Enchanted Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Natural History and Photo Adventure

April 2 to 15, 2017 (Full)

April 2018 dates and price TBA

Trip Price $6,995 

Explore and Photograph the Galapagos Islands Aboard the yacht Samba. Spend 10 nights and 11 days exploring, photographing and snorkeling in this enchanted tropical paradise of unique flora and fauna with photographer Hugh Rose and outstanding Galapagos Guide Juan Manuel Salcedo.

Itinerary At A Glance:

Starting Sunday April 2 in Quito:

  • SUNDAY, April 2: Quito- Arrive on international flights transfer for overnight at Hotel  Relicario del Carmen
  • MONDAY, April 3: Quito- Included tour to BellaVista cloud forest preserve and hummingbird sanctuary, Welcome Dinner, overnight at Hotel  Relicario del Carmen
  • TUESDAY, April 4: Quito- Fly from Quito Airport to Baltra Airport located in the Galapagos Islands and board the yacht Samba mid day for lunch (flight included)

GALAPAGOS; NORTH, WEST AND SOUTHERN ISLANDS ON BOARD THE SAMBA:

TUE, April 4: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

  • AM: Airport-Baltra
  • PM: Las Bachas (Landing and Swimming)

WED, April 5: GENOVESA ISLAND

  • AM: DARWIN’S BEACH (Landing)
  • PM: DARWIN’S BAY (Snorkel and Zodiac Cruise); PRINCE PHILIP’S STEPS (Landing)

THU, April 6: MARCHENA ISLAND

  • AM: PUNTA MEJIA (Snorkeling)
  • PM: PLAYA NEGRA  (landing to Snorkel)

FRI, April 7: ISABELA ISLAND

  • AM: PUNTA ALBEMARLE (Landing)
  • PM: PUNTA VICENTE ROCA (Snorkeling and Zodiac Cruise)

SAT, April 8: FERNANDINA  AND ISABELA ISLANDS

  • AM: PUNTA ESPINOSA  (Landing and Snorkeling)
  • PM: URBINA BAY (Landing and Swimming)

SUN, April 9: ISABELA ISLAND

  • AM: ELIZABETH BAY (Zodiac Cruise in Mangrove Swamp and Snorkeling)
  • PM: PUNTA MORENO (Landing and Snorkeling)

MON, April 10: FLOREANA ISLAND

  • AM: HIGHLANDS/PIRATE CAVE/FRESHWATER SPRING/ASILIO DE LA PAZ (Landing)
  • PM: La LOBERIA(Snorkeling)

TUE, April 11: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

  • AM: LOS GEMELOS AND HIGHLANDS (Landing)
  • PM: CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION (Landing and Swimming); PTO AYORA (Landing)

WED, April 12: FLOREANA ISLAND

  • AM: PUNTA CORMORANT (Landing); CHAMPION AND DEVIL’S CROWN (Snorkeling)
  • PM:POST OFFICE BAY (Landing); BARONESS LOOKOUT (Kayak, Swim, Landing)

THU, April 13: ESPAÑOLA ISLAND

  • AM: PUNTA SUAREZ (Landing); GARDNER ISLAND (Snorkeling)
  • PM: GARDNER BAY (Landing and Snorkeling)

FRI, April 14: SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND

  • AM: Kicker Rock/Leon Dormido  (Snorkeling)
  • PM: AIRPORT  (Flight back to Guayaquil)

Friday April,15: PM arrive back in Quito transfer to Hotel  Relicario del Carmen, farewell dinner
Saturday April, 16: Transfers to Quito Airport and board flights to return home or travel on Mainland Ecuador

Check out my Galapagos Island photos taken on this trip!

Friendly wildlife of the Galapagos

DETAILED ITINERARY: QUITO, ECUADOR AND ON BOARD THE SAMBA APRIL 2 TO APRIL 15, 2017

SUNDAY, APRIL 2: ARRIVAL IN Quito

All Day: Arrive in Quito and transfer to Hotel  Relicario del Carmen, overnight Hotel  Relicario del Carmen.

MONDAY, APRIL 3: QUITO, DAY TOUR TO BELLA VISTA CLOUD FOREST RESERVE 

After breakfast at Relicario del Carmen, we will depart at 8:00 AM on a two hour drive going west from Quito, which will take us over the equator and eventually lead to the misty western side of the Andes Mountains.  As we descend the Pacific side of the Andes we will be entering the “cloud forest”.  These medium elevations receive a substantial annual rainfall and as a result are extremely lush and home to a great diversity of flora and fauna.  Our destination for the day is Bella Vista Cloud Forest Preserve.  Bella Vista has roughly 35 species of hummingbirds that frequent their lodge and many other species of tropical birds are regularly seen around the lodge.  After eating lunch at the lodge , for anyone keen to observe or photograph hummingbirds at close range you will have ample time to wander the grounds around the lodge.  For those who would like stretch their legs and see more of the medium elevation rainforest, a naturalist led walk on trails through the forest by the lodge will be offered.   Mid-afternoon we will start the drive back to Quito, making a stop at the “Mitad del Mundo” (Equator) museum.  After time to clean up from our days outing we will meet for a welcome dinner of traditional Ecuadorian food at a nearby restaurant in the Old City of Quito.

Overnight at Hotel Relicario del Carmen

TUESDAY, APRIL 4: QUITO TRANSFER TO AIRPORT:

After an early breakfast we will depart for the Quito airport to catch our 9:00 AM flight to Baltra and the Galapagos!

OCEANIC FORCES AND ENCHANTED LAND: NORTH, WEST & EAST ITINERARY:

TUESDAY, APRIL 4: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (INDEFATIGABLE)

  • AM: BALTRA AIRPORT
  • PM: LAS BACHAS, Santa Cruz Island

On arrival at Baltra Airport all visitors will get their hand luggage checked through the quarantine system run by the Galapagos National Park Service. We will then be met by Juan Manuel Salcedo, who will assist us with our luggage collection and accompany us on the short bus ride to the harbor where we board the Samba.

After a light lunch the Samba will navigate for 25 minutes to Las Bachas. These are organic white sand beaches located on the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island and they are the most important nesting site for the green Pacific sea turtle found in the Galapagos. The beaches were named Las Bachas after the American military occupation of Baltra during the Second World War, when two barges were abandoned on the beach by the military and locals could not pronounce “barges”, hence the name “Las Bachas”.  The place is a peaceful and beautiful introduction to the Enchanted Islands, where warm water and gentle surf make for excellent swimming and abundant wildlife provide great photographic subjects. On the beach we will encounter marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs, and blue footed boobies and brown pelicans diving just offshore.  Patrolling frigate birds, always looking for a meal, watch for movement in the sands, which indicates Green Pacific sea turtles are just beginning to hatch in their nests buried deep in the sand and will be an easy meal for the hungry “pirates of the sky”.   In a nearby lagoon, we often find greater flamingos, black necked stilts and other shore birds. This calm and tranquil beach offers a good introduction to snorkeling in the Galapagos and everyone is welcome to swim from the beach.  After our first landing at Las Bachas we will begin the overnight navigation to our landing site for the following day.

Great Blue Heron

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5; GENOVESA ISLAND (TOWER)

  • AM: DARWIN’S BEACH
  • PM: DARWIN BAY/ PRINCE PHILIP’S STEPS

After the 6 to 7 hour navigation from Santa Cruz Island to Tower or “Genovesa” Island (all the Galapagos Islands have two names, one in English and the other in Spanish), we will wake up to the wonderful cacophony of one of the largest tropical sea bird colonies on the planet. The cliff tops are decorated with frigate birds, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallow tailed gulls, tropic birds and many other pelagic species. Darwin Bay, where we will be landing at first light is home to thousands of nesting sea birds. After an early breakfast we will land at a small beach to take advantage of early morning light and greater wildlife activity.  Red-footed boobies will be displaying for potential mates as they collect nesting materials, while great frigate birds perched in nearby trees inflate their gular sacks hoping to attract a female.  Simultaneously, other frigates will be playing their favorite game; piracy, stealing nesting material from red-footed boobies. Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves and mocking birds hop about on the ground looking for seeds and insects. The red mangroves, cactus and saltbushes contrast with the blue sky and the dark basaltic walls, making this location a photographer’s paradise!

Following lunch we will snorkel below the cliff face in the protected waters inside the bay.   Snorkeling at Genovesa offers a view of a wide variety of tropical fish and creatures. Later in the afternoon as the light gets better and wildlife activity picks up we will do a zodiac cruise along the cliffs to watch for displaying tropic birds and make our way across the Bay, to do a dry landing at the base of Prince Philip’s Steps. A steep climb up the steps takes us 100 feet above sea level, to the top of the cliffs that ring Darwin’s Bay.  From this vantage point we are able to watch the aerobatic displays of red billed tropic birds and Galapagos shearwaters from above.  Both bird species display astounding flight skills as they zoom past the cliff edge below our feet!  A lava rock trail takes us through an endemic dwarf incense tree (palo santo) forest, where we will find more red footed and their gannet like relatives, Nazca boobies, nesting. The Palo Santo forest is dormant most of the year, but awakens in the rainy season to leaf and fill the air with a refreshing aroma. After a 15 minute walk, we come to the edge of the Palo Santo forest, where we are greeted by a panorama of thousands of storm petrels flying erratically above lava flows as they return to their nesting burrows to feed their young.  This is a perfect scenario for one of the Galapagos avian predators, the short-eared owl to make a successful kill.  Known elsewhere around the world as a nocturnal predator, on Genovesa it hunts in broad daylight, and we have an excellent chance of seeing them at work!  More cat than owl, it waits patiently on the lava flows, outside lava tunnels and crevasses to capture the storm petrels as they exit their nesting burrows after feeding their young.  We will enjoy sunset while watching and photographing the non-stop bird activity before us!

Short-eared owl at Genovesa Island

THURSDAY, APRIL 6: MARCHENA ISLAND (BINDLOES)

  • AM: PUNTA MEJIA
  • PM: PLAYA NEGRA

All other tour boats that sail in the Galapagos will sail back south after visiting Tower Island; not the Samba!  We are the only boat that sails west-northwest toward the island of Marchena after departing Genovesa. The Galapagos National Park Service granted us the chance of using Marchena’s magical shorelines to snorkel, zodiac cruise and kayak.   In recent times, only scientists have reached the land of Marchena, where forbidding endless and untouched lava flows combine with no fresh water and very little precious soil, to make a foreboding, but beautiful landscape.  The serenity of Bindloe is only disturbed by the murmur and surge of the Pacific swells and musical argument of the cavorting sea lions. Punta Mejía is one of the best sites in the Archipelago to snorkel. The calm and clear deep blue water of the north-west coast, and the dark hostile background topography of the island give the sensation of witnessing the beginning of our planet and its underwater world.  Apart from great fish diversity, when we snorkel we often see rays, hammerhead sharks and sea turtles.

Snorkeling with Yellow-tailed surgeon fish

Navigating southwest for 45 minutes to Playa Negra is always an exciting experience, where we often encounter bottle nosed dolphins, and other cetaceans. An early afternoon snorkel around a recently formed lava grotto where marine iguanas feed and sea lions lounge offers a great opportunity to spend time in the water with Galapagos fur seals. The water in this protected collapsed lava tube is calm and often warmer than the open water, and pups from a small colony of fur seals found in this grotto are curious of these rare human visitors and come over to check us out!  The Galapagos fur seal is the smallest of all the seal species in the world and evolved with no human predators, so they have no fear of us.   The young seals love to swim around snorkelers coming up to our masks where they blow bubbles in our faces!   After returning to the Samba, we begin a 5 to 6 hour sail to the west.  As we navigate west and away from the island, the sea floor drops off dramatically and we cross a 3,000 foot underwater cliff! The Cromwell current, flows from the open Pacific to the west and brings oceanic deep water welling up against this submarine precipice.  This upwelling brings cold, nutrient rich water to the surface and creates unusually food rich, productive water.  As a result, the ocean we transit on this navigation attracts many marine creatures and birds to feed on this abundance of food and we make the navigation during the afternoon in order to be able to watch for large cetaceans and other oceanic wanderers.

Friendly Galapagos fur seal at Marchena Island

FRIDAY, APRIL 7: ISABELA ISLAND (ALBEMARLE)

  • AM: PUNTA ALBEMARLE
  • PM: PUNTA VICENTE ROCA

Human history has left its footprint on this small corner of the Galapagos.  Punta Albemarle, is the farthest north point of Isabela Island, and was once an important US radar installation to detect a Japanese naval attack on the Panama Canal. All that remains of the WWII station is a small, deteriorated shack which serves as a reminder of the long boring watches that young US naval officers spent in the isolated, but unique environment of the Galapagos Islands.  The sailors worked long, three-week shifts and fortunately, never saw any action.  We will spend the morning ashore at this location watching and photographing the species that this location is best known for; Galapagos flightless cormorants, and marine iguanas.  The recent lava flows are the nesting ground of the only flightless cormorant in the world and the basking terrain of the largest marine iguanas of Galapagos. The cormorants, which are normally very shy birds, display and build their bulky nests from seaweed, with total indifference to human presence at this location, because very few boats and tourists visit this site. As the morning advances and the cold-blooded marine iguanas warm, they give a show of adaptation as they wander in to shallow water to feed on green and red algae. In this fantastic historic setting you are reminded that the only constant of the Islands is change, as the wildlife of the Galapagos reclaims the shoreline inhabited by US military personnel 70 years ago!

Our afternoon destination, Punta Vicente Roca, offers an overwhelming diversity of volcanic formations. Located on the southwest end of Ecuador Volcano (Isabela Island) and only a few miles south of latitude 0°, the area displays outstanding examples of how the Islands were formed and how volcanic processes have transformed the landscape. PuntaVicente Roca displays textbook examples of tuff cones and lava dikes and the volcanic ground is constantly eroding and experiencing rockslides. We will look at these dramatic geologic structures from our zzodiacs, as we enjoy watching the Galapagos penguins, brown noddies, blue-footed boobies and other marine life. If the waters are calm enough, we will snorkel along the submarine volcanic cliff face, where huge schools of tropical fish are herded around by playful Galapagos sea lions. The walls of the tuff cone are full of colorful invertebrates and rich algae blooming, which gives us a great chance of watching numerous sea turtles feeding and if we are lucky Galapagos penguins darting along the submarine wall as they herd schools of small fish.

SATURDAY, APRIL 8: FERNANDINA AND ISABELA ISLANDS (NARBOROUGH AND ALBEMARLE)

  • AM: PUNTA ESPINOZA, Fernandina Island
  • PM: URBINA BAY, Isabela Island

Only 30,000-100,000 years old, Fernandina is the youngest island of the Archipelago. This immature shield volcano represents only an instant in geological time! Not even your wildest imagination can give you a better setting to experience the start of life on an island. The entire Island is covered by hostile barren lava, however, at our morning landing site, Punta Espinoza the shoreline is teeming with life. Reptiles, birds and mammals are all coexisting at this location; eating, sleeping, singing, fighting and mating on the same lava rock. It is a living museum with piles of marine iguanas, playful sea lions, hard working flightless cormorants, dwarf penguins, and busy Sally light-foot crabs.  Don’t forget to look up, because the Galapagos Hawk is always on the hunt. We will spend the morning ashore doing an approximately one mile walk with plenty of stops to photograph and observe the activity.  Snorkeling with sea lions, turtles, iguanas, cormorants and plenty of fish is the best way to refresh after the lava walk.

Marine Iguanas basking

Lava Lizard hunting insects from the head of a marine iguana

The hotspot under the Galapagos generates intense volcanic activity and is active today. The western islands are the youngest and most active of the Archipelago. Located in the center of Isabela, Alcedo Volcano is a reminder of how volatile these Islands are. On the west shore line of Alcedo lays Urbina Bay. The landmass of the inlet was uplifted in 1954. More than ¾ of a mile of new shoreline were created, and many coral reef extensions where exposed to air, as the earthquake uplifted the seabed. This brand new land became perfect nesting terrain for the most beautiful of land dragons, the giant land iguanas of Isabela. The land iguanas of Isabela are the largest in the Galapagos and in Urbina the colorful population offers a great example of their potential to grow to enormous sizes. The impressive yellow, orange/brown iguanas roam the low lands looking for flowers, fruits, leaves and shoots of their favorite plants. Also, during the time of our visit at the end of the rainy season it is possible to see giant tortoises sharing the land with these massive iguanas. Urbina Bay is a snapshot in miniature of what the earth was like during the Jurassic time period.   We will land at a small organic sand beach and do a walk through the sixty year old forest, looking for both the giant tortoise and land iguana.  Snorkeling may be an option at this beach depending on waves and water clarity, but as always we will try hard to get a snorkel in this afternoon!

Land Iguana eating portulaca flowers

SUNDAY, APRIL 9: ISABELA ISLAND (ALBEMARLE)

  • AM: ELIZABETH BAY
  • PM: PUNTA MORENO

 Isabela Island constitutes almost half of the entire surface of the Archipelago. It is nearly 100 miles long and offers a remarkable diversity of habitats.  The island is formed by five active and connected volcanoes oriented in a north south line.  Shaped like a seahorse, and with volcanic highlands reaching over 5000 feet in elevation, it is also the home to vast mangrove forests on its coastline. Elizabeth Bay is the only place on Earth where old growth tropical mangrove forests and penguins can be photographed in the same frame. The ecosystem is also the residence of spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and a nursery for fish and marine invertebrates. We will spend the morning kayaking amid the mangrove or riding on a zodiac in this serene environment with the outboards off and using only our oars for propulsion.  The morning zodiac ride/kayak, offers great opportunities to photograph the penguins and other birds such as the striated heron and yellow-crowned night heron.    After returning from the early morning outing there may be an opportunity to snorkel in a very special place were sometimes 50-60 sea turtles congregate to rest and bask in shallow water.

In the afternoon, following a short navigation, we will land at the desolate lava wasteland of Punta Moreno.  When you set foot here you will understand why the Spanish Bishop Fray Tomas de Berlanga who accidentally discovered the Islands in 1535 and was the first European to set foot in the archipelago said: “It was as if God had decided to rain stones”. When Fray first set foot on a lava field with sailors from his ship desperate to find water (their ship had just exhausted it’s supply) he struggled to find fresh water and in desperation was forced to chew on cactus pads to quench his thirst. More than three centuries later the young naturalist, Charles Darwin saw beyond the lava and was amazed by the colonization of plants and the beginning of new life in this terrain. He theorized the processes at work in establishing life in the Galapagos could easily compare to the origin of life on the earth. At Punta Moreno we will do a roughly 1.5 mile walk across the lava fields and see the first pioneers of life taking hold on the blistering hot infertile lava.  The pioneer lava cactus, seemingly growing directly from the rock, is contrasted with a stunning oasis, we walk to, where lava tunnel roofs have collapsed, allowing brackish water to accumulate, and give life to greater flamingoes, moorhens, black-necked stilts and Galapagos Martins.     After the walk a snorkel along the shore a at Punta Moreno often includes frolics with penguins and flightless cormorants as well as sea turtles and sea horses.

MONDAY, APRIL 10: FLOREANA ISLAND (CHARLES)

  • AM: Asilio de la Paz (Freshwater spring, Pirate Cave, Tortoise  Preserve) And Cerro Aleiri
  • PM: Loberia

Charles, Floreana and Santa Maria are all official names of this Island that holds an overwhelmingly rich human history compared to other islands in the archipelago.  After breakfast we land at Puerta Velasco Ibarra to ride on a “chiva” (type of endemic transportation vehicle) to visit the highlands of Floreana.  At Asilio de la Paz we will learn the history of the Island’s first permanent inhabitant (a Nantucket whaler left on Floreana after trying a mutiny on his ship) and hear the fascinating stories of the three families that settled on Floreana in the late 1920′s and early 1930′s (the Wittmer family, Dr. Ritter and his mistress Dore and the famous Baroness and her three lovers).  Juan Manuel will spin the tale of conflict, murder and mystery that ensued in one of the great mysteries of the Galapagos Islands! After visiting the buccaneers cave, freshwater spring and the location of the Wittmer family’s original homestead, we will spend some time walking through the tortoise preserve located nearby that contains roughly 25 mature tortoises from all over the archipelago.  This preserve is maintained to keep tortoises that have been seized from individuals who were keeping them as pets, and is a great way to observe and photograph mature tortoises up close!  On our way to lunch we stop to climb Cerro Alieri.  A good number of steps will take us to the breathtaking view of this fantastic landscape decorated with lichens and epiphytes.   From here will travel to a small family owned organic farm for a BBQ lunch of local meat and vegetables.

Galapagos tortoise checks out a group member

Our afternoon adventure will take us to La Loberia (sea lion rookery) where we will swim or snorkel from the beach, a refreshing way to end a wonderful day.  We will depart Floreana and make begin navigating north towards Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Ayora our anchorage for the night.  This navigation takes us through waters rich with marine mammals so we will be watching for whales to spend time with!

TUESDAY, APRIL 11; SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

  • AM: HIGHLANDS, LOS GEMELOS
  • PM:CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH CENTER; PUERTO AYORA

Our morning adventure will take us to the  Highlands of Santa Cruz. At 1800 feet in elevation the greenery that surrounds us will be the remnants of the Galapagos highlands mature forest, which is dominated by an unusual tree of the genus Scalasia, that are closely related to daisies!  These Daisy trees of the genus Scalesia decorate a couple of extraordinary geological formations, known as “Los Gemelos”, (the twins).  The “twins” are collapse craters from ancient volcanic activity  and their surroundings are the home of many of Darwin’s finches, mocking birds, vermillion flycatcher and a wonderful diversity of indigenous plants.

After lunch we will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) located at Academy Bay just outside of the town of Puerto Ayora.  Here you will learn about the background of scientific research in the archipelago and how this 50 year-old NGO is responsible for a great deal of the conservation work and restoration of threatened species in the Galapagos.  You will learn how the CDRS is an important partner responsible for preserving this nearly pristine tropical archipelago along with the National Park Service.  We will visit the tortoise breeding center run in conjunction with the Park Service, where you will see tortoises being reared in captivity to be released into the Islands in order to boost wild tortoise numbers.  This is the facility where the Galapagos’s most famous conservation icon, “Lonesome George”, the final remaining tortoise of his species from Pinta Island, spent his last days until his death in 2012, at an age that was probably well over 100 years!

After leaving the Darwin Research Center you will have an opportunity to swim at a local beach and spend time exploring the bustling town of Pto Ayora and its many shops.

After dinner on the Samba we will have additional time to visit Puerto Ayora and experience some of the nightlife located within walking distance of the town pier.

WEDNESDAY, April 12: FLOREANA ISLAND (CHARLES)

  • AM: PUNTA CORMORANT; CHAMPION ISLET
  • PM: POST OFFICE BAY; THE BARONESS LOOKOUT

Following a late night departure from Puero Ayora and a four-hour navigation we will do an early morning wet landing on a stunning green beach of volcanic origin at Punta Cormorant.  The green color is a result of olivine crystals weathered from basalt and sorted from other minerals by wave action on the beach. This beach is located on the northern shore of Floreana and is the home of greater flamingos and sea turtles. Behind our landing beach is a pond that is partially flooded by salt water creating a brackish lagoon where flamingos can be seen feeding and nesting. Other shore birds such as whimbrels, herons, sandpipers and stilts are often seen feeding in the wetlands. We will walk across the island to a white sand beach of organic origins (composed of crushed coral and shell fragments).  This beach is a favorite nesting location of Galapagos green sea turtles, as evidenced by the abundant depressions left in the dunes by females digging nest holes for their eggs.   Signs of nocturnal visits by females to lay thier eggs the night before may be visible as fresh tracks across the sand to the dunes above the beach.  Looking just offshore, stingrays and reef sharks are usually visible in the shallow water, moving about in the surf zone.  In addition basking turtles can typically be seen lounging just beyond the surf.

After returning to the Samba for a snack and a short navigation we will do a zodiac ride and snorkel at a small Islet called Champion. This small piece of land is one of two places were the Floreana mocking bird survives after its extinction on the big Island. While trying to find the rare bird from our boats, we will enjoy a beautiful landscape full of fairy tale cactus and terracotta rock formations. Soon sea lions will invite us to join them in the water. The snorkeling around the island is extraordinary, with lots of fish, rays, sharks and the ever playful Galapagos sea lions!

Snorkeling with a ray

Adventure and history are the main ingredients for our next stop, Post Office Bay. The barrel or “post office” found in Post Office Bay is part of the legacy left by pirates, whalers, and early scientific expeditions. After a wet landing we will walk a very short distance to the “barrel”, which is the location where mail has been left by mariners for two centuries,  to be delivered by ships returning to home ports.  You can chose to be part of this long standing Galapagos tradition by leaving postcards in the barrel and sorting through the “mail” to see if any can be delivered by you!  A walk through the arid lowlands will show us more history of the Island and we may descend into a lava tube cave for some underground exploration.   Later in the afternoon we will kayak or ride a dinghy to the west, passing through a small set of islets with a sea lion colony, boobies and mangroves.  Our final stop for the day will be a sandy beach at the base of a hill and the beginning of a short hike that will take us up to the Baroness’s lookout, a viewing platform found on top of an eroded spatter cone.   Here you can enjoy the end of the day by gazing across the palo santo forest at sunset and contemplate the human history of “Las Encantadas” .

THURSDAY APRIL 13: ESPAÑOLA ISLAND (HOOD)

  • AM: PUNTA SUAREZ
  • PM: GARDNER BAY & GARDNER ISLAND

Hood is the oldest Galapagos Island we will visit.   It has traveled 100 miles away from the volcanic hotspot over which it formed, and thus has cooled and contracted sinking lower into the ocean, while at the same time eroding. We will land at Española’s western tip, at Punta Suárez.  It is difficult to digest the beauty and the overwhelming amount of life at this landing site.  As you become adjusted to your surroundings you will realize that the breakwater which protects the landing site, is covered by brightly colored marine iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs.  After we pick our way through the iguanas to the beach, we will be greeted by frolicking sea lions, and blue-footed boobies will fill the air over our heads. The roughly one mile walk across weathered lava plains and through ancient palo santo forest, will lead us to a magnificent seabird colony perched on a cliff high above the crashing surf.  These south facing cliffs were shaped by eons of wave action battering the ancient lava flows of Española and are home to the only tropical nesting albatross in the world.  The waved albatross is a mythic and elegant glider that shares this precipice with many other sea birds, such as tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls and nazca boobies.  We will be visiting these cliffs during the courtship season of the waved albatross, and should be able to observe the elegant display of these huge birds as they search for mates and solidify pair bonds.  Watching these birds as they go through their courtship displays is one of the most memorable wildlife displays found in the Galapagos!

Courting waved albatross

Waved albatross courting on Espanola Island

Depending on weather conditions, either at the end of the morning or early in the afternoon, we will snorkel or kayak around Gardner Island. Its calm waters and attractive landscape give you a great experience above and below water.

Friendly Galapagos Sea Lions!

After lunch we will land on the famous sandy beach of Gardner Bay.  This is a beautiful white sand beach, photos of which are used in every advertisement for the Galapagos.  Located on the north coast of Española Island, Gardner Bay has a half mile long white sand beach perfect for walking, swimming and lounging with the many playful resident Galapagos sea lions and friendly Hood Mockingbirds

Galapagos sea lions on Gardner Beach

FRIDAY, APRIL 14: SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND (CHATHAM)

  • AM: Pitt Islet (landing), Kicker Rock (Snorkel)
  • PM: San Cristobal Airport and Return Flight to Quito

Chatham is the first Island where Charles Darwin set foot in Galápagos, and home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.  Our day will start with a before dawn landing at the Pitt Islet just off the north shore of San Cristobal and home to countless frigate birds.   We will be met on shore by courting blue footed boobies and the sky will be full of aerial pirates (frigate birds) soaring on the early morning thermals.  After returning to the Samba and enjoying a relaxed breakfast we will motor to Leon Dormido or Kicker Rock, a vertical rock formation that projects 500 feet straight out of the ocean and is covered by nesting frigates and boobies.  No landing is possible here, but the snorkeling is outrageous along the vertical rock walls of the formation.  Playful sea lions harass sea turtles amid thousands of brightly colored fish.  Truly a magical way to end our 11 days in this tropical paradise!

A short cruise from Kicker Rock gives us time to finish last minute packing and brings us to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where we land on the main pier.  From the  pier a short bus ride will take us to the Airport, where we will catch our flight back to Guayaquil and then on to Quito.

Upon arrival in Quito we will be transported from the airport to Hotel Relicario del Carmen and we will enjoy a farewell dinner this evening prepared especially for us at our hotel.

SATURDAY, April 15: FLIGHTS HOME OR CONTINUE ON ECUADOR EXTENSION;

After breakfast at the hotel a transfer shuttle will take us to the airport for flights home or on to travel extensions in Mainland Ecuador.

OUR VESSEL FOR THE WEEK

M/Y Samba – A graceful 78–foot motor yacht of European vintage Tourist Superior

  • There is no better yacht to experience the mystical isolation of the Galapagos on, than this sturdy, stately and very comfortable motor-vessel. The SAMBA is a true European Dutch classic and best in her class.
  • A great ocean-going vessel with her specially designed high bow, she provides safe crossings and boasts a special stabilizing sail.
  • Her main salon and aft dining facilities make her socially versatile while top-side settees and a flush and ample forward deck provide great getaways or extra space for group activities such as stargazing, whale watching or simply sunbathing.
  • The SAMBA accommodates 14 guests, a perfect number to enjoy the magic of the Islands with privacy and flexibility. Its professional, experienced and friendly crew and naturalist guide are devoted to go the extra mile to make your journey a trip of a lifetime.
  • She is a graceful, top-quality craft and very environmentally friendly as well as socially responsible. She is locally owned and all the crewmembers are from the Galapagos.
  • The crew are committed to redefine your idea of quality of experience and excellence of service.

Accommodations

Six air-conditioned double cabins on deck 1 and 1 double bed cabin on deck 3, all with private bathrooms and hot water.

Equipment

Very efficient Twin DAV diesel engines 280 HP-CUMMINS that only use a remarkable 6 gallons of diesel per hour! Two generators each of 21 & 12.5 kW for 110 V & 220V A/C and 12V & 24V D/C, Furuno Navnet Radar, Plotter and Sonar, GPS, VHF & SSB radios, two tenders with outboard motors, 32’ High Definition LCD TV, DVD video equipment.

Specifications

Length: L.O.A.* 78 feet / 23 meters
Beam: 18 feet / 5.4 meters
Tonnage: 134 tons
Speed: 8.5 knots
Range: 2.500 miles
Sail: Steadying sails
Water capacity: 1.500 gallons and water maker
Electric Power Supply: 110V & 220V (A/C)
*L.O.A.: length overall

Safety equipment:

One self-contained 20-passenger life raft, EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon), two bi-directional VHF emergency-radios, one VHF (Motorola) wide-range radio, VHF and HF radios and one cell-phone communication system, life jackets, fire extinguishers, safety smoke and fire detectors and overhead sprinkler systems, A.B.C fire-control system and CO2 bank for the engine room.

YOUR NATURALIST

Juan Manuel Salcedo was born in the Galápagos Islands. He grew up in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, living and learning in the outdoor evolutionary lab of the Galápagos. Outside of school, Juan spent time sailing on his father’s boat where he developed his love and passion for observing and interpreting the wildlife of the archipelago. He moved to Quito to finish high school and begin his academic studies.

Juan Manuel spent a year in Los Angeles studying sailing and navigation to gain a skipper certificate. Through all of his experiences, Juan has maintained and nourished his love and passion for the world around him. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of San Francisco, Quito where he studied Applied Ecology with minor degrees in Biology and Geology. He has been involved in Environmental Education projects in the Galápagos Islands and on mainland Ecuador.

Juan holds the top level credentials for a Galapagos guide.   I have worked with Juan on many trips and know him to be the best guide I have ever worked with in the Galapagos!  Juan makes it possible for us to be on shore early in the morning before the heat and when the light is best for photography and late in the day as the last rays of sunset light illuminate our subjects and wildlife is at its most active. Juan’s passion and enthusiasm for everything Galapagos is contagious and makes him the top naturalist in the Islands. Additionally his boundless enthusiasm carries over to the underwater world of the Galapagos, so he is always ready to snorkel or jump in the water with passing whales at a moment’s notice!

INCLUDED IN THE TRIP PRICE:$6,995

  • All airport transfers from April 2nd until April 15th, including arrival transfer, departure and arrival on travel days for the Galapagos segment and departure transfer.
  • All accommodations in Quito at the Hotel Relicario del Carmen for the nights of April 2nd , 3rd , and April 14th (double occupancy)
  • Breakfast and Dinner in Quito on April 3rd and breakfast on April 4th and 15th at Hotel Relicario del Carmen
  • Day tour to Bella Vista cloud forest preserve on Monday April 3rd including lunch
  • Farewell dinner in Quito on April 14th
  • Roundtrip Airfare from Quitoto the Galapagos
  • $110 US entrance fee into the Galapagos National Park
  • All on-board accommodations on the Yacht Samba, all meals (B,L,D), island excursions including all Galapagos bus-fares and any additional guides qualified by the Galapagos National Park.
  • Tips to 6 crew members of the Samba
  • Tip to naturalist on board the Samba (Juan Manuel Salcedo)
  • Rental of all snorkeling gear on board the Samba including wet suits, mask, snorkel and fins

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Flights to and from your home and QuitoEcuador
  • Alcoholic beverages on mainland Ecuador and on board the Samba
  • Money for purchases of souvenir items

PAYMENT SCHEDULE:

  • Deposit of $500 per person is due on booking trip
  • Second payment of $3 ,247.50 is due by September 1st 2016
  • Final payment of $3 ,247.50 is due by Jan 1st 2017
  • Cancellations are fully refundable until September 1st minus a $150 cancellation fee, after this date the $500 deposit is nonrefundable (although if I can fill the spot on the trip I will always return full deposit less any change fees for airline tickets)
  • If cancellations are made after November 1st I will make every effort to get the remainder of your deposit and payment money back to you.  This is dependent on filling the vacated spaces on the trip.  I do maintain a waitlist for the trip, but as the departure date nears it becomes more difficult to fill vacated spaces.   For this reason I would recommend trip insurance if you believe that there is any chance you may have to make a last minute cancellation.

Frigate Birds at sunset

Finally I will need some information from you as soon as you sign up for the trip, this includes:

  • Passport number, with country of issue and date of expiration***
  • Shoe size for swim fins
  • Size for wetsuit
  • Flight arrival and departure information as soon as you have it, so I can arrange airport transfers
  • A completed medical dietary form

*** This is very important that I get as soon as possible so I can purchase the airline tickets from Quito to the Galapagos at the present prices.

Thanks and I look forward to fantastic photography on a great trip in the Galapagos with you!!

  • DeeDee Dalen - October 15, 2014 - 1:26 pm

    FYI I work w Ali in the ED. Caroline Timmerman is also going, hope we can share a room. My cell phone is 907-347-4682. After you call me I will give you passport info and money. Thanks!!! I’m excited. DeeDeeReplyCancel

  • Amy and George Rhyneer - October 27, 2014 - 6:55 pm

    Dear Hugh,

    Jessica Panko is my oldest, best friend, so when she says to go with you to the Galapagos, I listen!

    Our family of 4 (Amy, George, and kids Silas (15 in April) and Claire (just turned 12), are going on an educational sabbatical this spring, and want to make the Galapagos the highlight.

    Do you have room for 4 Alaskan adventurers? You can ask everything you want about us of Jess (and maybe you want to convince her to come along with us? It’s time she and Rob had a real honeymoon).

    Thanks, and hope to hear good news from you.
    907-694-2663
    amyt@mtaonline.netReplyCancel

  • cheap car insurance - March 13, 2015 - 7:36 pm

    I love reading these articles because they’re short but informative.ReplyCancel

  • Mike Gavin - August 19, 2016 - 9:59 am

    Hi Hugh,

    The Gavins here from the August boat trip aboard Discovery. We are interested in your 2017 trip to Galapagos. Do you have room for 2?

    Mike GavinReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*