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Wildlife in the Galapagos

Volcanic Wonders

Northern & Western Route - Example 8 Day Cruise aboard M/V Origin, Theory & Evolve
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Enjoy this 8-day cruise through the western islands of the Galapagos on the M/V Origin. Highlights of the west include beautiful Santa Cruz, wildlife-rich Isabela, cliff-laden Fernandina, and the amazing black beaches of Santiago. The wildlife here is abundant and the landscape is stunning to behold, making this an incredible vacation. Further explore with optional activities that include kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling and more.
Flamingo wading in the waterColorful land iguanaWildlife in the GalapagosBlue footed boobyGreen sea turtle swimmingTwo frigate birdsWildlife in the GalapagosWildlife in the Galapagos
Highlights
  • Cruise around Kicker Rock, a cone formation rising 500 feet out of the sea
  • Hike up Prince Philip's Steps on Genovesa for extraordinary views
  • Observe Galapagos flora and fauna impossible to compare to anything else
  • Enjoy opportunities to go snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, or kayaking
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: San Cristobal | Embark

Upon arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (SCY) SAN CRISTOBAL Island, your guides will be waiting to escort you to your expedition yacht. After a short ride by bus to the dock, and by Zodiac to the yacht anchored in the bay, you’ll be shown your cabin and treated to a delicious lunch. There will be a welcome briefing and a brief safety drill afterward you can choose your snorkel equipment and wet suit for the week. You’ll have time to settle in after lunch before the yacht leaves the harbor.

Within a few hours, you reach Leon Dormido, (Spanish for sleeping lion), a remnant of a vertical tuff cone formation, rising 500 feet from the ocean. Erosion has split the rock providing a spectacular backdrop for photographs at sunset. As you circumnavigate the formation, you’ll easily spot blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and frigatebirds on the cliffs. After a briefing on activities for the following day, join your Captain and crew for a cocktail reception. An elegant multi-course dinner, prepared by the accomplished chefs is served.
Activities: Circumnavigation

Day 2: Prince Philip’s Steps | Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island

In the morning, you’ll land at Prince Philip’s Steps, Genovesa (TOWER) Island, one of the most spectacular sites in the Galapagos for bird watching because of its diversity of species. Throughout the day, you’ll want to have your camera ready. Your guides will point out red-footed boobies nesting in palo santo trees, Nazca boobies nesting near the trail, and storm petrels gather in large numbers in an open lava field. With luck, you may even get to see the elusive short-eared owl. After a BBQ lunch on the yacht’s shaded sun deck and a demonstration on how to make Ecuadorian ceviche, you’ll have the option to explore the cliffs up close, either by kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or join a deep-water snorkeling excursion from the Zodiac. Look for the red-billed tropic bird hiding in the crevices of the rock. Males looking to attract a mate inflate a red pouch on their chest. Round out the afternoon by relaxing on the beach, or choose to swim with friendly, playful sea lions in these warmer northern waters. When you return to the yacht, you’ll have a short briefing followed by a delicious dinner. If the night is clear, take a stroll out on the deck and see a sky full of bright stars. Your guides can point out constellations and help you identify the species of birds flying alongside the yacht.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel, Kayak/Standup Paddleboard, Panga ride
Difficulty level: Difficult steep rocky trail or climbing up natural stairs; Enter the water from Zodiac in deeper water, possible current, requires experience

This afternoon, you’ll land at Darwin Bay, a gorgeous coral sand beach. Here, you’ll see both swallow-tailed gulls and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. A forest of Opuntia cacti and mangroves provides shelter for the Great frigate birds. Males looking to attract a mate inflate a red pouch on their chest. Round out the afternoon by relaxing on the beach, or choose to swim with friendly, playful sea lions in these warmer northern waters. When you return to the yacht, you’ll have a short briefing followed by a delicious dinner. If the night is clear, take a stroll out on the deck and see a sky full of bright stars. Your guides can point out constellations and help you identify the species of birds flying alongside the yacht.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel, Kayak/Standup Paddleboard, Panga ride
Difficulty level: Easy walk on even terrain or beach

Day 3: Las Bachas or Black Turtle Cove | Cerro Dragon, Santa Cruz Island

This morning you’ll visit Las Bachas, (Spanish for barges) on the northern side of Santa Cruz. Dozens of bright pink flamingos feed on the interior lagoons, and a long white sand beach is a beautiful site for a stroll. Your guides will point out endemic plant species and share some fascinating Galapagos history. Before returning to the yacht for lunch, you’ll have time to snorkel from the beach. Bring your underwater camera to take photos of colorful tropical fish and sea stars, along with sea turtles and maybe even sharks along the ocean floor. Your guide will offer an enrichment lecture that is informative and entertaining, the topic is marine currents, climate, and geology of the Islands.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Easy walk on even terrain or beach
OR
Black Turtle Cove
Activities: Panga ride

In the afternoon, when you step ashore on Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill), you’ll have a magnificent panoramic view of the bay and island landscape. You may see flamingos in the brackish lagoon, along with a variety of plants, including opuntia cactus, Palo Santo, and Muyuyo trees (Cordia Lutea). As you walk the trail, look for Darwin’s finches, Galapagos flycatchers, yellow warblers, and Audubon shearwaters. The guides will pause to point out birds such as stilts, pintail ducks, and sandpipers. Scan the path for golden Land iguanas, strikingly different from their marine cousins, resting in the sun. These iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos and were once part of the Station’s breeding program. After a leisurely walk along the trail, you’ll return to the yacht for a briefing and dinner.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Rocky trail with moderate landing and climbing

Day 4: Punta Vicente Roca or or Elizabeth Bay | Urbina Bay

Begin your morning with a Zodiac ride at Punta Vicente Roca. Your skilled driver will navigate through the wave-sculpted caves and bring you up close to the tuff walls covered in colorful Sally light-foot crabs. Don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel, with penguins diving playfully in the water or grooming themselves on rock formations. Look for sea turtles poking their heads above water before swimming gracefully beneath the surface. After lunch, take a seat on the sun deck to enjoy the scenery as you sail through the Bolivar Chanel. In addition to dramatic scenery, you may see whales breach or bottle-nose dolphins riding the bow wave or spinner dolphins jumping in graceful arcs. You may spot a Mola-Mola, an odd-looking giant sunfish with triangular fins on the top and bottom and a short, stubbly tail fin.
Activities: Panga ride, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Easy walk on even terrain or beach; Enter the water from Zodiac in deeper water, possible current, requires experience
OR
Elizabeth Bay
Activities: Panga ride

In the afternoon, you’ll disembark at Urbina Bay on ISABELA and see surprising evidence of volcanic activity. Four miles of the coastal seabed are exposed due to a dramatic uplift during a volcanic eruption in 1954, and some of the remaining coral skeletons still stand several feet high. A diverse collection of animal species awaits; Galapagos land iguanas, marine iguanas, Darwin’s finches, brown pelicans, flightless cormorants, and the occasional giant Galapagos tortoise. When you’re finished exploring, you’ll return to the vessel for your nightly briefing and dinner. After dessert, step outside and observe the pale glow of the Milky Way. As you cross the Equator, you may get a visit from King Neptune himself! Guests of all ages will enjoy this fun-filled evening and maritime ritual, the crew dress as pirates and guest participation is optional.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Moderate walk on the trail with mostly firm terrain

Day 5: Punta Espinosa, Fernandina | Tagus Cove, Isabela

This morning you’re in for another geological wonder. Stop at Punta Espinoza on FERNANDINA, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galapagos, formed by active volcanoes that stretch around the coast. With no introduced animals on this island, you can observe the ecosystem at its most pristine. Sea lion harems nap on the beach, with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory and keeping a lookout for sharks that threaten the colony’s pups. Hundreds of marine iguanas, forming the largest colony in the Galapagos, warm themselves along the rugged shoreline, blending in with the dark rocks. On the point, you will find the nests of flightless cormorants close to shore since they lost their ability to fly. You’ll have an opportunity to snorkel here, in the company of large sea turtles that frequent the area. Return to the yacht for a BBQ lunch served on the sundeck where you’ll have a prime view for whale watching. Your guide will offer an enrichment lecture about Charles Darwin and the Theory of evolution as well as social/ environmental projects that benefit the Galapagos.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Difficult steep rocky trail or climbing up natural stairs

After lunch, you’ll get to see some of the human histories of the Galapagos when you go ashore on Tagus Cove. This was a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers for centuries, and sections of the rocky cliffs are covered in graffiti from as far back as the 1800s. Hike at a faster pace to a saltwater lagoon and scenic overview, and take in the ocean, lava fields, and volcanic formations. You may choose to explore the shoreline of the secluded cove by kayak or paddleboard. The wildlife is abundant, with Galapagos penguins, boobies, pelicans, and other seabirds. Tonight, as you sail toward the geographic center of the archipelago, you’ll cross the equator for the third and final time.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel, Kayak/Standup Paddleboard, Panga ride
Difficulty level: Long rocky challenging trail with loose or slippery rocks

Day 6: Rabida Island | Puerto Egas, Santiago or Black Turtle Cove

This morning, you’ll disembark on the dark red beach of RABIDA (Jervis). This small island is considered the geographic center of the Galapagos because its volcanic rocks are the most diversified in the archipelago. A short trail will lead you to a saltwater lagoon occupied by Greater Flamingos. Along the way, look for marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers, and Darwin’s finches. Over a dozen species of finches live on the islands and observing them contributed to Charles Darwin’s ideas that formed the basis for his theory of evolution. If you choose to snorkel this morning, you may see a colony of sea lions or rays. Several species of rays live in Galapagos. Golden rays and spotted eagle rays are the most common.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel. Panga ride, Kayak/Standup Paddleboard
Difficulty level: Moderate walk on the trail with mostly firm terrain; Enter the water from Zodiac in deeper water, possible current, requires experience

Guests on the Theory and Evolve visit Puerto Egas on SANTIAGO (James Island), where you’ll stroll along the shoreline looking for octopus, starfish, and other sea life caught in the tide pools. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American Oystercatchers, and yellow-crowned night herons. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. During mating season, green and red algae give the usually black marine iguanas beautiful coloration. The walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where you’ll encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction. Before returning to the yacht, take the opportunity to snorkel from the beach. As the yacht sails after lunch, take a seat on deck to view the dramatic landscape and dolphins often spotted here. Guests on the Origin have a Zodiac excursion at Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) through a series of peaceful coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves whose large roots rise out of the water. View pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks, and golden cow-nosed rays. Return to the vessel for the Captain’s Farewell cocktail with the crew, dinner as well as a special presentation by your guides.
Activities: Shore excursion, Snorkel
Difficulty level: Rocky trail with moderate landing and climbing; Enter the water from the beach in shallow where you can touch the bottom
OR
Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove)
Activities: Panga ride
Difficulty level: Easy walk on even terrain or beach

Day 7: Puerto Ayora | Charles Darwin Station | Highlands, Santa Cruz

When you wake up this morning, your yacht will be one of the dozens of boats anchored in the lively harbor of Academy Bay. You’ll disembark at Puerto Ayora, SANTA CRUZ Island, the social heart of the Galapagos, with a population of 24,000 residents. This morning, visit the breeding center Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena and the Charles Darwin Research Station where you learn about ongoing conservation efforts from exhibits set up along the wooden trail. You’ll see hatchlings and miniature tortoises that will be repatriated by the National Park when grown. The newest exhibit honors Lonesome George, the last surviving tortoise from Pinta Island that tragically died of natural causes. With his species now extinct, Lonesome George has become a worldwide icon, emphasizing the importance of efforts to preserve and protect endangered wildlife. A more hopeful story is about Diego, a saddleback tortoise whose species was reduced to 14 individuals before he was transported from the San Diego Zoo and who has since fathered hundreds of descendants.
Activities: Shore excursion
Difficulty level: Moderate walk on the trail with mostly firm terrain

Return to the yacht for lunch and later board a bus for a short ride to the highlands of Santa Cruz to a lava tunnel, a hollow formation created when lava on the earth’s surface cools and hardens while molten lava continues to flow in the middle. Your next stop will be Los Gemelos (The Twins), a pair of large, deep craters with vibrant plant life at a higher elevation. The next stop is at Rancho Primicias, a privately-owned hacienda, where giant tortoises roam freely – some weighing over 500 pounds – in their natural habitat, feeding or resting in shallow pools. Return to the yacht by zodiac for a delicious multi-course farewell dinner and goodbye presentation from the crew.
Activities: Indefatigable

Day 8: Disembark | Interpretation Center, San Cristobal

  • 1 Breakfast
This morning you’ll disembark from the yacht after breakfast. As a perfect way to sum up the trip, you’ll visit the Interpretation Center on San Cristobal to discover more about the human history of the Galapagos Islands. Guests on the Evolve visit Isla Lobos. There’s also a paved trail where you can enjoy a brief walk before a bus ride into town.
Activities: Shore excursion
Difficulty level: Easy walk on even terrain or beach

Isla Lobos
Difficulty level: Long rocky challenging trail with loose or slippery rocks

You’ll have some free time for last-minute photos before your transfer to the airport. It’s a quick flight back to the mainland, but you’ll be bringing lifelong memories with you!

*This is a sample itinerary and the order of the visits may vary depending on the yacht assigned

Ship/Hotel

M/V Origin, Theory & Evolve

Sundeck Viewing Area
Formal Dining Table
Jet Spa with a View

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$9,750 2-3 travelers
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Triple
cabins measure 145 square feet (13.5 square meters) and offer unobstructed views of the ocean with large windows revealing the incredible landscapes of the islands and breathtaking ocean.
Origin & Theory Galapagos Yachts
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Double
All 10 cabins feature two twin beds that can be converted to one king bed. There are 2 cabins with interconnecting doors.
Origin & Theory Galapagos Yachts
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Single
Single cabins are limited. A share request may be placed and if matched, the share rate will apply. Otherwise, the single rate will apply.

Notes

Travelers on this yacht need to pre-pay the Galapagos Islands National Park Fee. The entrance fee to the National Park is $100 for adults and $50 for children 11 and younger and is not included in the cruise rate.

Please note the M/V Origin, Theory & Evolve has an open bar policy.
 

Child Discount

Children age 17 years and younger at the time of sailing are entitled to a 15% discount off the cruise rate. Child discounts are conditional and may not apply on certain departures. Please contact us for more information.

Children under 12 may receive discounts on Galapagos flight fares and entrance fees. Contact us for details.
Included
  • 7 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 7 Dinners
  • 7 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Snorkeling equipment, wetsuits, kayaks, and paddleboards are all included in the cruise cost and are available for your use onboard.
  • Bilingual Naturalist Guide 
  • Adventure Life Pre-departure Services and In-Country Assistance (Quito Representative)
  • Shore Excursions, Swimming and Snorkeling 
  • Transfers and Baggage Handling in the Galapagos
  • Wifi
  • All non-alcoholic beverages onboard are included in the cost of your cruise, as well as a limited variety of wine, beer, and spirits.
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Galapagos Park Entrance Fee: $200 per adult, $100 per child under 12 (fees of $100 per adult and $50 per child valid on arrivals through Aug 1, 2024). Payable upon arrival to the Galapagos, only in cash dollars. Subject to increase by Galapagos Park Service.
  • Internal Flights: Mainland Ecuador - Galapagos - Mainland Ecuador: $475-675

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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
Jack Charney
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