Galápagos Islands | Investigating Endemic Wildlife: Cruising the Eastern Route

Galápagos Islands | Investigating Endemic Wildlife: Cruising the Eastern Route

About this trip

The Galápagos Islands have long intrigued outsiders with their endemic flora and fauna, geological activity, and unusual terrain. Accompanied by an onboard naturalist guide, this small-group cruise expedition offers a front-row seat for exploring the eastern islands. Stunning formations like saw-toothed Kicker Rock and Cerro Brujo, volcanic calderas, sandy beaches, and flamingo lagoons play host to iconic wildlife like Red- and Blue-footed Boobies, marine turtles, giant tortoises, iguanas, and more. With no fear of human predation, many creatures can be approached at close range; you can even swim with the sea lions. Also examine the archipelago’s dramatic human history, from 18th century whalers and pirates to its role in World War II and present-day inhabitants.
PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change without prior notice due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. weather) or at the discretion of the captain, guide, or the Galápagos National Park.

Highlights

  • Explore the Opuntia cactus forest on South Plaza Island and observe colonies of land iguanas.
  • Learn about important conservation efforts at the Charles Darwin Research Station’s tortoise breeding center.
  • Walk along the lava beds of Española Island, one of the best places in the world to see the Waved Albatross.
  • Come face-to-face with sea lions, turtles, sharks, rays, and colorful fish during several snorkeling excursions.
  • Take part in a centuries-old tradition by leaving a postcard in the barrel at Post Office Bay.
9 Travelers

Land Cost

$5,795 - Jan 10, 2021 - Dec 25, 2022

$5,795 - Jan 10 - Dec 20, 2023

Book 8 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

16 Travelers

Land Cost

$5,695 - Jan 10, 2021 - Dec 25, 2022

$5,695 - Jan 10 - Dec 20, 2023

Book 14 travelers and 2 group
leaders travel for free

16 Travelers

Land Cost

$5,295 - Jan 10, 2021 - Dec 25, 2022

$5,295 - Jan 10 - Dec 20, 2023

Book 15 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

Quito

Day 1

Upon arrival in Quito, after clearing customs and immigration, you will be met and escorted to your hotel. Arrival into Quito should be on a Wednesday for the Friday cruise departure.

Overnight at Sheraton Hotel

Quito

Day 2

After breakfast, take a city tour of Quito, Ecuador's capital. Surrounded by volcanoes, Quito is a unique city that boasts one of the largest and best-preserved colonial centers in America, earning it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also travel north of the city to the equator and the Middle of the World Monument. Please note: You may substitute the city tour and monument visit with a full day excursion to Otavalo market, Cotopaxi National Park, Antisana Reserve, or Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve for an additional cost. Before dinner, attend a lecture, "Introduction to Geology of the Galápagos Islands."

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sheraton Hotel

Galápagos

Day 3

Fly from mainland Ecuador to Baltra Island. Transfer to the dock and board M/C Tip Top II or V, attend your first orientation, and have a light snack. Navigate by panga boat to Santa Cruz Island and prepare for a wet landing. Then proceed on foot to the flamingo lagoons located behind Playa Las Bachas, a beach that was used by the U.S. Army during World War II. (The name "Bachas" refers to two U.S. barges that were left here.) Before returning to the yacht, enjoy some free time to swim or snorkel from the beach. Attend an evening presentation on the origin and evolution of the Galápagos Islands, and enjoy a welcome cocktail with the entire crew, followed by dinner. Each day there will be a briefing about the next day's activities, and daily opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and/or kayaking.
*Cruise itineraries are subject to change without prior notice for various factors including, but not limited to: safety, weather, mechanical breakdown, unforeseen emergencies, and the discretion of the Captain, Guide, and the Galapagos National Park.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 4

Today, explore Genovesa Island, a horseshoe-shaped volcanic caldera with steep cliffs surrounding a beautiful bay. After a short panga boat ride, make a wet landing on Darwin Bay's white-sand beach. Then follow a short trail along mangroves and tide pools to observe Great Frigatebirds, herons, mockingbirds, Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, shorebirds, turtles, marine iguanas, and more. Look for sea lions and tropical fish as you swim, snorkel, or kayak from the beach before returning to the yacht for lunch. In the afternoon, disembark on a rocky ledge and climb the staircase at Prince Philip's Steps (El Barranco), and then hike less than a mile to see a palo santo forest, walk on hardened lava flows, and observe the interesting lives of the birds here. Search for nesting Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, as well as Great Frigatebirds, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Galápagos Doves, Swallow-tailed Gulls, and the Galápagos Short-eared Owl. When searching for Red-footed Boobies, look up to the trees; unlike other Galápagos booby species, they prefer to do their courtship and build nests above the ground. From May to January, Nazca Boobies can be spotted courting, nesting, and raising their young. Keep an eye out for Galápagos fur seals along the rocky shores during a panga ride back to the boat. This evening, attend a presentation by your Galápagos naturalist guide.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 5

After breakfast, disembark at a dock on South Plaza Island, which is characterized by unique and colorful vegetation. Sesuvium is a bright red succulent plant that carpets the rocks here, and creates vivid photo opportunities against the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. The taller Opuntia cacti provide food and shade for the numerous land iguanas that dig nesting burrows all over the island. Continue walking toward the sea cliffs to view many sea birds such as Red-billed Tropicbirds, Galápagos Shearwaters, Swallow-tailed Gulls, and Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies. Return to the yacht for lunch, and then sail to Santa Fé Island for the chance to see a different species of land iguana, endemic only to this island and recognizable by its paler yellow coloration. After landing on a small beach, walk by scenic cliffs and a forest of Santa Fé opuntia cactus to observe Santa Fé land iguanas, Galápagos Hawks, Darwin's finches, Galápagos Mockingbird, Galápagos racer snakes, and more. Before going back to the boat, spend time at the beach swimming and snorkeling among sea lions.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 6

After breakfast, disembark at a pier at Puerto Ayora and take a bus to the misty highlands of Santa Cruz Island for a visit to the lush, green Scalesia forests surrounding Los Gemelos (The Twins) pit craters. Visit a local farm to have lunch and search for giant tortoises in the wild. Galápagos tortoises are one of the animals that contributed to Charles Darwin's understanding of natural history, and the archipelago was referred to in Spanish as the Islands of the Tortoises on early maps. Next, return to the town of Puerto Ayora and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and Fausto Llerena Breeding Center. Learn about the station's important conservation and education work, and see some of the tortoises that are being raised for reintroduction into the wild. Return to the yacht for a naturalist presentation.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 7

Today, explore Floreana Island, one of the few inhabited islands of the Galápagos, with a rich history of human settlement and hardship. Disembark on the beach at Post Office Bay and follow a short trail to its historic mail barrel site. In the 18th century, British whalers placed a wooden barrel here to use as an informal post office, and today, visitors continue the tradition by leaving their own postcards in the barrel. Continue to Baroness Viewpoint, named after the Baroness Eloise von Wagner, who once lived here. Enjoy the beautiful landscape and observe the ruins of her house. Return to the yacht for lunch. In the afternoon, go snorkeling at Champion Islet, considered one of the best snorkeling sites in the islands, and look for tropical fish, moray eels, starfish, sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions. Next, make a wet landing on the green beach at Floreana's Cormorant Point, then walk inland to a brackish lagoon to see American Flamingoes and shorebirds. Continue walking to La Picona, a beautiful white-sand beach that is an important nesting site for Galápagos green turtles. At the start of the year, pregnant turtles come ashore at night to dig nests and lay their eggs; by April and May the hatchlings begin to emerge from the sand and make their perilous journey to sea. Head back to the green beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling among reef fish and sea lions.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 8

After breakfast, visit Punta Suárez on Española Island to hike along lava beds and scenic cliffs to observe green-and-red marine iguanas, sea lions, lava lizards, and unique colonies of marine birds. From mid-March to December, this is one of the best places in the world to see the Waved Albatross, which nests primarily on this island. These large and graceful flyers start to perform intricate courtship rituals in April, and by May begin nesting. Española is the oldest island in the archipelago, geologically speaking, and is also rich in plant life, with an interesting mix of flora representative of littoral, arid, and transitional zones. After lunch aboard the yacht, disembark at Gardner Bay for a walk on the beach to observe sunbathing sea lions, which inhabit the beach in great quantities during the breeding season. While exploring the beach, keep an eye out for the endemic Española Mockingbird (a carnivorous species) and Darwin's finches. Then, take a scenic panga ride around Osborn Islet and the islets of Gardner to search for more wildlife and enjoy some swimming or snorkeling before heading back to the boat.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Galápagos

Day 9

Have breakfast onboard, then sail around iconic Kicker Rock (León Dormido) and its narrow channel in search of sea birds. The enormous rock formation is the remainder of a vertical tuff cone that has since become a favorite nesting place for Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies and frigatebirds. Marine life is plentiful in the waters surrounding the cliffs, so be on the lookout for sea lions, sharks, turtles, and rays. Continue navigating to San Cristóbal in preparation for a wet landing at Cerro Brujo, the only site in the Galápagos where it is possible to witness all three booby species nesting together. Walk along the beautiful white-sand beach to observe sea lions, pelicans, gulls, finches, mockingbirds, and boobies. In the afternoon, disembark at Baquerizo Moreno Port on San Cristóbal Island and visit the Interpretation Center, which tells the story of the geological and human history of the islands and their conservation. Return to the yacht for dinner and a nightly orientation.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Tip Top II or V

Quito

Day 10

Take one last boat ride this morning around Black Turtle Cove, a series of coves and islets surrounded by mangroves, where you can observe white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and yellow cow-nosed rays. Return to the boat and disembark at the pier to take the bus directly to the airport in Baltra for your flight to Quito. Lunch is on your own at the airport; food options will be available for purchase after passing security. Once in Quito, settle into the hotel then enjoy an afternoon at leisure before attending a farewell dinner at the hotel. If your international flight departs very late this evening/before dawn next morning, please be ready to check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport after the farewell dinner.

Breakfast-Dinner included
Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Quito

Day 11

Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Breakfast- included