iExplore Galápagos Yacht Adventure

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  • Group Tour
  • Starting Price: $4,479
  • Length: 11 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
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Tour Description

Welcome to the Galápagos! Meet face to face with a giant tortoise. Snorkel with penguins and dive with sea lions. Hike along ancient lava tunnels and back to the beginning of time. Ever since Darwin boarded the Beagle over 170 years ago, exploring the Galápagos has remained one of life's great adventures. Explore the Galápagos aboard one of the three identical first-class motor-yachts- all unmatched for comfort and safety. Sailing with only 20 fellow guests, venturing ashore in small groups of 10, you'll experience these islands in a highly personal, close-up way. Come let the experienced naturalist guides share the secrets of the islands with you. Venture to the most spectacular sites on land or beneath the sea. Enjoy the courtship dance of the blue-footed boobies or massive waved albatross. Come be amazed!

Itinerary

Day 1: Friday

Arrive Quito, Ecuador

Today when you arrive in Quito, your guide will meet you outside customs and transfer you to the hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax and adjust to the altitude of this capital city.

A new concept in hotels for Quito, the hip, upscale Le Parc opened in 2007 and is a symphony to cool, contemporary chic from its ground floor lobby bar and Restaurant Sake with water moat and a 5-foot horizontal gas fireplace- to the tip of its stunning rooftop terrace bar. Truly exclusive with only 30 unique suites with king size beds (there is even a pillow menu!), spacious bathroom with stand-alone tub, L'Occitane Spa, Plasma TV, and concierge services. The hotel has a compact gym, sauna and Spa with treatments and products. The hotel is within walking distance to the Parque Carolina with jogging trails and Botanical Gardens.

Le Parc Hotel

Day 2: Saturday

Quito

Ecuador's capital is situated high in the Andes in the lush green Guapulo Valley, surrounded by rugged volcanic peaks reaching close to 20,00 feet. Quito is lively, scenic and cosmopolitan. Its one and a half million inhabitants tend to be helpful and friendly. The colonial section of Quito is a living museum of grand Spanish colonial architecture; UNESCO has declared its mansions, cathedrals and squares a World Heritage Site.

After a visit to the Parliament Building we go to the colonial center for a walking tour along its cobblestone streets. We'll have the chance to view buildings from the 16th to the 18th centuries, including the San Agustin Church and Chapter Hall. We'll also visit Independence Square where the Presidential Palace is located, and marvel at the ornate interior of the Baroque/Moorish Church of San Francisco. The last part of our tour takes us far above the colonial section where the guardian of the city-the winged Virgin of Quito-keeps watch over her 12,000-year-old city. The view is spectacular, not only of the city far below but also of the skyscraping Andes above and beyond.

About 30 minutes away from the northern part of Quito stands the Middle of the Earth Monument, built to mark the meridian arch of the planet at 0º latitude-better known as the Equator-and to commemorate this surveying feat in the 18th century. It's also the site of a small colonial town crowded with craft shops and restaurants.

This excursion includes a visit to the marvelous Ethnographic Museum, which traces the history and archeology of Ecuador's native peoples back to the Pleistocene. The tour ends with a panoramic view of the nearby Pululahua volcanic crater.

Breakfast

Le Parc Hotel

Day 3: Sunday

Quito- Galápagos

This morning you are driven to the airport for your flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Upon arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, the crew is waiting at the airport to escort you to your anchored yacht.

After a welcome briefing and safety drill we sail for Playa Ochoa where we will have a wet landing. Here, we can test our snorkeling equipment and at the same time swim with a small colony of sea lions. Behind the beach is a tidal lagoon where birds can be spotted including the rare Chatham Mockingbird. At sunset, we cruise around Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido), a vertical tuff cone formation that abruptly juts up almost 500 feet out of the ocean. On the cliffs we spot blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds.

This evening the guides will hold a briefing followed by the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Reception.

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Monday

Galápagos Islands

We spend the entire day on Tower (Genovesa) Island, considered to be one of the most spectacular islands in the Galápagos for bird species.

In the morning, we have a dry landing at Prince Phillip's Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca (formerly masked) 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. After our walk, kayaks are available to paddle along the shoreline. Look for the beautiful red-billed tropic bird usually found in the crevices.

After lunch take a siesta or borrow a book from the library and lounge on deck.

In the afternoon we have a wet landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the 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 to a rich inner tidal zone where we find a wide variety of wildlife. After the walk, we can swim and snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters.

We set sail early to motor to the western islands during the briefing, followed by dinner.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 5: Tuesday

Galápagos Islands

This morning we have a semi-wet landing at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, the youngest and most pristine island in the Galápagos. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Hundreds of marine iguanas, the largest colony in the Galápagos, bask in the sun along the rugged coastline. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory. Flightless Cormorants build their nests on the point and Galápagos Hawks fly overhead.

After lunch we cross the Bolivar Channel where we often spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave.

This afternoon we have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western island of Isabela. Six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest island in the Galápagos. During the walk, we discover a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. Graffiti dating back to the 1800's is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the coves by zodiac or in one of our clear-bottomed kayaks to find Galápagos penguins, boobies, pelicans and other seabirds. An excellent snorkeling opportunity if offered here after the walk.

After the briefing and dinner, a sky full of stars beckons us to go out on deck and observe the galaxy.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 6: Wednesday

Galápagos Islands

This morning we have a wet landing at Puerto Egas, Santiago (James Island). Stroll along the shoreline 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 the 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 with loads of tropical fish. As an alternative, you may use the kayaks to explore marine life without getting wet.

During lunch the yacht motors to the other side of the island, which provides for scenic landscapes.

Located off the southern tip of Santiago, Sombrero Chino or Chinese Hat owes its name to its shape. After a wet beach landing with sea lion colonies, the trail gives way to a primeval landscape of cracked lava formations and lava tubes. The lava tubes are fragile and one must be careful to stay on the trail. We find marine iguanas and pairs of oystercatchers. There are good photo opportunities here as this site conveys a strong feeling that you've come to a very special place in the world.

There is a briefing followed by dinner as we anchor in a calm protected area.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 7: Thursday

Galápagos Islands

On Bartolome, 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. Down below, crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel from the beach or zodiac with schools of tropical fish and Galápagos Penguins. On the other side of the island, encounter sea turtles and white-tipped sharks.

This afternoon 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 the Galápagos. As we stroll along the beach, we find marine iguanas and sea lions body surf the northern swells.

After the walk there is a snorkeling opportunity offered in deep water.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 8: Friday

Galápagos Islands

This morning 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 the Galápagos. Here, we visit the tortoise reserve at one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

We also visit Los Gemelos, Spanish for "The Twins", a pair of large pit craters where we find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. We stop at the "tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in the Galápagos.

After lunch on board, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. We visit 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 also visit Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can see the pen of Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta Island subspecies.

Stroll through the town of Puerto Ayora (population: 20,000) and the largest town in the Galápagos. Buy souvenirs, mail postcards or kick back at an internet café in the social heart of the islands.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 9: Saturday

Galápagos Islands

This morning we have a dry landing at Punta Suarez, Espanola, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in the Galápagos. Sea lions noisily greet us as we land at their beach. Curious hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November, 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. Red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin's finches, Galápagos Doves and Galápagos Hawks. Observe a unique specie of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near the famous "blow hole". This is the scene most people envision when they decide to visit the Galápagos Islands.

During lunch we motor to the other side of the island.

On our last afternoon in the Galápagos, we have a wet landing on Gardner Bay, Espanola. Walk along seemingly endless stretches of 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 and you may find a Galápagos Hawk, Darwin's Finches or Hood Mocking Birds. Swim with sea lions from the beach or just relax on your last glorious day in the Galápagos. There's an excellent snorkeling site off Gardner Islet with a colorful diversity of sea life near Tortuga Rock in caves covered with invertebrates. Guests are permitted to use the kayaks at this particular site.

Back on board, enjoy the Captain's farewell cocktail followed by dinner and a briefing.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

M/Y Eric, Flamingo or Letty

Day 10: Sunday

Galápagos Islands- Quito

This morning we drop anchor in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal. We visit the interpretive center opened in 1999. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the islands.

Afterwards, we head straight to the airport for our flight back to the mainland, departing at 12:00 PM.

When you arrive back in Quito, you will be met at the airport and driven to the Le Parc Hotel for overnight.

Breakfast

Le Parc Hotel

Day 11: Monday

Depart Quito

Today after breakfast you will be driven to Quito Airport for your flight home.

Breakfast

Embracing the unexpected is a part of the legacy and excitement of expedition travel. There are no guarantees that we can achieve everything we described in this itinerary. A measure of flexibility is something all of us must bring to an expedition!

Departures

Arrive in Quito on a Friday as the cruise operates every Sunday to Sunday. Contact iExplore for details.

Pricing Information

2011 Pricing

From $4,479 per person double occupancy, Iguana Deck Cabin

From $4,409 per person triple occupancy, Iguana Deck Cabin

From $6,649 per person single occupancy, Iguana Deck Cabin

From $4,869 per person double occupancy, Booby Deck Cabin

From $5,589 per person double occupancy, Dolphin Deck Cabin.

Child Discounts: Children age 11 and younger at the time of sailing are entitled to a 25% discount off the cruise rate. Children 11 and younger are entitled to a 50% discount off the airfare and park tax with a photocopy of the child's passport showing date of birth. Children age 12-14 are entitled to a 15% discount off the cruise rate only. Children age 7 and under are not accepted unless the parents or legal guardians sign a hold harmless release. Children 11 and under are only accepted on designated family departures. Children under the age of 5 are only accepted on exclusive charter basis. Only one child discount is given per every full-fare paying adult with a limit of two per family. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Child discounts are applied to cabins on the Iguana Deck. When children are accompanied in a triple cabin, the discount is calculated from the double Iguana Deck rate. No child discounts are permitted over holiday periods.

Charter rates are also available- please contact us for details.

Above prices are based on stated number of people traveling in low season. Prices for your dates of travel may vary- please contact iExplore for an exact quote. Quoted prices are based on current rates of exchange, tariffs and taxes as of January, 2010. iExplore reserves the right to increase tour prices to cover increased costs, tariffs and taxes received after prices are published, and to reflect fluctuations in foriegn exchange rates. iExplore is under no obligation to give breakdown costs involved in any package.

Inclusions:

· Private arrival transfer from Quito Airport to the Le Parc Hotel.

· Three nights accommodations at Le Parc Hotel, Quito, including daily breakfast.

· Quito scenic tour with Mital del Mundo.

· Flights to/from the Galápagos Islands from/to Quito on Aerogal Airlines.

· Cabin accommodations.

· All meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, water, Captain's Welcome and Farewell cocktail, guided shore excursions and briefings, use of wet suits, snorkeling equipment and sea kayaks, transfers in the islands between the airport and dock.

· Transfer from the Hotel Le Parc to Quito Airport on the day of departure.

· Galápagos National Park Tax.

· Fuel Surcharges.

Exclusions:

· International Air & departure taxes

· Departure tax

· Transit Control Card fee

· Alcoholic beverages, gratuities to guides and crew, purchases on board, travel insurance

· Holiday or peak season surcharges

· Travel Insurance

· Visa fees (if required)

Special Notes:All visitors traveling to the Galápagos will be required to buy a $10 transit control card (Tarjeta de Control de Tránsito) TCT. The value of the card is in addition to the $100 fee for entrance to the Galápagos National Park. For new bookings, we ask the $10 be prepaid in order to expedite check-in processes. Please contact your sales agent for further assistance for prepaying the card.

Single Cabinsare limited and assigned the best available cabin at the time of sailing. Males or females willing to shareare available on the Iguana Deck only. Shares that remain unmatched 60 days prior to departure are subject to pay the difference for a single rate. Triple Cabinsare available on the Iguana Deck only in cabins I9 and I10.

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

Tour Notes

What daily activities can I expect?

The day begins with an early breakfast followed by the first shore excursion. We return for lunch followed by a siesta while the vessel navigates to the next island. Mid-afternoon, we disembark for the second shore excursion and return before sunset. Before dinner, there is a briefing on the next day's shore excursions. In the evenings, we motor to the next island arriving early in the morning for a new adventure.

When are meals served?

Meals are informal and there is just one seating for all passengers. Although meal times can vary slightly, the typical schedule is breakfast at 7:30am. buffet lunch at 12:30pm and dinner is served at 7:30pm. The menu is international with touches of Ecuadorian specialties. Snacks are served after the morning and afternoon shore excursions.

Are there naturalist guides on board?

Passengers must be accompanied at all times by our naturalist guides who have been trained by the Darwin Station and licensed by the National Park. They know each site intimately and share their knowledge on nature walks during the day and in briefings in the evening. There are two naturalist guides on board- one for every ten passengers.

How do we get from the boat to shore?

The vessels anchor off shore at two visitor sites per day. passengers are ferried to the landing point in small zodiac-style tenders, locally called "pangas". The landings are either wet (where one must step into water anywhere from your ankles to your knees and wade to shore) or dry (where one steps from the panga directly to the volcanic rock). Your guide and panga driver will assist you with a steady hand.

What happens on the shore excursions?

On the islands, one must follow marked trails set by the National Park walking at a leisurely pace. The guides will interpret and explain the unusual sights you see. You'll spend 3-4 hours at each site allowing plenty of time to explore and photograph the abundant wildlife. There are opportunities to swim or snorkel almost every day during the week and sometimes twice a day. Kayaks can be uses only at designated sites approved by the National Park.

Are there regulations we must obey?

During the orientation, your guide will go over the National Park rules which request, among others, that you do not disturb or remove anything (not even a rock or a shell), do not touch or feed the animals, do not leave any litter and to stay on the marked trails. Show a conservationist attitude! Leave only footprints and take home only photographs.

How strenuous are the walks?

Passengers able to walk a few hours a day unassisted will be able to fully enjoy the Galápagos. Some of the excursions require more physical activity than others involving short steep climbs or long walks in hot weather. However, most excursions require moderate activity and the walks are at a leisurely pace giving time for the guides to describe what you are seeing. Entering and exiting the pangas require that you need to be reasonably fit, sure-footed and in good health. If you are concerned about your ability to do any particular day hike, please consult the naturalist or the captain.

What if I have a physical disability?

Please see a doctor for a check-up before traveling to Ecuador. Any medical condition or physical disability that may require special attention or treatment must be advised at the time of booking.

Will I encounter rough seas or bad weather?

Due to strong currents, there will be moderate movement of the vessel while under way. Most passengers are not affected. However, if you are prone to seasickness, we strongly urge you to bring some type of medication to prevent motion sickness.

Weather conditions and when to book:

Located on the equator, the Galápagos Islands have a surprisingly cool, sub-tropical climate. The larger islands with volcanic peaks have a variety of climactic zones. The coastal areas are arid and covered with plants adapted to desert conditions. The highland areas receive moisture almost all year round, which support lush vegetation. Temperatures are determined almost entirely by ocean currents, which are influenced by the trade winds.

There are two seasons, both of which have some precipitation. The Galápagos get an average of ten inches of precipitation per year, so it is never considered "rainy season". During the months of December to May, the cooling currents subside, temperatures rise and the climate is warm and sunny with occasional showers. In June the trend begins toward cooler temperatures with moderate breezes, which continue to November. This period is often referred to as the "garua" season, which means, "mist" in Spanish.

The Yachts: M/Y Eric, Flamingo & Letty

You'll venture ashore in rubber inflatable dinghies, locally called pangas, in small groups of ten led by an experienced English-speaking guide. That's important since you can get to know the Galápagos more intimately aboard a smaller ship. A seasoned Captain, eight dedicated crew members and two experienced English-speaking naturalist guides attend to the details of your cruise, beginning with transfers from the airport on San Cristobal to your private yacht. You'll start each day with an early breakfast including fresh juice, eggs cooked to order and a wide array of fresh fruit, followed by a morning excursion. The lunch buffet features a variety of crisp salads, fresh produce and pastas, meat and fish specialties. You'll have time for a siesta before another excursion in the afternoon. Before dinner, naturalists hold a briefing for the next day's activities. Relax and enjoy a leisurely dinner with local delicacies such as ceviche, grilled seafood and enticing deserts. The Captain often dines with everyone on board. There's a greater sense of camaraderie and shared excitement, and it's easier to mix and mingle with the staff and fellow guests. Later, we navigate to the next island, arriving in the morning for a new adventure ashore.

Cabin Specifications:

Dolphin Deck: Cabins have two twin lower beds or one double bed and picture windows. Cabins average 95 square feet.

Booby Deck: Cabins have one double bed and picture windows. Cabins average 90 square feet.

Iguana Deck: Cabins have two twin beds with port lights or two twin lower beds and one upper berth to accommodate triples. Cabins average 110 square feet.

Packing list for Galápagos

Dress is casual and comfortable, and informality is basic to all activities. We recommend you pack in a soft-side suitcase. Checked bags should be securely locked or shrink-wrapped for your security.

Clothing: long pants that are lightweight, shorts, short sleeve shirts, T-shirts, windbreaker or sweatshirt (July to November only).

Shoes: walking shoes or light hiking boots, rubber soled shoes or boat shoes, sport sandals with a Velcro strap (Tevas).

Other: wide brimmed hat, bandanna, bathing suits, sunscreen, sunglasses, small backpack, plastic water bottle, camera, film/batteries, waterproof bag, small binoculars, underwater camera.

Beach towels and hair dryers are provided and therefore it is unnecessary for you to bring these items.