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

Galapagos: TRIP FULL

18 November – 3 December, 2016

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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 18th November
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 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.
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

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

Day 1, November 18th: Guayaquil

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

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Day 2, November 19th: Baltra Island

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

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Day 2, November 19th: 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.
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Day 3, November 20th: 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.

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Day 4, November 21st: 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.

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Day 5, November 22nd am: Isabela Island: Punta Moreno, Elizabeth Bay

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.

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Day 5, November 22nd 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!

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Day 6, November 23rd 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.

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Day 6, November 23rd 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.

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Day 7, November 24th am: Isabela Island: Tagus Cove, Isabela Island: Punta Vicente Roca

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.

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Day 7, November 24th 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.

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Day 8, November 25th 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.

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Day 8, November 25th pm: Santiago Island: 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.

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Day 9, November 26th 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.

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Day 9, November 26th 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.

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Day 10, November 27th: 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.

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Day 11, November 28th: 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.

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Day 12, November 29th 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.

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Day 12, November 29th 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.

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Day 13, November 30th 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.

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Day 13, November 30th 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.

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Day 14, December 1st 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.

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Day 14, December 1st 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.

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Day 15, December 2nd 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.

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Day 15, December 2nd 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.

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Day 16, December 3rd: 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.

JAMI TARRIS

“As a full-time professional nature photographer and now expedition leader, I am very excited to share insights about the power of photography in amazing places like the Galapagos. See you there!”


Tour Reviews

5 based on 3 reviews
December 21, 2016

I’ve recently returned from a ‘Bucket List’ trip to the Galapagos Islands led by photographers Jami Tarris and Pete Oxford of Focus Expeditions. Having experienced a destination like the Galapagos for years on TV and in literature and through the eyes of Naturalists like David Attenborough my expectations were high. The trip with Focus exceeded all these. Every aspect was without fault. The itinerary was thorough offering every opportunity whether it was snorkeling with sea lions, turtles, or penguins, watching Boobies and albatross ‘dance’, observing giant land tortoise ‘lumbering’ by, watching iguanas ‘chill’ in the sun or dine underwater on algae and so many other adventures were maximized. I’ve returned with endless memories, thousands of extraordinary photographic images and much improved camera expertise. I look forward to joining Focus again in the future.

December 21, 2016

I am writing as the non-photographer of the Galapagos trip (although I may be reconsidering the value of gaining skill as a visual journalist due to the stunning photos that my husband took while there…).
This trip still haunts my dreams. I have never experienced such close interaction with wildlife, especially mothers with their young. Whether it was an iguana, a shark, an albatross or a sea lion, the animals accepted we humans as just part of the landscape (unless they wanted to play, as did multiple sea lions during our snorkels). It was thrilling!
The best part of the trip, however, was what we learned from Pete Oxford and Jami Tarris. They are both knowledgable and passionate conservation activists and teachers. I will forever think of wild places in a new way, with many thanks to them both. If you enjoy an adventure and want to learn new things about this planet we call home, I highly recommend taking a trip with Focus Expeditions. You will be so glad you did. This was our second, and we plan for more!

December 21, 2016

If you want to really see and understand the Galápagos Islands there is only one group to consider….Focus Expeditions. Unsurpassed knowledge of the Islands as well as superior photographic help are just part of what they offer. Great people, a great boat, top notch food and great company are all part of the experience. You absolutely will love your experience. Pete Oxford and Jami Tarris did a superior job….. plus photos too great for words!

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