We arrive by plane at Baltra Island and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II where we receive our welcome introductory briefing, boat drill and lunch.
North Seymour Island
This is a great introductory site to the islands and their wildlife, full of bird colonies of blue-footed boobies, two species of frigatebirds, swallow tailed gulls, as well as Galapagos sea lions and marine iguanas.
Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)
After breakfast, we explore the coast by panga, while our naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area and shows us a nesting place for a Galapagos highlight: Flightless cormorants. Depending on weather conditions, we can snorkel along the cliffs of this area rich in marine life, seasonally-visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola).
Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)
The afternoon is dedicated to exploring the youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina Island, which, having no introduced mammals, boasts a very unique environment with a very high density of marine iguanas, who share their space with sea lions, Sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorants.
Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)
After breakfast, we land at this cove on the northwest of Isabela. It provided a favourite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. An uphill hike takes guests to the rim of a crater, where we can observe Darwin Lake, filled with salt water, and to a dramatic viewpoint. After our walk, we take a panga ride to spot local wildlife, with the possibility of swimming or snorkelling.
Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)
After lunch we disembark at Urbina Bay, the fascinating result of an uplifting of the ocean floor in 1954. Here we can admire corals, shells and many other calcareous organisms exposed above water. First we enjoy a snorkel from the beach, with the chance of swimming with flightless cormorants. This area is also home to large and very colourful Galapagos land iguanas, and occasionally to Galapagos giant tortoises. We return back on board for our expedition plan for Saturday and dinner.
Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
In the morning, we disembark (dry landing) for our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise Breeding Centre within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Following our visit, we board our transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.
Santa Cruz Island
We have several midday and afternoon options available (mountain biking, kayaking in Tortuga Bay, hiking), which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, we return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Santa Cruz II.
Post Office Bay (Floreana Island)
A short walk leads us to the historic barrel where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand-deliver to their destinations. Near Post Office Bay, we explore the north shore of Floreana Island along narrow channels teeming with life. We then head back on board for lunch.
Champion Islet and Cormorant Point (Floreana Island)
Following lunch and a siesta, we take to the pangas and glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet, an extinct shield volcano, regarded as one of the best snorkelling spots in the archipelago. From there, it’s on to Cormorant Point, beginning with a wet landing on the olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species such as American flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. We continue our walk to a white-sand beach, where sea turtles emerge from the sea at night to nest (from December to May).
We disembark at Baltra Island in order to transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland.