Galápagos — North & Central Islands aboard the Evolution
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. Since pre-Columbian times, the site of Quito has been inhabited by the Quitus, the Shyris and the Puruhas. The Inca reached this city before the Spaniards, but levelled it to the ground rather than give it up to the Spanish. The present capital was founded by the Spanish on December 6th, 1534. Quito is separated into two basic sections, the old and the new cities. The old city is full of historical buildings and churches. One of the more noteworthy is the Catedral de Quito, located on the Plaza de la Independencia. Built between 1550 and 1562, it was one of the first neoclassical works in Quito. La Compañía de Jésus Church is considered one of the most beautiful in the Americas. The decorations in the Compañía contain approximately one and one-half tons of gold, and construction of the church took 170 years (1605-1775). 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. Quito’s large foreign population and steady stream of travellers have given it a varied and vibrant nightlife, and salsotecas and other dance clubs abound. For a real Ecuadorian experience though, be sure and drop by a peña if you can; these are great places for meeting locals and dancing, as well as enjoying local cooking. 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.
Day 2 San Cristóbal (B,L,D)
Early flight to San Cristóbal, in the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide who will assist with the transfer the Evolution. Settle in and relax as we begin our voyage in the Galapagos. Visit Leon Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock, is a spectacular formation that rises 152 meters (500 feet) out of the Pacific. It takes the form of a sleeping lion, but from another angle you can see that the rock is split, forming a colossal tablet and, piercing the sea, a great chisel ready for etching. Small vessels can navigate through the narrow channel between the rocks. Spend some time snorkelling one of the most famous sites in the Galapagos. We set out along the coast of San Cristobal heading northeast toward our first landing at Playa Ochoa for some relaxation time at the beach. Playa Ochoa is a white coral beach, with an area of 160 meters. This inviting powdery beach beside a turquoise bay is home to a small colony of sea lions. A tidal lagoon sitting behind the beach is frequented by flamingos, Darwin Finches and the endemic San Cristóbal (Chatham) Mockingbird. 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 South Plaza / Mosquera (B,L,D)
Set sail and reach South Plaza Island in the morning. One of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, South Plaza has one of the largest populations of Land Iguanas. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation. In the afternoon we arrive in Mosquera., which is located between North Seymour and Baltra. The island consists of a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks, and tide pools. Created by Geological uplift the island has a flat look to it rather than the conical shape of the volcanically formed islands. A snorkel excursion is planned for the afternoon. Follow this by a panga ride to Daphne island for some more time to snorkel.
Day 4 Chinese Hat / James Bay (B,L,D)
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.Afternoon visit to James Bay on the western shores of Santiago. We land on a black beach offering excellent snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish. A trail leads to a series of crystal-clear grottos formed of broken lava tubes, which are home to fur seals, sea lions and samurai-like marine iguanas that feed in tidal pools. Keep your eyes open for Galapagos hawk that frequent the area.
Day 5 Genovesa (B,L,D)
Land at Genovesa Island, an old imploded volcano, to observe the massive colonies of Frigate Birds, Boobies and other seabirds as well as striking volcanic cliffs rising from the ocean. Well to the north of the main Galapagos Island group, Genovesa Island itself is the shape of a horseshoe given it's volcanic history. The first landing is at a place called Darwin Bay for some fantastic snorkelling opportunities within the a partially eroded crater on the south side of the island. In the afternoon we will explore a place called "El Barranco," otherwise known as Prince Phillip's Steps, on the southern tip of the island. This site is a major breeding ground for red footed boobies and masked boobies can also be seen. Other birds like various species of finches can be seen as well as the Galapagos Mockingbird.
Day 6 North Seymour / Santa Fé (B,L,D)
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. Set sail and reach 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. Along the island's northern shore you can view the forest of giant Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). Santa Fé is also home to a number of endemic species which have bounced back from various threats to their survival. You may get a chance to see the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, a variety of finches and the Galapagos mockingbird.
Day 7 Floreana (B,L,D)
Make your way to Post Office Bay, on Floreana Island. The history of Floreana Island (also called Charles) has gradually evolved to reach near mythic proportions. The story begins when a baroness and her two lovers, a German doctor and his mistress, and a German couple and their young son all came to settle on this land. Their dalliances and disasters, shrouded in mystery, were chronicled in John Treherne’s book The Galapagos Affair. Descendants of the German family, the Wittmers, still live on the island in the small community of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Mrs. Margaret Wittmer has also written a booked entitled "Floreana" and this can be purchased at the airport in Baltra or at a local bookstore. Morning visit to Punta Cormorant , in the afternoon we visit Post Office Bay that has an older and less mysterious history. A barrel was placed here in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels to be used as a post office. Passing ships would stop to leave mail for loved ones, collecting at the same time any mail destined for ports on their itineraries. Today the box is used mainly by tourists, who may drop off and pick up unstamped letters to be carried to far destinations. The remains of a Norwegian canning factory are the only evidence of the Island’s history prior to its designation as a protected area. A short hike up past the post barrel takes you to an interesting lava cave. With the aid of a flashlight, you can descend about 80 m (262 ft) to the point where the sea enters the cave. Later in the afternoon we make our way towards Punta Cormorant on the northern part of Floreana. The landing is on a beach of green sand, coloured by olivine crystals, volcanic-derived silicates of magnesium and iron. The trail leads to a lake normally inhabited by flamingos and other shore birds and continues to a beach of fine white sand particles known as “Flour Beach”, an important nesting site for turtles. Around the point, Devil's Crown derives its name from the broken remains of a partially submerged volcanic cone. This is a perfect spot to go snorkelling from the boat, as the waters are home to a multitude of colourful fish and sea lions. Please make sure you are a comfortable swimmer, however, as despite the protection from the open sea provided by the "crown," the water here can be rough and the currents strong.
Day 8 Santa Cruz (B,L,D)
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the economic center of the Islands. In the morning we visit the Highlands, where the dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush wet fields and forests overgrown with moss and lichens. Our destination is the Tortoise Reserve, where we will have a chance to see these animals in the wild, walk through lava tubes and see the Gemelos; twin collapsed craters. In the afternoon we return to Puerto Ayora to visit Charles Darwin Research Station, to see the Giant Tortoise and Land Iguana Breeding and Rearing Program. The Fausto Llerena Center receives about 7,800 visitors a month and currently houses about 900 youth and 70 adult tortoise. This project, which began in the 1970?s has been an incredible success in helping repopulate the Galapagos Giant Tortoise population. You'll have time in town to enjoy a café and shop for souvenirs.
Day 9 Santa Cruz / Baltra / Quito (B)
In the morning we take an excursion by "panga" to Black Turtle Cove, to witness the extensive mangrove system and interesting waterway canals. Sea Turtles and different species of rays can often be seen in this cove, offering a peaceful and fascinating glimpse into the diversity of the area. Disembark at Baltra and transfer to the airport for our flight back to Quito.
Day 10 Quito (B)
Depart at any time.