Exploring the wildlife wonderland of the isolated Galápagos Islands—Ecuador’s volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean—is a life-changing experience. Teeming with unique plant and animal species, many found nowhere else on the planet, these Enchanted Islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and have thrilled travelers ever since.
After arrival at Baltra Airport, shuttle to Santa Cruz Island to see a wide variety of wildlife and geology—from the coast to the mist-covered forests of the highlands. Most all land birds present on the islands can be found here, whether it’s the bright red Vermilion Flycatcher or one of Darwin’s finches. Descending to where the Tortoise Reserve is located, we stop for lunch at a ranch in the midst of the iconic Giant Tortoises to see them up close. Afterward, visit a tunnel formed by lava from a volcanic eruption and travel to Puerto Ayora for the rest of the day at leisure.
After breakfast, a short ride to the Isabela Breeding Center to learn how the Giant Tortoises species are being preserved. Later we walk along a mangrove path that connects to a series of lagoons where flamingos rest and feed. Lunch in a local restaurant followed by a visit to Isle of Tintoreras where the turquoise, crystalline waters are inhabited by the white-tipped reef sharks, Galápagos penguins, marine turtles, and sea lions. One of its beaches, surrounded by mangroves is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully. (B)
Today we go to “Los Tuneles” by speed boat to see tunnels that were formed millions of years ago when the island was flooded with rivers of magma. Our guide will join us along hundreds of tunnels while we snorkel among marine life such as sharks, lobsters, penguins, sea lions, boobies, marine turtles and other endemic species of the Galápagos. A snack will be served on board our boat. If lucky, we will see giant manta rays feeding in open water. Afternoon return to Isabela for accommodation in your selected hotel. (B)
After driving along the highland of Isabela we travel to the Sierra Negra Volcano with the second widest crater of an active volcano. The hike is a little over a mile up to the first lookout point of the volcano, where we enjoy a snack and an amazing view. Later, return to Puerto Villamil for lunch before boarding the private speedboat back to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Evening free to enjoy and explore this interesting town for the last night in the Enchanted Islands. (B)
After breakfast, we will have a short visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where legendary “Lonesome George” is exhibited as the last of his species and as a symbol of conservation.
Afterward, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)