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adventure travel trip to Ecuador
The colorful Sally Light-foot Crabs are easy to spot.
  • Thursday biweekly departures (cruise departs on Saturday). Call for dates.
  • Duration 11 days
    Group Size 48
    Land Cost $5,400-$6,400 Details
    Single Supplement $2,800-$6,400 Details
    Lodging 3 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Aboard M/V Eclipse, Southern Circuit

    Cruise the islands on one of the newest, medium-sized ships

    Day 1      Quito or Guayaquil

    Arrive in either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, where you will be met and transferred to your local hotel.* Quito is located in a huge valley of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 9,455 feet; it’s a great place to extend your stay to explore the city or the surrounding volcanic mountain range. Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and, with its low elevation and more coastal location, is an ideal point from which to fly to the Galapagos. Overnight at the Swissotel or Patio Andaluz in Quito or the Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil, for two nights. (*Hotel/city tour package is not included in cruise rate.)

    Meals: None

    Arrive in the busy waterfront city of Guayaquil
    Day 2      Quito or Guayaquil

    Quito city tour: Stroll down cobblestone streets and through flowering plazas. Visit the old colonial center of Independence Square, the elegant cathedrals of San Francisco and La Compañía, and also San Agustín, Quito’s oldest monastery. Drive through the residential section and past the Legislative Palace (Congress). Visit Panecillo Hill south of the old town, which affords great views of the city, snow-capped mountains, and surrounding volcanos. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore or relax.

    Guayaquil city tour: Our first stop is Malecon 2000, a two-mile-long waterfront promenade along the Guayas River. The waterfront boardwalk features a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, and museums with art exhibitions, as well as free weekend jazz and classical music concerts. Drive through the colorful streets of this, one of Ecuador’s most important port cities. Visit the Public Market, the waterfront, the docks, and Simon Bolivar Park, which is famous for its tree iguanas. Also, admire the watchtower, La Rotonda, Old Santa Ana Fort, and Las Penas, a charming colonial section of town occupied by artists. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore or relax.

    Meals: Breakfast

    Wander along Guayaquil's lovely Malecon
    Day 3      Arrive Galapagos/North Seymour

    The flight from Quito (via Guayaquil) to the Galapagos is approximately 2-1/2 hours long (or about 2 hours from Guayaquil). Upon arrival at Baltra airport, travelers pass through an airport inspection point to ensure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands and to pay the park entrance fee (pre-paid for you). Guides will meet you, collect your luggage, and escort you on the short bus ride to the harbor. Motorized rafts called Zodiacs, or pangas, will transport you to the yacht, and the crew will welcome you onboard. After a briefing and a light lunch, you'll set off for your first landing.

    North Seymour (dry landing) may very well be the perfect introduction to the Galapagos Islands. Although the island is characterized by arid vegetation, fauna abounds and you will soon find yourself surrounded by sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigates and more. With some luck, you may even get to see land iguanas as well. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Back on board, attend the first of your daily briefings on the next day's adventure, then enjoy welcome cocktails and dinner onboard.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Sea lions and other creatures are unafraid of humans
    Day 4      South Plaza/Santa Fe

    South Plaza Island, although quite small, is actually home to a large Opuntia cactus forest, land iguanas, and one of the largest sea lion colonies in the central region of the archipelago. An endemic plant, Sesuvium, inhabits this island and is a great climate indicator, as its color is a greenish-yellowish during the rainy season and a bright red during the dry season. You will also be able to see Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, other kinds of sea birds, as well as different types of finches. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    In the afternoon, head to Santa Fe (wet landing). Formed by uplifting, rather than by a volcano, Santa Fe is known for having one of the most beautiful coves in all of the Galapagos. Some of the island’s endemic species include the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, different types of finches, and the Galapagos mockingbird. The visit includes a hike on a trail past salt bushes where Galapagos hawks as well as Santa Fe's  land iguanas tend to roam. Playful sea lions will often accompany swimmers and snorkelers; kayaking and Zodiac rides are also options this afternoon. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Look for land iguanas at Dragon Hill
    Day 5      San Cristobal/Punta Pitt/Cerro Brujo

    Punta Pitt is composed of volcanic bluff substrate and is located on the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island. This is the only site in the Galapagos where you'll have the opportunity to see all three species of boobies and both species of frigatebirds. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled, as the Red-Footed Booby is not as easy to spot because they prefer to nest in areas of thick brush. You can also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling, and Zodiac rides at Punta Pitt. Difficulty level: Moderate to difficult.

    In the afternoon, visit Cerro Brujo. Located on the north coast of San Cristobal Island, this eroding tough cone offers a fantastic landscape as well as wonderful swimming, snorkeling, and Zodiac rides. Cerro Brujo's gorgeous beach is also home to many sea lions, and it's where Charles Darwin first set foot on the archipelago. You will also see a beautiful lagoon used by the locals of Baquerizo Moreno Port for salt mining, as well as two different species of halophytes (rare plants that grow in soils with a high salt content) Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking here is somewhat more rugged, but rewarding
    Day 6      Floreana/Baroness/Punta Cormorant

    Floreana (dry landing) is one of the Galapagos' most infamous islands due to many strange stories you'll hear about its past settlers. There are many wonderful and diverse sites to visit, including Post Office Bay and the "Baroness's Viewing Point." Marine life also abounds in Floreana's coastal regions, making it a fantastic site for snorkeling and kayaking. Flamingos also populate the island and may be seen during your visit.  Baroness's Viewing Point is the perfect place to take in Floreana's special environment, and a great spot to learn about and ponder regarding the bizarrely intriguing history of the Baroness and her three lovers. In the 18th century, whalers passing through the islands placed a wooden barrel on Floreana Island for use as an unofficial mail box. The tradition continues today as visitors leave addressed postcards in the barrel and sort through left mail to deliver at home. This is one of the archipelago's most famous spots. Snorkeling and kayaking are late morning opftions. Difficulty level: Easy.

    Return to the boat for lunch.  A great site for bird-watching, Cormorant Point, your afternoon stop, has a large lagoon where everything from flamingos to stilts and pintail ducks can be observed. The beach nearby is also quite special and known as: The "Green Beach" so named due to its green color, which comes from a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand. Snorkeling, kayaking, and Zodiac rides are also available in the afternoon. Difficulty level: Easy.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Participate in the traditions of Post Office Bay
    Day 7      Elizabeth Bay/Punta Moreno

    Elizabeth Bay is one of the most remote points you'll visit on your Galapagos cruise. On this morning's Zodiac ride, enter a sheltered cove, a wonderful mangrove ecosystem and refuge for sea turtles, rays, blue-footed boobies, penguins, herons, and more. Difficulty level: Easy.

    After lunch on board, visit Moreno Point, located just southwest of Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island and known for its large populations of sea birds which can be seen on a Zodiac ride along the striking-rocky shores or on a hike along paths through lava rock leading to tide pools and mangroves. In the tide pools, green sea turtles and white-tipped sharks can be spotted. Difficulty level: Moderate to difficult.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Snorkel sheltered Elizabeth Bay while you look for rays
    Day 8      Santa Cruz/Puerto Ayora/Darwin Station

    After a dry landing in the town of Puerto Ayora, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you'll gain insight into the massive efforts of scientists, guides, rangers, and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site and its tortoises. You will see the famous Galapagos tortoises that are the islands’ namesake, learn about their plight, and observe efforts to rebuild wild populations on the islands.
    After the visit, drive to the green highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will visit a tortoise reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Return to the ship for lunch and a variety of afternoon activities such as snorkeling, Zodiac rides, and relaxing.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Commune with tortoises on Santa Cruz
    Day 9      Espanola/Gardner Bay/Punta Suarez

    Gardner Bay (wet landing) offers the chance to enjoy a wonderful white sandy beach. It is home to one of the Galapagos' most important colonies of sea lions, and it is also a nesting site for sea turtles. Throughout the morning, there are opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Difficulty level: Easy.

    After lunch, visit Punta Suarez (dry landing), one of the most popular and attractive sites in the Galapagos. Due to its isolation from other islands, it has a high proportion of endemic fauna. A few steps inland from the landing site, groups of Espanola marine iguanas bask in the sun. Further inland, Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest near the trail, Galapagos doves peck around, unaware of visitors, and finches go about their daily business. The trail continues towards a blowhole, a fissure in the lava where water spurts high into the air like a geyser. Cracks in the cliffs are home to swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Farther up the cliff in an area of low-lying trees, you will find nesting waved albatrosses. The 15,000 to 17,000 pairs of albatrosses on Espanola represent almost the entire planet's population of this extremely rare species. They perform one of the most spectacular courtship rituals of the animal world which you might witness, depending on the timing of your visit. Difficulty level: Difficult.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Depending on the season, you may see sea turtle hatchlings
    Day 10      Mosquera Islet/Fly to Quito or Guayaquil

    After breakfast, enjoy your last excursion, a Zodiac ride to Mosquera, a tiny islet home to a huge population of sea lions and many shorebirds. While at Mosquera, keep your eyes peeled, as there are occasional
    reports of dolphins and orcas. Difficulty level: Easy.

    Around mid-morning, head to the airport for your midday flight back to Quito or Guayaquil, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel with the rest of your day at leisure.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    Leave the M/C Eclipse, your home for the week, and head for the mainland
    Day 11      Quito or Guayaquil/Onward

    You will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.

    Meals: Breakfast

    Bid farewell to Ecuador

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