Day 1 Quito
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador.
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.
Day 2 Baltra - Santa Cruz Highlands
Today is mostly a long travel day, and your Galapagos activities will begin after lunch. Rise early and transfer to the airport (approximately 1 hour) for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Pick-up may be as early as 4:30 am (your leader will confirm this at the welcome meeting) and a boxed breakfast will be provided. You will be met in the arrivals hall of the airport by a transfer guide (look out for ‘Daphne’ signs). Your transfer guide will take you on an airport public bus for a short distance (approximately 5 minutes), then you’ll board the public ferry and head across the Itabaca Channel (approximately 7 minutes). All public transport fees are included. Once you reach Santa Cruz Island, it’s time for your first Galapagos destination – take a private bus to the Highlands. After a short journey (approximately 10 minutes), arrive at Los Gemelos, which are twin sinkholes (not volcanic craters) created by the collapse of surface material in underground fissures and chambers. It is surrounded by the unique Scalesia cloud forest, so be on the look-out for the abundant bird life including different species of Darwin finches, woodpeckers, warbler finches and vermillion flycatchers. Continue into the highlands (approximately 30 minutes) and explore a rancho farm, where you will take a walk and enjoy your first lunch on the islands. The walk around (approximately 2 kilometres) reveals giant tortoises in their natural habitat. After lunch, travel to Puerto Ayora (approximately 45 minutes) where your yacht Daphne and her crew will be waiting for you. Once on board, you’ll be assigned a cabin and meet your crew and naturalist guide. Settle in for your first night on the islands.
Day 3 Isla Floreana
Discover the quirky maritime history of Post Office Bay, home of the oldest postal system in the Americas. Take the opportunity to post a letter in the historic post office barrel from 1793 which is still used today. Galapagos visitors can leave letters and postcards to be collected by the next passing boat. Snorkelling and a lovely panga ride are also included in this outing. Afterwards, head ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystal (a glassy volcanic mineral that gives the beach an olive-green colour). This is the best place to see Galapagos sea lions. Keep an eye out for pink flamingos and other waterbirds wading in the lagoons, including pintails and stilts. The moderate 2-kilometre walk continues to a white-flour sandy beach, which is an Eastern Pacific green turtle nesting site. Young diamond stingrays are commonly found in the shore line. Enjoy the view of the turquoise crystalline ocean. Just offshore, the famous Devil’s Crown is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds can also be seen nesting in the rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding spot and many people find this one of the best snorkelling experiences of their trip. You might see rays, sharks, sea lions and turtles.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Puerto Ayora to Isla Floreana: 4 hours (32 nautical miles)
Punta Comorant to Punta Suarez: 6.5 hours (52 nautical miles)
Day 4 Isla Espanola
Sail overnight and wake up on the island of Española, the spectacular southernmost island of the Galapagos. Because of its remote location, this island has a large population of endemic fauna. It is the breeding site for nearly all of the world's 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses and also home to colonies of blue-footed and masked boobies. Trails from the golden beaches, where sea lions bathe and marine iguanas make their way towards the water, lead you right through the middle of booby colonies, and Galapagos doves and mockingbirds are also often seen. Land at Punta Suarez, one of the most attractive locations in the Galapagos, home to a large and varied wildlife population. A walk along its rocky trails (approximately 3 km) takes you to a clifftop viewpoint that affords magical panoramas. Boobies line the rocky shoreline below, while frigate birds can be seen overhead. Enormous male sea lions lounge nearby, and albatross use the cliffs as their ‘runway’, getting airborne on the southeast winds. If you’re lucky you might spot the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate. Next, head to Gardner Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches of the Galapagos Islands. It’s full of sea lions and hood mockingbirds. Enjoy a walk (approximately 1 km) along the beach, and do some snorkelling which could be great for playing with sea lion pups and many fish. The rocks off the coast provide particularly great snorkelling, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish (such as surgeon and angelfish). Small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Suarez to Bahia Gardener: 45 minutes (5 nautical miles)
Bahia Gardener to Kicker Rock: 5 hours (8 nautical miles)
Day 5 Isla San Cristobal
Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) is the magnificent basalt remains of a crater in the middle of the sea, the shape resembling a sleeping lion. The rock rises 150 metres above the surface and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. Cruise through the channel as nesting seabirds flank the boat, tropicbirds soar overhead, marine iguanas swim about and sea lions lounge on the water. Snorkelling from the panga gives you the chance to see Galapagos sharks, sea turtles and an incredible biodiversity of invertebrates on the wall. You might even spot a hammerhead shark. Some passengers will be leaving/joining today, so you may have some free time to explore the town of San Cristobal. Today you will visit the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre. The centre brings the history and geography of the archipelago to life, from its volcanic origins to the present day. The human history exhibit offers an insight into the discovery and colonisation of the Galapagos and the issue of problems the islands face today is also explored. This is a great place to get a complete overview of the Galapagos. If there’s time, your guide may be able to organise an optional visit to the Highlands of San Cristobal which will be the last chance for you to see the giant tortoises in the wild. The price of this activity depends on the number of passengers attending. Relaxing at the beach is of course a great option too.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Kicker Rock to Isla San Cristobal: 1 hour (8 nautical miles)
Day 6 Isla Santa Fe - Isla Plaza Sur
Isla Santa Fe is home to more sea lions, and these ones 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. Expect to see Galapagos hawks, land iguanas, a variety of finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, sea lions, marine turtles, frigatebirds, Galapagos doves and lava lizards. This stunning island boasts one of the most attractive coves in the whole archipelago. The jade-green waters are ideal for snorkelling. Take a hike along the coast into the Opuntia forest (approximately 1.5 hours). From here you can see Santa Fe's trees – the largest in the Galapagos – along with a forest of giant cacti and palo santo trees. The trail can be a little rocky, so mind your step. Once back at the beach, you’ll have time for a snorkel. Playful sea lion pups and fluorescent fish make for nice company. Afterwards, continue to Plaza Sur (South Plaza), a small, picturesque island. Take a walk (approximately 1.5 hours), getting close to sea lions and passing one of the Galapagos’ largest land iguana populations which rest among cacti, volcanic landscapes dotted with brightly coloured sea-purslanes. The southern cliffs are great for spotting tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as ‘the Gentlemen’s Club’ – a gathering of male sea lions. Today there may be an extra stop along the way to Plaza Sur to restock the provisions for the boat. Later tonight, set sail for Isla Genovesa.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Isla San Cristobal to Isla Santa Fe: 3.5 hours (26 nautical miles)
Isla Santa Fe to Plazas Sur: 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Plazas Sur to Bahia Darwin (Isla Genovesa): 7.5 hours (59 nautical miles)
Day 7 Isla Genovesa
After an overnight sail, reach Isla Genovesa, the archipelago's north-eastern outpost. It’s undeniably worth the voyage. Dolphins are often spotted in the waters around beautiful Genovesa. These varied landscapes are a twitcher's paradise, with all three kinds of boobies, including the rare red-footed booby, and numerous other species such as tropicbirds and frigate birds. Next, Bahia Darwin (Darwin Beach) is another superb site with large breeding colonies of seabirds and frigates and other birds such as lava herons, swallow-tailed gulls, mockingbirds and, hopefully, vampire finches. Enjoy a moderate walk (approximately 2.5 hours) that passes tide pools, sea lions and diamond stingrays. This walk involves sand and some rocky sections. The steep Prince Philip's Steps lead you to the heart of the seabird rookeries, with birds overhead and nesting among the cliffs. Look out for storm petrels on the island’s rocky plains; Genovesa is the only place in the world where these birds can be seen flying during the day. Afterwards, perhaps cool off with a snorkel. The island's magnificent marine life makes for spectacular snorkelling – you might encounter manta rays, sharks, turtles and moray eels, plus many species of fish. Later tonight, depart Isla Genovesa for Isla Santiago.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Prince Philip's Steps to Sullivan Bay (Isla Santiago): 8 hours (48 miles)
Day 8 Isla Santiago - Isla Rabida
On Santiago Island's eastern coast sits Bahia Sullivan, also known as James Island. Here you’ll take a walk along pahoehoe lava (approximately 1 hour), which was created by an eruption that occurred in 1897, and witness the plants that have grown on the site since that last eruption. With some luck you might see some marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions, finches, turtles, sharks and penguins. During your walk, your guide will recount the geological history of the islands. Then it’s on to Isla Rabida, known for its gorgeous red sandy beach (coloured that way due to rusting iron). This is one of the most striking islands of the archipelago. Starting at the shore, follow a walking trail (approximately 45 minutes) 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 present. Here you will find Opuntia cactus forest, which suggests previous existence of land iguanas and possibly Galapagos hawks, mockingbirds, doves, finches and lava lizards. You’ll have the chance to snorkel among sea stars, damsels, gobbies and surgeon fish, and take a panga ride in search of wildlife.
Estimated travel time/distance:
Sullivan Bay to Isla Rabida: 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Isla Rabida to Black Turtle Cove (Isla Santa Cruz) 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Day 9 Isla Santa Cruz - Baltra - Quito
Explore Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) on a panga. This red mangrove wetland is located on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz. You will paddle along this peaceful cove to experience its many underwater riches. It’s a breeding area for green turtles, so you might catch sight of them mating. There is also abundant bird life, such as the yellow warbler and lava heron. It is also a nursery for golden cow-nose rays, eagle rays and Galapagos sharks.
Some passengers will be leaving/joining today.
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.
Day 10 Isla North Seymour - Isla Bartolome
Sail from Baltra to Isla 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 Isla Bartolomé (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. Bartolomé 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 Sullivan Bay on nearby Santiago Island. 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.
Day 11 Isla Santiago
Head to Puerto Egas (approximately 4.5 hours, 35 nautical miles), a black-sand beach on the west side of James Bay, northwest of Santiago Island. 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.
Day 12 Isla Isabela - Isla Fernandina
Visit Tagus Cove, where pirates and whalers used to collect turtles 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 Fernandina Island, 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 2009. 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 Espinoza: 45 mins (6 nautical miles)
Espinoza to Elizabeth Bay: 4.5 hours (37 nautical miles)
Day 13 Isla Isabela
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).
Day 14 Isla Isabela
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 2005. 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).
Day 15 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).
Day 16 Baltra - Quito
Flights to the mainland from Galapagos depart mid-morning, so it’s an early start for your last morning on the islands. You will visit the Santa Cruz Highlands for a second time. Travel through the agricultural region and into the misty forests where you can see the unique Scalesia cloud forest and experience seeing the dome-shaped giant tortoises in the wild once again. Take in the serene atmosphere of the highlands and it's wildlife and then it’s time to bid farewell to the archipelago and head to the airport for your mid-morning flight back to Quito for the last night of the tour. This flight takes approximately 2.5 hours with a transit in Guayaquil. Upon arrival at Quito Airport, at about 4pm, you’ll be transferred back to your hotel for an overnight stay. A local Intrepid representative might stop by the hotel this evening to get your feedback on the trip.
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
Day 17 Quito
There are no activities planned for the final day so we are able to depart our accommodation at any time. If you have not spent time here before, we recommend you stay on a few days as there are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, such as the Cotopaxi volcano, the Cloud Forest, hot springs, the Equatorial Monument or perhaps city tour of the fascinating Old Town. 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.