Summary : This trip is a unique Galapagos experience available for travelers who are interested in (and physically capable of) getting 'out there' on foot and by kayak. In addition to land-based and paddling excursions, you'll have the opportunity to snorkel almost every day while in the islands—plus, explore the Andean cloud forest! The far-flung archipelago of the Galapagos is where giant tortoises roam misty meadows, sea lions loll on pristine beaches, and iguanas bask on sun-baked lava while sea turtles, rays, and penguins swim with snorkelers in turquoise waters.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,043 to $8,243
Arrive in Quito where a local representative meets you at the airport. Your Ecuador adventure begins with a two-hour drive to the market town of Otavalo, home to mostly indigenous residents of the Andean highlands. Spend the next two nights at Las Palmeras, a 150-year-old hacienda tucked into a lush mountain valley at the base of two volcanoes. Your accommodations are in cozy adobe cottages with log fireplaces to take the chill off the cool mountain nights. Within the compound's tile-topped earthen walls, towering palm trees rise above a perennial garden abloom with hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids and more, which attract hummingbirds, vermilion flycatchers and other colorful birds. Enjoy a welcome dinner this evening with one of your expedition leaders.
The countryside surrounding the town of Otavalo offers an ideal introduction for hiking in Ecuador. Mountain lakes glisten beneath wide blue skies, while two dramatic volcanoes dominate the skyline—15,190-foot Imbabura and 16,388-foot Cotacachi. With a picnic lunch to sustain you, head off on local trails to explore the landscape up close. Artisans from surrounding villages in the Otavalo region produce the region's famed textiles, and you'll have a chance to visit a place or two where you can witness artisans making handicrafts and learn about the residents' traditional lifestyles.
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. The rustic private camp, which offers safari-style tents and treehouses with distant views of the ocean, is tucked among lush vegetation that attracts giant tortoises. Enjoy the chance to view these ancient, amiable creatures in their natural setting, and they often amble right into camp (seen most commonly from July through February). Nearby, explore a network of subterranean lava tubes and caverns. 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.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Please Note: At times, the Tortoise Camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.
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 opportunities will be offered nearly every day in the Galapagos, 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.
Airport transfers; two pre-cruise hotel nights in the Ecuador highlands; overnight at Galapagos Tortoise Camp; shipboard accommodations; kayaking; gear on loan (wetsuits, snorkeling gear); meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 10; travelex medical evacuation insurance*. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; Galapagos National Park entrance fee; Galapagos Transit Card; most gratuities; items of a personal nature such as alcohol, phone calls, laundry, etc.; travel insurance; optional activities; 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 ©: Colby Brokvist, Carolyn O'Connell, Cassiano Zaparoli, Natural Habitat Adventures
*A surcharge of $48 per person for Travelex medical evacuation insurance through Natural Habitat Adventures is included in the voyage fares listed. 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.