DAY 1 WEDNESDAY: Baltra / Santa Cruz
On arrival in the Galapagos, we collect our luggage and meet our local guide in the arrivals hall. We then head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz island for our first Galapagos adventure. Beginning at the coast we travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the mist where we can see the unique scalesia cloud forest, dome-shaped giant tortoises in the wild, different species of Darwin finches and possibly the world famous woodpecker and warbler finches, as well as vermillion flycatchers. Today we will enjoy lunch in the highlands.
This afternoon we travel to Puerto Ayora and transfer to our boat, the Daphne. Once on board, we'll be assigned our cabins, meet the crew members and get to know our naturalist guide.
DAY 2 THURSDAY: Floreana Island
Discover the quirky maritime history of Post Office Bay, which is the oldest postal system in the Americas. Steeped in history, in 1793 a post office barrel was erected for mariners to post their mail and assist in delivery of mail to the United States and Europe. This custom continues today with Galapagos visitors leaving letters and postcards to be collected by the next passing boat. Send one of your own and check if there are any you can deliver back home. Here we will snorkeling and enjoying a 'panga' (small boat) ride.
We go ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystals, a glassy volcanic mineral, giving the beach an olive-green color. It is the best place to see Galapagos sea lions. Today is also one of our finest opportunities to see pink flamingos and other water birds wading in the lagoons, including pintails and stilts. The walk continues to a white flour like sandy beach which is an Eastern Pacific green turtle nesting site. Young diamond stingrays are commonly found in the shore line and you can enjoy the view of the turquoise crystalline ocean. Just offshore, the famous Devil’s Crown is an eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds can also be seen nesting in the rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding snorkeling spot and many people find this to be one of the best snorkeling experiences of their trip. We might see rays, sharks, sea lions and turtles.
DAY 3 FRIDAY: Española Island
Today we cruise to the island of Española - the southernmost island of the Galapagos and one of the most spectacular. Because of its remote location this island has a large population of endemic fauna. It is the breeding site for nearly all of the world's 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses and also home to colonies of blue-footed and masked boobies. Trails from the golden beaches, where sea lions bathe and marine iguanas make their way towards the water, lead us right through the middle of booby colonies, Galapagos doves and mockingbirds are also seen often. We land at Punta Suarez, one of the most attractive locations in the Galapagos and home to large and varied wildlife population - a walk along its trails takes us to a cliff top vista, where we view a magical panorama. Boobies line the rocky shoreline beneath us, while frigate birds may be seen overhead; nearby enormous male sea lions can be seen lounging and albatross use the cliffs as their ‘runway’, helping become airborne by the southeast winds that blow across this part of the island. If we’re lucky we’ll see the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate.
We head to Gardner Bay which is considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos Islands and full of sea lions and hood mockingbirds. Enjoy the beach and do some snorkeling which is great for playing with sea lion pups and lots of fish. The rocks, off the coast, provide excellent snorkeling opportunities, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish, including surgeon and angelfish. The small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks.
DAY 4 SATURDAY: San Cristobal-Kicker Rock and Interpretation Centre
Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) is the magnificent basalt remains of a crater in the middle of the sea, the shape resembling a sleeping lion. The rock rises 150 meters above the surface and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. We cruise through the channel, with nesting seabirds on either side of the boat, tropic birds overhead, marine iguanas and sea lions in the water and resting on the rocks. Snorkeling gives us the opportunity to see Galapagos sharks, and possibly a hammer head shark among sea turtles and an incredible biodiversity of invertebrates on the wall.
We visit the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre. The centre brings the history and geography of the archipelago to life, from its volcanic origins to the present day. The human history exhibit offers an insight into the discovery, colonization and issues facing Galapagos today. This is a great place to get a complete overview of the Galapagos.
DAY 5 SUNDAY: Santa Fe / Plazas
Santa Fe is home to more sea lions, and these ones are very eager for swimming partners! It’s a lovely place to take a dip, offers a dense concentration of wildlife, and is a fantastic place to see many of the endemic animals of Galapagos in one relatively small area. Expect to see Galapagos hawks, land iguanas, a variety of finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, sea lions, marine turtles, frigate birds, Galapagos doves and lava lizards. It’s a naturally beautiful island as well with one of the most attractive coves in the archipelago and the jade-green waters are ideal for snorkeling. Our trail follows the coast into the opuntia forest, where we see Santa Fe's trees - the largest in the Galapagos. Hiking into the island you can see a forest of giant cacti and palo santo trees. Once back at the beach we have free time to snorkel in the jade green water. Playful sea lion pups and fluorescent fish make for fascinating company.
A small island, South Plaza is a place of great beauty where we get close to sea lions and one of the Galapagos’ largest land iguana populations. The island’s rugged southern cliffs are excellent places to spot tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as ‘the Gentlemen’s Club’ - a gathering of male sea lions either too young or too old to be ‘beach masters’!
DAY 6 MONDAY: Genovesa Island
It takes us an overnight sail to reach Isla Genovesa, the archipelago's most north-eastern outpost, but it is undeniably worth the voyage. Dolphins are often spotted in the waters around Genovesa while the island itself is one of abundant beauty, with varying landscapes and wonderful wildlife. It is also a bird watchers paradise with all three kinds of boobies, including the rare red-footed booby, and numerous other species such as tropic and frigate birds. Climbing the steep path known as Prince Philip's Steps gets us into the heart of the seabird rookeries, with birds overhead and nesting among the cliffs. On the island's rocky plains we look out for storm petrels which is the only place worldwide they be seen flying during the day. Afterwards, cool off with a snorkel!
Darwin Beach is another superb site with large breeding colonies of seabirds, frigates and other birds such as lava herons, swallow-tailed gulls, mockingbirds and hopefully vampire finches. During the walk we will pass by tide pools with playful sea lions and diamond stingrays. The island's magnificent marine life also makes for spectacular snorkeling with the chance of encountering manta rays, sharks, turtles, moray eels along with many types of fishes.
DAY 7 TUESDAY: Santiago Island / Rabida Island
On Santiago Island's eastern coast sits Bahia Sullivan, also known as James Island. Here, we take a walk on Pahoe-Hoe lava that was created by an eruption in 1897. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions, finches, turtles, sharks and penguins. On our walk here, our guide will recount to us the geological history of the islands.
Isla Rabida is known for its gorgeous red sandy beach, due to the rusting of iron, and is one of the most striking islands of the archipelago. From the shore, the trail leads through to what is one of the finest lagoons for viewing flamingos. Rabida is also a wonderful place to spot nesting pelicans, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions. Here we will find a great opuntia cactus forest which suggests previous existence of land iguanas as well as possibly Galapagos hawks, mockingbirds, doves, finches and lava lizards. There is also an opportunity for snorkeling in a place where sea stars, damsels, boobies and surgeon fish are numerous.
DAY 8 WEDNESDAY: Black Turtle Cove / Baltra
As flights to the mainland from Galapagos depart mid-morning, it is an early start for our last morning on the islands. Depending on the time of our flight, our time spent on this final excursion could be limited.
We take a panga ride to explore Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) - a red mangrove wetland on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz. We paddle among the cove’s peaceful waters to experience the underwater riches of these waters. It’s a breeding area for green turtles, so it is not uncommon to see them mating. There is also abundant bird life, such as the yellow warbler and lava heron. It is also a nursery for golden cow-nose rays, eagle rays and Galapagos sharks.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end and we say farewell to the Galapagos Islands.
**The vessel itinerary is subject to change without prior notice; due to seasonal changes, weather conditions or the Galapagos National Park policy.**