Equador and Galapagos islands trip:
I had never thought about travelling to the Galapagos...
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Transport - Bus, on foot, in country flight, cruise boat.
Accommodation - Hotels (4nts), twin berth cabin with private facilities (7nts).
Meals - 11 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners
Please note that the itinerary follows two routes. This is due to restrictions put in place by the Galapagos National Park to help protect the islands. The route taken depends on the date and each is marked with an (A) or a (B).
Fly to Quito
After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. You will be met and assisted by a representative of our local agent. This trip operates with small numbers, and in Quito you may not necessarily be part of a tour group, so there is no Group Leader as such.
Please bear in mind that Quito is at 2800m above sea level therefore you may feel slightly breathless when you arrive. You may suffer from mild altitude sickness with symptoms such as a headache and mild nausea. This will pass as you acclimatise. During this period it is advisable to drink plenty of fluids and not to eat too much. Hotel – 2 nights
Quito & Equator
Today, you’ll be picked up from your hotel. First, you’ll be driven to the colonial center of Quito. The guide will tell us all about the history of Ecuador and Quito, the Inca Empire, Spanish invasion and the independence period as you pass some of the most famous squares, churches and colonial buildings in the capital. From the foot of the angel on top of the Panecillo hill, you get a fantastic view across the city.
You will then continue to the Mitad del Mundo (centre of the earth). This monument marks the spot that in 1736 Charles-Marie de la Condamine declared to be the equator, according to his measurements. It is possible to see how water drains clockwise on one side of the equator and anti-clockwise on the other. You then drive back into Quito. (B)
Galápagos: Isla Mosquera
This morning you transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos. In the departure lounge of the domestic airport you will meet the representative of the M.V. Darwin who will assist you with your group check-in and payment of the $10 transit card fee. On arrival you will be asked to pay the Galapagos National Park fee ($100 per person). You are then met in the arrival hall and then bussed to the M.V. Darwin, anchored a short distance away in Baltra's small port. Once on board you are assigned your cabin before you set sail. Once settled on board, your cruise departs for the small sandy island of Mosquera, it’s a relaxing, picturesque stop. Along the rocks and in the tide pool, sally lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) scamper back and forth, skipping across small pools of water in search of food. These crabs with their bright red shell tops and blue under shells are stunning against the black lava. Ever aware of movement around them, the sally lightfoot is quick to escape from any approaching movement, a natural defence that helps protecting them from their natural predators, herons, moray eels and hawkfish. This quick escape technique seems in stark contrast to the unabashed way the crabs climb over the sedentary marine iguanas. Boat – Twin Cabins – 7 nights (BLD)
San Cristobal; Punta Pitt
Today you see the best of San Cristobal Island, starting with Punta Pitt. From the olivine beach, where many sea lions laze, you follow a trail to the top of a volcanic hill for superb views of the surrounding land- and seascapes. The walk takes several hours and is one of the finest in all the Galapagos. The abundance of food helps support three kinds of booby - blue, red and masked. You see them all – blue-footed boobies nesting in the island’s interior, red-footed ones among bushes and masked boobies making their homes among the island’s cliffs. Two species of frigatebirds can also be seen during the walk. (BLD)
San Cristobal; Kicker Rock
We set sail from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Cerro Brujo, a fine powder beach on San Cristobal’s north coast. A nearby lagoon was once mined for salt, used for preserving food, but today it is a place for watching lake and coastal birds. The beach is also home to Sally Lightfoot crabs, brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies and offers wonderful views, with
Kicker Rock visible, where you head to after some time snorkelling and relaxing on the beach. Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) is the magnificent basalt remains of a crater in the middle of the sea, the shape resembling a sleeping lion. The rock rises 150 metres above the surface and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. You cruise through the channel, with nesting seabirds on either side of the boat, tropicbirds overhead, marine iguanas in the water and resting on the rocks and many sea lions also present. All told, cruising around the waters of Leon Dormido is one of the finest experiences in the Galapagos. you also visit the tiny Isla Lobos and spend the afternoon relaxing by the island’s rocky shores where blue-footed boobies build their nests and also a place that many sea lions call home. you may get your first sight of other spectacular Galapagos residents like the Sally Lightfoot crab and the magnificent frigatebird. (BLD)
Today you visit Santa Cruz itself, the second largest island in the Galapagos. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic hub of the archipelago and is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The station’s visitor centre and museum are essential stops for anyone interested in the archipelago’s natural and human history and keen to learn more about conservation efforts to preserve the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos. It also offers visitors their best chance for close-up encounters with giant tortoises, including ‘Lonesome George’, the last of his sub-species. You also see many newborn and young giant turtles – part of the breeding program to reintroduce them into their natural habitat. Afterwards you take a bus to the Santa Cruz highlands, where the lush humidity makes it seems worlds away from the island’s arid coastal regions. The interior of the Santa Cruz contains inactive volcanic cones, the rich soil home to many crops, miconia bushes and scalesia, a species that has been called ‘the Darwin’s finches of the plant world’. you visit the largest lava tunnels in the Galapagos and observe great local bird life, including the vermilion flycatcher, Galápagos rail, Galapagos dove and paint-billed cake. The highlands are also the natural habitat of the Galapagos tortoise and there's a good chance you may see them here. (BLD)
Today you wake up off the south coast of Isabela Island, the largest in the Galapagos Archipelago. Isabela was formed by five giant volcanic craters, all of which are still active. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than three million years ago. This southern coast of turquoise blue waters has the largest area of beaches in the Galapagos. You visit Las Tintoreras where from the viewing walkway you can look down into this narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and the occasional playful sea lion frolicking among them!
Blue-footed boobies and penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here, and the waters provide further opportunities to swim with turtles. Here you also visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre and the Wall of Tears, constructed from lava by prisoners of the penal colony here between 1949 and 1957 as punishment. You also get to view the Sierra Negra volcano, which is reaches a height of 1124 metres and erupted as recently as October 2005. (BLD)
Lying just to Santiago’s south, Rabida is one of the most volcanically varied islands in the chain. The volcanic rocks are covered with palo santo trees, opuntia cacti and low, scrubby bushes. Sea lions abound on the red sand beach and a short trail leads to a lagoon where flamingos live and brown pelicans nest. There are also boobies and nine species of Darwin finches on the island – see how many you can spot!
Snorkelling is great just off Rabida, with playful sea lions, rays and sharks often seen. You sail southeast for our afternoon visit to Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill), on Santa Cruz’s north coast. From our dry landing, you walk to a brackish lagoon frequented by lagoon birds, including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally flamingos.
Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a nesting site for land iguanas, which is constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation can be a rewarding location for bird watching, with Darwin’s finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galapagos flycatcher and yellow warblers all regulars here. (BLD)
Caleta Tortuga Negra
Today you take an early morning excursion to Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) - a mangrove swamp on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. In the smaller corners of the cove you paddle a dinghy for a wonderfully peaceful journey through this beautiful and unique area. This is often an excellent place to see green turtle, golden ray and Galapagos shark. There is also abundant birdlife, such as yellow warbler and lava heron. It is not uncommon to see turtles mating.
In the afternoon you visit Sombrero Chino, a small islet located near the south-east coast of Isla Santiago. You approach it via a beautiful crescent-shaped, sandy beach that is home to sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. The island is a miniature volcano, shaped like a Chinese hat (hence its name), and along its trails you explore the island’s volcanic origin with its fascinating lava tubes. Opposite Sombrero Chino, on the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago, Galapagos penguins are often seen. You follow a trail that circles the cove and passes through a sea lion colony and innumerable marine iguanas. The cove also offers some great snorkelling opportunities. (BLD)
Daphne, Baltra; Quito
On our final morning you explore one of the Daphne Islands – small islands located north of Santa Cruz. This island is only accessible by small boats and has a rich birdlife, with many nesting boobies in particular. You walk the trails of this volcanic cone, taking in the lava formations and craters where birds make their nests as well as looking out for the spectacular red-billed tropicbird, which also make their home here. You are then transferred back to Baltra where you say goodbye to the amazing Galapagos Islands and take our return flight to Quito.
As you will be leaving the boat today, please remember that if you have enjoyed the services provided by your guide and crew, a tip would be very much appreciated by them. As a guideline you recommend each passenger consider US$10 per day for the crew and US$6 per day for your guide. You can leave tips in envelopes that are placed in your cabin on this last day of your journey.
On arrival in Quito you are met and transferred to your hotel for you last night. Hotel – 1 night (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients. Those on group flights transfer to airport and fly to home. (B)