Summary : Encounter a plethora of flora and fauna in one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Come unimaginably close to an impressive array of creatures – many of them endemic – including the giant tortoise and colorful land iguanas. After a day of snorkeling and sunbathing with sea lions, return to the unrivaled comforts of a luxury expedition ship on this adventure of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Arrive in Quito and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy an evening tour of Quito's historic city highlights.
Transfer from your hotel to the Quito airport for your flight to the Galapagos. Embark the vessel, and settle in, meet your Expedition Team and enjoy the first of many memorable meals on board.
During the late afternoon Silver Galapagos will circumnavigate Kicker Rock. Look for frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls and masked boobies. The geological formation and its impressive height can best be seen from the ship and conditions permitting you'll be able to observe one of the most beautiful sunsets of the Galapagos Islands.
Some of the most spectacular landscapes in the islands come into view just off the coast of Santiago. Bartolome boasts some of the most magnificent landscapes in the islands including the famous Pinnacle Rock, a towering obelisk at the edge of the ocean. Go snorkeling or take a walk along the beach to look for the playful Galapagos penguin, perched on a rock or zooming underwater.
Beautiful Espumilla Beach is an important nesting site for the East Pacific green sea turtle. Playa Espumilla is located on the northwestern side of Santiago Island and is home to a variety of wildlife including nesting green sea turtles, and plentiful birds such as flamingos, white-cheeked pintails, yellow warblers, Galapagos hawks, whimbrels, and American oystercatchers. Zodiacs will land you at the center of the white sand beach to join a trail that passes by a seasonal lagoon hosting a variety of bird life. The trail then leads inland to a fragrant Palo Santo (incense tree) forest before looping back to the beach in a lazy circuit past the mangrove-fringed lagoon, where you can watch shorebirds work the mudflats for their dinner. Walk through the arid vegetation zone of the interior to see the largest Palo Santo trees in the Galapagos, the perfect habitat for several species of Darwin’s finches.
Five majestic shield volcanoes up to half-a-million years old pierce the arid landscape of Isabela, the largest and youngest island in the Galápagos. Enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the islands at Punta Vicente Roca, located at the base of Ecuador Volcano. Ancient eruptions have carved away half of the volcano to reveal a spectacular view of the caldera. Board a Zodiac and look for an array of seabirds including flightless cormorants and penguins.
With the gentle slopes of La Cumbre volcano in the distance, the low, lava-forged coast of Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island is a spectacular sight. Hundreds of marine iguanas rest on the black rock of recent lava flows absorbing heat from the stone and defending their territories against one another. Galapagos sea lions and their pups also take shelter here, resting on the beach and playing in the shallow tide pools sprinkled along the coast. Walk past high sandy areas where marine iguanas lay their eggs and along low, shallow mangrove ponds ringed with bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs and flightless cormorants drying their stubby wings in the sunshine.
Tagus Cove is a sheltered area southwest of Volcán Darwin on Isabela Island. The protected waters of this cove are home to sea turtles, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins. In addition, the cove has offered safe anchorage to visiting ships through the ages. Here you can choose to kayak, snorkel or head ashore to discover centuries-old names of vessels that were painted or carved onto the rock near the landing site. After landing by Zodiac, you may hike through the forest of Palo Santo trees to access the upper reaches of a volcanic cone. Watch for several species of Darwin finches and curious mockingbirds as you ascend. From the track’s high point the panoramic view is spectacular.
The tranquil inlets of Elizabeth Bay are the perfect spot for a Zodiac cruise. First pass the “Las Marielas” islets, which are home to blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, Galapagos sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Then journey on into the bay flanked by the massive volcanoes of Sierra Negra and Alcedo and continue past fresh and desolate lava fields heading towards tall green mangrove trees growing out of black lava shores. In the easternmost bay, an inlet lies hidden. The nimble Zodiacs can enter this small cove to look for sea turtles, rays, and even sharks.
Isla Champion is a small islet off Floreana Island’s northeast coast. To cruise by it reveals a bare, rocky island without much allure, but to enter the infinitely blue waters around this small landmass is to discover a spectacular underwater realm. The visibility is generally impressive and thanks to this water clarity snorkelers often spot reef sharks patrolling the reef wall, cruising Pacific green turtles, and playful Galapagos sea lions. Encounters in the blue with thousands of small silver minnows, large tuna fish, or oceanic sunfish are not unheard of either.
Post Office Bay is steeped in history and received its name thanks to a post box that was placed ashore before 1813. Ships that were visiting the Galapagos on multi-year voyages would leave letters here to be collected and delivered by vessels on their way home. Visitors today can keep the tradition alive by leaving their own postcards in the post box (now a barrel) and looking for any they can deliver by hand back at home. Activities at Post Office Bay can include exploring a cave created by lava that runs underground towards the ocean. The bay itself offers kayaking along the shore and into Mystery Bay, snorkeling, swimming and relaxing on the beach.
Cerro Dragon’s land iguanas have played an important part in the conservation program by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. When their numbers declined in the 1970s some animals were taken to breed in captivity, others were put onto the neighboring islet Venecia. Head inland on a trail leading past small saltwater lagoons that periodically feature flamingos to see the reintroduced animals. Once at the hill, circle Cerro Dragon, looking for the land iguanas and their burrows.
There might also be the possibility to snorkel near the landing site if time and tides permit.
Silver Galapagos will relocate to the northern shore of Santa Cruz during the early afternoon. At Las Bachas there will be the chance to swim from one of the two beaches, see white-cheeked pintails and flamingos at a lagoon behind the beach and look for sea turtle. Las Bachas is one of the major nesting sites for them.
Cerro Dragón’s land iguanas once played an important part in a conservation program headed by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. When the reptiles’ numbers declined in the 1970s, some animals were taken to breed in captivity and were released back into undeveloped areas. Today, it is an honor to see the success of this program firsthand at Cerro Dragón. Walk inland on a trail past small saltwater lagoons that periodically feature flamingos, to see the reintroduced animals. In a periodic local phenomenon, during rainier times the salinity in the lagoons drops with the inflow of freshwater.
On the northern shore of Santa Cruz stretch the Las Bachas beaches. A short track leads visitors inland towards a shallow pond with the opportunity to spot flamingos, migratory birds in season, and scavenging shorebirds. The name “Las Bachas” derives from the mispronounced term “barges” –which the American forces had left behind after World War II. On your visit to Las Bachas there will be the chance to swim from one of the two sandy beaches and to look for sea turtles that use Las Bachas as one of their major nesting sites in the islands.
Los Gemelos is Spanish for “the twins” and true to the name, Los Gemelos are twin sinkholes, one on either side of the road running from Puerto Ayora to the north side of the island. The mammoth scale of the landmarks often elicits exclamations of wonder from visitors at first sight. The vertical walls of the sinkholes fall deep into the ground covered in a veil of greenery hiding the bottom of the pit. Walk along the craters’ edges before stopping at Rancho El Manzanillo to see giant Santa Cruz tortoises in the wild. On the ranch swap walking shoes for knee-high rubber boots and wade out in to the green fields to come close to majestic giant tortoises and search for the coveted Woodpecker Finch.
Silver Galapagos will anchor in front of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, where the prestigious Charles Darwin Research Station is located. The station also houses the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center for giant tortoises and land iguanas where guides interpret the center’s captive breeding and reintroduction programs. In addition to these star species, throughout the station there are huge prickly pear cactus trees being fed upon by the pretty Galapagos cactus finch. To round out the stay in Puerto Ayora, enjoy free time in town where local artists have created charming art galleries and corner cafes.
Disembark the vessel and transfer to the airport for your return flight to the mainland.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes. Read this itinerary as a guide only, as the exact route and the wildlife you encounter may vary.
Two-night pre-voyage hotel stay with breakfast in Quito; evening tour of Quito's historic city highlights; roundtrip economy class air between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; transfer from the hotel to the airport in Quito; pre- and post-cruise transfers between the airport and Silver Galapagos in Baltra; a post-cruise hotel day room in Guayaquil (for guests with flights after 10 p.m.); transfer from the airport to the hotel, and from the hotel to the airport in Guayaquil; Galapagos National Park Fee; porterage fees; cabin accommodations aboard ship; all meals aboard ship; Galapagos Transit Card; all shore activities and excursions; guide and lecture service; butler service; gratuities (except Spa); kayaking; snorkel gear and wetsuits; complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, spirits, soda, water and coffee); one hour of Internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and Terrace Suites; unlimited Internet access for passengers booked in Veranda, Deluxe Veranda, and Silver Suites; courtesy binoculars and raincoats on loan. Subject to change without notice.
International airfare; government taxes; laundry or valet services, purchases from the ship boutiques or any item or service of a personal nature; premium sparkling wines and spirits; travel health insurance (required to enter Ecuador); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Daniela Plaza, © Richard Sidey (crab, hikers, hawk, albatross, iguana), © Ralph Lee Hopkins (turtle)