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Galapagos Elite 7-Night Itinerary B

On board the luxury-class 16-passenger Galapagos Elite catamaran, this amazing 8-day/7-night Galapagos Islands cruise will take you to scenic eastern, central, northern and southern islands of the archipelago. With a wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities, this carefully planned itinerary will introduce you to scenic islands such as San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, where you can observe the island’s huge and emblematic Galapagos tortoises and land iguanas in their natural habitat. During this Galapagos Islands vacation, you will enjoy a flexible program that offers several alternative daily activities on land and in the water – but always amidst the stunning wealth of unique wildlife that inhabits these famous islands.

Reviews

“We loved every moment of our trip and could not have done it without Ligia and Surtrek. I highly recommend them!”Irene Alcock

Highlights

San Cristobal Island, Española Island, Santiago Island, Floreana Island

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Arrival at San Cristobal Island Airport – Tortoise Breeding Center (San Cristobal Island)
Day 2: Suarez Point – Gardner Bay (Española Island) / Gardner Island / Osborn Islet
Day 3: Cormorant Point – Champion Islet – Post Office Bay – Baroness’ Lookout (Floreana Island)
Day 4: Mosquera Island / Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
Day 5: Prince Phillip's Steps – Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)
Day 6: Espumilla Beach – Buccaneer Cove – Puerto Egas Beach (Santiago Island)
Day 7: Bachas Beach – Los Gemelos Twin Craters – Highlands (Santa Cruz Island)
Day 8: Kicker Rock – San Cristobal Island Airport (San Cristobal Island)
Galapagos Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - Saturday
Arrival at San Cristobal Island Airport – Tortoise Breeding Center (San Cristobal Island)

AM: In the morning, you will fly from either Quito or Guayaquil (on the Ecuadorian mainland) to the Galapagos Islands. At the airport on San Cristobal Island, after you will pay your entrance fee to the national park, a member of the Surtrek team will welcome you and accompany you to your ship: the Galapagos Elite Catamaran.

PM: One of the main attractions of San Cristobal Island is the Tortoise Breeding Center, where you will see enormous Galapagos tortoises, as well as iguanas. As the natural population of tortoises from San Cristobal Island is seriously threatened by animals introduced onto the island by humans – mainly wild goats, cats, and rats – the center is attempting to increase the number of tortoises as well as eradicate threatening species. Close to the center is an easy trail that covers a distance of 900 meters; along this trail, you will see different species of native and endemic plants of the Galapagos, like cat’s claw, manzanillo, romerillo, and acacia. Be careful not to touch or eat the manzanillo fruits, as these are toxic. San Cristobal Island is also one of the few islands where you can see the plant calandrinia galapagosa, which is in danger of extinction.

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Lunch - Dinner
Day 2 - Sunday
Suarez Point – Gardner Bay (Española Island) / Gardner Island / Osborn Islet

Española Island is the southernmost, oldest and one of the most bio-diverse islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Its English name is “Hood Island,” in honor of the British admiral Samuel Hood. Because of its isolated position, there is much endemic wildlife to be explored here – in addition to great snorkeling from Española’s remarkably beautiful beaches.

AM: After breakfast, we will go on an excursion to Suarez Point. One of the archipelago’s most outstanding wildlife areas, this site boasts a long list of species along its cliffs and its sand and pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds, the curious and bold Española Island mockingbirds are found here, as are other birding favorites that include Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks, Swallow-tailed gulls and the world’s largest colony of Waved albatross – an unequivocal highlight during mating season (May-December). Several types of reptiles are unique to this island, including the marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard. In fact, this is also the only site where you will be able to see “red” sea iguanas. In addition, when heavy swells are running, Suarez Point is the site of a spectacular blowhole whose thundering spray shoots 30 yards up into the air. The trek here is on a stony path about a mile long, though the duration of this excursion is about 3 hours.

Located on Española Island’s eastern shore, Gardner Bay is noted for its turquoise-colored waters and its magnificent beach, which we will visit in this morning. Around the bay’s small nearby islets, snorkelers will find an abundance of fish, as well as the occasional sea turtle and benign sharks. The bay is also frequented by a transient colony of Galapagos sea lions who love to swim with people. Birds, like the endemic Española mockingbird and different species of Darwin finches, are omnipresent.

PM: Following lunch on board the catamaran, we will sail to small Gardner Island, situated across from Espanola Island’s Gardner Bay and lined with vertical cliffs that drop to sandy ledges and large boulders. We will go snorkeling here, where you are likely to encounter the smallest of the Galapagos garden eels, Snake eels, as well as Black-spotted morays, Galapagos puffer fish, Scorpionfish, Trumpetfish, cornetfish and Red-lipped batfish. You will be able to see plenty of sea lions lying lazily on the beach. On the north end of the island are twisting tunnels, and to the south are caves, which all make for a remarkable excursion. The area has an abundance of fish including schools of snappers, Creole fish, King Angelfish, large Pufferfish, and a variety of sea urchins and sea stars.

We will also ride around Osborn Islet, located close to Española Island. It is made of volcanic rock and is a popular fishing site among local small-scale fishers. On this Galapagos islet, you will have a chance to go snorkeling and see schools of tropical fish, Manta rays, Green turtles, Surgeonfish, Sea urchins, and starfish. 

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 3 - Monday
Cormorant Point – Champion Islet – Post Office Bay – Baroness’ Lookout (Floreana Island)

Today we will visit Floreana Island, considered one of the most exotic in the Galapagos archipelago. Countless legends are part of the history of this island, as pirates and buccaneers were drawn to here in search of for food and water. Later the island was colonized by Norwegians, Brits, Germans and others who were in search of ways to make money from what they hoped to discover here. The name Floreana is in honor of Juan Jose Flores, Ecuador’s first president.

AM: This morning’s excursion is to the Cormorant Point visitor site. After a wet landing on the beach, we will go down a 100-meter-long path to a mangrove lagoon that is home to Galapagos ducks, black herons, oystercatchers, and plovers. With a little bit of luck, you might also see flamingos. Another path leads to a small beach that is an important nesting site for sea turtles. In the shallow water there, one can often find stingrays and Whitetip reef sharks.

The next spot is Champion Islet. Though the island itself is off limits to visitors, the waters around this small landmass are great places to snorkel with sea lions and to see colorful tropical fish. Occasionally, dolphins are sighted as boats approach the shore, and the cool currents here make Champion an excellent site for spotting schools of stingrays.

PM: Later we will visit Post Office Bay, where the legendary post barrel that whalers historically used to put their mail in is still kept. After a wet landing, you can walk just off the beach to leave a letter here in hopes that it will make to its destination via another tourist. …So don’t forget to bring postcards along. Snorkelers can take a dip on the main beach among the playful sea lions and green sea turtles.

Next, we will visit the Baroness’ Lookout Point, where the controversial “Baroness” Eloisa de Wagner – one of the first human inhabitants in the Galapagos Islands – would spend several hours daily observing whales and dolphins.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 4 - Tuesday
Mosquera Island / Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)

AM: Today we will anchor off Mosquera Island, which is located near Itabaca Channel and in between the Baltra and Seymour islands. The island consists of a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks, and small lagoons with large populations of sea lions (in fact, this is one of the best places to take photos of these aquatic mammals). After a wet landing, a stroll down the beach will also permit views of Brown pelicans and Blue-footed boobies.

PM: This afternoon we will head for one of the most visited spots in the islands. Located on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is primarily an international scientific research station situated on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. You will be taken to its visitor center to learn about the geology, climate, natural history and the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. However, the highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles can live up to 150- 200 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. Approaching them in their humid and forested spaces is always an inspiring adventure. For decades, the Fausto Center was home to “Lonesome George,” who finally died in 2012 as the last of his particular species. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to humans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them. Remember that looking at the animals is allowed, but touching is not, and it’s absolutely forbidden to jump over the walls or open the pen doors at any time. 

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 5 - Wednesday
Prince Phillip's Steps – Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)

Our destination for today is Genovesa Island, considered one of the wildest and most pristine islands in Galapagos National Park. Known as “Bird Island,” Genovesa is one of the few places in the islands where you can see Red-footed boobies.

AM: In the morning, we will go ashore at a crater wall where Prince Phillip’s Steps are located. These stairs were carved in the stone wall and lead up to a wide plateau where you will find nesting places of Great frigatebirds, Red-billed tropicbirds, Bahama ducks, Lava seagulls and Fork-tailed seagulls. During this easy stroll, we will cut through a small scalesia forest where you might observe short-eared owls. With a little bit of luck, you will also be able to observe the unique courtship rituals carried out by the various booby species (Red- and Blue-footed as well as Masked boobies). It truly is a show.

PM: Following lunch on board the Elite, and after a wet landing from Genovesa Island’s Darwin Bay, we will walk along a short path that leads to the nesting sites of booby and frigatebird colonies. On the beach, you can observe the interesting spectacle of how frigate birds try to rob the prey of different species of boobies.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 6 - Thursday
Espumilla Beach – Buccaneer Cove – Puerto Egas Beach (Santiago Island)

Today, we will land on the fourth largest island in the Galapagos: Santiago Island, also known as “James Island” or “San Salvador Island.” The old rusted machines and run-down buildings of former salt mine workers are still apparent on the island, though the last attempts to populate Santiago Island were given up on forty years ago.

AM: Following breakfast on board the Galapagos Elite, will visit Santiago Island’s Espumilla Beach, where marine iguanas relax and sea turtles nest. While snorkeling, you might come upon octopuses, morays and many types of tropical fish. There is also a Palo Santo forest close to this beach.

From there we will go to Buccaneer Cove, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was a shelter for pirates, whalers, and sailors. The bay is surrounded by high tuff cliffs where many sea-bird nests. In the cliffs, you can try to find two rock formations that look like a monkey and an elephant.

PM: This afternoon we will make a wet landing on Santiago’s Puerto Egas Beach. Its black volcanic sand was visited by Darwin in 1835 and still maintaining an abundance of marine iguanas. After a short walk of about 2 km along the coast, we will reach the rugged lava coastline of James Bay. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago’s shores is home to a variety of resident and migrant birds, including the bizarre Yellow-crowned Night-heron and an astounding array of marine wildlife – including lobsters, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water pools formed by volcanic rocks are another highlight.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 7 - Friday
Bachas Beach – Los Gemelos Twin Craters – Highlands (Santa Cruz Island)

AM: This morning, we will arrive on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where we will visit the long and sandy Las Bachas Beach, one of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles. Here you can also find flamingos, Black-winged stilts, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, and — with a little bit of luck — tiny Galapagos penguins. In addition, this beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs 3 or 4 times with an average of 70 eggs each, but they then spend 3 to 5 years without breeding. At this paradisiacal site, we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago; these were once the property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II. In fact, the beach got its name because the English word “barges” was hard to pronounce for the local people – hence “Bachas” Beach. You will also have the opportunity to swim on this soft white sand beach or explore the fascinating underwater by snorkeling.

After Bachas Beach, we will go to the Santa Cruz Highlands and see the twin “Los Gemelos” craters, which will be explained by your naturalist guide. These craters are surrounded by scalesia forest, where also live Ruby tyrants and small and large Tree finches.

PM: While on Santa Cruz Island, we will also visit the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where the lush landscape is a welcome contrast to the arid scenery of the smaller, lower islands. On the way, we will cross through different vegetation zones – from the dry lower region full of cactuses to the scalesia woods in the Highlands. There one can find two small agricultural communities that grow the famous organic Galapagos coffee. While in the Highlands, you will have the option of visiting one of two tortoise-breeding centers: El Chato or Rancho Las Primicias. At either site, approaching these enormous and slow-moving reptiles is always an inspiring adventure. The El Chato tortoise reserve was founded in 1964 to allow visitors to observe the island’s huge Galapagos turtles and White herons in their natural habitat. You will also be able to walk through nearby underground lava tunnels formed during volcanic eruptions. As the outside of the lava hardened, the inside continued to flow to the ocean, creating these tunnels. Alternatively, Rancho Primicias is a great place to see about ten to fifteen Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. In addition to being able to view the ocean from this location in the Highlands, you can walk through a lava cave that was formed by a volcanic eruption.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 8 - Saturday
Kicker Rock – San Cristobal Island Airport (San Cristobal Island)

AM: In the morning, we will follow the route that Charles Darwin once took and sail around the massive tuff-rock called “Kicker Rock,” which is a nesting site for hosts of seabirds. Here, you will be able to find Blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds. This is a great site for scuba diving, and hammerhead sharks can be seen in the area.

PM: From the dock on San Cristobal Island, we will take a short bus ride to the airport for your flight back to the mainland. Enjoy the last view of the “enchanted islands,” a unique paradise with fascinating natural highlights.

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Breakfast

Prices

2019 - Price per person
RoomGolden Suite
8 DaysUS$ 7,829
Price per person based upon double occupancy.
Included in the price:
  • Airport/yacht/airport transfers in the Galapagos Islands
  • Airport reception and assistance
  • Double or single accommodations
  • Guided excursions, according to the itinerary
  • Top-notch bilingual (English / Spanish) National Park guide(s)
  • Services of a cruise service officer
  • Daily activity briefings
  • All meals and snacks
  • Soft drinks and juices
  • Glass of house wine for dinners
  • Captain’s Welcome and farewell cocktails
  • Supplied expedition gear (transparent sea kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling equipment, [mask, snorkel & fins], wet suits, excursion bag, water container
Not included in the price:
  • Round trip to/from the Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos National Park Entrance fee
  • Transit Control Card
  • Alcoholic and bottled beverages
  • Tips and gratuities for guide and crew
  • Travel and health insurance (highly recommended)
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