Galápagos — West, Central and East Islands aboard the Monserrat
Day 1 Quito
Arrive in Quito at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. A G Adventures representative will greet you at the hotel and brief you on the various aspects of the tour. If you are not able to attend the welcome meeting, our representative will leave all important information at your hotel’s reception indicating what time to be ready on Day 2 of your trip. If there is any confusion on arrival, please do not hesitate to call the contact number listed in this dossier. Located 2850m (9348 ft) above sea level, the Ecuadorian capital of Quito enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate, despite the fact that it is only 22 km (14 miles) south of the Equator. Nestled in a valley flanked by mountains, on a clear day several snow-capped volcanoes, including nearby Pichincha, are visible from the city centre. Add to its beautiful location a rich history and well-preserved colonial district, and you begin to understand Quito’s appeal to thousands of tourists every year. In 1978 UNESCO declared Quito a World Heritage site, and any new development in Quito's old town is now strictly controlled. Life in Quito tends to be peaceful, though the drivers are fond of using their car horns! There are approximately 2,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, but the pace is relaxed and the residents hospitable. There are several excellent museums scattered throughout the city. The Casa de la Cultura Ecuadoriana has an interesting display of traditional musical instruments and Ecuadorian traditional dress, a large art collection, and a small natural history museum. For archeology the best museum to visit is the Museo del Banco Central with its well displayed pottery, gold ornaments, skulls showing deformities and early surgical methods, a mummy and many other objects of interest. The small, rounded hill dominating the old town is El Panecillo or 'the Little Bread Loaf,' a major Quito landmark. From here there are marvelous panoramic views of the entire city and surrounding volcanoes. You can easily take a trolley (streetcar) or a cab between the Old Town and New Town.
Day 2 Baltra & Santa Cruz Island
Flights from Quito to Baltra depart between 6:40am and 9:40am depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into the Galapagos between 9:30am and 12:30pm with a short refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane). You will generally arrive onto the boat in time for lunch on Day 2 before your afternoon activity. Please Note: The National Park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD, payable on arrival, which funds Park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the National Park System are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours (By flight) The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named. Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are now a National Park. The Galapagos National Park is the institution that controls the preservation of this environment, assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. Inaugurated in 1964 and based in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the one place where visitors can easily see the famous Galapagos Tortoises, which may live up to two hundred years. This is also the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors landing at more than 40 approved sites on the islands, and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station. The National Park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD, payable on arrival, which funds Park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the National Park System are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.
Day 3 Isabela Island
In the morning, hike the Sierra Negra Volcano which has the largest basaltic caldera in the Galapagos. Along the hike, see smoking fumaroles and the ""sulphur volcano"" where you see large amounts of sulphur deposited around the fumaroles. The volcano last erupted in October 2005, making it the most recent eruption of the Galapagos. In the afternoon, visit Las Tintoreras, a small island in front of Puerto Villamil. The bay in front is known to be home to a colony of white tip sharks. You'll also have the opportunity to see the Wall of Tears, which pays homage to prisoners forced to build the wall of huge blocks of lava between 1946 and 1959 when a penal colony was on the island. Many prisoners died during its construction. Check out the tortoise breeding centre to see some of the famous giant tortoises of the Galapagos.
Day 4 Chinese Hat / Rábida
In the morning the boat arrives to a small little island off the southern tip of Santiago called Chinese Hat, for it's unique shape. Here it is often possible to see Galapagos penguins and the marine life is fantastic for snorkelling. There is also a large sea lion colony here as well as many marine iguanas that can be seen on our guided walk amongst the volcanic scenery, with good views to the cone of the island's volcano. In the afternoon we will make our way to Rabida Island, where we land on a red sand beach. From here a short trail leads to a salt water lagoon.Another trail goes past the lagoon to the interior, where the revered palo santo trees grow. When burned, the branches of this tree give off a pleasing aroma and ward off mosquitoes. Back on the beach among low-lying bushes nest the prehistoric-looking pelicans. This is the best area for close viewing of these nesting birds, and it's a rare treat to watch parent pelicans return with gullets full of fish for the squawking youngsters.
Day 5 Santiago Island
Morning excursion to Puerto Egas to see the salt crater as well as a dark sand beach and tidal pools and the ever friendly, Fur Seals. Continue to Playa Espumilla, one of the most idyllic beaches in the Galapagos islands, with thick mangroves along with sea turtle nesting sites. Head to Buccaneer Cove to witness the towering cliff wall rock formations. Santiago Island has seen it's share of human activity from whalers and pirates over the years, and despite the introduction of goats to the island many years ago, the wildlife of Santiago has flourished otherwise and provides outstanding viewing opportunities. The island boasts marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles among others, which provide great wildlife viewing both on land and in the water.
Day 6 North Seymour / Santa Cruz
Set sail in the morning for North Seymour, just north of Baltra, home to sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, magnificent frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Seymour Island is probably the most exciting island photographically. Bird life abounds, and close to the trail you will find many nesting pairs and young chicks. Seymour is also home to the Galapagos’s largest colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds. Their mating ritual is an ostentatious display: males expand the red sack at the base of their throat and perch atop a bush with wings fully extended, flapping furiously. Interested females circle overhead, and if so inclined, may join the male on terra firma. Further along the trail we can observe a colony of sea lions. Spend the afternoon in Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz. Visit the Charles Darwin Station, the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors landing at more than 40 approved sites on the islands, and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station.
Day 7 South Plaza Island / Santa Fe
Set sail and reach South Plaza Island. One of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, South Plaza has one of the largest populations of Land Iguanas. Also a large colony of noisy sea lions, numbering about 1,000 bulls, cows and pups, has its prime habitat on these smooth rocks. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation. The small cactus forest is populated by land iguanas, which can be seen sunning themselves or feeding on opuntia pads and fruits. Swallow-tailed gulls, which nest on the rugged southern cliffs, are usually seen, along with tropicbirds and Audubon's shearwaters. During the rainy season you can see the red sesuvium turn bright green and the leafless evening-blooming portulaca bursts into large yellow flowers, which are loved by the iguanas. In the afternoon, we explore Santa Fé, a fairly small and dry island. Also called Barrington, Santa Fé Island is well-known as a great place for watching (and swimming with) sea lions. Santa Fe was formed from an uplift (rather than a volcano) giving the island a relatively flat surface rather than the typical conical shape of the other islands. Goats were eradicated in 1971, and Santa Fe is home to a number of endemic species, which have bounced back from the outside threat. They include the Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, rice rats, a variety of finch and the Galapagos Mockingbird. Hiking towards the cliffs along the island's northern shore you can view the forest of giant Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). A member of the cactus family their name comes from the pear shaped fruit the plant produces. Santa Fe is home to endemic land iguanas. Once back at the beach there is normally plenty of free time to snorkel back in the lagoon. Playful sea lions pups and florescent fish make for fascinating company.
Day 8 Punta Pitt / Isla Lobos
We land this morning at Punta Pitt, on the eastern tip of San Cristobal where we will see a group of eroded volcanic cones. Here we will be able to observe a mixture of different types of lava floes as well as colourful vegetation. At this point it is possible to see the 3 species of boobies as well as frigate birds, all nesting in the same area - unique to this spot in the entire archipelago. Continue to Lobos Island in the afternoon where you will be welcomed by frolicking sea lions.
Day 9 San Cristóbal / Quito
Reach San Cristóbal in the morning. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island of Galapagos and one of the oldest. Its principal town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos. Disembark after breakfast then we visit the interpretation center, and transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito. Transfer to our group hotel upon arrival, and enjoy one last night on the town. Flights from San Cristobal to Quito depart between 11:30am and 1:30pm depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into Quito between 4:00pm and 5:40pm with a refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane). You will arrive back at the hotel in the early evening in time for dinner.
Day 10 Quito
Depart at any time.