Ecuadorian mainland.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes. Read this itinerary as a guide only, as the exact route and the wildlife you encounter may vary.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Travelers are required to carry a minimum of $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage for this trip, and all visitors to Ecuador arriving on or after February 1, 2018 must have public or private health insurance for the duration of travel within the country. You must be prepared to show proof of coverage to migration agents at the airport. Without proof of health insurance coverage, your entrance into Ecuador may be denied. Passengers must check with their medical insurance provider regarding extent of coverage when traveling abroad. (Note that Medicare typically does not cover passengers when they travel outside the US.) ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that you select a travel protection plan that also includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage, and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Cabin accommodations aboard ship; meals aboard ship; soft drinks, juice, coffee and tea throughout the cruise; kayaking; use of snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuits). Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers in Quito or Guayaquil; Galapagos National Park entrance fee; Galapagos Transit Card; gratuities to ship crew and naturalists; alcohol drinks and beverages other than those mentioned as included; travel insurance; passport expenses; personal expenses; fuel surcharge may apply.
Airfare between Quito/Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands:
The flights between mainland Ecuador (Quito or Guayaquil) and the Galapagos Islands are an additional cost. To secure your seats on often overbooked flights, ExpeditionTrips must reserve these flights for you at the time of cruise booking. Approximate cost (including service fee): $500-$700 per adult; $350-$450 per child under 12 (copy of passport required).