Day 1 Arrive Santa Cruz
Your family’s naturalist guide meets you at Baltra Airport. You will cross the narrow Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island, and then drive up to Galapagos Safari Camp. While you settle in, your guide captures your children’s imagination with an overview of the animal species they are soon to encounter. After lunch, you may explore an 135 acre farm, pick local tropical fruit, harvest cacao seasonally, and spot local birds. –
During the afternoon, you have the option of taking a trip to a nearby tortoise reserve, a fun start to your family’s time in the Galapagos as seeing the gentle giants in the wild is a surprise that is a favorite of our guests and their children.
The reserves of Santa Cruz are home to Giant tortoises with domed shells and short necks to accommodate the environment of the island. The many trails of the highlands, including those around the camp, lead to sightings of the reluctant Galapagos icons resting in ponds and slowly traversing the land. Keep a look out for short-eared owls, if you are lucky they can be spotted in the trees dotting the landscape.
Elsewhere in the highlands are elaborate, underground lava tubes. The tubes formed when the lava at the surface cooled, insulating the molten lava underneath. As the lava flowed, it left these tubes in its wake. Some of the tunnels on Santa Cruz go for miles and are 60 feet high. Local folklore says that they were used by pirates to hideout and store supplies.
Descend into the caves for a mysterious look into the island’s formation, following a lit path with your guide through cavernous tunnels dating back at least one million years. The experience is a fun adventure for the whole family, sparking the imagination and curiosity about the natural origins and intriguing history of the Galapagos.
Day 2 Explore Neighbour Islands
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Spend the day spotting wildlife and snorkeling on one of the uninhabited islands easily accessed by a day-yacht from Santa Cruz Island. The exact island location depends on travel dates, but options include North Seymour, South Plazas, Santa Fe, and Bartolomé, all of which are rich in wildlife and offer wonderful snorkeling opportunities. Please note this is a shared boat excursion unless requested otherwise. Destination will depend on your dates.
Day 3 Eastern Santa Cruz
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After breakfast, you set off to explore another side of Santa Cruz, taking in the local sights and visiting an organic coffee farm. The trip is a short drive from the camp.
Located on the eastern highlands of Santa Cruz, Cerro Mesa is a private reserve, rich in endemic flora and bird life; with six subspecies of finches, mockingbirds, and short-ear owls. The area is also home to Galapagos tortoises, endemic to Santa Cruz.
You can explore the various trails at the reserve and end the circuit at the lookout where you can contemplate the lush landscape of Santa Cruz and the nearby islands on a clear day. After lunch, you will make your way to Garrapatero Beach. Depending on your level of energy you can hop back in your vehicle or take a gentle eight-mile bike ride for the rest of the way. The ride is a fun way to explore the islands for kids, giving them room to stretch their legs before hitting the beach.
The striking contrasts of the black lava, white sand, and turquoise water of Garrapatero Beach catch many by surprise. Nearby, dense mangroves play host to all of the Galapagos ground finches, including the cactus finch, which feeds off the Opuntia cacti that dot the trail on the 15-minute hike to the area.
As the beach comes into sight, watch out for the Manzanillo trees along the path. The small apples on their branches are inviting but poisonous, and even the sap touching your skin can cause burns and rashes. Other creatures above and below the waterline that call Garrapatero Beach home are marine iguanas, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, rays, and sea turtles. The animals have little fear, allowing you and your children to get close for amazing photos.
Through the mangroves skirting the sand is a freshwater lagoon where you can often spot flamingos, white-cheeked ducks and black-nested stilts in the morning or in late afternoon.
Just past the tide pools on the beach, clear waters offer a secluded spot for swimming. We can also arrange kayaking off the beaches’ shores in search of sea turtles; a great way to actively explore the bay and spot marine life in the nooks and crannies along the shoreline.
Another stop on this trip is at El Trapiche Ecológico, a working farm in the highlands that produces sugar cane liqueur and Galapagos coffee. Learn about the different methods used to refine sugar cane, including the use of a mule-driven press. There is also a demonstration of how artisan coffee is produced, from picking the berries to roasting the bean. Before leaving, kids have a chance to harvest beans from the farm’s bushes as time and the weather allows.
Day 4 Fishing Adventure
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Spend an interactive day with local fisherman while exploring the sea and discovering her creatures through their deep generational knowledge of the ecosystem. We participate in a unique program with the Galapagos National Park, (and supported by the World Wildlife Fund and The Charles Darwin Foundation) which provides local fishermen with an ecologically sustainable alternative to support themselves and their families through involvement with ecotourism, the end goal of which is the reduction and elimination of commercial fishing in the national park. Many locals in the Galapagos were supporting their families by fishing long before tourism to the Galapagos became world famous, and their commercial fishing activities are continued still through grandfather clauses. Most local fisherman lack the financial resources to gain a university degree, which is required to become certified naturalists guide in the Galapagos today, but are interested in being involved with tourism as an alternate means to commercial fishing. What the fisherman do have is an innate understanding of where the marine wildlife is at any time, knowledge of hidden beaches and coves seldom visited by mass tourism and an enthusiasm for sharing their home environment with visitors from all over the world.
Stopping at secluded beaches and snorkeling in the open water are highlights of the journey; depending on sea conditions our crew takes you to La Fe, Playa Escodida, Bahia Borrero or Daphne Major, away from the throngs of tours on other parts of the islands.
Traveling by modern, fully-equipped sport-fishing boat, this trip gives all involved a chance to explore the marine world of the Galapagos with true locals, in an immersive and interactive way not usually experienced by cruise ship passengers. The destinations and snorkeling sites are decided on by the fishermen, pending sea conditions and their knowledge of what wildlife is active at that time of the year and where. Relax on the beach, snorkel and swim in the turquoise waters alongside rays, colorful schools of fish, and sea lions. Depending on the time of the year, keep an eye out for turtle tracks in the sand or you may get lucky and snorkel with a pod of dolphins! Your certified local naturalist guide will be with you as well, to provide translation and wildlife interpretation.
Under the park program, these vessels are granted a 50lb per day quota for select species and anything caught cannot be sold commercially. So, if you are willing to learn from the locals, and lucky enough to reel in a tuna, wahoo or dorado during the trip – the fisherman will teach you how to make fresh sashimi on the boat or you can bring your catch back to the camp, where our chef will be delighted to prepare it for you or teach you how to make ceviche.
This is a chance to experience the exotic beauty of the Galapagos while supporting a fantastic social and conservation initiative.
Depending on the sea conditions, you will be transferred from the camp to either the dock in Puerto Ayora or the Itabaca Channel to board the vessels. Your naturalist guide will accompany you and this is a full day out at sea, however sine it is private, you can choose to come back early if desired.
Highlights-Discovering Life at Sea
● Spending the day on the water learning from the locals
● Hear personal anecdotes from a lifetime at sea.
● Snorkel in the clear, open sea and explore hidden beaches and coves
● Maybe catch a fish with the help of Galapagos experts
Day 5 Charles Darwin Station
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Spend the day exploring the striking shoreline and enticing visitor sights around the main town of Puerto Ayora while discovering the Arid South of Santa Cruz. Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora, and the Charles Darwin Research Station can be combined and matched to include more than one visit.
Visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about its preservation efforts and scientific research. The children will have an up-close experience with the tortoises that are the islands’ namesake. Parents can enjoy free time to wander around Puerto Ayora, while your guide takes the children to a local playground or on a tour of the local fish market on the waterfront.
The welcoming town of Puerto Ayora is the main traveler’s hub for the islands. The small town of 15,000 people has an intriguing collection of shops, art studios, and restaurants amid sea lions and pelicans along the shore. During the week, the wharf is bustling with fishermen, merchants, and seafood stalls selling the catch of the day.
A short drive from Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station’s small visitor center offers a glimpse into the work the station is doing in the Galapagos. The complex is home to a tortoise breeding center, where visitors observe the iconic reptiles from hatchlings to adulthood at close range.
Shimmering turquoise waters, a breathtaking beach, and the black volcanic outcrops of Tortuga Bay present postcard-perfect scenes; acting as a tropical backdrop for quality time relaxing and enjoying island life. The Santa Cruz landmark is a short motorboat ride from Puerto Ayora.
The bay is split into two sections, Playa Brava and Playa Mansa. Playa Brava is the place to see surfers in the morning; the bay’s waters give those who want to learn how to surf a peaceful place to practice. Master the basics with the help of a local instructor, and spend the day catching waves alongside the creatures of the sea.
At the very end of the sand bank is Playa Mansa; a calm mangrove lagoon, rich in wildlife and a peaceful spot for swimming. Kayaking here is an adventure exploring the nook and crannies of the ocean shore sometimes missed on foot. Keep a look out for baby reef sharks and manta rays in the exposed mangrove roots. Some of the other residents of the bay and shady lagoon are brown pelicans, pink flamingos, blue-footed boobies, and red Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Arrange your snorkeling gear, kayaks, surf lessons, or spa treatments on request.
Day 6 Depart Santa Cruz
Enjoy the serenity that Galapagos Safari Camp has to offer. Relax, walk, or enjoy the sunrise from the observatory before departure to your next destination.