The Ark Archipelago - Central Islands

The tortoises of Charles Darwin Research Station
Puerto Ayora
Meet Sally Lightfoot whilst crusing the Galapagos
Bartolome's lunar-like landscape
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Colonial Quito
  • Quito’s great but lacks sea lions and red lava crabs – so we ditch it after a night.

    Itinerary

    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.

    ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
    Quito is located above 2800 metres/9200 feet, where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!

    Before your trip: some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition(s) with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.

    On arrival in Quito: while our local representatives and hotel staff are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience: https://www.geckosadventures.com/sites/default/files/geckos_altitude-sickness.pdf

    Day 2 - Isla Santa Cruz - Las Bachas

    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 4:30 am (a boxed breakfast will be provided). 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 on the islands. Please have cash on hand for these transactions as 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 'Daphne', 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 sandy, white beaches of Las Bachas on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island are a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle, while marine iguanas are also commonly seen. The sand here is particularly white and soft as it is made of decomposed coral. The rocks provide great snorkelling and are the perfect habitat for the Sally Lightfoot crabs, which are plentiful on the island. A saltwater lagoon near the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel, but also be on the lookout for great blue herons. Remnants of a floating pier can still be sighted - a testimony to the US presence in the Galapagos during World War II.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3 - Isla North Seymour - Isla Bartolomé

    We take an active excursion to Isla North Seymour (North Seymour Island), probably one of the Galapagos’ most visited islands. On North Seymour the highlight will be seeing the blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, both species of frigate birds (great frigate birds and magnificent frigate birds), land iguanas, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions and 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.

    Bartolomé 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 on to 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, starfish and hopefully also penguins, white-tipped reef sharks and rays.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - 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 such as marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals. We can also see amazing tidal pools formed from ancient lava flow and home to sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. Snorkelling with the seals is always offer the possibility of thrilling encounters.

    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 large waves, it is also often a favourite amongst beach lovers. Potentially we will see Galapagos hawks up close, ghost crabs, blue-footed boobies (often 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 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 nine days while making his study of the islands and their wildlife. If conditions are favourable, we can enjoy some further snorkelling.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Isla Isabela - Isla Fernandina

    Tagus Cove was a place of anchorage for pirates and whalers who collected turtles for their trip. Approximately a two-hour visit where we can snorkel, check out ancient graffiti on its walls, observe flightless cormorants, penguins, blue-footed boobies and a variety of waterfowl. The walk leads to a high point where we take in a spectacular panoramic view of the north of Isabela Island and the Wolf volcano.

    Isla Fernandina's north-east tip, Punta Espinosa, is a narrow ledge of lava and sand where visitors can see lava cacti and flightless cormorants among the stark volcanic landscape.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6 - Isla Isabela

    Today we land at the archipelago's largest island - Isabela. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than a million years ago.

    We spend the morning at Punta Moreno on the southwest coast. This coastline has some of the most beautiful blue lagoons and rocky terrain in the Galapagos, with a backdrop of three active volcanoes, flamingos and incredible lava formations. Get ready for a great walk on top of the black lava field, with the majestic view of Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul in the background. Depending of the season we can see brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves, lava and candelabra cactus. Lava lizards are also frequently seen. We walk by brackish water lagoons covered with several different plants, where pink flamingos, ducks and black neck stills can be seen resting. Then back on board and off to do some snorkelling!

    Elizabeth Bay is an incredible biodiversity sanctuary located on the west coast of Isabela Island. We take a 'panga' ride out on the bay, so have your binoculars and cameras ready to photograph the second smallest penguins in the world (Galapagos penguin) and blue-footed boobies perched on the islets or flying overhead and looking to dive for their next meal. We head towards the mangrove forest,which is quite unique in Galapagos. Here, we may see turtles, sea lions, penguins, lava herons, rays and plenty of colourful fish including pompanos, dorados and mullets.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 7 - Isla Isabela

    Las Tintoreras is a little peninsula at the entrance of Isabela Island’s port. From the viewing walkway we 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' and observe sharks, sea lions and Galapagos penguins.

    In the afternoon we visit Humedales, the wetlands of Isabela. They are reached on a complex trail which winds around for 6 km long. Here we find a variety of flora and fauna as well as spectacular scenery. The historical site, El Muro de las Lagrimas (meaning 'Wall of Tears'), stands 25 metres (65 feet) high and was constructed from lava by prisoners from the penal colony as additional punishment. It was built between 1945 and 1959, and thousands lost their lives during its construction.

    Please note that there is a US$5 (per person) port fee to be paid on arrival at this particular site on Isabela Island.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Isla Santa Cruz

    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!

    In the afternoon, we will visit Punta Carrion, located in north-eastern Santa Cruz. This is a shallow and protected cove, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. Wildlife is plentiful; keep your eyes peeled for blue-footed boobies, Galapagos herons, great blue herons and underwater swim among rays and white-tipped reef sharks.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Charles Darwin Research Station - Baltra - Quito

    Today we return to 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.

    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. Our local representative may stop by at your hotel this evening to get your feedback trip on your Galapagos experience.

    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 our accommodation at any time. If you have not spent time here before, we recommend you stay on a few days as there are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, such as the Cotopaxi volcano, the Cloud Forest, hot springs, the Equatorial Monument or perhaps city tour of the fascinating Old Town. Please speak to our customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest. They can also assist you in booking a departure transfer to the airport.

    Breakfast
  • Map Itinerary

  • Trip Dates and Prices

    Dates Vessel Price Range Cabin Type
    30 Dec 2014 - 08 Jan 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Contact Usguaranteed US $4,440 Contact Us
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    10 Mar 2015 - 19 Mar 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    24 Mar 2015 - 02 Apr 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    07 Apr 2015 - 16 Apr 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    21 Apr 2015 - 30 Apr 2015 Daphne US $4,520 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,520 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    05 May 2015 - 14 May 2015 Daphne US $4,520 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,520 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Contact Usguaranteed US $4,615 Contact Us
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    02 Jun 2015 - 11 Jun 2015 Daphne US $4,690 - $4,795 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,690 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    16 Jun 2015 - 25 Jun 2015 Daphne US $4,690 - $4,795 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,690 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    30 Jun 2015 - 09 Jul 2015 Daphne US $4,690 - $4,795 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,690 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    14 Jul 2015 - 23 Jul 2015 Daphne US $4,690 - $4,795 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,690 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    11 Aug 2015 - 20 Aug 2015 Daphne US $4,690 - $4,795 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,690 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,795 Book Now
    25 Aug 2015 - 03 Sep 2015 Daphne US $4,520 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,520 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    08 Sep 2015 - 17 Sep 2015 Daphne US $4,520 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,520 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    22 Sep 2015 - 01 Oct 2015 Daphne US $4,615 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    06 Oct 2015 - 15 Oct 2015 Daphne US $4,520 - $4,615 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,520 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,615 Book Now
    20 Oct 2015 - 29 Oct 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    03 Nov 2015 - 12 Nov 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    01 Dec 2015 - 10 Dec 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    15 Dec 2015 - 24 Dec 2015 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    29 Dec 2015 - 07 Jan 2016 Daphne US $4,345 - $4,440 Choose
    Cabin Cabin Status Price
    Lower Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now
    Upper Deck Double Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now
    Upper Deck Twin Availableguaranteed US $4,440 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
    5
    Overall Rating

    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
    5
    Overall Rating

    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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Nuts+Bolts

#GSCGB
- 16
Boat, Bus, Plane
2 nights Hotel, 7 nights Motorised Yacht
Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

What to know

On arrival in the islands, you must pay 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$5.

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