Day 1 Embark on Baltra / Mosquera Islet
Upon arrival at Baltra Airport, meet your guide and transfer via a short bus ride to the port of Seymour. Please note: A park entrance fee of $100 is charged at the airport inspection point.
Embark the Darwin Yacht and meet the Captain and crew. Visit Mosquera in the afternoon, a reef of rocks and coral (the result of an uprising) and a great white sand beach. Its narrowest width reaches about 160 meters and it has an estimated length of 600 meters. This island has one of the largest populations of sea lions. You can also observe several species of shorebirds. There have been occasional reports at this site of orcas (Orcinus orca) feeding on sea lions.
Day 2 South Plaza Island / Santa Fe
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In the morning, visit South Plaza Island, located east of Santa Cruz Island. The landing is on the north coast of the island in a channel that separates it from North Plaza Island. South Plaza has an area of 13 hectares and a height of 25m. The succulent plants, Sesuvium edmonstonei and Portulaca oleracea, are common on South Plaza, the second being a favorite food of the land iguanas. On the cliffs located in the southeast of the island there is a group of juvenile and adult sea lions. Land iguanas on South Plaza are smaller than those at other sites. Throughout the island are several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana. These iguanas are unique, recognizable at first glance by their black or gray color, with a land iguana’s crest but face and tail of the marine iguana. During consecutive dry years, the iguana population may decrease due to lack of food and water.
In the afternoon travel to Santa Fe, located on the northeast end of the island bearing the same name. Of the two species of land iguanas present in the Galapagos, the Conolophus subcristatus inhabits South Plaza, Santa Cruz, North Seymour/Baltra, Isabela, and Fernandina, however the species Conolophus pallidus only lives on Santa Fe. It is distinguished mainly by the larger and paler color (hence its scientific name). Studies according to Geist D.J suggest that Santa Fe could be the oldest Galapagos volcano, as there are sub-aerial rocks dating back 3.9 million years. Santa Fe also has a mix of underwater lava pushed to the surface by uprising and lava that was deposited subsequent to the uprising. An additional attraction is the presence of giant tunas that have a trunk wider than in any other location in the Galapagos.
Day 3 Española - Gardner Bay & Punta Suarez
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In the morning visit Gardner Bay, located on the north coast of Española Island. The visiting area is defined by two beaches with a total length of 1300 meters. The main attraction is the colony of sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) that inhabit the beach in great quantity during the breeding season. Three species of Darwin’s finches are also found here: a subspecies (Geospiza fuliginosa) of the large cactus finch, which is similar to the large ground finch; the small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa), and; the warbler finch (Certhidea Olivacea) which is another endemic subspecies. Both resident and migratory birds are observed. This is an important nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).
In the afternoon go to Punta Suarez, located on the west coast of Española Island. The hiking trail here is about 1670 meters and takes approximately 2 hours. Española is known as one of the oldest islands, with an estimated age of 3.3 million years. Basaltic lava rocks cover much of the island. The albatross (Diomedea irrorata) is endemic to Española Island and is present from April to December, but has also been reported in the “Isla de la Plata” (National Park Machalilla). Española has a high percentage of endemism due to its isolation from other islands and species; a variety of carnivorous mockingbirds, lava lizards (the largest of the 7 species endemic to the Galapagos), and Darwin's finches are considered endemic to Española.
Day 4 Floreana - Post Office Bay & Cormorant Point
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In the morning go to Post Office Bay, a historic site that recalls the days of the whalers when they came for supplies of Galapagos tortoises and water. Presumably a whaling boat captain placed a barrel in the eighteenth century for those who pass through the bay to leave mail and deliver those with the same destination upon their return home. The first appearance of Post Office Bay on a map is from the whaler James Colnett in 1793. This tradition is still alive today. Another point of interest is a lava tunnel, which is formed when lava cools on the sides and base, but the core material continues to flow downward. Eventually, the lava, still liquid, leaks and spills outward leaving a hollow cavity.
In the afternoon, go to Cormorant Point located on the north coast of Floreana Island. The trail is approximately 720 meters and goes to a lagoon with a wonderful view and fine sand beach. In the lagoon one can find a large population of flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and on the beach a nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), as well as other species of flora and fauna. At Cormorant Point there are two endemic plant species: Scalesia vellosa and Lecocarpus pinaffitidus. The beach landing contains a large amount of olivine crystals, giving it a greenish color. These crystals have been expelled by the wind of nearby tuff cones. The glass was formed when the magma was still underground. There is also a beach composed of polished hermatypic coral sand. These areas are ideal for stingrays, which prefer fine sands in order to escape natural predators.
Day 5 Santa Cruz Island - Charles Darwin Research Station / Santa Cruz - Twin Pit Craters / Disembark on Baltra
At the Charles Darwin Research Station, the tour starts at the information booth and continues to the Van Straelen Interpretation Center. Proceed to the breeding center and from there begin an elevated circular path made of wood, where you can see tortoises of Española Island, ending in the tortoise exhibit corral. Tortoises of this corral are accustomed to humans; it is an excellent spot for visitors to be photographed with them. The path continues to the CDRS facilities and then to the town of Puerto Ayora.
In the afternoon, visit the high part of Santa Cruz Island, “Los Gemelos” or “The Twin Pit Craters”. They are, geologically speaking, seen as craters but their formation is not directly due to volcanic action. Rather they were created as a result of the collapse or sinking of surface materials into cracks or manholes. In 1989 a circular path around the largest crater was opened, which passes through the interior of the Scalesia forest, an excellent place to observe land birds, especially the woodpecker finch and the vermillion flycatcher. Another plant that draws attention is the Galapagos guava or guayabillo tree, Psidium galapageium, which has a clean and smooth bark and branches covered with epiphytes and brown liverworts.
Disembark the Darwin on Baltra Island for your flight back to the mainland.