Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal [Chatham] Island)
Arrival by plane to San Cristóbal Island and transfer to the M/V Santa Cruz, anchored at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the provincial capital of the Galápagos Islands. Cabin assignment and lunch. After lunch, introductory talk.
Interpretation Centre and Cerro Tijeretas (San Cristóbal Island)
In the afternoon, disembark at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (dry landing) and visit the Interpretation Centre where visitors will acquire a greater understanding of Galápagos’ uniqueness throughout informative visual aids. From the Interpretation Centre, we stroll along an easy boardwalk to the north shore of San Cristóbal, to the site considered as the spot where Darwin set foot for first time on Galápagos in 1835. A bust of the naturalist was placed there to commemorate this event. This area is teeming with life: Darwin finches, San Cristóbal mockingbirds, marine iguanas, sea lions, etc. Hills frame this turquoise bay, home to two species of frigates. Return on board. Welcome cocktail, expedition plan for Saturday and dinner.
Cerro Brujo (San Cristóbal Island)
A dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes guests to Cerro Brujo's white coralline beach (wet landing). The beach is a large expanse, great for walking, with rewarding bird watching with good views of seabirds like blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, herons, frigate birds, and more shore birds. Also, look out for Galápagos sea lions. Highlights ashore include the Chatham (San Cristóbal) mockingbird, Chatham lava lizard; both species are endemic to this island, and seen nowhere else in the Galápagos. Cerro Brujo is an excellent site for acquainting oneself with snorkelling gear and techniques. Back on board for lunch.
Punta Pitt (San Cristóbal Island)
In the afternoon, disembark (wet landing) on the eastern tip of the island. Pitt Point is an eroded tuff cone; the trail that ascends from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline. After the walk, if conditions are favourable, there is a chance to swim from the beach or snorkel at the nearby islets. Expedition plan for Sunday and dinner.
Santa Fe Island
After breakfast, a wet landing on a sandy white beach with many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right of “Beach Master”, while smaller males masquerading as females make stealthy mating moves. The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name with tree-sized trunks! The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the afternoon walk. Snorkelling and swimming or if guests prefer, the glass bottom boat for non-snorkellers. Lunch on board.
South Plaza Island
Disembark (dry landing) in the channel between North and South Plaza Islands, where the island tilts toward the water, the approach makes for a lavishly colourful sight! The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange ‘Sally Lightfoot’ crabs. Further up the shore a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-grey land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop. Expedition plan for Monday and dinner.
Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
Morning disembarkation (dry landing) visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, including tortoise celebrities like “Lonesome George” within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Lunch at the poolside of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel.
Highlands of Santa Cruz Island
After lunch, visit the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, with their impressive Scalesia forest and the geological formation of the twin pit craters known as Los Gemelos. From December to mid-April a visit to see the giant tortoises in the wild may be included, if weather conditions are good. Return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the M/V Santa Cruz. Tuesday’s expedition plan and dinner.
Punta Suárez (Española (Hood) Island)
Morning outing at Punta Suárez (dry landing) for an exciting walk on lava/boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including waved albatrosses (April - December), Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tail gulls as well as a view of the Galápagos famous “blow-hole”. Among its land birds, the Hood island mockingbird, Galápagos hawks, Galápagos doves and three species of Darwin’s finches are common highlights. Also, look for red-green-black marine iguanas. Back on board for lunch.
Gardner Bay (Española Island)
In the afternoon, disembark (wet landing) at a white coral beach for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds, finches or enjoy the beach. There is great snorkelling in this area, or a ride aboard the glass-bottom boat. Departure briefing, Farewell Cocktail and dinner.
Disembark at Baltra Island. Transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the continent.