EQ2 Ecuador's Galapagos Islands

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Guided colonial Quito tour; Four-night luxury Galapagos cruise; Exciting guided shore excursions; Snorkelling with sea lions!; Darwin Research Station visit

Full Itinerary


Day 1 Arrive in Quito
Arrive in Quito and transfer to our hotel. Quito (2788 m / 9,200 feet) is Ecuador's lovely capital city, nestled against Pichincha Volcano high in the Andes.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Quito: City Tour
Today we tour old Spanish Colonial Quito, preserved by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As we enter the streets of Old Quito we step into the past, surrounded by centuries-old architecture. We stop at the commanding Legislative Palace, whose murals record Ecuador's history. We will see Quito's most beautiful religious buildings, including the cathedral, the Independence Plaza, San Francisco Church, and visit one of Quito's most impressive religious buildings, La Compania church, whose ornate facade and solid gold altars make it one of the most famous of South American churches. We visit the famous Panecillo Hill with its towering winged statue of the Virgin of the Apocalypse with views of north and south of Quito and the surrounding mountains.

This afternoon we travel 22 km (14 miles) north of Quito to the Equator line monument, known as the "middle of the world," where you can stand with one foot in the Northern and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. We also visit the excellent on-site ethnographic museum with exhibits pertaining to the many indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to logistical reasons, this is a "floating day" that may occur at a different point of our programme.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Quito - The Galapagos / Baltra / Santa Cruz Island
This morning we fly from Quito to Baltra Island and board our cruise vessel for our exploration of the unique and beautiful Galapagos Islands.*

An archipelago of 12 large and several hundred smaller volcanic islands occupying a 4800 sq km (3,000 sq mile) area about 1000 km (620 miles) west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands have become one of the world's premier adventure travel destinations. Over the course of your visit, you'll enjoy up-close views of unusual, specially-adapted animals, plants and terrains including sea lions, tortoises, iguanas, land and sea birds, volcanic landscapes, unusual cacti and vegetation. Little has changed about the islands since Charles Darwin's visit in 1835 to "this little world within itself" inspired his first theories of evolution. Nearly the entire archipelago is a natural sanctuary where you'll have thrilling encounters with some of the world's last completely untamed wildlife that has never learned to fear the presence of humans.

We will be navigating the Galapagos on board the M/V Galapagos Legend, a 110-passenger luxury expedition ship totally converted in December 2001. The M/V Galapagos Legend has all-new passenger accommodations with 1800 sq m of social areas and was built with marine certified materials qualifying with Safety of Life at Sea specifications. All cabins are booked in outside 'superior' class with plenty of space for luggage in the wardrobe closet (Junior Suite cabin upgrades available; view cabins on www.gogalapagos.com). Private bathrooms feature hot and cold water, shower, and a hair dryer. Also aboard, a highly trained crew, 24 hour physician, and naturalist multilingual guides. An auditorium for conferences, spacious social areas, dining room, 24 hour coffee bar, swimming pool and sun decks, observation platforms, cocktail bars, long distance calls, fully air-conditioned.

Return to ship for passenger welcome and briefing; there is a presentation of the crew. At this time a safety drill is practiced. Free time on board. After dinner a guide's briefing on next day activities in the auditorium.

PM - Black Turtle Cove
On the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, accessible only by sea where four species of mangrove crowd from the shore out into the lagoon, turtle enjoy swimming in the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below. White tipped reef sharks can be seen beneath the boat, sea birds, including pelicans, herons and egrets, all feed in the cove. This cove has been declared as a "Turtle Sanctuary." Difficulty level: easy. Duration:
1h00

PLEASE NOTE: Most of our 2015 dates will operate itinerary "D", except for January and the earlier October dates, which will operate on itinerary "B" (shown in this itinerary). You may visit www.gogalapagos.com for more information on the itineraries and vessel.

* The cruise portion of this itinerary has been provided provided by the cruise operator and should be taken as guidance only. Last minute operation considerations and national park policies can result in alterations and deviations from this schedule, sometimes at late notice. Such changes are the prerogative of the cruise operator over which Adventures Abroad has no control.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 4 Galapagos Cruise / Sullivan Bay (Santiago) / Rabida
AM - Sullivan Bay (Santiago), Wet landing. This visitor site located at the southeastern portion of Santiago Island, and of important geologic interest, features extensive lava flows believed to have been formed during the last quarter of the 19th century. Difficulty level: difficult, 1.5 km path.
Type of terrain: flat volcanic lava. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling/swimming.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes followed by lunch.

PM - Rabida, Wet landing. Dark red sand covers these unique beaches with incredible landscape Rabida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting Brown Pelicans are found from July through September and nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches can be seen. We will also take a dinghy ride along cliffs to observe
nesting seabirds, and snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: sandy. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes. Free time on board. Guides briefing on next day activities.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 5 Galapagos Cruise / Urbina Bay (Isabela) / Tagus Cove (Isabela)
AM - Urbina Bay (Isabela). Wet landing on a volcanic black beach. Depending on the season, we may find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual Flightless Cormorant. After a short walk inland, snorkeling time is allotted, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plant life that changes depending on the season. We can observe the beautiful colours of plants that attract different insects, birds and reptiles. We will explore the uplifted coral reef that resulted from 1954 volcanic activity, with a spectacular view of Alcedo Volcano. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: flat. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling.

We may also encounter Darwin's finches, Yellow Warbler and lava lizards. Great snorkeling opportunities with Green Pacific Sea Turtles as well, this island is best known for its endemic vegetation: Scalesia villosa, Lecocarpus pinnatifidus, and Galapagos milkwort. Snorkelers can practice on the main beach among playful sea lions.

Return on board, the crew will welcome you with canapes. Lunch.

PM - Tagus Cove (Isabela). Dry landing on Galapagos's largest island where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin's salt-water crater Lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. We will return by the same path for a dingh y ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm tall ; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves. The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. We will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: steep. Duration: 2 hour walk / 40 minutes dinghy ride / deep water snorkeling 1 hour.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Galapagos Cruise / Espinosa Point (Fernandina)
AM - Espinosa Point (Fernandina) Dry landing. Espinosa Point is the only spot that we visit on Fernandina, and from it we can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the "King" of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but we encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: rocky. Duration: 2 hours walk / 1hour snorkeling

PM - Vicente Roca Point (Isabela). Great deep water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth (Bolivar Channel). We take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds; Nazca and blue-footed boobies, noddies, brown pelicans, penguins, flightless cormorants. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life. Duration: 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 7 Galapagos / Highlands (Santa Cruz) - Quito
AM - Highlands (Santa Cruz) Dry landing. A 45 minute bus ride will take us to the Santa Cruz highlands, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where we will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island's name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: flat & muddy sometimes (depending on season). Duration: 45 minutes drive / 1h30 walk.

Return to the M/V Galapagos Legend, check out* and depart to the airport for our flight to Quito (via a stop in Guayaquil).

* PLEASE NOTE: As an exception to our general policy regarding the inclusion of tips in our tour pricing, gratuities for the ship's crew are NOT included in tour price. (We have found that trying to pre-pay tips on your behalf is not practical, for a number of reasons). Accordingly, we suggest that you allow approximately USD 90-100 total per passenger for satisfactory service.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 8 Departure
Departure from Quito.

BUEN VIAJE!
Meal plan: breakfast