Day 1: En Route to Quito, Ecuador.
Fly to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the evening. You will be met and privately transferred to your hotel for rest and relaxation. Brief evening orientation. JW Marriott (5 stars) or Patio Andaluz (4 1/2 stars - boutique style) Note: Optional upgrade to deluxe 5 star Plaza Grande or Casa Gangotea. Optional downgrade to Hotel Sebastian (4 star).
Day 2: Quito.
This morning you'll go on a private tour of Quito, Ecuador’s delightful highland capital. Quito retains the old-world Spanish atmosphere, with golden cathedrals and cobblestone streets. In fact, colonial Quito was the first World Heritage Site to be proclaimed by UNESCO. Highlights will include the historical Plaza Grande, the dazzling gold-covered La Campania, a forgotten cloister, bustling San Francisco Square, a bird’s-eye view of Quito from Panecillo Hill and a couple of delightful surprises.
In the afternoon, you'll have a choice of a few activities. Your first option is to visit the Equatorial Monument, enjoy a lecture on Ecuadorian Cosmography and to experience an interactive, open-air museum that proves you are on latitude zero. Other cultural excursions/lecture options include: Ecuadorian Painting (Guayasamin); Archaeology (excellent collection at Museo del Banco Central); Ecuadorian handcrafts (Folklore Olga Fish Studio); a Latin dance lesson; or a visit the Observatorio Astronómico, which houses the unique Merz equatorial telescope and is the oldest observatory in South America. JW Marriott (5 star) or Patio Andaluz (4 1/2 stars - boutique style) (B, L).
Note: If you prefer, you can instead transfer this evening to La Mirage, one of the most enchanting lodge settings in all of South America (approximate surcharge of $300 per person)
Day 3: Otavalo.
Morning excursion to Otavalo market, one of the very best in South America. The Otavalenos are famous for their skill as weavers, their shrewd business sense, and their continuing cultural identity, evident in their traditional way of dress. You will marvel at the people, products, and vitality of this market. Colorful stalls display innumerable fascinating items, including rugs, baskets, leather goods, beautiful shawls, embroidery and hand-woven tweed.
Following the market, enjoy an easy, picturesque horseback riding or bicycling excursion near Otavalo. This soft adventure will take you through a lovely village and forest to a site which offers beautiful views of Imbabura volcano and Lake San Pablo. Note: If you prefer, we can substitute a special lecture or cultural excursion instead.
Your visit to Otavalo will also afford the opportunity to interact with the local communities in their home, allowing you to witness their daily lifestyles including music, cooking, beliefs and religion. Your private guide will see what is possible during your visit to the land of the Otavalos, taking into consideration your specific interests. Return to Quito.JW Marriott (5 star) or Patio Andaluz (4 1/2 stars - boutique style) (B, L).
Optional volunteer service option: If you would be interested, you may also have the opportunity to volunteer for one of several service projects. One option would be to spend the day helping one of the Otavalo women with her work, including cooking, harvesting, handicraft making and other chores. A second option would be to teach some basic English to schoolchildren in Quito and to help prepare and serve them lunch. A third option is to help prepare and serve lunch to the parents at the Baca Ortiz Children’s Hospital in Quito. The parents get little or no attention so your efforts will help make sure they get at least one good meal that day.
Day 4: Quito / Galapagos.
Morning flight to the Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands are world-famous for their incredibly fearless wildlife and exotic vegetation. Ninety-six percent of the reptiles, 47% of the plants, and 37% of the fish are found nowhere else in the world. Well known for the part they played in helping Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution, the islands still provide unlimited possibilities for exploration and discovery.
Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island, you'll be met and transferred to your anchored yacht. After the welcome briefing and safety drill, you’ll travel by bus into the interior of San Cristobal to visit La Galapagueria Cerro Colorado, where the National Park has established a breeding program for the tortoises and set up an information center for visitors. Along the trail, you’ll find the San Cristobal (Chatham) mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island. Here, you will see the terrestrial tortoises living in their natural habitat but also learn about their origin, evolution and threats by introduced animals. Eric, Flamingo, Letty – Iguana deck cabin (upgrade available) (B,L,D). Note: The Eric/Flamingo/Letty offer two topnotch itineraries on alternating weeks. This itinerary B covers the best of the western/northern islands, while the other itinerary A covers the best of the southern/central islands (San Cristobal, Espanola, Floreana, Bartolome, South Plaza, Santa Cruz.)
Day 5: Tower Island.
You’ll spend the entire day on Tower (Genovesa), considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species. This morning, you’ll make a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca Boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, you’ll find Storm Petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, you’ll will see the elusive Short-eared owl. After the walk, you may go kayaking along the shoreline. Look for the beautiful Red-billed Tropic bird usually found in the crevices.
This afternoon, you’ll 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, you can swim and snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D)
Day 6: Las Bachas and Cerro Dragon, Santa Cruz.
Today you'll visit Las Bachas, which is the Spanish translation for “barges”. There is a long stretch of a soft white sand beach and interior lagoons where you'll find the Greater Flamingo. There is also a wonderful chance to snorkel here from the beach. At Black Turtle Cove aka Caleta Tortuga Negra you'll go on a zodiac ride through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. Here you can view pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks and golden cow-nosed rays.
Located on the northern tip of Santa Cruz is Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill). Along the trail, you'll find Darwin Finches, Galapagos Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers, Audubon Shearwater and the endemic land iguanas, orange-yellow in color with large spines along their backs, were once part of the Darwin Station’s breeding program. You'll come across pink flamingos feeding in the salt-water lagoon as well as other lagoon birds; stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers and more. From the top of the hill, enjoy a majestic view of the bay island covered in Opuntia cactus, Palo Santo and Cordia Lutea (muyuyu). After the briefing and dinner, sail toward the western islands and cross the equator line for the second time. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D)
Day 7: Fernandina and Isabella Islands.
This morning, you’ll 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, you’ll cross the Bolivar Chanel where you may spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave. This afternoon, you’ll 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, you’ll 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 kayak to find Galapagos Penguins, Boobies, Pelicans and other seabirds. An excellent snorkeling opportunity is offered here after the walk. After dinner, a sky full of stars beckons to go out on deck and observe the galaxy. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D)
Day 8: Elizabeth Bay & Tagus Cove, Isabela.
You'll visit Elizabeth Bay, Isabela by zodiac starting with a visit to a secluded cove, lined with large red mangrove trees. Here, turtles, rays, and shore birds can be seen. You'll motor to the rocky islets known as “Las Marielas”, where a colony of nesting Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and giant Marine Iguanas are found. Isabela was created when six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest Island in Galapagos. You'll have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western Island of Isabela and a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti dating back to the 1800's is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the Coves by Zodiac or kayak to find Galapagos Penguins, Boobies, Pelicans and other seabirds. An uphill hike brings you to a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. An excellent snorkeling site is offered from the zodiac or take out a Kayak and explore the shoreline. After dinner, a sky full of stars beckons to go on deck and observe the galaxy while crossing the equator for the last time. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D).
Day 9: Santiago & Rabida Islands.
This morning, you’ll 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 oystercatchers and yellow- crowned night herons. Your 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, you’ll have a chance to go snorkeling and kayaking.
This afternoon, we disembark on Rabida Island (Jervis), located off James Island. Rabida sports the most diversified volcanic rocks of all the islands and is considered the geographic center of Galapagos. The dark red sand beach originated from the erosion of volcanic stones. Follow a trail that leads to a salt water lagoon, and observe Greater Flamingos as they feed. Brown Pelicans nest in the mangroves at the far side of the lagoon. After the walk, there is time for snorkeling. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D)
Day 10: highlands, Darwin Research Station & Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz.
You'll 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, you'll visit the tortoise reserve at “Las Primicias” one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Stop at "the tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. Look out for the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. After lunch, you will have your last briefing. before visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station. See 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. You'll stop at Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can see the tortoise and land iguana corrals.
Puerto Ayora is the social heart of the islands with the largest population of 24,000 inhabitants. This evening you have the option to return to your yacht for a buffet dinner or remain in town on your own account. Those who return to the yacht will be provided zodiacs to return to town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet cafe. Zodiacs will be provided for your return to the yacht.. Eric, Flamingo, Letty (B,L,D)
Day 11: Galapagos / Guayaquil.
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. Afterwards, we head straight to the airport for our flight back to the mainland. Upon arrival you will be met and privately transferred back to your hotel. Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil (B). Note: Optional upgrade to Hilton Guayaquil.
Day 12: Guayaquil / Homeward Bound.
Private transfer to the airport for return international flight. (B) Note: We will gladly customize an itinerary to meet your preferences. End of tour: (Code: B-Breakfast; L-Lunch; D-Dinner). Land Cost (Per Person).
- Total days: 12
- Single Supplement from: call or email for quote
- Galapagos National Park fee: $100 (plus $10 transit fee)
- Galapagos fuel surcharge: None for Eric/Flamingo/Letty; varies for other ships
- Accommodations: First Class/Deluxe
- International Airfare (approx.) $ 550 (MIA)
- Internal airfare (approx.): $ 450-500.
- Tour cost is valid for current year only.
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