Western Islands on the Santa Cruz
DAY 1 - Wednesday
Arrive by air from mainland Ecuador at Baltra Island and transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz where you will receive a welcome introductory briefing 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 frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas.
DAY 2 - Thursday
Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)
After breakfast, explore the coast by panga, while your naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area, nesting place for one of the unique Galápagos birds - the flightless cormorant. Depending on weather conditions, you 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, 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 Lightfoot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant. Following the walk, weather permitting, you can go snorkelling.
DAY 3 - Friday
Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)
After breakfast, land at Tagus 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 Darwin Crater (pictured left), filled with salt water and to a dramatic viewpoint. After the walk, take a panga ride to look for local wildlife, with the possibility of swimming or snorkelling.
Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)
After lunch disembark at Urbina Bay, the fascinating result of an uplifting of the ocean in 1954. Here you can admire corals, shells and many other calcareous organisms exposed above water. First you can enjoy a snorkel from the beach, with the chance of swimming with flightless cormorants and penguins. This area is also home to the large and very colourful Galápagos land iguanas, and occasionally to giant tortoises. Return back on board.
DAY 4 - Saturday
Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
In the morning, disembark (dry landing) for the visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens 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 your visit, board your transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.
Santa Cruz Island
There are several options available for the afternoon, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader:
1. Trek along trails amid miconia forest in the highlands, home to many elusive birds including the dark-rumped petrel.
2. Mountain bike (mostly downhill) to Garrapatero Beach.
3. Sea kayak and relax on a beautiful, sandy beach.
4. Experience sustainable agriculture in an organic coffee plantation.
At the end of the afternoon’s activities, return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the M/V Santa Cruz.
DAY 5 - Sunday
Post Office Bay and Baroness Cove (Floreana Island)
A short walk leads to the historic barrel where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand-deliver to their destinations. Near Post Office Bay, explore the north shore of Floreana along narrow channels teeming with life. After a wet landing and a short walk, you will reach Baroness Cove where all will be revealed about the fascinating 'murder mystery' on Floreana. You will then head back on board for lunch.
Champion Islet and Cormorant Point (Floreana Island)
Following lunch and a siesta, take to the pangas and glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater wonders around volcanic Champion Islet, 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 greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. Continue your walk over to a white-sand beach, where sea turtles emerge from the sea at night to nest (from December to May).
DAY 6 - Monday
Disembark at Baltra Island in order to transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland.