The Ark Archipelago - Southern Islands
This celebration of all things Galapagos kicks off in Quito. Snorkel among fishies and sharkies in Punta Carrion, wander the volcanic landscapes of Isla Isabela and Isla Cristobal and enter birdly paradises in Isla Floreana and Isla Española. Sea lions in Sante Fe, marine turtles in Santa Cruz.
Try these pirate pickup lines on Buccaneer Cove:
'I must be huntin' treasure, cause i'm diggin your chest.'
'Arrrrrrrrrrr you free Friday?'
'That be the finest pirate booty I've ever seen.'
Day 1 - Quito
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Quito.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Day 2 - Baltra - Snorkelling at Punta Carrion
This morning we transfer to Quito Airport for our early morning flight to the Galapagos Islands. Be prepared for an early start as this could mean leaving the hotel as early as 4am. A US$10 per person transit card is payable on departure at Quito Airport and a US$100 per person national park entry fee is payable on arrival. Please have cash on hand for these transactions as using credit cards can be time consuming.
On arrival in the Galapagos we are met in the arrivals hall and then transferred to our boat, the Nemo I, anchored a short distance away. Once on board we'll be assigned our cabins, meet the crew members and get to know our naturalist guide and fellow travellers over a delicious lunch.
The shallow and protected cove of Punta Carrion is ideal for snorkelling and swimming in the Galapagos. From the zodiac (panga) ride wildlife is plentiful so keep your eyes peeled for Frigate birds, Brown Pelicans, Galapagos herons, great Blue Herons, and Blue-Footed Boobies. Underwater, swim among tropical fish, rays and white-tipped reef sharks and California Sea Lions.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 3 - Isla Isabela
Isabela Island is the largest of the Galapagos archipelago. Isabela was formed by five giant volcanic craters, all of which are still considered active. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than 1 million years ago. This southern coast of turquoise blue waters has the largest area of beaches in the Galapagos. Passengers will be required to pay a USD$20pp fee to enter Isabela Island.
Las Tintoreras is a little peninsula at the entrance of Isabela Island’s Port. We visit Las Tintoreras, where from the viewing walkway you can look down into this narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping, and the occasional playful sea lion among them! Blue-footed boobies and penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here, and the waters provide further opportunities to swim with turtles. We enjoy a nice long walk on a gravel path through ‘Ahh-ahh’ lava flow and see plenty of Marine Iguanas. The natives of the islands call white sharks “tintoreras”, hence the name of this spectacular site.
We might also have the opportunity to snorkel off the panga, to observe sharks, sea lions and Galapagos penguins.
We visit the Arnoldo Tupiza Tortoise breeding center. Here you can see the five sub species of tortoises from Isabela Island, some of which are bred in captivity.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 4 - Isla Floreana
A highlight of any Galapagos cruise, Isla Floreana is rich in natural wonders and wildlife, including seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Discover the quirky maritime history of Post Office Bay.
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 colour. 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 sandy beach to an Easter Pacific Green Sea Turtle nesting site. Young Diamond Sting Rays are commonly found in the shore line and enjoy the view of the turquoise crystalline ocean. Just offshore, the famous Devil’s Crown is an old 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 snorkelling spot and many people find this one of the best snorkelling experiences of their trip and we might see Rays, Sharks, Sea Lions and Turtles.
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. Snorkeling and a panga ride will be also included in this outing.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5 - Isla Espanola
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, and Galapagos doves and mockingbirds are also often seen.
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 viewpoint, where we gain 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 Beach which is considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos Islands and full of California sea lions and Hood Mocking birds. Enjoy the beach and do some snorkelling which could be great for playing with sea lion pups and lots of fish. The rocks off the coast provide excellent snorkelling opportunities, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish, including surgeon and angelfish, often seen. The small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 6 - Isla Santa Cruz - Charles Darwin Research Centre & Santa Cruz Highlands
Today we visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos.
The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic hub of the archipelago, and is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The station's visitor centre and museum are essential stops for anyone interested in the archipelago's natural and human history, and keen to learn more about conservation efforts to preserve the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos. It also offers our best chance for close-up encounters with giant tortoises, and we can see many newborn and young giant turtles - part of the breeding program to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Observe the Giant Opuntia and Jasminocereus cactus trees. Leisure time to explore Puerto Ayora, check email or have a drink at a local bar and see the local’s way of life.
We head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz for a total change of scenery. Beginning at the coast we travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests 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.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 7 - Isla San Cristobal
The eastern-most island in the Galapagos, a variety of seabirds nest on Isla San Cristobal, including blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and frigates.
We visit Punta Pitt on the eastern end of San Cristobal Island, one of the most spectacular landscapes that resulted from the erosion of an ancient volcanic ash cone. Walk to the top of the volcanic hill for expansive views of the sparsely vegetated area. A variety of seabirds nest here, including blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and frigates. From the panga ride we can observe the three varieties of boobies nesting in the Galapagos and enjoy a snorkel from the beach!
We then take a Panga ride to Cerro Brujo where the volcanic formations are breathtaking. Wet landing on a fine powder beach on San Cristobal’s north coast followed by some swimming and snorkelling! It is a place for watching lake and coastal birds and the beach is also home to Sally Lightfoot crabs, brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies and offers wonderful views of Kicker RockBreakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 8 - Isla Santa Fe & South Plaza
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 stars of the Galapagos in one relatively small area. Expect to see the Galapagos hawk, land Iguanas, a variety of finches and the Galapagos mockingbird, sea lions, marine turtles, frigatebirds, Galapagos doves and lava lizards. It’s a naturally beautiful island as well, with one of the most attractive coves in the archipelago, the waters jade green and wonderful for snorkelling. Our trail follows the coast into the Opuntia Forest Santa Fe's trees are 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, Plaza Sur or South Plaza is nonetheless a place of great beauty, where we get close to sea lions and onto trails past one of the Galapagos’ largest land iguana populations, resting amid cacti and volcanic landscapes coloured bright red and green by sea-purslanes. The island’s rugged southern cliffs are an excellent place 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’!Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 9 - Black Turtle Cove – Baltra – Quito
We take a Panga ride to explore Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) - a red mangrove wetland on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. We paddle among the cove’s peaceful waters, for our first taste of 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 birdlife, 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 this is our final excursion. We say farewell to The Galapagos Islands and head to the airport for our flight back to Quito for the last night of the tour. Upon arrival in Quito Airport we are transferred back to our hotel for an overnight stay.Breakfast
Day 10 - Quito
Our trip ends today after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day so we are able to depart the accommodation at any time. There are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito so please speak to our customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest.Breakfast
What to Know
Trip Dates and Prices
Start Date – End Date Trip Status Price 08 Jun 2014 - 17 Jun 2014 1 Available US $3,795 Book Now 22 Jun 2014 - 01 Jul 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 06 Jul 2014 - 15 Jul 2014 7 Available US $3,910 Book Now 20 Jul 2014 - 29 Jul 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 17 Aug 2014 - 26 Aug 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 31 Aug 2014 - 09 Sep 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 14 Sep 2014 - 23 Sep 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 28 Sep 2014 - 07 Oct 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 12 Oct 2014 - 21 Oct 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 26 Oct 2014 - 04 Nov 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 09 Nov 2014 - 18 Nov 2014 7+ Available US $3,795 Book Now 23 Nov 2014 - 02 Dec 2014 7+ Available US $3,795 Book Now 07 Dec 2014 - 16 Dec 2014 7+ Available US $3,795 Book Now 21 Dec 2014 - 30 Dec 2014 7+ Available US $3,795 Book Now 04 Jan 2015 - 13 Jan 2015 7+ Available US $3,795 Book Now 18 Jan 2015 - 27 Jan 2015 7+ Available US $3,680 Book Now
Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments
At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.
The Ark Archipelago - Southern Islands
Nicky - Australia, 1 Jun, 2013
I have always found Gecko trips to be one of the best value for money options around and are always great fun, incredibly informative and seem to attract a great bunch of fantastically like minded travellers. I had anticipated that this trip was going to be amazing but I cannot describe how much it surpassed my expectations.
The Ark Archipelago - Southern Islands
Leearne - Australia, 23 Mar, 2013
One of the best trips I've been on.
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What to know
On arrival in the islands you must pay the US$110 national park fee to enter Galapagos National Park (This includes the US$10 transit fee). Once you arrive at Isabela Island there is also a port fee to be paid of US$20.