PACKAGES: 4-nights & 5-nights
ITINERARY: 6 DAYS/5 NIGHTS
ISLANDS VISITED: Santa Cruz, Floreana & Isabela
LODGING: Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges
# DAY 1: QUITO/GUAYAQUIL – SANTA CRUZ
AM Baltra Airport
Ferry crossing to Santa Cruz Island (10 min-ride). Arrival at Santa Cruz around 11:30 AM (Depending on your flight schedule). Check-in at Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge.
PM Santa Cruz
Begin your Academy Bay Tour at “La Loberia”, where you can snorkel with sea lions (optional). 40 min. navigation to “Tortuga Bay”. As we enter the white sandy beach, we have a chance to observe different marine species like Sting Rays and baby Reef Sharks in the shallow waters of the Mangrove ecosystems. After swimming on the beach we take a very short hike to the Marine Iguana nesting site. The walk back is through a Prickly Pear forest carpeted in crimson Sesuvium with black lava outcroppings home to more marine iguana colonies. Box Lunch on the beach. Welcome Cocktail. Briefing and Dinner.
# DAY 2: SANTA CRUZ – FLOREANA
AM: Wake-up call at 6:30 AM. Staff will call for your luggage at 7:00 AM for transport to dock.. Breakfast. 8:00 AM departure. To our Tortoise Quest Tour.This tour begins with a trip to “Los Gemelos” (The Twins), two enormous collapsed lava chambers – an awe-inspiring visual reminder of the power of nature. The short, easy hike to each of the twins is teeming with endemic flora and fauna, including the remaining Scalesia Forest draped in Liverwort, large and small tree finches, the adorable Vermillion flycatcher and more. It’s a wonderful introduction to the majestic power of the forces of natures and the great biodiversity of the Santa Cruz Highlands. Afterwards, we will visit a 600-acre private reserve where the giant Galapagos tortoises freely roam, graze and sleep. Sometimes, it’s a bit muddy here, so before we set out, there is a selection of field boots to choose from, large sizes for men are available. You will be transported through this tropical environment by truck and from there, you walk through fields to mingle with these gentle giants. As prehistoric as these creatures look, wait until you hear what they sound like! After visiting the tortoises, we’ll take a 5-minute ride to the entrance of a 450 meter (1350 feet) illuminated lava tunnel. With a ceiling nearly 20 feet high in most places, this is an incredible opportunity to ramble through the remnants of one of the most powerful forces in nature…lava flows. Stalagmites, stalactites, sulfur and mineral colored walls and the rippled form of a floor of lava can all be experienced in this uniquely Galapagos stroll.
PM: Return to Aventura Lodge for Lunch. 2:00 PM departure for Floreana. Sailing time is 1.5 – 2 hours. We will arrive into Floreana at approximately 4PM. First, we will cruise a cove called “Luz del Dia” (Light of Day). There is an abundance of life in this cove. You will most likely see penguins and sea lions on the steep, rocky shore and rays and tropical fish beneath the clear waters. We will continue on to the main dock in Floreana. It’s not unusual to have to ‘shoo’ sea lions sleeping on the steps we need to ascend. On the other side of the dock are black lava rocks typically full of the amazing rich red and turquoise colored Floreana marine iguanas. We will continue on to our Red Mangrove Floreana Lodge for check-in. Briefing and a BBQ Dinner at the Lodge at 7:30 PM
# DAY 3: FLOREANA – ISABELA
AM: Wake-up call at 6:30 AM. Staff will call for your luggage at 7:00 AM for transport to dock. Breakfast. 8:00 AM departure in an open-air bus that will transport you up to the highlands of Floreana while your Naturalist Guide begins filling you in on the history of this, the first settled island in the Galapagos. You will walk up to see the Asilo de la Paz (Peace Asylum) where the spring is located, an artisan spring that attracted pirates, whalers and later settlers to Floreana as it was one of the very few year round sources of fresh water in the Galapagos. The Cueva de los Piratas (Pirate’s Cave) is quite literally where pirates carved temporary shelter out of soft stone and is also where one of the original settlers, Margret Wittmer, gave birth to a son, Rolf, who is still living. Some have almost jokingly referred to it as the ‘Stonehenge’ of Floreana due to its interesting shapes. Cerro Pajas (Bird Hill) truly lives up to its name with a multitude of Floreana Finches. It also offers spectacular views of the island and the sea below. We will visit a tortoise reserve where you can watch many of the giant tortoises up close and personal. All the while, your Naturalist Guide will be pointing out the wildlife and filling you in on the colorful history of Floreana’s first inhabitants like the Baroness and re-telling the legend of the “Floreana Mystery” which entailed the mysterious deaths of several inhabitants. It has never been solved. Departure at 11:00 AM for Isabela. Sailing time is 1.5 – 2 hours.
MID-DAY: Weather and tides permitted, as we approach Isabela by sea, we will cruise by Isla Tortuga which is chocked full of frigates, blue-footed boobies and other birds that rely on the sea for their food. If you brought binoculars, this is a good time to pull them out. We will arrive into Isabela between 12:30 and 1:00 PM. Arriving in the port is a visual feast with stunning green and turquoise waters so clear, you can see sea turtles, sea lions and penguins as though looking through glass. We will check-in to the Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge and have a hot, wholesome lunch.
PM: 2:30 PM departure to Las Tintoreras and Bay Tour. After lunch, we will board a smaller craft to head out across the port, slowing down to view blue footed boobies and Galapagos penguins sharing the same rocky, sunning space before turning a bend and docking. From there, we take an intriguing walk through a jagged ‘AA’ lava field, passing abundant colonies of marine iguanas, to see a small canal full of resting white-tipped reef sharks…if the tide is low, they are sometimes a mere 2 feet below the surface. The views from here are something you may carry with you for the rest of your life! The black, treacherous lava field, the emerald green sea, the forest green mangrove and the cloud capped volcanoes of Isla Isabela is the sort of afternoon backdrop you are not likely to ever forget. Once you return to the dock, you can snorkel this warm, shallow bay surrounded by mangrove, for an opportunity to see white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, penguins and, of course, the mystery of the mangrove below the surface. Don’t worry, white-tipped reef sharks are not aggressive, merely fascinating.
We’ll have a bit of time to relax and shower before briefing and dinner in the Lodge at 7:00 PM
# DAY 4: ISABELA
AM: Wake-up call 6:30 AM. Breakfast. Depart for Sierra Negra at 8:00 AM. 4×4 vehicles will drive us up through the transitional zone and into the humid highlands that are the slopes of Volcan Sierra Negra to the point of where vehicles can go no further. Here, we will mount horses to continue our journey. Horses are tame, trail horses, however, there is the option to walk. The trail is quite muddy and it does take a bit longer on foot. After a gorgeous ride / hike, we arrive to the caldera of Sierra Negra, the second largest in the world at 4 miles across. The views are breathtaking! We will relax a bit and have a snack on the edge of the caldera. For the more hardy of the group, the option exists to walk an especially difficult hour further to Volcan Chico, where fumarole activity is abundant and again, the views are spectacular. This is not an easy hike, however, as it is mostly across lava fields on slopes.
PM: After returning from Sierra Negra, we will have a late lunch at the Lodge, around 2:30. We will then have a free afternoon. Most people are ready to catch up on a bit of rest and relaxation at this point in the tour. Many prefer to laze on the beautiful beach or climb on the rocks to take photos of the marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies. If you wish, near the main dock of Isabela is a beautiful walk through the mangrove that leads to an area known as Concha de Perla. In the shallow waters there is a sea turtle ‘cleaning station’. It’s a great place to snorkel and see these creatures from a few feet away. Briefing and dinner in the Lodge at 7:00 PM.
# DAY 5: ISABELA – SANTA CRUZ
AM: Wake-up call 6:30 AM. Staff will call for your luggage at 7:00 AM for transport to dock.
Breakfast. 8:00 AM departure for tour. We begin with a drive out of town along the most beautiful, white sand, palm lined beach in the whole of the Galapagos, Long Beach. This travel magazine cover stretches on for 3 kilometers before we hit the National Park and begin with a stop to walk up the stairs for astounding vistas from the top of Cerro Orchilla. As you drive down the road, you will very likely see the largest of the Galapagos marine iguanas sunning by the side of the road and don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a Galapagos tortoise to cross the road in front of you. You will visit the “Muro de Las Lagrimas” (Wall of Tears), backbreaking effort carrying jagged volcanic rock distances when constructed by prisoners of a penal colony built there. The path to the Wall of Tears is abundant with lava lizards, the males are larger and striped and the females red-throated. If you visit during breeding season, be careful not to step on or disturb the many nests along this trail. They appear as holes that a gopher might have dug, but in fact are nests. Birds are also incredibly abundant and your Naturalist Guide will assist you with identification. Isabela has more tortoises in the wild than any other island with several sub-species as lava fields created a barrier that limited their mobility to freely roam. On your way back to town, you will visit the Interpretation Center, a breeding center for the giant Galapagos Tortoises and the only place to view the rare, remaining flat backed (so-called ‘tabletop’ shells) Galapagos tortoises, many of which still bear the scars of volcanic activity from Sierra Negra. At roughly 11:00 AM, we will depart Isabela for Santa Cruz. Sailing time is 1.5 – 2 hours.
PM: We arrive into Puerto Ayora around 12:30 / 1:00 PM. We will check into the Aventura Lodge and have lunch. We depart at 3:00 PM for a guided tour of the fascinating Charles Darwin Research Station. After the Darwin Station, there will be some free time to shop for souvenirs or browse the shops along Charles Darwin Avenue. Dinner is at 7:00 PM at the Aventura Lodge.
# DAY 6: SANTA CRUZ – QUITO/GUAYQUIL
AM: Wake-up call will and breakfast will depend on your flight departure time.
DEPARTURE: You will need to depart 3 hours before your flight in order to be assured of arriving back at the Baltra Airport the requested 1.5 hours before your flight. We will transport you from the hotel to the airport, accompany you on the ferry over to the airport and assist you the whole way with your baggage. Before entering the ‘gate’ to depart, you will pass through a line where you need to present the part of your Migratory Control card you have carefully guarded and now have handy for the Immigration officer.
RATES ARE PER PERSON AND INCLUDE
* Local taxes (12% VAT and 10% service)
* Transfers IN / OUT
* Welcome cocktail
* Access to Private Terrace, wireless internet in rooms and social areas
* 5 Nights of accommodation at Aventura, Floreana and Isabela Lodge.
* All meals included in a fixed menu basis.
* Excursions with Bilingual Guide (English- Spanish).
* Navigations between islands
* Use of bikes in Puerto Ayora
* 25% discount for children under10 years old.
RATES DO NOT INCLUDE
* Air ticket to /from Galapagos.
* Entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park ($100 International visitors, and $6 Ecuadorians).
* Control Visitor Card ($10).
* Personal expenses.
* Gratuities and tips
Please NOTE: The sequence of these programs may vary according to seasonal weather variations.