The Ark Archipelago - Central Islands
Quito’s great but lacks sea lions and red lava crabs – so we ditch it after a night.
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.
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$20 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 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 '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.
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
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.
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 offer a great insight 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.
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
What to Know
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
Petty theft & Personal Safety :
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
Geckos will provide life jackets for private boats, but cannot guarantee that all public ferries will have enough life jackets or life rings for all clients.
Trip Dates and Prices
Dates Vessel Price Range Cabin Type 08 Sep 2015 - 17 Sep 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,800 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $3,655 Closed Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Contact Usguaranteed US $4,700 Closed Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $4,800 Contact Us Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Contact Usguaranteed US $4,800 Closed 22 Sep 2015 - 01 Oct 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,890 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $3,655 Contact Us Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Requestguaranteed US $4,800 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $4,890 Contact Us 06 Oct 2015 - 15 Oct 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,890 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $3,655 Book Now Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,610 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Requestguaranteed US $4,705 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $4,890 Contact Us 20 Oct 2015 - 29 Oct 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,705 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $3,655 Contact Us Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,430 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Requestguaranteed US $4,530 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $4,705 Contact Us 03 Nov 2015 - 12 Nov 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,705 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $3,655 Book Now Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,430 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Contact Usguaranteed US $4,530 Contact Us Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Contact Usguaranteed US $4,705 Contact Us 17 Nov 2015 - 26 Nov 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,440 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $3,655 Book Now Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,345 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,440 Book Now 01 Dec 2015 - 10 Dec 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,705 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $3,655 Book Now Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,430 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Requestguaranteed US $4,530 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $4,705 Book Now 15 Dec 2015 - 24 Dec 2015 Daphne US $3,655 - $4,705 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Upper Deck Twin - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $3,655 Book Now Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,430 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Requestguaranteed US $4,530 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $4,705 Book Now 29 Dec 2015 - 07 Jan 2016 Daphne US $4,430 - $4,705 Choose Cabin Cabin Status Price Lower Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,430 Book Now Upper Deck Twin - Bunk Availableguaranteed US $4,530 Book Now Upper Deck Double - Lower Berth Requestguaranteed US $4,705 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
Before checking in for the flight from Quito to the Galapagos, there is a US$20 transit fee that needs to be paid. On arrival in the islands you must pay the US$100 national park fee to enter Galapagos National Park. On arrival on Isabela Island, there is also a US$5 port fee to be paid.