Thursday: Arrival / Baltra
PM: South Plaza
The turquoise waters of the channel here contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline, while a carpet of scarlet Sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus beyond, populated by yellow-grey land iguanas. Along the coastline one finds sea lion colonies, while sea birds play with the thermals that form along the cliffs of this small but spectacular island.
AM: Santa Fe
PM: Cerro Colorado
After lunch, we disembark at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galapagos’ capital; take a 45-minute drive to the southern shore. At Cerro Colorado, we visit the breeding center for highly endangered Giant Tortoises in the midst of a fantastic deciduous forest, home to dozens of bird species, including the San Cristobal mockingbird, and the San Cristobal lava lizard.
AM: Pitt Point
Landing at the eastern part of San Cristobal Island, the trail that ascends from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline; we can observe frigate birds and a colony of juvenile sea lions. After the walk, if conditions are favorable, there is a chance to swim from the beach and snorkel.
PM: Witch Hill
In the afternoon, a relaxing dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes us to Cerro Brujo’s expansive, white coral beach, great for walking, with rewarding bird-watching featuring seabirds and shore birds. Also, look out for Galapagos sea lions. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835.
AM: Suarez Point
PM: Gardner Bay
In the afternoon, we set down at this beautiful, white coral beach for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds, finches, or enjoy the beach. There is great snorkeling in this area, or else there’s time to kayak or ride the glass-bottom boat.
AM: Charles Darwin Station
PM: Santa Cruz Highlands
After lunch, we head up to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island by vehicle. This is a great place to look for the emblematic Darwin’s Finches and the endemic Scalesia trees. The highlands are also great for exploring the exuberant vegetation where giant tortoises roam in the wild.
AM: Eden Islet
PM: Chinese Hat
The small island of Sombrero Chino gets its name from its appearance, reminiscent of a Chinese hat. This islet, formed only fairly recently, makes a beautiful visit as one explores the wildlife along its 400-metre long trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped white sandy beach. The cove offers excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities amid endemic Penguins and white-tipped reef sharks.
PM: Sullivan Bay
After lunch, we board the pangas to land at Sullivan Bay (east coast of Santiago); wet-landing at a white coral sand beach great for snorkeling, and with a trail over a lava field that flowed here less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of Galapagos while observing its wildlife.
AM: Darwin Bay
PM: Prince Philip’s Steps
Our afternoon starts with a very interesting panga ride along the cliffs before we disembark for a short, yet steep climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the land is flat, allowing for a captivating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, observing large colonies of Frigate birds, Nazca boobies, storm petrels and the elusive short eared owl.