Thurday: Baltra Island – Mosquera
Upon arrival at BALTRA Airport, travelers pass through an airport inspection point to make sure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands, as well as to pay the park entrance fee ($100), Our guide will meet with you, will help you pick up your luggage, and accompany you to the port of Seymour in a short bus ride, where we set the cruise aboard the Yacht Darwin where the captain and crew will welcome you.
On the afternoon, visit to Mosquera It is a reef of rocks and coral (the result of an uprising) and a great white sand beach. Its narrowest width reaches about 160 meters and has an estimated length of 600 meters. This island has one of the largest populations of sea lions. You can also observe several species of shorebirds. There have been occasional reports at this site of Orcas (Orcinus orca) feeding on sea lions.
Friday: Isla Plazas – Santa Fe
In the morning, we’ll visit the site of Plaza Sur Island, located at the east of Santa Cruz Island. This Island is part of two islands group known as Islas Plazas. The landing is on the north coast of the island in a channel that separates it from Plaza Norte Island. Plaza Sur has an area of 13 hectares and an height of 25m. The succulent plant, Sesuvium edmonstonei and Portulaca oleracea, are common in Plaza Sur, the second is the favorite food of the land iguanas. On the cliffs located in the south – east of the island, there is a group of lone sea lions, mixed juvenile and adult old and retired. Land iguanas on Plaza Sur, are smaller than those at other sites.They nest during the hot season. Throughout the island are several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.These iguanas are unique, recognizable at first glance by their black or gray color, with a land iguana’s crest, but face and tail of the marine iguana. During consecutive dry years, the iguana population may decrease due to lack of food and water.
In the afternoon we’ll come to the touristic site of Santa Fe. It’s located on the northeast end of the island bearing the same name. Of the two species of land iguanas present in Galapagos, the Conolophus subcristatus inhabits Plaza Sur, Santa Cruz, North Seymour/Baltra, Isabela and Fernandina, however the species Conolophus pallidus only lives in Santa Fe. It is distinguished mainly by the larger and paler color (hence its scientific name). Studies according to Geist D.J suggests that Santa Fe could be the oldest Galapagos volcano, there are sub-aerial rocks dating back 3.9 million years. It also mentions that the island of Santa Fe has a mix of underwater lava pushed to the surface by uprising and lava that were deposited subsequently to the uprising. Another additional attraction is the presence of giant tunas that have a trunk wider than in any other island.
Saturday: Isla Española : Gardner Bay / Islote Gardener (pr/sn) / Islote Osborn (sn) – Punta Suárez
In the morning we’ll visit Gardener Bay located on the north coast of Española Island. The visiting area is defined by two beaches with a total length of 1300 meters. The main attraction is the colony of sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki), which inhabit the beach in great quantity during the breeding season. Here are three species of Darwin’s finches: A subspecies (Geospiza fuliginosa) of the Large Cactus Finch, which is similar to the large ground finch, the Small Ground Finch (Geospiza fuliginosa) and the Wabler Finch (Certhidea Olivacea) which is another endemic subspecies. Both resident and migratory birds are observed. This is an important nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).
In the afternoon we’ll go to Punta Suarez located on west coast of the Española Island. The trail is about 1670 meters. The approximate travel time is 2 hours. Española is known as one of the oldest islands, with an estimated age of 3.3 million years. Basaltic lava rocks cover much of the island. The albatross (Diomedea irrorata) is endemic to Española Island, but has also been reported in the “Isla de la Plata” (National Park Machalilla). Albatrosses are present in Española from April to November or December. Española has a high percentage of endemism because it is isolated from other islands; this is because the species in this island have no gene flow with species from other islands. Marine iguanas have a turquoise color with red in the breeding season. A variety of mockingbird, lava lizards, Darwin’s finches are considered endemic to this island. The mockingbird of Española is the largest species in the islands and developed carnivorous behavior. They feed on eggs of seabirds, sea lion placenta and newborn tortoises. The lava lizards are the largest of the 7 species endemic to the Galapagos.
Sunday: Isla Floreana Post Office Bay – Punta Cormorant Devil`S Crown (sn)
In the morning we go to Post Office Bay. I’s an historic site that recalls the days of the whalers, when they came for supplies of Galapagos tortoises and water. Presumably a whaling boat captain placed a barrel in the eighteenth century for those who pass through the bay to leave mail and deliver those with the same destination. In history the first appearance is on a map of the whaler James Colnett in 1793. Today, this tradition is alive with tourists visiting the Galapagos.They do not need stamps. All they have to do is pick up a letter that is directed to where they live. Another point of interest is a lava tunnel, which is formed when lava cools on the sides and base, but the core material continues to flow downward. Eventually, the lava, still liquid, leaks and spills outward leaving a hollow cavity.
In the afternoon, we’ll go to the touristic site of Punta Cormorant located on the north coast of Floreana Island. The trail has an approximate 720 meters distance. It goes to a lagoon with a wonderful view and fine sand beach. In the lagoon one can find a large population of flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and on the beach a nesting area for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas). Also you can see other species of flora and fauna. At Punta Cormorant there are two plant species endemic to the place: Scalesia vellosa and Lecocarpus pinaffitidus.The beach landing contains a large amount of olivine crystals, giving it greenish color. These crystals have been expelled by the wind of nearby tuff cones. The glass was formed when the magma was still underground. Its content is of magnesium, iron and silica. There is a beach composed of polished Hermatypic coral sand, the reason for its smooth texture. These types of areas are ideal for stingrays, which prefer places with surface that has fine sand, which allows them to escape natural predators.
Monday: Isla Santa Cruz Charles Darwin Station AM (ca) – Crater Gemelos Highlands (ca)
In the morning we’ll visit the “FAUSTO LLERENA” breeding center (Charles Darwin Station). The tour starts at the information booth of the Galapagos National Park, The trail continues to the Van Straelen interpretation Center, then to the breeding center and from there begins an elevated circular path made of wood, where you can see tortoises of Española Island, ending in the tortoise exhibit corral. Tortoises of this corral are accustomed to humans; it is an excellent spot for visitors to be photographed with them. Always remind not to touch them and not to step on the platform where they’re food is placed. The path continues to the CDRS facilities and then to the town of Puerto Ayora.
On the afternoon we go to visit the high part of Santa Cruz Island with “Los Gemelos” or “The Pit Craters”. They are, geologically speaking, seen as craters but their formation is not directly due to volcanic action. They were created as a result of the collapse or sinking of surface materials into cracks or manholes. In 1989 a circular path around the largest crater was opened, which passes through the interior of the Scalesia forest, an excellent place to observe land birds, especially the woodpecker finch and the vermillion flycatcher. The vermillion flycatcher is the most outstanding terrestrial bird in the upper parts of most of the islands.
The Pit Craters is perhaps the best place for observing them, since they occur in large numbers in the Scalesia forest. They are curious and usually fairly tame.They feed on insects they often trap with their peak in mid-flight. Their nesting season is from January to April; they put 3 eggs in a nest constructed of moss and lichen. The vermillion flycatcher inhabits many areas of North and South America. Another plant that draws attention at the Pit Craters is the Galapagos Guava or guayabillo tree, Psidium galapageium, which have a clean and smooth bark. Its branches are covered with epiphytes and brown liverworts, Bryopteris liebmanniana that many people confuse with moss.
Tuesday: Isla Santiago: Puerto Egas AM – Playa Espumilla /Caleta Bucanero (pr/sn) PM
In the morning we’ll go to the visitor site Port Egas. It’s a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay on northwest of Santiago Island. South of the beach is Sugarloaf Volcano, which has deposits of volcanic tuff, the same that has favored the formation of the black sand beach. The Crater is just north of this site, it has a saltwater lagoon, which during the summer dry season becomes a salt mine.
In the afternoon, we go to The Espumilla visitor site on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay. The main attractions here are a palo santo forest, beach and the landscape. The beach is an important site for nesting marine turtles (Chelonia midas agassizi).
Wednesday: Islote Batolome – Bahia Sullivan
In the morning we go to Bartolome beach. The Bartolome visitor site, is a flagship site in the Galapagos Islands because of its wonderful beauty. Possessing masterful landscapes, its main attractions being the beaches, the dunes and Pinnacle Rock.
Among the species present, counted are the sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), which choose this place as a nesting site and the Galapagos penguins. This site has two beaches: North Beach and South Beach. The north beach is the landing site where you can practice swimming and snorkeling. South beach is accessed by a small path along the mangroves and over the great sand dune. Bartolome Escalera, The top of this hill is about 115 m and the route is performed on a path of 795 meters. No one knows the exact age of this island, but by its geological composition and general characteristics it is quite young. The few plants found on the island are called pioneers because they are the first to arrive and settle. E.g. Tiquilia nesiotes, Tiquilia fusca and Chamaesyce spp. East of the summit are spatter cones, consisting of thick lava droplets. To the west lie tuff cones (volcanic ash sediment) and their eroded remnants. The Tower or Pinnacle is part of a tuff cone. A small colony of penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus, breeds in the small bay. Bartolomé is one of the best places to see them.
Int the afternoon we go to Sillivan Bay. This site is of great geological interest. It is located southeast of Santiago Island, the landing can be performed either in the rocky shore (dry landing) or the white sand beach (wet landing). The length of the trail is approximately 1.5 km; travel time is one hour and a half. The area is covered by Pahoehoe lava flows (solidified lava in corrugated or accordion form). It was very active in the last 25 years of the nineteenth century. The Sullivan lava formed in 1897. This flow is geologically very young. The magma formed is flat, but the movement of underground lava, the rapid cooling and other eruptions led to the break in many places. These formations have a thickness of 1.5 m and did not cover much of the previous relief forming “kipukas” (Islands of vegetation surrounded by newer lava tides).
Thursday: Isla North Seymour – Baltra
In the morning we go to North Seymour located north of Baltra (or South Seymour). The total distance of the trail is 2 miles. Seymour North, Plaza Sur and Plaza Norte, Baltra, northeastern Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and part of Española, were formed by uprisings of underwater volcanic lavas. They were part of a volcanic lava table deposited in sheet form along cracks located on the ocean floor. The uprisings occurred sporadically and lasted more than a million years to reach its current level. The vegetation is bush and hosts the largest nesting colony of Great Frigatebirds in Galapagos. Importantly, the Galapagos is the westernmost distribution for this species. The common frigate is also present.