As you board your vessel, M/Y Coral, and follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, you will encounter nature at its finest.. Explore the islands from on deck, on foot and in the water, no doubt with your eyes open for your next unique sight.. You’ll encounter giant Galapagos tortoises, blue-footed and masked boobies, pelicans and frigate birds, as well as land and marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals and perhaps dolphins, whales and sea turtles.. This is indeed the Galapagos journey with something for everyone.
As we fly from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, located in the equatorial water of the Pacific Ocean, we suddenly find ourselves in a very different world. As we board our vessel, the M/Y Coral and follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, we start to encounter nature at its finest. This is indeed the Galapagos journey with something for everyone.
On arrival at Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure.
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.
Quito - Isla San Cristobal - Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Please note the pick-up time can be as early as 4:30 am (a boxed breakfast will be provided), as the airport is a one-hour drive away and you must allow for delays and check-in times. (Your tour leader will confirm this time with you at the Welcome Meeting on Day 1).
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 are not accepted.
The flight to the Galapagos will make one stop in Guayaquil to pick up other passengers. (Total flight time is about 3.5 hours).
On arrival in the Galapagos, you will be met in the arrival hall of the airport (look out for ‘Coral’ signs) by a transfer guide and transferred to our yacht - ‘MY Coral’, anchored a short distance away. A 10 minute drive will take you to the pier to board the Coral. Once on board, cabins will be assigned and you will get to meet our crew members and get to know your naturalist guide while enjoying a delicious lunch.
This afternoon, visit the San Cristobal Tortoise Breeding Center which is located in the vicinity of Cerro Colorado (reddish hill). This is one of the few places where you can see Calandrinia galapagosa, a plant endemic to San Cristobal that resembles a small tree and is in danger of extinction. You can learn about the National Park’s conservation programs and the assisted reproduction tortoise program. The reserve was built to increase the population of the island tortoises, Geochelone chatamensis. If there is enough time you will have the opportunity to visit Puerto Baquerizo Town to enjoy a drink or go shopping for souvenirs.
Isla San Cristobal - Cerro Brujo - Punta Pitt
This morning you will travel to the north coast of San Cristobal and visit the white coral beach of Cerro Brujo. It is an eroding tuff cone that is composed of AA lava formations and the beach great for snorkelling and sunbathing. Nearby a lagoon ideal for migratory bird species can be seen, including black-necked stilts, ruddy turnstones, whimbrels, sandpiper and white-cheeked Pintails. Cerro Brujo offers beautiful views of Kicker Rock, an islet in the adjacent southern coast of San Cristobal.
Your next stop will be Punta Pitt which is located on the north eastern end of the islands. The trail goes through several magnificent viewpoints, including anolivine beach and a path climbing to the top of a volcanic tuff for expansive views of the sparsely vegetated area. This is probably the only site where the three booby species of the Galapagos can be seen together: Nazca, blue-footed, and red-footed. There are also the two species of frigate birds plus a sea lion colony. This is an excellent place for panga rides and snorkelling, where a good range of sea birds can be observed.
Isla Espanola - Punta Suarez - Gardner Bay
An overnight sail will take you to Isla Espanola, the southernmost island and one of the most spectacular. This island is of geological interest, being one of the oldest islands in Galapagos, it has a high percentage of endemism due to its isolation from the rest of the islands. Due to the great variety of wildlife this is one of the most attractive spots in the Galapagos. Here it is possible to explore volcanic formations and see large colonies of sea lion and seabirds including the Española mockingbird, Nazca boobies, and the spectacular red-billed tropicbirds. Here, the singular marine iguanas have a turquoise colour with reddish parts during breeding season, lava lizards and the colourful Sally light foot crabs. It is home to the world’s largest colony of waved albatross, an unequivocal highlight during mating season (April-December) when it is home to almost 12,000 pairs. If you’re lucky you’ll see the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate! Admire the island’s dramatic backdrop, featuring the famous “Soplador,” a seaward blowhole that shoots water up to 23 m. (75 ft.) in to the air.
Take a hike to Punta Suarez which is considered one of the most attractive locations on the islands and home to a large and varied wildlife population. A walk along its trails will take you to a cliff top viewpoint where you’ll gain a magical panorama. Boobies line the rocky shoreline beneath you, 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.
Gardner Bay is a beautiful white coral sandy beach, considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands and it is guarded by a colony of sea lions. There are no trails here, so you will stay along the shore, spotting the Galapagos hawk, the American oystercatcher, the Galapagos dove, hood mockingbirds, yellow warblers, lava lizards, marine iguanas, and three species of Darwin finches, cacti finch (Geospizafuliginosa), the small ground finch (Geospizafuliginosa) and the warbler finch (Certhideaolivacea). Swimming and snorkelling offers a great variety of Galapagos marine wildlife including king angelfish, creole fish, damsel fish and parrot fish.
Isla Floreana - Champion Islet - Punta Cormorant - Post Office Bay
This morning you will visit Champion which is a small islet located off the north coast of Floreana. It is a small rocky isle that is home to the endangered Floreana Mockingbird. Access to the Islet is restricted so you will visit by panga with snorkelling done along a marine wall, filled with a variety of wildlife such as schools of the endemic black striped salemas, blue Lobster, long nose hawkfish, sea horses, coral hawkfish, sea lions, and the famous red-lipped batfish.
You will go ashore at Punta Cormorant (Cormorant Point) where your first impression will be of an olivine green sand beach. From here you will take a hike next to black mangroves takes to a brackish lagoon, which usually holds one of the largest flamingo populations in the Galapagos. This island features some endemic plants such as the Scalesiavillosa, white mangrove, and palo santo trees. The trail continues to a beautiful white-sand beach, one of the most important nesting sites of green Pacific sea turtles. It is important to avoid walking in the water due to the stingrays that may be hiding in the sand. From the beach is easy to spot sea turtles, blue-footed boobies plunging into the water, and small reef sharks searching for food along the shoreline. You will then return to the initial olive green sand beach to swim or snorkel amongst sea turtles, reef fish, sea lions and, on a good day, white-tipped reef sharks. A small colony of Galapagos penguins resides on Floreana and can sometimes be spotted.
You will then land on the island of Floreana - a highlight of any Galapagos cruise, rich in natural wonders and wildlife.
On the north side of Floreana, there is the Post Office Bay, named like this because, in 1793, Captain James Colnett installed a wooden barrel, which served as an informal post office for sailors passing through who would take the letters with them to their destinations. Nowadays, visitors continue the tradition by placing unstamped postcards inside the barrel, hoping that some other traveller, going to the letter destination, will take it back for free. The chances are that the letter posted can take a long time to arrive to its destination. However, there have been cases where it has arrived before the sender.
Here, it is possible to see Darwin finches, yellow warbler, and lava lizards. Great snorkelling opportunities with green pacific sea turtles and on the main beach there are playful sea lions. Moreover, this island is best known for its endemic vegetation: Scalesiavillosa, Lecocarpuspinnatifidus, and the Galapagos milkwort.
Isla Santa Cruz - Highlands Tortoise Reserve- Charles Darwin Station & Fausto Llerena Breeding Center
On the highlands of Santa Cruz Island it is possible to visit private farms- tortoise reserves where giant tortoises wander freely, in the National Park. In the mountains of the Galapagos is possible to observe different kinds of birds, such as tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers, paint-billed crakes, yellow warblers, and cattle egrets (usually on top the shells of the tortoises). The journey to the reserve offers great opportunities to see the contrasts that the island offers in reference to the variety of ecosystems. The road goes from the coast through the agricultural zone and through the Unique Scalesia cloud forest. Often tortoises are seen on the way wandering through pastures in the paddocks. This spot is relevant for birdwatchers as almost every land bird present on the island lives or migrates here.
After lunch, travel to Puerto Ayora where you will visit the *Charles Darwin Research Station and Fausto Llerena Breeding Center. Here the Galapagos Giant Tortoise breeding program takes place as part of the efforts to preserve the fragile Galapagos environment and where the famous Lonesome George (the last surviving specimen of his species) lived for decades. Admire a prickly-pear cactus forest, a variety of Darwin’s finches and various land birds. The Darwin Station also works providing environmental education to communities and schools within the islands and to tourists visiting the Galapagos. There will some free time to visit the town of Puerto Ayora for some shopping in its boutiques where uniquely designed handcrafts, jewellery, ceramics, T-shirts, and souvenirs can be found. You may also have time to try some local food, go for a beer or enjoy an ice cream with the locals.
Today there will be some passengers leaving the tour and some new passengers joining.
Isla Santa Cruz - Dragon Hill - Isla Bartolome
An overnight sail will take you to the west coast of Isla Santa Cruz and in the morning your landing will be at Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill).
You will take a walk by a brackish lagoon frequented by lagoon birds including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally flamingos. The trail leads across a typical dry zone vegetation and offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. The area is an important nesting ground for endemic land iguanas and is constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for a rewarding location for birdwatching with Galapagos mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers and the endemic Galapagos flycatcher all regulars here.
Isla Bartolomé (Bartolomé Island) is one of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes in the Galapagos and you will travel back in time to lava tube formations, spatter cones and the remains of two types of hardened lava: AA and pa-hoe-hoe. You will experience beautiful and breathtaking landscapes as you climb up the Summit Trail in a moon-like scenery. Here you will find tiquilia and spurge plants, various cactus species, lava lizards and blue-footed boobies. Pinnacle Rock is possibly the best known and photographed sites in the Galapagos. It is an abrupt jag of rock protruding from the earth like a tooth, while nearby two golden bays back onto each other. For many, this may turn out to be one of the greatest snorkelling experiences because is the best chance to see zigzagging penguins chasing small schools of fish, white-tipped sharks and marine turtles, just to mention some.
Isla Rabida - Isla Santiago - Buccaneers Cove & Espumilla Beach
Sitting at roughly five kilometres south of Isla Santiago, is Isla Rábida. Also known as Jervis Island, it is one of the most diverse in terms of volcanic activity as it lies at the very heart of the archipelago’s volcanic origin. In this deep red beach, surrounded by cliffs and steep slopes of volcanic cinder cones it is usual to find nesting colonies of brown pelicans, as well as, nine species of Darwin finches, fur seals, and Nazca boobies. Introduced species were eradicated in 1971, meaning that the indigenous wildlife has now been returned to a state of splendid isolation. Additionally, volcanic activity here has produced vivid, fantastical colours, not least the beached of red sand and cliffs of scarlet.
From the shore, the trail leads through to what is one of the finest lagoons in the Galapagos for viewing flamingos. Rabida is also a wonderful place to spot nesting pelicans. Elsewhere, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions are all present. There is an opportunity for snorkelling in a place where sea stars, damsels, gobbies and surgeon fish are numerous.
You will have the chance to snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active and colourful.
This afternoon you will head to the northern coast of Isla Santiago visiting Buccaneers Cove and Espumilla Beach. Buccaneers Cove is an amazing location, featuring the remains of an eroded shoreline that is home to seabirds, fur seals and the playful sea lions. Its different shapes and high cliffs have been made throughout a process caused by erosion of the waves and the wind. In the 19th century, it was a popular refuge for pirates. Espumilla Beach is a white-sandy beach in James Bay and is a popular place among visitors. There are mangroves and a small palo santo forest that lead to salty-water lagoons that are home to wading birds like flamingos. The upper dunes are a nesting site for sea turtles. You will have the chance to go snorkelling here and search for rays.
Isla Santa Cruz - Black Turtle Cove - Quito
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 your flight, your time spent on this final excursion could be limited.
This morning you will take a ‘panga’ to Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove). Located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, four species of mangrove crowd form an internal lagoon. Turtles visit the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface, while the fish and rays circle below. White-tipped reef sharks can be seen beneath the boat, plus sea birds including pelicans, herons and egrets feeding from the cove.
This cove has been declared as a ‘Turtle Sanctuary’ as it is a breeding area for turtles so it is not uncommon to see them mating.
This is your final excursion before you return to the airport in Baltra for your flight back to Quito. 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 we 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 the last day of your journey.
Upon arrival in Quito Airport you will be transferred back to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Your Galapagos adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day so you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. There are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, so please speak to our 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.