|ISLAND HOPPING IN THE GALAPAGOS 2013
|This cruise offers visits to out of the way destinations. You will be accompanied by an expedition team and many landings ashore will be made by Zodiac landing craft. Cruises such as these will appeal to the more adventurous and those who enjoy the natural world.|
|Day 1 - LONDON TO QUITO.|
Fly by scheduled flight via Madrid. Arrive in the late afternoon and transfer to the Hilton hotel for two nights.
|Day 2 - QUITO. |
This morning enjoy a guided excursion of Quito, including its colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved in South America and which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afternoon at leisure.
|Day 3 - QUITO TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. |
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to the Galapagos. On arrival, transfer to the Isabela II for embarkation. This afternoon we enjoy our first excursion to the white sand beach of Garrapatero. On our walk, observe the diverse vegetation and birdlife such as cucuves, finch and flamingos. At the end of the beach, look out for marine iguanas.
|Day 4 - SANTA FE ISLAND & SOUTH PLAZA ISLAND.|
After breakfast we make a wet landing on a sandy beach, home to many sea lions. Galapagos hawks can often be seen here perched atop salt bushes. Also observe the giant prickly pear cactus with huge tree-sized trunks. The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the walk. Our excursion ends with time for snorkelling and swimming from the beach. After lunch we disembark in the channel between North and South Plaza Islands. The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange ‘Sally Lightfoot’ crabs. Further up the shore a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-grey land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop. Along the coastline we will find sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters glide above us.
|Day 5 - NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND & SANTA CRUZ ISLAND. |
Today starts with a dry landing for a view of the coast and the interior of North Seymour Island. The trail leads us to explore colonies of blue footed boobies, magnificent frigate birds and swallowtail gulls. The sandy shore teems with Galapagos sea lions and marine iguanas. Vegetation is made up of cacti, palo santo trees and salt bushes. After lunch on board we visit Santa Cruz Island. After WWII, US military barges were beached and abandoned here. Locals referred to the beach as the barges beach, a name that morphed to “bachas”. Today it is an important nesting area for the east Pacific green sea turtle. Located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, it is a glorious white beach, with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos.
|Day 6 - BARTOLOME & JAMES ISLAND. |
Disembark at Bartolome Island for a hike to the summit. This is a steep climb aided by a wooden staircase with handrails; the view from the top is worth the effort. There will be time for a panga ride around Pinnacle Rock before or after the walk where we hope to observe penguins. After lunch, board the panga for the short ferry to the landing site at Sullivan Bay on the East Coast of Santiago. After a wet landing on a white coral sand beach, begin the walk over lava that flowed less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of the Galapagos.
|Day 7 - SANTA CRUZ.|
After breakfast, disembark and travel by bus to the green hilly highlands of Santa Cruz to El Chato Reserve, one of the best places in the islands to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. The tortoises are easy to spot, lumbering around, eating grass and leaves and wallowing in the small pools that are common in the reserve. You may also spot some highland birds such as cattle egrets, mockingbirds, finches or flycatchers. There are several lava tunnels here, a great place to spot the barn owl. Enjoy lunch at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel in Puerto Ayora followed by a visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the ‘rearing in captivity’ programme for the giant tortoises. Take a stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora and browse the many handicraft and souvenir shops.
|Day 8 - BARONESS COVE & FLOREANA ISLAND. |
Today we take a short bus ride to the highlands of Floreana Island for a gentle hike. We will visit the freshwater spring which served as a source of water for early settlers and birdwatchers can spot the medium tree finch (endemic to the highlands of Floreana). Return to the vessel and later we will take a wet landing at the historic barrel that served as a post office in the archipelago, to learn about the human side of the islands, its early inhabitants and the adventures of pirates and whalers. This afternoon disembark at Punta Cormorant at an olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species such as greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers may be observed. There may also be the chance to snorkel from the beach, take a ride in the glass-bottom boat or for advanced snorkellers, a panga ride to “The Devil’s crown”, if conditions permit.
|Day 9 - HOOD ISLAND & ESPANOLA ISLAND. |
This morning we are at Punta Suárez for a walk on lava terrain to visit the unique sea bird colonies here, including waved albatrosses, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies and swallowtail gulls. We will also view the Galapagos famous “blow-hole”. Among its land birds, the Hood island mockingbird, and three species of Darwin’s finches are common highlights. Also, look for red-green-black marine iguanas. Return to the vessel for lunch and in the afternoon, we will make a wet landing at a white coral beach for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds, finches or simply relax on the beach. There is great snorkelling in this area, or take a ride aboard the glassbottom boat.
|Day 10 - SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND.|
This morning’s wet landing is on the northeastern side of the island for a guided walk that ascends from the beach, providing spectacular views of the shoreline. This is the only site in the Galapagos where the three species of boobies can be found together, as well as the two frigate species and a colony of bachelor sea lions along the beach. After the walk enjoy a swim from the beach. After lunch onboard, a zodiac ride will take us to Cerro Brujo’s white coral beach. The beach is a large expanse with good views of seabirds such as blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigate birds and other more shore birds. Also, look out for Galapagos sea lions. Highlights ashore include the Chatham (San Cristóbal) mockingbird and the Chatham lava lizard; both species are endemic to this island and seen nowhere else in the Galapagos. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin first set foot in the Galapagos 1835.
|Day 11 - GALAPAGOS TO GUAYAQUIL.|
Disembark after breakfast and fly to Guayaquil. On arrival, transfer to the Oro Verde Hotel for an overnight stay. Remainder of the day at leisure.
|Day 12 - GUAYAQUIL TO LONDON.|
Transfer to the airport for the return scheduled flight to London via Madrid.
|Day 13 - LONDON.|