Arrive at the airport where you will be escorted to the boat for check-in, a short briefing, and then lunch. Shortly after the first excursion to Sombrero chino begins. This is a small islet near the southeastern coast of Santiago Island. In english, Sombrero Chino translates to 'Chinese Hat' which is represented by the unique shape of the island. This is a great island for seeing unique geological formations as well as an abundance of various marine species including the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crab, sea lions, and many species of Darwin's finches.
Cerro Dragon was named after the large population of land iguanas that were found there in 1975. Take a hike to a salt water lagoon that is frequented by an abundance of stilts, pintail ducks, and sometimes flamingos. Enjoy a short walk further to see the nesting site for the land iguanas. Also enjoy a breathtaking view of the bay and some swimming before heading to Rabida Island for some more beach activities, snorkeling, and kayaking. Rabida is covered in red volcanic rocks and has an incredibly unique red sand beach. This is a great area to view sea lions and pelican nesting sites.
Isabela Island is the largest of the archipelago, formed by five volcanoes. It's also the youngest of the islands. The friendly port of Puerto Villamil will be your home-base during a diverse and exciting day. You will have the choice for adventure or relaxation in this beautiful area. Visit the Tortoise Breeding Center where visitors and locals are educated on the importance of the giant tortoise. This is also a facility that helps protect the giant tortoise in its first years. Located south of Isabela Island are the Wetlands which consists of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves. This is an excellent location for viewing all types of bird species.
Travel to Floreana to visit Post Office Bay, where an a wooden barrel was placed by 18th century whalers as an unofficial post office. The tradition has continued to this day, and travelers can leave addressed postcards and sort through the barrel for postcards close to their homes. Then spend some time enjoying some relaxing snorkeling or kayaking around the island. If you are feeling adventurous, make a visit to the lava tunnel which has been kept untouched and completely natural. In the afternoon, set sail for Cormorant Point which features a large flamingo lagoon. The beach here is a green color created by the high number of olivine crystals in the sand.
Cerro Brujo is an excellent place for enjoying the beach and snorkeling. This gorgeous beach is home to many playful sea lions. This is also the location where Charles Darwin first stepped in this archipelago. The next excursion will be to the lovely Isla Lobos. Lobos in Spanish means 'wolves' and this island is named after a large colony of sea lions. Get up close and personal with these whimsical sea lions who love to swim with people. Other great sites to see are the amazing Blue-Footed Boobies, Frigates, and have the change to see the Fur Sea Lion as well.
Enjoy a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where you will gain insight into the efforts being made by scientists, guides, rangers, and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Encounter tortoises of different subspecies that are being prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitats. Then there will be a short drive to the green highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will visit a tortoise reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings.
Punta Suárez is very isolated from other islands which has helped lead to its high proportion of endemic fauna. A few steps inland from the landing site, find groups of Española marine iguanas basking in the sun. Further inland, Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest near the trail. View the Galapagos doves and finches going about their day to day business. The trail continues towards a blowhole, which is a fissure in the lava where water spurts high resembling a geyser. Swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds make their homes in the cracks of the cliff. There are 15,000 to 17,000 pairs of albatrosses on Española which represent almost the entire population of this species on the planet. Their spectacular courtship ritual is a must to see and a wonder of the animal world.
Gardner Bay offers the chance to enjoy a wonderful white sandy beach. It is home to one of the most important colonies of sea lions as well as a nesting site for sea turtles. Throughout the afternoon there are many opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Located between Santa Cruz and Santiago Islands is Daphne Major. It is a great place for spectacular bird watching as well as the location of a scientific research site. A select handful of scientists have long studied bird life on these islands, especially Darwin’s finches. Your guide will point out the bird-life as well as explain some of the important research carried out on the islands. Visitors are not allowed to walk on these islands due to their very fragile nature.
Enjoy breakfast before continuing onto the plane and returning to the mainland.
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