Day 1 Santa Cruz Island
The Galapagos Safari adventure begins after you meet your bi-lingual naturalist guide at the airport or dock. Guests and baggage in tow, the journey begins; traveling by private transport from the arid zone through the transitional zone, into the lush highlands of Santa Cruz.
The first stop is Los Gemelos or the Twins; two overgrown, lava tunnels that formed massive sink holes when they collapsed. The larger of the twins is 2,300 feet deep and almost 1,300 feet wide! On a short hike around the rim, your guide will point out the birds of the endemic Scalesia forest such as Galapagos doves and eight species of Charles Darwin’s finches.
From Los Gemelos the day takes you to a tortoise reserve. 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 giants 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, created centuries ago by the Santa Cruz volcano. 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 can be daunting in spots where the tubes get narrow, but it’s a worthwhile trek into the geological past of the island.
After stopping for lunch, the group makes way back to the camp. Enjoy a sunset cocktail on the lookout, and a four-course, tapas-inspired meal in the main lodge before retiring for the evening.
Day 2-3 Explore Neighboring Islands
- 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Early morning finds you on a motor vessel to one of the neighboring islands: North Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, Santa Fé, Floreana or Isabela. Each island is an endemic treasure to explore and enjoy. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest marine reserve in the world, and snorkeling off the boat is highly recommended. Destinations will be given when you have your dates.
Day 4 Eastern Santa Cruz
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
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.
The trip is a short drive from the camp. In the morning, 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 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.
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.
On your way back to the Camp you will visit to 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.
As the day winds down, you head back to the camp for a relaxing drink or dip in the pool before an inviting dinner and some independent stargazing if it is a clear night.
Day 5 Depart Santa Cruz | Isabela
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy the serenity that Galapagos Safari Camp has to offer. Relax, walk, or enjoy the sunrise from your observatory before departure to your next destination.
Day 6 Explore Sierra Negra Volcano and Tintoreras
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Northwest of the main town of Puerto Villamil, Volcan Sierra Negra (1490m), home to the second largest active volcanic crater in the world, watches over the island. The towering shield volcano last erupted in 2005, sending 300m fountains of lava into the night sky. During an active day immersed in the lavish landscape of the island, our trip traverses an 8km trail around the east side of the volcano that presents you with breathtaking views of Isabela and the nearby islands.
In the course of the accent, the journey takes you through several microclimates. The trail starts in the cloud forest, where delicious guava fruit and a variety of birdlife await. Along the way, your guide will point out Galapagos hawks, short-eared owls, flycatchers, and finches that often frequent this route.
The hike continues through petrified, out-of-this-world lava fields, which can be challenging at points. Once at the 6-mile diameter crater, the temperature of the air rises slightly due to the lava flowing underneath the crust. Hiking around the rim gives way to panoramic views of the surrounding cloud forest, the highlands of Isabela, and the most recent lava formations of the expansive crater itself.
Depending on the weather conditions, the trail may be muddy and hard to navigate, and the view might cloud over. Due to the crater’s altitude, the view from the top is often clear when the conditions below are overcast. Please note that you do not have to complete the full trail and you can shorten the visit if needed.
After the visit to Sierra Negra, enjoy a short boat ride from the main town of Puerto Villamil to Las Tintoreras Islet, the first stop is offshore near a colony of penguins. The Galapagos penguin is one-of-a-kind; the only member of its species to live north of the equator. The endemic penguins are on the endangered species list, and the work of the Galapagos Conservancy has helped to increase their numbers over the recent years with the construction of artificial nests that are the sight of 43 percent of the penguin breeding activity in the area.
After arriving on land, explore the nooks and crannies of the islet’s lava formations, including submerged tunnels carved into the rock where white-tipped reef sharks rest. The waters of Isabela are an important feeding area for Galapagos wildlife, drawing a variety of species to the cool seas.
On the shore and along the trail, blue-footed boobies, great blue herons and a large population of marine iguanas make the short hike an adventure. There is a marine iguana breeding colony here, and during its peak it is hard to navigate the trail without watching where you step every few paces!
While the creatures above the water are fascinating; the rich, underwater life is also worth discovering during a snorkeling session in the open waters. Sea lions and turtles, marine iguanas, and rays are some of the creatures sighted amidst vibrant schools of fish when the conditions are right.
Day 7 Fly home
The guide will take you to the airport and will fly with you to Baltra airport to help you with check in procedures to take your flight back to Mainland.