Day 1: Arrive Quito
Arrive in Quito and transfer to Casa Aliso, a charming boutique style hotel conveniently located in the stylish “La Floresta” neighborhood.
Day 2: Quito
We begin our Ecuador vacation with a tour of colonial Quito, including the bustling Independence Plaza, the dazzling gold-leafed altars of La Compania Church, and the impressive San Francisco Church. Visit the Mitad del Mundo Equatorial marker and ethnographic village and museum for a fun and informative examination of the curiosities of life on the Equator. We will enjoy lunch al fresco at a lively café in the colonial square.
Day 3: Galapagos Islands
Private transfer in the morning to the domestic airport for the flight to the Galapagos [AeroGal #036 UIO/SCY 08H10-10H35] you are met by your naturalist guide and transferred overland to Cerro Tijeretas or Frigatebird Hill. This is a great opportunity to spot nesting colonies of both species of frigatebirds, Great and Magnificent. Continuing on the yacht; set sail for Leon Dormido, a vertical tuff cone formation rising abruptly nearly 500’ from the ocean surface. On the ledges, you may spot Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and Magnificent frigatebirds. This evening, your naturalist guides hold your first briefing followed by the Captain’s welcome cocktail.
Day 4: San Cristobal
This morning we visit Cerro Brujo, a breathtaking white power-sand beach, said to be one of the most spectacular in Galapagos. Here we have an opportunity to snorkel or kayak directly from the beach, where you may spot turtles or flamingos. Following lunch onboard and repositioning of the vessel, we visit the northeast tip of San Cristobal, Punta Pitt. This is a tuff formation that serves as a nesting site for many sea birds including blue footed, Nazca and red-footed boobies, frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels. Punta Pitt is considered to be a first class site for birders, so don’t forget your binoculars!
Day 5: Espanola
Following breakfast we have a dry landing at Punta Suarez, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily greet us as we land on “their” beach. Curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in “sky-pointing” to show off for potential mates. Nazca (formerly masked) boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls are the only nocturnal gulls in the world. Red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Here we may observe a unique species of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near the dramatic "blow hole". This is the scene most people envision when they decide to visit Galapagos. During lunch, we motor to the other side of the Island.
This afternoon, we have a wet landing at Gardner Bay. Walk along seemingly endless stretches of this white sandy beach where you’ll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore and discover Galapagos Hawks, Darwin’s Finches or a Hood Mockingbird. Swim with sea lions from the beach. Your expert naturalist guides can point you to an excellent snorkeling site off Gardner Islet with colorful diversity of sea life near Tortuga Rock or caves covered with invertebrates. Passengers are also permitted to use the kayaks at this particular site. Return to the yacht at sunset for dinner and your naturalists’ presentations.
Day 6: Floreana
This morning we step ashore at Punta Cormorant on Floreana, one of the few populated islands in the Galapagos. Floreana presents a rich history with mystery and intrigues worthy of a novel. Set foot on a green-sand beach alive with the sounds of sea lions. Follow a trail to a brackish lagoon, home of the pintail ducks, common stilts, and the pinkest Flamingos in the world. Your guide will help identify a rich variety of plants including morning glories, cutleaf daisies, palo verdes and scalesia, all while approaching a beach with power soft sand. Sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes and brilliantly-colored rays swim in the shallow water. After the walk, we have an opportunity to snorkel at Devil’s Crown, a shallow sunken crater colonized by a brilliant array of colorful fish and coral.
This afternoon we visit Post Office Bay, probably the most famous site in Galapagos. Here we visit a post barrel, originally put into use in the late 18th Century by sailors onboard English whaling vessels. You are invited to leave a post card and to pick up any mail from your home area.
Day 7: Ecology Project International Volunteer Activities
Today is a very exciting opportunity for budding teenage scientists and biologists! Join local and international student volunteers of Ecology Project International as you set off to collect research data with scientists at the Santa Cruz tortoise breeding center. Or head into the backcountry to fight invasive species that are crowding out native Galapagos vegetation necessary for the survival of the unique wildlife of this island. Regardless of which volunteer activity you choose, the mission is to leave the Galapagos Islands a little better for your efforts! Following lunch, join the local Galapagos EPI students for a tour of Puerto Ayora, the largest population center in the Galapagos Islands and home of the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station. Find out what life in the famous Galapagos Islands is really like, while learning more about their role in the EPI. This evening, you have the option to remain in the town of Puerto Ayora to experience the nightlife and restaurants available there (costs on your own), or return to the yacht for dinner. Zodiacs will be available for transfers through the evening.
Day 8: Bartolome
Following breakfast, we visit Bartolome, a landscape reminiscent of walking on the moon. While inhospitable to most plants and animals, this young island is breathtaking in its stark beauty. After a dry landing, climb 30 minutes up stairs leading to the summit of a once active volcano. Along the way, we pause to marvel at lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. From the top of the wooden stairs, gaze out across the island for a panoramic view of the island and iconic "Pinnacle Rock", an eroded tuff cone. Down below, crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel from the beach or Zodiac with schools of tropical fish and Galapagos Penguins. After lunch, visit Las Bachas (The Barges) Beach, a long stretch of soft white sand and lagoons which provide habitat for the Greater Flamingo. Snorkeling here from the beach is a great passenger favorite. Later, a wet landing at Sombrero Chino presents us with sea lion colonies, and after a short hike, the trail gives way to lava fields and tubes. Here you will find marine iguanas and opportunities to snorkel with penguins.
Day 9: South Plaza & Santa Cruz
This morning’s visit is to South Plaza, a small geological uplift with tall cliffs offering spectacular views. After a dry landing, the trails lead us through Prickly Pear cactus or Opuntia and Sesuvium. Here we find the Galapagos land iguana feeding on the cactus leaves. Toward the end of the hill, we encounter a colony of bachelor sea lions. The dominant bulls will likely be in various stages of recovery from battles lost over prime beach territory. We also find swallow tailed gulls, shearwaters and red-billed tropicbirds who build their nests along the cliffs.
This afternoon, we have a dry landing at North Seymour, a small geological uplift. Here you may observe Swallow-tailed gulls, Blue-footed boobies and the endemic land iguanas. Visit the largest colony of Magnificent frigatebirds found in the Galapagos. Back on board the yacht; enjoy the Captain’s Farewell cocktail followed by dinner and a briefing.
Day 10: Return to Quito
After a morning visit to the San Cristobal Interpretation Center, your guide returns you to the airport for your mainland flight