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adventure travel trip to Ecuador
The red-footed booby is found only on Genovesa (photo by Roy & Danielle, used with permission)
  • 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, Northern 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/Baltra/Santa Cruz

    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 sightseeing trip .

    Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz island is one of the most beautiful marine sites in the Galapagos. It is a complex maze of tranquil salt water inlets, surrounded by three different species of mangrove. Its waters are a nursery site for sea turtles, rays, and sharks as well as a nesting site for sea birds. This site is only accessible by panga. Difficulty level: Easy.

    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      Rabida Island/Puerto Egas/Santiago

    Rabida (wet landing) is a small island with red volcanic rocks surrounding a beautiful red sand beach, where there is a colony of sea lions and a pelican nesting site. The trail leads to a salt water lagoon where shore birds can be seen. Rabida is considered to be one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands, and you will also have the opportunity to go snorkel, kayak, or panga ride.

    Puerto Egas (James Bay) is located on the northwest side of Santiago Island. The wet landing is on a black beach with eroded rock formations in the background. The trail crosses the dry interior, where the remains of a salt mining enterprise can still be seen, and then continues along the coast. Tidal pools are home to a variety of invertebrate organisms, including sea urchins, octopus and starfish. You will also see marine iguanas, finches, oyster catchers, and possibly the Galapagos Hawk. The trail leads to the fur seal grottos, one of the only places in the islands where these unique animals (actually a type of sea lion) can be seen.

    After the walk, you will have time to swim or snorkel off the beach, where you will see sea lions, fish and maybe some turtles, rays and maybe some reef sharks. Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Enjoy the snorkeling and marine life off the coast of Rabida
    Day 5      Isabela & Fernandina Islands

    Tagus Cove (dry landing) was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers, and whalers. Here you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted on the high ridges (a practice now forbidden). On the hike, the trail goes through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Darwin volcano. At the top of the trail, you will enjoy an incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake. The early morning activity is followed by kayaking or a panga ride, where you will have the opportunity to see a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls. Back on the ship as we head to Punta Espinoza for hiking and snorkeling, we sometimes encounter dolphins and whales while traversing the channel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands. Difficulty level: Easy to difficult (panga ride is easy, hike up to lake can be strenuous for some).

    Fernandina Island (dry landing at Punta Espinoza) is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the entire world and also one of the most dynamic. La Cumbre Volcano last erupted in April 2009 and dominates the landscape, with lava fields stretching towards the ocean from its base. Punta Espinoza is a narrow piece of land where some of the most unique Galapagos species can be seen, including the flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes, marine iguanas, penguins, and the Galapagos hawk. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    The flightless cormorant is found only in this small corner of the world
    Day 6      Urbina Bay/Punta Vicente Roca/Isabela

    Urbina Bay is located on western Isabela Island at the foot of Alcedo volcano. This is the spot where the Galapagos National Park began their successful eradication of goats on Isabela Island. After a wet landing on a beautiful black-sand beach, you may be able to observe sea turtle nesting sites. This area is also known for penguin and flightless cormorant sightings and is one of the best places to see Darwin's finches as well as large land iguanas. Also, be on the lookout for Galapagos tortoises which like to feed within the site's dense vegetation.

    Punta Vicente Roca is a wonderful snorkeling site where you can usually see turtles as well as all kinds of fish. For those who do not snorkel, a panga ride will give you the opportunity to study some of the Galapagos' spectacular geological rock formations. Nazca boobies, pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and penguins are often seen in the area. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Look for large land iguanas as you explore
    Day 7      Santa Cruz/Darwin Station/Highlands

    On your visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station (dry landing in the town of Puerto Ayora), you will gain insight into the great efforts being made by scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will see the famous Galapagos tortoises that are the islands' namesake.

    After the visit, we 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.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    See wild tortoises up in the highlands
    Day 8      El Barranco/Darwin Beach/Genovesa

    Genovesa, or Tower Island, is the northernmost island that naturalist (non-diving) cruises are permitted to visit. This island is extremely remote and home to literally millions of birds belonging to many different species, including the red footed booby as well as frigates, swallow-tailed gulls, and even endemic owls. The M/V Eclipse visits two sites on Genovesa, El Barranco (dry landing), also known as Prince Phillip's Steps, is a steep path with stairs carved into the rock which leads to a plateau full of bird life amongst a Palo Santo forest. You will see Nazca boobies, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, and petrels. With some luck, you may spot a short-eared lava owl. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Later, Darwin Bay's soft, coralline white sand (wet landing) is only the beginning of a spectacular afternoon excursion. A trail from the beach takes you into lush mangroves where red footed boobies nest. Other locals include sea lions, swallow-tail gulls, frigatebirds, and more. Snorkeling is a must here as sharks, colorful reef fish, rays, and tortoises are common. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Look for the Nazca booby, as well as blue and red footed, on Genovesa
    Day 9      Bartolome/Cerro Dragon/Santa Cruz

    Our morning stop is Bartolome, a small island that has two visitor sites. At the first site, you can snorkel around Pinnacle Rock, where penguins are usually seen. Then, it's back on board for a quick change of clothes followed by a short dinghy ride to a dry landing for a climb to the highest point on the island. On the way up, you will encounter different volcanic formations, including spatter and tuff cones, lava flow and lava tubes. From the summit you will have a wonderful view of Sullivan Bay. For those not interested in the hike, there is the option of a panga ride. Area fauna and flora include sea lions, pioneer plants, reef sharks, rays, and colorful reef fish. Difficulty Level: Moderate. Walk up 375 low-grade stairs to top of volcano at a slow to moderate pace.

    Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) comes from it being one of the few sites on Santa Cruz Island where a healthy population of land iguanas was found in 1975. After landing at a pier in the afternoon, hike to a salt water lagoon behind the beach, frequented by common stilts, pintail ducks, and occasionally flamingos. A short walk up the hill leads you to a land iguana nesting site with breathtaking views of the bay. You will have the chance to go swimming after the walk. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Dragon Hill is a popular nesting site for land iguanas
    Day 10      Bachus Beach/Fly to Quito or Guayaquil

    Before breakfast, head out on a short excursion to Las Bachas Beach, located in the north of Santa Cruz Island. Its soft, white sand is derived from decomposed coral, making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind the beach there is a small brackish lagoon where it is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. Difficulty level: Easy.

    Return to the ship for breakfast, then 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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