No matter where you’ve been before and what you’ve heard about the Galapagos Islands, a trip to the archipelago that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution is always assured to impress. Birders will be enchanted by pink flamingos in the lagoons of Isla Floreana, Darwin’s finches in the Santa Cruz highlands and waved albatross at Punta Suarez. Beach boffins will be enthralled by the antics of California sea lions along Gardner Beach, the snorkelling to be had inside Devil’s Crown and the spectacular green shoreline of Punta Cormorant. And if it’s history you’re after, well this is where one man came up with an entirely different way to look at it.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador. A welcome meeting will be held in the evening at either 5pm or 6 pm when you meet others travelling with you on your cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Please check with hotel reception or check the reception notice boards for the time and place of the meeting for your trip. As today is an arrival day, you can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Quito sits at high altitude under the towering Pichincha volcano. It is a beautiful city, arguably one of the most beautiful in South America. The city stretches along the valley and is surrounded by the Andes. The Old Town of Quito is awash with history, with more than 30 churches to explore, and a number of fascinating museums. La Compania de Jesus is considered to be the most beautiful and ornate churches in the Americas. The city's oldest street, Calle La Ronda, is well worth exploring. As this trip spends very little time in Quito, we recommend you spend a few extra days before or after your trip to experience all the city has to offer. You may even wish to explore further beyond the city and visit Otavalo, Cotopaxi, the Cloud Forest or the Equatorial Monument.
This morning we transfer to Quito Airport for our early morning flight to the Galapagos Islands. Be prepared for an early start as this could mean leaving the hotel as early as 4:30 am (a boxed breakfast will be provided). A US$20 per person transit card is payable on departure at Quito Airport and a US$100 per person national park entry fee is payable on arrival on the islands. Please have cash on hand for these transactions as credit cards can be time consuming. On arrival in the Galapagos, we collect our luggage and meet our local guide in the arrivals hall. We then head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz for our first Galapagos adventure. Beginning at the coast we travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests where we can see the unique scalesia cloud forest, dome-shaped giant tortoises in the wild, different species of Darwin finches and possibly the world famous woodpecker and warbler finches, as well as vermillion flycatchers. Today we will enjoy lunch in the highlands. This afternoon we travel to Puerto Ayora, where we are then transferred to our boat, the Daphne. Once on board, we'll be assigned our cabins and meet the crew members.
Discover the quirky maritime history of Post Office Bay, home of the oldest postal system in the Americas. Take the opportunity to post a letter in the historic post office barrel from 1793 which is still used today. Galapagos visitors can leave letters and postcards to be collected by the next passing boat. Snorkelling and a lovely panga ride are also included in this outing. Afterwards, head ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystal (a glassy volcanic mineral that gives the beach an olive-green colour). This is the best place to see Galapagos sea lions. Keep an eye out for pink flamingos and other waterbirds wading in the lagoons, including pintails and stilts. The moderate 2-kilometre walk continues to a white-flour sandy beach, which is an Eastern Pacific green turtle nesting site. Young diamond stingrays are commonly found in the shore line. Enjoy the view of the turquoise crystalline ocean. Just offshore, the famous Devil’s Crown is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds can also be seen nesting in the rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding spot and many people find this one of the best snorkelling experiences of their trip. You might see rays, sharks, sea lions and turtles. Estimated travel time/distance: Puerto Ayora to Isla Floreana: 4 hours (32 nautical miles) Punta Comorant to Punta Suarez: 6.5 hours (52 nautical miles)
Today we cruise to the island of Española - the southernmost island of the Galapagos and one of the most spectacular. Because of its remote location this island has a large population of endemic fauna. It is the breeding site for nearly all of the world's 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses and also home to colonies of blue-footed and masked boobies. Trails from the golden beaches, where sea lions bathe and marine iguanas make their way towards the water, lead us right through the middle of booby colonies, and Galapagos doves and mockingbirds are also often seen. We land at Punta Suarez, one of the most attractive locations in the Galapagos and home to large and varied wildlife population - a walk along its trails takes us to a cliff top viewpoint, where we gain a magical panorama. Boobies line the rocky shoreline beneath us, while frigate birds may be seen overhead; nearby enormous male sea lions can be seen lounging and albatross use the cliffs as their ‘runway’, helping become airborne by the southeast winds that blow across this part of the island. If we’re lucky we’ll see the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate. We head to Gardner Beach which is considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos Islands and full of sea lions and hood mocking birds. Enjoy the beach and do some snorkelling which could be great for playing with sea lion pups and lots of fish. The rocks off the coast provide excellent snorkelling opportunities, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish, including surgeon and angelfish, often seen. The small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks.
As flights to the mainland from Galapagos depart mid-morning, it is an early start for our last morning on the islands. Depending on the time of our flight, our time spent on this final excursion could be limited. 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. Cruise through the channel as nesting seabirds flank the boat, tropicbirds soar overhead, marine iguanas swim about and sea lions lounge on the water. Snorkelling from the panga gives you the chance to see Galapagos sharks, sea turtles and an incredible biodiversity of invertebrates on the wall. You might even spot a hammerhead shark. This is your final excursion before you return to the airport in San Cristobal for your flight back to Quito. The flight will stop over in Guayaquil to drop off and/or pick up passengers. Arrive at Quito Airport (approximately 4 pm) where you will be transferred back to your hotel for an overnight stay. Your local representative may stop by at your hotel this evening to get your feedback on your Galapagos experience.
Your Galapagos adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day, and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. There are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, so please speak to your customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest. They can also assist you in booking a departure transfer to the airport.
Minimum: 1 Maximum: 16
5 Breakfasts, 3 Dinners
Send a postcard to the jealous folk back home in Post Office Bay
Spy pink flamingos wading the lagoons of Punta Cormorant
Snorkel through the underwater wonderland of Devil’s Crown
Watch waved albatross taking off along Punta Suarez
Savour dramatic views of Cerro Brujo’s volcanic landscape
Do some beach lazing with the local California sea lions of Gardner Beach
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