Summary : Cruise the islands aboard an elegant motor yacht with a high quality education program, great 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
$5,600 to $9,250
Arrive at Baltra Island. After passing through Galapagos National Park inspection your National Park Guide will be there to greet you. Your guide will accompany you on the short bus ride to the waterfront. During WWII the island of Baltra was a US Air Force base and one can still see the remnants of the old foundations left behind from that era. Transfer via panga (launch) to the waiting M/Y Grace. The crew will see that your luggage is transferred to your cabin.
You’ll have time to settle into your new home for the week. While this is taking place the M/Y Grace will start her engines and set off into the archipelago.
Daphne Minor, a tuff cone (giant pile of compressed volcanic ash shaped like a cone), sits off the north coast of Santa Cruz Island. While off limits to all but limited scientific parties going ashore, permission from the National Park has been obtained to navigate around the island. You will have a front row seat to witness bustling colonies of blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, magnificent frigate birds and more. You'll also have the opportunity to observe short-eared owls and red-billed tropicbirds.
As the sun sets on your first day in the Enchanted Archipelago, you'll toast to the voyage ahead with a welcome cocktail.
Santa Fe 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.
South Plaza Island lies just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. One of the big attractions here are the friendly yellow land iguanas waiting for lunch to drop from a cactus in the form of a prickly pear. Follow a trail up the tilt of the island to cliffs that look out over the ocean. Swallow-tailed gulls with red banded eyes nest atop the overlook where you may spot marine life such as manta rays.
Your first visit is to Prince Phillips Steps. Red-footed boobies wrap their webbed feet around branches to precariously perch in the bushes where they nest. In contrast their masked-booby cousins dot the surface of the scrublands beyond. Crossing through the sparse vegetation, you will come to a broad lava field that extends toward sea cliffs. Petrels flutter out over the ocean in swarms, then return to nest in the cracks and tunnels of the lava. After completing the two hour hike, return to the vessel to change into wetsuits for some snorkeling at one of the best sites in the islands. Hiding in and around the rocky shoreline that drops off into the caldera you will also see a rainbow assortment of wrasse, basslet, anthias and tang. This area of the bay is also excellent for some kayaking in the calm waters close to the shore to observe nesting birds.
Landing on the white coral sands of Darwin Bay and walking up the beach, you find yourself 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. 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.
A brief panga ride brings us to the base of those same cliffs to reveal the full variety of bird species sheltering in the ledges and crevices created by the weathered basalt. Among them, red–billed tropic birds enter and leave their nests trailing exotic kite-like tails. This is also an intriguing place to go deep-water snorkeling, or there is the equally amazing and far more sheltered snorkeling experience across the bay.
In the morning, visit Fernandina Island's Punta Espinoza, a narrow spit of land, where a number of unique species are in close proximity. As your panga driver skillfully navigates the reef, penguins you may spot penguins jumping from the rocks into the water; red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while great blue and lava herons forage through the mangrove roots. Dominating this landscape from high overhead looms the summit of La Cumbre, 1,495 meters (4,858 feet), one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
The snorkeling off Punta Espinoza offers some real treats, as many of the creatures you just saw on land, including the marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and sea lions await you in the waters off the point.
In the afternoon visit Urbina Bay, directly west of Isabela’s Volcano Alcedo, where you will make an easy, wet landing (a hop into a few inches of water) onto a gently sloping beach. A highlight of this excursion are the giant land iguanas and giant tortoises, as well as the opportunity to go snorkeling among marine creatures, or just relax on shore.
This evening you have a real treat as the M/Y Grace sits at anchor in the Bolivar Channel where you will be spectacularly surrounded by the towering shield volcanoes that form Fernandina and Isabela. Sunset in the channel is also an excellent time to spot whales and dolphins that feed in these productive waters created by the upwelling of the Cromwell Current, while you enjoy a happy hour at the Sky lounge on the upper rear deck.
A morning visit to Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. The cove’s quiet waters make for an ideal panga ride beneath its sheltered cliffs, where blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, pelicans and noddy terns make their nests, and flightless cormorants and penguins inhabit the lava ledges. From your landing, a wooden stairway rises to the trail entrance for a view of Darwin Lake; a perfectly round saltwater crater, barely separated from the ocean but above sea level! The trail continues around the lake through a dry vegetation zone, and then climbs inland to a promontory formed by spatter cones. The site provides spectacular views back toward our anchorage, as well as to Darwin Volcano and Wolf Volcano to the north.
In the afternoon, visit Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island. Snorkeling is incredible here as a result of the nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current that surround the western side of the archipelago. See colorful fish, sea lions, penguins and sea turtles in the water. This spot is a popular anchorage from which to take panga rides along the cliff where a partially sunken cave beckons explorers. The site offers deep water snorkeling where sea lions turtles, spotted eagle rays and even manta rays are the attraction.
The short walk up Espumilla Beach leads inland to mangroves typically inhabited by common stilts. Beyond the mangroves is a brackish lagoon where flocks of pink flamingos and white cheeked pintails wade in search of mollusks. The trail passes over a tiny hilltop through a sparse Palo Santo forest before looping back to the beach. Galapagos finches and Vermilion fly catchers inhabit the area. The tuff formations that form the cliffs that surround the cove have created a natural sculpture gallery rising from the sea with formations including the Monk and Elephant Rock.
In the afternoon, visit James Bay. Birders coming to James Bay will have the opportunity to spot vermillion flycatchers, Galapagos hawks and the tool-wielding woodpecker finch. James Bay is 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. Both fur sea lions and California sea lions occasionally pass through as well.
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the economic center of the Islands. The little port town offers restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and internet cafes. This morning we 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.
Take an afternoon visit to the Highlands, where the dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush wet fields and forests overgrown with moss and lichens. Your afternoon destination is the Wild Tortoise Reserve where you will have a chance to track and view these friendly ancient creatures in their natural setting.
Today your Galapagos cruise comes to an end, but before you bid farewell to the Grace visit the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center that presents a comprehensive exhibit of the islands’ natural history, human interaction, ecosystems, flora and fauna.
Afterwards, return to the 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 other beverages not 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).