If there’s one ultimate Galapagos adventure, this is it. Combining off-the-beaten-track gems with iconic sights like the Pinnacle Rock, this trip is a microcosm of the Galapagos. This unique, stand-alone sailing adventure shares its itinerary with no other Intrepid trip. Enjoy minimal contact with other travellers and boats. Explore the remote west coast of Isabela on a small Panga boat, and venture to the far-west Fernandina, home of the highest density of marine iguanas. Beach-lovers will be in heaven. The turtle-dotted Las Bachas is about as idyllic as they come, and the richly coloured sands of Espumilla on your feet feel like nothing else
Few destinations rival the Galapagos for up-close encounters with wildlife, and this adventure focuses on the stars of the show. Enjoy a pure boat trip that’s free of detours, overnight stopovers and passengers joining or leaving throughout. Stay on the boat and venture to the remotest parts of the archipelago – the west coast of Isla Isabela and Isla Fernandina – and see almost all of the wildlife the Galapagos is famous for. Take the chance to swim and snorkel with sea lions and reef sharks off Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Bartolome; spy frigatebirds, boobies and pelicans soaring above North Seymour or Cerro Dragon; and stroll among land iguanas and flightless cormorants on volcanic Punta Espinosa. When it’s all over, why not stay on for a surf, dive, eco-lodge stay, or some ultimate relaxation on sleepy Sunset Beach.
Isla Santa Cruz
Welcome to the Galapagos!
Today you will be meeting other travellers arriving from Quito at Baltra Airport. Please be at the airport by 09.30am. The guide cannot wait for you so you need to make sure that you are there on time.
Once you have met up with the rest of the group, a 10 minute transfer will bring you to the Daphne which will be anchored in Baltra.
Once on board, you’ll be assigned a cabin, meet the crew and get to know your fellow travellers over a delicious lunch. Sail from Baltra to Las Bachas (approximately 30 minutes; 4 nautical miles). The lush sands of Las Bachas, on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, are a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle. Marine iguanas are also commonly spotted. The sand here, made of decomposed coral, is particularly white and soft. The rocks make for excellent snorkelling and are populated by Sally Lightfoot crabs which are plentiful on the island. A saltwater lagoon just near the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel – you might also see a great blue heron. Remnants of a floating pier, a testimony to the US presence in the Galapagos during World War II, can also be seen.
If you are not spending any extra time on the islands, we recommend that you book these flights:
Day 1: Flight AV1632 from Quito to Isla Baltra
Day 8: Flight AV1633 from Isla Baltra to Quito
If you are arriving to the islands earlier and spending extra time here, you will need to make your own way from Isla Baltra (airport) to Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) for your accommodation, please see instructions below.
Walk out of the arrivals hall and look out for the buses leaving Canal.
From here you take the bus to the Canal (Itabaca Channel) the journey is approximately 10 minutes (USD5). There will also be buses to Muelle, which should be avoided as they will not take you to the Channel.
Once at the Itabaca Channel you have to cross by ferry, again the journey is approximately 10 minutes and about 1 USD per person to the other side (the northern side of the Santa Cruz)
From here you have two options:
Public bus – they only depart when they are full and you might have to wait for a while (3 USD per person) – 50 min ride
Taxi – the cost is approximately 20 USD for the whole taxi and you reach Puerto Ayora within 45 min.
To make your own way back to the airport to meet the group on day 1, you will need to follow the above instructions in reverse. Please allow a minimum of 1 ½ hours to get back to the airport. If you are not there by the meeting time, the guide, and therefore the boat, will leave without you. Boats in the Galapagos need to adhere to strict departure times from the ports.
North Seymour - Bartolome
Sail from Isla Baltra to North Seymour (approximately 45 minutes; 5 nautical miles). This is one of the most visited islands of the Galapagos. First up is a solid walk, the highlight of which may well be blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship, sharing the same nesting area on North Seymour. Blue-footed boobies nest on the ground while the frigate birds nest just above them in the saltbushes. As you walk, look out for land iguanas, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions and the endemic incense tree. After the walk, go snorkelling and encounter a great variety of fish – perhaps white-tipped reef sharks, rays and sea lions. Next it’s off to Bartolome (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 miles), one of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes in the Galapagos, full of parasitic spatter cones, lava flows, Galapagos penguins and lava lizards. Bartolome is a relatively new island in the archipelago. Put on your walking shoes and climb over 360 wooden steps to the summit, where an amazing view of Pinnacle Rock awaits. This is one of the photographed sights in the Galapagos: an abrupt jag of rock protruding from the earth like a tooth, near two back-to-back golden bays. Hike to the top of a once-active volcano and enjoy superb views across to Bahia Sullivan on nearby Isla Santiago. If you’re in luck, you might catch a glimpse of the Galapagos hawk. There’s also the opportunity to go snorkelling among the colourful tropical marine life.
Head to Puerto Egas (approximately 4.5 hours, 35 nautical miles), a black-sand beach on the west side of James Bay, northwest of Isla Santiago . It’s home to some amazing volcanic tuff formations. Take a stroll along the beach where marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals are known to frolic. You can see the amazing tidal pools, formed from ancient lava flow, providing a home for sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. Snorkelling in the midst of seals always offers the possibility of thrilling encounters. After Puerto Egas, sail to Espumilla Beach (approximately 45 minutes; 5 miles), located on the northern coast of Santiago Island. Experience the texture of its unique soft sand on your feet. The waters are tranquil, yet can also form large waves, making it a favourite among beach lovers. The vegetation is a vivid green. Not only is this island a nesting site for marine turtles, it’s also a place to see ghost crabs, blue-footed boobies (often plunging for fish) and brown pelicans. There’s also the chance to see Galapagos hawks up close. It is also well known for its palo santo forest and some extraordinary lava formations. Next you will visit Buccaneer Cove (approximately 15 minutes; 2 nautical miles) and witness its spectacular geology of volcanic ash (tuff). Here you might find the remains of objects used by pirates in centuries past. This is where Darwin camped for nine days while making his study of the islands and their wildlife. If conditions are favourable, you can enjoy some more snorkelling.
Isla Isabela - Isla Fernandina
Visit Tagus Cove, where pirates and whalers used to collect tortoises for their travels. Enjoy a short visit here (approximately 2 hours), perhaps snorkelling or checking out the ancient graffiti on the walls (the oldest of which is from 1836). Witness flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies and a variety of waterfowl and penguins (the most northerly penguins in the world). You will walk to a lookout point for a stunning panorama of the north of Isabela Island and the Wolf volcano. This morning you will also visit nearby Isla Fernandina, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. It’s also volcanically active and the most westerly island, making it one of the least visited. The third largest in size, it erupted most recently in 2018. The absence of introduced mammals gives it a unique landscape, and it boasts the highest concentration of marine iguanas on the archipelago. The northeast tip, Punta Espinosa, is a narrow ledge of lava and sand extending from the base of La Cumbre volcano. You will take a walk around the beautiful peninsula, which boasts such wildlife and plant life as lava cacti, marine iguanas, barking sea lions, tiny penguins and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Keep a lookout for that marvellous Galapagos predator hunting from the treetops – the Galapagos hawk. Top-notch snorkelling opportunities await in the clear waters, and turtles and sea lions can be seen swimming around and feeding on the shore. This is a great spot to see flightless cormorants drying their atrophied wings amid the volcanic landscape.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Buccaneer's Cove to Espinosa: 45 mins (6 nautical miles)
Espinosa to Elizabeth Bay: 4.5 hours (37 nautical miles)
Today you will land at the archipelago's largest island – Isabela. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having formed less than a million years ago. Here you will take a Panga ride along Elizabeth Bay, which is located on the west coast of Isabela Island and does not permit landings. Keep your binoculars and camera at the ready to photograph the second-smallest penguins in the world. You might also spot blue-footed boobies perched on the islets or diving for their next meal. Then you’ll head for the mangrove forest, which is quite unique in the Galapagos, to see sea turtles, sea lions, penguins, lava herons, rays and plenty of colourful fish – pompanos, dorados and mullets. Your destination is Punta Moreno (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 nautical miles) on the south west coast. You’ll spend the afternoon here. This coastline has some of the most beautiful blue lagoons and rocky terrain in the Galapagos, with a backdrop of three active volcanoes, myriad flamingos and incredible lava formations. Landing is impossible here too, due to the delicate ecosystem. Go for an amazing walk on top of the black lava field with the majestic view of Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul in the background. Depending on the season, you can see brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves, lava and candelabra cactus, plus lava lizards. You’ll pass brackish water lagoons, covered with several different plants, where pink flamingos, ducks and black neck stills rest. Then jump aboard once again and head out for a snorkel and look out for the elusive sea horse.
An overnight sail takes us to Puerto Villamil (8 hours, 64 nautical miles).
This morning, visit Las Tintoreras, a little peninsula at the entrance of Isabela Island’s Port. Here there’s a viewing walkway from where you can look down into the narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping – and the occasional sea lion among them. Blue-footed boobies, penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here. Enjoy a nice long walk on a gravel path, heading through lava flows and spotting plenty of marine iguanas. The natives of the islands call white sharks ‘tintoreras’, hence the name of this spectacular site. This is where everything comes together for one big marine and wildlife party. Without trying you will see sea lions, penguins and frigate birds. After breakfast you will take a bus up to Sierra Negra Volcano where you will see the crater and explore the area. This volcano last erupted in 2018. In the afternoon you will visit the Interpretation Center and Humedales, the wetlands of Isabela. You’ll reach them via a complex trail which winds around for some six kilometres. Upon arrival you’ll find an intriguing spread of flora and fauna (including flamingos) and some spectacular scenery.
Tonight, sail to Cerro Dragon (5 hours 45 minutes, 45 nautical miles).
Isla Santa Cruz
Wake up this morning on Santa Cruz's north coast and visit Cerro Dragon aka Dragon Hill. From the dry landing, walk to a brackish lagoon that’s frequented by birds such as stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally flamingos. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a nesting site for land iguanas and is constantly monitored by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for some fine birdwatching. Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, Galapagos flycatchers and yellow warblers are all regulars here. The path can be challenging, but the reward is a spectacular view of the bay. In the afternoon you will visit Punta Carrion in north-eastern Santa Cruz. First sail to the Baltra dock (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 nautical miles), then to Punta Carrion (approximately 1 hour; 6 nautical miles). This is a shallow and protected cove, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. Wildlife is plentiful here – keep your eyes peeled for blue-footed boobies, Galapagos herons and great blue herons. Go swimming among the rays and white-tipped reef sharks. Afterwards, sail from Punta Carrion to Puerto Ayora (approximately 4 hours; 30 nautical miles).
Isla Santa Cruz
This morning you will visit the Santa Cruz Highlands. Travel through the agricultural region and into the misty forests where you 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. You might also glimpse a vermillion flycatcher. Then it’s time to bid farewell to your fellow travellers as your trip comes to an end after this activity.
You will be taken to the airport directly after this activity. If you plan to extend your stay after your cruise in Puerto Ayora you will need to make your own way back to town (your guide can assist with this).
Estimated travel times/distances:
Bus from Santa Cruz Highlands to the Itabaca Channel: 45 minutes
Public ferry across the channel: 5 minutes
Public airport bus from the dock to Baltra airport: 15 minutes