Arrive at the Baltra airport. Travel to the highlands, located in the northern part of the island and with elevations up to 1500 meters. On a journey into the higher elevations of Santa Cruz you can experience all seven different vegetation zones. The vegetation here is abundant and lush and the weather moist.
Continue to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The CDRS is an international not-for-profit organization that provides scientific research, technical information, and assistance to ensure the proper preservation of the Galápagos Islands. Visitors can learn about natural history, issues concerning the islands, and see the tortoise breeding and rearing project at work.
Gardner Bay has a magnificent beach with turquoise waters. Around the small islets nearby, snorkelers find lots of fish and sometimes turtles and sharks. The bay is also frequented by a transient colony of sea lions which like to swim with you. Birds, like the endemic Hood-mockingbird and different species of Darwin finches, are omnipresent.
Osborn Islet, a small island to the southeast of Espanola Island, is a marine visit where you can enjoy fantastic snorkeling and swimming.
Suarez Point is one of the most outstanding wildlife areas of the archipelago, with a long list of species found along its cliffs and sand or pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds there are the curious and bold Española Island mockingbirds, Galápagos doves and Galápagos hawks. Several types of reptiles, including the marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard, are unique to this island.
Visit Isla Lobos, a small island named after the sea lions that rest and play on its rocky shores. It is also home to blue-footed boobies, great frigate-birds, brown pelicans, lava gulls, common noddies, yellow warblers and small and medium ground finches. There is good snorkeling in the clear waters of the channel and this is one of the best sites at which to swim with sea lions underwater.
Continue to Leon Dormido, or Kicker Rock. This small, distinctive island comprises two rocks which jut out of the ocean and is home to a large colony of sea birds. Kicker Rock is an excellent dive site where you could see many reef fish as well as hammerhead and Galápagos sharks. Sightings of large rays and turtles are common but not guaranteed.
One of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin, Cerro Brujo is a beautiful white-sand beach where brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and marine iguanas can all be found. An onshore version of nearby Kicker Rocks, Cerro Brujo is a very striking, eroded tuff cone. There is also fantastic snorkeling in the turquoise waters.
Santa Fe is a volcanic uplift and hosts a forest of Opuntia cactus, which are the largest of the archipelago, and palo santo. Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, and sehar-waters petrels. The Santa Fe species of land iguanas are often seen, as well as lava lizards. There is a picturesque turquoise lagoon and calm waters where you can snorkel amongst sea lions.
South Plaza has one of the largest populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos. It is also home to marine iguanas and a hybrid iguana whose fathers are marine iguanas and mothers are land iguanas. There are cliffs with spectacular views and a rocky trail circumnavigates the island displaying the combination of dry and coastal vegetation zone. The island is home to enormous prickly pear cactus and the endemic succulent sesuvian.
Darwin Bay boasts a coral beach where a 750m trail takes you through more seabird colonies. You get to see the cliffs from the seaward side, which are home to a large red-footed booby colony. Once ashore the number of birds seems overwhelming – Nazca boobies soar overhead, great frigatebirds display their pouches while resting on the nearby rocks and plants, and mockingbirds scamper quickly across the sand.
Hike Prince Phillip's Steps, an extraordinary, steep path leading through a seabird colony full of life, up to cliffs that are 25m high. At the top the trail continues inland, passing more seabird colonies in a thin palo santo forest. Leaving the forest you can overview a rocky plain. You could get a view of masked and red-footed boobies, great frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds, and hundreds of storm petrels at the edge of the cliff.
The Sullivan Bay lava field on Santiago has a variety of interesting patterns made by the shapes and textures of trees that once existed there and hornitos caused when pockets of gas or water trapped under the lava exploded. The low-lying mollugo and the lava cactus are the only plants that have managed to take root in this harsh environment. On the shoreline black and white oystercatchers can be seen fishing for crabs and molluscs in the tide pools.
Bartolomé Island is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island in the Galápagos Islands Group. It is one of the "younger" islands in the Galápagos archipelago. This island, and Sulivan Bay on Santiago island, are named after naturalist and life-long friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle.
The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rabida gives it a distinctive red color. White-cheeked pintail ducks live in a salt-water lagoon close to the beach, where brown pelicans and boobies have built their nests. Up until recently, flamingos were also found in the salt-water lagoon, but they have since moved on to other islands, likely due to a lack of food on Rabida. Nine species of Finches have been reported in this island.
Chinese Hat or Sombrero Chino is named after its shape formed by volcanic rock giving it the name, Chinese Hat. Since it was given a maximum visiting capacity by the National Park Service it offers rare, up close viewing of Galapagos wildlife and well-preserved remnants of fragile volcanic rock that can’t be found in such a unique condition anywhere else. The islet is home to a colony of sea lions on the white coral sand beach. Here you can see American Oystercatchers, Galapagos Penguins swimming along the shores, and Sally Lightfoot crabs in bright contrast to the dark volcanic rock.
Disembark at the Baltra airport for your return flights home.