|Ecuador, Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)|
|Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador||Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador|
As the basis of Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos has a bit of a reputation. And boy does it live up to it. Y’know, if you’re into massive tortoises, swimming lizards, more birds than you can shake your binoculars at, and volcanoes. Let’s be honest – who isn’t into all of that?
Accommodation: San Francisco Hotel or similar , 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
If you arrive early, you may have some time to explore Quito. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, this charming colonial centre offers a wealth of things to see and you could lose yourself for hours meandering through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets and exploring the lively Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco. The city is filled with Baroque art and architecture, as exemplified by magnificent churches, monasteries and public buildings. If your feel like exploring further afield, you might like to head for one of the many viewpoints over the city. El Panecillo (The Little Bread Loaf) offers sensational views of the city’s white houses and surrounding volcanoes. The 30 metre high statue of La Virgen de Quito sits atop this small hill and can be seen from all over the city. Incredible vistas can also be enjoyed from La Cima de la Libertad, the site of Ecuadorian independence from Spain. The Monastery of San Diego is home to the only version of 'The Last Supper' painting where Christ and company are feasting on cuy (roast guinea pig). Visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ (The Middle of the World), which was built on what was claimed in 1736 to be the line of the equator.Also visit the the smaller monument nearby called Museo Solar Inti Nan - supposedly where the equator actually runs through since re-measurements were made.Enjoy a free evening and perhaps grab some dinner from a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Hotel Delfin Azul or similar, Isabela Island
Today begins with an early morning transfer to the airport and a flight (approx 2.5-3 hours) to Baltra Island, Galapagos. Departure time will be between 8.20 am and 10.30 am, depending on flight schedule time.
The Galapagos National Institute has introduced a Transit Control Card. This card has a cost of US$10 and it must be purchased by every person travelling to the Galapagos Islands. You will need to purchase this card upon arrival at the Quito domestic airport on Day 2, prior to checking in to your Galapagos flight.
Your flight will stop once in Guayaquil to pick up more passengers (2.5-3 hrs in total). Upon arrival we will need to go through customs and pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee of US$100 in cash (small bills please)
Once in Baltra we transfer to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island (Isla Santa Cruz) and board a speed boat ride to Isabela Island (Isla Isabela) (approx 2.5-3hrs)
Upon arrival in Isabela, you are required to pay the Isabela Island port fee of US$5.
While on Isabela, your tour leader will take you on a walking tour of the island. The following day you will start with a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center for a chance to get a close encounter with these placid giants.
Another worthwhile (optional) activity is a visit to Isla Tintoreras, where you can see the rare Galapagos penguin, before heading to 'Shark Alley' where white tipped sharks nest during the day. This is also a popular nesting site for the endemic marine iguana.
The Sierra Negra Wetlands are where we can observe migratory birds like sandpiper, common stilt, plover, flamingo, American oystercatcher and many other interesting species. This usually takes up to an hour at the most. Then take a bus and 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 you to a spectacular view of the crater (weather permitting). On the hike we will see many Galapagos hawks and a variety of Darwin finches.
Accommodation: Hotel Lobo de Mar or similar, Santa Cruz Island
Today is an early morning departure back to Isla Santa Cruz.
Later on we hike for 45 minutes until we reach Tortuga Bay, a stunning beach with fine white sand to see marine iguanas.
In the afternoon we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic hub of the archipelago and is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. This place was home to Lonesome George, the Galapagos' most famous giant tortoise. Unfortunately he's dead now, but you'll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station anyway. 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.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Accommodation: Local Homestay, San Cristobal Island
In the morning you will have some free time in Puerto Ayora. You may choose to take part in some of the optional activities on offer.
Later on we travel to Isla San Cristobal to meet the local families that will host of for our two nights here. In the afternoon your leader will take you on a walking tour of San Cristobal and visit the Intrepretation Center, which gives you an excellent overview of the Galapagos story from historical events to modern-day issues, as well as covering wildlife and ecology.
The remaining of our time in San Cristobal is free for you to explore the island at your own leisure. Opt to hike Mann Beach for a swim where we can observe playful sea lions and frigates or tackle the hills and reach the top of Frigate Bird Hill for panoramic view out over the Pacific towards Santa Cruz, Floreana and Santa Fe Islands.
One of our leaders favorite optional activity is the boat ride to Kicker Rock or Isla Lobos observing along the way the abundant marine life that Galapagos is renowned for. On the way you can stop at Isla de Lobos for a swim with playful sea lions before continuing onto Kicker Rock, the remains of an underwater volcano rising vertically 150m out of the sea. A truly impressive sight! Here you have the option to go snorkelling. Make sure you keep an eye out for sea turtles, eagle rays and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark, just to name a few.
Accommodation: San Francisco Hotel or similar , Quito
Sadly all good things must come to an end and this is our final excursion. We bid farewell to the Galapagos Islands and all its inhabitants and head to the airport for our flight back to Quito for the last night of our tour. Upon arrival in Quito Airport we are transferred back to our hotel for an overnight stay. Hit the tiles in Quito to talk about all those giant tortoise you saw whilst knocking back a couple of pisco sours. Heavenly.
Our tour 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. 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.
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$5
Please note the Transit Card fee has recently increased from US$10 to US$20 and will come into place from March 1st 2015.
Gecko's expert English-speaking guide, Return flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, All accommodation, Visit to the tortoise research and breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station, Isla Isabela - Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, Sierra Negra Volcano Visit , Isla Santa Cruz - Tortuga Bay visit, Santa Cruz Highlands, Isla San Cristobal - Interpretation Center
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, entrance fees, US$10 Galapagos transit card (will increase to US$20 from March 1st 2015), US$100 Galapagos National Park fee, Isabela Island fee US$5, other meals, drinks, optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature. Wetsuit hire US$5 per day
We have chosen a selection of some great optional activities to enhance your travel experience. You will need to cover any additional costs yourself. The below list is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed below have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
On The Ground Payments
Please note: The Galapagos National Park fee and transit card, USD110 are not included in the price of this tour. These must be paid locally in cash on arrival in Baltra, Galapagos.
Local contact number: Peak Ecuador After Hours Emergency: 09 94014877 calling from inside Ecuador or +593 9 94014877 calling from outside Ecuador
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
22 January 2015