Your trip begins today in Quito, Ecuador. Arrive in Quito this afternoon, pass through customs, gather your luggage and proceed to the new Wyndham Quito Airport hotel for the evening. Dinner on your own.
It's off to the Galapagos Islands this morning to rendezvous with our lead guide! We fly 600 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the island of San Cristobal. Upon arrival in the Galapagos you are obligated to pay a $100 park entrance fee; you should have this in U.S. dollars. After lunch, we head out for an afternoon of exploration. Our first stop is the Interpretation Center where we learn about the volcanic formation of the Galapagos Archipelago and the unique evolution of life on the islands. Then, as we approach Frigate Hill, we'll be on the lookout for blue-footed boobies, the magnificent frigate bird, Darwin finches and much more. On our way back to our lodging, we stop to snorkel at either Carola or Mann Beach. In the evening we explore the small town of Port Baquerizo Moreno before dining at our waterfront hotel. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 miles, about 2 hours, Snorkeling: 1-2 hours.
We start today spending the morning paddling along the coast, past Carola Beach and into Darwin Bay, the site of the first landing of HMS Beagle. The route is home to colonies of sea lions, marine turtles, blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Following lunch, we take a motor yacht to either Cerro Brujo, Punta Pitt or Leon Dormido (known locally as Kicker Rock). Which destination we will enjoy excellent snorkeling at will depend on available park permits. There is a good chance of seeing Galapagos sharks, eagles and golden rays, as well as dozens of species of tropical fish, clams, starfish and marine invertebrates. With a little luck we may also swim with hammerhead and whitetip sharks. Dinner will be preceded by a demonstration in the art of making tasty ceviche. All meals included.
Kayaking: 3 hours; Snorkeling: 2-3 hours.
This morning, we say goodbye to San Cristobal and take a quick small-plane ride to Isabela Island. Five of the six volcanoes on Isabela remain active, making this island one of the most volcanically active places on earth. With miles of unpaved, sandy streets, mountain bikes are the perfect way to explore the island. With our bikes, we cycle to el Muro de las Lagrimas (the Wall of Tears). When Isabela was used as a penal colony, prisoners were forced to construct this towering wall of lava rocks for no other reason than to keep them distracted from the madness of isolation. After lunch, we kayak explore Tintoreras, a set of small islets filled with hidden coves and beaches. At the end of the day, we retire to our hotel to relax or take a stroll down along the seemingly endless white sand beach. All meals included.
Mountain biking: 8-10 miles, unpaved, sand and gravel roads with some rolling hills; Kayaking: 2 hours.
Today we explore the fascinating Galapagos Highlands! We get an early start this morning to begin our hike over rugged terrain to the rim of Sierra Negra Volcano (3,688'), the second largest intact caldera in the world. The trail leads us to the volcano?s rim, offering fantastic views of the massive lava-filled caldera as well as the other volcanoes beyond and the surrounding coastline. After catching our breath, we can opt to continue along the trail to the Chico Volcano (2,821'). With its puffing fumaroles and striking lava formations, it offers an out-of-this-world environment and many examples of the dramatic geological events that have forged the Galapagos Islands over millennia. In the afternoon, we return to our hotel with free time to wander the beach, swim or watch the iguanas and sea lions before dinner at our hotel. All meals included.
Hiking: 6-9 miles. Up to 5 hours. Cumulative elevation gain 1,260'. Terrain: uneven trails that may include slippery or rocky sections.
After breakfast, we transfer two hours by boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, we check in to the hotel before heading to the interior highlands of Santa Cruz, the natural habitat of the Santa Cruz tortoise. The most recognized symbol of the Galapagos, the tortoise weighs over 500 pounds and may have a shell measuring almost five feet! We continue on to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where we learn about conservation and management efforts in the archipelago. After a full day, we relax at our hotel in one of the most magical places on earth. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 miles, 2 hours.
Today we start our day by slipping into our kayaks and paddling around Divine Bay and Punta Estrada, traveling through multiple lava channels filled with calm, turquoise waters. Within the channels, whitetip sharks and rays patrol beneath the waves while colonies of blue footed-boobies, tropic birds, herons and marine iguanas perch along the jagged cliffs. Lunch at a local restaurant followed by a short walk to Tortuga Bay where we can swim or snorkel. Tortuga Bay features a beautiful white sandy beach and is a nesting area for thousands of marine turtles. On land there are colonies of marine iguanas and sea lions while a dive underwater reveals vibrant marine life. After some free time in town, meet back at the hotel for a very special dinner with a local scientist stationed on the island. All meals included.
Kayaking: 2 hours. Hiking: 1.5 miles, 1 hour.
After bidding farewell to our guide, we journey back to Quito. We depart our hotel on Santa Cruz by vehicle followed by a 15-minute boat ride across the Itabaca Channel to the Island of Baltra. During WWII, Baltra was a U.S. Army Air Force base and today stands as an Ecuadorian military base. Upon docking in Baltra, we join other travelers on the bus to the Baltra airport where we board our flight to Quito. Our returning flight to Quito generally arrives in the afternoon or evening, however weather and other factors may vary our arrival time. Book your flights home after 11:59pm or layover for a night in Quito before returning home the next day.