The Ark Archipelago - Central Islands
Quito’s great but lacks sea lions and red lava crabs – so we ditch it after a night. Luckily, Isla Mosquera can hook us up. Ballena Bay may have Darwin’s Finches but Isla Isabela hosts flamingos. Sombrero Chino does sea lions and penguins. Espumilla Beach got turtles.
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 - Isla Mosquera
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.
We sail to Isla Mosquera, an Islet situated between Baltra and North Seymour. This stretch of water is rich in sea life and is a popular spot for both sea lions and marine birds. Watch out for the boobies making their spectacularly quick headlong dives into the water. Isla Mosquera is a relaxing and picturesque spot with its uplifted coral reef with long stretches of white sand and rock pools. Along the rocks and in the tide pool, Sally Lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) scamper back and forth, skipping across small pools of water in search of food. These crabs with their bright red shell tops and blue under shells are stunning against the black lava. The island also has a very large colony of sea lions as well as a sizeable resident brown pelican population. We also have the chance to go snorkelling.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.
The Wetlands are the first exploration of the day, where we can observe migratory birds like sandpiper, common stilt, plovers, flamingos, American oystercatcher and many other interesting species. Then take a bus to the highest part of Isabela Island where Sierra Negra Volcano is located. Be prepared for a hike on a rocky trail that will take us to a spectacular view of the crater (weather permitting). On the hike we should see many finches of different species in the area.
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 captivityBreakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 4 - Eden Islet - Cerro Dragon - Isla Santa Cruz
This morning we will go for a walk on the beach at the beautiful Ballena Bay. The main attraction is the observation of Darwin's finches. If we are in luck, we might be able to find small ground finches, large tree finches and woodpecker finches. We then take a great Panga Ride to Eden Islet which is an excellent place for snorkelling. Here we can see turtles, marine iguanas, rays, a variety tropical fish and hopefully reef shark. We will also observe blue footed boobies, Nazca boobies (masked), tropical birds and frigates.
We then set sail for Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill), on Santa Cruz's north coast. From our dry landing we walk to a brackish lagoon frequented by lagoon birds including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally flamingos. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a nesting site for land iguanas, which is constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for a rewarding location for birdwatching, with Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galapagos flycatcher and yellow warblers all regulars here. The path can be challenging but we'll be well rewarded with a spectacular view of the bay!Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5 - Isla Rabida - Isla North Seymour
Rabida Island is known for it's 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 in the Galapagos for viewing flamingos. Rabida is also a wonderful place to spot nesting pelicans. Elsewhere, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions are all present. Here we will find great Opuntia cactus forest which suggests previous existence of land iguanas as predators, possibly Galapagos hawks, mocking birds, doves, and finches; lava lizards. There is also an opportunity for snorkelling where sea stars, damsels, gobbies and surgeon fish are numerous.
We take an active excursion to North Seymour, probably one of the Galapagos’ most visited islands. On North Seymour Island the highlight will be seeing the blue footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, both species of frigate birds (Great and Magnificent), land iguanas, marine iguanas, California sea lions, endemic incense trees. The magnificent frigate bird, a large black bird with a long wingspan, and a hooked beak, is extremely fast and has excellent vision. Frigate birds are known for the large red pouch on their necks. During mating season the males thrown back their heads, inflate the pouch (sometimes to the size of a soccer ball), and shake trying to capture the attention of female frigates. Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship. They share the same nesting area on North Seymour, with blue-footed boobies nesting on the ground, while the frigate birds nests just above them in the saltbushes. A solid walk is followed by snorkelling where we will find a great variety of fish, and possibly white-tipped reef sharks, rays and sea lions.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 6 - Charles Darwin Research Station - 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 - Sombrero Chino - Isla Bartolome
Bartolome Island is one of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes in the Galapagos, full of parasitic spatter cones, lava flows, Galapagos penguins and lava lizards. Bartolomé is a relatively new island in the archipelago and walking shoes are required as we will climb over 360 wooden steps to the summit where the scenery is spectacular and we have a great view of Pinnacle Rock - one of the most photographed sites in the Galapagos, it is an abrupt jag of rock protruding from the earth like a tooth, while nearby two golden bays back onto each other. Here we can hike to the top of a once-active volcano and enjoy superb views across to Sullivan Bay, on nearby Santiago Island . If we are in luck we might catch a glance of the Galapagos Hawk here. We will also have the opportunity to go snorkelling with plenty of tropical fish, sea stars and hopefully with penguins, white tipped reef sharks and rays.
We approach Sombrero Chino via a beautiful crescent-shaped, sandy beach that is home to sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. The island is a miniature volcano, shaped like a Chinese hat (hence its name), and along its trails we explore the island’s volcanic origin with its fascinating lava tubes. Opposite Sombrero Chino, on the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago, Galapagos penguins are often seen. We follow a trail that circles the cove and passes through a sea lion colony and innumerable marine iguanas. The cove also offers some great snorkelling opportunities, hopefully with Penguins and Sharks.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 8 - Espumilla Beach and Buccaneer’s Cove-Isla Santiago
Puerto Egas is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island. Here we will see amazing volcanic tuff formations and the walk along the beach provides many opportunities for encounters with the locals - marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, California sea lions, Galapagos fur sea lions and lava grotos. We can also see amazing tidal pools formed from ancient lava flow and home to sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. and we can snorkel with California sea lions and Galapagos fur sea lions.
Espumilla Beach, on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay, is one of the most idyllic locations in the Galapagos Islands and is an important nesting site for marine turtles. With its large waves is often a favourite amongst beach lovers. Potentially we will see Galapagos hawks up close, ghost crabs, blue footed boobies plunging for fish and brown pelicans. It is also well known for its Palo Santo Forest and some extraordinary lava formations.
We then go to view the spectacular geology of volcanic ash (Tuff) of Buccaneer’s cove. Here we can find remains of objects used by pirates in centuries past, hence the name Buccaneer Cove. A place of local legends and stories it is where Darwin camped for a 9 days while making his study of the islands and their wildlife. If conditions are good, we can snorkel again.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 9 - Isla Daphne – Baltra – Quito
We visit Daphne island which has a peculiar and impressive landscape because it was shaped by volcanic activity. It is a great place to do some bird spotting and here we can find a variety of seabirds such as blue-footed and masked boobies, terns, petrels and even the beautiful frigate birds with their vibrant red pouches. No need to get wet for this activity as we circle the island.
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 01 Jun 2014 - 10 Jun 2014 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 15 Jun 2014 - 24 Jun 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 29 Jun 2014 - 08 Jul 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 13 Jul 2014 - 22 Jul 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 10 Aug 2014 - 19 Aug 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 24 Aug 2014 - 02 Sep 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 07 Sep 2014 - 16 Sep 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 21 Sep 2014 - 30 Sep 2014 7+ Available US $4,025 Book Now 19 Oct 2014 - 28 Oct 2014 7+ Available US $3,910 Book Now 02 Nov 2014 - 11 Nov 2014 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 16 Nov 2014 - 25 Nov 2014 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 30 Nov 2014 - 09 Dec 2014 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 14 Dec 2014 - 23 Dec 2014 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 28 Dec 2014 - 06 Jan 2015 7+ Available US $3,615 Book Now 11 Jan 2015 - 20 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 - Central Islands
terrance - Canada, 25 May, 2013
The landings and the snorkeling were great. You never tired of the animals or the birds. If at all with dubious 'sea legs', bring appropriate medication.
The Ark Archipelago - Central Islands
Denielle - Australia, 16 Mar, 2013
The Galapagos Islands trip was close to paradise. It was well organised. The guide was friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about the Islands. The crew had a well run boat and the food was plentiful and delicious.
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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 fee to be paid of US$20