Summary : The far-flung Galapagos archipelago is unique on Earth. Giant tortoises roam misty meadows. Sea lions loll, nonchalant, on pristine beaches. Iguanas bask on sun-baked lava while sea turtles, and rays swim with snorkelers in aquamarine waters. Paddling this primeval paradise is a privilege few visitors get to enjoy. A pioneer of kayaking in the Galapagos, this tour operator has special paddling permits allowing access to places most visitors never see. Aboard a privately chartered deluxe catamaran, whisk between anchorages while enjoying comfortable accommodations. Each day you'll explore a different island, on foot, by kayak, via snorkeling, and sometimes all three—you won't sit around on deck on this adventure! The islands are surprisingly diverse, with new discoveries at each spot you visit.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Upon arrival at the airport in Quito, you are met by a local representative and transferred to Quito's colonial Old Town, about an hour away. Settle into your luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the colonial quarter and enjoy dinner at your leisure this evening at one of Quito’s many fine restaurants.
After breakfast, embark on a full day of discovery in Ecuador’s historic capital. Heralded as Latin America’s most beautifully preserved colonial city, Quito’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with cobblestone lanes, elegant plazas and monuments, and ornate gilded churches and monasteries. Take in a sweeping view of the city and surrounding volcanic peaks from the overlook Panecillo Hill, then visit the 16th-century Church and Convent of San Francisco and neighboring San Francisco Square. Make a brief exploration of the Casa del Alabado Museum, a private archaeological collection of pre-Columbian artifacts dating back to Ecuador's oldest indigenous cultures. Marvel at the baroque splendor of La Compañia Church with its gleaming gold-leaf interior, and visit Independence Plaza, the original center of Quito to view the Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral and Presidential Palace. Along your way, stop for a lunch of Ecuadorian food served with a contemporary twist. Spend the afternoon at leisure in the city or visiting traditional boutique artisan shops along La Ronda, one of Quito’s oldest streets, where the artisans make everything from hats to wooden toys to chocolate. This evening, join one of your Expedition Leaders for a welcome dinner.
Rise early to make the return transfer to the Quito airport, where you board your flight to the Galapagos this morning. An Expedition team member meets the group once you land on Baltra. Transfer to the jetty to board the Nemo III.
Listed below is a sample of the islands you may visit during your expedition, and the types of activities you may experience.
Snorkel around the base of an ancient submerged volcano. Keep an eye out for schools of fish and Galapagos penguins. Sea turtles and rays are also common sightings. On land, climb to the highest point of the island for 360-degree views, passing intriguing geological formations such as spatter cones, tuff cones and lava tubes. From the summit a panorama unfolds of the surrounding islands and Pinnacle Rock.
Española is also the world's main nesting site for the huge waved albatross. Paddle along the north shore of the island and follow a cliff formed by eroded cinder cones. Observe giant cacti and many different bird species. Deep-water snorkel at one of the offshore islets in Gardner Bay. Go ashore where an idyllic white sand beach awaits and sea lions laze by the dozens. Pacific green sea turtles frequent the rocky part of the shoreline. Hiking on the headlands of Punta Suarez to see abundant birdlife: mockingbirds, blue-footed boobies, nesting swallow-tailed gulls and Galapagos hawks.
See the rippling pahoehoe lava at Punta Espinoza and flightless cormorants that nest on the rocks. Sea lions sprawl on the beach, and huge colonies of marine iguanas bask in the sun. Bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs pepper the black rocks at water's edge. Snorkel for a chance to see sea turtles and swimming marine iguanas feeding on algae.
Land at Punta Cormorant and follow a trail through a Palo Santo forest to a lagoon where you may see pink flamingos. Wind your way past a rich variety of plants to reach a beach where sea turtles lay eggs in the dunes and rays swim in the shallow water. Sail to Champion Islet just offshore for a great spot to drift-snorkel. You may be followed by playful young sea lions. Floreana's rich cultural history is filled with intrigue, including tales of pirates who once hid out here. The "Post Office Barrel" established by British whalers in 1793 is where travelers still leave mail for personal delivery via visitors passing through.
This island is a collapsed shield volcano that attracts literally millions of seabirds to breed and nest. Paddle your kayak inside the flooded crater to be surrounded by red-footed boobies, lava gulls, storm petrels and yellow-crowned night herons that fill the air with a cacophony of squawks. Land at El Barranco, also known as Prince Phillip's Steps, and climb the steep path with stairs carved into the rock that leads to a plateau full of birdlife within a Palo Santo forest. Walk among colonies of great frigatebirds and Nazca boobies to a lava field where storm petrels nest in underground lava tubes. Continue to Darwin Bay Beach and snorkel from the beach, where plenty of local sea lions loll in the sun, and sightings of sea turtles are common below the water’s surface.
Land at Punta Moreno and walk atop the hardened lava. The black surface is dotted with numerous coastal lagoons harboring a wide variety of birdlife such as flamingos, herons and cormorants. The protected waters of Moreno Bay are surrounded by mangroves, creating perfect habitat for sea turtles, which you may spot from the Zodiacs or during a snorkel. At Urbina Bay, you'll see a colony of some of the largest land iguanas in the islands and the iconic Galapagos tortoise, and you may also see bright yellow Darwin’s cotton flowers here, unique to the archipelago. Or anchor at Tagus Cove and explore by kayak to spot penguins, pelicans and graffiti dating back to the 1800s when the names of ships were carved into the rock above a historic anchorage for pirates and whalers.
Land on this tiny islet that's home to a huge population of sea lions as well as many shorebirds. Keep an eye out for dolphins and orcas too!
North Seymour Island:
Follow a trail that leads you to swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies and endemic land iguanas. Spot the large colony of magnificent frigatebirds. Stroll along the beach to see marine iguanas and sea lions bodysurfing.
San Cristobal Island:
Land at Cerro Brujo, an ancient volcanic tuff cone that sits next to an expanse of white sand that's home to a large colony of Galapagos sea lions, as well as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, egrets and marine iguanas. Paddle the shoreline via kayak and observe the tunnels and caves eroded by the relentless action of the waves.
Santa Cruz Island:
Set off for Las Bachas, a beautiful white sand beach. Snorkel in the azure water. Or visit secluded Tortuga Bay which is a sanctuary for many birds, iguanas and crabs that dot the lava rocks. Kayak among mangrove lagoons on the bay's edge where sea turtles are frequently found. Head into Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz, to visit the world-famous giant tortoise-rearing center located at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Ascend into the misty highlands of Santa Cruz to arrive at the exclusive Tortoise Camp to spend the night. This exclusive setting offers a rare opportunity to spend a night in wild tortoise habitat, and these ancient, gentle reptiles that are the archipelago's namesake often wander right through camp. Accommodations are in safari-style raised platform tents and treehouses with distant views of the ocean. While rustic, they offer comfortable amenities, including real beds and private en suite facilities (located inside the treehouses; located outside but adjacent to the platform tents a few steps away). But the real treat of a stay here is the proximity to wild tortoises, which are attracted to the area's lush vegetation. They are most commonly seen in camp from July through February. From March to June, you'll make an excursion to a nearby tortoise reserve for closer views, as they migrate seasonally to a lower elevation. PLEASE NOTE: At times, the camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.
Santa Fe Island:
Enjoy a short hike through a forest of prickly pear cacti as you look for endemic land iguanas that wait patiently underneath for fruit to drop.
Land on a black sand beach and take a trail that crosses the dry interior, and continues along the coast. Birdlife abounds, with great blue herons, lava herons, oystercatchers, yellow-crowned night herons, land doves, finches, and mockingbirds. See a colony of Galapagos fur seals. After your walk, there may be time to swim or snorkel off the beach with the resident sea lions, and you may also see turtles.
Sombrero Chino Island:
Enjoy a paddle through the Bainbridge Rocks, shaped like a string of floating mushroom tops, and revealing more of the Galapagos' fascinating marine life. Snorkel in the channel and keep and eye out for penguins.
All too soon, your time in the Enchanted Isles comes to a close. Say farewell to the Nemo III, her crew and your Expedition Leader. This afternoon return to the Baltra airport for your flight back to the mainland.
Upon arrival at the Quito airport, travelers departing on overnight flights may choose to transfer to a hotel located just minutes away, for a relaxed layover in a comfortable day room (extra fee). A complimentary shuttle will return you to the airport in time for your evening flight.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
This is a very active trip with early mornings and long days filled with varied activities. General physical fitness and mobility are required to participate in this trip. If you have no prior experience with kayaking, it is asked that you are prepared to learn and sign on knowing that your participation may be limited if you cannot meet minimum abilities. Activities include mainland and island walking, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. Snorkeling is a big component of this trip, with excursions offered nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. So it is strongly recommend practicing beforehand if you have limited experience.
Medical Evacuation Insurance is mandatory for this trip. Note that the cost of a medical evacuation policy will be added to your tour invoice. If you wish to decline this coverage and opt for a different carrier, you will need to provide other proof of coverage including your insurance company’s name and contact number, and your insurance policy number.
This trip is also available as an 8-day itinerary that spends 2 less days in the Galapagos Islands. Please inquire for more details.
Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 10; two pre-cruise hotel nights in the Quito; overnight at Galapagos Tortoise Camp (weather permitting); shipboard accommodations; kayaking; gear on loan (wetsuits, snorkeling gear); meals from breakfast on Day 2 through breakfast on Day 10; local beer and house wine with dinner aboard the ship; most gratuities; Galapagos National Park permit and transit card fees. Subject to change without notice.
Alcohol not mentioned as included; items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, internet etc.; required medical evacuation insurance; travel insurance; optional activities; some gratuities; 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).
Photos ©: Natural Habitat Adventures
*A surcharge for Travelex medical evacuation insurance through Natural Habitat Adventures is added to your tour invoice. It is mandatory to have this insurance for this trip. If you wish to go with a different carrier, you will need to show proof of coverage to have this charge removed from your invoice. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.