Galápagos — West, Central & East Islands aboard the Estrella
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 archaeology 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 marvellous 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. Just a couple of hours south of Quito is Parque National Cotopaxi, home to Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 m/19342 ft). the beautiful cone-shaped, snow covered volcano is Ecuador’s second highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world. This is a great spot for a days hiking (up to the refuge on the glacier’s edge) or mountain biking (downhill all the way). True enthusiasts attempt the climb to the summit (overnight excursion). Allow yourself an extra day or two in Quito, before or after your trip, if you want to conquer Cotopaxi. Warning: Please take care when wandering about the city on your own, as pick pockets and purse-snatchers are common, particularly in the Old Town. Be safe and leave your passport, credit cards, traveller’s cheques and cash you don’t need in the hotel’s safety deposit box. Most Quiteños are honest and genuinely helpful and friendly, but be safe and enjoy the city!
Day 2 Baltra Island & Santa Cruz (1B, 1L, 1D)
Early flight to Baltra, in the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide who will assist with the transfer to the Daphne. We visit the Bachas beach in the afternoon. 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. 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 USD100, 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)
Day 3 Chinese Hat and Rabida Islands (1B,1L,1D)
Spend the morning exploring Chinese Hat, a small island off the southern tip of Santiago no due to its 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 4 Isla Santiago (1B,1L,1D)
Today we explore Santiago islands which 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. Over the years 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. In the morning we will jump into the pangas to cruise beside the cliffs and rock formations of Buccaneers Cove, which was a favourite hideout for pirates looking to stock up their boats with food and water. We then travel to Playa Espumilla, one of the most idyllic beaches in the Galapagos islands, with thick mangroves along with sea turtle nesting sites. The afternoon is spent exploring the black sand beaches of Puerto Egas. The long beach offers great opportunities to see fur seals, marine iguanas and outstanding marine life. Go swimming or snorkelling right off the beach, hike up the the slat crater or take the 2 km walk along the beach.
Day 5 Fernandina Island & Isabela Island (1B,1L,1D)
Morning: Visit Punta Espinoza on Fernandina, the youngest in the Galápagos Islands. Witness the largest colony of marine iguanas and a variety of bird life. Afternoon: Urbina bay is located at the base of the Alcedo volcano. Hike the trail to get a view of the caldera watching for land iguanas along the way Punta Espinoza is the only visitors site on Fernandina. After a walk on the beach and up onto the lava we can go swimming and snorkelling to find the flightless cormorants in the water. Fernandina Island is the youngest in the Galapagos Islands (approximately 700,000 years old) and is also one of the most volcanically active. A fascinating mix of mangroves, rocky shores, black sand beaches, and wildlife that have had relatively little human contact. Fernandina boasts some of the most diverse marine, wildlife and vegetation in the Galapagos. It is home to a massive colony of marine iguanas blended into the black rocks. This is a great area to see some of the more elusive birdlife of the islands including the Galapagos Hawk, flightless cormorants and the Galapagos penguin. Arriving into Urbina Bay after lunch we will spend the afternoon ashore searching for land iguanas and walking up to the caldera of the 650m tall, Alecedo volcano. You can cool off from this long walk from the beach and search for spiny lobster and other marine wildlife underwater
Day 6 Isabela Island (1B,1L,1D)
An early arrival into Elizabeth Bay allows us to get out into the panga boats and explore the mangroves. The mangroves are home to multitudes of bird and marine wildlife. Look out for blue footed boobies, penguins and pelicans feeding on the abundant marine life and if we are lucky we will find sea turtles too. This afternoon we will visit Punta Moreno on the southwestern side of Isabela. The landscape is pristine and desolate with impressive black lava floes and a unique system of brackish lagoons, which are a magnet for wildlife. From here there is a spectacular view of 3 volcanoes that are so distinctive to Isabela Island: Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. This newly opened visitors site allows us the opportunity to see Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves, penguins, blue-footed boobies, mockingbirds and flightless cormorants as well as unusual vegetation.
Day 7 Isabela Island (1B,1L,1D)
This morning, 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. 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, 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 Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre to see some of the famous giant tortoises of the Galapagos.
Day 8 Santa Cruz (1B,1L,1D)
In the morning we arrive in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the second largest in the island group, and has the largest population, with Puerto Ayora as its main town. It also boasts the most varied of the islands’ vegetation zones: coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a 10 minute walk from the centre of the town. Here, an exhibition centre displays photos of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. In the afternoon a short walk takes us to the beautiful white beach of Tortuga Bay. Relax on the beach, walk along the mangroves looking for marine iguanas and birdlife or rent a kayak and explore this marine wonderland. The waters are known for Tontoreras shares, sea turtles and manta rays in the shallow areas.
Day 9 San Cristobal & Quito(1B)
Arriving 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, 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 (1B)
Depart at any time.