Our 5-night southeastern itinerary visits the most popular sites of the Galapagos and combines the spectacular seabird colonies of Española and North Seymour. The southwestern islands are geologically older, eroded and overgrown, with almost extinguished volcanic activity. Striking beaches of white coral sand are favourite places for large colonies of Galapagos sea lions and surround breathtaking azure- coloured bays. This varied route is characterised by relatively shorter nightly navigations and even two nights of quiet rest at calm anchorage-sites. This cruise begins on San Cristobal, with lots of Galapagos sea lions occupying the harbour of the Galapagos’ capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You will cross the highlands to visit the local Galapagos giant tortoise breeding centre. The next day you will get the chance to walk through the waved albatross and booby colonies on Española, and observe sunbathing marine iguanas. The northern cape of Floreana contains a lagoon where exotic American flamingos used to breed. Nearby Devil’s Crown is one of the most popular snorkel sites of the Galapagos! Heading to the heart of the archipelago, you will visit the extraordinary Santa Fe and South Plaza, both unmissable highlights (both with land iguanas and giant opuntia cactus trees). We conclude with the thriving booby- and frigate colonies on North Seymour, a beach stroll on Bachas Beach and an inflatable dinghy-ride along or landing on Mosquera, all three close to Baltra, from where you will fly back.
- Experienced professional guides.
- Visit of the turtoise breeding center and Colorado Hill
- Land at two uninhabited islands on one day: Santa Fe and South Plaza
- Blue footed booby, cormorant and albatross
- See Galapagos fur seals on the seldomly visited island Mosquera
- Plenty of snorkelling opportunities
ITINERARY IN BRIEF:
Day 1: San Cristobal - Cerro Colorado - Puerto Chino Beach
Day 2: Punta Suarez - Gardner Bay
Day 3: Punta Cormorant - Devil's Crown - Baroness Lookout - Post Office
Day 4: Santa Fe - South Plaza
Day 5: North Seymour - Bachas beach
Day 6: Mosquera - Baltra airport
NOTE: Long itineraries are the combination of short ones; please let us know if you would like to book a long cruise.
San Cristobal Island
AM: Arrival at San Cristóbal Airport
At San Cristóbal Airport you will have to pay your Galapagos National Park entrance fee and your luggage will be inspected. After meeting your naturalist guide and fellow passengers in the arrivals hall, you will be transferred to the harbour of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Our inflatable dinghy will bring you the last stretch to the yacht.
PM: Colorado Hill (San Cristóbal)
The only (unpaved) road into the highlands of San Cristóbal passes the formal sugarcane plantation and penal colony El Progreso and a row of ecological wind generators on a ridge. It then reaches the highest parts of the agricultural zone and El Junco Lagoon, one of the few sweet water lagoons in the archipelago. Colorado Hill is on the descent to the southern coast.
The giant tortoise breeding centre on Colorado Hill bears the official name Galapaguero Jacinto Gordillo, but in daily use it is simply named after the red hill on which it is located. This and similar breeding centres on Santa Cruz and Isabela are the most comfortable
places where you can see Galapagos giant tortoises. All of the centres are created with the intention of rescuing these endangered giants by collecting their eggs in the wild, reproduction in captivity and repopulation once the hatchlings are big enough and less vulnerable to predators. This centre works with the local subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoises (out of ca. 11 remaining subspecies in total; scientists disagree about the number, and also if the San Cristóbal subspecies should be considered as a distinct species).
Around the large corral, there is also an interpretive botanical trail and an interesting visitor’s centre. In here the natural history of the local giant tortoises is explained to you; including the relationship and evolutional differences between these and other (sub) species. On the trail you can spot songbirds as well, such as yellow warblers, endemic Galapagos large-billed flycatchers and the Chatham mockingbird (even ‘more’ endemic, while unique to this island alone), which put Darwin on track of his evolution theory. (L. D.) (Private Transfer) (Shared Guide)
AM: Suarez Point (Española)
Huge ocean waves crash onto the southern basaltic cliffs of Suarez Point, forming a spectacular blowhole, where the water sprays metres high into the air (depending on the season, the tide and how strongly the sea breeze pushes the waves). Take your time to enjoy a meditative break in silence on this emblematic viewpoint, and convert this unforgettable moment into a once-in-a- lifetime experience.
Española marine iguanas become bright red with a turquoise-coloured crest and legs at the start of the breeding season (starting from Christmas). Hood lava lizards are the largest of the 7 endemic species in the islands, as well as the mockingbirds, which have turned to carnivorous behaviour! The successful rebred endemic Galapagos giant tortoise population resides on a site that is closed to tourism.
For most of their lives, waved albatrosses soar far out at sea and only come onto dry land to breed and nurture their huge chicks (March-December). This spectacular seabird is the only tropic albatross, and it is considered a critically endangered species. It only breeds on Española (besides some strayed individuals on Isla de La Plata, Machalilla National Park, close to the Ecuadorian coast). If you’re there at the right time (especially in October, though also noticeable in other months) you will be able to admire their synchronous courtship dances, which include bowing, whistling and even a stylised form of ‘sword fighting’ with their bills! Suarez Point also forms the massive breeding site for Nazca and blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Especially during the food-abundant garúa-
season (2nd half of the year) you can admire amusing courtship dances, mating, breeding, emerging from the eggs, nurturing or first flight-attempts. Blue-footed boobies don’t breed in the middle of the trail. You will walk just a few metres away from seabirds and marine iguanas of the islands, making you feel like you’re within a busting nature documentary!
PM: Gardner Bay (Española)
The striking white beach at Gardner Bay is an important
breeding site for Pacific green turtles. But without doubt its main attraction is the Galapagos sea lion colony. Females stay year-round in this nursery, suckling their pups up to an age of 3 years old, although they already start to learn how to fish after 5 months. During the breeding- and mating season the colony becomes even more populous. The strongest bachelors and elder males return from their secluded bases and start again to conquer and defend a part of the 1300 m / 4250 ft. long beach. Pregnant females choose the best territory to give birth, and will mate again with their landlord within a month. (B. L. D.) (Shared Guide)
AM: Devil’s Crown (Floreana)
With no less than five sea currents, the marine reserve is even more diverse than the archipelago above sea level. For many, Devil’s Crown is the number one snorkelling site on the Galapagos, and maybe even one of the main highlights of your cruise. The jagged crater rim just protrudes sea level, and is continually beaten by the waves. The depth and very transparent waters of this deep-water snorkelling site gives you the sensation that you’re flying. It is like plunging into a huge tropical aquarium, swimming amidst schools of thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish, such as yellowtail surgeon fishes and king angelfishes, and many other species. Sometimes a Pacific green turtle or Galapagos sea lion will swim past; and don’t be scared when you might come across a scalloped hammerhead shark! On the bottom you can distinguish resting white tip reef sharks, different species of ray and starfishes. The inner walls of the crater rim are coated with coral formations and protected against the surf. Above sea level the dramatic decor of the jagged crater rim provides living space for lots of coastal birds, including lava gulls, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, brown pelicans, and red-billed tropicbirds, which look for protected nesting places in caves or ledges under a rock overhang (and can fight out spectacular air battles). The opposite land head of Floreana is a nesting place for magnificent frigate birds, where you could also head for.
AM: Cormorant Point (Floreana)
Please don’t expect to spot the flightless cormorant at Cormorant Point, on the northern coast of Floreana. This emblematic example of evolution lives exclusively in the remote west of the Galapagos on Fernandina and Isabela. Instead, this is one of the best places on the
Galapagos to observe American flamingos among
other aquatic birds, such as pintails (or Bahama
ducks). Its salty lagoon houses a breeding colony
of dozens of these elegant and exotic, but nervous waders. Although, when breeding is done and the lagoon dries up, the flamingos tend to be on the move to look for shrimps and algae from other saline lakes.
The peninsula of Cormorant Point forms the extreme north cape of Floreana, which is pockmarked by numbers of smaller volcanic cones and covered by tropical dry forest (predominantly palo santo). At the landing beach you will be welcomed by a small Galapagos sea lion-colony. The green sand on this beach contains a high percentage of glassy olivine crystals that have been blown out by the surrounding tuff cones. The ‘flour sand’ sand beach on the southern side of the peninsula is formed of even finer white coral sand that feels very smooth on your feet. Parrotfishes have pulverised it, grinding the calcareous skeletons of living coral. In the surf you can see schools of sting rays that love using the sandy bottom to hide themselves. During the first months of the year Pacific green turtles come ashore to bury their eggs. The next morning you can notice their tracks from the dunes, or eventually still catch an exhausted, delayed one, crawling back to sea.
PM: Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout (Floreana)
Post Office Bay is one out of three nearby visitor’s sites on Floreana’s northern coast. Bring your postcards and post them in the peculiar traditional barrel on this historic site.
These might arrive home quicker than you! The barrel
commemorates an improvised mail service that was set up for communication between British 16th-century whalers and poachers. The novel of Moby Dick is inspired by the whaling epoch around the Galapagos. Whale oil was very demanded for illumination and odorous ambergris was an essential ingredient for perfumes, but there is no longer any left in the Atlantic. Like James Bay on Santiago, Floreana used to be a popular base to complement stocks. In these pre-Panama Canal times sailors could be years from home, as the way back around Cape Horn was long and dangerous with storms, pirates, malnutrition and diseases. Returning vessels picked up letters from the barrel for home delivery. In the end, this post box became the termination of British whaling industry in this region. During the Anglo-American War (1812-1815) it easily revealed the positions of the whaling vessels to the American frigate USS Essex, who captured them for their own use.
Proceeding by inflatable dinghy to Baroness Lookout you will follow the graceful arm around the sheltered bay to the entrance of a submerged tuff cone. Here you can spot Galapagos sea lions, Pacific green turtles, golden cow nose rays, and you might even spot a Galapagos penguin! This is the only spot on the south-eastern routes where you’ll find penguins residing (although the best opportunities are on Fernandina, the west coast of Isabela or Bartolomé).
After landing you can climb the miniature basaltic cone of Baroness Lookout, and dream away, admiring one of the most striking panoramas of the Galapagos. The turquoise and ocean blue waters merge with year-round red mangroves and basaltic rocks. This viewpoint was the favourite spot of one of the first colonists, Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet. The eccentric and self-proclaimed ‘Empress of Galapagos’ even built her house a few metres behind. She and one of her lovers were the first in a series of mysterious disappearings and deaths in the 1930s. (B. L. D.) (Shared Guide)
South Plaza Island - Santa Fe island
AM: Barrington Bay (Santa Fe)
Practically every animal on the extraordinary island of Santa Fe is unique; endemic to the Galapagos, or even to this island alone and therefore extremely vulnerable! Apparently evolution has had enough time and isolation to create wonders that will surprise you even nowadays. And indeed, geologists have determined that Santa Fe is the remnant of probably the most ancient volcano on the Galapagos; the 259m / 850ft high hill is all that remains from its former cone. Evidence of volcanism, such as 3.9 million old sub-areal volcanic rocks, debunk theories that this would be another tectonic uplift around Santa Cruz.
Almost every visitor to Santa Fe would like to get a glimpse of the rare Barrington land iguana, but this pale version is not as easy to spot as its modelling counterparts on South Plaza. This one sometimes asks for an adventurous search, rather untypical for the Galapagos; and other times it surprises you by waiting for you right next to the path. Whether you spot it or not, you will keep going from one surprise to the next. Your experience starts before you’ve even anchored at Barrington Bay, when the contours of its bizarre giant opuntia cactus forests become distinguishable. These largest cacti of the islands have extremely thick trunks indeed, and can grow over 10m / 33ft. tall! You will land right in the middle of a Galapagos sea lion colony on the beach, attentively being stared at by surprisingly tame Galapagos hawks. From their outlooks in the salt bush– and palo santo-branches on the beach ridge these are ready for snatching away a not-to-be-despised lava lizard; not worrying that even these tiny reptiles are unique...
Snorkelling in the paradisiacal bay gives the opportunity to amplify your quickly-growing spot list with (harmless) white tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and lots of colourful tropical reef fish. If you’re lucky you might find a curious Galapagos sea lion waiting to play with you!
PM: South Plaza
Although in line of sight of the main island of Santa Cruz, the southern of both Plaza islets is quite different even from all other sites in the National Park. At the same time it is so typically Galapagos, with its sharp contrasts, amazing diversity and high concentration of wildlife. It is one of the most popular, not to be missed islands, and definitely another highlight of your cruise.
There are several large Galapagos sea lion colonies, and this islet is the best place to encounter the endemic Galapagos land iguana. Watch your step and don’t stumble over one of them when the equally bizarre giant prickly pear cactus-trees distract you! These reptiles are not only ugly: as nobody less than Charles Darwin pronounced: but also extremely photogenic with strikingly yellowish or saffron-colours, and very patient models. On South Plaza the land iguanas remained somewhat smaller because of overpopulation and severe food competition. It is incredible to see how cactus spines don’t harm their leathery tongues while chewing the pads, flowers and fruits. Watch out as well for some unique hybrids, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.
South Plaza has two faces, which provide it with completely different ecological niches and corresponding wildlife. At the upper rim of this seismic uplifted formation you will learn about its windy, wild face, where dazzling cliffs abruptly cut off the gentle slope. About 20m / 75ft. downwards powerful waves splash against the foot of these massive walls, impressively droning. Sun basking marine iguanas who have escaped the cool shadows of the wall prove to be talented rock climbers equipped with strong claws.
Clouds of petrels, storm petrels, shearwaters and brown noddies make spectacular flights and sometimes appear to walk on the waves. Take your binoculars and don’t miss the red-billed tropicbird with its graceful long tail and spectacular mating fights. These cliffs are also a nesting place for the endemic swallow-tailed gull, the most beautiful gull in the world. Its neatly lined eyes are perfectly adapted for its exceptional nightly fishing habits. From a bird’s-eye perspective it is even possible to discover schools of surgeon fish, Galapagos mullets and when you are lucky even a jumping manta ray! (B. L. D.) (Shared Guide)
North Seymour Island - Santa Cruz Island
AM: North Seymour
The former seabed of the uplifted table top of North Seymour is strewn with boulders and overgrown by dry shrubs. Nevertheless this islet is one of the most visited sites, and overloaded with bird life. The surprising proximity to South Seymour (better known as Baltra) enables an ideal combination with your flight to or from the Galapagos, either for a quick introduction or for a last farewell.
Two emblematic hosts say “Hello” or “Goodbye”. An easy circular path takes you through the archipelago’s most extensive colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. At the start of the (shifting) breeding season adult frigate bird-males blow up their vivid red pouches to impressive football-sized balloons. This is one of the few spots (besides Genovesa and Pitt Point) where you can compare the magnificent and the rarer great frigate bird breeding next to each other. Frigate birds attack returning boobies and conduct aerial battles rather than fishing themselves. The even more popular blue-footed boobies show their fascinating courtship rituals, in which their remarkable feet play an important role. Moreover you can spot numerous other seabirds, such as brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, endemic swallow-tailed gulls and seasonally even Nazca boobies. Between the shrubs you might see a Galapagos land iguana. North Seymour originally did have any land iguanas, but in the 1930s an eccentric American millionaire moved the last generation from Baltra, and saved them from starvation caused by competition with introduced goats; the breeding programme that followed at Charles Darwin Research Station turned into a big success.
PM: Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz)
Strolling along its coastline, the blinding white Bachas Beach appears full of natural life. But both the turquoise bay and the symmetrical tuff cone- islet of Daphne Major pull your eyes to the horizon as well. Much closer, in the intertidal zone at your feet, you will see impressive sparkling orange coloured and heavy-armed sally light foot crabs running around the dark basaltic rocks. Look out for Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, shark fins or (seasonally) mating Pacific green turtles in the surf!
You will reach a brackish lagoon in the dunes, with different species of wade and shore birds, including gracious and noisy black-necked stilts, white-cheeked pintails (or Bahama ducks) and hunting herons. Migratory aquatic birds that spend winter on the Galapagos, such as whimbrels, also frequent this pond. As soon as the water level drops and becomes saltier in the dry season, you might even encounter some American flamingos tirelessly filtering water to catch shrimp and algae!
These two quiet plagues along the remote north-western coast have become the preferred nesting site of Pacific green turtles on this main island of Santa Cruz. Females wait for high tide at night before crawling ashore, resulting in an unnoticed, safer and less exhausting effort. In the sunny months (November-February) the powdery coral sand becomes a hot greenhouse, and as soon as the eggs hatch, lots of predators arrive to attend the banquet.
‘Bachas’ refers to the ‘minefield of nest holes’ in the dunes strip; though others argue that it is a ‘Spanglish’ mispronunciation of ‘barks’, referring to two rusty landing vessels that were left on the longer second beach in World War II, when the American US Air Force used BALTRA as a strategic base to defend the Panama Canal. (B. L. D.) (Shared Guide)
Mosquera Island - Depart Baltra Airport
Though close neighbours, Mosquera and North Seymour offer a very different experience; diverging habitats attract different residents. While North Seymour contains large breeding colonies of boobies and frigate birds, Mosquera stands out as one of the largest concentrations of Galapagos sea lions in the entire archipelago. It’s also one of the few spots inside the National Park where you can stroll around freely, without being restricted to a trail.
Galapagos sea lions are real beach lovers and Mosquera offers beautiful white coral sand beaches contrasting with the azure coloured water. This islet is just a few metres higher than a sandbank and doesn’t complicate their landing, and they can roll relaxed in the surf. For fishing they just have to enter the Itabaca Channel, which is a sort of natural place in which lots of marine life and schools of fish are concentrated. When the geological upraise continues, or if sea levels drop, the current submarine parts of the rocky ridge would come to the surface too, and change Mosquera into an isthmus, connecting North and South Seymour (Baltra). Fishing in the channel is not without risk; sometimes a school of killer whales (orcas, recognisable by their characterising dorsal fins) enters to hunt sea lions.
During a beach walk you can also expect to spot shorebirds and waders, such as groups of sanderlings that steadily have to interrupt their foraging efforts and run to escape each next breaker. Between the rocks there are lots of other intertidal hunters waiting such as striking orange sally light foot crabs, ready to play hide-and-seek with you when you want to photograph them. If a dinghy-ride is programmemed, Mosquera might surprise you with some more exotic species as well. The endemic and vulnerable lava gull nests on this island, but there are only a few hundredpairs and it is the rarest species of gull in the world. With some luck you might approach a yellow-crowned night heron keeping an eye on one of the tidal pools, or you even might catch a glimpse of a strayed red-footed booby!
AM: Transfer to Baltra airport
Assisted by the guide and some crew-members, the inflatable dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra, where we take the airport shuttle. Your guide will accompany you to the check-in counters in the departure hall for your flight to Guayaquil or Quito. (B.) (Shared Guide)
- Registered vessel name: M/Y Galapagos Odyssey (Registered name: M/Y Gran Natalia)
- Type/Class: Motor Yacht (First Class)
- Construction Year: Guayaquil, 2007/2008; last maintenance: 2016
- Capacity: 16 passengers + 10 staff/crew members
- Length: 134 feet / 41 metres
- Beam: 26 feet / 8 metres
- Naturalist Guide: 1 National Park-certified multilingual naturalist guide
- Crew: 10 experienced, trained and IMO-certified crew-members (International Marine Organisation): captain, cruise-manager, 2 pilots, 2 sailors, machinist, bartender, chef, kitchen help/housekeeper
- Social Areas:
- Sun deck: solarium area, shaded relaxing area with whirlpool
- Upper deck: shaded terrace and barbeque area
- Main deck: alfresco dining area, lounge with a small library and bar
- Cabin Location: 9 cabins in total
- Main deck: 2 double cabins and 2 twin cabins
- Upper deck: 2 suites (convertible triple/twin/double) and 2 twin cabins
- Lower deck: 1 single cabin
- Machinery: 2 Cummins 465HP engines
- Amenities: TV, DVD, laptop, beamer, small library, deck chairs, whirlpool, 8 inflatable tandem kayaks, 2 inflatable dinghies for 8 persons
- Electricity: 110 volts
- Cruising Speed: 10 knots
- Wastewater Treatment: 2 water treatment systems
Single Standard Cabin
Single bed, air-conditioning, ensuite bathroom, wardrobe, picture windows, desk and chair.
Double Ocean View Stateroom
2 single beds or 1 double bed, air-conditioning, ensuite bathroom, wardrobe, picture windows, desk and chair.
Double Ocean View Suite
2 single beds or 1 double bed, sofa bed (for additional guest), air-conditioning, ensuite bathroom, wardrobe, picture windows, desk and chair.
- On-board accommodation
- All meals during the voyage
- Activities/shore excursions as specified
- Bilingual naturalist guides
- Use of snorkelling and kayaking equipment
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
- International and internal airfares
- Arrival/departure taxes or reciprocity fees, visa fees where applicable
- Travel insurance
- Galapagos National Park fee US$100
- Transit control card US$20
- Any items not mentioned as included
NOTE: Long itineraries are the combination of short ones; please let us know if you would like to book a long cruise.