The Ark Archipelago - Central & Eastern Islands
This Galapagos gig got it all. The forests of the Santa Cruz highlands, the volcanic rises of Isla San Cristobal, the cactus fields of South Plaza. The sea life of Isla Mosquera, the tortoises of Isabela, the iguanas of North Seymour. Wam, bam, thank you mam.
Try these priate 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 - Santa Cruz Highlands
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 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 3 - Isla San Cristobal
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 4 - 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 5 - Black Turtle Cove - Isla Mosquera
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.
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 6 - 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 captivity.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 7 - 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 8 - 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 9 - Isla Santa Cruz - Charles Darwin Station - Baltra - Quito
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.
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 tour 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
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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