DAY 1: HIKE IN FRIGATE HILL AND SNORKEL IN DARWIN BAY
We board a morning flight from Quito to San Cristobal Island. Once we arrive we have a welcome lunch and a briefing before the adventure begins. We will hike out of town and visit the San Cristobal Interpretation Center to learn about the island’s creation and natural history. We continue on a lava trail to explore a unique dry forest where we identify cacti, acacia, palo santo, and Galapagos cotton. We reach Frigate Hill to enjoy our first encounters with local wildlife, since the hill is often visited by Galapagos wildlife such as the magnificent and great frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, gulls, herons and lots of land birds including Darwin finches, warblers and mockingbirds. We return to Carola Beach with splendid views of the coastline for swimming and a perfect sunset. The evening is open for guests to choose dining options and explore town. (L)
DAY 2: KAYAK AND SNORKEL IN LOBOS ISLAND AND KICKER ROCK (LEON DORMIDO) – SAN CRISTOBAL
We set up our ocean kayaks and spend the mor ning paddling a l o n g t h e n o r t h e r n c o a s t , exploring bays and coves full of wildlife. We visit Darwin Bay, the site of the first landing of the HMS Beagle. We continue paddling north as we encounter marine turtles, rays, blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Once we reach Playa Ochoa, we continue on to nearby Isla Lobos on the lookout for marine iguanas and sea lions.
This is a fantastic snorkeling site where we are nearly guaranteed to enjoy the best sea lion encounters of the entire archipelago. We continue on to Leon Dormido, the jagged remains of an old tuff cone whose flanks are home to thousands of sea birds. Leon Dormido is an exceptional snorkeling and diving site frequented by Galapagos sharks, eagle and golden rays, as well as dozens of species of tropical fish, clams, starfish and marine invertebrates. There are good opportunities to swim next to hammerhead and white-tipped sharks! In the afternoon we return to our hotel for our last evening in San Cristobal Island. (B, L)
DAY 3: MOUNTAIN BIKE THE COASTLINE / EXPLORE TINTORERAS ISLETS
In the morning we board a small plane for an inter-island flight from San Cristobal to Isabela Island. Isabela is the largest Island in the archipelago, formed by 6 shield volcanoes - Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf. All of these volcanoes except one remain active, making this island one of the most volcanically active places on earth. When we arrive we set up our mountain bikes to explore the beautiful coastline for its scenery and wildlife treasures. We begin with a visit to El Muro de las Lagrimas which translates Wall of Tears, a historic site that dates back between 1946 and 1959 when Isabela Island was used as a penal colony. The wall was built with lava blocks and had no other purpose that of keeping prisoners busy from the madness of isolation. We continue riding along the coast as we explore expansive white sand beaches, mangroves and brackish lagoons. This area is filled with birdlife such as american oyster catchers, herons, flamingos, finches and many shore birds, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas. In the afternoon we visit Tintoreras, a set of small Islets within Isabela bay. These Islets are filled with wildlife and are home to the Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin that lives in equatorial region. We will also see sharks, marine turtles, sea lions and much more wildlife as we explore its many small coves and beaches. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: VOLCANO DISCOVERY HIKE IN THE ISABELA HIGHLANDS
From Puerto Villamil, we drive to the Isabela highlands. We reach our trail and prepare our day packs to enter a world of recent geological history. We arrive to rim of the Sierra Negra volcano, an active volcano which last erupted in October 2005. We explore along the circumference of the massive 6x5 mile-wide (9x8 kilometer) lava-filled crater. We may also get views to the other Isabela volcanoes and the Perry Isthmus and beyond. Based on conditions we may continue our hike all the way to Volcano Chico, a smaller crater that offers puffing fumaroles and extraordinary lava formations. These are great examples of the dramatic geological events that have forged the Galapagos Islands over millennia. In the afternoon, we return to Puerto Villamil for our last afternoon in its exotic white sand beaches. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: HIKE WITH THE GIANT TORTOISE AND EXPLORE TWIN CRATERS (LOS GEMELOS)
In the morning we embark on a fast boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz Islands. Once we arrive, we transfer to El Chato reserve in the Santa Cruz highlands which is the natural habitat of the Galapagos tortoise. We hike in this reserve to learn about these lumbering giants. We come across highland wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, finches, and frigate birds bathing in freshwater lakes. We also explore some amazing volcanic tunnels that were created by flowing lava. As we walk in these underground geological formations we revive tales of buccaneers hiding Inca gold. We continue to Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters near the top of the Island. We walk around these deep craters through a beautiful Scalesia forest covered with epiphytes and ferns. In this habitat we will seek for the short-eared owl, one of the two owls that live in the Islands. We return to town in the afternoon. This evening is free to dine at any of the Island restaurants. (B, L).
DAY 6: SEA KAYAK IN PUNTA ESTRADA AND HIKE TO TORTUGA BAY – SANTA CRUZ
In the morning we take our kayaks and paddle around Divine Bay and Punta Estrada. We kayak through calm turquoise waters that wind through high- walled lava channels. Within the channels, white-tipped sharks and rays tour beneath the clear water, while colonies of blue-footed boobies, tropic birds, herons, crabs and marine iguanas perch along the jagged cliffs. In the afternoon, we hike to Tortuga Bay, a beautiful white sand beach area, nesting site to thousands of marine turtles. This trail is 3½ miles (6 kilometers) long and crosses through a dry forest lava habitat home to hundreds of iguanas. We return to Puerto Ayora to spend the evening at leisure in Galapagos’ most populous town. (B, L).
DAY 7: TRANSFER TO BALTRA AND RETURN FLIGHT
In the morning we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation and management efforts in the archipelago. We also get to meet Lonesome George, the last giant tortoise of his species and the efforts maintained to try to save it from extinction. We finally transfer to Baltra Island for our airport connection back to the continent. (B).