Arrive at the airport in Baltra and be accompanied to the port where you will board the Yacht, check-in, and get settled. The first excursion of your trip will take you to the highlands of Santa Cruz. The highlands are usually shrouded in mist which helps plant life to flourish, making this an idea environment for various animals. The giant tortoise thrives here due to the cool temperatures of this area. There are also incredible volcanic features in the highlands including lava tunnels and two gigantic craters from collapsed tunnels.
Formed by five volcanoes, Isabela Island is the largest of the archipelago as well as the youngest of the islands. Have the opportunity to enjoy the quaint port town of Puerto Villamil. Visit the Tortoise Breeding Center where visitors and locals are educated on the importance of the giant tortoise. Located south of Isabela Island are the Wetlands, also know as the Humedales, which consists of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves which are a perfect environment for many inland birds species. There are paths that wind through the swamps and are excellent for viewing various bird species including common stilts, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintails, and gallinules.
Elizabeth Bay consists of a wonderful mangrove ecosystem that is a refuge for sea turtles, rays, blue-footed boobies, penguins, herons, and more. It is a sight to behold. Moreno Point is located just southwest of Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island. Surround yourself by some of the most magnificent scenery while observing different types of lava and pioneer plants. The tide pools can be full of various marine life including green sea turtles and possibly white-tip sharks. This area is made of up rocky shores that are great for observing penguins, sea lions, blue footed boobies, and marine iguanas.
Western Isabela is the home to Urbina Bay which lays at the foot of Alcedo volcano. There are sea turtle nesting sites as well as penguins and flightless cormorants present at Urbina Bay. It is also one of the best places to see Darwin’s finches and large land iguanas. With some good fortune, you might spot the giant tortoises which like to feed within the site’s dense vegetation. Pirates, buccaneers, and whalers would use Tangus Cove as an anchoring place. They would paint the names of their ships on the high ridges of the island. There are hundreds of names currently posted there. This is a practice that is now forbidden but viewing the names is quite a sight to see. Take a hike on a trail that goes through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Darwin volcano. Once the top has been reached, enjoy the incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake.
Fernandina Island is one of the most pristine and dynamic ecosystems in the entire world. The volcano here, La Cumbre, last erupted in April 2009. The lava fields from this event stretch towards the ocean from its base and dominate the landscape. Punta Espinoza is a narrow piece of land where some of the most unique species of the Galapagos can be seen. Amongst these are the flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes, marine iguanas, penguins, and the Galapagos hawk.
A wonderful snorkeling site that would be tested out is Punta Vicente Roca. Here you can usually see turtles and various types of fish. A panga ride allows for the opportunity to study some of the Galapagos’ spectacular geological rock formations. In this area you can see Nazca boobies, pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and penguins.
The island of Rábida is covered with red volcanic rocks surrounding a beautiful red sand beach which is home to a colony of sea lions and a pelican nesting site. Rábida is considered to be one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands, so enjoy the opportunity to go snorkel. Follow the trail that leads to a salt water lagoon where you can view various types of shore birds.
Puerto Egas (James Bay) is located on the northwest side of Santiago Island and is home to a black sand beach with eroded rock formations surrounding it. The trail crosses the dry interior where you will pass the remnants of a salt mine and tidal pools that are home to an abundant variety of invertebrate organisms including sea urchins, octopus, and starfish. Have the chance to also see marine iguanas, finches, oyster catchers, and possibly the Galapagos Hawk. The Fur Sea Lion Grottos is one of the only places in the islands where the Fur Sea Lion can be viewed and is definitely worth the walk.
Chinese Hat (Sombrero Chino), a small island off the coast of Santiago Island, got its name from its unique shape that resembles traditional Chinese hat. Here you can observe Galapagos penguins, eagle rays, sea lions, and marine iguanas on the rocky shoreline. This is an excellent snorkeling site so enjoy some time for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Bartolome is a small island that is the home of the famous Pinnacle Rock. This is a great snorkeling location and there is usually a good opportunity to spot penguins. From the highest point on the island, encounter different volcanic formations, including spatter and tuff cones, lava flow, and lava tubes on your way up. At the summit there is a wonderful view of Sullivan Bay. There are opportunities to see sea lions, pioneer plants, reef sharks, rays, and colorful reef fish while touring the island.
North Seymour is located slightly in the north of Baltra and has a unique shape since it was not formed by a volcano. It is a low, flat island, formed as a result of submarine lava formation uplift. It is covered with low, bushy vegetation that contains the largest colony of magnificent frigate birds in the Galapagos. The males can be seen inflating their red gular pouch as they try to attract a mate. There is also a large population of blue-footed boobies in this area that perform an amusing courtship dance when nesting conditions are right. These are both incredible sites to behold.
Genovesa, or Tower Island, is extremely remote and home to literally millions of birds belonging to many different species. It is the northernmost island in the archipelago that is allowed to be visited by non-diving cruises. Amongst these species include the red-footed booby as well as frigates, swallow-tailed gulls, and even endemic owls. Prince Phillip’s Steps are a steep path with stairs carved into the rock that lead to a plateau with an abundance of bird life amongst a Palo Santo forest. Some of the inhabitants include Nazca boobies, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, and petrels. With some luck, have a chance to spot a short-eared lava owl.
Enjoy a blissful stroll on Darwin Bay's stunning coralline white sandy beach. A trail from the beach immerses you into lush mangroves where red-footed boobies nest. Enjoy the other local inhabitants that roam this area including sea lions, swallow-tail gulls, frigates, and more. There is some excellent snorkeling here since the waters are filled with sharks, colorful reef fish, rays, and tortoises.
South Plaza Island happens to be quite small, but it is actually home to a large Opuntia cacti forest, land iguanas, and one of the largest sea lion colonies in the central region of the archipelago. Sesuvium is an endemic plant that inhabits this island and is a great climate indicator. Its color is a greenish-yellowish during the rainy season and a bright red during the dry season. There will also be opportunities to see Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and other kinds of sea birds as well as various types of finches.
Rather than by a volcano, Santa Fe was formed by uplifting. Some of the island’s endemic species include the Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, rice rats, different types of finches, and the Galapagos Mockingbird. Wander around the island to see salt bushes where Galapagos hawks and Santa Fe land iguanas tend to wander and have a chance to witness friendly and playful sea lions accompany you during your snorkeling activities.
The first stop of the day will be Punta Pitt which is located on the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island. Hike to the plateau to view the spectacular landscape which is so unique and beautiful it is definitely worth the effort. Watch out for the Red-Footed Boobies nesting in the cliffs. The water is great here so enjoy the opportunity for kayaking, snorkeling or swimming. Cerro Brujo’s breathtaking beach is also home to an abundance of sea lions. They are curious and extremely friendly creatures that make for an awesome up close and personal experience.
On the island of San Cristobal the Galapagos National Park Interpretation Center is stationed. This facility provides a complete history of the Galapagos, primarily focusing on its volcanic origins to the present. Tijeretas Hill provides an excellent location to view the bay and the surrounding areas of San Cristobal. Have the chance to observe the magnificent and great frigate birds that wander this area.
Espanola is very isolated from the other islands which allows it to have a large quantity of endemic fauna. Punta Suarez is a unique landscape that is brimming with eye-opening lava beds where you can observe unique colonies of marine birds, including albatross. Take the time to make friends with the sea lions that inhabit the beach while touring Gardner Bay. This location is also an important nesting area for sea turtles. Further inland, Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest near the trail and Galapagos doves peck around and finches go about their day to day business unaware of visitors. Further down the trail there is a blowhole, which is a fissure in the lava where water spurts high into the air resembling a geyser.
Floreana, is one of the more famous islands of the Galapagos due to many unique stories about past settlers. Post Office Bay is home a wooden barrel used by the whalers as an unofficial mail box in the 18th century and other frequenters of the island. Continue the tradition by leaving addressed postcards in the barrel and grabbing a different postcard to mail when you return home. Floreana is also a magnificent site for swimming and kayaking or even crawling around the inside of a lava tunnel. Watch your step because this tunnel has been kept untouched and completely natural over these many years.
End this incredible journey at the Charles Darwin Research Station and its Interpretive Center. The scientific research and environmental education being practice here helps with conserving the natural beauty of the Galapagos. You can see tortoises here in all stages of life, from a three inch hatchling to a grown adult at four feet. Get one final chance to really admire these incredibly unique and wonderful creatures before heading to the airport in Baltra for your return to the mainland.
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