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 - Baltra - Charles Darwin Station & Fausto Llerena Breeding Center
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’ sign) by a transfer guide and transferred to our yacht - ‘MY. Coral’, anchored on the other side of Santa Cruz Island. Our transfer guide will take you on an airport public bus for a short distance (5 minute drive) to where you board a public ferry across the Itabaca Channel. The ferry crossing takes only 7 minutes. (Please note that all public transportation costs are included). Once you reach Santa Cruz Island, you board a private bus for a 45-minute drive to Puerto Ayora, the main port of the island. Here, there will be two pangas to transport you and your fellow travellers to the ‘MY Coral’. Once on board, cabins will be assigned and you get to meet our crew members and get to know your naturalist guide while enjoying a delicious lunch.
This afternoon visit the *Charles Darwin Research Station and the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center where you will find the Galapagos giant tortoises and land iguanas breeding program. The famous Lonesome George (last surviving specimen of Pinta Island) lived here for decades. The centre is managed by the Galapagos National Park´s (GNP) staff with the collaboration of scientists from the Charles Darwin Station (CDS). Here, eggs taken from Pinzon, Santiago and Santa Cruz Islands hatch without the danger of introduced species. After artificial incubation; the “galapaguitos” (newborn tortoises) are reared until the age of 5 when they are released in their native habitats, having the capabilities to survive alone. Since the 70’s, more than 2,000 specimens have returned to their native islands. In addition, the Darwin Station works in several scientific projects and botanical research, providing environmental education to local communities, schools and tourists. If time permits, it is possible to visit Puerto Ayora town 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.
Then head back to the boat for your first evening in the amazing Galapagos Islands.
Isla Mosquera - Isla North Seymour
This morning you will visit the small sandy island of Mosquera, a relaxing, picturesque stop located between North Seymour and Baltra Islands. This flat, sandy island has a large colony of sea lions. It is also an excellent site to observe shorebirds such as herons and lava gulls. There is no trail on the islet so you can enjoy the open area. Most of the islet is covered with sand and barren lava rock where Sally Lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) can be found. These crabs, with their bright red shell tops and blue under shells are stunning against the black lava. Very little sesuvium portulacastrum plants grow on the sand. Depending on the tides, you may also have the chance to go snorkelling.
Off Baltra Island and not far from Santa Cruz Island, is North Seymour, one of the most visited islands in the Galapagos. This landmass was formed by a series of underwater volcanic eruptions, which deposited layers of lava on the ocean floor.
The 2 hour trail (approximately) on North Seymour crosses inland through the island and then explores the rocky coast. Along the way the trail passes colonies of blue footed boobies and frigate birds.
The magnificent frigate bird, a large black bird with a long wingspan, and a hooked beak, is extremely fast and has excellent vision. Frigate birds are known for the large red pouch on their necks. During mating season the males throw back their heads, inflate the pouch (sometimes to the size of a soccer ball), and shake trying to capture the attention of female frigates.
Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship. Sharing the same nesting area on North Seymour, blue-footed boobies nest on the ground making their nests from the twigs of the palo santos trees, while the frigate birds nest just above them in the saltbushes. Your walk is followed by snorkelling where you will find a great variety of fish and possibly white-tipped reef sharks, rays and sea lions.
Isla Santa Fe - Isla Plaza Sur
Isla Santa Fe is home to many sea lion colonies who are very eager for swimming partners. It’s a lovely place to take a dip, offers a dense concentration of wildlife, and is a fantastic place to see many of the stars of the Galapagos in one relatively small area. A trail follows the coast into the opuntia forest where you see Santa Fe’s trees – the largest in the Galapagos. The island is also home to a unique sub-species of land iguanas including the Santa Fe land iguanas (the largest on the islands). Hiking towards the cliffs on Santa Fe will lead you to a forest of prickly pear cactus. A member of the cactus family, their name comes from the pear-shaped fruit the plant produces. This island is the habitat for a number of wildlife, including: the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snakes, rice rats (one of the few endemic Galapagos rodents), a variety of finches and one of the four mockingbird species of the archipelago. The area is also home to some of the most attractive coves in the archipelago and provides spectacular snorkelling in the jade-green waters.
In the afternoon you will travel to Plaza Sur (South Plaza). There are two Plaza Islets (north and south) located east of Santa Cruz Island. On the northern part of the Islet, you begin the journey along an impressive cactus forest were colourful yellow and red land iguanas live, the population number is around 300 animals. During the dry season they survive on fruits and flowers of the opuntia cacti. A peculiar thing to see in South Plaza is the hybrid iguana (sea and land). When reaching the highest point, tropicbirds can be seen. During the dry season (June – January) the usually greenish and yellowish vegetation changes colour creating a bright red landscape (sesuviumedmonstonei plant). The island’s rugged southern cliffs are an excellent place to spot tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as the 'Gentlemen’s Club’, a gathering of male sea lions either too young or too old to be beachmasters!
Isla San Cristobal - Kicker Rock - Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve - Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill
San Cristobal is home of the capital town of the Galapagos Province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. This morning you will visit the Interpretation Center, which is an excellent place to learn about the nature and history of the Islands, displaying information of Galapagos volcanic origins, their remoteness from the continent, ocean currents, climate, arrival of the original species, among other points of interest. The human interaction is also showcased, chronologically narrating the most significant events about the colonization of the islands. Later on a high-intensity hike can be done to visit Tijeretas Hill, a beautiful landscape ending with a magnificent view of a nearby large frigatebird colony. If there is enough time, a town visit can be planned.
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.
Today there will be some passengers leaving the tour and some new passengers joining.
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 Espnaola - 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 - Balta - 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.
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.
This is your final excursion before you return to the airport in Baltra for your flight back to Quito. The flight will stopover in Guayaquil to drop off/pick up new passengers.
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 (approx. 4pm) you will be transferred back to your hotel for an overnight stay. Our local representative may stop by at your hotel this evening to get your feedback on your Galapagos experience.
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.