Nemo I

RESERVE NOW


The real adventure of Galapagos is in the great outdoors, and you don’t want to miss a second of it. Motor/Sailing Catamaran Nemo I welcomes you on board for an alternative, pure and adventurous manner of navigating Galapagos. Sailing doesn’t only add a romantic sensation of peace and freedom, we cruise Galapagos in the most ecologic way as well! And being a catamaran, Nemo I is more stable than speedboats and other yachts. Our certified professional crew and knowledgeable, bilingual naturalist guide will do their utmost to convert your once in a lifetime cruise into the trip of your life!

Yacht Specifications

Vessel name Commercial name: Nemo I
Registered name: M/SC Nemo Martinica
Type Nautitech 82 Sailing Catamaran
Class Tourist Superior Class
Construction Year France, 1996; renovated: 2014
Capacity 14 passengers
Naturalist Guide 1 National Park-certified multilingual naturalist guide
Crew 6 experienced, trained and IMO-certified crew-members (International Marine Organization):captain, pilot, sailor, machinist/engineer, cook and bartender/waiter.
Length 24,90m / 83ft
Width 10m / 33.34ft
Number of cabins 7 Twins
Cabin Location Lower Deck: 7 Twins
Social Areas Sun deck, sun terrace, hanging nets at the bow, living room, shaded outside dining (al fresco)
Amenities TV, DVD, small library, 3 solo sea kayaks, 1 large zodiac
Rigging
  • Main sail: 130 m² (1,400 ft²)
  • Furling genoa: 76 m² (818 ft²)
  • Staysail: 34 m² (366 ft²)
Machinery 2 engines John Deere 150 HP
Cruising speed 10 knots
Generators 2 generators – Onan 21 Kva each
Electricity 110 V / 220 V (ecological lighting 12V)
Air Conditioning Individually controlled in all cabins
Wastewater treatment 2 Raritan waste water treatment systems

 

Itinerary A4 - 4 Days / 3 Nights

To Genovesa & the north

4 days / 3 nights – Monday to Thursday – every 14 days

Our 3 nights northern route enables you to combine the sea bird colonies of North Seymour and exclusive Genovesa with spectacular volcano islets Bartolome and Chinese Hat, where you will get impressed by their creative forces.

Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, the barren north offers most dramatic landscapes and reveals the first chapter of evolution. Discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species. Walk at very short distance past frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, red-footed and Nazca boobies whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending on the season). Furthermore, en route you will have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos land iguanas, marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins close to the equator! In the contrasty lush highlands of Santa Cruz you will encounter the famous Galapagos giant tortoises.

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Monday

North Seymour is the perfect start of your Galapagos visit, without the necessity to navigate a long stretch to get first contact with the unique insular nature. It is one of the most visited sites. This tabletop islet is overloaded with most extensive colonies of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies in the archipelago, and there crawl Galapagos land iguanas around as well!

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch and the safety-drill you will make your first landing at North Seymour for a guided walk through the large seabird‘s colonies, following a circular loop (easy level; 2km/1.25 mi/about 2hrs). Before dinner your naturalist guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present and share a welcome toast.
Navigation: About midnight we will lift the anchor and sail to Genovesa. Depending on sea state we will navigate about 5:30 hrs north.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: North Seymour

The tabletop islet of North Seymour is an uplifted part of the seabed. Between the dry shrubs you might perceive a Galapagos land iguana. North Seymour originally did not count with land iguanas, but in the 1930s an eccentric American millionaire moved the last generation from Baltra, and saved them for starvation caused by competition with introduced goats; the afterwards breeding program at Charles Darwin Research Station turned into a big success.

You can spot lots of seabirds, such as brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, endemic swallow-tailed gulls and seasonally even Nazca boobies. But the main attraction are the archipelago’s most extensive breeding colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. At the start of the  breeding season (shifting on our calendar) adult frigatebird-males blow up their vivid red pouches to impressive football-sized balloons. This is one of the few spots (besides Genovesa and Pitt Point) where you can compare the magnificent and the rarer great frigatebird breeding next to each other. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit. The even more popular blue-footed boobies show their cute courtship rituals, in which their remarkable feet play an important role.

Day 2 – Tuesday

As one of the outer islands and most exclusive places of Galapagos, Genovesa is well worth last night’s longer navigation. All impressions will be nearly too much for a single day! Hundreds of thousands of seabirds perch and nest on the cliffs around its flooded crater.
Not only because of its historical English name (Tower) Genovesa has a royal touch. Follow into the footsteps of Prince Philip – Galapagos lover of the first hour and patron of the Charles Darwin Foundation – and visit this favourite birding spot with largest breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, and look for a remarkable short-eared owl that hunts on foot!

Program:
AM: Today’s full program includes two longer walks, snorkeling and optional sea kayaking. After early breakfast and a wet landing at the sheltered beach of Darwin Bay you will go for a guided walk (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Enjoy a snack aboard before snorkelling (alternatively: sea kayaking).
PM: Around lunch-time we will sail to nearby Prince Philip’s Steps, close to the entrance of the broken caldera. There you will make a guided walk through cliff top seabird colonies (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Overnight navigation: Nemo I will lift the anchor shortly after dinner, and navigate about 5 hours, heading back south in the direction of Santiago (and anchoring at Bartolome).

AM: Darwin Bay (Genovesa)

Genovesa’s horseshoe shaped wall shows unmistakably that we have anchored inside the partly collapsed and submerged caldera of a submarine volcano! The visitor’s site named Darwin Bay is located at the very rear.  This compact site shows the extreme varied coastal ecosystems of Galapagos in miniature. The trail starts from the coral sand beach and subsequently passes a zone with saltbushes and mangroves, than crosses tidal creeks and barren lava formations, dry shrub lands, and finally turns on the ridge of some cliffs.

In this extremely varied and peaceful ambience, every single species has occupied its own ecological niche (preferred habitat) without disturbing others. Whimbrels and wandering tattlers forage actively along the surf, next to resting Galapagos sea lions. Herons wait motionless at the tidal pools. Impressive frigatebirds (both great and magnificent species) and red-footed boobies nest in the mangroves, where you can also notice some vocalists such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches and Galapagos mockingbirds. Unique is that two subpopulations of the same species large cactus finch differ from singing.

Tropicbirds, Nazca boobies, storm petrels, endemic lava- and swallow-tailed gulls soar along the cliffs. When you already have seen marine iguanas elsewhere, the small Genovesa species might not look too impressive, but consider that these are virtually the only reptiles that succeeded to reach and survive on this remote, upstream island (and have become endemic to this island).

PM: Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa)

Before landing you will make a dinghy-ride along the eastern arm of the caldera. On approach, the 25m/80ft high walls become overwhelming, and will give you a better impression of the dimensions of this crater. Sometimes a Galapagos fur seal is resting on one of the shaded ledges. Although there are also seabirds, the real spectacle will find place on top and on the outside of the rim, which provide better perching and nesting places.

Therefore you have to hike and overcome the steep stairs from the landing dock to a bush of palo santo shrubs on top. Tropical dry forest vegetation appears dead during most months of the year, but just drops its leaves to prevent drying out by evaporation. It’s a threatened ecosystem. Red-footed boobies with different plumages gratefully use these scarce nesting-places; different to their blue-footed relatives ‘red feet’ don’t nest on the rocky ground.

At the seaside of the rim, the bushes open up and you can enjoy wide views, a strong sea breeze and the amazing flying skills of uncountable seabirds. Following the exposed rim you will first pass a colony of Nazca boobies and finally reach the extensive storm petrel nesting places, where you might be lucky spotting how the well-camouflaged short-eared owl is hunting for them on foot!

Day 3 – Wednesday

Just out of the coast of Santiago, Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will anchor at two volcanoes islets: Bartolome (recently born out off fire) and Chinese Hat. You will arrive exactly on time at Chinese Hat to witness how this barren volcano islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Enjoy the famous wild romantic panorama of Bartolome. Very close to the equator you will have first opportunities to meet endangered Galapagos penguins; whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing! 

Program:
AM: Today’s full program is largely dedicated to volcanism. Wake-up during an early morning dinghy-ride along the barren shoreline. After breakfast it is not yet too hot to climb the stairs of Bartolomé’s Summit Trail, which is rewarded with panoramic views (guided walk, moderate level; about 800m/0.5 mi; 114m/375ft altitude difference). Next you can refresh and explore the fantastic shallow water snorkelling spot at the foot of Pinnacle Rock (alternative: walking around or relaxing on the beach).
PM: During lunch Nemo I navigates to Chinese Hat (about 1hr), where you can snorkel again. Learn more about Galapagos’ fascinating geology during the late-afternoon walk on this typical volcano-islet (easy level; about 0,7 km/0.5 mi).
Navigation: While sailing to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz, about 7hr) you will have dinner. We will anchor in the sheltered harbour of Academy Bay just after midnight, where you can enjoy a fairly quiet sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Bartolome or Cousin Rocks (both advanced)

AM: Bartolome

The wild romantic volcano islet of Bartolome is among the youngest of the islands, and on a geological scale just recently born out off fire. Although tiny (only 120ha/300ac) and at first sight lifeless, Bartolome offers some of the wildest landscapes and best panoramas in the entire archipelago. To enjoy the postcard view of the idyllic ‘Pinnacle Bay’ you have to climb the stairs to the viewpoint on top of the island (114m/375ft). Enter suddenly a dramatical world of threatening (though extinguished) nearby spatter cones, craters, and lightweight lava droplets that have been spewed out by fiery fountains. The Summit Trail is also ideal to witness how scanty pioneer vegetation such as lava cactus is struggling to take root in the bare virgin lava fields.

From the summit you suddenly face a second, paradisiacal world; Galapagos’ landmark ‘Pinnacle Rock’ towers prominently over an isthmus with crescent sand beaches on each side, and dunes with evergreen mangrove bushes in between.
Underwater, a third, completely distinctive world opens up to you, resembling a tropical aquarium. Its shallow, clear and warm waters are ideally for snorkeling between coral-grinding parrot fishes, shoals of surgeonfishes, harmless whitetip reef sharks and Pacific green turtles. If you are lucky you can even catch the sight of fishing Galapagos penguins.

PM: Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat is a 52m/170ft high volcanic cone, forming another islet right out off the rocky coast of Santiago, where a small colony of Galapagos penguins has settled. Approaching Chinese Hat from the north, you certainly will agree with its name. Because its primordial fire has been extinguished recently, this is an excellent place to learn more about volcanism, lava bombs and lava tunnels. On the beach you can also find curious pillow-type lavas with coral heads on top! These spheres have a submarine origin before being lifted above sea level.

But Chinese Hat does not appear that inhospitable any more as almost virgin Bartolome and lunatic Sullivan Bay. You arrive exactly on time to witness how this barren islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Beaches of white coral sand grow, and holes in the eroding lava fields are filled up with lava sand, which enables rooting. Galapagos sea lions and countless marine iguanas contribute to fertilization. All together create more favourable options for newcomers, like saltbush and the discolouring sesuvium carpet. Colonization of Chinese Hat can occur in a much higher pace than elsewhere, hence Santiago is just a stone’s throw away.

Day 4 – Thursday

This cruise itinerary ends in Puerto Ayora. En route to the airport you will pass the lush highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will get the opportunity to quest for most-famous representatives of Galapagos: a wild population of Galapagos giant tortoises.

Program:
AM: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. You will travel by inflatable dinghy and private bus from the pier of Puerto Ayora into the highlands. In the agricultural zone you can see Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild before continuing to the airport.

AM: Highlands (Santa Cruz)

Because wild Galapagos giant tortoises don’t stop at official National Park boundaries, dozens of them also roam – and even mate – on the adjacent woodlands in the populated agricultural zone of Santa Cruz. Thanks to their concentrations around their favourite muddy pools, these semi-open pastures and moist scalesia-woodlands are best place for a quick visit. Armed with a rain poncho and (provided) rubber boots you will get good chances to approach wild Galapagos giant tortoises just within a few meters! Their dome-shaped shells characterize the Santa Cruz subspecies.

Most time of their stretched lives is spent slowly and silently, except for a warning hiss, or loud screams during mating, which can be heard from far in the first half of the year. Subsequently females leave the highlands and descend all the way down to the beaches to dig holes and lay their eggs. It is estimated that in 2015 about 32,000 tortoises live in the wild in all the islands, most on restricted locations of Isabela.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary B4 - 4 Days / 3 Nights

Pitt Point, Santa Fe & South Plaza

4 days / 3 nights – Friday to Monday – every 14 days

Our 3 nights eastern route heads first to the little-frequented Pitt Point, the easternmost point of the archipelago and only site where blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies gather together. It returns through extraordinary Santa Fe and the popular, really not to be missed highlight South Plaza (both with land iguanas and giant cactus trees). Your visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station will be a nice introduction to this cruise, while it is concluded in the evergreen mangles of Black Turtle Cove on the north coast of Santa Cruz.

Walk at a short distance past nesting boobies and frigatebirds. These almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-west are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions. Mind your step when strolling South Plaza, because you may tread on the Galapagos land iguanas that crawl below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti. En route you can also observe endemic marine iguanas, the ‘dragons of Galapagos’ and another miracle of evolution. You will also learn more on the successful captured breeding programs of emblematic giant Galapagos tortoises. Last contrasty morning an adventurous dinghy ride is scheduled in the thriving cradle and bird-rich mangrove inlet, and the ocean seems far away.

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Friday

After arrival at Baltra your tour will start on adjacent main island of Santa Cruz, where you will cross the surprisingly lush highlands by bus and reach its cosy harbour town Puerto Ayora. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the famous Galapagos giant tortoise breeding centre is an interesting introduction to this unique archipelago. There is also free time to relax in cosy Puerto Ayora.

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard S/C Nemo I, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Short before midnight the anchor will be lifted for this route’s longest navigation to easternmost Pitt Point, about 8 hours in eastern direction.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding center and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 2 – Saturday

The longest nocturnal passage of this route will bring you to Pitt Point, the extreme eastern cape of Santiago (and of the entire archipelago). On top of these eroded cliffs you can find blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies breeding together, and also frigate birds with bright red, balloon-sized pouches in the mating season! You will land in a bachelor’s colony of Galapagos sea lions, and stroll along a cute nursery colony at the scenic beach below Witch Hill in the afternoon.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a wet landing at Pitt Point, from where you will hike to the cliff-top sea bird colonies (and back). After that snorkelling is scheduled.
PM: During lunch we will navigate along the shore of San Cristobal to Witch Hill, where a lot of activities can be undertaken: a dinghy-ride, sea kayaking, snorkelling and a beach stroll.
Overnight navigation: This evening we will sail to Santa Fe (4 hrs west), in which sheltered bay you can enjoy a comfortable night rest.

AM: Pitt Point (San Cristobal)

Two wind sculptured tuff cones at Pitt Point constitute the extreme eastern end of San Cristobal, and thus of the archipelago as well. These cliffs were the first sight of land when HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrived on September 15th 1835. On the small green sand beach, you will be welcomed by a cacophony of barking Galapagos sea lions. This is a bachelor colony, where males usually recuperate from and prepare themselves for fighting and mating.

From saltbush and spiny shrubs behind the beach a trail leads up to an area of tropical dry forest vegetation: most of the year leafless palo santo trees, yellow cordia shrubs, tiny prickly pear cacti and carpetweed, that turns red in the dry season. After the pretty steep climb through a gully to the cliff top, you can wander around the only colony in Galapagos that counts with all three species of booby: blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca booby; as well as both species of frigatebird (great and magnificent), famous because of their scarlet balloon-sized pouches during mating season. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit.

PM: Witch Hill (San Cristobal)

To scout out the dangerous reefs HMS Beagle’s Captain Fitzroy climbed in 1835 to the top of the obvious tuff-cone that overlooks this scenic bay. Nowadays it is called Witch Hill and not any more the main attraction of this site, but part of its romantic coastal panorama. Let your eyes travel from the volcanic cone, over the turquoise bay to the razor-sharp contours of Kicker Rock at the horizon, one of the photogenic landmarks of Galapagos.

You can walk about 1km/0.6mi along the romantic, crescent-shaped beach and feel with your feet the soft and powdery white coral sand (in fact it is pulverized by parrot fishes, that destruct living coral reefs). Enjoy the Galapagos sea lion rookery with its cute babies, or study the rich intertidal and bird life (mainly brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls). Behind the beach and the narrow stretch of dunes, there is a dark lava tongue with several saline lakes that used to be a local salt mine (necessary for conservation of fish). Here reside some coastal and wading birds such as the great blue heron.

Day 3 – Sunday

Heading back towards the heart of the archipelago you will visit extraordinary Santa Fe and not to be missed South Plaza that belongs to most popular sites. Below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti you will encounter characteristic land iguanas. Although this ‘Jurassic islet’ is different to every other site in the National Park, at the same time it is so typical Galapagos with its sharp contrasts, amazing diversity and stunning concentration of wildlife. While sailing along Santa Cruz we will lookout for whales.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk from the beach of Santa Fe (wet landing). Your guide decides whether the easy shorter circuit is followed, or a strenuous longer hike land inward (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Don’t forget to retain strength for excellent afterwards swimming or snorkelling in the crystal clear azure waters of Barrington Bay.
PM: Around lunchtime we will proceed to South Plaza (about 2 hrs northwest), possibly escorted by bottle nose dolphins. You will make an unforgettable guided walk on this ‘Jurassic islet’ (easy level; about 1,25 km/0.75 mi; avoidable depths on the cliff-edge).
Navigation: While navigating to Black Turtle Cove (2 hrs, before dinner and sunset) we will have opportunities of some great whale watching. After dinner you can enjoy a relatively quiet floating sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Gordon Rocks (Expert/Advanced) or Santa Fe (All levels).

AM: Barrington Bay (Santa Fe)

Practically every animal on Santa Fe is unique; endemic to Galapagos, or even to this island alone and extremely vulnerable! This extraordinary island is remnant of the probably most ancient volcano of Galapagos, and gave evolution enough time and isolation to create its wonders.

Your experience starts already before anchoring, when the contours of its bizarre giant prickly pear cactus (opuntia) forests become distinguishable. These largest cacti of the islands have extremely thick trunks indeed, and can grow over 10m/33ft tall! You will land right into a Galapagos sea lion colony on the beach. From their outlooks at the beach ridge surprisingly fearless Galapagos hawks are ready to snatch away a lava lizard; not worrying that even these are unique…
Almost every visitor of Santa Fe becomes eager to get a glimpse of the rare Barrington land iguana. But this pale endemic version is not as easy to spot as its modelling counterparts on South Plaza. This one asks for an adventurous quest (rather untypical to Galapagos); other times it surprises waiting for you next to the trail. Whether you spot it, or not, you will keep going from one surprise into the other.
While snorkelling in the azure coloured Barrington Bay between tropical reef fish, maybe a curious Galapagos sea lion is willing to play with you!

PM: South Plaza

The southern of both Plaza islets is best place to encounter endemic Galapagos land iguanas. Watch your step and don’t stumble over one of them whilst distracted by equally bizarre giant prickly pear cactus-trees! These iguanas are not only ugly as Darwin pronounced, but also very patient and photogenic models with strikingly saffron colours. Overpopulation and severe food competition have affected their smaller size. It is incredible to see how cactus spines don’t harm them while chewing pads, flowers and fruits. Beware as well for some unique hybrids between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.

Arriving at the upper rim, you get to know the other, wild and windy face of South Plaza that provides a complete different habitat. About 20m/75ft downwards impressively droning waves splash against the foot of massive cliffs. Being talented rock climbers, sun basking marine iguanas have escaped the cool shadows of the wall. Clouds of petrels, storm petrels, shearwaters and brown noddies make spectacular flights and sometimes appear to walk on the waves. Take your binoculars and don’t miss the red-billed tropicbird with its graceful long tail and spectacular mating fights. These cliffs are also a nesting place for the endemic swallow-tailed gull, most beautiful gull in the world. Its neatly lined eyes are perfectly adapted for its exceptional nightly fishing habits.

Day 4 – Monday

Even at the very end of your cruise Galapagos keeps surprising. On this last morning you will explore the evergreen mangle forest of Black turtle cove, and feel a while as if you are in the Amazon rainforest instead of at the north coast of Santa Cruz. These lagoons and adventurous creeks teem with marine and birdlife, and (seasonally) with mating turtles and sharks.

Program:
AM: Shortly after your wake-up call and a snack you will leave for this farewell dinghy-ride. After breakfast it’s time say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport (unless you have booked an extension on the A-route).

AM: Black Turtle Cove (Santa Cruz)

The ancient mangle at Black Turtle Cove has grown out to forest proportions and forms the backdrop for a distinct adventure. You might even feel yourself a while in the Amazon rainforest instead of close to sea; though on a closer look vegetation mainly exists of red mangroves with characteristic aerial roots that let them survive in salty and brackish water. By inflatable dinghy we will explore the calm emerald lagoon and enter the surrounding shallow creeks of these salt-water marshes. The outboard engine is sometimes turned off, so that you can enjoy the ambiance at its fullest. You have to keep your eyes peeled when looking around and staring into the crystal clear waters to observe all the life that is flying and swimming around.

You can spot silently hunting lava herons on the banks and brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves. Various species of ray and shark come to this nutritious cradle to give birth; scaloped hammerhead sharks come back to the place where they’ve born and their babies tend to be close to the surface. Pacific green turtles (black turtles was their former name) visit this cove in their reproduction season (November-January); if you’re lucky you can catch them mating at the surface! Afterwards their eggs are deposited on coral sand beaches along this north-western coastline of Santa Cruz.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary A5 - 5 Days / 4 Nights

To the remote west

5 days / 4 nights – Thursday to Monday – every 14 days

Our 4 nights western route visits some of the remotest corners of Galapagos. This adventurous route contains longer nightly navigation stretches, but Sailing Catamaran Nemo I is faster than average, and you will also have two relatively quiet floating nights.

After an introduction at Charles Darwin Research Centre (Galapagos giant tortoise breeding centre) you will round the by far largest island Isabela, and pass by pristine Fernandina, which are both just recently born out of fire. On its way back Nemo I will anchor at Santiago’s James Bay (fur seal grottos and great snorkelling) and sail around the sea bird laden volcano islet of Daphne Major.
Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, the desolate west is truly exceptional. Become witness of some bizarre miracles of evolution, such as flightless cormorants, huge marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins close to the equator. Discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species. En route you will have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos land iguanas, American flamingos and exciting whale watching!

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Thursday

After arrival at Baltra your tour will start on adjacent main island of Santa Cruz, where you will cross the surprisingly lush highlands by bus and reach its cosy harbour town Puerto Ayora. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the famous Galapagos giant tortoise breeding center is an interesting introduction to this unique archipelago.

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard S/C Nemo I, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner your naturalist guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present and share a welcome toast.
Navigation: The anchor will be lifted early for this route’s longest navigation to Moreno Point on Isabela, about 12 hours in southwestern direction.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding center and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 2 – Friday

In the next few days SC Nemo I will navigate clockwise around Isabela, by far the largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). Explore some of the remotest visitor’s sites in Galapagos, offshore rocks with a small colony of Galapagos penguins, and penetrate Galapagos’ highest mangle in the sheltered creeks of the estuary. Perceive how pioneer vegetation progressively converts barren lava fields into lush oases and evergreen mangle forests, and is creating new habitats for specific species.
Thanks to major upwellings out off the deep sea (Cromwell Current) the nutrient-rich west coast of Isabela is a magnet to all kinds of marine and birdlife. Bolivar Channel (between Isabela and Fernandina) can be great for whale watching. 

Program:
AM: After breakfast first we make an inflatable dinghy-ride along the shoreline, followed by a ‘dry landing’ (with footwear) and a guided hike that crosses the crumbling, pitch black lava fields of Moreno Point (moderate level; about 2km/1.25mi). After a snack snorkeling is planned.
PM: At noon we will sail for 2 hours to Elizabeth Bay. Meanwhile you can enjoy lunch and a siesta. On arrival a long dinghy-ride is scheduled to both the offshore rocks and sheltered mangles.
Navigation: Before dinner we will continue to Punta Espinoza (Fernandina, about 4hrs), while actively looking for whales. You will have a relatively quiet floating night.

AM: Moreno Point (Isabela)

Moreno Point tells the continuing story of the famous lunatic lava fields of Sullivan Bay (actually not visited by Catamaran Nemo). This once lifeless lava field becomes dotted with tidal pools and filtration lagoons since parts of the crust have broken and fallen into the undermining lava tunnels.

Pioneer life takes advantage; finally the lava cacti get company of two more species of cacti, from which the candelabras can grow up to 7m/23ft tall, and dominate the rest of the shrubby vegetation. Fringes of reed, sea grass and mangrove bushes transform the picturesque lagoons in lush oases. Your pictures get the perfect finishing touch when bright American flamingos forage in the largest lagoon as well.  The fresh promising pioneer vegetation seems on the winning hand; just until Sierra Negra volcano spits a new layering cover, and the story starts all over again.

Tidal pools form natural traps and attract scavengers and hunters, such as bright orange sally lightfoot crabs, oystercatchers and herons. During a dinghy-ride along the jagged shoreline, you can spot marine iguanas that wait patiently for their turn at lowest tide to graze weeds on the seabed, and a breeding colony of brown pelicans in the mangroves.

PM: Marielas Islets & Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)

Although there is no landing point, Elizabeth Bay offers actually two in one! A prolonged ride by inflatable dinghy combines the Marielas Islets in the mouth of the bay, with the mangles in its innermost heart.

The Marielas islets are an excellent place to spot marine iguanas and small family groups of Galapagos penguins in the front row of the cliffs. The endangered Galapagos penguin is the rarest penguin species worldwide (just some 1500 birds over all archipelago; please don’t expect vast colonies as in Antarctic regions). Lofty palo santo-trees on top of the cliffs provide magnificent frigatebirds a lookout to rob returning blue-footed boobies.

Next the dinghy will turn landwards and enter the calm estuary. Whilst exploring lagoons and shallow creeks, the outboard engine can be turned off, to enjoy sounds of nature. Brown pelicans are the only pelicans in the world that plunge-dive, though more superficial than the spectacular rocket like diving blue-footed boobies. Lava herons and great blue herons prefer to wait patiently for what comes along. Pacific green turtles swim graceful around, popping-up their heads for breathing (mating season: December-January). You may also encounter spotted eagle rays or sharks, looking for protected inlets to give birth and leave their young alone. This highest mangrove forest of Galapagos consists of red mangroves (with their characteristic prop roots) as well as blackwhite and button mangroves.

Day 3 – Saturday

Without any doubt Espinoza Point belongs to the more exclusive sites of the Galapagos National Park. Fernandina harbours one of the worlds most virgin, untouched ecosystems. Today you will become eyewitness of evolution, which is happening right in front of you! Wonder again about bizarre creatures as flightless cormorant, marine iguana and Galapagos penguin.
Before leaving the remote west, Isabela will present you latest geological curiosity and the largest Galapagos land and marine iguanas. While crossing the Bolivar Channel to Urbina Bay, you will have opportunities for great whale watching again!

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a dry landing the guided morning walk (easy/moderate level; about 2km/1.25 mi) runs over the lava tongue of Espinoza Point. After a snack we will bring you to today’s snorkeling site.
PM: While having lunch we will cross the Bolivar Channel for the last time, back to Isabela’s west coast. At the geologic interesting site of Urbina Bay you will make a second guided walk, and you can snorkel as well.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner we will start our 10 hour’s navigation around the north cape of Isabela to Santiago (crossing the equator two times).

AM: Espinosa Point (Fernandina)

Espinoza Point is Fernandina’s only terrestrial visitors site, and one of the few locations where you will find some bizarre outgrowths of natural selection. Figurehead is the emblematic flightless cormorant that lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos, and could be considered as the ‘holy grail of evolution’. The cormorant had not to fear terrestrial enemies and lets you approach very close. Next generations gradually lost their flying capabilities to become excellent divers. Together with its neighbour, the Galapagos penguin, these are two of the rarest and most vulnerable bird species in the world, with less than 2000 individuals each.

Besides the endemic wildlife, you will also love the almost unworldly views with the dominating cone of Volcán La Cumbre (= the summit) as a spectacular backdrop. The narrow headland that you walk is the end of a lava tongue that has reached the coast and solidified on contact with the cold seawater. The black rocks are not yet covered by more vegetation then lava cacti and mangroves, but are teeming with hundreds of dragon-like marine iguanas that breed and conglomerate in larger groups than in any other island.

PM: Urbina Bay (Isabela)

Urbina Bay presents you Isabela’s latest geologic curiosity. In 1954 tectonic forces lifted the former seabed several meters above sea level and formed present coastal plain. The tilted seabed ran dry at once and 6kms/3,75mi of coastline was shifted outward. Pretty far land inward you can find marine remnants, such as fish bones, shells, scales from lobsters, urchins and corals.
Far behind you will reach the original coastline and the typical palo santo-bush from the arid zone. This very wide beach provides ample nesting places for iguanas, turtles and even for Galapagos giant tortoises that descend all the way down from Alcedo volcano in the wet season. The marine and land iguanas of Urbina Bay are the largest of Galapagos.

Day 4 – Sunday

At James Bay (Santiago) Charles Darwin spent most of his time in Galapagos, while HMS Beagle continued mapping the archipelago. Highlight of this pearl necklace of visitor’s sites are the outstanding fur seal grottos at the beautiful sculptured coastline of Puerto Egas, together with other coastal landscapes that could well be exotic film sets; not to forget Bucaneer’s Cove crystal clear snorkelling waters.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk along the coastline (easy level) to the fur seal grottos. Back on board we will provide a snack before snorkelling.
PM: At lunchtime we will navigate 12km/7 mi/45 min north to Espumilla Beach. After a wet landing (bare feet) at the beach a guided walk leads uphill and land inward (easy level; about 2km/1.25 mi). Afterwards you can make a dinghy-ride (or alternatively sea kayaking) along the coastline.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner SC Nemo I will continue along the north coast of Santiago to Daphne Major, where we will arrive after about 4 hrs for a relatively quiet floating night sleep.

AM: Puerto Egas (Santiago)

Dominated by Sugarloaf Hill (395m/1300ft) and named after a former salt mine (1960s), Puerto Egas is the southernmost visitors site along James Bay. Its masterly sculptured coastline of black basalts and polished multi-coloured ash-layers forms a photogenic scenery with collapsed lava tunnels, natural arches, caves and blowholes such as ‘Darwin’s toilet’.

In a grotto right below a spectacular rock arch at the end of the beach a colony of Galapagos fur seals occupies the shade, sheltering from the equatorial sun. Unlike more common Galapagos sea lions this smaller species of seal is no beach lover at all, due to their adorable, but insulating coats. This refuge is the very best place to see these endemic, shy and once heavily hunted marine mammals.

Especially at low tide Puerto Egas teems with extremely varied intertidal life. Notice how marine iguanas just leave, return cold or warm-up after grazing weeds on the seabed at lowest tide. Ossified night herons and lava herons keep an eye on the tidal pools that are refilled every flood again with small fish, octopuses, star fish, snails, urchins, shells, green algae and many other snacks. Noisy oystercatchers, turnstones, plovers and whimbrels inspect these pools zealously. Hundreds of sally lightfoot crabs seem even brighter orange against the pitch-black rocks (immature are dark-coloured).

PM: Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)

Espumilla Beach has revived as an important breeding site for turtles, as it is no longer suffering from digging wild pigs. The turtles return year after year to burry their eggs into the cinnamon coloured sand dunes. About two months later (roughly from February to August) the eggs hatch at once. Most vulnerable hatchlings never will reach sea, and form a banquet for predators such as herons, frigatebirds, mockingbirds and ghost crabs.
The beach ridge hides a mangle with two picturesque lagoons on the backside. A colony of American flamingos and aquatic birds used to be its main attraction, but after the climate phenomenon of El Niño, strong sedimentation altered the brackish water environment, and it no longer contains their food…
As often in Galapagos, different vegetation zones are very close by, providing great scenic contrasts. During the climb of a hill you will be rewarded with a beautiful overview of the transitions from sea into beach into mangrove into dry palo santo forest.

At the nearby Buccaneer Cove we have a great snorkeling opportunity.

Day 5 – Monday

On your last morning in Galapagos you can feel the ocean breeze in your hair while navigating around the characteristic volcanic islet of Daphne Major. A wide range of sea birds will wave you out!

Program:
AM: Early morning Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will navigate around the characteristic volcanic islet of Daphne Major. Afterwards you will disembark and fly back from Baltra Airport to Quito or Guayaquil.

AM: Daphne Major

The characteristic offshore tuff cone of Daphne Major looks how a child draws a volcano islet. Perhaps you have already got a first glimpse of it from your airplane window on arrival. Access to the 120m/400ft high islet is restricted because of its fragility and susceptibility to erosion. On your last morning in Galapagos you will make a  dinghy-ride around. You can spot large flocks of storm petrels and other sea birds.

This islet forms an almost undisturbed semi-closed ecosystem and is therefore of great scientific interest. Coexisting Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, magnificent frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies and 8 other breeding species have nicely distributed different sections of the cone, according to their needs and the ecological niches they occupy. The caldera contains two craters, both completely white-plastered by the increments of blue-footed boobies, which have founded a very large breeding colony on this sheltered place. There is a colony of Galapagos sea lions on the only small beach. This islet also has been the location for an important multidecade study of Darwin’s finches. This concluded that population fluctuates strongly and finches that survived in dryer years were mainly the ones with larger beaks; results that supported strongly Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary B5 - 5 Days / 4 Nights

To southern Galapagos

5 days / 4 nights – Monday to Friday – (every 14 days)

Our 5 days itinerary combines the incredible shark canal out off the coast of Isabela with best flamingo lagoons of Galapagos, and spectacular snorkeling around Devil’s Crown. The albatross and booby colonies and marine iguanas on Española promise to be next highlight! Most elder islands of Southeastern Galapagos have azure bays and striking beaches of white coral sand, which are favorite place for large colonies of sea lions. The visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station will be a nice conclusion of your cruise.

Walk at a short distance past blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and waved albatrosses, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending the season). Española is the sole option for those eager to admire synchronous courtship dances of the only tropical albatross in the world.

These almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-west are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions. En route you can also observe marine iguanaswhitetip reef sharks, American flamingos and – if lucky – even Galapagos penguins. In the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz you will learn more on the successful captured breeding programs of the emblematic giant Galapagos tortoises.

For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Besides that this route also offers plenty possibilities for optional scuba diving.

Day 1 – Monday

Bachas Beach is a pleasant start of your Galapagos visit, without the necessity to navigate a long stretch to get first contact with the unique insular nature. Along this beach (north coast Santa Cruz), which is popular breeding ground for the Pacific green turtle, you will make a relaxed stroll to a aquatic bird-rich saline lagoon.

Program:

AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will make your first wet landing (bare feet) at Bachas Beach, followed by an easy stroll along the waterline of this coral sand beach. Filled with impressions you will return on board for dinner.
Navigation: At dinner time we will lift the anchor and sail about 7 hrs – depending on the sea state – south-west to Isabela.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.

In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

 PM: Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz)

Strolling along its coastline, blinding white Bachas Beach appears full of intertidal and bird life. But the symmetrical tuff cone-islet of Daphne Major will pull your eyes to the horizon as well. Beware of Galapagos sea lionsmarine iguanas, a shark fin or (seasonally) mating Pacific green turtles in the surf! Both quiet beaches have become their preferred nesting site on the main island of Santa Cruz. ‘Bachas’ refers to the ‘minefield of nest holes’ in the dunes strip; though others argue that it is a ‘Spanglish’ mispronunciation of ‘barks’, referring to two rusty landing vessels that have been left on the longer second beach in World War II, when the American US Air Force used BALTRA as a strategic base to defend the Panama Canal.

Sparkling orange coloured and heavy-armed sally lightfoot crabs play seek and hide with you when you want to picture them on the dark basaltic rocks. A brackish lagoon in the dunes houses different species of wade and shore birds, including black-necked stilts, white-cheeked pintails (or Bahama ducks) and hunting herons. Migratory aquatic birds that winter in Galapagos, such as whimbrels, also frequent this pond. As soon as water level drops and the lagoon becomes saltier, you might even encounter some American flamingos tirelessly filtering water to catch shrimp and algae!

Day 2 – Tuesday

First nightly crossing will bring you to Puerto Villamil on Isabela. In the next few days Nemo I will navigate clockwise around this by far largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). 

Huge marine iguanas crawl over undisturbed rocky islets just outside the harbour, which also contain a unique tidal channel where whitetip reef sharks rest. Saline lagoons in the wetlands house the largest insular colony of American flamingos and you will visit the botanical garden of another tortoise breeding center with native species.

Program:

AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) the inflatable dinghies will bring you to the Tintoreras islets for a guided hike to the tidal channel, following a rough volcanic rock trail (easy/moderate level). After breakfast you can experience some great snorkelling.
PM: After lunch you will have free time to enjoy Puerto Villamil and its striking beach. Than you will visit the local tortoise breeding center and the surrounding wetlands.
Overnight navigation: After dinner the anchor is lifted for rounding the southern lob of Isabela clockwise to its far west coast (about 6 hours). 
Additional options scuba-diving: Isla Tortuga, Cuatro Hermanos or Roca Viuda (advanced).

AM: Whitetip reef shark channel (Isabela/Tintoreras)

Just outside the harbour of Puerto Villamil (Isabela), a group of rocky islets protrude just above sea level. These are remnants of a lava flow that is demolished by the waves. A collapsed lava tube forms a channel that fills-up on high tide, while the entrance is closed on low tide. Marine life gets trapped, including turtles and elegant white-spotted eagle rays or golden rays. In the crystal clear water of this unique site  you can also observe whitetip reef sharks (called tintoreras in Spanish; to which the islets are named after) resting from their nocturnal hunts. This species of shark is fairly common in the archipelago, and often spotted on the seabed when snorkelling, but here you can see them dry and comfortably from the bank.
Unlike the beaches of Puerto Villamil, tiny plagues along these black rocks offer  undisturbed breeding places for marine iguanas. Over here the largest Isabela subspecies (up to 1,5m/5ft tall !) can reproduce successfully and thrive by hundreds. The rocky shoreline with its intertidal life also attracts sally lightfoot crabs, lava herons and occasional Galapagos penguinsGalapagos sea lions occupy the sand beach and complete this stereotypical Galapagos image.

PM: Arnoldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center (Isabela)

In Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center you can see hundreds of giant Galapagos tortoises of all sizes. Vulnerable hatchlings are not gigantic at all, even smaller than the size of your hand! This project just outside Puerto Villamil is created to rescue the endangered populations of Isabela’s both southernmost volcanoes.
From the almost incredible estimations of 250,000 giant tortoises in the 16th century only remained about 3,000 individuals in the 1970s. One thing becomes clear on your visit: it’s hard work to save these queer creatures for extinction by reproduction in captivity and repopulation. The good news is that these programs are successful and have saved several species for extinction so far. By 2015 their number has increased up to about 32,000 in all archipelago.

Don’t forget to visit the native botanic garden of this breeding centre. It also attracts colourful songbirds such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches, Galapagos and vermillion flycatchers. Finally there is no greater counterpart to the cumbersome tortoises as the graceful American flamingos that frequently filter the saline waters of the adjacent lagoon for shrimp and algae. They are joined by a handful of species of aquatic and shore birds, from which some even migrate from Canada and Alaska.

Day 3 – Wednesday

At midnight Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will drop the anchor at the north cape of Floreana (Cormorant Point), where American flamingos use to forage and breed. For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Historical Post Office Bay seems to be located nearly at the end of the world.

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a wet landing at the greeny beach of Cormorant Point (wet landing) and walk to a powdery coral sand beach on the other side of the peninsula (easy level; about 1,5km/1mi). En route you can observe the American flamingo lagoon from different viewpoints.
Then it’s time for fantastic deep-water snorkelling around Devil’s Crown (though sometimes stronger currents). If this is not your thing or if you prefer bird watching, alternatively you can make a dinghy-ride.
PM: Post your holiday greetings in the historical barrel at Post Office Bay, one of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s north coast (short displacement, wet landing) and relax.
Overnight navigation: Around midnight the Galapagos Odyssey will navigate about 5 hours east to Española.
Additional options scuba-diving: choice out of 9 nearby diving sites (All levels)

AM: Cormorant Point (Floreana)

The peninsula of Cormorant Point forms the extreme north cape of Floreana, which is pockmarked by numbers of smaller volcanic cones and covered by tropical dry forest (predominently palo santo). Please don’t expect to spot the flightless cormorant at Cormorant Point. This emblematic example of evolution lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos on Fernandina and Isabela (Route A). Instead, its salty lagoon is one of the best places in Galapagos to observe a breeding colony of American flamingos. Though, when breeding is done and the lagoon dries up, these exotic birds tend to be on the move to look for shrimps and algae from other saline lakes.

At the landing beach you will be welcomed by a small Galapagos sea lion-colony. The green sand contains a high percentage of glassy olivine crystals that have been blown out by the surrounding tuff cones. The ‘flour sand’ beach on the south side of the peninsula feels very smooth to your feet; this is pulverized by parrotfishes. Schools of sting rays in the surf love this powdery sand to hide themselves, and Pacific green turtles come ashore to burry their eggs in it at night (first months of the year). Next morning you can notice their tracks from the dunes, or eventually still catch an exhausted, delayed one, crawling back to sea.

AM: Devil´s Crown (Floreana)

The jagged crater rim of Devil’s Crown just protrudes sea level and is beaten by the waves.  The inner walls of the crater rim are coated with coral formations and protected against the surf. The depth and very transparent waters of this deep-water snorkelling site gives you some sensation of flying once you plunge in this huge tropical aquarium. You will swim amidst schools of thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish, as yellowtail surgeon fishesking angelfishes, and many other species. On the seabed you can distinguish resting whitetip reef sharks, different species of ray and starfishes. A Pacific green turtle or Galapagos sea lion might swim by, and don’t scare when you encounter scalloped hammerhead sharks!
Above sea level the dramatic decor of the jagged crater rim provides living space to lots of coastal birds, including lava gulls, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, brown pelicans, and red-billed tropicbirds. The opposite land head of Floreana is a nesting place for magnificent frigatebirds, where you could also head for during an alternative dinghy-ride.

PM: Post Office Bay (Floreana)

Bring your unstamped postcards and post them in the peculiar barrel on this historic site. Together with James Bay (Santiago) this used to be a popular base to complement stocks. Present barrel commemorates the improvised mail service between British 16th century whalers and poachers. Returning vessels also picked-up letters for home delivery. Finally this post box became the termination of the flourishing British whaling industry in this region (Moby Dick), because it let the American frigate USS Essex easily locate and hijack British whalers during the Anglo-American War (1812-1815).

Day 4 – Thursday

Next island Española is located in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago. As one of its crown jewels, this bird watcher’s and photographer’s dream offers all that you might expect from Galapagos. Walk in a distance of just a few meters past waved albatrosses, booby colonies, sunbathing marine iguanas and Galapagos sea lions and feel yourself within an exciting nature documentary! Several endemic species give you the opportunity to become an eyewitness of evolution.

Program:
AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) you will make a ‘dry landing’ at Suarez Point. During a longer guided walk (moderate level; 4km/2.5 mi/about 2 hours) you will pass awakening sea bird colonies on top of the cliffs (some short scrambling passages; avoidable depths). Back on board you will have a deserved breakfast and will navigate about an hour. Next you can plunch into the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay for snorkelling.
PM: After lunch and a ‘wet landing’ (bare feet) on the wide sand beach you can stroll along the sea lions colony (easy level), or enjoy a moment of reflection, relaxation, or rolling with sea lions in the surf.
Overnight navigation: After dinner we will navigate 5hrs north and anchor just before midnight in the sheltered harbour of Puerto Ayora, where you can enjoy a quiet floating sleep.

AM: Suarez Point (Española)

Huge ocean waves bang on the southern basaltic cliffs of Suarez Point, and form a spectacular blowhole, where a fountain of sea water sprays meters/feet high into the air (depending on the tide and how strong sea breeze pushes the waves). Take a meditative break in silence on this emblematic viewpoint to convert this unforgettable moment in a lifetime experience.

Waved albatrosses soar most time of their lives far out at sea and just come to Española (March-December) to breed and nurture their huge chick. This spectacular seabird is the only tropic albatross (critically endangered species). Besides some strayed individuals on Isla de La Plata (out off the Ecuadorian coast) it only breeds on Española, where you can witness its synchronous courtship dances, which include bowing, whistling and even a stylized form of ‘sword fighting’ with their bills (especially in October)!

Suarez Point is also a massive breeding site for Nazca and blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirdsBlue-footed boobies don’t bother to breed in the middle of the trail. Especially during the food-abundant garúa-season (2nd half of the year) you can admire amusing courtship dances, mating, breeding, emerging from the eggs, nurturing or first flight-attempts.

Española marine iguanas become bright red with a turquoise-colored crest and legs at the start of the breeding season (starting from Christmas). Hood lava lizards are the largest of the 7 endemic species in the islands, as well as endemic mockingbirds, that have turned to carnivorous behaviour!

PM: Gardner Bay (Española)

Make your first ‘dive’ in the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay, and admire colourful reef fish, snorkel side by side with a Pacific green turtle, or find yourself in the middle of playful Galapagos sea lions.

The striking white coral sand beach is an important breeding site for Pacific green turtles. But without doubt its main attraction is the Galapagos sea lion colony. Females stay year round in this nursery, suckling their pups up to an age of 3 years, although these start to learn fishing already after 5 months. During the breeding- and mating season the colony becomes even more populous. The strongest bachelors and elder males return from their secluded bases and start again to conquer and defend their part of the 1300m/4250ft long beach. Pregnant females choose the best territory to give birth, and will mate again with their landlord within a month.

Day 5 – Friday

This cruise itinerary ends in Puerto Ayora. En route to the airport you will visit the successful breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Without any doubt most-emblematic representatives of the archipelago are the Galapagos giant tortoises.

Program:
AM: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. The dinghies will bring you to the pier of Puerto Ayora, where you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station before continuing to the airport.

AM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. The Breeding and Rearing area of the scientific center are definitely a worthwhile visit.

This excursion will be accompanied by another guide, while your naturalist guide will visit the highlands with those passengers that stay longer on board.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary B4+A4 - 7 Days / 6 Nights

Santa Fe, South Plaza, North Seymour & Genovesa

7 days / 6 nights – Friday to Thursday – every 14 days

Our new, quite complete 6 nights northeastern combination bundles extraordinary Santa Fe and the popular, really not to be missed highlight of South Plaza (both with land iguanas and giant cactus trees) with no less than three sea bird colonies (exclusive Genovesa, North Seymour and easternmost Pitt Point). The thriving evergreen mangles of Black Turtle Cove contrast with the barren, spectacular volcano islets Bartolome and Chinese Hat, where you will get impressed by their creative forces.

The almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-west are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions. Mind your step when strolling South Plaza, because you may tread on the Galapagos land iguanas that crawl below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti. En route you can also observe endemic marine iguanas, the evolutionary miraculous ‘dragons of Galapagos’. Walk at a short distance past nesting frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies, red-footed and Nazca boobies,  whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending on the season).
Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, the barren north offers most dramatic landscapes and reveals the first chapter of evolution. Discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species. Furthermore, en route you will have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos penguins close to the equator! In the contrasty lush highlands of Santa Cruz you will encounter the famous Galapagos giant tortoises. You will also learn more on their successful captured breeding programs.

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Friday

After arrival at Baltra your tour will start on adjacent main island of Santa Cruz, where you will cross the surprisingly lush highlands by bus and reach its cosy harbour town Puerto Ayora. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the famous Galapagos giant tortoise breeding centre is an interesting introduction to this unique archipelago. There is also free time to relax in cosy Puerto Ayora.

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard S/C Nemo I, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Short before midnight the anchor will be lifted for this route’s longest navigation to easternmost Pitt Point, about 8 hours in eastern direction.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding centre and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 2 – Saturday

The longest nocturnal passage of this route will bring you to Pitt Point, the extreme eastern cape of Santiago (and of the entire archipelago). On top of these eroded cliffs you can find blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies breeding together, and also frigate birds with bright red, balloon-sized pouches in the mating season! You will land in a bachelor’s colony of Galapagos sea lions, and stroll along a cute nursery colony at the scenic beach below Witch Hill in the afternoon. 

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a wet landing at Pitt Point, from where you will hike to the cliff-top sea bird colonies (and back). After that snorkelling is scheduled.
PM: During lunch we will navigate along the shore of San Cristobal to Witch Hill, where a lot of activities can be undertaken: a dinghy-ride, sea kayaking, snorkelling and a beach stroll.
Overnight navigation: This evening we will sail to Santa Fe (4 hrs west), in which sheltered bay you can enjoy a comfortable night rest.

AM: Pitt Point (San Cristobal)

Two wind sculptured tuff cones at Pitt Point constitute the extreme eastern end of San Cristobal, and thus of the archipelago as well. These cliffs were the first sight of land when HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrived on September 15th 1835. On the small green sand beach, you will be welcomed by a cacophony of barking Galapagos sea lions. This is a bachelor colony, where males usually recuperate from and prepare themselves for fighting and mating.

From saltbush and spiny shrubs behind the beach a trail leads up to an area of tropical dry forest vegetation: most of the year leafless palo santo trees, yellow cordia shrubs, tiny prickly pear cacti and carpetweed, that turns red in the dry season. After the pretty steep climb through a gully to the cliff top, you can wander around the only colony in Galapagos that counts with all three species of booby: blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca booby; as well as both species of frigatebird (great and magnificent), famous because of their scarlet balloon-sized pouches during mating season. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit.

PM: Witch Hill (San Cristobal)

To scout out the dangerous reefs HMS Beagle’s Captain Fitzroy climbed in 1835 to the top of the obvious tuff-cone that overlooks this scenic bay. Nowadays it is called Witch Hill and not any more the main attraction of this site, but part of its romantic coastal panorama. Let your eyes travel from the volcanic cone, over the turquoise bay to the razor-sharp contours of Kicker Rock at the horizon, one of the photogenic landmarks of Galapagos.

You can walk about 1km/0.6mi along the romantic, crescent-shaped beach and feel with your feet the soft and powdery white coral sand (in fact it is pulverized by parrot fishes, that destruct living coral reefs). Enjoy the Galapagos sea lion rookery with its cute babies, or study the rich intertidal and bird life (mainly brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls). Behind the beach and the narrow stretch of dunes, there is a dark lava tongue with several saline lakes that used to be a local salt mine (necessary for conservation of fish). Here reside some coastal and wading birds such as the great blue heron.

Day 3 – Sunday

Heading back towards the heart of the archipelago you will visit extraordinary  Santa Fe and not to be missed South Plaza that belongs to most popular sites. Below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti you will encounter characteristic land iguanas. Although this ‘Jurassic islet’ is different to every other site in the National Park, at the same time it is so typical Galapagos with its sharp contrasts, amazing diversity and stunning concentration of wildlife. While sailing along Santa Cruz we will look-out for whales.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk from the beach of Santa Fe (wet landing). Your guide decides whether the easy shorter circuit is followed, or a strenuous longer hike land inward (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Don’t forget to retain strength for excellent afterwards swimming or snorkelling in the crystal clear azure waters of Barrington Bay.
PM: Around lunchtime we will proceed to South Plaza (about 2 hrs northwest), possibly escorted by bottle nose dolphins. You will make an unforgettable guided walk on this Jurassic islet (easy level; about 1,25 km/0.75 mi; avoidable depths on the cliff-edge).
Navigation: While navigating to Black Turtle Cove (2 hrs, before dinner and sunset) we will have opportunities of some great whale watching. After dinner you can enjoy a relatively quiet floating sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Gordon Rocks (Expert/Advanced) or Santa Fe (All levels).

AM: Barrington Bay (Santa Fe)

Practically every animal on Santa Fe is unique; endemic to Galapagos, or even to this island alone and extremely vulnerable! This extraordinary island is remnant of the probably most ancient volcano of Galapagos, and gave evolution enough time and isolation to create its wonders.

Your experience starts already before anchoring, when the contours of its bizarre giant prickly pear cactus (opuntia) forests become distinguishable. These largest cacti of the islands have extremely thick trunks indeed, and can grow over 10m/33ft tall! You will land right into a Galapagos sea lion colony on the beach.  From their outlooks at the beach ridge surprisingly fearless Galapagos hawks are ready to snatch away a lava lizard; not worrying that even these are unique…
Almost every visitor of Santa Fe becomes eager to get a glimpse of the rare Barrington land iguana. But this pale endemic version is not as easy to spot as its modelling counterparts on South Plaza. This one asks for an adventurous quest (rather untypical to Galapagos); other times it surprises waiting for you next to the trail. Whether you spot it, or not, you will keep going from one surprise into the other.
While snorkelling in the azure coloured Barrington Bay between tropical reef fish, maybe a curious Galapagos sea lion is willing to play with you!

PM: South Plaza

The southern of both Plaza islets is best place to encounter endemic Galapagos land iguanas. Watch your step and don’t stumble over one of them whilst distracted by equally bizarre giant prickly pear cactus-trees! These iguanas are not only ugly as Darwin pronounced, but also very patient and photogenic models with strikingly saffron colours. Overpopulation and severe food competition have affected their smaller size. It is incredible to see how cactus spines don’t harm them while chewing pads, flowers and fruits. Beware as well for some unique hybrids between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.

Arriving at the upper rim, you get to know the other, wild and windy face of South Plaza that provides a complete different habitat. About 20m/75ft downwards impressively droning waves splash against the foot of massive cliffs. Being talented rock climbers, sun basking marine iguanas have escaped the cool shadows of the wall. Clouds of petrels, storm petrels, shearwaters and brown noddies make spectacular flights and sometimes appear to walk on the waves. Take your binoculars and don’t miss the red-billed tropicbird with its graceful long tail and spectacular mating fights. These cliffs are also a nesting place for the endemic swallow-tailed gull, most beautiful gull in the world. Its neatly lined eyes are perfectly adapted for its exceptional nightly fishing habits.

Day 4 – Monday

This morning you will explore the evergreen mangle forest of Black Turtle Cove, and feel a while as if you are in the Amazon rainforest instead of at the north coast of Santa Cruz. These lagoons and adventurous creeks teem with marine and birdlife, and (seasonally) with mating turtles and sharks. Nearby North Seymour is one of the most visited sites. This tabletop islet is overloaded with most extensive colonies of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies in the archipelago, and there crawl Galapagos land iguanas around as well!

Program:
AM: Shortly after your wake-up call and a snack you will leave for this farewell dinghy-ride. After breakfast it’s time say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport (unless you have booked an extension on the A-route).

AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch and the safety-drill you will make your first landing at North Seymour for a guided walk through the large seabird‘s colonies, following a circular loop (easy level; 2km/1.25 mi/about 2hrs). Before dinner your naturalist guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present and share a welcome toast.
Navigation: About midnight we will lift the anchor and sail to Genovesa. Depending on the sea state we will navigate about 5:30 hrs north.

AM: Black Turtle Cove (Santa Cruz)

The ancient mangle at Black Turtle Cove has grown out to forest proportions and forms the backdrop for a distinct adventure. You might even feel yourself a while in the Amazon rainforest instead of close to sea; though on a closer look vegetation mainly exists of red mangroves with characteristic aerial roots that let them survive in salty and brackish water. By inflatable dinghy we will explore the calm emerald lagoon and enter the surrounding shallow creeks of these salt-water marshes. The outboard engine is sometimes turned off, so that you can enjoy the ambiance at its fullest. You have to keep your eyes peeled when looking around and staring into the crystal clear waters to observe all the life that is flying and swimming around.

You can spot silently hunting lava herons on the banks and brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves. Various species of ray and shark come to this nutritious cradle to give birth; scaloped hammerhead sharks come back to the place where they’ve born and their babies tend to be close to the surface. Pacific green turtles (black turtles was their former name) visit this cove in their reproduction season (November-January); if you’re lucky you can catch them mating at the surface! Afterwards their eggs are deposited on coral sand beaches along this north-western coastline of Santa Cruz.

PM: North Seymour

The tabletop islet of North Seymour is an uplifted part of the seabed. Between the dry shrubs you might perceive a Galapagos land iguana. North Seymour originally did not count with land iguanas, but in the 1930s an eccentric American millionaire moved the last generation from Baltra, and saved them for starvation caused by competition with introduced goats; the afterwards breeding program at Charles Darwin Research Station turned into a big success.

You can spot lots of seabirds, such as brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, endemic swallow-tailed gulls and seasonally even Nazca boobies. But the main attraction are the archipelago’s most extensive breeding colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. At the start of the  breeding season (shifting on our calendar) adult frigatebird-males blow up their vivid red pouches to impressive football-sized balloons. This is one of the few spots (besides Genovesa and Pitt Point) where you can compare the magnificent and the rarer great frigatebird breeding next to each other. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit. The even more popular blue-footed boobies show their cute courtship rituals, in which their remarkable feet play an important role.

Day 5 – Tuesday

As one of the outer islands and most exclusive places of Galapagos, Genovesa is well worth last night’s longer navigation. All impressions will be nearly too much for a single day! Hundreds of thousands of seabirds perch and nest on the cliffs around its flooded crater.
Not only because of its historical English name (Tower) Genovesa has a royal touch. Follow into the footsteps of Prince Philip – Galapagos lover of the first hour and patron of the Charles Darwin Foundation – and visit this favourite birding spot with largest breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, and look for a remarkable short-eared owl that hunts on foot!

Program:
AM: Today’s full program includes two longer walks, snorkeling and optional sea kayaking. After early breakfast and a wet landing at the sheltered beach of Darwin Bay you will go for a guided walk (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Enjoy a snack aboard before snorkeling (alternatively: sea kayaking).
PM: Around lunch-time we will sail to nearby Prince Philip’s Steps, close to the entrance of the broken caldera. There you will make a guided walk through cliff top seabird colonies (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Overnight navigation: Nemo I will lift the anchor short after dinner, and navigate about 5 hours, heading back south in the direction of Santiago (and anchoring at Bartolome).

AM: Darwin Bay (Genovesa)

Genovesa’s horseshoe shaped wall shows unmistakably that we have anchored inside the partly collapsed and submerged caldera of a submarine volcano! The visitor’s site named Darwin Bay is located at the very rear.  This compact site shows the extreme varied coastal ecosystems of Galapagos in miniature. The trail starts from the coral sand beach and subsequently passes a zone with saltbushes and mangroves, than crosses tidal creeks and barren lava formations, dry shrub lands, and finally turns on the ridge of some cliffs.

In this extremely varied and peaceful ambience, every single species has occupied its own ecological niche (preferred habitat) without disturbing others. Whimbrels and wandering tattlers forage actively along the surf, next to resting Galapagos sea lions. Herons wait motionless at the tidal pools. Impressive frigatebirds (both great and magnificent species) and red-footed boobies nest in the mangroves, where you can also notice some vocalists such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches and Galapagos mockingbirds. Unique is that two subpopulations of the same species large cactus finch differ from singing.

Tropicbirds, Nazca boobies, storm petrels, endemic lava- and swallow-tailed gulls soar along the cliffs. When you already have seen marine iguanas elsewhere, the small Genovesa species might not look too impressive, but consider that these are virtually the only reptiles that succeeded to reach and survive on this remote, upstream island (and have become endemic to this island).

PM: Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa)

Before landing you will make a dinghy-ride along the eastern arm of the caldera. On approach, the 25m/80ft high walls become overwhelming, and will give you a better impression of the dimensions of this crater. Sometimes a Galapagos fur seal is resting on one of the shaded ledges. Although there are also seabirds, the real spectacle will find place on top and on the outside of the rim, which provide better perching and nesting places.

Therefore you have to hike and overcome the steep stairs from the landing dock to a bush of palo santo shrubs on top. Tropical dry forest vegetation appears dead during most months of the year, but just drops its leaves to prevent drying out by evaporation. It’s a threatened ecosystem. Red-footed boobies with different plumages gratefully use these scarce nesting-places; different to their blue-footed relatives ‘red feet’ don’t nest on the rocky ground.

At the seaside of the rim, the bushes open up and you can enjoy wide views, a strong sea breeze and the amazing flying skills of uncountable seabirds. Following the exposed rim you will first pass a colony of Nazca boobies and finally reach the extensive storm petrel nesting places, where you might be lucky spotting how the well-camouflaged short-eared owl is hunting for them on foot!

Day 6 – Wednesday

Just out of the coast of Santiago, Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will anchor at two volcanoes islets: Bartolome (recently born out off fire) and Chinese Hat. You will arrive exactly on time at Chinese Hat to witness how this barren volcano islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Enjoy the famous wild romantic panorama of Bartolome. Very close to the equator you will have first opportunities to meet endangered Galapagos penguins; whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing! 

Program:
AM: Today’s full program is largely dedicated to volcanism. Wake-up during an early morning dinghy-ride along the barren shoreline. After breakfast it is not yet too hot to climb the stairs of Bartolomé’s Summit Trail, which is rewarded with panoramic views (guided walk, moderate level; about 800m/0.5 mi; 114m/375ft altitude difference). Next you can refresh and explore the fantastic shallow water snorkeling spot at the foot of Pinnacle Rock (alternative: walking around or relaxing on the beach).
PM: During lunch Nemo I navigates to Chinese Hat (about 1hr), where you can snorkel again. Learn more about Galapagos’ fascinating geology during the late-afternoon walk on this typical volcano-islet (easy level; about 0,7 km/0.5 mi).
Navigation: While sailing to Puerto Villamil (Isabela, about 7hr) you will have dinner dinner. We will anchor in the sheltered harbour just after midnight, where you can enjoy a fairly quiet sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Bartolome or Cousin Rocks (both advanced)

AM: Bartolome

The wild romantic volcano islet of Bartolome is among the youngest of the islands, and on a geological scale just recently born out off fire. Although tiny (only 120ha/300ac) and at first sight lifeless, Bartolome offers some of the wildest landscapes and best panoramas in the entire archipelago. To enjoy the postcard view of the idyllic ‘Pinnacle Bay’ you have to climb the stairs to the viewpoint on top of the island (114m/375ft). Enter suddenly a dramatical world of threatening (though extinguished) nearby spatter cones, craters, and lightweight lava droplets that have been spewed out by fiery fountains. The Summit Trail is also ideal to witness how scanty pioneer vegetation such as lava cactus is struggling to take root in the bare virgin lava fields.

From the summit you suddenly face a second, paradisiacal world; Galapagos’ landmark ‘Pinnacle Rock’ towers prominently over an isthmus with crescent sand beaches on each side, and dunes with evergreen mangrove bushes in between.
Underwater, a third, completely distinctive world opens up to you, resembling a tropical aquarium. Its shallow, clear and warm waters are ideally for snorkeling between coral-grinding parrot fishes, shoals of surgeonfishes, harmless whitetip reef sharks and Pacific green turtles. If you are lucky you can even catch the sight of fishing Galapagos penguins.

PM: Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat is a 52m/170ft high volcanic cone, forming another islet right out off the rocky coast of Santiago, where a small colony of Galapagos penguins has settled. Approaching Chinese Hat from the north, you certainly will agree with its name. Because its primordial fire has been extinguished recently, this is an excellent place to learn more about volcanism, lava bombs and lava tunnels. On the beach you can also find curious pillow-type lavas with coral heads on top! These spheres have a submarine origin before being lifted above sea level.

But Chinese Hat does not appear that inhospitable any more as almost virgin Bartolome and lunatic Sullivan Bay. You arrive exactly on time to witness how this barren islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Beaches of white coral sand grow, and holes in the eroding lava fields are filled up with lava sand, which enables rooting. Galapagos sea lions and countless marine iguanas contribute to fertilization. All together create more favourable options for newcomers, like saltbush and the discolouring sesuvium carpet. Colonization of Chinese Hat can occur in a much higher pace than elsewhere, hence Santiago is just a stone’s throw away.

Day 7 – Thursday

This cruise itinerary ends in Puerto Ayora. En route to the airport you will pass the lush highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will get the opportunity to quest for most-famous representatives of Galapagos: a wild population of Galapagos giant tortoises.

Program:
AM: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. You will travel by inflatable dinghy and private bus from the pier of Puerto Ayora into the highlands. In the agricultural zone you can see Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild before continuing to the airport.

AM: Highlands (Santa Cruz)

Because wild Galapagos giant tortoises don’t stop at official National Park boundaries, dozens of them also roam – and even mate – on the adjacent woodlands in the populated agricultural zone of Santa Cruz. Thanks to their concentrations around their favourite muddy pools, these semi-open pastures and moist scalesia-woodlands are best place for a quick visit. Armed with a rain poncho and (provided) rubber boots you will get good chances to approach wild Galapagos giant tortoises just within a few meters! Their dome-shaped shells characterize the Santa Cruz subspecies.

Most time of their stretched lives is spent slowly and silently, except for a warning hiss, or loud screams during mating, which can be heard from far in the first half of the year. Subsequently females leave the highlands and descend all the way down to the beaches to dig holes and lay their eggs. It is estimated that in 2015 about 32,000 tortoises live in the wild in all the islands, most on restricted locations of Isabela.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary A - 8 Days / 7 Nights

To Genovesa & the remote west

8 days / 7 nights – Monday to Monday – every 14 days

Our 7 nights western route is a mini-expedition to the largest sea bird colonies and some of the remotest corners of Galapagos; outer islands belong often to the more exclusive places. This adventurous route contains longer nightly navigation stretches (but Sailing Catamaran Nemo I is faster than average, and you will also have two relatively quiet floating nights).

After visiting North Seymour and Genovesa, you will round the by far largest island Isabela, and pass by pristine Fernandina, which are both just recently born out of fire. On its way back Nemo I will anchor at Santiago’s James Bay (fur seal grottos and great snorkelling) and sail round the sea bird laden volcano islet of Daphne Major.
Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, the volcanic north offers most dramatic landscapes and reveal the first chapter of evolution. And the desolate west is truly exceptional. Become witness of some bizarre miracles of evolution, such as flightless cormorants, huge marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins close to the equator. During a climb to the rim of the huge caldera of Sierra Negra and on the volcano islets of Bartolome and Chinese Hat you will get impressed by the volcanic forces that still create the islands. Discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species.
Walk at very short distance past frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, red-footed and Nazca boobies whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending on the season). Furthermore, en route you will have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos land iguanas, American flamingos and exciting whale watching!

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Monday

North Seymour is the perfect start of your Galapagos visit, without the necessity to navigate a long stretch to get first contact with the unique insular nature. It is one of the most visited sites. This tabletop islet is overloaded with most extensive colonies of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies in the archipelago, and there crawl Galapagos land iguanas around as well!

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch and the safety-drill you will make your first landing at North Seymour for a guided walk through the large seabird‘s colonies, following a circular loop (easy level; 2km/1.25 mi/about 2hrs). Before dinner your naturalist guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present and share a welcome toast.
Navigation: About midnight we will lift the anchor and sail to Genovesa. Depending on sea state we will navigate about 5:30 hrs north.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: North Seymour

The tabletop islet of North Seymour is an uplifted part of the seabed. Between the dry shrubs you might perceive a Galapagos land iguana. North Seymour originally did not count with land iguanas, but in the 1930s an eccentric American millionaire moved the last generation from Baltra, and saved them for starvation caused by competition with introduced goats; the afterwards breeding program at Charles Darwin Research Station turned into a big success.

You can spot lots of seabirds, such as brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, endemic swallow-tailed gulls and seasonally even Nazca boobies. But the main attraction are the archipelago’s most extensive breeding colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. At the start of the  breeding season (shifting on our calendar) adult frigatebird-males blow up their vivid red pouches to impressive football-sized balloons. This is one of the few spots (besides Genovesa and Pitt Point) where you can compare the magnificent and the rarer great frigatebird breeding next to each other. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit. The even more popular blue-footed boobies show their cute courtship rituals, in which their remarkable feet play an important role.

Day 2 – Tuesday

As one of the outer islands and most exclusive places of Galapagos, Genovesa is well worth last night’s longer navigation. All impressions will be nearly too much for a single day! Hundreds of thousands of seabirds perch and nest on the cliffs around its flooded crater.
Not only because of its historical English name (Tower) Genovesa has a royal touch. Follow into the footsteps of Prince Philip – Galapagos lover of the first hour and patron of the Charles Darwin Foundation – and visit this favourite birding spot with largest breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, and look for a remarkable short-eared owl that hunts on foot!

Program:
AM: Today’s full program includes two longer walks, snorkeling and optional sea kayaking. After early breakfast and a wet landing at the sheltered beach of Darwin Bay you will go for a guided walk (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Enjoy a snack aboard before snorkeling (alternatively: sea kayaking).
PM: Around lunch-time we will sail to nearby Prince Philip’s Steps, close to the entrance of the broken caldera. There you will make a guided walk through cliff top seabird colonies (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Overnight navigation: Nemo I will lift the anchor shortly after dinner, and navigate about 5 hours, heading back south in the direction of Santiago (and anchoring at Bartolome).

AM: Darwin Bay (Genovesa)

Genovesa’s horseshoe shaped wall shows unmistakably that we have anchored inside the partly collapsed and submerged caldera of a submarine volcano! The visitor’s site named Darwin Bay is located at the very rear.  This compact site shows the extreme varied coastal ecosystems of Galapagos in miniature. The trail starts from the coral sand beach and subsequently passes a zone with saltbushes and mangroves, than crosses tidal creeks and barren lava formations, dry shrub lands, and finally turns on the ridge of some cliffs.

In this extremely varied and peaceful ambience, every single species has occupied its own ecological niche (preferred habitat) without disturbing others. Whimbrels and wandering tattlers forage actively along the surf, next to resting Galapagos sea lions. Herons wait motionless at the tidal pools. Impressive frigatebirds (both great and magnificent species) and red-footed boobies nest in the mangroves, where you can also notice some vocalists such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches and Galapagos mockingbirds. Unique is that two subpopulations of the same species large cactus finch differ from singing.

Tropicbirds, Nazca boobies, storm petrels, endemic lava- and swallow-tailed gulls soar along the cliffs. When you already have seen marine iguanas elsewhere, the small Genovesa species might not look too impressive, but consider that these are virtually the only reptiles that succeeded to reach and survive on this remote, upstream island (and have become endemic to this island).

PM: Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa)

Before landing you will make a dinghy-ride along the eastern arm of the caldera. On approach, the 25m/80ft high walls become overwhelming, and will give you a better impression of the dimensions of this crater. Sometimes a Galapagos fur seal is resting on one of the shaded ledges. Although there are also seabirds, the real spectacle will find place on top and on the outside of the rim, which provide better perching and nesting places.

Therefore you have to hike and overcome the steep stairs from the landing dock to a bush of palo santo shrubs on top. Tropical dry forest vegetation appears dead during most months of the year, but just drops its leaves to prevent drying out by evaporation. It’s a threatened ecosystem. Red-footed boobies with different plumages gratefully use these scarce nesting-places; different to their blue-footed relatives ‘red feet’ don’t nest on the rocky ground.

At the seaside of the rim, the bushes open up and you can enjoy wide views, a strong sea breeze and the amazing flying skills of uncountable seabirds. Following the exposed rim you will first pass a colony of Nazca boobies and finally reach the extensive storm petrel nesting places, where you might be lucky spotting how the well-camouflaged short-eared owl is hunting for them on foot!

Day 3 – Wednesday

Just out of the coast of Santiago, Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will anchor at two volcanoes islets: Bartolome (recently born out off fire) and Chinese Hat. You will arrive exactly on time at Chinese Hat to witness how this barren volcano islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Enjoy the famous wild romantic panorama of Bartolome. Very close to the equator you will have first opportunities to meet endangered Galapagos penguins; whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing! 

Program:
AM: Today’s full program is largely dedicated to volcanism. Wake-up during an early morning dinghy-ride along the barren shoreline. After breakfast it is not yet too hot to climb the stairs of Bartolomé’s Summit Trail, which is rewarded with panoramic views (guided walk, moderate level; about 800m/0.5 mi; 114m/375ft altitude difference). Next you can refresh and explore the fantastic shallow water snorkelling spot at the foot of Pinnacle Rock (alternative: walking around or relaxing on the beach).
PM: During lunch Nemo I navigates to Chinese Hat (about 1hr), where you can snorkel again. Learn more about Galapagos’ fascinating geology during the late-afternoon walk on this typical volcano-islet (easy level; about 0,7 km/0.5 mi).
Navigation: While sailing to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz, about 7hr) you will have dinner. We will anchor in the sheltered harbour just after midnight, where you can enjoy a fairly quiet sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Bartolome or Cousin Rocks (both advanced)

AM: Bartolome

The wild romantic volcano islet of Bartolome is among the youngest of the islands, and on a geological scale just recently born out off fire. Although tiny (only 120ha/300ac) and at first sight lifeless, Bartolome offers some of the wildest landscapes and best panoramas in the entire archipelago. To enjoy the postcard view of the idyllic ‘Pinnacle Bay’ you have to climb the stairs to the viewpoint on top of the island (114m/375ft). Enter suddenly a dramatical world of threatening (though extinguished) nearby spatter cones, craters, and lightweight lava droplets that have been spewed out by fiery fountains. The Summit Trail is also ideal to witness how scanty pioneer vegetation such as lava cactus is struggling to take root in the bare virgin lava fields.

From the summit you suddenly face a second, paradisiacal world; Galapagos’ landmark ‘Pinnacle Rock’ towers prominently over an isthmus with crescent sand beaches on each side, and dunes with evergreen mangrove bushes in between.
Underwater, a third, completely distinctive world opens up to you, resembling a tropical aquarium. Its shallow, clear and warm waters are ideally for snorkeling between coral-grinding parrot fishes, shoals of surgeonfishes, harmless whitetip reef sharks and Pacific green turtles. If you are lucky you can even catch the sight of fishing Galapagos penguins.

PM: Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat is a 52m/170ft high volcanic cone, forming another islet right out off the rocky coast of Santiago, where a small colony of Galapagos penguins has settled. Approaching Chinese Hat from the north, you certainly will agree with its name. Because its primordial fire has been extinguished recently, this is an excellent place to learn more about volcanism, lava bombs and lava tunnels. On the beach you can also find curious pillow-type lavas with coral heads on top! These spheres have a submarine origin before being lifted above sea level.

But Chinese Hat does not appear that inhospitable any more as almost virgin Bartolome and lunatic Sullivan Bay. You arrive exactly on time to witness how this barren islet gets colonized by pioneer species and begins to sprout! Beaches of white coral sand grow, and holes in the eroding lava fields are filled up with lava sand, which enables rooting. Galapagos sea lions and countless marine iguanas contribute to fertilization. All together create more favourable options for newcomers, like saltbush and the discolouring sesuvium carpet. Colonization of Chinese Hat can occur in a much higher pace than elsewhere, hence Santiago is just a stone’s throw away.

Day 4 – Thursday

Last night’s crossing has brought you to Puerto Ayora. Without any doubt most-emblematic representatives of the archipelago are the Galapagos giant tortoises. Today is mainly dedicated to these slow creatures on the central island of Santa Cruz. First you will have the opportunity to quest for a wild population in El Chato Tortoise Reserve in the lush highlands, and afterwards you will visit the successful breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. There is also free time to relax in cosy Puerto Ayora.

Program:
AM: A Route: After breakfast you will travel by inflatable dinghy and private bus from the harbour of Puerto Ayora into the highlands. In the Chato Reserve (or a ‘tortoise farm’ in the agricultural zone) you can see Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild before continuing to the airport.
A4 Route: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. The dinghies will bring you to the pier of Puerto Ayora, where you can visit a ‘tortoise farm’ in the highlands before continuing to the airport.
PM: After lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
A5 Route: After welcome, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner the anchor will be lifted for this route’s longest navigation to Moreno Point on Isabela, about 12 hours in southwestern direction.

AM: Highlands: El Chato Reserve (Santa Cruz )

Santa Cruz offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild Galapagos giant tortoises, roaming through pastures in the agricultural zone and in the transition zone of El Chato Tortoise Reserve. The pond in the native forest reserve is the most authentic setting, but sometimes also requires an adventurous quest for these silent heavyweights. Than you have to listen carefully for the sound of heavy footsteps and of shrubs being slowly crushed. Most time of their stretched lives is spent slowly and silently, except for a warning hiss, or loud screams during mating, which can be heard from far in the first half of the year. Subsequently females leave the highlands and descend all the way down to the beaches to dig holes and lay their eggs. It is estimated that in 2015 about 32,000 tortoises live in the wild in all the islands, most on restricted locations of Isabela. You will certainly also appreciate the native scalesia forest, overgrown with lichens, ferns, and other epiphytes; plus chances to spot endemic Darwin’s finches, vermilion flycatchers, yellow warblers, and less common birds like short-eared owls, Galapagos rails and paint-billed crakes.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding center and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 5 – Friday

In the next few days SC Nemo I will navigate clockwise around Isabela, by far the largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). Explore explore some of the remotest visitor’s sites in Galapagos, offshore rocks with a small colony of Galapagos penguins, and penetrate the sheltered creeks of Galapagos’ highest mangle in the estuary. Perceive how pioneer vegetation progressively converts barren lava fields into lush oases and evergreen mangle forests, and is creating new habitats for specific species.
Thanks to major upwellings out off the deep sea (Cromwell Current) the nutrient-rich west coast of Isabela is a magnet to all kinds of marine and birdlife. Bolivar Channel (between Isabela and Fernandina) can be great for whale watching. 

Program:
AM: After breakfast first we make an inflatable dinghy-ride along the shoreline, followed by a ‘dry landing’ (with footwear) and a guided hike that crosses the crumbling, pitch black lava fields of Moreno Point (moderate level; about 2km/1.25mi). After a snack snorkeling is planned.
PM: At noon we will sail for 2 hours to Elizabeth Bay. Meanwhile you can enjoy lunch and a siesta. On arrival a long dinghy-ride is scheduled to both the offshore rocks and sheltered mangles.
Navigation: Before dinner we will continue to Punta Espinoza (Fernandina, about 4hrs), while actively looking for whales. You will have a relatively quiet floating night.

AM: Moreno Point (Isabela)

Moreno Point tells the continuing story of the famous lunatic lava fields of Sullivan Bay (actually not visited by Catamaran Nemo). This once lifeless lava field becomes dotted with tidal pools and filtration lagoons since parts of the crust have broken and fallen into the undermining lava tunnels.

Pioneer life takes advantage; finally the lava cacti get company of two more species of cacti, from which the candelabras can grow up to 7m/23ft tall, and dominate the rest of the shrubby vegetation. Fringes of reed, sea grass and mangrove bushes transform the picturesque lagoons in lush oases. Your pictures get the perfect finishing touch when bright American flamingos forage in the largest lagoon as well.  The fresh promising pioneer vegetation seems on the winning hand; just until Sierra Negra volcano spits a new layering cover, and the story starts all over again.

Tidal pools form natural traps and attract scavengers and hunters, such as bright orange sally lightfoot crabs, oystercatchers and herons. During a dinghy-ride along the jagged shoreline, you can spot marine iguanas that wait patiently for their turn at lowest tide to graze weeds on the seabed, and a breeding colony of brown pelicans in the mangroves.

PM: Marielas Islets & Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)

Although there is no landing point, Elizabeth Bay offers actually two in one! A prolonged ride by inflatable dinghy combines the Marielas Islets in the mouth of the bay, with the mangles in its innermost heart.

The Marielas islets are an excellent place to spot marine iguanas and small family groups of Galapagos penguins in the front row of the cliffs. The endangered Galapagos penguin is the rarest penguin species worldwide (just some 1500 birds over all archipelago; please don’t expect vast colonies as in Antarctic regions). Lofty palo santo-trees on top of the cliffs provide magnificent frigatebirds a lookout to rob returning blue-footed boobies.

Next the dinghy will turn landwards and enter the calm estuary. Whilst exploring lagoons and shallow creeks, the outboard engine can be turned off, to enjoy sounds of nature. Brown pelicans are the only pelicans in the world that plunge-dive, though more superficial than the spectacular rocket like diving blue-footed boobies. Lava herons and great blue herons prefer to wait patiently for what comes along. Pacific green turtles swim graceful around, popping-up their heads for breathing (mating season: December-January). You may also encounter spotted eagle rays or sharks, looking for protected inlets to give birth and leave their young alone. This highest mangrove forest of Galapagos consists of red mangroves (with their characteristic prop roots) as well as blackwhite and button mangroves.

Day 6 – Saturday

Without any doubt Espinoza Point belongs to the more exclusive sites of the Galapagos National Park. Fernandina harbours one of the worlds most virgin, untouched ecosystems. Today you will become eyewitness of evolution, which is happening right in front of you! Wonder again about bizarre creatures as flightless cormorant, marine iguana and Galapagos penguin.
Before leaving the remote west, Isabela will present you latest geological curiosity and the largest Galapagos land and marine iguanas. While crossing the Bolivar Channel to Urbina Bay, you will have opportunities for great whale watching again!

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a dry landing the guided morning walk (easy/moderate level; about 2km/1.25 mi) runs over the lava tongue of Espinoza Point. After a snack we will bring you to today’s snorkeling site.
PM: While having lunch we will cross the Bolivar Channel for the last time, back to Isabela’s west coast. At the geologic interesting site of Urbina Bay you will make a second guided walk, and you can snorkel as well.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner we will start our 10 hour’s navigation around the north cape of Isabela to Santiago (crossing the equator two times).

AM: Espinosa Point (Fernandina)

Espinoza Point is Fernandina’s only terrestrial visitors site, and one of the few locations where you will find some bizarre outgrowths of natural selection. Figurehead is the emblematic flightless cormorant that lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos, and could be considered as the ‘holy grail of evolution’. The cormorant had not to fear terrestrial enemies and lets you approach very close. Next generations gradually lost their flying capabilities to become excellent divers. Together with its neighbour, the Galapagos penguin, these are two of the rarest and most vulnerable bird species in the world, with less than 2000 individuals each.

Besides the endemic wildlife, you will also love the almost unworldly views with the dominating cone of Volcán La Cumbre (= the summit) as a spectacular backdrop. The narrow headland that you walk is the end of a lava tongue that has reached the coast and solidified on contact with the cold seawater. The black rocks are not yet covered by more vegetation then lava cacti and mangroves, but are teeming with hundreds of dragon-like marine iguanas that breed and conglomerate in larger groups than in any other island.

PM: Urbina Bay (Isabela)

Urbina Bay presents you Isabela’s latest geologic curiosity. In 1954 tectonic forces lifted the former seabed several meters above sea level and formed present coastal plain. The tilted seabed ran dry at once and 6kms/3,75mi of coastline was shifted outward. Pretty far land inward you can find marine remnants, such as fish bones, shells, scales from lobsters, urchins and corals.
Far behind you will reach the original coastline and the typical palo santo-bush from the arid zone. This very wide beach provides ample nesting places for iguanas, turtles and even for Galapagos giant tortoises that descend all the way down from Alcedo volcano in the wet season. The marine and land iguanas of Urbina Bay are the largest of Galapagos.

Day 7 – Sunday

At James Bay (Santiago) Charles Darwin spent most of his time in Galapagos, while HMS Beagle continued mapping the archipelago. Highlight of this pearl necklace of visitor’s sites are the outstanding fur seal grottos at the beautiful sculptured coastline of Puerto Egas, together with other coastal landscapes that could well be exotic film sets; not to forget Bucaneer’s Cove crystal clear snorkelling waters.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk along the coastline (easy level) to the fur seal grottos. Back on board we will provide a snack before snorkelling.
PM: At lunchtime we will navigate 12km/7 mi/45 min north to Espumilla Beach. After a wet landing (bare feet) at the beach a guided walk leads uphill and land inward (easy level; about 2km/1.25 mi). Afterwards you can make a dinghy-ride (or alternatively sea kayaking) along the coastline.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner SC Nemo I will continue along the north coast of Santiago to Daphne Major, where we will arrive after about 4 hrs for a relatively quiet floating night sleep.

AM: Puerto Egas (Santiago)

Dominated by Sugarloaf Hill (395m/1300ft) and named after a former salt mine (1960s), Puerto Egas is the southernmost visitors site along James Bay. Its masterly sculptured coastline of black basalts and polished multi-coloured ash-layers forms a photogenic scenery with collapsed lava tunnels, natural arches, caves and blowholes such as ‘Darwin’s toilet’.

In a grotto right below a spectacular rock arch at the end of the beach a colony of Galapagos fur seals occupies the shade, sheltering from the equatorial sun. Unlike more common Galapagos sea lions this smaller species of seal is no beach lover at all, due to their adorable, but insulating coats. This refuge is the very best place to see these endemic, shy and once heavily hunted marine mammals.

Especially at low tide Puerto Egas teems with extremely varied intertidal life. Notice how marine iguanas just leave, return cold or warm-up after grazing weeds on the seabed at lowest tide. Ossified night herons and lava herons keep an eye on the tidal pools that are refilled every flood again with small fish, octopuses, star fish, snails, urchins, shells, green algae and many other snacks. Noisy oystercatchers, turnstones, plovers and whimbrels inspect these pools zealously. Hundreds of sally lightfoot crabs seem even brighter orange against the pitch-black rocks (immature are dark-coloured).

PM: Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)

Espumilla Beach has revived as an important breeding site for turtles, as it is no longer suffering from digging wild pigs. The turtles return year after year to burry their eggs into the cinnamon coloured sand dunes. About two months later (roughly from February to August) the eggs hatch at once. Most vulnerable hatchlings never will reach sea, and form a banquet for predators such as herons, frigatebirds, mockingbirds and ghost crabs.
The beach ridge hides a mangle with two picturesque lagoons on the backside. A colony of American flamingos and aquatic birds used to be its main attraction, but after the climate phenomenon of El Niño, strong sedimentation altered the brackish water environment, and it no longer contains their food…
As often in Galapagos, different vegetation zones are very close by, providing great scenic contrasts. During the climb of a hill you will be rewarded with a beautiful overview of the transitions from sea into beach into mangrove into dry palo santo forest.

At the nearby Buccaneer Cove we have a great snorkeling opportunity.

Day 8 – Monday

On your last morning in Galapagos you can feel the ocean breeze in your hair while navigating around the characteristic volcanic islet of Daphne Major. A wide range of sea birds will wave you out!

AM: Daphne Major

The characteristic offshore tuff cone of Daphne Major looks how a child draws a volcano islet. Perhaps you have already got a first glimpse of it from your airplane window on arrival. Access to the 120m/400ft high islet is restricted because of its fragility and susceptibility to erosion. On your last morning in Galapagos you will make a  dinghy-ride around. You can spot large flocks of storm petrels and other sea birds.

This islet forms an almost undisturbed semi-closed ecosystem and is therefore of great scientific interest. Coexisting Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, magnificent frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies and 8 other breeding species have nicely distributed different sections of the cone, according to their needs and the ecological niches they occupy. The caldera contains two craters, both completely white-plastered by the increments of blue-footed boobies, which have founded a very large breeding colony on this sheltered place. There is a colony of Galapagos sea lions on the only small beach. This islet also has been the location for an important multidecade study of Darwin’s finches. This concluded that population fluctuates strongly and finches that survived in dryer years were mainly the ones with larger beaks; results that supported strongly Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary B - 8 Days / 7 Nights

Isabela & southeastern Galapagos

8 days / 7 nights – Monday to Monday – every 14 days

Our 7 nights eastern itinerary visits most popular sites of southern and eastern Galapagos, where you will keep going from one surprise in the other. This route combines the spectacular sea bird colonies of Española, largest American flamingo colonies of Isabela and Floreana with highly appreciated and not to be missed South Plaza. This varied route is characterized by relatively shorter nightly navigations and even two nights of quiet rest at fairly calm anchorage-sites.

Walk at a short distance past blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and waved albatrosses, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending the season). Española is the sole option for those eager to admire synchronous courtship dances of the only tropical albatross in the world. Other not to be missed highlights of this cruise certainly will be Santa Fe and South Plaza, where characteristic Galapagos land iguanas crawl below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti. Mind your step when strolling around, because you may tread on one of them!

These almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-west are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. En route you can observe marine iguanaswhitetip reef sharks and – if lucky – even Galapagos penguins. On Santa Cruz you will have a full day to quest for emblematic giant Galapagos tortoises in the lush forests and to learn more on their successful captured breeding programs in the Charles Darwin Research Center. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions.

For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Besides that this route also offers plenty possibilities for optional scuba diving.

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Monday

Bachas Beach is a pleasant start of your Galapagos visit, without the necessity to navigate a long stretch to get first contact with the unique insular nature. Along this beach (north coast Santa Cruz), which is popular breeding ground for the Pacific green turtle, you will make a relaxed stroll to a aquatic bird-rich saline lagoon.

Program:

AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will make your first wet landing (bare feet) at Bachas Beach, followed by an easy stroll along the waterline of this coral sand beach. Filled with impressions you will return on board for dinner.
Navigation: At dinner time we will lift the anchor and sail about 7 hrs – depending on the sea state – south-west to Isabela.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.

In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

 PM: Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz)

Strolling along its coastline, blinding white Bachas Beach appears full of intertidal and bird life. But the symmetrical tuff cone-islet of Daphne Major will pull your eyes to the horizon as well. Beware of Galapagos sea lionsmarine iguanas, a shark fin or (seasonally) mating Pacific green turtles in the surf! Both quiet beaches have become their preferred nesting site on the main island of Santa Cruz. ‘Bachas’ refers to the ‘minefield of nest holes’ in the dunes strip; though others argue that it is a ‘Spanglish’ mispronunciation of ‘barks’, referring to two rusty landing vessels that have been left on the longer second beach in World War II, when the American US Air Force used BALTRA as a strategic base to defend the Panama Canal.

Sparkling orange coloured and heavy-armed sally lightfoot crabs play seek and hide with you when you want to picture them on the dark basaltic rocks. A brackish lagoon in the dunes houses different species of wade and shore birds, including black-necked stilts, white-cheeked pintails (or Bahama ducks) and hunting herons. Migratory aquatic birds that winter in Galapagos, such as whimbrels, also frequent this pond. As soon as water level drops and the lagoon becomes saltier, you might even encounter some American flamingos tirelessly filtering water to catch shrimp and algae!

Day 2 – Tuesday

First nightly crossing will bring you to Puerto Villamil on Isabela. In the next few days Nemo I will navigate clockwise around this by far largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). 

Huge marine iguanas crawl over undisturbed rocky islets just outside the harbour, which also contain a unique tidal channel where whitetip reef sharks rest. Listen to the concert of exotic songbirds while hiking through the mysterious highland’s cloud forest to the rim of the impressive caldera of active Sierra Negra Volcano. Saline lagoons in the wetlands house the largest insular colony of American flamingos and you will visit the botanical garden of another tortoise breeding center with native species.

Program:

AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) the inflatable dinghies will bring you to the Tintoreras islets for a guided hike to the tidal channel, following a rough volcanic rock trail (easy/moderate level). After breakfast you can experience some great snorkelling.
PM: After lunch you will have free time to enjoy Puerto Villamil and its striking beach. Than you will visit the local tortoise breeding center and the surrounding wetlands.
Overnight navigation: After dinner the anchor is lifted for rounding the southern lob of Isabela clockwise to its far west coast (about 6 hours). 
Additional options scuba-diving: Isla Tortuga, Cuatro Hermanos or Roca Viuda (advanced).

AM: Whitetip reef shark channel (Isabela/Tintoreras)

Just outside the harbour of Puerto Villamil (Isabela), a group of rocky islets protrude just above sea level. These are remnants of a lava flow that is demolished by the waves. A collapsed lava tube forms a channel that fills-up on high tide, while the entrance is closed on low tide. Marine life gets trapped, including turtles and elegant white-spotted eagle rays or golden rays. In the crystal clear water of this unique site  you can also observe whitetip reef sharks (called tintoreras in Spanish; to which the islets are named after) resting from their nocturnal hunts. This species of shark is fairly common in the archipelago, and often spotted on the seabed when snorkelling, but here you can see them dry and comfortably from the bank.
Unlike the beaches of Puerto Villamil, tiny plagues along these black rocks offer  undisturbed breeding places for marine iguanas. Over here the largest Isabela subspecies (up to 1,5m/5ft tall !) can reproduce successfully and thrive by hundreds. The rocky shoreline with its intertidal life also attracts sally lightfoot crabs, lava herons and occasional Galapagos penguinsGalapagos sea lions occupy the sand beach and complete this stereotypical Galapagos image.

PM: Arnoldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center (Isabela)

In Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center you can see hundreds of giant Galapagos tortoises of all sizes. Vulnerable hatchlings are not gigantic at all, even smaller than the size of your hand! This project just outside Puerto Villamil is created to rescue the endangered populations of Isabela’s both southernmost volcanoes.
From the almost incredible estimations of 250,000 giant tortoises in the 16th century only remained about 3,000 individuals in the 1970s. One thing becomes clear on your visit: it’s hard work to save these queer creatures for extinction by reproduction in captivity and repopulation. The good news is that these programs are successful and have saved several species for extinction so far. By 2015 their number has increased up to about 32,000 in all archipelago.

Don’t forget to visit the native botanic garden of this breeding centre. It also attracts colourful songbirds such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches, Galapagos and vermillion flycatchers. Finally there is no greater counterpart to the cumbersome tortoises as the graceful American flamingos that frequently filter the saline waters of the adjacent lagoon for shrimp and algae. They are joined by a handful of species of aquatic and shore birds, from which some even migrate from Canada and Alaska.

PM: Wetlands & Beach

The tempting white sand beach of Puerto Villamil counts far more marine iguanas and sally lightfoot crabs than bathing guests. Its overgrown beach wall hides the largest salty lagoon of Galapagos, which attracts lots of aquatic bids and wintering shore birds (about Nov-Feb); some have arrived from arctic regions!
This lagoon is part of a swampy coastal zone known as the wetlands, with an old mangrove forest, and more salt and brackish ponds in collapsed lava tubes. These lagoons are home to the largest concentration and breeding site of American flamingos in Galapagos!

Program:
AM: After breakfast the inflatable dinghies will drop you at the harbour of Puerto Villamil from where a bus continues to the lush highlands of Isabela. You will hike through abundant cloud-forest to the viewpoint on the rim of huge Sierra Negra Volcano (moderate level; about 6,5km/4 mi).

AM: Sierra Negra (Isabela)

Sierra Negra is the 3rd highest volcano of Isabela and the 5th highest of Galapagos (1124m/3687ft). It has erupted 7 times in the 20th century (latest: October 2005). Its caldera measures about 7x9km/4.5x6mi across, and is the largest of the archipelago. Since the discovery of so-called super volcanoes (like Yellowstone) it shouldn’t appear any more in the listing of largest craters in the world. It is the only major volcano of Isabela whose crater regions are actually opened to tourism.

A muddy trail through cloud forest leads to the rim. Only the main islands are high enough for these evergreen forests. Fog and drizzle – more frequent in the cool garúa season (June-December) – contribute to the mysterious atmosphere. Their dense and rich vegetation includes ferns, tree ferns and endemic scalesia trees laden with epiphytes like lichens, orchids and bromeliads. You can also spot striking song birds as the vermilion flycatcher, the yellow warbler and the woodpecker finch (among six more species of Darwin’s finches); this peculiar one hammers on branches and uses twigs as tools to capture insects! Turning point is a viewpoint on the rim with fantastic sights into the caldera; thanks to prevailing winds clouds usually tend to dissolve at the viewpoint (clear weather unpredictable).

Day 3 – Wednesday

At midnight Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will drop the anchor at the north cape of Floreana (Cormorant Point), where American flamingos use to forage and breed. For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Historical Post Office Bay seems to be located nearly at the end of the world.

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a wet landing at the greeny beach of Cormorant Point (wet landing) and walk to a powdery coral sand beach on the other side of the peninsula (easy level; about 1,5km/1mi). En route you can observe the American flamingo lagoon from different viewpoints.
Then it’s time for fantastic deep-water snorkelling around Devil’s Crown (though sometimes stronger currents). If this is not your thing or if you prefer bird watching, alternatively you can make a dinghy-ride.
PM: Post your holiday greetings in the historical barrel at Post Office Bay, one of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s north coast (short displacement, wet landing) and relax.
Overnight navigation: Around midnight the Galapagos Odyssey will navigate about 5 hours east to Española.
Additional options scuba-diving: choice out of 9 nearby diving sites (All levels)

AM: Cormorant Point (Floreana)

The peninsula of Cormorant Point forms the extreme north cape of Floreana, which is pockmarked by numbers of smaller volcanic cones and covered by tropical dry forest (predominently palo santo). Please don’t expect to spot the flightless cormorant at Cormorant Point. This emblematic example of evolution lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos on Fernandina and Isabela (Route A). Instead, its salty lagoon is one of the best places in Galapagos to observe a breeding colony of American flamingos. Though, when breeding is done and the lagoon dries up, these exotic birds tend to be on the move to look for shrimps and algae from other saline lakes.

At the landing beach you will be welcomed by a small Galapagos sea lion-colony. The green sand contains a high percentage of glassy olivine crystals that have been blown out by the surrounding tuff cones. The ‘flour sand’ beach on the south side of the peninsula feels very smooth to your feet; this is pulverized by parrotfishes. Schools of sting rays in the surf love this powdery sand to hide themselves, and Pacific green turtles come ashore to burry their eggs in it at night (first months of the year). Next morning you can notice their tracks from the dunes, or eventually still catch an exhausted, delayed one, crawling back to sea.

AM: Devil´s Crown (Floreana)

The jagged crater rim of Devil’s Crown just protrudes sea level and is beaten by the waves.  The inner walls of the crater rim are coated with coral formations and protected against the surf. The depth and very transparent waters of this deep-water snorkelling site gives you some sensation of flying once you plunge in this huge tropical aquarium. You will swim amidst schools of thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish, as yellowtail surgeon fishesking angelfishes, and many other species. On the seabed you can distinguish resting whitetip reef sharks, different species of ray and starfishes. A Pacific green turtle or Galapagos sea lion might swim by, and don’t scare when you encounter scalloped hammerhead sharks!
Above sea level the dramatic decor of the jagged crater rim provides living space to lots of coastal birds, including lava gulls, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, brown pelicans, and red-billed tropicbirds. The opposite land head of Floreana is a nesting place for magnificent frigatebirds, where you could also head for during an alternative dinghy-ride.

PM: Post Office Bay (Floreana)

Bring your unstamped postcards and post them in the peculiar barrel on this historic site. Together with James Bay (Santiago) this used to be a popular base to complement stocks. Present barrel commemorates the improvised mail service between British 16th century whalers and poachers. Returning vessels also picked-up letters for home delivery. Finally this post box became the termination of the flourishing British whaling industry in this region (Moby Dick), because it let the American frigate USS Essex easily locate and hijack British whalers during the Anglo-American War (1812-1815).

Day 4 – Thursday

Next island Española is located in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago. As one of its crown jewels, this bird watcher’s and photographer’s dream offers all that you might expect from Galapagos. Walk in a distance of just a few meters past waved albatrosses, booby colonies, sunbathing marine iguanas and Galapagos sea lions and feel yourself within an exciting nature documentary! Several endemic species give you the opportunity to become an eyewitness of evolution.

Program:
AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) you will make a ‘dry landing’ at Suarez Point. During a longer guided walk (moderate level; 4km/2.5 mi/about 2 hours) you will pass awakening sea bird colonies on top of the cliffs (some short scrambling passages; avoidable depths). Back on board you will have a deserved breakfast and will navigate about an hour. Next you can plunch into the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay for snorkelling.
PM: After lunch and a ‘wet landing’ (bare feet) on the wide sand beach you can stroll along the sea lions colony (easy level), or enjoy a moment of reflection, relaxation, or rolling with sea lions in the surf.
Overnight navigation: After dinner we will navigate 5hrs north and anchor just before midnight in the sheltered harbour of Puerto Ayora, where you can enjoy a quiet floating sleep.

AM: Suarez Point (Española)

Huge ocean waves bang on the southern basaltic cliffs of Suarez Point, and form a spectacular blowhole, where a fountain of sea water sprays meters/feet high into the air (depending on the tide and how strong sea breeze pushes the waves). Take a meditative break in silence on this emblematic viewpoint to convert this unforgettable moment in a lifetime experience.

Waved albatrosses soar most time of their lives far out at sea and just come to Española (March-December) to breed and nurture their huge chick. This spectacular seabird is the only tropic albatross (critically endangered species). Besides some strayed individuals on Isla de La Plata (out off the Ecuadorian coast) it only breeds on Española, where you can witness its synchronous courtship dances, which include bowing, whistling and even a stylized form of ‘sword fighting’ with their bills (especially in October)!

Suarez Point is also a massive breeding site for Nazca and blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirdsBlue-footed boobies don’t bother to breed in the middle of the trail. Especially during the food-abundant garúa-season (2nd half of the year) you can admire amusing courtship dances, mating, breeding, emerging from the eggs, nurturing or first flight-attempts.

Española marine iguanas become bright red with a turquoise-colored crest and legs at the start of the breeding season (starting from Christmas). Hood lava lizards are the largest of the 7 endemic species in the islands, as well as endemic mockingbirds, that have turned to carnivorous behaviour!

PM: Gardner Bay (Española)

Make your first ‘dive’ in the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay, and admire colourful reef fish, snorkel side by side with a Pacific green turtle, or find yourself in the middle of playful Galapagos sea lions.

The striking white coral sand beach is an important breeding site for Pacific green turtles. But without doubt its main attraction is the Galapagos sea lion colony. Females stay year round in this nursery, suckling their pups up to an age of 3 years, although these start to learn fishing already after 5 months. During the breeding- and mating season the colony becomes even more populous. The strongest bachelors and elder males return from their secluded bases and start again to conquer and defend their part of the 1300m/4250ft long beach. Pregnant females choose the best territory to give birth, and will mate again with their landlord within a month.

Day 5 – Friday

Without any doubt most-emblematic representatives of the archipelago are the Galapagos giant tortoises. Today is mainly dedicated to these slow creatures on the central island of Santa Cruz. First you will have the opportunity to quest for a wild population in El Chato Tortoise Reserve in the lush highlands, and afterwards you will visit the successful breeding centre at the Charles Darwin Research Station. There is also free time to relax in cosy Puerto Ayora.

Program:
AM: B Route: After breakfast you will travel by inflatable dinghy and private bus from the harbour of Puerto Ayora into the highlands. In the Chato Reserve or agricultural zone you can see Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild before continuing to the airport.
B5 Route: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. The dinghies will bring you to the pier of Puerto Ayora, where you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station before continuing to the airport.
PM: After lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
B4 Route: After welcome, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Short before midnight the anchor will be lifted for this route’s longest navigation to easternmost Pitt Point, about 8 hours in eastern direction.

AM: Highlands: El Chato Reserve (Santa Cruz )

Santa Cruz offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild Galapagos giant tortoises, roaming through pastures in the agricultural zone and in the transition zone of El Chato Tortoise Reserve. The pond in the native forest reserve is the most authentic setting, but sometimes also requires an adventurous quest for these silent heavyweights. Than you have to listen carefully for the sound of heavy footsteps and of shrubs being slowly crushed. Most time of their stretched lives is spent slowly and silently, except for a warning hiss, or loud screams during mating, which can be heard from far in the first half of the year. Subsequently females leave the highlands and descend all the way down to the beaches to dig holes and lay their eggs. It is estimated that in 2015 about 32,000 tortoises live in the wild in all the islands, most on restricted locations of Isabela. You will certainly also appreciate the native scalesia forest, overgrown with lichens, ferns, and other epiphytes; plus chances to spot endemic Darwin’s finches, vermilion flycatchers, yellow warblers, and less common birds like short-eared owls, Galapagos rails and paint-billed crakes.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding centre and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 6 – Saturday

The longest nocturnal passage of this route will bring you to Pitt Point, the extreme eastern cape of Santiago (and of the entire archipelago). On top of these eroded cliffs you can find blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies breeding together, and also frigate birds with bright red, balloon-sized pouches in the mating season! You will land in a bachelor’s colony of Galapagos sea lions, and stroll along a cute nursery colony at the scenic beach below Witch Hill in the afternoon. 

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a wet landing at Pitt Point, from where you will hike to the cliff-top sea bird colonies (and back). After that snorkelling is scheduled.
PM: During lunch we will navigate along the shore of San Cristobal to Witch Hill, where a lot of activities can be undertaken: a dinghy-ride, sea kayaking, snorkelling and a beach stroll.
Overnight navigation: This evening we will sail to Santa Fe (4 hrs west), in which sheltered bay you can enjoy a comfortable night rest.

AM: Pitt Point (San Cristobal)

Two wind sculptured tuff cones at Pitt Point constitute the extreme eastern end of San Cristobal, and thus of the archipelago as well. These cliffs were the first sight of land when HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrived on September 15th 1835. On the small green sand beach, you will be welcomed by a cacophony of barking Galapagos sea lions. This is a bachelor colony, where males usually recuperate from and prepare themselves for fighting and mating.

From saltbush and spiny shrubs behind the beach a trail leads up to an area of tropical dry forest vegetation: most of the year leafless palo santo trees, yellow cordia shrubs, tiny prickly pear cacti and carpetweed, that turns red in the dry season. After the pretty steep climb through a gully to the cliff top, you can wander around the only colony in Galapagos that counts with all three species of booby: blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca booby; as well as both species of frigatebird (great and magnificent), famous because of their scarlet balloon-sized pouches during mating season. Frigatebirds rather attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles than fishing themselves and get a wet suit.

PM: Witch Hill (San Cristobal)

To scout out the dangerous reefs HMS Beagle’s Captain Fitzroy climbed in 1835 to the top of the obvious tuff-cone that overlooks this scenic bay. Nowadays it is called Witch Hill and not any more the main attraction of this site, but part of its romantic coastal panorama. Let your eyes travel from the volcanic cone, over the turquoise bay to the razor-sharp contours of Kicker Rock at the horizon, one of the photogenic landmarks of Galapagos.

You can walk about 1km/0.6mi along the romantic, crescent-shaped beach and feel with your feet the soft and powdery white coral sand (in fact it is pulverized by parrot fishes, that destruct living coral reefs). Enjoy the Galapagos sea lion rookery with its cute babies, or study the rich intertidal and bird life (mainly brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls). Behind the beach and the narrow stretch of dunes, there is a dark lava tongue with several saline lakes that used to be a local salt mine (necessary for conservation of fish). Here reside some coastal and wading birds such as the great blue heron.

Day 7 – Sunday

Heading back towards the heart of the archipelago you will visit extraordinary  Santa Fe and not to be missed South Plaza that belongs to most popular sites. Below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti you will encounter characteristic land iguanas. Although this ‘Jurassic islet’ is different to every other site in the National Park, at the same time it is so typical Galapagos with its sharp contrasts, amazing diversity and stunning concentration of wildlife. While sailing along Santa Cruz we will look-out for whales.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk from the beach of Santa Fe (wet landing). Your guide decides whether the easy shorter circuit is followed, or a strenuous longer hike land inward (moderate level; about 3km/2mi). Don’t forget to retain strength for excellent afterwards swimming or snorkelling in the crystal clear azure waters of Barrington Bay.
PM: Around lunchtime we will proceed to South Plaza (about 2 hrs northwest), possibly escorted by bottle nose dolphins. You will make an unforgettable guided walk on this Jurassic islet (easy level; about 1,25 km/0.75 mi; avoidable depths on the cliff-edge).
Navigation: While navigating to Black Turtle Cove (2 hrs, before dinner and sunset) we will have opportunities of some great whale watching. After dinner you can enjoy a relatively quiet floating sleep.
Additional options scuba-diving: Gordon Rocks (Expert/Advanced) or Santa Fe (All levels).

AM: Barrington Bay (Santa Fe)

Practically every animal on Santa Fe is unique; endemic to Galapagos, or even to this island alone and extremely vulnerable! This extraordinary island is remnant of the probably most ancient volcano of Galapagos, and gave evolution enough time and isolation to create its wonders.

Your experience starts already before anchoring, when the contours of its bizarre giant prickly pear cactus (opuntia) forests become distinguishable. These largest cacti of the islands have extremely thick trunks indeed, and can grow over 10m/33ft tall! You will land right into a Galapagos sea lion colony on the beach.  From their outlooks at the beach ridge surprisingly fearless Galapagos hawks are ready to snatch away a lava lizard; not worrying that even these are unique…
Almost every visitor of Santa Fe becomes eager to get a glimpse of the rare Barrington land iguana. But this pale endemic version is not as easy to spot as its modelling counterparts on South Plaza. This one asks for an adventurous quest (rather untypical to Galapagos); other times it surprises waiting for you next to the trail. Whether you spot it, or not, you will keep going from one surprise into the other.
While snorkelling in the azure coloured Barrington Bay between tropical reef fish, maybe a curious Galapagos sea lion is willing to play with you!

PM: South Plaza

The southern of both Plaza islets is best place to encounter endemic Galapagos land iguanas. Watch your step and don’t stumble over one of them whilst distracted by equally bizarre giant prickly pear cactus-trees! These iguanas are not only ugly as Darwin pronounced, but also very patient and photogenic models with strikingly saffron colours. Overpopulation and severe food competition have affected their smaller size. It is incredible to see how cactus spines don’t harm them while chewing pads, flowers and fruits. Beware as well for some unique hybrids between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.

Arriving at the upper rim, you get to know the other, wild and windy face of South Plaza that provides a complete different habitat. About 20m/75ft downwards impressively droning waves splash against the foot of massive cliffs. Being talented rock climbers, sun basking marine iguanas have escaped the cool shadows of the wall. Clouds of petrels, storm petrels, shearwaters and brown noddies make spectacular flights and sometimes appear to walk on the waves. Take your binoculars and don’t miss the red-billed tropicbird with its graceful long tail and spectacular mating fights. These cliffs are also a nesting place for the endemic swallow-tailed gull, most beautiful gull in the world. Its neatly lined eyes are perfectly adapted for its exceptional nightly fishing habits.

Day 8 – Monday

Even at the very end of your cruise Galapagos keeps surprising. On this last morning you will explore the evergreen mangle forest of Black Turtle Cove, and feel a while as if you are in the Amazon rainforest instead of at the north coast of Santa Cruz. These lagoons and adventurous creeks teem with marine and birdlife, and (seasonally) with mating turtles and sharks.

Program:
AM: Shortly after your wake-up call and a snack you will leave for this farewell dinghy-ride. After breakfast it’s time say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport (unless you have booked an extension on the A-route).

AM: Black Turtle Cove (Santa Cruz)

The ancient mangle at Black Turtle Cove has grown out to forest proportions and forms the backdrop for a distinct adventure. You might even feel yourself a while in the Amazon rainforest instead of close to sea; though on a closer look vegetation mainly exists of red mangroves with characteristic aerial roots that let them survive in salty and brackish water. By inflatable dinghy we will explore the calm emerald lagoon and enter the surrounding shallow creeks of these salt-water marshes. The outboard engine is sometimes turned off, so that you can enjoy the ambiance at its fullest. You have to keep your eyes peeled when looking around and staring into the crystal clear waters to observe all the life that is flying and swimming around.

You can spot silently hunting lava herons on the banks and brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves. Various species of ray and shark come to this nutritious cradle to give birth; scaloped hammerhead sharks come back to the place where they’ve born and their babies tend to be close to the surface. Pacific green turtles (black turtles was their former name) visit this cove in their reproduction season (November-January); if you’re lucky you can catch them mating at the surface! Afterwards their eggs are deposited on coral sand beaches along this north-western coastline of Santa Cruz.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!

Itinerary A5+B5

To the remote west & southern Galapagos

9 days / 8 nights – Thursday to Friday – every 14 days

Our new 8 nights combination enables you to experience the distinct characters of west (young and wild landscapes) and east Galapagos (ancient, more friendly scenery); outer islands belong often to the more exclusive places. This is your opportunity to combine sightings of unique species as flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins of Isabela and Fernandina with the tropical albatrosses of Española in only 8 nights (and of course many more highlights).

After an introduction in the Charles Darwin Research Centre (Galapagos giant tortoise breeding centre) you will round the by far largest island Isabela, and pass by pristine Fernandina, which are both just recently born out of fire. On its way back Nemo I will anchor at Santiago’s James Bay (fur seal grottos and great snorkelling) and sail around the sea bird laden volcano islet of Daphne Major.
Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, the desolate west is truly exceptional. Become witness of some bizarre miracles of evolution, such as flightless cormorants, huge marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins close to the equator. Discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species. En route you will have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos land iguanas, American flamingos and exciting whale watching!

The almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-west are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions. Española is the sole option for those eager to admire synchronous courtship dances of the only tropical albatross in the world. Walk at a short distance past blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and waved albatrosses, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending the season). For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Besides that this route also offers almost daily snorkelling and plenty possibilities for optional scuba diving.

Important notes:

  • Itinerary is subject to change in case of force majeure caused by exceptional and natural circumstances.
  • Approximate departure and navigation times are just indicative and depend on the sea state and decisions of the captain.
  • Although Galapagos seldom requires quests for wildlife, observation of specific species can never be guaranteed.

Day 1 – Thursday

After arrival at Baltra your tour will start on adjacent main island of Santa Cruz, where you will cross the surprisingly lush highlands by bus and reach its cosy harbour town Puerto Ayora. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the famous Galapagos giant tortoise breeding center is an interesting introduction to this unique archipelago.

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard S/C Nemo I, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station as an introduction to Galapagos and get some free time to stroll through the cosy town of Puerto Ayora.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner your naturalist guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present and share a welcome toast.
Navigation: The anchor will be lifted early for this route’s longest navigation to Moreno Point on Isabela, about 12 hours in southwestern direction.

AM: Arrival at Baltra Airport

At Baltra Airport you have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage is inspected. See Getting there for flight and arrival information.
In front of the arrival hall you will meet your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, and the airport shuttle will transfer you to the ferry across the Itabaca Channel. On Santa Cruz you continue by bus through the lush highlands to the harbour of Puerto Ayora. Our inflatable dinghies (‘zodiacs’) take you the last stretch to the yacht.

PM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service share same location on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. From here biological research and indispensable conservation management of this unique archipelago are directed. The complex houses a bunch of interpretation and information centers about the National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve around.

Most memorable from your visit will probably be the successful breeding center and the enclosures with Galapagos giant tortoises; even after the death of its world famous resident, emphatically called ‘Lonesome George’ († June 2012; the last known individual of the Pinta subspecies, who sadly failed to reproduce offspring). Most remaining adult giant tortoises in the corals are former pets and many of them are accustomed to human company.

Day 2 – Friday

In the next few days SC Nemo I will navigate clockwise around Isabela, by far the largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). Explore some of the remotest visitor’s sites in Galapagos, offshore rocks with a small colony of Galapagos penguins, and penetrate Galapagos’ highest mangle in the sheltered creeks of the estuary. Perceive how pioneer vegetation progressively converts barren lava fields into lush oases and evergreen mangle forests, and is creating new habitats for specific species.
Thanks to major upwellings out off the deep sea (Cromwell Current) the nutrient-rich west coast of Isabela is a magnet to all kinds of marine and birdlife. Bolivar Channel (between Isabela and Fernandina) can be great for whale watching. 

Program:
AM: After breakfast first we make an inflatable dinghy-ride along the shoreline, followed by a ‘dry landing’ (with footwear) and a guided hike that crosses the crumbling, pitch black lava fields of Moreno Point (moderate level; about 2km/1.25mi). After a snack snorkeling is planned.
PM: At noon we will sail for 2 hours to Elizabeth Bay. Meanwhile you can enjoy lunch and a siesta. On arrival a long dinghy-ride is scheduled to both the offshore rocks and sheltered mangles.
Navigation: Before dinner we will continue to Punta Espinoza (Fernandina, about 4hrs), while actively looking for whales. You will have a relatively quiet floating night.

AM: Moreno Point (Isabela)

Moreno Point tells the continuing story of the famous lunatic lava fields of Sullivan Bay (actually not visited by Catamaran Nemo). This once lifeless lava field becomes dotted with tidal pools and filtration lagoons since parts of the crust have broken and fallen into the undermining lava tunnels.

Pioneer life takes advantage; finally the lava cacti get company of two more species of cacti, from which the candelabras can grow up to 7m/23ft tall, and dominate the rest of the shrubby vegetation. Fringes of reed, sea grass and mangrove bushes transform the picturesque lagoons in lush oases. Your pictures get the perfect finishing touch when bright American flamingos forage in the largest lagoon as well.  The fresh promising pioneer vegetation seems on the winning hand; just until Sierra Negra volcano spits a new layering cover, and the story starts all over again.

Tidal pools form natural traps and attract scavengers and hunters, such as bright orange sally lightfoot crabs, oystercatchers and herons. During a dinghy-ride along the jagged shoreline, you can spot marine iguanas that wait patiently for their turn at lowest tide to graze weeds on the seabed, and a breeding colony of brown pelicans in the mangroves.

PM: Marielas Islets & Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)

Although there is no landing point, Elizabeth Bay offers actually two in one! A prolonged ride by inflatable dinghy combines the Marielas Islets in the mouth of the bay, with the mangles in its innermost heart.

The Marielas islets are an excellent place to spot marine iguanas and small family groups of Galapagos penguins in the front row of the cliffs. The endangered Galapagos penguin is the rarest penguin species worldwide (just some 1500 birds over all archipelago; please don’t expect vast colonies as in Antarctic regions). Lofty palo santo-trees on top of the cliffs provide magnificent frigatebirds a lookout to rob returning blue-footed boobies.

Next the dinghy will turn landwards and enter the calm estuary. Whilst exploring lagoons and shallow creeks, the outboard engine can be turned off, to enjoy sounds of nature. Brown pelicans are the only pelicans in the world that plunge-dive, though more superficial than the spectacular rocket like diving blue-footed boobies. Lava herons and great blue herons prefer to wait patiently for what comes along. Pacific green turtles swim graceful around, popping-up their heads for breathing (mating season: December-January). You may also encounter spotted eagle rays or sharks, looking for protected inlets to give birth and leave their young alone. This highest mangrove forest of Galapagos consists of red mangroves (with their characteristic prop roots) as well as blackwhite and button mangroves.

Day 3 – Saturday

Without any doubt Espinoza Point belongs to the more exclusive sites of the Galapagos National Park. Fernandina harbours one of the worlds most virgin, untouched ecosystems. Today you will become eyewitness of evolution, which is happening right in front of you! Wonder again about bizarre creatures as flightless cormorant, marine iguana and Galapagos penguin.
Before leaving the remote west, Isabela will present you latest geological curiosity and the largest Galapagos land and marine iguanas. While crossing the Bolivar Channel to Urbina Bay, you will have opportunities for great whale watching again!

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a dry landing the guided morning walk (easy/moderate level; about 2km/1.25 mi) runs over the lava tongue of Espinoza Point. After a snack we will bring you to today’s snorkeling site.
PM: While having lunch we will cross the Bolivar Channel for the last time, back to Isabela’s west coast. At the geologic interesting site of Urbina Bay you will make a second guided walk, and you can snorkel as well.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner we will start our 10 hour’s navigation around the north cape of Isabela to Santiago (crossing the equator two times).

AM: Espinosa Point (Fernandina)

Espinoza Point is Fernandina’s only terrestrial visitors site, and one of the few locations where you will find some bizarre outgrowths of natural selection. Figurehead is the emblematic flightless cormorant that lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos, and could be considered as the ‘holy grail of evolution’. The cormorant had not to fear terrestrial enemies and lets you approach very close. Next generations gradually lost their flying capabilities to become excellent divers. Together with its neighbour, the Galapagos penguin, these are two of the rarest and most vulnerable bird species in the world, with less than 2000 individuals each.

Besides the endemic wildlife, you will also love the almost unworldly views with the dominating cone of Volcán La Cumbre (= the summit) as a spectacular backdrop. The narrow headland that you walk is the end of a lava tongue that has reached the coast and solidified on contact with the cold seawater. The black rocks are not yet covered by more vegetation then lava cacti and mangroves, but are teeming with hundreds of dragon-like marine iguanas that breed and conglomerate in larger groups than in any other island.

PM: Urbina Bay (Isabela)

Urbina Bay presents you Isabela’s latest geologic curiosity. In 1954 tectonic forces lifted the former seabed several meters above sea level and formed present coastal plain. The tilted seabed ran dry at once and 6kms/3,75mi of coastline was shifted outward. Pretty far land inward you can find marine remnants, such as fish bones, shells, scales from lobsters, urchins and corals.
Far behind you will reach the original coastline and the typical palo santo-bush from the arid zone. This very wide beach provides ample nesting places for iguanas, turtles and even for Galapagos giant tortoises that descend all the way down from Alcedo volcano in the wet season. The marine and land iguanas of Urbina Bay are the largest of Galapagos.

Day 4 – Sunday

At James Bay (Santiago) Charles Darwin spent most of his time in Galapagos, while HMS Beagle continued mapping the archipelago. Highlight of this pearl necklace of visitor’s sites are the outstanding fur seal grottos at the beautiful sculptured coastline of Puerto Egas, together with other coastal landscapes that could well be exotic film sets; not to forget Bucaneer’s Cove crystal clear snorkelling waters.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make a guided walk along the coastline (easy level) to the fur seal grottos. Back on board we will provide a snack before snorkelling.
PM: At lunchtime we will navigate 12km/7 mi/45 min north to Espumilla Beach. After a wet landing (bare feet) at the beach a guided walk leads uphill and land inward (easy level; about 2km/1.25 mi). Afterwards you can make a dinghy-ride (or alternatively sea kayaking) along the coastline.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner SC Nemo I will continue along the north coast of Santiago to Daphne Major, where we will arrive after about 4 hrs for a relatively quiet floating night sleep.

AM: Puerto Egas (Santiago)

Dominated by Sugarloaf Hill (395m/1300ft) and named after a former salt mine (1960s), Puerto Egas is the southernmost visitors site along James Bay. Its masterly sculptured coastline of black basalts and polished multi-coloured ash-layers forms a photogenic scenery with collapsed lava tunnels, natural arches, caves and blowholes such as ‘Darwin’s toilet’.

In a grotto right below a spectacular rock arch at the end of the beach a colony of Galapagos fur seals occupies the shade, sheltering from the equatorial sun. Unlike more common Galapagos sea lions this smaller species of seal is no beach lover at all, due to their adorable, but insulating coats. This refuge is the very best place to see these endemic, shy and once heavily hunted marine mammals.

Especially at low tide Puerto Egas teems with extremely varied intertidal life. Notice how marine iguanas just leave, return cold or warm-up after grazing weeds on the seabed at lowest tide. Ossified night herons and lava herons keep an eye on the tidal pools that are refilled every flood again with small fish, octopuses, star fish, snails, urchins, shells, green algae and many other snacks. Noisy oystercatchers, turnstones, plovers and whimbrels inspect these pools zealously. Hundreds of sally lightfoot crabs seem even brighter orange against the pitch-black rocks (immature are dark-coloured).

PM: Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)

Espumilla Beach has revived as an important breeding site for turtles, as it is no longer suffering from digging wild pigs. The turtles return year after year to burry their eggs into the cinnamon coloured sand dunes. About two months later (roughly from February to August) the eggs hatch at once. Most vulnerable hatchlings never will reach sea, and form a banquet for predators such as herons, frigatebirds, mockingbirds and ghost crabs.
The beach ridge hides a mangle with two picturesque lagoons on the backside. A colony of American flamingos and aquatic birds used to be its main attraction, but after the climate phenomenon of El Niño, strong sedimentation altered the brackish water environment, and it no longer contains their food…
As often in Galapagos, different vegetation zones are very close by, providing great scenic contrasts. During the climb of a hill you will be rewarded with a beautiful overview of the transitions from sea into beach into mangrove into dry palo santo forest.

At the nearby Buccaneer Cove we have a great snorkeling opportunity.

Day 5 – Monday

Early morning Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will navigate around the characteristic volcanic islet of Daphne Major, inhabited by a wide range of seabirds. In the afternoon you will continue to nearby Bachas Beach at the north coast Santa Cruz. This beach is popular breeding ground for the Pacific green turtle; you will make a relaxed stroll along to a aquatic bird-rich saline lagoon.

Program:
AM: Early morning Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will navigate around the characteristic volcanic islet of Daphne Major.
PM: After welcome aboard Sailing Catamaran Nemo I, check-in, lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will make your first wet landing (bare feet) at Bachas Beach, followed by an easy stroll along the waterline of this coral sand beach. Filled with impressions you will return on board for dinner.

Navigation: At dinner time we will lift the anchor and sail about 7 hrs – depending on the sea state – south-west to Isabela.

AM: Daphne Major

The characteristic offshore tuff cone of Daphne Major looks how a child draws a volcano islet. Perhaps you have already got a first glimpse of it from your airplane window on arrival. Access to the 120m/400ft high islet is restricted because of its fragility and susceptibility to erosion. On your last morning in Galapagos you will make a  dinghy-ride around. You can spot large flocks of storm petrels and other sea birds.

This islet forms an almost undisturbed semi-closed ecosystem and is therefore of great scientific interest. Coexisting Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, magnificent frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies and 8 other breeding species have nicely distributed different sections of the cone, according to their needs and the ecological niches they occupy. The caldera contains two craters, both completely white-plastered by the increments of blue-footed boobies, which have founded a very large breeding colony on this sheltered place. There is a colony of Galapagos sea lions on the only small beach. This islet also has been the location for an important multidecade study of Darwin’s finches. This concluded that population fluctuates strongly and finches that survived in dryer years were mainly the ones with larger beaks; results that supported strongly Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution.

 PM: Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz)

Strolling along its coastline, blinding white Bachas Beach appears full of intertidal and bird life. But the symmetrical tuff cone-islet of Daphne Major will pull your eyes to the horizon as well. Beware of Galapagos sea lionsmarine iguanas, a shark fin or (seasonally) mating Pacific green turtles in the surf! Both quiet beaches have become their preferred nesting site on the main island of Santa Cruz. ‘Bachas’ refers to the ‘minefield of nest holes’ in the dunes strip; though others argue that it is a ‘Spanglish’ mispronunciation of ‘barks’, referring to two rusty landing vessels that have been left on the longer second beach in World War II, when the American US Air Force used BALTRA as a strategic base to defend the Panama Canal.

Sparkling orange coloured and heavy-armed sally lightfoot crabs play seek and hide with you when you want to picture them on the dark basaltic rocks. A brackish lagoon in the dunes houses different species of wade and shore birds, including black-necked stilts, white-cheeked pintails (or Bahama ducks) and hunting herons. Migratory aquatic birds that winter in Galapagos, such as whimbrels, also frequent this pond. As soon as water level drops and the lagoon becomes saltier, you might even encounter some American flamingos tirelessly filtering water to catch shrimp and algae!

Day 6 – Tuesday

First nightly crossing will bring you to Puerto Villamil on Isabela. In the next few days Nemo I will navigate clockwise around this by far largest island of the archipelago. Its larger living space seems to cause that evolution is hunting for records over here (although some are disputed). 

Huge marine iguanas crawl over undisturbed rocky islets just outside the harbour, which also contain a unique tidal channel where whitetip reef sharks rest. Saline lagoons in the wetlands house the largest insular colony of American flamingos and you will visit the botanical garden of another tortoise breeding center with native species.

Program:

AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) the inflatable dinghies will bring you to the Tintoreras islets for a guided hike to the tidal channel, following a rough volcanic rock trail (easy/moderate level). After breakfast you can experience some great snorkelling.
PM: After lunch you will have free time to enjoy Puerto Villamil and its striking beach. Than you will visit the local tortoise breeding center and the surrounding wetlands.
Overnight navigation: After dinner the anchor is lifted for rounding the southern lob of Isabela clockwise to its far west coast (about 6 hours). 
Additional options scuba-diving: Isla Tortuga, Cuatro Hermanos or Roca Viuda (advanced).

AM: Whitetip reef shark channel (Isabela/Tintoreras)

Just outside the harbour of Puerto Villamil (Isabela), a group of rocky islets protrude just above sea level. These are remnants of a lava flow that is demolished by the waves. A collapsed lava tube forms a channel that fills-up on high tide, while the entrance is closed on low tide. Marine life gets trapped, including turtles and elegant white-spotted eagle rays or golden rays. In the crystal clear water of this unique site  you can also observe whitetip reef sharks (called tintoreras in Spanish; to which the islets are named after) resting from their nocturnal hunts. This species of shark is fairly common in the archipelago, and often spotted on the seabed when snorkelling, but here you can see them dry and comfortably from the bank.
Unlike the beaches of Puerto Villamil, tiny plagues along these black rocks offer  undisturbed breeding places for marine iguanas. Over here the largest Isabela subspecies (up to 1,5m/5ft tall !) can reproduce successfully and thrive by hundreds. The rocky shoreline with its intertidal life also attracts sally lightfoot crabs, lava herons and occasional Galapagos penguinsGalapagos sea lions occupy the sand beach and complete this stereotypical Galapagos image.

PM: Arnoldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center (Isabela)

In Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center you can see hundreds of giant Galapagos tortoises of all sizes. Vulnerable hatchlings are not gigantic at all, even smaller than the size of your hand! This project just outside Puerto Villamil is created to rescue the endangered populations of Isabela’s both southernmost volcanoes.
From the almost incredible estimations of 250,000 giant tortoises in the 16th century only remained about 3,000 individuals in the 1970s. One thing becomes clear on your visit: it’s hard work to save these queer creatures for extinction by reproduction in captivity and repopulation. The good news is that these programs are successful and have saved several species for extinction so far. By 2015 their number has increased up to about 32,000 in all archipelago.

Don’t forget to visit the native botanic garden of this breeding centre. It also attracts colourful songbirds such as yellow warblers, Darwin’s finches, Galapagos and vermillion flycatchers. Finally there is no greater counterpart to the cumbersome tortoises as the graceful American flamingos that frequently filter the saline waters of the adjacent lagoon for shrimp and algae. They are joined by a handful of species of aquatic and shore birds, from which some even migrate from Canada and Alaska.

Day 7 – Wednesday

At midnight Sailing Catamaran Nemo I will drop the anchor at the north cape of Floreana (Cormorant Point), where American flamingos use to forage and breed. For many Devil’s Crown is Galapagos deep water snorkelling site number one, and one of the very highlights of their cruise. Historical Post Office Bay seems to be located nearly at the end of the world.

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a wet landing at the greeny beach of Cormorant Point (wet landing) and walk to a powdery coral sand beach on the other side of the peninsula (easy level; about 1,5km/1mi). En route you can observe the American flamingo lagoon from different viewpoints.
Then it’s time for fantastic deep-water snorkelling around Devil’s Crown (though sometimes stronger currents). If this is not your thing or if you prefer bird watching, alternatively you can make a dinghy-ride.
PM: Post your holiday greetings in the historical barrel at Post Office Bay, one of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s north coast (short displacement, wet landing) and relax.
Overnight navigation: Around midnight the Galapagos Odyssey will navigate about 5 hours east to Española.
Additional options scuba-diving: choice out of 9 nearby diving sites (All levels)

AM: Cormorant Point (Floreana)

The peninsula of Cormorant Point forms the extreme north cape of Floreana, which is pockmarked by numbers of smaller volcanic cones and covered by tropical dry forest (predominently palo santo). Please don’t expect to spot the flightless cormorant at Cormorant Point. This emblematic example of evolution lives exclusively in the remote west of Galapagos on Fernandina and Isabela (Route A). Instead, its salty lagoon is one of the best places in Galapagos to observe a breeding colony of American flamingos. Though, when breeding is done and the lagoon dries up, these exotic birds tend to be on the move to look for shrimps and algae from other saline lakes.

At the landing beach you will be welcomed by a small Galapagos sea lion-colony. The green sand contains a high percentage of glassy olivine crystals that have been blown out by the surrounding tuff cones. The ‘flour sand’ beach on the south side of the peninsula feels very smooth to your feet; this is pulverized by parrotfishes. Schools of sting rays in the surf love this powdery sand to hide themselves, and Pacific green turtles come ashore to burry their eggs in it at night (first months of the year). Next morning you can notice their tracks from the dunes, or eventually still catch an exhausted, delayed one, crawling back to sea.

AM: Devil´s Crown (Floreana)

The jagged crater rim of Devil’s Crown just protrudes sea level and is beaten by the waves.  The inner walls of the crater rim are coated with coral formations and protected against the surf. The depth and very transparent waters of this deep-water snorkelling site gives you some sensation of flying once you plunge in this huge tropical aquarium. You will swim amidst schools of thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish, as yellowtail surgeon fishesking angelfishes, and many other species. On the seabed you can distinguish resting whitetip reef sharks, different species of ray and starfishes. A Pacific green turtle or Galapagos sea lion might swim by, and don’t scare when you encounter scalloped hammerhead sharks!
Above sea level the dramatic decor of the jagged crater rim provides living space to lots of coastal birds, including lava gulls, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, brown pelicans, and red-billed tropicbirds. The opposite land head of Floreana is a nesting place for magnificent frigatebirds, where you could also head for during an alternative dinghy-ride.

PM: Post Office Bay (Floreana)

Bring your unstamped postcards and post them in the peculiar barrel on this historic site. Together with James Bay (Santiago) this used to be a popular base to complement stocks. Present barrel commemorates the improvised mail service between British 16th century whalers and poachers. Returning vessels also picked-up letters for home delivery. Finally this post box became the termination of the flourishing British whaling industry in this region (Moby Dick), because it let the American frigate USS Essex easily locate and hijack British whalers during the Anglo-American War (1812-1815).

Day 8 – Thursday

Next island Española is located in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago. As one of its crown jewels, this bird watcher’s and photographer’s dream offers all that you might expect from Galapagos. Walk in a distance of just a few meters past waved albatrosses, booby colonies, sunbathing marine iguanas and Galapagos sea lions and feel yourself within an exciting nature documentary! Several endemic species give you the opportunity to become an eyewitness of evolution.

Program:
AM: Before breakfast (we provide a snack) you will make a ‘dry landing’ at Suarez Point. During a longer guided walk (moderate level; 4km/2.5 mi/about 2 hours) you will pass awakening sea bird colonies on top of the cliffs (some short scrambling passages; avoidable depths). Back on board you will have a deserved breakfast and will navigate about an hour. Next you can plunch into the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay for snorkelling.
PM: After lunch and a ‘wet landing’ (bare feet) on the wide sand beach you can stroll along the sea lions colony (easy level), or enjoy a moment of reflection, relaxation, or rolling with sea lions in the surf.
Overnight navigation: After dinner we will navigate 5hrs north and anchor just before midnight in the sheltered harbour of Puerto Ayora, where you can enjoy a quiet floating sleep.

AM: Suarez Point (Española)

Huge ocean waves bang on the southern basaltic cliffs of Suarez Point, and form a spectacular blowhole, where a fountain of sea water sprays meters/feet high into the air (depending on the tide and how strong sea breeze pushes the waves). Take a meditative break in silence on this emblematic viewpoint to convert this unforgettable moment in a lifetime experience.

Waved albatrosses soar most time of their lives far out at sea and just come to Española (March-December) to breed and nurture their huge chick. This spectacular seabird is the only tropic albatross (critically endangered species). Besides some strayed individuals on Isla de La Plata (out off the Ecuadorian coast) it only breeds on Española, where you can witness its synchronous courtship dances, which include bowing, whistling and even a stylized form of ‘sword fighting’ with their bills (especially in October)!

Suarez Point is also a massive breeding site for Nazca and blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirdsBlue-footed boobies don’t bother to breed in the middle of the trail. Especially during the food-abundant garúa-season (2nd half of the year) you can admire amusing courtship dances, mating, breeding, emerging from the eggs, nurturing or first flight-attempts.

Española marine iguanas become bright red with a turquoise-colored crest and legs at the start of the breeding season (starting from Christmas). Hood lava lizards are the largest of the 7 endemic species in the islands, as well as endemic mockingbirds, that have turned to carnivorous behaviour!

PM: Gardner Bay (Española)

Make your first ‘dive’ in the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay, and admire colourful reef fish, snorkel side by side with a Pacific green turtle, or find yourself in the middle of playful Galapagos sea lions.

The striking white coral sand beach is an important breeding site for Pacific green turtles. But without doubt its main attraction is the Galapagos sea lion colony. Females stay year round in this nursery, suckling their pups up to an age of 3 years, although these start to learn fishing already after 5 months. During the breeding- and mating season the colony becomes even more populous. The strongest bachelors and elder males return from their secluded bases and start again to conquer and defend their part of the 1300m/4250ft long beach. Pregnant females choose the best territory to give birth, and will mate again with their landlord within a month.

Day 9 – Friday

This cruise itinerary ends in Puerto Ayora. En route to the airport you will visit the successful breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Without any doubt most-emblematic representatives of the archipelago are the Galapagos giant tortoises.

Program:
AM: After an early breakfast it’s time say goodbye and to leave the yacht. The dinghies will bring you to the pier of Puerto Ayora, where you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station before continuing to the airport.

AM: Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. The Breeding and Rearing area of the scientific center are definitely a worthwhile visit.

This excursion will be accompanied by another guide, while your naturalist guide will visit the highlands with those passengers that stay longer on board.

AM: Transfer to Baltra airport

Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crew members the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you until the check-in counters in the departure hall.

We expect that you will return home with stunning pictures and unforgettable memories for life!


 
 

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