cruising in Darwin's footsteps
A true wildlife holiday of a life time, exploring the Enchanted Islands of the Galápagos.
13th – 26th May 2024
Single Room Supplement – £190 (hotels only); £2,750 (boat)
Return flight London Heathrow to Guayaquil. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Twelve nights accommodation plus one overnight flight, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 6, maximum 16.
When Charles Darwin first arrived in the Galapagos on board The Beagle in 1835, he described ‘a broken field of black basaltic lava, thrown in the most rugged waves and crossed by great fissures… nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance.’ On this holiday, we will show you that appearances can be deceptive, as we explore the wonderful natural history of the ‘enchanted isles’, the world famous islands of the Galapagos. Unlike most trips, we also have extra time on the main island giving us a different insight into the life here, plus time to explore the highlands and experience the friendly town at a relaxed pace. We also have excursions in mainland Ecuador to explore the diversity here – an added bonus.
The centrepiece of our trip is a week long cruise on a catamaran motor yacht of a very high standard taking only 16 passengers. Our itinerary extends from the inhabited highlands of Santa Cruz to the untouched wilderness and tree-nesting Red-footed Boobies of Genovesa, and the wonderful Wandering Albatross colony of Espanola. The opportunities to enjoy the wildlife from the boat and on walks on the islands are truly magical. Specialities of the Galapagos include comical Blue-footed Boobies, Marine and Land Iguanas and nesting frigatebirds as well, of course, as Darwin’s famous finches and the giant tortoises. Snorkelling to discover the amazingly rich marine life in these waters is optional (cost included) but promises close encounters with turtles, sea lions and (friendly) sharks. After our fantastic time on the boat, we enjoy a two night stay in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz.
With their incredible wildlife, who could fail but be enchanted by Las Islas Encantadas?
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Flight from UK to Guayaquil, via Amsterdam with one short stop in Quito. Short transfer to our hotel in the downtown area.
Day 2 A gentle morning takes us to Cerro Blanco, a large area of Tumbesian dry forest, an ecosystem unique to the lowlands of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. We also visit a nearby reservoir, where wetland birds and various herons may be found.
Day 3 We take our flight out to the Galapagos Islands. On arrival we have time to enjoy our first sights of Galapagos wildlife: Darwin’s finches, Galapagos Mockingbirds, Magnificent Frigatebirds and even catch a glimpse of a Land Iguana shuffling past: and that’s before passing through customs! We meet up with our National Park guide and head to Santa Cruz where we will travel up into the highlands in search of Santa Cruz Giant Tortoises in the wild, as well as exploring the cloud forest. After lunch, we shuttle across to the Daphne, our home for the next week.
Day 4 Today is spent on Floreana. We head up into the highlands, hoping to find the Medium Tree Finch, a critically endangered bird found only on Floreana. After lunch we may have the opportunity to snorkel around the offshore islet known as the Devil’s Crown. Our afternoon excursion is to Punta Cormorant where we will watch the Galapagos Flamingos feeding on the lagoon behind the beach.
Day 5 We wake up to find ourselves anchored offshore Espanola. Our day starts at Punta Suarez, for many the highlight of their time in the Galapagos. After making our way past the sealions playing in the surf and the sunbathing Marine Iguanas, we find ourselves on an eroded beach, amongst nesting Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies, Swallow-tailed Gulls and American Oystercatcher. We can also enjoy our first views of the Waved Albatrosses gliding up on the updrafts. Within the colony, pairs should be making their famous bill-clacking display, while others are already incubating their eggs.
Day 6 We arrive at San Cristobal and sail around the impressive Kicker Rock, looking out for Great Frigatebirds and Galapagos Petrels, and pass by the spot where Darwin first set foot on the islands that made him famous. In the afternoon we visit the highlands, where we look for the island’s endemic mockingbird and giant tortoise, along with plenty of interesting endemic plants.
Day 7 Our morning excursion is to the island of Santa Fe for a short walk around the island, the only place in the world that is home to Santa Fe Land Iguana. The sheltered bay here, with clear water, white sands and abundant reef fish provides the perfect place for another foray into the underwater world. Over lunch we travel north to the wonderful island of South Plaza, small but perfectly formed.
Day 8 We wake to find ourselves moored off the magical island of Genovesa, one of the gems of the Galapagos. This island is home to a large colony of Red-footed Boobies and Great Frigatebirds also nest here. Another highlight is the broken lava field, home to a large population of Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels, flying back and forth from their nesting burrows amongst the lava.
Day 9 We visit Sullivan Bay on Santiago where we will enjoy some of the most spectacular lava formations in the islands. Our afternoon visit will be to Cerro Dragon, across the channel on Santa Cruz, where Land Iguanas feed amongst the Opuntia cactuses and fragrant Palo Santo trees. The trail takes us through the arid vegetation to the nearby lagoon, home to Galapagos Flamingos, Blacknecked Stilts and White-cheeked Pintail.
Day 10 An early morning ‘panga’ ride takes us through the mangroves of Caleta Tortuga Negra. Unfortunately, this is our last excursion from the boat, and all too soon it is time to bid farewell to the Daphne as we disembark at Baltra. From here we travel across to Santa Cruz and back to Puerto Ayora where we will settle in to our hotel for the next two nights.
Day 11 We visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Centre and Fausto Llerena Interpretation Centre, to learn more about the conservation challenges facing the islands. Amongst the arid zone vegetation, we should find several of Darwin’s famous finches, giving us the chance to compare Small, Medium and Large Ground Finches and Cactus Finch side by side. After a free afternoon, we will enjoy a sunset cocktail and a farewell meal at one of the town’s waterside restaurants.
Day 12 A travel day, first across the island to the Baltra channel, then across to the airport and our flight back to Guayaquil.
Day 13 We will have a tour of some of the more interesting corners of the city and learn something of Guayaquil’s revolutionary history. After lunch we will make our way to the airport, ready for our evening flight, arriving in Amsterdam the next day (Day 14) and from there on to Heathrow.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.