After arriving at Baltra airport we will be greeted by a representative. After lunch, we will navigate a short distance to Black Turtle Cove, a large mangrove lagoon on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island. Pelicans and herons roost on the branches, while marine dwellers such as green sea turtles or golden rays may cruise right next to the panga as it makes its way through the mangroves.
We travel to Genovesa Island and reach Darwin Bay (wet landing), a unique site lined with red mangroves and soft‐haired prickly pear cacti where red‐footed boobies and great frigatebirds perch tamely.
At El Barranco (dry landing), we climb the edge of a cliff where frigatebirds, masked boobies, and red‐footed boobies nest. We will be seeking out the impressive red‐billed tropicbird amidst Galapagos storm petrels.
Dry landing at Bartolome to climb up the wooden steps and reach the summit of this spatter cone for a most breath‐taking panorama of the island’s well photographed Pinnacle Rock and views of neighboring Santiago and many other central islands in the distance.
Less than a quarter of one square kilometer in size, this island gets its name from being shaped like a Chinese hat. The hat shape is best appreciated from the north side. Lava formations can be seen on the western side of the island, formed under the sea and raised upward and for this reason, it is possible to observe coral heads on the lava. Be amazed by the landscapes covered by sea lions colonies, marine iguanas, and Galapagos penguins.
Wet landing onto Rabida’s deep‐red beaches to explore the red island’s fascinating interior and saltwater lagoon. Darwin’s finches, Galapagos mockingbirds and yellow warblers feed off the vegetation. Given the right time of the year we may see brown pelicans nesting on salt bushes that fringe the beach.
We head across to Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz’s northwest shore (dry landing) to visit a saltwater lagoon, home to Greater Flamingos, black‐necked stilts and white‐cheeked pintails. Further inland we find a fantastic land iguana nesting site.
We will spend this day visiting Santa Cruz Island´s most famous highlights. We will have a dry landing at the dock of Puerto Ayora to then board our transportation and head to the island’s highlands. This area, in contrast to the coastal region, haslush vegetation and forest due to the humidity in the higher regions.
We will visit one of the ranches of the area where it is possible to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. As these animals migrate from the coastal area to the highlands and back, the chosen ranch will depend on the presence of the tortoises since they roam free and change locations.
This is also a good place to see the Galapagos hawk and barn owl of this island and the surrounding forests are filled of birds such as the vermilion flycatcher or the yellow warbler.
We will enjoy lunch at the ranch to then head back to Puerto Ayora for our second visit of the day, the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center.
Here, we will see tortoises from different islands. The animals are found in large semi‐natural pens for their protection, but also to ensure an easy view for the visitors. The pens are divided according to four different stages: eggs, neonates, juveniles (held here until they are mature enough to be “repatriated”), and adults.
Dry landing on one of the oldest rocks of the archipelago, colorful Plaza Sur is home to vibrant green prickly pears, deep red Sesuvium, and coppery‐orange land iguanas. Impressive seaward cliffs are excellent for a variety of coastal birds. This is also a great place to observe the adult and pup sea lions swimming along the shores.
After a wet landing on Santa Fe onto a white beach where sea lions are usually resting, we will be looking for the endemic species of land iguana, larger and yellower than land iguanas on other islands. The largest prickly pear cacti in the Galapagos are also found here.
We will head to Punta Suarez The trail is about 4 km (2 miles) long and the walk takes about 2 hours. A geyser near the trail sprays water some 25 m (75 feet) into the air. This is one of the most popular landing sites in Galapagos. The highlightsinclude:sea lions near the landing place,sometimesto be seen body‐surfing in the large breakers; large marine iguanas, with red‐coloured males in the breeding season; oystercatchers; blue‐footed and Nazca boobies; Galapagos hawk; Galapagos dove;swallow‐tailed gull; red billed tropicbirds in flight; and three species endemic to Española – waved albatross (present only from April to December), Española mockingbird, and Española lava lizard.
We will spend the day in fantastic Española, starting with Gardner Bay (wet landing), an outstanding beach with sea lions, marine iguanas, and the intrepid Española mockingbird. Close to Española there is a good spot for snorkeling called Gardner Islet. While snorkeling, there is a good chance playful sea lions will join you. Get ready for more snorkeling at Osborn islet, a great place to observe great quantities of marine life.
This is our last day in the islands. After breakfast we will disembark in Puerto Ayora to take our transport to the Baltra airport, making a short stop to visit the Twin Craters. The Gemelos (twins) are two deep craters located to the side of the road that leads to Puerto Ayora from the other side of the island. These huge holes were probably created in a volcanic explosion or by magma chambers underneath the island´s surface.
This is also a good place to see the Galapagos hawk and barn owl of this island and the surrounding forests are filled of birds such as the vermilion flycatcher or the yellow warbler. Something worth mentioning is the contrast of the vegetation of the highlands with the arid coastal zones. After this visit we will make our way to the Baltra airport for the flight to mainland Ecuador.