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Activities & Transport
- Bird Watching
- Wildlife Watching
- Boat | Sailing Boat
Main travel focus
Galapagos Cruise | Western & Central Islands
- Day 4: Pick your way through piles of marine iguanas
- Day 6: Marvel at the profusion of land birds on the red island
- Day 7: Come face to face with giant tortoises
- Day 8: Watch as sea lions body surf
The San José is a little 16-passenger yacht, custom-built for navigating the unique surrounds of the Galapagos Archipelago. This craft of luxury was carefully planned and built in Ecuador with the comfort of her guests always firmly in mind. Each of the eight double cabins boasts full air-conditioning, a private bathroom, and an absolute bounty of luxurious space. The social areas include a classy dining room, lounge, bar, TV, DVD, and a small library. The San José also offers plenty of outside areas to relax and enjoy the biological riches of the Galapagos Islands. There are various carpeted deck areas with reclining chairs, and even its very own outdoor bar. The best spot, however, may just be up on the roof on the sun-deck with its panoramic views.
- Transportation in Galapagos
- English-speaking guide
- Tours as listed
- 7 nights at Galapagos in the superior class San José tourist yacht
- Meals as listed
- Airfare: Quito – Galapagos – Quito $540 per person
- Galapagos entrance fees $110
- Tours or meals not listed
- Personal expenses and tips
Example Trip to customize
Welcome to Galapagos, luxury yacht style
Once you get to Baltra Airport, and your luggage has been checked in case any stray plants or animals have hitched a ride, you’ll be met by a naturalist guide, who will escort you off the harbour, where a dinghy will deliver you direct to your little home on the waves. In the afternoon, you’ll be off to the two little beaches of Las Bachas on Santa Cruz. The brilliantly white, soft sand here was once coral, and these spots are thus favoured nesting-sites for picky sea-turtles. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels, in the lagoon upland from one of these beaches.
The island of white-tipped sharks
Today, you’ll be introduced to the wonders of riding by Zodiac, as this form of transport is how you’ll arrive at the little mangrove islands of Tintoreras this morning. Being Galapagos islands, there’s no shortage of incredible wildlife proudly on display here, including herons, cheeky Galapagos penguins, and voluble sea lions. If you take a peek in to the shallow waters here, you’re more than likely to come across the harmless white-tipped reef sharks who give these islands their Spanish name.
In the afternoon, you’re headed to the wetlands near the Puerto Villamil village, to be treated to quite the spectacular show of migrant bird populations, starring the flashy flamingo, amongst others. A visit to the Arnaldo Tupiza centre is included, where kindly giant tortoises are reared in an effort to protect this iconic local. Another must-see in the area is the Wall of Tears, built way back when Isabela was a penal colony.
The search for the Galapagos Penguin
This morning, it's off to the northern coast of Isabela Island to check out Punta Moreno, cosily located between two volcanoes: the Sierra Negra, and the the Cerro Azul. Here, your trail runs lava that was solidified like an accordion long ago. The main reason to follow this path is to explore a complex of mangrove lagoons here, which is home to huge flocks of birds.
And then, after lunch you'll be back on a zodiac for a tour along the cliffs near Tagus Cove, on the search for the cheeky Galapagos penguin, as well as the flightless cormorant and other sea-bird friends. Upon landing, it's a half-hour hike to the top of a cliff for a grand view of Darwin Lake, a body of water even saltier than the sea further out. There are also a few volcanoes on proud display from this vantage point. As you're climbing, keep an eye out for the graffiti on the cliffs: here you'll find the testimonies of whalers and pirates from the days of yore.
Marine iguanas! Everywhere!
Who's ready to gawk at a veritable pile of marine iguanas? Today's trip to the island of Fernandia promises this and a whole lot more. Here, at Punta Espinosa, you'll see a whole bunch of unique Galapagos species. The iguanas congregate here in bigger gangs than anywhere else, sunbaking, swimming - there are so many that sometimes they even block the way to the landing dock. Another evolutional oddity here is the Flightless Cormorant, who, due to the absence of predators, is a bit different: its wings, tails and feet are now adapted for swimming. Here, you'll be able to see such species at point-blank camera range.
After snapping to your little heart's content, in the afternoon, it's time for a panga ride to take some more pics, this time of the awe-inspiring geological formations around Punta Vicente Roca, including a huge cave and volcanic tuft cones. The cliffs are home to - you guessed it - to a wide range of nesting birds, including two kinds of Boobies (the blue-footed and the Nazca), gulls, storm petrels, and Brown Noddy Terns; the last variety demonstrating aptly that one good Tern deserves another. Inside the cave itself, the calmer waters offer a welcome refuge for sea turtles. What's more, this area is an absolutely fabulous spot for snorkelling, thanks going to the good old, nutrient-rich Humboldt Current. You're more than likely to find sea lions, penguins and sea turtles, among other marine life taking advantage of the current situation.
On to Buccaneers Cove
Open up your bucan-ears!! This morning, it's off to Espumilla Beach, a very important site for marine turtle nests, and home to a beautiful palo santo forest. Then, it's time for your locks to sway in the ocean breeze at nearby Buccaneers Cove, where you're bound to let out an awed "arrrrr" or two at the great snorkelling to be had.
This afternoon, you'll continue your mystical quest on the isle of Santiago, and head to Puerto Egas, a striking beach of black volcanic sand. Here, marine iguanas will be easy to spot, but keep an eye out for swarms of little Sally Lightfoot crabs scrambling across the sand.
Sitting on a Chinese hat
You may have noticed that, while each Galapagos island is fairly equal when it comes to awesomeness, there's still something unique about each and every one. Today's island, Rabida's, point of difference is the vivid redness of its rocks and sand, as red as rust - which is what they are, more or less, as the strong elemental forces found around these parts have acted as oxidising agents. A short oxidised walk along a trail here leads you to a lagoon behind a beach, which happens to be home to a phenomenal range of land birds, such as yellow warblers, doves, finches, even mocking-birds. You'll also probably come across a fabulous flock of flamingoes, that frequently flaunt there. The beach is the domain of sea lions, and there's a lot of good snorkelling to be had off it as well.
There will be a change of venue in the afternoon, and this means you'll find yourself sitting atop a Chinese hat. Well, that's what this tiny islet is called, and it is kind of reminiscent of that particular item of clothing, at least when seen from the north. This little piece of earth is actually a recent volcanic cone, accounting for the shape, and fascinating lava formations abound, from where they formed below water and were then raised - you'll still find coral heads right on top of the solidified magma. Those geologically inclined will go ape over the lava tubes and flows, but it's not apes you'll find living here, but rather some boisterous colonies of sea lions, Galapagos penguins, and stately marine iguanas.
Talk to a giant tortoise or two
Well, you've already had your fair share of natural Galapagos wonders, but now it's time to see what the good people around these parts are doing to protect and conserve all the rare beauties of nature you're lucky enough to be privy to. Charles Darwin Station, on the Santa Cruz island, is the epicentre of these efforts, and this morning you'll witness how this crucial work is carried out. A highlight here will undoubtedly be the Breeding and Rearing Centre for young tortoises. These are the real heroes in a half shell.
In the afternoon, you'll drive through the richly green Santa Cruz scenery, replete as it is with rolling hills and ancient, extinct volcanic cones. You're on your way to the Twin Craters, a worthy place for a photo stop, and then you'll have a chat with a Giant Tortoise or two in their natural habitat on a ranch nearby. After this jaunt through the highlands, it's time to head back to Puerto Ayora, and the luxury of your waiting yacht.
Sea lion surfing, and magnificent frigate birds
This is your last day of island-hopping, and the island onto which you'll hop today is North Seymour. Unlike many of the others in the archipelago, North Seymour isn't volcanic in origin, and you'll find it to be generally flat and boulder-strewn. These strewn boulders make this island a magnificent haven for magnificent frigate birds, who aren't called magnificent for nothing. If they're feeling amorous, you might just see the male of the species puffing up their bright red skin flaps to show off to the ladies. You'll also get to have a peek at some blue-footed boobies, and possibly see them perform their brand of courtship dance, while swallow-tailed gulls perch on the edges of the nearby cliffs. Surf's generally up further out to sea, and you may just be treated to the spectacle of sea lions catching a wave. As you walk the circular path, being careful not to tread on any nesting boobies and watching as the silver-blue waves crash on the shore below, you'll start to realise how many amazing sights you've been treated to over the past week. These will be memories you'll treasure all your life, and now it's time to start putting them in order, as this evening you'll be catching your flight back to Guayaquil or Quito, and away from these islands of natural treasure.