Day 1, Sunday: Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island, our crew is waiting at the airport to escort you to your anchored yacht. After the welcome briefing, buffet lunch and safety drill, we set sail for Playa Ochoa where we have a wet landing. Here, we can test our snorkeling equipment and at the same time swim with a small colony of sea lions. Behind the beach, there is a tidal lagoon where bird can be spotted including the rare Chatham mockingbird. At sunset, we cruise around Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido), a vertical tuff cone formation that abruptly juts up almost 500 feet out of the ocean. On the cliffs, we spot blue-footed boobies, masked boobies and magnificent frigate birds. This evening, the guides hold a briefing followed by the Captain’s welcome cocktail.
Day 2, Monday: We spend the entire day on Tower (Genovesa), considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species. This morning, we have a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca (formerly masked) boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, we find storm petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, we will see the elusive short-eared owl. After the walk, our kayaks are available to paddle along the shoreline. Look for the beautiful red-billed tropic bird usually found in the crevices. After lunch, take a siesta or relax on deck with a book from our library.
This afternoon, we have a wet-landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of great frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich inter tidal zone where we find a wide diversity of wildlife. After the walk, we can swim and snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters. We set sail early to motor to the western Islands during the briefing followed by dinner.
Day 3, Tuesday: This morning, we have a semi-wet landing at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galapagos. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Hundreds of marine iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, bask in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory. Flightless Cormorants build their nest on the point and Galapagos Hawks fly overhead. After lunch, we cross the Bolivar Chanel where we often spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave.
This afternoon, we have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western Island of Isabela. Six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest Island in Galapagos. During the walk, we discover a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. Graffiti dating back to the 1800's is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the Coves by Zodiac or in one of our clear-bottom sea kayaks to find Galapagos penguins, boobies, pelicans and other seabirds. An excellent snorkeling opportunity is offered here after the walk. After the briefing and dinner, a sky full of stars beckons to go out on deck and observe the galaxy.
Day 4, Wednesday: This morning, we have a wet landing at Puerto Egas, Santiago (James). Stroll along the shoreline looking for octopus, starfish and other sea life caught in the tide pools. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American oyster-catchers and yellow-crowned night herons. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction. Before returning to the yacht, there is a snorkeling opportunity with loads of tropical fish. As an alternative, you may use the kayaks to explore the marine life without getting wet. During lunch, the yacht motors to the other side of the Island which provides for scenic landscapes.
Located off the Southern tip or Santiago, Sombrero Chino or Chinese Hat owes its name to its shape. After a wet beach landing with sea lion colonies, the trail gives way to a primeval landscape of volcanic rubble including cracked lava formations and lava tubes. The lava tubes are fragile and one must be careful to stay on the trail. We find marine iguanas and pairs of oyster-catchers. There are good photographic opportunities here as this site conveys a strong feeling that you’ve come to a very special place in the world. There is a briefing followed by dinner as we anchor in a calm protected area.
Day 5, Thursday: On Bartolome, it seems like we are walking on the moon. This young Island is inhospitable to most plants and animals. After a dry landing, climb 30 minutes up stairs leading to the summit of a once active volcano. Along the way, we pause to marvel at lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. From the top of the wooden stairs, we can gaze out across the island for a panoramic view of the island and "Pinnacle Rock", an eroded tuff cone. Down below, crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel from the beach or Zodiac with schools of tropical fish and Galapagos Penguins. On the other side of the Island, encounter sea turtles and white-tipped sharks.
This afternoon, we have a dry landing at North Seymour, a small geological uplift. We follow a trail that leads us to swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies and the endemic land iguanas. Visit the largest colony of magnificent frigate birds found in Galapagos. As we stroll along the beach, we find marine iguanas and sea lions body surf the northern swells. After the walk there is a snorkeling opportunity offered in deep water. Passengers who have purchased our dive package will have two dives in lieu of visiting North Seymour.
Day 6, Friday: This morning we travel by bus to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. Here, we visit the tortoise reserve at one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises In their natural habitat. We visit Los Gemelos, Spanish for “The Twins”, a pair of large pit craters where we find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. We stop at "the tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. After lunch on board, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. We visit all three tortoise corals and the breeding center with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology.
We also visit the Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can see the pen of Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta Island subspecies. Stroll through the town of Puerto Ayora (population: 20,000) and the largest town in the Galapagos. Buy souvenirs, mail postcards or kick back at an internet cafe in the social heart of the Islands. Passengers who have purchased our scuba dive package will have two dives in lieu of visiting the Darwin Station. Divers can visit the highlands on their return from the dive. Although dinner is served on board, passengers may visit the town in the evening to shop and dine on their own.
Day 7, Saturday: This morning we have a dry landing at Punta Suarez, Espanola, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily green us as we land on their beach. Curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in “sky-pointing” to show off for potential mates. Nazca (formerly masked) boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls are the only nocturnal gulls in the world. Red-billed tropic birds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique specie of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous "blow hole". This is the scene most people envision when they decide to visit Galapagos. During lunch, we motor to the other side of the Island.
On our last afternoon in Galapagos, we have a wet landing on Gardner Bay, Espanola (Hood). Walk along seemingly endless stretches of this white sandy beach where you’ll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore and you may find a Galapagos Hawk, Darwin’s Finches or Hood Mockingbird. Swim with sea lions from the beach or just relax on your last glorious day in Galapagos. There’s an excellent snorkeling site off Gardner Islet with a colorful diversity of sea life near Tortuga Rock in caves covered with invertebrates. Passengers are also permitted to use the kayaks at this particular site. This evening, enjoy the Captain’s Farewell cocktail followed by dinner and a briefing.
Day 8, Sunday: This morning, we drop anchor in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal. We visit the Interpretation Center opened in 1999. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the Islands. After wards, we head straight to the airport for our flight back to the mainland.
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