This is a luxurious cruise to the highlights of the Galapagos archipelago. With the very comfortable cruise ship MV ISABELLA II you will enjoy Galapagos with the best guides and the best of comfort. There will be special arrangements for the birding group to see Mangrove Finch and the highland specialties on Santa Cruz.
Day 1: Tuesday.
Baltra Island Morning arrival to Baltra Island by TAME flight and immediate transfer to the dock to board the ISABELA II. Welcome introductory briefing and lunch.
North Seymour Island Afternoon disembarkation (dry landing) for a walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing bird colonies of Blue-footed Boobies, Magnifescent Frigatebirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls and also sea lions and marine iguanas. A shorter walk is also available. Welcome Cocktail offered by the Captain. Naturalist's briefing on the next day's activities and dinner.
Day 2: Wednesday
It is still a bit unclear whether the ship stays overnight at San Cristobal island. (There are members of th ecrew that have their families there so they may get a free night). If this is the case we shall try to get half an hour on land to tick off Chatham Mocking bird that can easily be found near the Museum of Natural History and Interpretation Center clsoe to the port.
Gardner Bay (Hood Island, Española)
After breakfast, disembark (wet landing) at a white coral beach where you can take a short walk and watch the sea lions, Hood Mockingbirds, finches or enjoy the beach.. There is great snorkeling in this area (snorkeling equipment is available for guests at no extra cost), or ride the glass-bottom boat around Gardner or Tortuga islets.
Punta Suárez (Hood Island, Española)
Afternoon dry landing for an exciting walk on lava terrain with Hood Mockingbird and Large Cactus-Finch to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the Waved Albatrosses (May - December), Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Swallow-tailed Gull, Red-billed Tropicbird and the famous blowhole. Naturalist's briefing and dinner.
Day 3: Thursday
Point Cormorant (Floreana Island)
After breakfast, disembark at Point Cormorant (wet landing) for an easy walk to see the endemic subspecies (potential split) of Great Flamingo that inhabit a brackish-water lagoon, and other birds like White-cheeked Pintail, Black-necked Stilt and other waders. There is great snorkeling from the beach or near by, at the Devil's Crown. It should be possible to circle the small island Champion to see the endemic Charles Mockingbird. Lunch on board. Post Office Bay (Floreana Island) Wet landing at the historical Post Office Bay to learn about the human side of the islands, its early inhabitants and the adventures of pirates and whalers. Then, a panga ride will take you to nearby islets to observe sea lions, rays and sea turtles, boobies and possibly the Galapagos penguin. Naturalist's briefing and dinner. The above is the scheduled cruise program. However, we shall try to persuade the operators to instead take us to Floreana's highlands to look for the endemic Medium Tree-Finch.
Day 4: Friday
Santa Cruz Island
We shall do an early start to visit highlands of Santa Cruz for the Galapagos Rail and the Pain-billed Crake and many Darwin-Finches. From December to mid-April a visit to see the giant tortoises in the wild may be included, if weather conditions are good. Lunch at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. Afternoon visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest and many land birds. Then a stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora before embarking on the ISABELA II.. Naturalist's briefing and dinner.
Day 5: Saturday
Darwin Bay (Tower Island)
Morning wet landing for an easy stroll observing thousands of bird life, mainly frigate birds, red footed and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches, including Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch and mockingbirds. If you wish you can continue walking over sharp lava and uneven terrain, or just go back to the beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at this beautiful natural harbor. Those most adventurous can look for Hammerhead sharks, snorkeling along the cliffs. Lunch on board. Prince Philip's Steps (Tower Island) The afternoon starts with a very interesting panga ride along the cliffs and then disembark (dry landing) on rocks for a steep climb (90 feet) and then a leveled walk for about a mile to the other side of this small island observing large colonies of masked boobies, frigate birds, storm petrels and the short-eared owl. Naturalist's briefing and dinner.
Day 6: Sunday
Early Early risers will enjoy cruising right in front of famous Ecuador Volcano, which rises off the water line with one of its halves completely collapsed, and now resting underwater, while crossing the Equator line.
Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)The morning brings us to the youngest island, Fernandina. Disembark (dry landing) for a one-mile walk. Punta Espinoza has an amazing combination of barrenness with lots of wildlife. Having no introduced mammals, Fernandina has a very unique environment with the highest density of marine iguanas, sharing their space with sea lions, sally-light foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant. Lunch on board.
Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)
While the other passenger visit Tagus Cove, the birders will try to persuade a panga driver to take us to see Mangrove Finch.
On the northwest of Isabela, secluded Tagus Cove was in past centuries a favorite anchor for pirates and whalers. Old graffiti is still found on its walls. The vegetation in the area includes the unusual Palo Santo trees. These white-barked trees are leafless and look dead most of the year. They leaf out and spring back to life in the short wet season, which usually begins in March or April. An uphill hike through palo santo forest takes guests to the back of Darwin Crater, filled with salt water. The view at the end of the trail is worth the climb. Darwin is one of Isabela?s six volcanoes, a remarkable contrast to the lower islands to the east of the archipelago. Naturalist?s briefing and dinner.
Day 7: Monday
Puerto Egas (James Island)
Wet landing for a mid-length walk. Most of the landscape is tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and there is a colony of fur-sea lions. Good snorkeling and swimming from the beach after the walk. Lunch on board. Bartolome Island Disembark at Bartolome Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit. This is a steep climb aided by a wooden staircase; the view from the top is worth the effort. There will be time for a panga ride around Pinnacle Rock to observe penguins, to enjoy the beach (wet landing), snorkeling and swimming from the beach, or a ride on the glass-bottom boat. Farewell cocktail and departure briefing.
Day 8: Tuesday
After breakfast, departure to the port and airport to take the flight back to the continent.