Fly into Baltra Island and then drive to Puerto Ayora, dotted with colorful homes and the pangas (small boats) of local fishermen. Arrive at the Red Mangrove's Aventura Lodge to drop off your bags and enjoy a nice lunch. After lunch, head to El Garrapatero beach. Surrounded by beautiful mangrove trees, the beach is home to an incredible array of birds. You can also find marine iguanas, shrimp, Galapagos penguins, oystercatchers and patillos amongst the white sands and clear blue water. A freshwater lake nearby is home to even more tropical animals, such as herons, grebes, and many varieties of shore birds. Enjoy the chance to swim and snorkel in one of Santa Cruz's most peaceful and tranquil settings. Return to the lodge in time for dinner.
Ascend by vehicle to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. See the "Los Gemelos" (enormous, collapsed lava chambers) and walk in the remaining Scalesia forest. The forest is home to the Vermilon flycatchers and assorted finches. You will visit the Giant Tortoises Reserve to view these reptiles in their natural habitat; a unique experience!
Return to the lodge for lunch, and in the afternoon, travel by boat to Floreana. Upon arrival, we will visit La Loberia, home to a sea lion colony and a beautiful location for swimming, snorkeling or relaxing. We will continue to the main dock in Floreana. It's not unusual to have to 'shoo' sea lions sleeping on the steps of the pier. On the other side of the dock are black lava rocks typically full of the amazing rich red and turquoise-colored Floreana marine iguanas.
Floreana has some of the most interesting human history in the islands. Our visit begins with a trip to the highlands to the Peace Asylum, a visitor site that shares Floreana's unique past; this area has been everything from a pirate asylum to the solitary settlements for adventurous and eclectic Europeans. Floreana is privileged by beautiful surroundings that provide habitat for the medium tree finch, and the sea-view from the highlands is one of the best in the archipelago.
In the late morning, take a two hour boat transfer to Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. Cruise by Isla Tortuga which is full of frigates, blue-footed boobies and other seabirds. Arriving in the port is a visual feast with stunning green and turquoise water so clear, you can see sea turtles, sea lions, and penguins as though looking through glass. Arrive to the Isabela Lodge where lunch is waiting.
After lunch, a panga takes you to la Tintoreras, a resting site for white tip reef sharks that is situated between a small natural lava outcropping and an enormous lava field. Tintoreras is one of nature's wonders set against a backdrop of emerald green sea, white sand beach, dark green mangroves and the hills of Isabela. On the shores, well above the resting sharks, the rocky sides are lined with marine iguanas. This is one of the few iguana colonies on Isabela that have not been disturbed by introduced species. On the way back to Puerto Villamil, you have the rare opportunity to see the colony of penguins often lounging side by side with blue-footed boobies. Once you return to the dock, you can snorkel this warm, shallow bay surrounded by mangrove for an opportunity to see white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, and penguins.
From Puerto Villamil, journey to the Sierra Negra Volcano (6 miles, round-trip). From here, you can walk to the rim of the Sierra Negra, an active volcano that last erupted into a blazing show in October 2005. From this altitude, enjoy a fantastic view of the 4 mile-wide caldera, the Perry Isthmus and the other volcanoes beyond, including the Chico Volcano with its puffing fumaroles and striking lava formations. Isabela offers an out-of-this-world environment and exemplifies the dramatic geological events that have forged the Galapagos Islands. Adventurous hikers have the option to continue across the open lava fields to Chico Volcano (1 1/2 miles beyond Sierra Negra Volcano). Return to Puerto Villamil for lunch. After lunch you will have time to explore Isabela on your own. Enjoy snorkeling, swimming or relaxing on the beach.
Begin the day with a drive out of town along one of the most beautiful white sand, palm-lined beaches in the Galapagos, Long Beach. Walk to the top of Cerro Orchilla for beautiful views of the coast before traveling to El Muro de las Lágrimas (Wall of Tears), a great area of birdwatching, iguanas and other lava lizards as well as a historic site for a penal colony established on Isabela. On your way back to town, you will visit an interpretive and breeding center for the giant Galapagos tortoises and the only place to view the rare, remaining flat-backed ("tabletop”) Galapagos tortoises.
Late morning, return to the pier to begin a two hour trip to Santa Cruz to return to the Aventura Lodge and have lunch. In the afternoon, visit the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station, where you will learn about conservation and management projects in the archipelago. The research station is also home to tortoises from all over the islands.
This morning you'll return to Baltra and catch your return flight back to the mainland. Tonight, enjoy the sights and sounds of Quito -- toast your travels and the remarkable Galapagos Islands!
Catch your flight home, or with more time, extend your trip to explore the Andean highlands or the Amazon!
$775 single supplement
Based on Mangrove View rooms at Aventura Lodge
2013 Rate - $2410
2014 Rate - $2740