DAY 1: TUESDAY
AM: BALTRA ISLAND AIRPORT. ARRIVE AT BALTRA AIRPORT AND TRANSFER TO THE YACHT.
PM Visit: Bahía Sullivan/Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island.
Sullivan Bay features a sandy shore surrounded by lava fields. The lava is relatively recent, being only about 100 years old. Guides will point out the hardy “pioneer” plants: specialized flora that is the first to colonize a lava field. After a hike, guests will enjoy a refreshing swim with the chance to do some snorkeling!
DAY 2: WEDNESDAY
AM VISIT: CHICO VOLCANO/SIERRA NEGRA, ISABELA ISLAND.
Sierra Negra (“Black Mountain”) Volcano was active as recently as 2005 and it is possible to see very recent lava flows and fumaroles. The visit includes the main volcanic caldera and several smaller craters at the Chico Volcano site. There are not many animals in the barren heights of the volcano, but hikers are rewarded with an unforgettable lesson in volcanic geology and a great view of Isabela and Fernandina Islands!
AM VISIT: HUMEDALES/WETLANDS, ISABELA ISLAND.
Isabela Island’s wetlands are home to abundant bird life, including flamingos, stilts, whimbrels, gallinules, finches, Pintail Ducks, Brown Pelicans, and more. Marine iguanas creep through the marshes as well, and an occasional giant tortoise makes an appearance. Part of the trail goes up Orchilla Hill, which offers a nice view of the nearby town of Puerto Villamil.
PM VISIT: MURO DE LAS LÁGRIMAS/THE WALL OF TEARS, ISABELA ISLAND.
The Wall of Tears is a wide, high stone wall built not far from Puerto Villamil. A visit to the Wall of Tears offers a rare glimpse into the human history of the Galapagos; Isabela Island was once home to an Ecuadorian penal colony, and the construction of the Wall of Tears was a form of punishment. Some locals think it’s haunted!
PM VISIT: CENTRO DE CRIANZA ARNALDO TUPIZA /ARNALDO TUPIZA BREEDING CENTER, ISABELA ISLAND.
The Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center is a highlight of any visit to Isabela Island. Here, giant tortoises of the Isabela Island subspecies are hatched and cared for until they can survive on their own in the wild. Hundreds of adorable baby tortoises lumber about in raised pens, designed to protect them from predators including rats and ants. Even the walk to get to the breeding center from town is fun, as it is connected to Puerto Villamil by a boardwalk over some marshy wetlands where sightings of flamingos and other water birds are common.
DAY 3: THURSDAY
AM VISIT: BAHÍA ELIZABETH/ELIZABETH BAY, ISABELA ISLAND. ELIZABETH BAY AND THE SMALL
rocky islets which are found there are home to many spectacular species of Galapagos bird life, including penguins, the Galapagos Hawk, Nazca Boobys, finches, flightless cormorants, warblers, and more. In the clear sea below, visitors will see thriving marine life, including schools of fish, Spotted Eagle Rays, sea lions, and marine iguanas. Elizabeth Bay is only seen by panga ride: visitors will not land at all.
PM VISIT: BAHÍA URBINA/URBINA BAY, ISABELA ISLAND.
In 1954, volcanic activity deep underground rocked Isabela Island, thrusting up part of Urbina Bay. The bay’s landscape changed overnight, gaining five meters in height and a kilometer of soggy land that had previously been underwater. Visitors can still see desiccated coral formations on the trail around part of the bay. Urbina Bay is home to abundant wildlife, including land iguanas, giant tortoises, and lava lizards. Bird life includes finches, hawks, and mockingbirds. The hike, a relatively long one at 3000 meters, is followed by a refreshing swim or some snorkeling in the bay.
DAY 4: FRIDAY
AM VISIT: CALETA TAGUS/TAGUS COVE, ISABELA ISLAND.
A visit to Tagus Cove includes a short hike to a scenic outlook and a panga ride along the coastline to look for penguins. After the hike, guests may choose to do some kayaking and snorkeling, where they are almost certain to see sea turtles.
PM VISIT: PUNTA ESPINOZA/ESPINOZA POINT, FERNANDINA ISLAND.
Punta Espinoza is one of the most remarkable visitor sites in all of the Galapagos. This memorable hike includes good wildlife watching as well as geology and many spectacular spots for taking photos. Guests will walk over recent (geologically speaking) lava flows, see a nesting colony of Flightless Cormorants, and step gingerly through a low maze of marine iguanas sunning themselves. Look for lava lizards, Galapagos snakes, and Galapagos Hawks.
DAY 5: SATURDAY
AM VISIT: PLAYA ESPUMILLA/ESPUMILLA BEACH, SANTIAGO (JAMES) ISLAND.
Playa Espumilla (“Foamy Beach”) is a pristine sandy beach on the northern part of Santiago Island. At either end of the beach, trails lead through some mangroves to a salty lagoon, where lucky visitors may get to see flamingoes, Pintail Ducks, stilts, or other wading birds. There is good snorkeling and kayaking off the beach.
AM VISIT: CALETA BUCANERO/BUCCANEER COVE, SANTIAGO (JAMES) ISLAND.
The islands are so beautiful that it’s possible to forget about their interesting human history. Although there is nothing left of their presence (no buried treasure – sorry!), pirates and whalers used to stop in Buccaneer Cove to repair their ships, take on fresh water and capture tortoises for food. There is no trail here, but it is a good spot for a panga ride, snorkeling, and kayaking. As the panga cruises along the shore, look for Blue-footed and Nazca Boobys, fur seals, sea lions, and Galapagos Hawks soaring overhead.
PM VISIT: RABIDA ISLAND. RABIDA IS A REMARKABLE ISLAND,
famous for its cactus groves and scenic rock formations. Finches and other small land birds are commonly seen flitting around the cacti alongside the trails. The hike starts along a red sand beach where Brown Pelicans nest in mangroves. Short trails lead from the beach to some lagoons where flamingos are sometimes seen. After the hike, visitors can cool off with a swim or some snorkeling. Lucky snorkelers and kayakers will see fish, sea lions, and turtles.
DAY 6: SUNDAY
AM VISIT: CALETA TORTUGA NEGRA/BLACK TURTLE COVE, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND.
Black Turtle Cove is a lagoon on Santa Cruz Island. It is a maze of mangroves, and pangas are forced to paddle so that their motors do not disturb the wildlife there. You never know what you’ll see in Black Turtle Cove: there might be sharks, sea turtles, herons, or even a school of Golden Rays gently gliding through the water. There is no swimming or snorkeling permitted in Black Turtle Cove.
PM VISIT: PLAYA LAS BACHAS/BACHAS BEACH, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND.
The name “bachas” is derived from the English word ‘barges’ and dates from World War Two, when the USA had a military base in the Galapagos Islands. Bachas is a lovely beach, great for swimming or some easy snorkeling offshore. Shorebirds like whimbrels and stilts are common, as are sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. A brackish lagoon popular with flamingos is a short walk from the main beach.