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Enchanted Galapagos Islands

Ultimate Wildlife Encounters Aboard The Yacht Samba
Duration: 14 days / 13 nights
Group Size: 14 max
Begins, Ends In: Quito, Ecuador
Tour Type: All inclusive

Explore and photograph the Galapagos Islands aboard the yacht Samba. Spend 11 days/10 nights exploring, photographing and snorkeling in the enchanted tropical paradise of unique flora and fauna with photographer Hugh Rose and outstanding Galapagos guide Juan Manuel Salcedo. Spend 3 nights in Quito with 2 of those nights in the historic Old City of Quito. Experience the unique cloud forest habitat of the high Andes at Bella Vista nature preserve.

Our guides, along with the captain and crew of the Samba are environmentally and socially responsible and are devoted to making your journey the trip of a lifetime! Join us on a natural history and photographic exploration of this historic and enchanted tropical archipelago.

$7,795/per person
March 31 - April 13, 2019

Guided by: Hugh Rose
Availability: 5 spaces

Questions? Contact Us

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the world heritage site archipelago, Galapagos Islands on board the comfortable 78 foot motor yacht Samba with 7 air conditioned cabins with private bathrooms and outstanding Galapagos guide Juan Manuel Salcedo
  • Snorkel with inquisitive Galapagos Sea Lions and dozens of pacific green sea turtles
  • Watch blue-footed boobies performing their courtship dance
  • Observe wild giant tortoises that are so old they were probably roaming the islands when Darwin visited in 1835!
  • Watch the world’s only marine lizard (the marine iguana) grazing on algae underwater!
  • See the finches that spurred Darwin to write his “Theory of Evolution”
  • Spend two nights in the historic old city of Quito with its rich history, architecture and culture
  • Visit the cloud forests of the Andes and see dozens of hummingbirds up-close!
Oceanic Forces & Enchanted Land
Explore The Galapagos Islands

Itinerary Summary

Description Lodge Meals
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Ecuador, transfer Airport to Old City Hotel Relicario del Carmen
Day 2 Tour Bella Vista Cloud Forest preserve & hummingbird sanctuary, welcome dinner in Quito Hotel Relicario del Carmen B, L, D
Day 3 Fly, Quito to Baltra, Galapagos Islands. Board the Samba (AM), First landing on Mosquero Island (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 4 Genovesa Island: Darwin’s Beach landing& snorkel (AM), Kayak/ zodiac cruise Darwin’s Bay then Prince Philip’s Steps landing (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 5 Marchena Island: Snorkel at Punta Mejía (AM), Snorkel Playa Negra (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 6 Isabela Island: Punta Albemarle landing & kayak (AM), Punta Vicente Roca snorkel (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 7 Fernandina & Isabela: Punta Espinosa landing & snorkel (AM), Urvina Bay landing and snorkel (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 8 Fernandina & Isabela Island: Punta Mangle kayak (AM), Punta Moreno landing and snorkeling (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 9 Floreana Island: Landing (AM); Asilo de la Paz, Pirates cave, Freshwater spring and tortoise preserve, Post office Bay and Baroness Lookout (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 10 Santa Cruz Island: Pto Ayora, Los Gemelos highlands (AM), Charles Darwin Center & explore Pto Ayora (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 11 Floreana: Punta Cormorant landing (AM), Snorkeling Champion and Devils Crown (PM), Look for whales (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 12 Española Island: Punta Suarez landing (AM), Gardner Island snorkeling and Gardner Bay landing (PM) Aboard the Samba B, L, D
Day 13 San Cristobal Island: Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) snorkel Isla Lobos landing (AM), Transfer to San Cristobal Airport. Flight from San Cristobal to Quito, Farewell dinner Quito Airport Wyndham B, L, D
Day 14 Transfer to Quito airport, depart for home or other destinations B
Galapagos Yacht Samba

M/Y Samba

A Graceful 78-Foot Motor Yacht of European Vintage Tourist Superior
  • There is no better yacht to experience the mystical isolation of the Galapagos on, than this sturdy, stately and very comfortable motor-vessel. The SAMBA is a true European Dutch classic and best in her class.
  • A great ocean-going vessel with her specially designed high bow, she provides safe crossings and boasts a special stabilizing sail.
  • Her main salon and aft dining facilities make her socially versatile while top-side settees and a flush and ample forward deck provide great getaways or extra space for group activities such as stargazing, whale watching or simply sunbathing.
  • The SAMBA accommodates 14 guests, a perfect number to enjoy the magic of the Islands with privacy and flexibility. Its professional, experienced and friendly crew and naturalist guide are devoted to go the extra mile to make your journey a trip of a lifetime.
  • She is a graceful, top-quality craft and very environmentally friendly as well as socially responsible. She is locally owned and all the crew members are from the Galapagos.
  • The crew are committed to redefine your idea of quality of experience and excellence of service.

Accommodations

Six air-conditioned double cabins on deck 1 and 1 double bed cabin on deck 3, all with private bathrooms and hot water.

Equipment

Very efficient Twin DAV diesel engines 280 HP-CUMMINS that only use a remarkable 6 gallons of diesel per hour! Two generators each of 21 & 12.5 kW for 110 V & 220V A/C and 12V & 24V D/C, Furuno Navnet Radar, Plotter and Sonar, GPS, VHF & SSB radios, two tenders with outboard motors, 32’ High Definition LCD TV, DVD video equipment.

Specifications

Length: L.O.A.* 78 feet / 23 meters
Beam: 18 feet / 5.4 meters
Tonnage: 134 tons
Speed: 8.5 knots
Range: 2.500 miles
Sail: Steadying sails
Water capacity: 1.500 gallons and water maker
Electric Power Supply: 110V & 220V (A/C)
*L.O.A.: length overall

Safety Equipment

One self-contained 20-passenger life raft, EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon), two bi-directional VHF emergency-radios, one VHF (Motorola) wide-range radio, VHF and HF radios and one cell-phone communication system, life jackets, fire extinguishers, safety smoke and fire detectors and overhead sprinkler systems, A.B.C fire-control system and CO2 bank for the engine room.

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

All Day: Arrive in Quito and transfer to Hotel Relicario del Carmen, overnight Hotel Relicario del Carmen.

Day 2: Day Tour to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

After breakfast at Relicario del Carmen we will depart at 8:00 AM on a two hour drive northwest from Quito. The highway will take us over the equator and eventually lead to the misty western side of the Andes Mountains. As we descend the Pacific side of the Andes we will be entering the “cloud forest”. The west facing intermediate elevation slopes of the Andes receive substantial annual rainfall and as a result are extremely lush and home to a great diversity of flora and fauna. Our destination for the day is Bella Vista Cloud Forest Preserve. Beall Vista has roughly 35 species of hummingbirds that frequent their lodge and many other species of tropical birds are regularly seen around the lodge. After eating a lunch of local foods at the lodge, for anyone keen to observe and photograph hummingbirds at close range you will have ample time in the afternoon to wander the lodge grounds. For those who would like to stretch their legs and walk in the cloud forest, a walk on trails through forest will be led by a naturalist from the lodge. Mid-afternoon we will start our drive back to Quito making a stop at the “Mitad del Mundo (Equator) museum, for history of the equator and its discovery and the indigenous people that inhabit Equatorial Ecuador. After time to clean up from our days outing we will meet for a welcome dinner of traditional Ecuadorian food at a nearby restaurant in the Old City of Quito.

Overnight at Hotel Relicario del Carmen.

Day 3: Part One - Quito Transfer to Airport

After an early breakfast we will depart for the Quito Airport to catch our 9:00 AM flight to Baltra and the Galapagos!

Day 3: Part Two - Arrival in Galapagos and Your First Landing – Islote Mosquera

On arrival at Baltra airport all visitors will have their hand luggage checked through the quarantine system run by the Galapagos National Park Service to ensure that no unwelcome “hitchhikers” are brought in my unwary tourists. In addition all visitors must pass through “Ingala” the Government of Ecuador, Galapagos immigration system. At passport control you will be required to pay the $110 Galapagos park entrance fee (you will be supplied with the US cash to pay this fee when we depart the Quito airport). Our guide Juan Manuel Salcedo will assist with luggage collection and accompany us on the short bus ride to the harbor where the Samba awaits us!

After boarding the Samba and getting settled into your cabin a light lunch will be served as we navigate for roughly 45 minutes to our first landing location Islote Mosquera. A small sandy Islet located off the north tip of Baltra Island, Mosquera is an ideal first landing with tranquil beaches frequented by many of the usual Galapagos inhabitants. Mosquera is an ideal place to wander, photograph and enjoy the idyllic setting of the Galapagos. With the exception of a few areas off limits due to green pacific sea turtle nests, free wandering is allowed at this sight making it a great spot for photographers to wander at will and find the perfect place to capture the equatorial sunset. On shore we will encounter marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs, blue footed boobies diving and, in sheltered south facing coves frolicking Galapagos sea lions. For those inclined to enjoy a close-up encounter with the sea lions, swimming is an option. After sunset and our first landing at Mosquera we will begin the overnight navigation to our landing site for the following day.

Galapagos Dove

Day 4: Genovesa Island (Tower Island)

  • AM: Darwin’s Beach landing and Darwin’s Bay Snorkel
  • PM: Darwin’s Bay Kayak/Zodiac Cruise/Philip’s Steps landing

After the 6 to 7 hour navigation from Baltra Island to Tower or “Genovesa” Island (all the Galapagos Islands have two names, one in English and the other in Spanish), we will wake up to the beautiful cacophony of one of the largest tropical sea bird colonies on the planet. The cliff tops are decorated with frigate birds, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallow tailed gulls, tropic birds and many other pelagic species. Darwin Bay, where we will be landing at first light is the home to thousands of nesting sea birds. After an early breakfast we will land at a small beach just before sunrise in order to catch the first light on this amazing scene. Red-footed boobies will be displaying for potential mates as they collect nesting materials, while great frigate birds perched in nearby trees inflate their gular sacks hoping to attract a female. Simultaneously, other frigates will be playing their favorite game: piracy. Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves and mocking birds stroll the ground to find seeds and insects. The red mangroves, cactus and saltbushes contrast with the blue sky and the dark basaltic walls. This morning’s landing is a nature photographer’s paradise! After returning to the Samba for a snack and refills on coffee we will assemble for our first snorkel outing of the trip. Depending on currents and water clarity we will snorkel inside somewhere inside the volcanic caldera of Darwin’s Bay. Many species of colorful tropical fish, lobsters, sharks, rays, sea turtles and Galapagos sea lions are all likely company for us as we snorkel the tropical waters of this protected bay.

Following lunch and a siesta we will set out on a kayak trip (or zodiac ride for those who prefer the option of carrying a camera) around the seabird cliffs of Darwin’s Bay. Just as the red-billed tropic birds are emerging from their nesting hollows and dropping from the cliff-top almost to the water surface as they gain flying speed, we will be gliding quietly along the bottom of the cliffs, observing and photographing from below. As the afternoon cools toward sunset we do a dry landing to climb Prince Philip’s Steps. The steep ascent takes us 100 feet above sea level, to the top of the seabird cliffs, where we are now able to watch the red-billed tropic birds and the aerobatic Galapagos shearwaters from above! A lava rock trail takes us through the endemic dwarf incense tree forest, to find more red footed “boobies” nesting as well as many of their gannet like relatives, the Nazca boobies. The dwarf incense tree (Palo Santo) forest is dormant most of the year, but awakens in the rainy season to fill the air with a refreshing aroma. After a 15 minute walk, we come to the edge of the Palo Santo forest, where we are greeted by the panorama of thousands of storm petrels flying erratically above lava flows for as far as the eye can see. This is a perfect scenario for one of the Galapagos avian predators to make a successful kill; the short-eared owl. Known elsewhere around the world as a nocturnal predator, on Genovesa it hunts in broad daylight, and we have an excellent chance of seeing it at work!. More cat than owl, it waits patiently on the lava flows, outside lava tunnels and crevasses to capture the storm petrels as they exit their nesting burrows after feeding their young.

As the sun sets, we will make the walk back through the palo santo forest and return to Prince Philip’s Steps for the descent back to the water’s edge and our waiting pangas. Upon returning to the Samba a delicious dinner of local Galapagos fare awaits us!

Day 5: Marchena Island (Bindloes)

  • AM: Punta Mejia
  • PM: Punta Nega

All other tour boats that sail in the Galapagos will sail back south after visiting Tower Island; not the Samba! We are the only boat that sails west-northwest toward the island of Marchena after departing Genovesa. The Galapagos National Park Service granted us the chance of using Marchena’s magical shorelines to snorkel, zodiac cruise and kayak. In recent times, only scientists have reached the land of Marchena, where forbidding endless and untouched lava flows combine with no fresh water and very little precious soil, to make a foreboding, but beautiful landscape. The serenity of Bindloes is only disturbed by the murmur and surge of the Pacific swells and musical argument of the cavorting sea lions. Punta Mejía is one of the best sites in the Archipelago to snorkel. The calm and clear deep blue water of the north-west coast and the dark hostile topography of the location give the sensation of witnessing the beginning of our planet and its underwater world. Apart from great fish diversity, when we snorkel we often see rays, reef and hammerhead sharks and sea turtles.

Galapagos Islands Tours
Snorkeling with Yellow-tailed surgeon fish

Navigating southwest for 45 minutes to Playa Negra is always an exciting experience. More than once in the past we have seen bottle nosed dolphins, and other cetaceans. An early afternoon snorkel around a recently formed lava grotto where marine iguanas feed and sea lions lounge offers a great opportunity to spend time in the water with Galapagos fur seals. The water in this protected collapsed lava tube is calm and always warmer than the open Pacific. Pups from a small colony of fur seals found in this protected grotto are curious of these rare human visitors and come over to check us out! The Galapagos fur seal is the smallest of all the seal species in the world and evolved with no human predators, so they have no fear of us. The young seals love to swim around snorkelers coming up to our masks where they blow bubbles in our faces! After returning to the Samba, we begin a 5 to 6 hour sail to the west. As we navigate west and away from the island, the sea floor drops off dramatically and we cross a 3,000 foot underwater cliff! The Cromwell current, flows from the open Pacific to the west and brings oceanic deep water welling up against the submarine precipice. This upwelling brings cold, nutrient rich water to the surface and creates unusually food rich, productive water. As a result, the waters we transit on this navigation attract many marine creatures and birds to feed on this abundance of food and we make the navigation during the afternoon in order to be able to watch for large cetaceans and other ocean wanderers.

Land Iguana Eating Portulaca
Land Iguana eating portulaca flowers

Day 6: Isabela Island (Albemarle)

  • AM: Punta Albemarle
  • PM: Punta Vicenta Roca

Recent human world history has left its footprint on this small corner of the Galapagos. Punta Albemarle, is the farthest north point of Isabela Island, and was once an important US radar installation built during WWII to detect and give warning of Japanese naval attacks on the Panama Canal. All that remains of the WWII station is a small, deteriorated shack which serves as a reminder of the long boring watches that young US naval officers spent in the isolated, but unique environment of the Galapagos Islands. The sailors worked long, three-week shifts and fortunately, never saw any action. After a sunrise kayak/zodiac cruise on the rugged lava coast just south of Punta Albemarle we will land and spend the rest of the morning ashore at this location watching and photographing the species that this location is best known for; Galapagos flightless cormorants, and marine iguanas. The recent lava flows are the nesting ground of the only flightless cormorant in the world and the basking terrain of the largest marine iguanas of Galapagos. The cormorants, which are normally very shy birds, display and build their bulky nests from seaweed, with total indifference to human presence at this location, because very few boats and tourists visit this site. As the morning advances the cold-blooded marine iguanas warm, they give a show of adaptation as they wander in to shallow water to feed on green and red algae. In this fantastic historic setting you are reminded that the only constant of the Islands is change as the wildlife of the Galapagos reclaim the shoreline inhabited by US military personnel 70 years ago!

Our afternoon destination, Punta Vicente Roca, offers an overwhelming diversity of geological formations. Located on the southwest end of Ecuador Volcano (on Isabela Island) only a few miles south of latitude 0°, the area displays outstanding examples of how the Islands were formed and how volcanic forces have change have transformed the landscape. Punta Vicente Roca displays textbook examples of tuff cones and lava dikes and the volcanic ground is constantly eroding and experiencing rockslides. We will look at these dramatic geologic structures from our zodiacs, as we enjoy watching the Galapagos penguins, brown noddies, blue-footed boobies and other marine life. If the waters are calm enough, we will snorkel along the submarine volcanic cliff face, where huge schools of tropical fish are herded around by playful Galapagos sea lions. The walls of the tuff cones are full of colorful invertebrates and rich algae blooming give us a great chance of watching numerous sea turtles feeding and if we are lucky Galapagos penguins darting along the submarine wall as they herd and catch schools of small fish.

Day 7: Fernandina and Isabela Islands

  • AM: Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island
  • PM: Urvina Bay, Isabela Island

At only 30,000-100,000 years old, Fernandina is the youngest island of the archipelago. This immature shield volcano represents only an instant in geological time! Not even your wildest imagination can give you a better setting to experience the start of life on an island. The entire Island is covered by hostile barren lava, however, at our morning landing site, Punta Espinoza the shoreline is teeming with life. Reptiles, birds and mammals are all coexisting at this location; eating, sleeping, singing, fighting and mating on the same lava rock. It is a living museum with piles of marine iguanas, playful sea lions, hard-working flightless cormorants, dwarf penguins, and busy Sally light-foot crabs. Don’t forget to look up, because the Galapagos Hawk is always on the hunt. We will spend the morning ashore doing an approximately one mile walk with plenty of stops to photograph and observe the activity. Snorkeling with sea lions, turtles, iguanas, cormorants and plenty of fish is the best way to refresh after the lava walk.

The hotspot in the earth’s mantle that forms the volcanos of the Galapagos and presently lies under the western Galapagos Islands generates intense volcanism and is active today. The western islands are the youngest and most active of the archipelago. Located in the center of Isabela, Alcedo Volcano is a reminder of how volatile these Islands are. On the west shore line of Alcedo lays Urvina Bay. The landmass of the inlet was uplifted in 1954. More than ¾ of a mile of new shoreline were created, and many coral reef extensions where exposed to air, as the earthquake uplifted the seabed. This brand new land became perfect nesting terrain for the most beautiful of land dragons, the giant land iguanas of Isabela. The land iguanas of Isabela are the largest in the Galapagos and in Urvina the colorful population offers a great example of their potential to grow to enormous sizes. The impressive yellow, orange/brown iguanas roam the low lands looking for flowers, fruits, leaves and shoots of their favorite plants. Also, during the time of our visit at the end of the rainy season it is possible to see giant tortoises sharing the land with these massive iguanas. Urvina Bay is a snapshot in miniature of what we imagine the earth to have been like during the Jurassic time period. We will land at a small organic sand beach and do a walk through the sixty year old forest, looking for both the giant tortoise and land iguana. Snorkeling and/or swimming may be an option at this beach depending on waves and water clarity, and a great way to cool off after the heat of the day!

Day 8: Isabela Island

  • AM: Elizabeth Bay
  • PM: Punta Moreno, Isabela Island

Isabela Island constitutes almost half of the entire surface of the Archipelago. It is nearly 100 miles long and offers a remarkable diversity of habitats. The island is formed by five active and connected volcanoes oriented in a north south line. Shaped like a seahorse, and with volcanic highlands reaching over 5000 feet in elevation, it is also the home to vast mangrove forests on its coastline. Elizabeth Bay is the only place on Earth where old growth tropical mangrove forests and penguins can be photographed in the same frame. The ecosystem is also the residence of spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and a nursery for fish and marine invertebrates. We will spend the morning kayaking amid the mangrove or riding on a zodiac in this serene environment with the outboards off and using only our oars for propulsion. The morning zodiac ride/kayak, offers great opportunities to photograph the penguins and other birds such as the striated heron and yellow-crowned night heron. After returning from the early morning outing there may be an opportunity to snorkel in a very special place were sometimes 50-60 sea turtles congregate to rest and bask in shallow water.

In the afternoon, following a short navigation, we will land at the desolate lava wasteland of Punta Moreno. When you set foot here you will understand why the Spanish Bishop Fray Tomas de Berlanga who accidentally discovered the Islands in 1535 and was the first European to set foot in the archipelago said: “It was as if God had decided to rain stones”. When Fray first set foot on a lava field with sailors from his ship desperate to find water (their ship had just exhausted it’s supply) he struggled to find fresh water and in desperation was forced to chew on cactus pads to quench his thirst. More than three centuries later the young naturalist, Charles Darwin saw beyond the lava and was amazed by the colonization of plants and the beginning of new life in this terrain. He theorized the processes at work in establishing life in the Galapagos could easily compare to the origin of life on the earth. At Punta Moreno we will do a roughly 1.5 mile walk across the lava fields and see the first pioneers of life taking hold on the blistering hot infertile lava. The pioneer lava cactus, seemingly growing directly from the rock, is contrasted with a stunning oasis, we walk to, where a lava tunnel roof has collapsed, allowing brackish water to accumulate, and give life to greater flamingoes, moorhens, black-necked stilts and Galapagos Martins. After the walk a snorkel along the shore at Punta Moreno often includes frolics with penguins and flightless cormorants as well as sea turtles and sea horses.

Day 9: Floreana Island

  • AM: Asilio de la Paz (Freshwater spring, Pirate Cave, Tortoise Preserve) and Cerro Aleiri
  • PM: Devils Crown and Champion Island snorkeling

Charles, Floreana and Santa Maria are all official names of this Island that holds an overwhelmingly rich human history compared to other islands in the archipelago. After breakfast we land at Puerta Velasco Ibarra to ride on a “chiva” (type of endemic transportation vehicle) to visit the highlands of Floreana. At Asilio de la Paz we will learn the history of the Island’s first permanent inhabitant (a Nantucket whaler left on Floreana after trying a mutiny on his ship) and hear the fascinating stories of the three families that settled on Floreana in the late 1920′s and early 1930′s (the Wittmer family, Dr. Ritter and his mistress Dore and the famous Baroness and her three lovers). Juan Manuel will spin the tale of conflict, murder and mystery that ensued in one of the great mysteries of the Galapagos Islands! After visiting the buccaneers cave, freshwater spring and the location of the Wittmer family’s original homestead, we will spend some time walking through the tortoise preserve located nearby that contains roughly 25 mature tortoises from all over the archipelago. This preserve is maintained to keep tortoises that have been seized from individuals who were keeping them as pets, and is a great way to observe and photograph mature tortoises up close! On our way to lunch we stop to climb Cerro Alieri. A good number of steps will take us to the breathtaking view of this fantastic landscape decorated with lichens and epiphytes. From here will travel to a small family owned organic farm for a BBQ lunch of local meat and vegetables.

Galapagos Islands Photography Tours
A Galapagos Giant Tortoise walks past group

Our afternoon adventure will take us around the coast to two snorkeling sites, the Devil’s Crown and Champion Island. Both sites offer superb snorkeling when conditions are good. Depending on sea conditions, currents and water clarity we will try to snorkel at both sites where we will see a great diversity of tropical fish as well as corals, rays, sharks, sea turtles and the always playful sea lions! We will depart Floreana and navigate north towards Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Ayora our anchorage for the night. This navigation takes us through waters rich with marine mammals so we will be watching for whales to spend time with!

Day 10: Santa Cruz Island

  • AM: Highlands, Los Gemelos
  • PM: Charles Darwin Research Center; Puerto Ayora

Our morning adventure will take us to the “Highlands” of Santa Cruz. At 1800 feet in elevation, the greenery that surrounds us will be the remnants of the Galapagos highlands mature forest, which is dominated by an unusual tree of the genus Scalasia. The Scalasia trees you will see in this region are closely related to a plant we all know, daisies! These “Daisy trees” decorate a couple of extraordinary geological formations, known as “Los Gemelos”, (the twins). The “twins” are collapse craters from ancient volcanic activity and their surroundings are the home to many of Darwin’s finches, mocking birds, vermillion flycatcher and a wonderful diversity of indigenous plants. From Los Gemelos we will descend in elevation to a preserve where we walk trails through the forest and at this time of year many giant tortoises can be found, wandering under the forest canopy, basking in shallow ponds and walking through grassy fields. After lunch in the town of Puerto Ayora at a local restaurant, we will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) located at Academy Bay just outside of the town of Puerto Ayora. Here you will learn about the background of scientific research in the archipelago and how this 50 year-old NGO is responsible for a great deal of the conservation work and restoration of threatened species in the Galapagos. You will learn how the CDRS is an important partner responsible for preserving this nearly pristine tropical archipelago along with the National Park Service. We will visit the tortoise breeding center run in conjunction with the Park Service, where you will see tortoises being reared in captivity to be released onto the Islands in order to boost wild tortoise numbers. This is the facility where the Galapagos’s most famous conservation icon, “Lonesome George”, the final remaining tortoise of his species from Pinta Island, spent his last days until his death in 2012, at an age that was probably well over 100 years!

After leaving the Darwin Research Center you will have an opportunity to swim at a local beach and spend time exploring the bustling town of Pto Ayora and its many shops.

After dinner on the Samba we will have additional time to visit Puerto Ayora and experience some of the nightlife located within walking distance of the town pier.

Day 11: Santa Fe and South Plaza Island

  • AM: Barrington Bay, landing and snorkel
  • PM: South Plaza landing

Our day starts with an early morning landing on Santa Fe Island at Barrington Bay. Santa Fe is known for its dense forest of very large trunked prickly pear cactus and abundant land iguanas. These large and colorful land reptiles feed on the pads and fruit of the prickly pear cactus that fall to the ground, but occasionally the large orange and yellow iguanas are seen attempting to climb the cactus trees to find food. Santa Fe is also home to one of the few land mammals in the Galapagos, the endemic rice rat. If we are lucky we may glimpse one of these charismatic and cute mammals as they forage for seeds under the saltbush. A loop trail that begins and ends on a sandy beach with many lounging Galapagos sea lions, takes us through the prickly pear forest where photographic opportunities abound! After completing the walk we will return to the Samba for breakfast and finish our morning with a snorkel in the clear, calm and sandy bottomed waters of Barrington Bay. While snorkeling in the bay it is typical to encounter many playful sea lions, groups of patrolling rays and Pacific green sea turtles.

After a short navigation, we will arrive at our afternoon landing site, South Plaza Island. South Plaza is one of the most concentrated wildlife sites in the entire Galapagos! A loop walk of approximately 1 mile takes us from the landing site up a gently sloping lava ramp to the edge of a seabird nesting cliff. Along the walk we pass through a small forest of large trunked prickly pear cacti where many land iguanas will be foraging for food. At the top of the cliff we will be greeted by pairs of nesting and courting swallow-tailed gulls on the cliff edge, red-billed tropic birds soaring past at eye-level and Audubon’s shearwaters skimming along the water. Large land iguanas are marching through carpets of Galapagos purslane (portulaca), eating the large yellow flowers, while blue-footed boobies perform their courtship dance on the cliff edge! As the sun dips lower we may be fortunate to see a hunting short-eared owl and watch giant manta rays jump clear of the water!

Day 12: Española Island

  • AM: Punta Suárez
  • PM: Gardner Bay & Gardner Island

Hood is the oldest Galapagos Island we will visit. It has traveled 100 miles away from the volcanic hotspot over which it formed, and thus has cooled and contracted sinking lower into the ocean, while at the same time eroding. We will land at Española’s western tip, at Punta Suárez. It is difficult to digest the beauty and the overwhelming amount of life at this landing site. As you become adjusted to your surroundings you will realize that the breakwater which protects the landing-site, is covered by brightly colored marine iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs. After we carefully make our way through the iguanas to the beach, we will be greeted by frolicking sea lions, and blue-footed boobies will fill the air over our heads. The roughly one mile walk across weathered lava plains and through ancient palo santo forest, will lead us to a magnificent seabird colony perched on a cliff high above the crashing surf. These south facing cliffs were shaped by eons of wave action battering the ancient lava flows of Española and are home to the only tropical nesting albatross in the world. The waved albatross is a mythic and elegant glider that shares this precipice with many other sea birds, such as tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls and nazca boobies. We will be visiting these cliffs during the courtship season of the waved albatross, and should be able to observe the elegant display of these huge birds as they search for mates and solidify pair bonds. Watching these birds as they go through their courtship displays is one of the most memorable wildlife displays found in the Galapagos!

Albatross Espanola Island
Waved albatross courting on Espanola Island

Depending on weather conditions, either at the end of the morning or early in the afternoon, we will snorkel or kayak around Gardner Island. Its calm waters and attractive landscape give you a great experience above and below water.

Galapagos Photo Tour
Friendly Galapagos Sea Lions!

After lunch we will land on the famous sandy beach of Gardner Bay. This is a beautiful white sand beach, photos of which are used in every advertisement for the Galapagos. Located on the north coast of Española Island, Gardner Bay has a half mile long white sand beach where free roaming is allowed, making it perfect for walking, swimming and lounging with the many playful resident Galapagos sea lions and friendly Hood Mockingbirds!

Galapagos Islands Wildlife Tours

Day 13: San Cristobal Island

  • AM: Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) snorkel, Isla Lobos landing
  • PM: San Cristobal Airport and Return Flight to Quito

San Cristobal is the first Island where Charles Darwin set foot in Galápagos, and home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno the second largest city and capital of the Galapagos. Our day will start with a sunrise snorkel at Kicker Rock, a vertical rock formation, located just off the shore of San Cristobal, which projects 500 feet straight out of the ocean and is covered by nesting frigates and boobies. No landing is possible here, but the snorkeling is outrageous along the vertical rock walls of the formation. Playful sea lions harass sea turtles, amid thousands of brightly colored fish. Galapagos sharks cruise the narrow channel that splits the formation, and snorkeling above these predators of the sea is always a thrill. After returning to the Samba, we will enjoy our last breakfast on board as we motor to Isla Lobos a small islet located just off the north shore of San Cristobal and home to countless frigate birds. As we step ashore pairs of courting blue footed boobies will be amongst the salt bush and the sky will be full of aerial pirates (frigate birds) soaring on the early morning thermals. A short walk brings us to a well-used courtship spot for blue footed boobies, where it is possible to watch and photograph their behavior up-close! Leon Dormido and Isla Lobos are two truly magical outings to end our 11 days in this tropical paradise!

A short cruise from Isla Lobos gives us time to finish last minute packing and brings us to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where we bid farewell to the Samba with her excellent and attentive crew and land on the main pier. From the pier a short bus ride takes us to the Airport, where we will catch our flight back to Guayaquil and then on to Quito.

Upon arrival in Quito, after collecting our luggage, we will make a short transfer from the airport to the Quito Airport Wyndham Hotel, located less than 5 minutes away. Since most international flights depart either late at night or early in the morning the location of the Wyndham eliminates the hour-plus ride each way into the city of Quito. After settling into your hotel room, we will meet in the excellent Wyndham Hotel restaurant and bid farewell to our travel companions over an excellent Ecuadorian dinner.

Day 14: Flights Home or Continue on Ecuador Extension

After breakfast at the hotel, a transfer shuttle will take you to the airport for flights home or on travel extensions in Mainland Ecuador or South America.

Included in the price:

  • All airport transfers, including arrival transfer, departure and arrival on travel days for the Galapagos segment and departure transfer.
  • All accommodations in Quito at the Hotel Relicario del Carmen (double occupancy) Days 1 & 2
  • Accommodations (double occupancy) Quito Airport Wyndham hotel day 13
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Quito/Bella Vista on day 2 and breakfast on day 3 (Quito)
  • Day tour to Bella Vista cloud forest preserve on day 2 including lunch
  • Roundtrip Airfare from Quito to the Galapagos
  • $110 US entrance fee into the Galapagos National Park
  • Immigration transit cards for Galapagos entry
  • All on-board accommodations on the Yacht Samba, all meals (B,L,D), island excursions including all Galapagos bus-fares and any additional guides qualified by the Galapagos National Park days 3-13.
  • Tips to 6 crew members of the Samba
  • Tip to naturalist on board the Samba (Juan Manuel Salcedo)
  • Rental of all snorkeling gear on board the Samba including wet suits, mask, snorkel and fins
  • Farewell dinner in Quito day 13

Not included in the price:

  • Flights to and from your home and Quito, Ecuador
  • Alcoholic beverages on mainland Ecuador and on board the Samba
  • Bottled beverages available for purchase on the Samba
  • Money for purchases of souvenir items

Payment, Reservation & Cancellations:

  • After space confirmation, a non-refundable $1,000 deposit per person is required to secure the booking.
  • Following two payments must be paid by check made in US dollars, (Credit cards may be used but merchant account fees will apply)
  1. September 1st, half of the trip price minus the $1000 deposit
  2. January 1st, remaining balance
  • Cancellations, excluding the $1000 deposit, subsequent payments are refundable until September 1st. Refunds for cancellations after September 1st are not guaranteed. For this reason, and for medical emergencies, we require trip insurance. If we can fill the space with another booking we will refund all payments, including the $1,000 deposit (minus small fees for booking changes with our vendors).
  • You will be sent a trip confirmation packet a few months before the trip departure date.
Juan Manuel Salcedo

Juan Manuel Salcedo

Juan Manuel Salcedo was born in the Galápagos Islands. He grew up in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, living and learning in the outdoor evolutionary lab of the Galápagos.…

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Hugh Rose

Hugh Rose

Hugh Rose has photographed and lived in northern climates most of his life with the latter part of it in Alaska. Compelled by Alaska’s natural beauty, he left a 10-year…

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Gear, Equipment & Clothing

We will supply a comprehensive PDF that details our recommendations for camera gear and clothing after booking.

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