southern/central route Day 1:
It is best to fly into Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal where the crew will greet you upon arrival and escort you to the yacht anchored in the bay. After the welcome briefing and safety drill, a delicious buffet lunch is served. After lunch you will travel by bus to Cerro Tijeretas or “Frigatebird Hill” situated just outside town. This is one of two sites where you can spot nesting colonies of both species of Frigate birds. The trail also leads to Punta Carola where there are beautiful vistas to see. You will find lava lizards, the medium ground finch and Chatham mockingbird. After you will return to the yacht for the Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner prepared by culinary trained chefs.
In the morning the yacht will arrive to Cerro Brujo, a breathtaking white coral beach, considered one of the most spectacular in Galapagos and perfect for a peaceful walk with expansive views and excellent bird watching. Here you will have an opportunity to kayak from the beach, swim with sea lions, or take a Zodiac ride that will take you through a cave called The Cathedral. During lunch, the yacht will cruise toward the northeastern tip of San Cristobal, to Punta Pitt, a tuff formation that serves as a nesting site for many sea birds and a colony of sea lions. Punta Pitt is considered to be a first class site for bird watching and on par with Genovesa (Tower) Island. Here you can snorkel at Pitt Rock with sea lions and colorful fish. After you will return to the yacht to cruise around Leon Dormido or “Kicker Rock”, a vertical tuff cone formation that rises abruptly almost 500 feet out of the ocean. On the cliffs, we spot Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and Magnificent Frigate birds.
The yacht will disembark at Punta Suarez, Espanola (Hood), where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in the Galapagos. Sea lions noisily greet us as we land on their beach. Curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to December, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in “sky-pointing” to show off for potential mates. Nazca boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls are the only nocturnal gulls in the world and fish at night. Red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique species of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous “blow hole”. After lunch you will have a wet landing on Gardner Bay, Espanola (Hood), walk along seemingly endless stretch of this white sandy beach where you’ll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore or take a long walk. You may find a Galapagos Hawk, Darwin’s Finches or Hood Mockingbird. Swim with sea lions right from the beach, explore the bay and islets by kayak or just relax on the beach.
Step ashore at Punta Cormorant, Floreana (Charles), one of the few populated islands in the Galapagos. Floreana presents a rich human history with mystery and intrigue. Set foot on a green-sand beach alive with the sounds of sea lions, lava herons, yellow crowned night heron, blue footed boobies and penguins. Follow a trail to a brackish lagoon, home of the Bahama ducks, common stilts, Galapagos Flycatcher, Yellow warblers and the Greater Flamingos, the pinkest in the world! Wind your way past a rich variety of plants including Morning Glory, Cut Leaf Daisies, Black, red and white mangroves. The trail leads to a beach with powder soft sand where sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes and sting rays swim in the shallow water. After the walk, we have an opportunity to snorkel at Devil’s Crown or Champion, a shallow sunken crater colonized by a brilliant array of colorful fish and corral, white-tipped sharks, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and sea stars. Today your lunch will be served on the sundeck if weather conditions permit. After lunch, you will visit Post office Bay, not the most scenic, but one of the most famous sites in Galapagos where a post barrel was erected and put into use in the late 18th Century by English whaling vessels. You are invited to leave a post card and to pick up any mail from your home area. In the afternoon take a Zodiac ride near Baroness Point where we spot sea turtles and rays. We return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner.
We travel by bus to the highlands of SANTA CRUZ Island. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. Here, we visit the tortoise reserve at “Las Primicias” one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat. We stop at “the tunnels”, the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. We visit Los Gemelos, Spanish for “The Twins”, a pair of large pit craters where we may see the red male vermilion flycatcher. Next, we visit Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena (aka the Charles Darwin Research Station). We visit the tortoise and land iguana corals and the breeding center with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Lonesome George is no longer with us but there is Diego, “The Professor” who has been more successful at mating. Puerto Ayora is the social heart of the islands with the largest population of 24,000. After lunch and briefing on board, we return to town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet cafe. You have the option to remain in town on your own account to stimulate the local economy or you can return to the boat for dinner. There is a schedule for zodiac transportation from the yacht to town later in the evening.
We disembark at BARTOLOME, where it seems like we are walking on the moon. This young Island is inhospitable to most plants and animals. After a dry landing, climb 30 minutes up stairs leading to the summit of a once active volcano. Along the way, we pause to marvel at lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. From the top of the wooden stairs, we can gaze out across the island for a panoramic view of the island and “Pinnacle Rock”, an eroded tuff cone. Crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel from the beach with schools of tropical fish and Galapagos Penguins or take a Zodiac ride. After lunch, we visit Las Bachas, Spanish for “barges”. There is a long stretch of a soft white sand beach and interior lagoons where we find the Greater Flamingo. There is also a wonderful chance to snorkel here from the beach. Located off the Southern tip of Santiago is Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) that owes its name to its shape. After a wet beach landing with sea lion colonies, the trail gives way to a primeval landscape of volcanic rubble including cracked lava formations and lava tubes. We find marine iguanas and pairs of oystercatchers. You can choose to snorkel at a site that is frequented by Galapagos penguins. There is a briefing followed by dinner while we anchor in a calm protected area.
Today we visit SOUTH PLAZA, a small geological uplift with tall cliffs offering spectacular views. After a dry landing, the trail leads us through Prickly Pear or Opuntia and Sesuvium. Here we can find the Galapagos Land Iguana feeding on the cactus leaves. Toward the end of the hill, we encounter a colony of bachelor sea lions. The dominant bulls are in various stages of recovery from battles lost over prime beach territory. We also find Swallow tailed gulls, Shearwaters and Red-billed tropicbirds who build their nests along the cliffs. After lunch, we have a dry landing at North Seymour, a small geological uplift. We follow a trail that leads us to Swallow-tailed gulls, Blue-footed boobies and the endemic Land iguanas. Visit the largest colony of Magnificent Frigate birds found in Galapagos. As we stroll along the beach, we find Marine Iguanas and sea lions body surf the northern swells. We return to the yacht for the Captain’s Farwell cocktail party and dinner as well as a special slide show presentation by your guides.
We visit the Interpretation Center opened on San Cristobal Island in 1999 by bus. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the Islands. Afterwards, we spend time in port before heading to the airport for our flight back to the mainland departing before noon time on Aerogal.
Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, SAN CRISTOBAL, our crew is waiting at the airport to escort you by bus to the dock and then by Zodiac to your yacht anchored in the bay. After the welcome briefing and safety drill, a delicious buffet lunch is served. We travel by bus to the highlands to visit Centro de Crianza Jacinto Gordillo (La Galapaguera Cerro Colorado) where the National Park has established a breeding program for the giant land tortoises that you will encounter in their natural habitat. Learn about their origin, evolution and threats by introduced animals at the information center for visitors. Along the trail, we find the San Cristobal (Chatham) mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island. Join your fellow yacht mates this evening for your first briefing followed by our Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner prepared by our well-trained chefs.
We spend the entire day on TOWER (Genovesa), considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species. We have a wet-landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where Swallow-tailed and Lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of Great Frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich inter tidal zone where we find a wide diversity of wildlife. After lunch, we have a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca Boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, we find Storm Petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, we will see the elusive Short-eared owl. Look for the beautiful Red-billed Tropic bird found in the crevices along the cliff by kayak or Zodiac. You can choose to swim or snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters or for those with experience, we offer snorkeling in deeper water. Return to the yacht for briefing and dinner before we cross the equator.
Today we visit Las Bachas, which is the Spanish translation for “barges”. There is a long stretch of a soft white sand beach and interior lagoons where we find the Greater Flamingo, pelicans, white-cheeked pintail ducks, stilts and iguanas. There is also a wonderful chance to take a stroll along the beach or swim from the shore. At Black Turtle Cove (Caleta Tortuga Negra) we have a zodiac ride through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. Here you can view pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks and golden cow-nosed rays. Located on the northern tip of Santa Cruz is Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill). Along the trail, we find Darwin Finches, Galapagos Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers, Audubon Shearwater and the endemic land iguanas, orange-yellow in color with large spines along their backs, were once part of the Darwin Station’s breeding program. We find pink flamingos feeding in the salt-water lagoon as well as other lagoon birds; stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers and more. From the top of the hill, we enjoy a majestic view of the bay island covered in Opuntia cactus, Palo Santo and Cordia Lutea (muyuyu). After the briefing and dinner, we sail toward the western islands and cross the equator line for the third time.
We have a semi-wet landing at Punta Espinoza, FERNANDINA, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galapagos with no introduced mammals. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Hundreds of Marine Iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, bask in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory. Flightless Cormorants build their nest on the point and Galapagos Hawks fly overhead. There is a chance to snorkel here with sea turtles and marine iguanas. After lunch, we cross the Bolivar Chanel where we often spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave.
We disembark at Urbina Bay, ISABELA, where we find four miles of its coastal seabed, with marine life exposed due to a dramatic uplift in 1954 when the volcano erupted. The marine remnants of coral skeletons, some of them waist-high, are visited after a wet landing on the beach. Urbina is home to the very large and colorful Galapagos land iguanas, giant tortoises and Darwin Finches. Brown Pelicans and Flightless Cormorants also nest here. Giant Marine Iguanas are seen along the coast. You may encounter penguins while snorkeling here. At Punta Vicente Roca, a Zodiac ride offers an incredible view of the tuff walls, we can enter the wave-sculpted cave and find sea turtles and penguins, flightless cormorants and fur seals who frequent this area. You may spot the dorsal fin of a Mola Mola, an odd looking giant sun fish. Return to the yacht for briefing and dinner.
We visit Elizabeth Bay, ISABELA by zodiac starting with a visit to a secluded cove, lined with large red mangrove trees. Here, turtles, rays, and shore birds can be seen. We motor to the rocky islets known as “Las Marielas”, where a colony of nesting Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and giant Marine Iguanas are found. Isabela was created when six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest Island in Galapagos. Today, lunch is served out on the sun deck in a calm bay. We have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western Island of ISABELA and a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti dating back to the 1800’s is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the Coves by Zodiac or kayak to find Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, Boobies, Pelicans and other seabirds. An uphill hike brings us to a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. An excellent snorkeling site is offered from the zodiac or take out a Kayak and explore the shoreline. After dinner, a sky full of stars beckons to go on deck and observe the galaxy while crossing the equator for the last time.
We stroll along the shoreline at Puerto Egas, SANTIAGO (James) looking for octopus, starfish and other sea life caught in the tide pools. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American oystercatchers and yellow-crowned night herons. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction. Before returning to the yacht, there is a snorkeling opportunity. After lunch, take a seat on deck to view the dramatic landscape and dolphins that are often spotted here. We disembark on RABIDA (Jervis), located near James Island. Rabida is considered the geographic center of Galapagos because this island sports the most diversified volcanic rocks. The dark red sand beach originated from the high content of iron in the volcanic stones. While strolling along the trail, you may find marine iguanas, mocking birds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin Finches leading to a salt water lagoon. After the walk, there is not-to-miss snorkeling option with tropical fish, white tipped sharks and sea lions. We return to the yacht for dinner and a briefing.
We travel by bus to the highlands of SANTA CRUZ Island. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. Here, we visit the tortoise reserve at “Las Primicias” one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat. We stop at “the tunnels”, the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. After lunch, we will have our last briefing. Today we visit the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena (Charles Darwin Research Station). See all three tortoise corals and the breeding center with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology. We stop at Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits. Visitors can see the tortoise and land iguana corrals. Puerto Ayora is the social heart of the islands with the largest population of 24,000 inhabitants. This evening you have the option to return to your yacht for the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail and dinner. Zodiacs will be provided for those who chose to return to town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet café.
We visit the Interpretation Center opened on San Cristobal Island in 1999 by bus. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the Islands. Afterwards, we spend an hour in port before heading to the airport for our flight back to the mainland departing before noon time.