Certainly one of the most iconic and memorable expeditions one can take, Galápagos adventure travel is exhilarating and humbling. You’ll find yourself in the company of species found nowhere else in the world, walking among abundant wildlife that has grown astonishingly fearless in the absence of humans and large predators. On your Galápagos tour, you might find yourself face to face with a pair of courting blue-footed boobies, sitting next to a marine iguana as it basks in the sun, or snorkeling amidst a family of playful sea lions. Journey in the company of a renowned Galápagos expert and Zegrahm cofounder, Jack Grove—this is truly the trip of a lifetime.
Galápagos and Ecuador Expedition Highlights:
- Accommodations aboard the intimate, 40-passenger Isabela II; her small size enables easy navigation of the islands.
- The waved albatross on Punta Suarez, one of the Islands’ largest birds; the walk over lava terrain is yet another hallmark of a Galápagos expedition.
- Zodiac expedition to Prince Philip’s Steps to see resident red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, short-eared owls, and fur seals.
- Charles Darwin Research Station, a special stop on this Galápagos tour, to learn about conservation efforts; meet giant tortoises and land iguanas.
- Come face to face with seal lions, snorkel with Galápagos penguins, and meet the unique marine iguana.
- Ecuador tour, including time to explore Quito, with its Spanish-style cathedral, flower-bedecked plazas, and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
What to expect:
To fully benefit from the wildlife-viewing opportunities during Gálapagos adventure travel, participants should be fit and in good health. We aim for morning and afternoon shore excursions each day, including climbing in and out of Zodiacs and walking up to three miles at a comfortable pace over rough terrain. A highlight of this Galapagos tour is the chance to swim and snorkel with sea lions and other wildlife, so ease in open water is recommended; water temperatures will range from mid 60°sF to low 70°sF. Flexibility is a must, as travel to remote regions is inherently unpredictable, but intrinsically rewarding.
USA / Quito, Ecuador
Depart today on your flight to Quito, capital city of Ecuador. Evening transfer to our hotel and overnight.
Enjoy breakfast at our hotel, followed by a morning city tour of Quito. We visit the old colonial section with its Spanish-style cathedral and palace, stroll down winding cobblestone streets, and explore spacious plazas adorned with flowers before driving to a panoramic view of the city and picturesque snowcapped mountains. We return to our hotel for lunch; the rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Join us in the evening for a briefing and dinner. Overnight at our hotel.
Quito / Baltra and North Seymour Islands, Galápagos
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for the flight to Baltra Island, where we board our yacht, the Isabela II. We have an onboard orientation as the yacht makes her way to nearby North Seymour Island, the first stop on our expedition. We walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing colonies of blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigatebirds, and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas. Return to the yacht for our first onboard briefing and dinner.
Española (Hood) Island
This rocky point of land sustains one of the most impressive and varied colonies of seabirds in the Galápagos. In the morning we stroll along the beautiful white-sand beach of Gardner Bay, enjoying views of blue-footed boobies diving for fish. Other likely sightings include Hood Island mockingbirds, Galápagos hawks, three species of Darwin’s finches, and marine iguanas. A highlight of our day is the chance to swim and snorkel with the friendly and frolicking sea lions that populate these waters.
We cruise to Punta Suárez for an exciting walk on lava terrain to see one of the largest birds in the Galápagos Islands, the waved albatross. Virtually the entire population of 12,000 pairs of albatross nests here from May to December. Other features of the island include red-billed tropicbirds, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and dramatic views of the famous Punta Suárez blowhole surrounded by colorful red-and-green marine iguanas.
From sea turtles to penguins, the chances for wildlife encounters are outstanding, making our visit to Floreana an exhilarating experience. At Punta Cormorant we may see greater flamingos, black-necked stilts, and pintail ducks in a brackish lagoon. Our hike takes us to a fine coral-sand beach where green sea turtles nest from December to June, and our ultimate snorkeling spot is an eroded volcanic cone. Take the opportunity to snorkel among (or view through the glass-bottom boat) sea lions, tropical and subtropical fish, and possibly hammerhead or whitetip reef sharks.
In the afternoon, visit the whaler’s post-office barrel, one of the oldest working sea-mail drops, at Post Office Bay. Zodiacs take us to nearby islets to observe rays, sea lions, and sea turtles, great blue herons and boobies, and maybe even Galápagos penguins.
Santa Cruz Island
At Puerto Ayora, the principal commercial port of the Galápagos, we disembark and drive through lush green highlands to visit the scalesia forest and the twin-pit craters of Los Gemelos. Depending on weather conditions, we search for two of “Darwin’s” finches—tree and woodpecker; vermilion flycatchers; and giant tortoises. In the afternoon we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation efforts and research being conducted at the station, as well as see giant tortoises and land iguanas being raised for reintroduction to their island habitats. Afterwards, stroll through the small town of Puerto Ayora to buy souvenirs and mail postcards before reembarking our ship.
Genovesa (Tower) Island
We cross the equator overnight, arriving at Genovesa Island. Entering Darwin Bay, formed by the caldera of a partially eroded volcano, we disembark and set out on a trail from the coral beach. Passing by swallow-tailed and lava gulls, we enter a forest of salt bush where colonies of great frigatebirds and red-footed boobies nest. Afterward, we swim and snorkel along the cliffs of this colossal harbor, where we encounter an array of fish species and, with luck, get a look at the elusive, scalloped hammerhead shark. Because of the influence of northern currents, we find the warmest of all Galápagos waters off this island. A short Zodiac tour along the coastline takes us to Prince Philip’s Steps, where we may find red-footed boobies nesting in palo santo trees. Nazca boobies nest on the ground, along with storm petrels and short-eared owls, one of the archipelago’s few predators. Keep a lookout for fur seals along the shore.
Isabela & Fernandina Islands
The cool waters of the Cromwell Current upwell around these islands and bathe the jagged shorelines of Isabela and Fernandina. These nutrient-rich waters provide great feeding sources for whales and dolphins, so be up on deck at sunrise today as we round Isabela to the north. As we navigate along Bolívar Channel we also enjoy the impressive views of the northern volcanoes that helped create Isabela, the largest of the Galápagos Islands.
On the northwest shore of Isabela, we stop at secluded Tagus Cove, which was in past centuries a favorite anchor for pirates and whalers. The vegetation in the area includes more of the unusual palo santo trees, and an uphill hike through the forest takes us to Darwin Crater, filled with salt water. Depending on time and conditions, we may spend the morning in Zodiacs or snorkeling along the coast of Isabela, observing recent and unique geological features, flightless cormorants and Galápagos penguins, as well as other natural wonders of these enchanted isles.
In the afternoon we arrive at Punta Espinosa on Fernandina, the youngest island of the Galápagos, where we depart on a hike along the shore and the interior. Here we observe the largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galápagos, flightless cormorants, and moonscape-like lava fields. This is one of the largest, most pristine islands in the world with no introduced.
Santiago (James) & Bartolomé Islands
Santiago is the island where Charles Darwin spent most of his time while in the Galápagos, staying nine days to explore and gather data. Although we won’t be able to match the duration or scope of the great naturalist’s studies, we acquaint ourselves well during our time ashore, seeking the marine mammals, particularly fur seals, that call Santiago home. We cruise into Puerto Egas in the morning and disembark to walk along a coastal trail to a nearby fur seal grotto. Most of the landscape is tuff-stone layers and lava flows, and the many crevices, cracks, and cuts are perfect hiding spots for camouflaged pinnipeds. Along the shore we can look for more sea lions, octopuses, starfish, and other sea life in tide pools where great blue herons, lava herons, oystercatchers, and yellow-crowned night herons feed. At low tide we may have the chance to watch marine iguanas grazing on marine algae or sea lettuce. If time and conditions permit, we take an inland trail to a salt lake to view more finches, mockingbirds, hawks, and perhaps flamingos.
After a short lunch cruise and time spent on deck looking for the dark-rumped petrel, we arrive at Bartolomé. The frequently photo-graphed pinnacle rock of this island is a massive stone tower erupting from the sea. Take the steep trail and wooden staircase for a 30-minute walk past pioneer plants, lava tubes, and spatter cones to the summit of a once-active volcano. Zodiac cruises, swimming, and snorkeling are also excellent here, often revealing Galápagos penguins as well as sea turtles.
Baltra Island / Guayaquíl
After a late brunch we disembark for the flight to Guayaquíl. On arrival we transfer from the airport to our hotel. After check in, we have a tea buffet at our hotel with time afterwards to relax before our farewell dinner and overnight.
Guayaquíl / USA
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight homeward.
Reserved for our Galápagos expeditions, Isabela II is a 40-passenger yacht with 20 outside cabins and a casually elegant ambience. Aboard an Isabela II expedition, expect gracious staff, spacious passenger cabins with private bathrooms, air-conditioning, a bar, a dining room, and a sun deck. The deck itself offers ample outdoor seating, a gym and Jacuzzi, a solarium, and, perhaps most importantly, an observation area for whale and dolphin watching—one of the highlights of an Isabela II voyage. Sea kayaks and three Zodiacs are available on each Isabela II cruise, and as an alternative to snorkeling, her glass-bottom boat offers a superb look at the marine life from above the waves. To further immerse yourself in the destination, visit the onboard library, carrying the largest selection of books on Galápagos and Ecuador of any ship sailing these waters. Ship registry: Ecuador.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.