8 Days
Duration
3/5
Physical Rating
14
Group Size

Galapagos

7 December – 15 December

On everyone’s bucket list, the Galapagos archipelago is one of the planet’s last wild and incredible places. We have chartered the S/S Mary Anne, arguably one of the best boats operating in the National Park. On this itinerary we will visit the south, central and northern islands. We will walk on bare lava, come face to face with all three booby species and watch displaying frigate birds. We will wander the highlands for giant tortoises, be amazed by hundreds of unique marine iguanas basking at our feet and get up close and personal with the endemic waved albatross. We will swim with penguins, rays and sharks, interact with curious sea lions, snorkel alongside green sea turtles and be surrounded by yellow tailed surgeonfish. To the islands that inspired Charles Darwin, we offer a trip of a lifetime.

(Please make your selection on the right when booking)

$7,350 USD Galapagos (per person sharing a cabin)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 $700 USD Single Supplement

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE LOCATION José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador
ARRIVAL TIME 7th December
INCLUDED
Hotel in Guayaquil the night prior to departure to Galapagos
Airport transfers
7 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
Tips to guide and crew.
NOT INCLUDED
International airfare to and from 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.
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

AccomodationsPer Person Sharing, Single Supplement

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

Day 1, December 7th: Guayaquil

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

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Day 2, December 8th am: Baltra Island, Santa Cruz Island Highlands

After breakfast in our hotel we fly to Baltra Island: the gateway to the Galapagos. On arrival, we immediately transfer to the S/S Mary Anne to settle in and have lunch. Tonight until the morning of day 8 we eat and overnight aboard our vessel. Our sailing ship the M/S Mary Anne with her three mast barquentine is the only one of its kind in the islands.

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Day 2, December 8th pm: Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove

The vessel navigates a short distance to Santa Cruz Island where we head out into the surreal mangrove system of Black Turtle Cove. This tranquil and sheltered lagoon is home to pelicans and herons that roost in the mangroves, while marine dwellers such as sharks, golden cownose rays and turtles may cruise right next to our panga (an inflatable motor boat). During December the Pacific green turtle comes here to nest. This is a special place and very different from all other sites to be visited. We travel overnight to the far north of the archipelago.

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Day 3, December 9th: Genovesa (Tower) Island: Darwin Bay & Prince Philip’s Steps

We sail into the sunken crater of this isolated island where we anchor and spend the entire day. The crater walls form tall cliffs above sea level but also plunge down over 60 meters allowing for excellent cliff face snorkeling. This island is the home to the largest red-footed booby colony in Galapagos and has a good population of breeding great frigatebirds. There are no lava lizards here and the marine iguanas are the smallest in the islands. Upon landing on the beach in Darwin Bay, finches come hopping over, sea lions feign a nonchalance and red-footed boobies swirl continuously overhead. Great frigatebirds nest on the low saltbushes. We see yellow-crowned night herons, as well as swallow-tailed gulls, widely recognized as the most beautiful gull in the world and the only one that is nocturnal. After our visit we snorkel and kayak in the caldera before having lunch. On the afternoon’s landing we climb 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 short-eared owls, have learned to feed. Our early evening sail out of the caldera is often in the company of dolphins as we say goodbye to this ‘island of birds’.

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Day 4, December 10th am: Bartolomé Island

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. The island is young and the ‘spatter’ or cinder cones look as if they were just formed. Our chance to swim with Galapagos penguins on this itinerary is here at the base of Pinnacle Rock. A small family of penguins live here and are easily photographed in shallow water as they ‘fly’ by snorkelers in the bay. There are also sharks, playful sea lions, rays and a host of colorful fish.

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Day 4, December 10th pm: Santiago Island: Sullivan Bay

In the afternoon we head across to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island to a recent, barren lava field. The formations of black, basaltic pahoehoe or ropey lava are only 100 years old. The different lava formations, crystallized minerals and pioneer plants are stunning and highly photogenic. There’s great snorkeling here and we hope to interact with turtles, sea lions and rays.

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Day 5, December 11th am: Rabida Island

The dramatic red beaches of Rabida Island are made of sand eroded from cinder cliffs to the west and backed by large palo santo covered cliffs and Opuntia cacti. The beach is home to several young, approachable sea lions. Hiking further inland we look for a host of Galapagos specialties such as the radiant vermillion flycatcher, Galapagos mockingbirds and some of the 9 species of Darwin’s finches found on this island. While snorkeling again we hope to find large schools of black-striped salema fish and some playful sea lions underwater.

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Day 5, December 11th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Cerro Dragon

At Cerro Dragon beach on Santa Cruz we hike inland through palo santo trees on a trail frequented by land iguanas. These iguanas were once part of the Darwin Station’s breeding program. This is a good location to see them at their burrows as December is nesting season for all the reptiles in Galapagos. Another target species that we are on the lookout for is the tool-using woodpecker finch searching for grubs. A saltwater lagoon is the occasional home to flamingos, blacknecked stilts and other waders.

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Day 6, December 12th am: Santa Cruz Island: Local ranch and giant tortoise viewing

We spend the day visiting Santa Cruz Island’s most famous highlights. After landing at the dock in the town of Puerto Ayora we head up to the highlands. In contrast to the arid coastal region, here we will see lush vegetation and forest due to the humidity that gathers in the higher regions. We look for barn owls, flycatchers and yellow warblers, but our objective is the wild tortoises found roaming around the local ranches, often among the cattle. These 600lb (270kg) prehistoric giants roam free and change locations according to food availability and season and which ranch we visit will depend on their presence. Lunch is at a local ranch.

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Day 6, December 12th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Charles Darwin Station & Puerto Ayora

Returning from the highlands to the town of Puerto Ayora, we visit the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more of the history and science of the islands. The station houses tortoises from the different islands in semi-natural pens. There are also breeding pens for the tortoises and land iguanas. 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.

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Day 7, December 13th 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 swallow-tailed gulls, land iguanas and sea lions, all present at the landing to greet us. This sub-species of land iguana is the smallest in Galapagos and some have bred with the marine iguanas to form a hybrid species only found here. The path winds its way to the cliff top where we sit and watch Galapagos shearwaters gliding over the waves and gulls, tropic birds and frigates cruising lazily below and at eye-level on the up-draught.

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Day 7, December 13th pm: Santa Fé Island.

Santa Fé is idyllic. It has 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, tree-forming 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 some fantastic snorkeling with turtles, rays, surgeonfish, parrotfish and possibly even sharks.

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Day 8, December 14th am: Española (Hood) Island: Gardner Bay, Gardner Islet, Osborn Islet

We snorkel around the offshore islands of Española (Hood) Island where we may find and play with curious sea lions in the water. We visit one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands, and sit with sea lions, walk the length of the beach or find a quiet place to sit in self-reflection.

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Day 8, December 14th pm: Española (Hood) Island: Punta Suarez

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

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Day 9, December 15th am: Santa Cruz Island: Los Gemelos & Baltra Island

We disembark the S/S Mary Anne for the last time in Puerto Ayora. Making our way across Santa Cruz Island we stop at the twin craters or Los Gemelos and the Lava tubes. These tunnels were formed by a lava flow that hardened on the outside while still maintaining its fluid scolding state on the inside, leaving hollow tunnels where it passed – some of these are the largest lava tunnels in the world. From here we head to Baltra airport where our journey began, for our flight back to mainland Ecuador and international flights home.

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

EXPEDITION LEADERS

PETE OXFORD

Pete and Renee have lived in Ecuador since 1985 and 1991 respectively. They travel 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 their backyard Pete and Renee have been fascinated and fallen in love with the archipelago. Together Pete and Renee have written three books on the Galapagos. They are excited to be able to share with you the islands that are so dear to them!

RENEE BISH

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