16 Days
Duration
3/5
Physical Rating
Galapagos, Ecuador
Group Size

Galapagos

2 December – 17 December, 2016

On everyone’s bucket list, the Galapagos archipelago is one of the planet’s last wild incredible places. We have chartered the S/S Mary Anne, arguably the best boat operating in the National Park. We will walk on bare lava, come face to face with blue-footed boobies and displaying frigate birds. We will wander the highlands for giant tortoises, be amazed by hundreds of unique marine iguanas basking at our feet, get up close and personal with the endemic flightless cormorants and watch waved albatrosses on outstretched wings. We will swim with penguins and sharks, interact with curious sea lions, snorkel alongside green sea turtles and be surrounded by yellow tailed surgeonfish. For the islands that inspired Charles Darwin we have designed the ‘Definitive Galapagos’ adventure!

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE LOCATION José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador
ARRIVAL TIME 2nd December
INCLUDED
Hotel in Guayaquil the night prior to departure to Galapagos
Airport transfers
14 nights accommodation aboard the S/S Mary Anne
All meals, drinking water, tea and coffee aboard the vessel
Naturalist guide plus two Focus Expeditions trip leaders
All activities, including INGALA fee and loan of snorkel gear
NOT INCLUDED
International airfare to and rom Guayaquil
Domestic air fare between Guayaquil and Galapagos return.**Please note: For the domestic airfare Guayaquil-Galapagos-Guayaquil we will have a group block booking. DO NOT BOOK YOUR OWN FLIGHTS.
Galapagos National Park entrance fee, international or domestic departure taxes & passport expenses.
Tips to guide and crew.
Items of a personal nature including laundry, postage, shipboard bar, personal shopping and internet.
Hire of wetsuits while on board.
Additional hotel nights not mentioned in the itinerary

Additional information

AccomodationsShared Facilities, Private Facilities

Letters correspond to points on the map in the map tab.

Day 1, December 2nd: Guayaquil

After arriving at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil we will transfer to the hotel for the night.

A

Day 2, December 3rd: Baltra Island, Santa Cruz Island Highlands

After breakfast on day 2 we will fly to Baltra Island: the gateway to the Galapagos.

B

Day 2, December 3rd: Santa Cruz Island Highlands

On arrival, we are whisked away and soon find ourselves face to face with 600lb (270kg) prehistoric giant tortoises in the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a remarkable first encounter! Tonight until the morning of day 16 we eat and overnight aboard our vessel the S/S Mary Anne.
C

Day 3, December 4th: Floreana Island: Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown & Post Office Bay

At Punta Cormorant, on Floreana Island, a green olivine beach, sea lions, wading birds and Darwin’s finches all greet us on arrival. We walk through unique vegetation, (some of which grows nowhere else in the world but this island) arriving at a saltwater lagoon where startlingly pink flamingos nest and feed. Some fabulous snorkeling off the Devil’s Crown around a sunken crater is a highlight where we look for hammerhead sharks, turtles and large schools of fish. In the afternoon, at the historic Post Office Barrel we can send a few postcards and, in so doing, maintain a centuries old tradition.

D

Day 4, December 5th: Floreana Island: Black Beach, Navigation & Whale Watching

Landing at Black Beach on Floreana we learn about the most renown human history to come out of the islands: the story of Margaret Witmer, the Baroness, the Ritters, lovers and murder. We visit the highland areas of this inhabited island looking for the island­ endemic medium tree finch. In the afternoon we will navigate into the rich waters of the western islands. On the way we have a very high chance of spotting whales and dolphins.

E

Day 5, December 6th am: Isabela Island: Punta Moreno

We now venture into the ‘wilder’ side of the Galapagos for three days, where penguins, cormorants and marine iguanas flourish! Against an austere backdrop we will explore the region in all its majesty. After anchoring at Punta Morena off Isabela Island we will hike on superb pahoehoe lava flows in search of endemic plants and a brackish lagoon which is home to flamingos and pintail ducks. All the while with the backdrop of basaltic volcanoes.

F

Day 5, December 6th pm: Isabela Island: Elizabeth Bay

Following the coast of western Isabela Island we will depart the Mary Anne in our pangas to explore the more hidden regions of a mangrove labyrinth. Be on the lookout for golden rays, turtles and even tropical penguins!

G

Day 6, December 7th am: Isabela Island: Urbina Bay

We will begin today with a wet landing onto a black volcanic sand beach of this geologically uplifted area. On a relatively short hike we can usually observe another species of giant tortoise. We will also search for large, yellow, land iguanas and more of the finch species that inspired Charles Darwin. After our walk we will go for a snorkel in the hopes of being accompanied by a few Galapagos penguins.

H

Day 6, December 7th pm: Fernandina Island: Punta Espinosa

On Fernandina, the world’s largest, most pristine island, we land directly into the heart of Darwin’s ‘Imps of Darkness’ ­ the marine iguana ‘capital’ of the world. As we sit or walk the shoreline, the world’s only truly marine lizard will be strewn at our feet in dense congregations. We will sit with the endemic flightless cormorants in hopes of observing their courtship ritual all the while being entertained by jovial sea lions. Turning inland we face a dramatic, and inhospitable vista of lava and pioneer vegetation of the archipelago’s youngest island. Snorkeling in this area ranks as some of the best as we will swim with turtles, a myriad of fish species and look for Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and marine iguanas feeding underwater.

I

Day 7, December 8th am: Isabela Island: Tagus Cove

At Tagus Cove a hike leads us to an overview of a flooded crater; Darwin’s Lake, and onward through a stunning volcanic landscape for a true understanding of how the hot lava of the Earth’s core has molded the Galapagos Islands ­ geologist heaven! Tagus Cove is also an historic hideaway from which pirates would ransack the whaling fleet hunting in the area. Even today graffiti dating back as far as 1836, one year after Darwin’s visit, can be found carved in the rock face.

J

Day 7, December 8th pm: Isabela Island: Punta Vicente Roca

One of our top snorkeling sites, we take to the deep water in search of penguins, rays, turtles, flightless cormorants and a host of fish species, some only found in the western isles. A panga ride along the dramatic cliffs of Ecuador Volcano, straddling the equator, gives us the opportunity to photograph blue-footed boobies, brown noddies and amazing geological features.

K

Day 8, December 9th am: Santiago Island: Buccaneer Cove & Espumilla Beach

To the land of pirates and buccaneers! We head first to the golden sands of a turtle nesting beach and on a forested trail into the hinterland where pirates once hunted goats for food. Cruising Buccaneer Cove we see where ships were careened (hauled out and cleaned) back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the largest specimens of palo santo trees we will see are home to friendly Galapagos flycatchers, yellow warblers and Darwin’s finches.

L

Day 8, December 9th pm: Puerto Egas

In Puerto Egas, also on Santiago Island, after a wet landing onto another dark­sand volcanic beach we will hike to submerged lava grottos where we will commune with endemic fur seals that consider the grottos home. Along the shoreline we can watch herons and waders, explore the tide pools and indulge in another great snorkel.

M

Day 9, December 10th am: North Seymour Island

Following another fantastic snorkel we land on North Seymour Island. Here we will enter the habitat of another kind of pirate: the frigate bird. These birds are known for stealing the meals of smaller birds and frequently even shake boobies mid flight for their catch. We will watch their display as the males show off their bright red pouches to attract the females. On this island we will walk through nesting blue­footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and frigate birds all the while encountering more land iguanas and sea lions.

N

Day 9, December 10th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Black Turtle Cove

In the afternoon we head out into the surreal mangrove system of Black Turtle Cove looking for sharks, golden cownose rays and turtles from our pangas.

O

Day 10, December 11th: Genovesa (Tower) Island: Darwin Bay & Prince Philip’s Steps

We spend the day in Genovesa (Tower) Island in the north of the archipelago. Known as the ‘Island of Birds’ it is a spectacular visit. Upon landing on the beach, finches come hopping over, sea lions feign a nonchalance and red­-footed boobies swirl continuously overhead. We see the endemic swallow­tailed gulls; widely recognized as the most beautiful gull in the world and the only one that is nocturnal. In the waters of the sunken crater we snorkel and kayak before climbing Prince Phillip’s Steps to another bird spectacle. Nesting Nazca and red­-footed boobies line our way as we head to a lava field, home to thousands of minuscule storm petrels on which one of our target species, the short­eared owls, have learned to feed.

P

Day 11, December 12th: Bartolomé Island & Santiago Island: Sullivan Bay

Now in the heart of the archipelago we begin with a climb up a series of wooden steps to the most famous view­point in the Galapagos, the Pinnacle Rock of Bartolomé. The iconic view across the pinnacle to Santiago Island is spectacular and often evokes the sensation of being on the moon. Here we snorkel looking for penguins, sharks, playful sea lions, rays and a host of colorful fish. In the afternoon we head across to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island to a recent lava field that looks as if it flowed only yesterday. The formations of lava are stunning and highly photogenic. Here too we have another great snorkel where we hope to interact with turtles, sea lions and rays.

Q

Day 12, December 13th am: Rabida Island

We land on the dramatic red beaches of Rabida Island backed by large palo santo covered cliffs and Opuntia cacti. Hiking further inland we look for a host of Galapagos specialties such as the radiant vermillion flycatcher. Followed by a snorkel we hope to find large schools of black­striped salema fish and some playful sea lions.

R

Day 12, December 13th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Cerro Dragon

At Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz we hike inland through palo santo trees, with large land iguanas at their burrows and perhaps find a tool­using woodpecker finch searching for grubs. A saltwater lagoon is the occasional home to flamingos, black­necked stilts and other waders.

S

Day 13, December 14th am: Santa Cruz Island: Tortuga Bay, Grottos, & Puerto Ayora

From Puerto Ayora we will walk approximately 45 minutes along a stone paved road which is surrounded by Galapagos coastal vegetation such as the prickly pear cactus and palo santo trees. This road, which also presents a very good opportunity to watch birds, especially Darwin finches, will take us to a beautiful, white sand beach known as Tortuga Bay. From here it’s up to you to decide among the alternatives: swim or snorkel, watch the marine iguanas and other wildlife, explore the coves surrounded by mangrove trees or simply lay back and relax while enjoying the magical landscape. The Grottos, or Grietas might be an alternative excursion for those not wanting to walk so far and are another dramatic site where one can also snorkel.

T

Day 13, December 14th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Charles Darwin Station & Puerto Ayora

From the archipelago’s largest town of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, we will visit the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more of the history and science of the islands. Finches are easily photographed in this area as we explore the station. Returning through town we have a chance to shop for souvenirs or continue photographing the juxtaposition of the abundant wildlife in the urban environment.

U

Day 14, December 15th am: South Plazas Island

The tiny South Plazas Island has much to offer. The red carpet of the succulent sesuvium vegetation growing between the Opuntia cactus provides a beautiful backdrop to swallow­tailed gulls, land iguanas and sea lions, all present at the landing to greet us. From the cliff top we watch Galapagos shearwaters gliding over the waves and gulls, tropic birds and frigates cruising lazily below and at eye­level on the updraught.

V

Day 14, December 15th pm: Santa Fé Island

Santa Fé is idyllic. It is a beautiful natural bay filled with turquoise water and two beautiful white sand beaches used by sunbathing sea lions. Inland we hike past a grove of giant, tree­forming prickly pear cacti, a different land iguana species endemic to the island and perhaps an endemic Galapagos hawk or two. We follow the land visit with another fantastic snorkel with turtles, rays, surgeonfish, parrotfish and possibly even sharks.

W

Day 15, December 16th am: Española (Hood) Island: Gardner Bay, Gardner Islet & Osborn Islet

Another fantastic snorkel around the offshore islands of Española (Hood) Island where we may find and play with curious sea lions in the water. We will visit one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands for a perfect last full day, either sitting with sea lions, walking the length of the beach or finding a quiet place to sit in self­-reflection.

X

Day 15, December 16th pm: Española (Hood) Island: Punta Suarez

One of the best sites saved for last: Punta Suarez is a true naturalist’s paradise! From the moment we set foot on land we will be enthralled. The island endemic mockingbird will be there, as well as marine iguanas, sea lions and finches. We will see nesting boobies, Galapagos hawks and the largest and perhaps most spectacular island endemic, the waved albatross. We will spend time and sit quietly while observing the complex courtship rituals from a cliff edge and be awed by these magnificent birds as they glide past effortlessly at eye­ level.

Y

Day 16, December 17th: Santa Cruz Island: Los Gemelos & Baltra Island & return to mainland Ecuador


After a visit to the Gemelos (Twins), a pair of large collapsed craters in the highland of Santa Cruz Island, we head back to the airport on Baltra Island to fly back to mainland Ecuador for our onward flights home.

Click a letter on the map to show the sidebar and see the highlights of that location.

EXPEDITION LEADERS

PETE OXFORD

Pete Oxford has lived in Ecuador since 1985. He travels as a professional photographic and tour leading team specializing in wildlife and indigenous cultures. Pete began in tourism in 1987 while living as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands. Shortly after he became a co-founder of the Galapagos Naturalist Guide’s Association, which was created to train a higher standard of naturalist guide. With the Galapagos Islands in his backyard Pete has been fascinated and fallen in love with the archipelago. Having written three books on the Galapagos he is excited to be able to share with you the islands that are so dear to him.

We are not only very fortunate to call Galapagos our backyard, we also have learned to love and know this unique and fascinating archipelago intimately. Pete was a co-founder of the Galapagos Naturalist Guide’s Association (AGIPA) in 1987. We have been guiding on the islands for the past three decades and have participated there in several research projects. Three books about the Galapagos are credited to us.

RENEE BISH

Tour Reviews

5 based on 10 reviews
December 19, 2016

This is not a pretend holiday, this is not a pin on the map destination, this is the REAL DEAL. We have been lucky enough to visit many parts of our planet where our itinerary has been planned for us by experts and we have come back with a lifetime of memories. So if I tell you this blows them out the water I don’t care if you don’t believe me but at the end of your bucket list you will only have yourself to blame.
Because of the magic Renee and Pete sprinkled in choosing who comes on this trip (we had to wait two years) we have made lifelong friends of our co-adventurers. I feel I should end here because if you don’t get it now you never will

December 19, 2016

Trip of a Lifetime – Wussies Need Not Apply!

Visiting the Galapagos is on every conservation minded person’s bucket list. If you are going to go, you simply must go with Pete and Renee of Focus Expeditions… Unless of course you’re expecting a relaxing “beach vacation.” The motto, “first on the island and last to leave” was taken seriously, and our group loved every minute of it! We have returned home with our brains, hearts and memory cards full to the brim. I know that every member of the group is already planning their next expedition with Focus!

Bravo

December 21, 2016

I could go on and on and on ……. Going to the Galapagos was on our wish list and we booked with Focus Expeditions 18 months in advance (you have to get in early if you want to travel with Focus Expeditions) so we have been looking forward to this trip for a long time. It lived up to our expectations and more. Pete and Renee are a truly fantastic team. Pete got us up and out by 0600 most mornings thus avoiding the heat and seeing everything in the best light and being the first on every island was always Pete’s plan! Renee’s attention to detail was impeccable. She supplied extra hats, snorkelling kit, sun cream, after sun cream (everything we had forgotten) and lots of TLC – we wanted for nothing. Their knowledge of the Galapagos, and that of our guide Fernando, was encyclopaedic. They both spent a lot of time with our 4 teenage daughters explaining the history, geology and conservation of the Galapagos. Their love of these islands is undoubted. The photographers in the group got some incredible advice from Pete – the best photographic course I’ve ever been on and I have fantastic photos of sealions, dolphins, iguana, all the birds, sharks and whales to prove this!!

As I started, I could go on and on and on but truly suggest you see for yourself – just make sure you book with Focus Expeditions if you want that unforgettable trip.

December 21, 2016

Zach’s review sums it up – if you want to go somewhere – do it with Pete and Renee. Their knowledge, sense of fun and unending enthusiasm was boundless. I WAS frightened of boats but the feeling of safety with Focus is total. Renee and Pete raise the bar on every level. The Mary Anne was gorgeous, food excellent, staff always helpful but not intrusive. We all felt as if we were at home. As our guide Fernando used to say on our excursions “Come on Family” – and at the end of two weeks we were.

Focus knows the Galapagos intimately so every detail has been planned and refined through experience. This is no trip for slackers – if you want to see it all and have fun from sun rise to sun set – go with Focus.

Pete & Renee’s lifetime knowledge of world wide conservation informs everything Focus does. We learnt so much and left with more passion and knowledge about our delicate natural world.

Thank you both – a fabulous time.

December 21, 2016

On the first day of the trip my 17 year old cousin was suffering slightly from sea sickness and jet lag and she turned around and said to me (after being told by Pete that our wake up call was 6 in the morning everyday): “I thought this was going to be more of a relaxing holiday”. However – after spending 14 days on the beautiful Mary Anne, with a perfectly selected group of inspiring people from across the world providing extremely funny moments from the crack of dawn until the stars came out at night, with Pete and Renee’s abundance of energy and knowledge of the Galapagos throughout the day causing each day to be even better than the day before, sighting and learning about all the amazing animals and birds that inhabit these islands I think she would gladly say she would be more than happy to get up so early in the morning and be last off the island every evening and that it was the best HOLIDAY she has ever had and with friends that she will keep for life – as would I.

It was a very special and a very unforgettable trip, thank you.

December 21, 2016

I cant even begin to describe how amazing this trip was, its hard to imagine ever beating it (if we did it would HAVE to be another Focus Expedition).
Pete and Renee made the holiday, Renee was always there and had anything you could ever need and Pete was never short of enthusiasm. What made them, and our amazing guide Fernando, the best leaders was their never ending excitement for animals and scenery they have probably seen multiple times, this constantly reinforced just how ‘super cool’ what we were seeing really was and ‘how you don’t see that everyday’.
Being only 19 and an art student you might not think this trip was suited for me. However I have never felt so inspired. Pete and Renee were such an inspiration, making me realise how just 2 people can make a difference. They revived my love of geology/nature and conservational desires which will be strongly evident in my future work.
One thing that topped off the whole trip was the life long friends we made, I miss them all already but I know we will keep in touch.
Thanks so much to the coolest people, I really hope we see you again soon.

December 22, 2016

This Focus Expedition to Galapagos with Pete Oxford and Renee Bish and our intrepid band of travelers transcended even my highest expectations. Thanks to Pete and Renee, their thoughtfulness in understanding our group and attention to everyone’s interests, we became a tight group, full of laughs, broad smiles and wonder at all our close encounters with the natural world. Galapagos remains a unique national park in all the world and I can’t think of 2 better guides to open insights into this world than Pete and Renee. Their deep commitment to conservation and years of experience on the islands provide a rich and inspiring entry into the world of seabird colonies, fish, sea animals and differences in habitat from island to island. But mostly, they are FUN and this enthusiasm is contagious! The Mary Ann was a stunning boat to call home with a merry band of strangers who quickly became fast friends. We were on the go making the most of every opportunity that showed itself, exceptional encounters with Sunfish, white tip sharks and Eagle Rays, turtles galore, exquisite gliding flights of Albatross, it goes on and on…but the best part was sharing with each other. I have a very deep and special gratitude for my shipmates and among all the treasures on land and sea, most treasured are new found friends.
If you are considering a wildlife tour anywhere in the world, book with Focus Expeditions and guides Pete Oxford and Renee Bish. Your appreciation for our beautiful, fragile and complex world will expand ten-fold and you will feel the passion.

January 8, 2017

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is on many a bucket list, right up there with a host of wild-life centered trips. But visiting the Galapagos with Pete and Renee of Focus Expeditions is truly the trip of a lifetime. Pete and Renee’s thirty year long love affair with these remarkable islands makes them the ideal hosts and guides, whether on a first trip (like myself) or the second time around (like my companion.) Pete and Renee bring to the group significant context, deep knowledge, fascinating stories, attention to detail, patience, and a sense of humor and enthusiasm that envelops everyone. Moreover, their years of experience with guiding groups brings a level of service and anticipation of needs that is unsurpassed, even among my many world-travels with top-notch guides through high-end travel companies.
The memories of 14 days of animal encounters will stay with me forever. The photos on the Focus Expedition website capture the beauty of what I personally experienced. But they only scratch the surface of the feelings I had while in this incredible place. Pete and Renee crafted a journey where we all felt like we belonged, that we were part of nature, in a deeply intimate way. This was not the typical tourist trip, for example one where people are herded around, while checking off a list of things to see. (Sadly, we crossed paths with a few of these groups who spent only a fraction of the time we did on each of the islands.)
Pete and Renee were with us full-time, always watching for unexpected and unplanned “Galapagos moments,” whether spotting for whales, dolphins, or Mola Molas (sunfish) and then instantly shifting gears to give us an unscheduled viewing, even if it took additional hours to do so. They never took a moment of free time for themselves and they were always thinking ahead about giving us the best possible experience with what the Galapagos had to offer on each particular day.
I look forward to traveling with Pete and Renee again. I have no doubt that each spectacular place they visit would be enhanced by their unique and singular approach to travel.

January 17, 2017

This trip was absolutely incredible. From the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife to the incredible boat, staff, and guides, sailing the Galapagos with Pete and Renee is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We made the most of every minute that we had, and had many experiences that I am sure that the average tourist in the Galapagos would never get to experience. I would highly recommend this expedition to anybody.

January 23, 2017

Where do I even start to describe how incredible this trip was…? When I say it was the trip of a lifetime I honestly mean that. Having booked it two years in advance our excitement had been mounting to such high levels that we were almost convinced that no trip could live up to our excitement, well these two weeks exceeded it a hundred times over. Pete and Renee ensured that we had the best time we possibly could, from living on the most beautiful and envied boat on the water to ensuring such a wonderful, fun group of people, Renee providing numerous crucial items we had forgotten to pack whilst making sure every one of us were looking after ourselves properly, and Pete helping so much to improve (some of our!) basic photography skills. Their ceaseless enthusiasm for everything and anything we saw was infectious and their completely genuine excitement to show and share with us all these amazing sights and animals and make sure we knew that ‘you don’t see that everyday’ was just so great and made sure that every single moment was exciting, there was always something new to experience.

Their choice of guide, Fernando, was so wonderful and their combined knowledge of absolutely everything and anything to do with not only the Galapagos but just about any animal, peoples or place was astounding. I don’t think we managed to find a single question that they couldn’t answer, usually with a bonus story.

And of course they are just the loveliest people, along with our perfect group of people I honestly don’t think I will ever have another trip that could compare and can 100% say that no other expedition leaders could ever come close – we will just have to visit somewhere else with them as they make the experience so incredible. Pete and Renee have inspired me more than they will know and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Thank you so much, I miss it all but will never forget it, it was so so special.

Leave a Review

Rating