Charles Darwin explored Galápagos while on board the H.M.S. Beagle, between September and October 1835. We want to explore with our guests the islands that gave him the same inspiration, and what a better opportunity to do so on board our expedition vessel M/V Santa Cruz and Finch Bay Ecohotel, next to a group of fellow explorers, a team of seasoned Naturalists, and the most remarkable wildlife experience of this planet. Come with us and rediscover Galápagos…in Darwin’s Footsteps.
Day 1: San Cristóbal (Chatham). The northern coast of San Cristóbal holds a large harbor called Stephen’s Bay. Our site welcomes us with a white coralline beach, while inland a black lava flow dominates this volcanic coastline. The dramatic landscape includes a selection of tuff cones, spatter cones, and vast lava flows. Swimming and snorkeling available from the beach.
Wildlife highlights: Sea lions, Chatham mockingbird, Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, Chatham lava lizards, lagoon birds, brown pelicans.
Charles Darwin’s relevance. Being his first island, the volcanic setting of this place got his attention, and chances are you will notice these unique features too; just like Darwin did. In Voyage of the Beagle, and while referring to this island, he writes: “One night I slept on shore on a part of the island, where black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one small eminence I counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect.” Charles Darwin, September 17th, 1835.
Day 2: Española (Hood). Española Island is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago. Perhaps one of the most rewarding wildlife contacts in Galápagos will happen here. Wildlife highlights include: Black and red marine iguanas, sea lions, swallow-tail gulls, Hood mockingbird, Nazca boobies, Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, waved albatrosses (April to December), Hood lava lizards, yellow warblers.
Charles Darwin’s relevance. Actually, this island was the first approach for the HMS Beagle. Although, no landing was scheduled, Captain Robert Fitzroy managed to send a boat to extensively survey the coastline. Charles Darwin writes about his arrival to the islands, and first impressions: “This archipelago consists of ten principal islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Equator, and between five and six hundred miles westward of the coast of America.” Charles Darwin, September 15th, 1835.
Day 3: Floreana (Charles). Back in the 1700’s, Floreana Island was the place pirates chose for getting most fresh water. Later, in 1832, the first Ecuadorian settlers placed Ecuador’s flag and claimed the islands as a new territory. Swimming, snorkeling and glass-bottom boat can be arranged. Wildlife highlights include: Greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, frigatebirds, sea turtles, Galápagos flycatchers, tropical and subtropical fish, sea lions.
Charles Darwin’s relevance. On this island Charles Darwin met with the Governor of the Galápagos. This meeting was crucial as Darwin was introduced to why giant tortoises are different from island to island. This simple, but solid, fact is mentioned in Origin of the Species. Charles Darwin writes about Floreana Island: “Higher up, the woods gradually became greener; and as soon as we crossed the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine southerly breeze, and our sight refreshed by a green and thriving vegetation.” Charles Darwin, September 17th, 1835.
Day 4: Fernandina (Narborough). Fernandina Island is the western-most island of Galápagos. It is an island of frequent volcanic activity and we can witness this by walking on lava flows younger than 300 years of age. Its main volcano shows the classical dome shape of young volcanic islands. Snorkeling can be arranged, but it will depend on sea conditions. Wildlife highlights include: Blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, densest colony of marine iguanas, Galápagos hawks, intertidal pools, Galápagos penguins, brown pelicans, sally-lightfoot crabs.
Charles Darwin’s relevance. He was quite amazed to see how different the younger volcanos can be. Also, he mentioned about the cooler waters around the islands. Charles Darwin’s entry: “We doubled the south-west extremity of Albemarle Island, and the next day was nearly becalmed between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth from smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they have spread over miles of the sea-coast.” Charles Darwin, September 29th, 1835.
Day 5: Santa Cruz (Indefatigable). This morning we transfer early to the island of Santa Cruz, as we say goodbye to our expedition vessel. Our Naturalist will introduce us to great features on Santa Cruz Island, including a bus ride up through the lush and vibrant green highlands. This area is perhaps the least seen by visitors to the Galápagos. Seeing the changes in vegetation will be new to us, and the wildlife found here will have no comparison to any other area explored. We will travel by bus from the north shores of the island, towards the south end. In route we will explore pit craters, lava tunnels, the Scalesia forest, and the giant tortoises’ wild habitat. Check-in at Finch Bay and lunch. Then, off to the famous Charles Darwin Research Station, and some time afterwards to stroll in the town of Puerto Ayora.
Wildlife highlights include: Vermillion flycatchers, giant tortoises, Darwin’s finches (look for tree finches and woodpecker finches), egrets, Galápagos doves, lava lizards, Galápagos mockingbirds. Charles Darwin’s relevance. Santa Cruz Island is the only location in Galápagos, where up to nine species of Darwin’s finches can be observed (there are thirteen in total). Although he was not on Santa Cruz Island, his description of his visit to the highlands of another island in the archipelago is quite interesting.
He writes: “In the first part of the road we passed through leafless thickets. Higher up, the woods gradually became greener; and as soon as we crossed the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine southerly breeze, and our sight refreshed by green and thriving vegetation.” Charles Darwin, September 23rd, 1835.
Day 6: Santa Cruz (Indefatigable). Finch Bay Ecohotel setting is right at the shoreline. Mangroves host an array of wildlife, and low tide is the best time to experience this. Right from the start, Darwin’s finches dominate the landscape, but it is quite a thrill to see a cacti forest in the tropics, and right next to the ocean. Your outings today include a list of activities that allow you to have a “Galápagos a la carte” adventure. May we suggest ocean kayaking along the azure waters of Devine’s Bay, or hiking to Las Grietas, a crack in the volcanic shores where sea water has seeped in, or a walk to Tortuga Bay, a coralline beach of about six miles in length, or mountain biking up in the highlands, or a refreshing swim right off our beach, or snorkeling to nearby shallows? Do it all, or do none. It is your holiday. Tonight, enjoy the view of the bay by dining at Angermeyer’s Point, our partner and the finest Galápagos restaurant.
Wildlife highlights. Of course it will depend on what you do, but expect Darwin’s finches, cattle egrets, lava lizards, Galápagos mockingbirds, sea turtles, lava herons, lava gulls, and all the rest you can see. Charles Darwin’s relevance. As our voyage ends, nothing can be more relevant than Charles Darwin’s overall impressions about Galápagos: “Considering the small size of the islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava- streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact -- that mystery of mysteries -- the first appearance of new beings on this earth.” Charles Darwin, October 8th, 1835.
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