Wonders of the Galápagos Islands: A Voyage of Discovery
Sail aboard the M.V. Santa Cruz and discover every nature lover's dream come to life on the Galápagos Islands
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The Galápagos Islands comprise a mysterious landscape of wonder, beauty, and the most unusual wildlife found anywhere on Earth. Each day this fascinating World Heritage site offers fresh vistas and astounding wildlife, including Blue-footed Boobies, sea lions, seals, Sally Lightfoot crabs, penguins, flamingoes, and giant land tortoises. Learn about this amazing destination, made famous by Charles Darwin, from a highly qualified team of experts, including Carol Simon and Howard Topoff, as you enjoy a four-night cruise aboard our ship, which is outfitted with a fleet of Zodiacs, glass-bottom boat, and snorkeling gear. Although our schedule is dependent on weather, sea conditions, and National Park Service regulations, your Galápagos voyage will be an exciting adventure. Plus, during two days in Quito, you’ll enjoy a tour featuring the Old City, a World Heritage site, and an excursion to the Equator. An optional six-night Peru extension is also available.
Day 1 — U.S./Quito, Ecuador
Fly to Quito and transfer to the HILTON COLON QUITO, ideally located near one of the city’s colorful markets. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, yet only miles from the equator, the city is known for its magnificent Spanish colonial architecture and lively street life.
Day 2 — Quito
Quito is a city of startling contrasts, where thousands of years of native South American tradition are interwoven with imported Catholicism, the Spanish language and European culture. Quaint family-owned shops and open-air markets are steps away from gleaming skyscrapers and ornate Spanish Baroque-style cathedrals favored by the Conquistadors. On the city tour, visit the Museo Nacional del Banco Central’s Archaeological Gallery and Golden Court and the noble, 16th-century Iglesia (Church) de San Francisco. Continue to the heart of Quito, a World Heritage site, and see the Moorish-influenced Catedral Metropolitana and Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesus, renowned for its lavish interiors decorated with an estimated seven tons of gold leaf.
This evening, attend a private Welcome Reception in the hotel. (B,R)
Day 3 — Quito
Journey to the Equatorial Monument at zero degrees latitude. Stand with one foot in each hemisphere in the “middle of the world,” where an 18th-century multinational expedition located the equator and established for the first time an accurate measurement of the earth’s size. Step inside the hundred-foot-tall pyramidal monument to this endeavor and tour the Ethnographic Museum, ten levels of exhibits illustrating the diversity of Ecuador’s indigenous peoples. Afterward, enjoy lunch in a restaurant with a view of the vast Pululahua volcanic crater. (B)
Day 4 — Quito, Baltra, Galápagos Islands, Santa Cruz
Fly to the small Galápagos island of Baltra. Embark the M.V. SANTA CRUZ in time for lunch, followed by your first briefing by the English-speaking Ecuadorian naturalists.
Santa Cruz Island’s alluring white beaches, giant prickly pear cactus forests, vibrantly colored flamingos and prehistoric-looking iguanas make it an ideal introduction to the archipelago. Cruise aboard Zodiacs along beautiful mangrove-lined islets and seek out blue- and red-footed boobies, great frigate birds and brown pelicans. Make a landing in the surf at Las Bachas Beach, and explore a small lagoon favored by elegant wading birds, including black-necked stilts and golden eagles. Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Please note that the M.V. Santa Cruz’s specific itinerary and cruise pattern is dependent on weather, sea conditions and Galápagos National Park Service regulations.
Day 5 — Santiago
Enjoy the scenic beauty of Santiago Island’s Buccaneer Cove surrounded by dramatic volcanic cliffs where hundreds of sea birds perch. Go ashore for a closer look at wildlife, much like the British pirates, sailors and whalers did in the 18th and 19th centuries while using this protected harbor as a safe haven, making repairs and gathering salt, fresh water and firewood.
Later, in Puerto Egas at low tide, walk beside the best tide pools in the Galápagos. Look for land iguanas and marine iguanas—the world’s only seagoing iguanas—grazing on algae beds along the rocky shore. Nearby, observe fur seals and sea lions swimming in the grotto’s turquoise pools. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Rábida, Bartolomé
Make a wet landing on the mesmerizing red sands of Rábida Island. Walk among sea lions and marine iguanas and see a variety of birds, including mockingbirds, yellow warblers and nine species of Darwin’s legendary finches. Continue inland to the island’s unique saltwater pond to search for its famous bright pink flamingos.
This afternoon, make a dry landing on the tiny isle of Bartolomé. From the top of Cerro Bartolomé, enjoy unsurpassed views of lunar-like craters, mangroves and lava formations. Particularly impressive is Pinnacle Rock, a jagged tower of honeycombed stone that extends 225 feet into the air. Below, the island’s pristine beaches and sparking clear water are ideal for swimming and watching the antics of tropical penguins. Also, look for dolphins, manta rays and an abundance of colorful sea creatures from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Genovesa
The remote northern island of Genovesa offers unforgettable bird-watching in the archipelago and is home to the world’s largest colony of red-footed boobies. Following a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps, walk up to a broad lava flow overlooking the sea, one of the best places to see the masked faces of Nazca boobies and flurries of tiny storm petrels swirling above.
Cruise into Darwin Bay, inhabited by fur seals, hammerhead sharks and swallow-tailed gulls, and make a wet landing for a more leisurely stroll on a coral beach. Among the prickly pear cacti, saltbush and red mangroves, look for magnificent frigate birds, yellow-crowned night herons and four types of Darwin’s finches. Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Day 8 — San Cristóbal, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Upon arrival at San Cristóbal, where Darwin first landed in 1835, and view the giant tortoises—the largest in the world—at the Cerro Colorado breeding station. These remarkable creatures, while reaching weights of up to 900 pounds, are born with soft shells vulnerable to invasive nonnative species. The station protects the young tortoises until they are able to survive in their natural habitat.
Then fly to Guayaquil and enjoy dinner with wine in the deluxe HILTON COLÓN HOTELbefore your late-evening departure to the U.S., or overnight in Guayaquil to continue on to the Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley Post-Tour Option. (B,D)
Day 9 — Guayaquil/U.S.
Arrive in the U.S.
Post-Tour Option is available at additional cost. Details will be included with your reservation confirmation.
All program features are contingent upon final brochure pricing.