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Featured private group holidays
Fancy one of our fantastic adventures but only want to travel with people you know? Do it your way as a private group. We make private group trips for everyone, from big families to scouts and cadets.
- Activity Holidays – all action adventure
- Cultural Tours – lost cities & local life
- Wildlife Holidays – global wildlife encounters
- Trekking Holidays – peaks & summits
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Feature adventure holidays
We’ve developed a range of dedicated solo holidays & solo travel packages; exclusively for people booking on their own. Around 40% of all our passengers are solo travellers.
Transport - Minibus, in country flight, first class cruise boat, on foot
Accommodation - Hotel (4nts), twin berth cabin with private facilities (7nts)
Meals - 11 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners.
Please note that for 2012 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).
Arrive in Quito
After your flight you arrive in Quito and take a short transfer to your first night’s accommodation. You will be met and assisted by a representative from our local agent. Hotel – 2 nights
Please note that Quito is located at 2850m above sea level. You may experience some mild altitude sickness symptoms such as dizziness, insomnia or shortness of breath. We recommend you take things easy on arrival while your body adjusts.
Today is free to explore Quito or take an optional excusion. The city of Quito has spread along a valley sandwiched in by volcanoes. The old colonial section has some fantastic buildings and churches. From the foot of the angel on top of the Panecillo hill, you get a fantastic view across the city. You might also visit Mitad del Mundo (centre of the earth) monument which 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. There is a pre-departure meeting today at 6pm in your hotel where you will meet with others travelling on your cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Please ask for more details at the hotel reception. (B)
Galapagos; start cruise
This morning you make an early start to fly down to Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and economic dynamo. After a short stop, your flight continues almost 1000km directly west to San Cristobal, one of only two commercial airports on the islands. More importantly for you, it's the starting point for your voyage through the so-called "Enchanted Islands" and you immediately board the boat that's to be your floating home and set sail.
In the departure lounge at Quito airport you will be met and assisted you with your group check-in and payment of the $10 transit card fee. Lunch is normally served on the flight. On arrival at San Cristobal Airport in the Galapagos you must pay the US$100 arrival tax for entry to Galapagos National Park. This is best done using cash, as using credit cards can be a time consuming process. You are met in the arrival hall of the airport by your naturalist guide and transferred to the 'MC Queen Beatriz'.
In the afternoon you will travel to the highlands in the interior of the island and visit the "Galapaguera of Cerro Colorado" (Red Hill). The national park has set up a breeding centre here for tortoises. You will learn about the origin, evolution and threatened future of the giant tortoises and see them in their natural habitat.
Boat (twin cabins) - 7 nights (BD)
M.C. Queen Beatriz – is a modern 30m catamaran. Beatriz has a comfortable lounge and dining area plus a sun deck on which to relax and watch wildlife. She has eight airconditioned cabins. Her size is small enough that you will enjoy a good level of personal service throughout your cruise.
The volcanic island of Bartolome with its lunar like volcanic landscape is relatively new in the archipelago. Pinnacle Rock is an abrupt jag of rock which sticks up like a tooth, this strange formation together with two golden bays backing onto each other, make it one of the most photographed spots in the Galapagos. You can hike to the top of a once-active volcano and enjoy great views across to Sullivan Bay and Santiago Island. (BLD)
You will discover some wonderful places today. On the northern coast of Santiago Island, you will visit Espumilla Beach in James Bay, this beach is an important nesting site for marine turtles - the turtles chose well as its also one of the most idyllic places in the islands. It is also well known for some extraordinary lava formations and Palo Santo Forest.
Then to Caleta Bucanero (Buccaneer Cove) this is a natural monument of rocks formed by sea erosion, there are many stories and local legends about this place which was once used by pirates to careen their ships. (BLD)
Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. Today you will explore the small town of Puerto Ayora which is the economic centre of the archipelago, and home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. As well as undertaking vital conservation work, the station also makes for interesting exploration and offers the best opportunities for close encounters with giant tortoises. Sadly this island's famous inhabitant ‘Lonesome George’ who was the last tortoise of his sub-species (one of 11 sub-species native to the islands) died in 2012. You also observe baby tortoises and land iguanas.
Afterward you head up into the highlands for a total change of scenery. Beginning at the coast you travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests. Here it is a lush humid zone containing miconia bushes, scalesia and inactive volcanic cones. Santa Cruz has more endemic plants than any of the other islands and you are likely to see Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat and perhaps even the bright red feathers of a vermillion flycatcher! (BLD)
This morning you take an excursion on North Seymour Island. Follow a trail inland through the island and along the rocky coast you will pass through colonies of blue footed boobies and frigate birds. The frigate bird is a magnificent species,with a long wingspan, hooked beak and a large red pouch on their neck. They are extremely fast in the air and have excellent vision. The large red pouch is used during the mating season by the male to attract females, he will inflate the pouch sometimes to the size of a football, and shake his body - what an amazing site, how could any female frigate bird refuse his attentions! Boobies and frigates share the same nesting area here on North Seymour, the boobies nest on the ground using twigs from the palo santos trees, while the frigates nest just above them in the salt bushes.
After lunch you make a visit to the very picturesque small sandy island of Mosquera. In the tide pools you will discover sally lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) they make a colourful site with their bright red shells and blue undersneath highlight by the black lava rocks. Watch them searching for food in the pools, they move fast to avoid their predators such as herons, moray eels and hawkfish. They seem however to be carefree as they crawl over basking marine iguanas. (BLD)
Black Turtle Cove
On the north of Santa Cruz Island you will visit Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove), a red mangrove wetland. Here you can discover underwater wonders such as the green turtle, rays and Galapagos Sharks. This is a breeding area for turtles so you might witness them mating. Above water there is plenty of birdlife including the yellow warblers and lava heron.
This afternoon you take a walk to see land iguanas on Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) it is one of the best spots to see them. A walk along the beach gives sightings of marine iguanas, flamingos and Sally Lightfoot crabs. (BLD)
Rabida Island or "Jervis" is one of the most striking in the whole archipelago, it is a tiny island south of Santiago. In 1971 any introduced species were eradicated from here to return it to its idigenous state, in splendid isolation. This is an island or striking vivid colours produced from its volcanic activity, you will discover beaches of red sand and scarlet cliffs. Follow a trail to one of the finest lagoons in the Galapagos for viewing flamingo and also nesting pelicans. Also on the island you will see pintain ducks, marine iguanas and sealions.
Sombrero Chino is a small islet near to the south-east coast of Santiago which is geologically fascinating many lava tubes run from cone to coast. Shaped like a chinese hat it can be seen from afar. (BLD)
On your final cuise morning you start early with an excursion to Las Bachas named after abandoned American navy barges left here in the 1940's. Pure white sandy beaches made from decomposed coral, make a great nesting ground for Pacific green turtles, whilst marine iguanas are also a common sighting. The rocks here make a great snorkelling area, and are also popular with the Sally Lightfoot crabs of which there are many. A saltwater lagoon near to the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel and also great blue herons.
As you will be leaving the boat this morning, 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$15 per day for the crew and US$10 per day for your guide. You can leave tips in envelopes that are placed in your cabin on this last day of your journey.
Travel to Baltra Airport for your flight back to Quito. On arrival in Quito you are met and transferred to your hotel. Hotel – 2 nights (B)
The day is left free to relax and shop, or do one of a number of optional excursions (which must be booked in advance during your first stay in Quito). Outside Quito, you can visit the national park surrounding the lovely snow-capped volcanic cone of Cotopaxi (5897m), the largest active volcano in the world and Ecuador's second highest peak. Alternatively, you could head a couple of hours north to visit one of South America's most famous market towns - Otavalo. Although it's not market day, the shops are full of the handicrafts produced in the villages nearby.
The industrious Otavalenos are always instantly recognisable due to their striking appearance: the pony-tailed men in their distinctive uniform of felt hat, navy and grey poncho, calf-length white cotton trousers and rope-soled alpargatas; the women in white blouses, dark skirts and necklaces of gold and coral. For the more active there are options to go mountain biking or white water rafting, or trek up Pichincha on the edge of the city. (B)
Your trip ends today. Transer to the airport for your overnight flight home. (B)