Yacht San Jose

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Motor Yacht San Jose welcomes you on board to discover with your own eyes the unique wonders of the Galapagos Islands. We take you around the remote and most exceptional islands of the archipelago. San Jose is one of the larger 16 passenger yachts in Galapagos, guaranteeing an intimate and very exclusive experience in a comfortable way. Our certified professional crew and the knowledgeable, bilingual naturalist guide on board will do their utmost to convert your once in a lifetime cruise into the trip of your life!

Yacht Specifications

Vessel name M/Y San Jose
Type Motor Yacht
Class Tourist Superior Class
Construction Year Guayaquil, 2004; last maintenance: 2016
Capacity 16 passengers
Naturalist Guide 1 National Park-certified multilingual naturalist guide
Crew 8 experienced, trained and IMO-certified crew-members (International Marine Organization):
captain, 2 sailors, machinist, cook, kitchen help, bartender and housekeeper.
Length 34m / 113ft
Width 7,60m / 25.3ft
Number of cabins 8 Twins
Cabin Location Main deck: 4 Twins
Upper deck: 4 Twins
Social Areas Sun deck/terrace, shaded outside deck, bar, living room, dining room
Amenities TV, DVD, small library, 2 small-sized Zodiacs
Machinery 2 Detroit Engines – 360 HP
Cruising speed 10 knots
Generators 2 Generators – 75 Kva each
Electricity 110 V / 220 V
Air Conditioning Individually controlled in all cabins
Wastewater treatment 2 water treatment systems

 

Itinerary B4 - 4 Days / 3 Nights

From Genovesa to South Plaza

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

Our shortest route gets the most out of just four days Galapagos. It combines the exclusive bird-island of Genovesa with the popular highlights of South Plaza and Santa Fe, giving an intense and excellent quick impression of Galapagos.

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds perch and nest on the cliffs around the flooded crater of Genovesa. Walk at very short distance through the largest insular colonies of Nazca and red-footed boobies, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending on the season).
Other not to be missed highlights of this cruise will certainly be extraordinary Santa Fe and South Plaza, where characteristic Galapagos land iguanas crawl below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti.
On the last morning we will sail around the bizarre-shaped rock formation of Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido (= Sleeping Lion), just out off the coast of San Cristobal. Most elder islands of southeast Galapagos have azure bays and striking beaches of white coral sand, which are favorite place for large colonies of sea lions. This intense route ends in the harbour with lots of Galapagos sea lions, waving goodbye.

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 – Tuesday

Mosquera 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. This islet stands out by its largest concentration of Galapagos sea lions. Moreover it’s one of the few spots inside the National Park where you can stroll around freely.  

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard M/Y San Jose, check-in, lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will visit Mosquera for a free beach stroll and snorkelling.
Navigation: Short before midnight we will lift the anchor and we will sail about 6 hrs – depending on sea state – northeast to Genovesa.

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: Mosquera

Mosquera lies in the middle of the Itabaca Channel, between Baltra and North Seymour. Galapagos sea lions are real beach lovers. Mosquera offers beautiful white coral sand and doesn’t complicate their landing as neighboring Seymour and Baltra do with their steep rocky coastlines. These agile fishers just have to enter the Itabaca Channel, which is a natural trap for marine life, thanks to a submarine ridge between Baltra and Santa Cruz. But fishing the channel is not without risk; sometimes a school of killer whales (orcas, recognizable on their characterizing dorsal fins) enters to hunt sea lions.

Day 2 – Wednesday

Genovesa is well worth last night’s longer navigation. All impressions will be nearly too much for a single day!
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. Besides the largest insular breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, there also breed frigatebirds, and the air really teems of flocks of storm petrels. Look for the remarkable short-eared owl that hunts on foot, which can be considered most peculiar adaptive behaviour!

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a wet landing at the sheltered beach of Darwin Bay you will go for a guided walk (moderate level; about 3km/2mi) and refreshing snorkelling.
PM: Around lunch-time we will sail to nearby Prince Philip’s Steps, close to the entrance of the broken caldera. There you can snorkel another time, and the guided walk through cliff top seabird colonies (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Overnight navigation: After dinner we will lift the anchor and navigate about 8 hours south to South Plaza.

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 – Thursday

Heading towards the heart of the archipelago you will visit extraordinary Santa Fe and not to be missed South Plaza that belongs to most popular and unforgettable 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.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make an unforgettable guided walk on South Plaza (easy level; about 1,25 km/0.75 mi; avoidable depths on the cliff-edge).
Before lunch we will sail to Santa Fe (about 2 hrs southeast), possibly escorted by bottle nose dolphins.
PM: After lunch you will have time for a refreshing swim or excellent snorkeling in the crystal clear azure waters of Barrington Bay.
At the end of the afternoon we have a wet landing at the beach of Santa Fe and have a guided nature walk. Your guide decides whether the easy shorter circuit is followed, or a strenuous longer hike land inward (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Navigation: After a quiet sleep in the sheltered bay we will lift the anchor in the dead of the night and sail to Kicker Rock, just out of the coast of San Cristobal (about 4hrs).
Additional options scuba-diving: Gordon Rocks (Expert/Advanced) or Santa Fe (All levels).

AM: 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.

PM: 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!

Day 4 – Friday

Sunrise on the natural sculpture of Kicker Rock can be unforgettable! During a dinghy-ride you will feel the early morning ocean breeze in your hear and can watch many sea birds. Besides that Kicker Rock is one of the landmarks of Galapagos, it is also one of the favourite diving and snorkelling spots of the archipelago. Later today you will have time to relax aboard or at the cosy waterfront of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, halfway this full planned cruise route.

Program:
AM:
 Before breakfast a dinghy-ride and optional snorkelling are scheduled (a snack is available before).
On arrival it’s time to say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport.
AM: Kicker Rock (San Cristobal)

Kicker Rock has become one of the photogenic landmarks of Galapagos. Clearly visible from far, nature has molded a massive offshore block of rock with a stabbing tower aside. Reaching about 150m/500ft above sea level this compact rock without typical stratified layers of cemented ashes is thought to be the remnant of a former tuff cone, which has eroded completely away; a resistant lava mass that never left the crater pipe remains.

While sailing around and spotting blue-footed boobies and great frigatebirds you can observe this intriguing sculpture from changing angles. From the side it has the form of a giant shoe, upside down with the tower as high heel (hence its name Kicker Rock). In longitudinal direction it rather resembles a sleeping lion (hence its Spanish name Leon Dormido). It is an experience to pass the narrow channel between the main body and the spine.

These steep walls rise out of the deep sea. Kicker Rock is one of the favourite locations amongst scuba divers and snorkellers in the south-eastern archipelago. Amid colourful tropical fish you might have thrilling encounters with octopuses, different species of shark (including scalloped hammerhead sharks!), Pacific green turtles, spotted eagle rays and even – when you are really lucky – with barracudas, manta rays and giant oceanic manta rays!

AM: Transfer to San Cristobal airport

Check-in and flight back to Guayaquil or Quito.

Itinerary B5 - 5 Days / 4 Nights

From Española to Bartolome

5 days / 4 nights – Friday to Tuesday – every 14 days

Our 4 nights southern itinerary gives a quite complete overview of Galapagos. Moreover this route combines two of the most popular snorkel sites of Galapagos: Champion Islet and Bartolome, where you might swim with fishing penguins.

This intense cruise begins in San Cristobal (with lots of Galapagos sea lions in the harbour), where your visit will be concluded by an interesting visit of the Interpretation Center, where you can learn what makes Galapagos so unique, and which conservation challenges are confronted. Most elder islands of southeast Galapagos have azure bays and striking beaches of white coral sand, which are favorite place for large colonies of sea lions. This route passes also the albatross and booby colonies and marine iguanas on Española, and the flamingo lagoon of Floreana. During an impressive ‘moonwalk’ on the barren lava flow of Sulivan Bay and a short climb to the summit of Bartolome you will get impressed by the volcanic forces that have created the islands.

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 you will stay on the easternmost island of San Cristobal, where plenty Galapagos sea lions have taken over the harbour, touristic pier and promenade of Galapagos’ capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. A visit to the excellent Interpretation Centre and its botanical garden gives you a perfect introduction to this unique archipelago.

Program:
AM:
This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to San Cristobal Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard M/Y San Jose, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill the dinghies will bring you to the pier, from where you will visit the Interpretation Centre and the village.
Before dinner your guide will give a first daily briefing and the captain and his crew will present themselves and share a welcome toast.
Overnight navigation: Around midnight the anchor will be lifted for a navigation of about 4 hours to the south-eastern island of Española.

AM: Arrival at San Cristobal Airport

See Getting there for flight and arrival information.

A guide will meet you, help you collect your luggage, and escort you on a short bus ride to the harbour.

PM: Interpretation Centre (San Cristobal)

The Interpretation Centre just outside the provincial capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a perfect introduction as well as an interesting complement to the field-explanations and briefings of your naturalist guide. Information panels (English/Spanish), pictures, maquettes and true to life dioramas tell the background story of the islands in a different way, which helps you to get overview and learn what makes Galapagos so unique. The properly maintained botanical garden with native species from the arid zone (including giant prickly pear and candelabra cacti) is worth your visit as well; and probably you will spot the Chatham mockingbird, endemic to this island, that put Darwin on track of his evolution theory.

The attractive exhibition is quite complete and explains a series of natural circumstances that create Galapagos’ unique environment: such as the volcanic genesis of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, its ocean currents, its special climate, the arrival of different species, and their establishment, among others. It also recounts historic discovery and attempts of colonization; and shows a diorama with ancient mail barrels from Post Office Bay. Extensively it concludes how times have changed with current conservation and the many ways in which this is tried to achieve, and environmental challenges that proceed.

Day 2 – Saturday

Next island Española is located in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago and promises to be a highlight of your cruise. 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: After a ‘wet landing’ (bare feet) on the wide sand beach at Gardner Bay 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. Next you can plunch into the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay for snorkelling.
PM: Back on board we will navigate about an hour. After lunch you will make a ‘dry landing’ (with footwear) at Suarez Point. During a longer guided walk (moderate level; 4km/2.5 mi/about 2 hours) you will pass spectacular sea bird colonies on top of the cliffs (some short scrambling passages; avoidable depths).
Overnight navigation: After dinner San Jose will navigate about 5 hrs westward to neighboring island of Floreana.

AM: 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.

PM: 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!

Day 3 – Sunday

About midnight San Jose will drop the anchor at the north cape of Floreana (Cormorant Point), where American flamingos use to forage and breed. Historical Post Office Bay and Baroness Lookout are located nearly at the end of the world. Galapagos sea lions probably wait to play with you while snorkelling at Champion Islet. From the dinghy bird watchers can amplify their growing spot lists with endemic Galapagos penguins (the only location in the southeastern corner) and maybe even with the almost extinct Charles mockingbird

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.
Back aboard we will navigate about 45 min to Champion Islet. There you can snorkel fantastically; if this is not your thing or if you prefer bird watching, alternatively you can make a dinghy-ride.

PM: While having lunch we will navigate back to Post Office Bay (about 1hr). we will navigate back to Post Office Bay (about 1hr). Post your holiday greetings in the historical barrel, one of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s north coast (short displacement, wet landing) and relax. 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. Explore by inflatable dinghy – or in your own pace by sea-kayak – another submerged crater rim around the bay of Baroness Lookout.
Overnight navigation: After dinner San Jose will cross-over to Santiago (about 7 hours north).
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: Champion Islet (Floreana)

Bottlenose dolphins frequently escort our passage to Champion Islet and you can see them from nearby jumping the wakes! It is just the prelude of an unforgettable snorkelling excursion. Galapagos sea lions turn under water into playful acrobats that become definitely the number one attraction. There are also lots of reef fish, and perhaps a Pacific green turtle.

An inflatable dinghy ride along the shoreline of this islet offers sightings of lots of sea birds that are endemic to the archipelago, including Galapagos penguins (at its extreme eastern distribution border; in danger of extinction), blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigatebirds and red-billed tropicbirds. swallow-tailed gulls and lava herons.
Most desired on every serious birder’s wish list is to get a glimpse of the Charles mockingbird on top of prickly pear cacti (take binoculars!). To the unschooled eye this unique variant may look hardly different to their relatives on other islands, but it is almost extinct (less than 250 birds, depending of dry or wet years); so you need some luck to spot it from seaside. This mockingbird is a scientific and historic key species because it put Darwin on track of his theory of ‘adaptive radiation’.

PM: Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout (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).

The arm of a submerged tuff cone protects the turquoise bay at Baroness Lookout. Besides Galapagos sea lions, Pacific green turtles and golden cownose rays you might spot Galapagos penguins! This is the only place in the south-eastern archipelago where some penguins reside; best chances however tomorrow on Bartolome or in the remote west on Fernandina and Isabela (Route A).
Climb the miniature basaltic cone of Baroness Lookout and dream away at the paradisiacal coast-scape. This viewpoint was the favourite spot of one of Floreana’s first colonists, the eccentric Baroness and self-proclaimed ‘Empress of Galapagos’ Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet, who even built her house a few meters behind. She and one of her lovers were the first in a series of mysterious disappearings and deaths in the 1930s.

Day 4 – Monday

After quite a long stretch northward, San Jose has anchored between two unique sites. Enjoy the famous, wild romantic panorama of Bartolome and make a ‘moonwalk’ on the barren lava flow of Sullivan Bay. The forces that have created these islands will impress you forever. Surrounding coral reefs give a second chance to meet endangered Galapagos penguins, and whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing!

Program:
AM: Another full day, largely dedicated to volcanism. After breakfast you will make an not yet too hot moonwalk across the solidified lava flow (guided walk, easy level; ca. 1,5km/1mi). You will be received aboard with a juice before snorkeling.
PM: After 15 minutes of navigation to approach nearby Bartolome you can enjoy your lunch buffet and prepare for fantastic shallow water snorkeling at the foot of Pinnacle Rock (alternative: walking around or relaxing on the beach).
As soon as the hottest hours have past you will 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).
Navigation: After dinner we will sail to the north coast of Santa Cruz (about 2:30 hrs south).
Additional options scuba-diving: Bartolome or Cousin Rocks (both advanced)

AM: Sullivan Bay (Santiago)

Setting foot at the lava stream covering Sullivan Bay is like landing on the moon. The desolate, stretched-out fields seem mostly lifeless, but there is enough to see on this highly popular site amongst photographers. Graphical bas-reliefs of rope-lava in the crust are unique to Galapagos and Hawaii.
There is even some life! Pacific green turtles seasonally burry eggs in the tiny white sand beach, where you may also encounter crabs, a strayed blue heron or oystercatcher. On the lava flow only sparse pioneer vegetation such as lava cacti and carpetweed can hold. You might encounter a lava lizardlocusts (!) or a small snake-species (Galapagos racer) hunting for them.

The barely eroded lava flow seems to have been solidified for short, and suggests that you are just able to set foot on it. The baking sun completes the sensation of heat. The winding and rippled pahoehoe rope-lava has preserved intriguing traces that tell flaming stories about vaporized leatherleaf trees and miniature cones of volcanic glass.
Distinctive tuff cones pockmark the new-formed lunatic landscape. Their rusty, oxidized colours and vegetation reveal that these are from an older generation. Originally these were volcano islets on their own that have become part of Santiago during latest eruption (1897), when the hot flood of ooze filled up large parts of the bay, which is the black crust you walk on. For the time being only the opposite islet of Bartolome escaped from incorporation. Ecologically these cones still can be considered as islands, though no longer surrounded by sea, but by wide infertile lava fields.

PM: 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.

Day 5 – Tuesday

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 B - 8 Days / 7 Nights

From Genovesa to Española

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

Our 8 days eastern route visits most popular sites of Galapagos and exclusive Genovesa. This varied route combines the overwhelming sea bird colonies of Genovesa and Española with highly appreciated South Plaza. 

Lovers of beautiful landscapes can admire 3 of 4 famous Galapagos landmarks: the panoramic view of Bartolome, the offshore sculpture of Kicker Rock and the blowhole of Española (just the arch of Darwin in the far north is not visited).
Moreover this route combines three of the most spectacular snorkel sites of Galapagos: Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido), Champion Islet and Bartolome, where you might encounter fishing Galapagos penguins. Besides that this route also offers plenty possibilities for optional scuba diving.

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds perch and nest on the cliffs around the flooded crater of Genovesa. Walk at very short distance through the largest insular colonies of Nazca and red-footed boobies, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending on the season). Southeastern Española is the sole option for those eager to admire synchronous courtship dances of the only tropical albatross in the world.
The almost extinguished volcano islands in the south-east are geologically eldest, where evolution has had enough time to create plenty endemic species. En route you can also observe emblematic marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins. Striking coral sand beaches at azure bays are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions. Not to be missed highlights of this cruise will certainly be extraordinary Santa Fe and South Plaza, where characteristic Galapagos land iguanas crawl below bizarre giant prickly pear cacti.

* Visitor’s sites of this route that are unique to our fleet (Galapagos Odyssey | Sailing Catamaran Nemo I | San Jose | Yolita II):
Kicker Rock (San Cristobal) & Interpretation Centre (San Cristobal), Champion Islet (Floreana)

Day 1 – Tuesday

Mosquera 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. This islet stands out by its largest concentration of Galapagos sea lions. Moreover it’s one of the few spots inside the National Park where you can stroll around freely.  

Program:
AM: This morning you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport.
PM: After welcome aboard M/Y San Jose, check-in, lunch buffet and the safety-drill you will visit Mosquera for a free beach stroll and snorkelling.
Navigation: Short before midnight we will lift the anchor and we will sail about 6 hrs – depending on sea state – northeast to Genovesa.

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: Mosquera

Mosquera lies in the middle of the Itabaca Channel, between Baltra and North Seymour. Galapagos sea lions are real beach lovers. Mosquera offers beautiful white coral sand and doesn’t complicate their landing as neighboring Seymour and Baltra do with their steep rocky coastlines. These agile fishers just have to enter the Itabaca Channel, which is a natural trap for marine life, thanks to a submarine ridge between Baltra and Santa Cruz. But fishing the channel is not without risk; sometimes a school of killer whales (orcas, recognizable on their characterizing dorsal fins) enters to hunt sea lions.

Day 2 – Wednesday

Genovesa is well worth last night’s longer navigation. All impressions will be nearly too much for a single day!
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. Besides the largest insular breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, there also breed frigatebirds, and the air really teems of flocks of storm petrels. Look for the remarkable short-eared owl that hunts on foot, which can be considered most peculiar adaptive behaviour!

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a wet landing at the sheltered beach of Darwin Bay you will go for a guided walk (moderate level; about 3km/2mi) and refreshing snorkelling.
PM: Around lunch-time we will sail to nearby Prince Philip’s Steps, close to the entrance of the broken caldera. There you can snorkel another time, and the guided walk through cliff top seabird colonies (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Overnight navigation: After dinner we will lift the anchor and navigate about 8 hours south to South Plaza.

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 – Thursday

Heading towards the heart of the archipelago you will visit extraordinary Santa Fe and not to be missed South Plaza that belongs to most popular and unforgettable 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.

Program:
AM: After breakfast you will make an unforgettable guided walk on South Plaza (easy level; about 1,25 km/0.75 mi; avoidable depths on the cliff-edge).
Before lunch we will sail to Santa Fe (about 2 hrs southeast), possibly escorted by bottle nose dolphins.
PM: After lunch you will have time for a refreshing swim or excellent snorkelling in the crystal clear azure waters of Barrington Bay.
At the end of the afternoon we have a wet landing at the beach of Santa Fe and have a guided nature walk. Your guide decides whether the easy shorter circuit is followed, or a strenuous longer hike land inward (moderate level; about 3km/2mi).
Navigation: After a quiet sleep in the sheltered bay we will lift the anchor in the dead of the night and sail to Kicker Rock, just out of the coast of San Cristobal (about 4hrs).
Additional options scuba-diving: Gordon Rocks (Expert/Advanced) or Santa Fe (All levels).

AM: 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.

PM: 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!

Day 4 – Friday

Sunrise on the natural sculpture of Kicker Rock can be unforgettable! During a dinghy-ride you will feel the early morning ocean breeze in your hear and can watch many sea birds. Besides that Kicker Rock is one of the landmarks of Galapagos, it is also one of the favourite diving and snorkelling spots of the archipelago. Later today you will have time to relax aboard or at the cosy waterfront of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, halfway this full planned cruise route.

Program:
AM:
 Before breakfast a dinghy-ride and optional snorkelling are scheduled (a snack is available before). Next we will navigate in about 1hr to the harbour of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where you can pass some free time.
B4 Route: On arrival it’s time to say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport.
PM: After welcome, check-in, lunch, and the safety-drill the dinghies will bring you to the pier, from where you will visit the Interpretation Centre and the village.
Before dinner your guide will give a first daily briefing and the captain and his crew will present themselves and share a welcome toast.
Overnight navigation: Around midnight the anchor will be lifted for a navigation of about 4 hours to the south-eastern island of Española.

AM: Kicker Rock (San Cristobal)

Kicker Rock has become one of the photogenic landmarks of Galapagos. Clearly visible from far, nature has molded a massive offshore block of rock with a stabbing tower aside. Reaching about 150m/500ft above sea level this compact rock without typical stratified layers of cemented ashes is thought to be the remnant of a former tuff cone, which has eroded completely away; a resistant lava mass that never left the crater pipe remains.

While sailing around and spotting blue-footed boobies and great frigatebirds you can observe this intriguing sculpture from changing angles. From the side it has the form of a giant shoe, upside down with the tower as high heel (hence its name Kicker Rock). In longitudinal direction it rather resembles a sleeping lion (hence its Spanish name Leon Dormido). It is an experience to pass the narrow channel between the main body and the spine.

These steep walls rise out of the deep sea. Kicker Rock is one of the favourite locations amongst scuba divers and snorkelers in the south-eastern archipelago. Amid colourful tropical fish you might have thrilling encounters with octopuses, different species of shark (including scalloped hammerhead sharks!), Pacific green turtles, spotted eagle rays and even – when you are really lucky – with barracudas, manta rays and giant oceanic manta rays!

PM: Interpretation Centre (San Cristobal)

The Interpretation Centre just outside the provincial capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a perfect introduction as well as an interesting complement to the field-explanations and briefings of your naturalist guide. Information panels (English/Spanish), pictures, maquettes and true to life dioramas tell the background story of the islands in a different way, which helps you to get overview and learn what makes Galapagos so unique. The properly maintained botanical garden with native species from the arid zone (including giant prickly pear and candelabra cacti) is worth your visit as well; and probably you will spot the Chatham mockingbird, endemic to this island, that put Darwin on track of his evolution theory.

The attractive exhibition is quite complete and explains a series of natural circumstances that create Galapagos’ unique environment: such as the volcanic genesis of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, its ocean currents, its special climate, the arrival of different species, and their establishment, among others. It also recounts historic discovery and attempts of colonization; and shows a diorama with ancient mail barrels from Post Office Bay. Extensively it concludes how times have changed with current conservation and the many ways in which this is tried to achieve, and environmental challenges that proceed.

Day 5 – Saturday

Next island Española is located in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago and promises to be a highlight of your cruise. 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: After a ‘wet landing’ (bare feet) on the wide sand beach at Gardner Bay 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. Next you can plunch into the alluring turquoise-coloured Gardner Bay for snorkelling.
PM: Back on board we will navigate about an hour. After lunch you will make a ‘dry landing’ (with footwear) at Suarez Point. During a longer guided walk (moderate level; 4km/2.5 mi/about 2 hours) you will pass spectacular sea bird colonies on top of the cliffs (some short scrambling passages; avoidable depths).
Overnight navigation: After dinner San Jose will navigate about 5 hrs westward to neighboring island of Floreana.

AM: 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.

PM: 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!

Day 6 – Sunday

About midnight San Jose will drop the anchor at the north cape of Floreana (Cormorant Point), where American flamingos use to forage and breed. Historical Post Office Bay and Baroness Lookout are located nearly at the end of the world. Galapagos sea lions probably wait to play with you while snorkelling at Champion Islet. From the dinghy bird watchers can amplify their growing spot lists with endemic Galapagos penguins (the only location in the southeastern corner) and maybe even with the almost extinct Charles mockingbird

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.
Back aboard we will navigate about 45 min to Champion Islet. There you can snorkel fantastically; if this is not your thing or if you prefer bird watching, alternatively you can make a dinghy-ride.

PM: While having lunch we will navigate back to Post Office Bay (about 1hr). Post your holiday greetings in the historical barrel, one of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s north coast (short displacement, wet landing) and relax. Explore by inflatable dinghy – or in your own pace by sea-kayak – another submerged crater rim around the bay of Baroness Lookout.
Overnight navigation: After dinner San Jose will cross-over to Santiago (about 7 hours north).
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: Champion Islet (Floreana)

Bottlenose dolphins frequently escort our passage to Champion Islet and you can see them from nearby jumping the wakes! It is just the prelude of an unforgettable snorkelling excursion. Galapagos sea lions turn under water into playful acrobats that become definitely the number one attraction. There are also lots of reef fish, and perhaps a Pacific green turtle.

An inflatable dinghy ride along the shoreline of this islet offers sightings of lots of sea birds that are endemic to the archipelago, including Galapagos penguins (at its extreme eastern distribution border; in danger of extinction), blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigatebirds and red-billed tropicbirds. swallow-tailed gulls and lava herons.
Most desired on every serious birder’s wish list is to get a glimpse of the Charles mockingbird on top of prickly pear cacti (take binoculars!). To the unschooled eye this unique variant may look hardly different to their relatives on other islands, but it is almost extinct (less than 250 birds, depending of dry or wet years); so you need some luck to spot it from seaside. This mockingbird is a scientific and historic key species because it put Darwin on track of his theory of ‘adaptive radiation’.

PM: Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout (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).

The arm of a submerged tuff cone protects the turquoise bay at Baroness Lookout. Besides Galapagos sea lions, Pacific green turtles and golden cownose rays you might spot Galapagos penguins! This is the only place in the south-eastern archipelago where some penguins reside; best chances however tomorrow on Bartolome or in the remote west on Fernandina and Isabela (Route A).
Climb the miniature basaltic cone of Baroness Lookout and dream away at the paradisiacal coast-scape. This viewpoint was the favourite spot of one of Floreana’s first colonists, the eccentric Baroness and self-proclaimed ‘Empress of Galapagos’ Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet, who even built her house a few meters behind. She and one of her lovers were the first in a series of mysterious disappearings and deaths in the 1930s.

Day 7 – Monday

After quite a long stretch northward, San Jose has anchored between two unique sites. Enjoy the famous, wild romantic panorama of Bartolome and make a ‘moonwalk’ on the barren lava flow of Sullivan Bay. The forces that have created these islands will impress you forever. Surrounding coral reefs give a second chance to meet endangered Galapagos penguins, and whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing!

Program:
AM: Another full day, largely dedicated to volcanism. After breakfast you will make an not yet too hot moonwalk across the solidified lava flow (guided walk, easy level; ca. 1,5km/1mi). You will be received aboard with a juice before snorkeling.
PM: After 15 minutes of navigation to approach nearby Bartolome you can enjoy your lunch buffet and prepare for fantastic shallow water snorkeling at the foot of Pinnacle Rock (alternative: walking around or relaxing on the beach).
As soon as the hottest hours have past you will 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).
Navigation: After dinner we will sail to the north coast of Santa Cruz (about 2:30 hrs south).
Additional options scuba-diving: Bartolome or Cousin Rocks (both advanced)

AM: Sullivan Bay (Santiago)

Setting foot at the lava stream covering Sullivan Bay is like landing on the moon. The desolate, stretched-out fields seem mostly lifeless, but there is enough to see on this highly popular site amongst photographers. Graphical bas-reliefs of rope-lava in the crust are unique to Galapagos and Hawaii.
There is even some life! Pacific green turtles seasonally burry eggs in the tiny white sand beach, where you may also encounter crabs, a strayed blue heron or oystercatcher. On the lava flow only sparse pioneer vegetation such as lava cacti and carpetweed can hold. You might encounter a lava lizardlocusts (!) or a small snake-species (Galapagos racer) hunting for them.

The barely eroded lava flow seems to have been solidified for short, and suggests that you are just able to set foot on it. The baking sun completes the sensation of heat. The winding and rippled pahoehoe rope-lava has preserved intriguing traces that tell flaming stories about vaporized leatherleaf trees and miniature cones of volcanic glass.
Distinctive tuff cones pockmark the new-formed lunatic landscape. Their rusty, oxidized colours and vegetation reveal that these are from an older generation. Originally these were volcano islets on their own that have become part of Santiago during latest eruption (1897), when the hot flood of ooze filled up large parts of the bay, which is the black crust you walk on. For the time being only the opposite islet of Bartolome escaped from incorporation. Ecologically these cones still can be considered as islands, though no longer surrounded by sea, but by wide infertile lava fields.

PM: 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.

Day 8 – Tuesday

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 A - 8 Days / 7 Nights

Around Isabela to the remote west

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

Our 7 nights western itinerary primarily explores the remote and exclusive western islands of Isabela and pristine Fernandina, which are both just recently born out of fire. After rounding Isabela clockwise we will return to the heart of the archipelago for several landings at Santiago and its satellite islets, before finishing on and around Santa Cruz and North Seymour. This cruise itinerary includes two nights of quiet rest at fairly calm anchorage-sites.

Though less frequented than popular central and south-eastern islands, this quiet west coast is truly exceptional. Become witness and walk at a short distance past some bizarre miracles of evolution, such as flightless cormorants, hugemarine iguanas and Galapagos penguins close to the equator. And discover how pioneer species conquer barren lava fields and create habitats for new colonist species.
On Santa Cruz you will have a full day to quest for emblematic giant Galapagos tortoises in the lush highlands and to learn more on their successful captured breeding programs in the Charles Darwin Research Center. En route you will also have chances to see emblematic and endemic Galapagos land iguanas, whitetip reef sharks, American flamingos and many more. In the overwhelming sea bird colony of North Seymour you can observe blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds from nearby, whilst courtshipping, mating, breeding, nurturing or learning to fly (depending the season).

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.

* Visitor’s sites of this route that are unique to our fleet (Galapagos Odyssey | Sailing Catamaran Nemo I | San Jose | Yolita II):
Wall of Tears & Vicente Roca Point (Isabela)

Day 1 – Tuesday

Bachas Beach is a pleasant start of your Galapagos visit, without the necessity to navigate a long stretch to come into 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 M/Y San Jose, check-in, lunch and the safety-drill you will have your first wet (bare feet) landing for your first guided stroll.
Before dinner your guide will give the first daily briefing, and the captain and his crew will present, and share a welcome toast.
Overnight navigation: At night the anchor will be lifted for first nightly crossing to Puerto Villamil on Isabela. Depending on the sea state we will navigate about 7 hours in western 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: 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 – Wednesday

First nightly crossing will bring you to Puerto Villamil. In the next few days San Jose 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).
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 tortoise breeding center and its botanical garden.

Program:
AM: Before the breakfast buffet (but after a snack) the inflatable dinghies will bring you to the Tintoreras islets.  The guided hike follows a rough volcanic rock trail (easy/moderate level) to the unique tidal channel. After breakfast aboard first time snorkeling is scheduled.
PM: After lunch aboard you will visit the local tortoise breeding centre in Puerto Villamil and the surrounding wetlands, with the bizarre historical ‘Wall of tears’ (national cultural heritage) and where American flamingos occur. At the end of the afternoon you will have some free time to explore the village and/or its beach.
Overnight navigation: After dinner the anchor is lifted for rounding the southern lob of Isabela to its far west coast (about 7 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: Wetlands (Isabela)

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 many 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!

PM: Wall of tears (Isabela)

The Wall of Tears (Muro de las Lagrimas) is one of the dark pages in Galapagos history. Until the archipelago was declared a valuable and strictly protected nature paradise, the least unlivable islands were in use as a penal colony, where many died. Last colony was near Puerto Villamil (1946-1959), where hundreds of banned prisoners were punished to build this bizarre and useless 100m/325ft long wall of lava clocks.

PM: Tortoise breeding centre (Isabela)

In Arnaldo Tupiza 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 – Thursday

On Day 3 and 4 you will explore some of the remotest visitor’s sites in Galapagos. 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. Perceive how pioneer vegetation progressively converts barren lava fields into lush oases and evergreen mangle forests, and is creating new habitats for specific species.

Program:
AM: After breakfast and a dry landing (with footwear) a guided hike crosses the crumbling, pitch black lava fields of Moreno Point (moderate level; about 2km/1.25mi). After a snack we either make an inflatable dinghy-ride or emerge ourselves first-time for snorkelling.
PM: At noon we will enter Bolivar Channel to Tagus Cove (navigation time: 3h). Meanwhile you can enjoy the delicious lunch buffet before snorkeling and island visit at Tagus Cove.
Navigation: At dinner-time we will cross to Fernandina, where we will anchor after about 45 min.

AM: Moreno Point (Isabela)

Moreno Point tells the continuing story of the famous lunatic lava fields of Sullivan Bay (Santiago, along our B-route and B5-route). 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: Tagus Cove (Isabela)

Right on the eastern shore of the Bolivar Channel are two tuff cones that contain ultra saline crater lakes: Tagus Cove and Beagle Crater. Both present spectacular layered cliffs at their sea faces with plenty nesting places for sea and coastal birds. From the inflatable dinghy you can observe marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and storm petrels. Flocks of blue-footed boobies and brown pelicans plunge dive from considerable altitudes.

Explosive eruptions have blown out a part of the outer rims of both tuff cones, and created their characteristic horseshoe shapes and Tagus Cove. The inner crater rim contains Darwin Lake (though Darwin looked in vain for fresh water in the adjacent crater lake). Traditionally sailors started to write the names of their vessels on the eastern cliffs of Tagus cove. The oldest graffiti dates back from 1836, a year after Darwin’s visit.

The hike along the inner crater ridge of Darwin Lake can be somewhat strenuous and hot. You can continue to a great viewpoint on the outer caldera rim, with views to the outstretched lava slopes of Darwin Volcano (1280m/4200ft). This arid inland zone is overgrown with characteristic tropical dry forest vegetation including a special variety of palo santo, Galapagos cotton and yellow cordia (muyuyu). During the hike you can spot different Darwin’s finches, flycatchers and Galapagos hawks.

Day 4 – Friday

Without any doubt Espinoza Point belongs to the more exclusive sites of the Galapagos National Park. Strictly protected 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. Vicente Roca Point is a distinct snorkeling spot in this archipelago, because of its cold water species.

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 to Vicente Roca Point (2 hrs), just at the mouth of Isabela’s imaginary seahorse-shape.
Overnight navigation: Before dinner we will start our longest 9 hour’s navigation around the north cape of Isabela (Albemarle Point) to Santiago (crossing the equator two times).

AM: Espinoza 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: Vicente Roca Point (Isabela)

The impressive cliffs and coves of Vicente Roca Point are an excellent backdrop for a thrilling dinghy ride. Whilst entering a dark cave below a spectacular arch, roaring echoes of the waves will accompany you. Just around the corner the collapsed amphitheatre of Volcan Ecuador offers another impressive view. Just 3 minutes of a degree south of the equator you can encounter a family of endemic Galapagos penguins (!) and flightless cormorants along the shoreline.

These rocks face thousands of kms/miles of open ocean and stand right on the edge of the submarine Galapagos platform. The Cromwell Current, an upwelling of nutrient-rich waters from the deep sea, makes this coast a magnet to all kinds of marine and birdlife. Against the higher walls perch and nest numerous seabirds, including blue-footed boobies, storm petrels and gulls.
The calmer waters of the coves are well-protected against the ocean swell and are a fairly cold, but distinctive place for snorkelling between other species of shark, penguins, puffer fish and even sea horses! Pacific sun fishes (mola mola) – with 2 metric tons the heaviest bone fish species – sometimes take a sunbath at the surface in this corner of the archipelago.

Day 5 – Saturday

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 and wet landing (bare feet) at Espumilla Beach a guided walk leads uphill and land inward (easy level; about 2km/1.25 mi). Afterwards you can explore Galapagos’ submarine world, which is even more varied than island life.
PM: At lunchtime we will navigate 12km/7 mi south to Puerto Egas with its famous fur seal grottos, where you will make another, very different guided walk along the coastline (easy level), and can snorkel a second time.
Navigation: After this impressive day we navigate before dinner to nearby Rabida, where you will pass the night floating (about 2 hours).

AM: 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 Buccaneers Cove we have a great snorkeling opportunity.

PM: 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).

Day 6 – Sunday

Add some colour to your picture album and enjoy the flaming brick-red beach and cliffs of Rabida if you’re lucky enough to experience an unforgettable sunrise. Stroll through large colonies of Galapagos sea lions and brown pelicans at this remarkable red beach.
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! Very close to the equator you will have a first opportunity to meet endangered Galapagos penguins; whilst snorkelling you might even encounter these agile hunters fishing! 

Program:
AM:  After breakfast and a ‘wet landing’ (barefeet) at the remarkable red beach of Rabida two short guided hikes are programmed (easy level; about 0,4+1 km/0.25+0.6 mi). On return you will be picked-up by the inflatable dinghies, to prepare yourself for snorkeling.
PM: Before lunch we navigate about 2 hours to Chinese Hat, another islet just out off the coast of Santiago, 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: Late afternoon we navigate in about 6 hours to the sheltered bay of Puerto Ayora, where you can enjoy a fairly quiet sleep.

AM: Rabida

The bay at the northern headland of Rabida holds a distinctive red beach, and is the only weak point in its shoreline, where it is not guarded by a rock barrier with giant prickly pear cacti. Oxidized iron particles give rocks and sand their rusty colour, that becomes even more intense short after sunrise and short before sunset. Get-up early to add some colour to your photo-album!

On landing a large bachelor colony of Galapagos sea lions will usually welcome you loudly. You can walk towards the cliffs at the end. The beach wall holds a shallow green-fringed lagoon; this oasis is most fertile place on the otherwise arid islet, which is overgrown with leaf-dropping palo santo trees. The salty pool attracts all kind of aquatic and wading birds, such as pintails (or Bahama ducks) and sometimes American flamingos (when there aren’t better foraging places). Between the evergreen foliage of the surrounding mangrove bushes a dazzling number of species of songbirds hide and breed.

Outstanding attraction is the major breeding colony of brown pelicans (one of the best in Galapagos). Their dull plumage becomes striking white with chestnut markings and a yellowish crown in the breeding season (seasonal; period shifts on our calendar). Their V-formations fly low above the surface of the sea. Brown pelicans are the only pelicans in the world that plunge-dive, though more superficial than the spectacular rocket like diving boobies.

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 will 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 – Monday

Without any doubt most-emblematic representatives of the archipelago are the Galapagos giant tortoises. Today is mainly dedicated to these slow, heavy weighted creatures on the central island of Santa Cruz. First you will visit the successful breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. And you will also have the opportunity to quest for a wild population in the lush highlands.

Program:
AM: After breakfast our dinghies will bring you to the touristic pier of Puerto Ayora, from where you will be brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Afterwards you usually can spend some free time in the cozy town, before having lunch aboard.
PM: In the afternoon you will return to shore and travel back and forth by private bus to the agricultural zone in the highlands to search for Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. Dinner aboard.
Overnight navigation: In the dead of the night the anchor will be lifted for navigation to North Seymour (about 4 hrs), where we will arrive short before sunrise.

AM: 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.

PM: 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.

Day 8 – Tuesday

Your cruise ends on North Seymour. It is one of the most visited sites of Galapagos, and that is not only because of it’s convenient proximity to Baltra airport (South Seymour). This tabletop islet is overloaded with most extensive colonies of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies of the archipelago, and there crawl Galapagos land iguanas around as well!

Program:
AM: Shortly after your wake-up call you will make a dry landing and a farewell guided walk across the sea bird’s colonies of North Seymour. After breakfast aboard it’s time say goodbye, leave the yacht and continue to the airport (unless you have booked an extension on the B-route).

AM: 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.

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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