Galapagos Travel Itinerary:
Begin your tour of the beautiful Galapagos archipelago with one night in a hotel on San Cristóbal Island, followed by 3 nights cruising through the Galapagos National Park aboard the Xavier III. Discover the incredible wildlife of the islands accompanied by an expert naturalist guide. Encounter giant tortoises, observe three species of booby and two species of frigate bird nesting together at Punta Pitt, snorkel with rays and sea turtles in the shadow of Kicker Rock and witness the towering volcanic cliffs and the dark sand beaches of Santiago Island.
DAY 1: Arrival transfer in Quito
On arrival into Quito you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
DAY 1: Arrival in Quito
Today is free for you to explore Quito at your leisure.
DAY 1: Quito
Sitting at 2,850 metres above sea level high in the Andean foothills lies Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The city, a short distance from the Equator and with an amazing backdrop of snow-capped mountains, is known for its stunning colonial architecture and art-work. Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centres in the Americas. It was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978.
DAY 2: San Cristobal Island
This morning you will have an early transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. On arrival in San Cristóbal, you will be met by your naturalist guide and transferred to the hotel. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island of Galapagos and one of the oldest. The principal town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos.
Please note that the Galapagos National Park charges a visitor fee of USD100, payable on arrival, which funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study and conservation.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 kilometres (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named. Covering nearly 5000 square kilometres (3100 sq. miles), the Galapagos Islands are now a National Park.
After lunch, we begin our exploration of San Cristobal. We visit the Interpretation Centre where you can learn about the Galapagos Islands from the natural history of the archipelago and their volcanic origins through to their ecosystems, flora, fauna and today’s conservation efforts. The Human History exhibit provides information on the discovery of the Galapagos Islands and their colonisation.
Later we hike to the lookout point of Cerro Tijoretas (Frigatebird Hill), one of the only places where you can see two species of frigatebird nesting in the same colony. There are views of Kicker Rock to the west and Shipwreck Bay to the south. There is the opportunity to snorkel off the rocks at Playa Mann (Mann Beach)
DAY 3: San Cristobal
Before transferring to the Xavier, we visit the Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Centre in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. At this giant tortoise Breeding Centre you can see all of the different species of tortoises close up. The tortoises are bred in captivity in a protected wild area, safeguarded from predators. There are newly hatched tortoises as well as full-grown adults that can live well over 100 years. You may also see finches, warblers and mockingbirds in the vegetation surrounding the Breeding Centre.
We transfer to the Xavier and in the afternoon enjoy a snorkel excursion at Islas Lobos with its colony of sea lions. Here you can snorkel off the beach in amongst the families of sea lions and their inquisitive pups looking to play. Depending on the time of year, you may see blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds nesting on this small island. This is an excellent island for bird lovers - brown pelicans, lava gulls, common noddies, yellow warblers and small and medium ground finches can also be seen here.
Back on board the Xavier III you can relax on the outdoor deck and take in the views and enjoy local and international cuisine. The ship sails overnight ensuring that you arrive at the next destination relaxed and ready to explore, whilst maximising time spent on the islands.
DAY 4: Punta Pit / Kicker Rock
We make a landing this morning at Punta Pitt on the eastern tip of San Cristobal, where we will see a group of eroded volcanic cones. Here you can see fascinating geological formations and enjoy amazing wildlife opportunities. Punta Pitt is made up of volcanic tuff substrate and it is the only site in the Galapagos where three species of booby and two species of frigatebird can be seen.
Next we visit Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal to explore its coastline, look for wildlife and learn about the human and natural history of the area. There is time to take a refreshing dip in the turquoise water and head out on a short walk to a freshwater lagoon to see flamingos.
Later in the afternoon we sail to the dramatic León Dormido, or Kicker Rock, which is a magnificent rock with steep vertical walls that rise from the ocean, set in a shape resembling a sleeping lion. The rock rises 150 metres above the surface of the water and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel navigable by small vessels. Kicker Rock is one of the most stunning landmarks in the Galapagos Islands, home to an incredibly diverse range of marine life that inhabits the nutrient-rich water. Sharks and fish are drawn to the rock and provide an exhilarating and unique snorkelling experience.
DAY 5: Santiago Island
This morning we make an excursion to Playa Espumilla, one of the most idyllic beaches in the Galapagos Islands, with thick mangroves along with flamingo and sea turtle nesting sites.
After exploring Playa Espumilla, we head to Buccaneer Cove with its towering cliff wall rock formations. Here we cruise by panga and explore the cove that was once a hideout for pirates as they restocked their boats with food and water. We may spot seabirds nesting in the cove and sea lions resting on the beach.
Our third stop for the day is at Puerto Egas with its spectacular shoreline, salt crater, dark-sand beach and tidal pools. Also known as James Bay, there are many reptiles and shore birds to be seen here.
Santiago Island has seen it's share of human activity from whalers and pirates over the years, and despite the introduction of goats to the island many years ago, the wildlife of Santiago has flourished and provides outstanding viewing opportunities. The island boasts marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, offering great wildlife viewing both on land and in the water.
DAY 6: Santa Cruz - Quito
This morning we arrive and disembark in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos, with the largest population and with Puerto Ayora as its main town. It also boasts the most varied of the islands’ vegetation zones including coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa.
The Charles Darwin Research Station is located a short walk from the centre of the town. It is a science organization that was initiated in 1964, working to preserve the ecosystem of the Galapagos through the conservation efforts of scientists, researchers and volunteers. It also provides a study location for international scientists and training for Naturalist Guides.
We tour the exhibition centre to see photo displays of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. The station is also a great place to observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas in captivity, brought back from the brink of extinction. Here you can see the famous Galapagos tortoise close up. A corral houses adult Galapagos tortoises and there is a nursery in which the young are cared for until around age three when their shells have hardened.
**Please note: The Charles Darwin Research Station has partially closed until December 2016. Groups affected will visit the highlands to see the giant tortoises in the wild.**
After the visit you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Quito. On arrival there is a transfer to the group hotel with time to enjoy one last night in Ecuador’s capital.
DAY 7: Transfer to the airport for onward destination
At the appropriate time, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your outward flight from Quito.
Inclusions & Details
* Hotel (3 nts), aboard the Xavier in twin-share cabins (3 nts). 6 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners - Allow USD 105-140 for meals not included. Drinks and tips on board not included. Certified Galápagos National Park Service Guide included, overnight on San Cristóbal Island, visit to a wildlife interpretation centre (San Cristóbal Island), snorkelling at Isla Lobos and Kicker Rock, Charles Darwin Research Station visit (Santa Cruz), all transport between destinations and to/from activities are included, internal flights, snorkelling equipment and wetsuits while aboard Xavier.