Cruise across the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island, home of the Charles Darwin Station. Here you will have the opportunity to learn about Galapagos protection and conservation efforts before exploring the archipelago. Visit the National Park information center, the Van Staelen Exhibition Hall, and the Breeding and Research Center for Galapagos tortoises.
In the afternoon, disembark in Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. Venture up the highlands along Sierra Negra's volcanic slope. Arrive eventually at its impressive 5-mile-wide crater, the widest of its kind in the world. From here, admire the fantastic view of the surrounding volcanoes and the island below. Hike on to Chico Volcano for an up-close look at lava formations, the building blocks of the archipelago.
Spend the afternoon on a zodiac excursion in and around Elizabeth Bay. Begin with a tour through the Marielas islets, home to the most prominent penguin colony in the Galapagos. Cruise into a nearby cove, uniquely surrounded by red mangroves and populated by sea turtles, flightless cormorants, spotted eagle and golden rays, and schools of pompano and dorado fish.
In the afternoon, visit Isabela's Tagus Cove, beginning with a zodiac tour of the impressive shoreline cliffs. Land nearby and hike about 30 minutes to a cliff-top that offers views of stunning Darwin Lake, the cove below, and historic cliff-side pirate graffiti.
After Esupmilla, head to the west side of the island for a visit to Puerto Egas. This black sand beach was formed by volcanic tuff deposits and is considered Santiago's main attraction.
In the afternoon, head to San Cristobal for a visit to Cerro Colorado Tortoises Protection and Growing Center. Built to support the island's tortoise population, the center features a large corral, breeding area, and interpretive trail. In addition to tortoises, enjoy viewing various species of endemic flora and fauna including the San Cristobal mockingbird, Galapagos flycatcher, yellow warbler, and a spectrum of finches.
Move on to Punta Suarez in the afternoon, a rocky outcropping on Española's southern shore. This site provides habitat for the largest, most varied populations of sea birds in the Galapagos. Watch as birds soar along the cliffs, dodging the spectacular water spouts and pounding surf.
In the afternoon, visit historic Post Office Bay. 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel here that has been used as a post office by mariners and tourists ever since. Continue on to Baroness Lookout, a point on Floreana's north shore known for its beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
Venture to South Plaza Island in the afternoon. Diminutive in size, but rich in wildlife, Plaza houses some of the Galapagos' most fascinating creatures. Most notably, the island boasts a large population of hybrid iguanas, a cross between their land and marine counterparts.
In the afternoon, head for Bachas Beach, a site made up of two small beaches on Santa Cruz Island. The soft, white sands of Bachas provide ideal nesting habitat for sea turtles. Abandoned barges can be spotted along the beach, relics of the military's occupancy during WWII.
Journey back to Baltra for your departing flight.
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