The Ark Archipelago - Central & Southern Islands
What you got Galapagos? Oh nothin’, just animals and that. Like what? Oh you know, just the usual: tortoises in Santa Cruz, penguins in Bartolome, sea lions in Sombrero Chino, turtles in Santiago, boobies in Daphne, sharks at Isabela, flamingos in Floreana… Shut-up Galapagos.
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 - 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 4 - 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 5 - Isla Daphne - Punta Carrion - Santa Cruz
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.
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 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
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 7 - Isla Floreana
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 8 - 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 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
Trip Dates and Prices
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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