Arrival by plane to Baltra Island and immediate transfer by bus (5 minutes) to the dock to board the MV SANTA CRUZ. Cabin assignment and introductory welcome talk. Later, lunch, and ship’s boat drill.
Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) (Santa Cruz Island)
The north shore of Santa Cruz hosts Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill). Dry landing and a walk that includes a brackish water lagoon frequented by lagoon birds, including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings, and more. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a natural 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 birdwatching, where Darwin’s finches, Galápagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galápagos flycatcher, and yellow warblers are regular sightings. Tonight, our ECO Moment will let us understand more about the islands, and our expedition plan will reveal the interesting sites of the day ahead.
Disembark at Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit. Great way to start the day. This is a steep climb aided by a wooden staircase; the view from the top is worth the effort. Panga ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock, time to enjoy the beach (wet landing) and snorkeling. Chance to snorkel next to Galápagos Penguins. There is also the possibility to ride on the glass bottom boat for great views of the underwater world. Lunch on board.
Puerto Egas (Santiago (James) Island)
Afternoon outing at Puerto Egas (wet landing). This is a great location to see particularly shore birds, while land birds can be observed a little more inland. The pitch black shores are great places for watching sea birds and their foraging duties. The trail brings us to a colony of the endemic Galápagos sea lions. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon emerald green algae beds. Outstanding snorkeling and swimming from the beach before the walk. ECO Moment and briefing. Weather permitting, stargazing on deck.
Rabida Island (Jervis)
Disembark at Rabida Island (wet landing) on a red-colored beach, due to the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. A gratifying stroll along the beach of this small island (1.9 sq. mi.) allows the observation of a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s Finches. Very close to the beach, hidden behind a strip of green saltbush, is a salt pond where at times Greater Flamingos migrate to; these spectacular birds feed on the brine shrimp found in this saline pond. From June to November pelicans nest in the surroundings. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. During navigation to our next island, we will keep our eyes open for dolphins.
North Seymour Island
Today's afternoon starts with a dry landing for a view of the coast and the interior of North Seymour Island, one of the few uplifted islands in Galápagos Archipelago. The trail leads guests to explore colonies of blue footed boobies, Magnificent frigate birds, and swallow-tail gulls. The sandy shore teems with Galápagos sea lions and marine iguanas. Vegetation is made up of cacti, Palo Santo trees and Salt Bushes. ECO Moment, and expedition plan for tomorrow’s outings.
Highlands of Santa Cruz Island
A morning bus ride will take guests to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island for a special opportunity to view the islands’ most famous reptile: the giant tortoises in their wild habitat. What a privilege to see an endangered species roving in this lush environment! The vegetation of the area includes the Scalesia Forest (an endemic giant daisy tree) and birds such as the vermilion flycatcher, will delight everyone with its scarlet feathers against an emerald green forest. Look for Darwin’s finches (most of them from the tree-finch group), particularly the famous Woodpecker Finch. Back on board the MV SANTA CRUZ.
Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island)
Afternoon disembarkation (dry landing) to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the rearing in captivity program for the giant tortoises. Here we witness the efforts and results of all the field work done in the name of science. Impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest and many land birds can be also seen. Then, a stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora will allow you to see how Galapagueños live in this magical paradise. Browse in the many handcraft shops. Return aboard the MV SANTA CRUZ for tonight’s ECO Moment, and expedition plan for next day’s adventure.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island)
Disembark at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. This small attractive port is the provincial capital of the Galápagos Islands (population 4,000), along a crescent-shaped bay. This morning we visit the breeding center for tortoises (La Galapaguera) at Cerro Colorado, including a 45-minute bus ride. Seeing the semi-saddle back shape of the tortoises can be a great way to understand adaptation to dry-tropical environments. The rewarding fauna of this island may not only be the giant tortoises, since many island-specific endemics are found here. It includes mockingbirds, lava lizards, and the vermilion flycatchers. If time allows, a quick visit to El Junco Lagoon (the only permanent freshwater lagoon of the islands) could bring many surprises. Return to the MV SANTA CRUZ for lunch. Today, new guests will join our voyage.
If you plan not to take our official morning program at San Cristóbal, an “at your own pace option” is to visit the San Cristóbal Interpretation Center, located in a natural setting, where visitors can obtain information that will help them understand more the natural history of the Galápagos, with a great emphasis on human history and conservation. Afterwards, you can stroll through Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where souvenir shops and Internet cafés welcome world travelers who are willing to catch up with the world, and share the many wonders witnessed so far. Return to the MV SANTA CRUZ for lunch.
Cerro Brujo (San Cristobal Island)
A dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers will bring us to Cerro Brujo's white coraline beach . Wet landing. The area will show us good views of seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigate birds, and some shore birds . Also, look for Galapagos sea lions. The beach is a great open walking area, with rewarding birdwatching. Highlights ashore include the Chatham (San Cristobal) Mockingbird, Chatham Lava Lizard; both species are endemic to this island, and seen nowhere else in Galapagos. We may also spot Yellow Warblers, Galapagos flycatchers and with luck a Vermillion flycatcher (endemic subspecies to San Cristobal). These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835, as San Cristobal was the first island where he set foot in the Galapagos. Back on board for an ECO Moment and briefing on the next day's activities, followed by a cocktail offered by the Captain and dinner.
Punta Suarez (Española (Hood) Island)
Morning outing at Punta Suarez (dry landing) for an exciting walk on lava/boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (April - December), Nazca (masked boobies), blue-footed boobies, swallow-tail gulls, and the famous blowhole. Among its landbirds, the Hood island mockingbird, and three species of Darwin’s finches are common highlights. Also, look for red-green-black marine iguanas, and of course a rookery of sea lions right at the landing site. For those planning not to walk the entire trail, a very short walk under easy walking conditions will be possible. Back on board for lunch.
Punta Cormorant (Floreana Island)
Disembark at Punta Cormorant (wet landing) at an olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species like Greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others may be observed. This outing also includes a white-sand beach where sea turtles come out at night for nesting (from December to May). ECO Moment, briefing and dinner.
Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)
This morning brings us to the youngest island, Fernandina disembark (dry landing) for a one-mile walk. Punta Espinoza has an amazing combination of barrenness with lots of wildlife. Having no introduced mammals, Fernandina has a very unique environment with the highest density of marine iguanas, sharing their island habitat with sea lions, sally-light foot crabs, and hawks. Lava terrain calls for good walking shoes. Back on board for lunch. As we sail along the Bolívar Channel, astonishing views of the Galápagos’ youngest volcanoes can be seen. The nutrient-rich waters of the west can also bring surprises like encountering sea birds feeding, dolphins, and possibly whales.
Punta Vicente Roca (Isla Isabela)
In the afternoon, depending on the conditions of the ocean, we will schedule a snorkeling outing along the cliffs of sunken Ecuador Volcano, in the northern tip of Isabela Island. Since there is no landing site at this location, we will include a coastal exploration by panga, where our naturalist-guides will commit to explaining the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. This is the nesting place for flightless cormorants, the only birds in the world that have changed their condition of flying birds to diving birds. Wildlife here also includes sea lions, Galápagos Penguins, Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies and noddy terns. This area has a very rich marine life! Eco Moment, and details about the next day’s activities before dinner.
Disembark directly at Baltra Island and transfer by bus to the airport for the flight back to the continent.