20873
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Nature’s Laboratory: Wild Finds in the Galápagos With Your Family

Alongside your family, explore volcanic landscapes, snorkel bright blue waters and learn about exotic animals (and maybe meet a few!), as you discover the Galápagos Islands together.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20873RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
5,699
Flights start at
500
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11 days
10 nights
27 meals
10 B 8 L 9 D
DAY
1
Arrive to Quito, Transfer to Hotel
Quito
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: From the airport to Puembo/Quito is about 15 miles, approximately 1/2 hour. Elevations in Quito range from 9,223 ft - 9,883 ft. To minimize your chances of experiencing altitude sickness while in Quito, try to get plenty of rest before you travel, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and fatty foods, consume high carbohydrate foods, and avoid strenuous exercise at high elevations. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Evening: At leisure. Settle in and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Orientation to Quito, Ecuador, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Quito
B,L,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: From the hotel in Puembo/Quito to the colonial center of Quito is about 18 miles, usually under 1 hour. This leisurely-paced day in Quito is very important as it will give the group time to acclimate to highland elevations.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we'll have a buffet meal with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: 8:30 a.m. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Then ride to the center of the city for an orientation to Ecuador’s capital. We'll accompany the Group Leader in a walking exploration of the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site, learning about Quito's history from pre-Hispanic times, through the Colonial Period, to the Republican Era. The architecture found in Quito’s historical center is a great example of the Baroque style which is a fusion of Spanish, Moorish, Flemish and Indigenous art. Next, we'll visit the Museo Casa del Alabado to learn about Ecuador's pre-Columbian cultures through close examination of their art, pottery and ceremonial pieces. Unlike most museums which arrange displays in chronological order, the Casa del Alabado has organized its exhibits based on Andean cosmology. The approximately 5,000 artifacts showcased in this impressive space include 500 pieces that belong to the museum’s permanent exhibit.

Lunch: At a local restaurant including an introduction to typical Ecuadorian food products and cuisine.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll continue by bus to the famous Middle of the World for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being in two hemispheres at the same time! During this field trip we'll not only learn important facts, myths and legends surrounding our planet and the equator, but we will also become acquainted with the history of the first group of scientists who in 1743 had the hard mission of trying to determine Earth’s shape. Before returning to the bus and driving back to Quito, we'll pay a visit to the on-site Ethnographic Museum for an overview of Ecuador's demographics, geography and economy. Back at the hotel, we'll enjoy an expert presentation on the past, present and future of Ecuador.

Dinner: Enjoy a two course meal at the hotel restaurant plus water and coffee or tea. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare luggage for early check out and flights to the Galápagos. This is an Intergenerational Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. Adults are responsible for their minor children. If/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise. Minors are never to be left unsupervised. In addition to lectures and field trips exclusively for our Road Scholar group, you are invited to take advantage of activities and events aboard ship that are separate from the Road Scholar program. The time available in each port is set by the cruise line and the Galapagos National Park. Whenever possible, the Road Scholar daily schedule indicates port arrival and departure times (subject to change by the cruise line and/or Galapagos National Park). This may mean that free time in port is limited. Regardless of the time in port, Road Scholar delivers a robust educational program. All routes, field trips, and excursions are subject to change as weather and sea conditions may affect the itinerary. Sea conditions could affect the progress of the ship, making it run late and sometimes miss ports because it is not safe to dock. Because of this, the cruise itinerary should always be regarded as provisional. The operator/Galapagos National Park reserves the right to change the content of field trips and excursions without prior notice.

DAY
3
Baltra Flight, Board Yacht, Bachas Beach
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: The flight to/from the Galapagos makes a stop in Guayaquil; passengers remain on board. This flight allows each person to bring a 50 lb checked bag/suitcase, plus a carry on. Excess luggage can be stored at the hotel in Quito until our return. Actual cruise itinerary and islands visited are determined by the Galápagos National Park. The park reserves the right to change cruise itineraries without prior notice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Hotel check out. After boarding the bus we will transfer to the airport in preparation for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. Our Quito Group Leader will assist us with check-in procedures and bid us farewell as we proceed through security and get ready to embark on our flight. Upon arrival to the Galápagos Islands we'll deplane and walk across the tarmac to the airport building and follow the arrival signs to Immigration. With passport in hand we will stop at the Immigration counter for an inspection of our travel documents before we can proceed to the baggage claim area. After collecting our luggage, we will meet our naturalist Galápagos Group Leader and take a bus to the pier and embark on the yacht. Once on board, we'll take part in a welcome orientation and a safety drill.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a light snack, plus juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Wet landing at Playa las Bachas for a field trip to a flamingo lagoon. Apart from being an important nesting site for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), Playa las Bachas is also a great location for viewing migratory and aquatic birds. The name of this location dates back to WWII, when the U.S. army abandoned two barges on the beach. Locals found it hard to pronounce the word "barges" in English; over time, the common mispronunciation of the word became the norm, resulting in the name Playa las Bachas. Opportunity for snorkeling and/or swimming before returning to our vessel.

Dinner: After enjoying a welcome cocktail with the boat crew, we'll sit down for a plated meal with dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
4
Genovesa, Prince Phillip's Steps & Darwin Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: Prince Philip's Steps: difficult dry landing onto rocky shore; ascending/descending a steep stone staircase (about 40 steps) carved into the approximately 82-foot stone cliff. The staircase has a wooden railing; individual steps are irregular in both shape and size and oftentimes slippery. Darwin Bay: Easy to moderate hike on coral sand and slabs of lava. The trail is approximately .9 miles in length. When the tide is high, parts of the trail might be covered in water.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods including eggs, cereals, fruit, coffee and water.

Morning: Dry landing at Prince Phillip's Steps (a.k.a. El Barranco). After climbing the stone steps we will walk on local trails in search of local birds. The Prince Phillip's Steps visitor site includes a steep stone staircase and a rocky trail that extends for approximately 1 mile through squadrons of frigate birds and Red-billed Tropicbirds. Red-footed Boobies perch on the branches of Palo Santo trees and Storm Petrels, which serve as prey for Short-eared Owls, are found in the open lava fields at the end of the trail. We'll return to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: After a panga ride and wet landing, we will accompany our naturalist leader on a walking exploration of Darwin Bay in search of pelagic species. The island's volcanic sea cliffs and salt bush offer a prime habitat for the birds of the Galápagos. In March and April, male frigate birds begin courtship rituals, showing off their inflated red pouches. By August, the island is full of Nazca Boobies (Masked Boobies) and Red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls can be found nesting. Darwin Bay is the caldera of an extinct volcano which has been partially eroded and offers superb swimming and snorkeling. Opportunity for swimming, snorkeling and/or kayaking before returning to the boat.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Enjoy an expert presentation by our naturalist Group Leader, followed by an orientation to the next day's activities. (Please note that the day/time of lectures is subject to change).

DAY
5
South Plaza, Santa Fe
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: South Plaza: dry landing and moderate difficulty due to slippery rocks and uneven trail conditions. Santa Fe: wet landing and moderate difficulty due to rocky, uneven trail conditions.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: Following our dry landing on Plaza Sur (South Plaza) Island we will embark on a walking field trip on rocky trails in search of local flora and fauna. As we follow the trail to a cactus forest, we hope to get a closer look at land iguanas and their habitat before moving on in search of local sea lion colonies. Sea lions usually give birth from August - November and females begin mating within weeks of having their young. South Plaza is also a great place for viewing seabirds in flight including Red-billed Tropicbirds, frigatebirds, pelicans, Swallow-tailed Gulls, and other pelagic species.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: Wet landing on a small beach on Santa Fe Island; a favorite sea lion hangout. We'll walk along a short looping trail that runs close to the beach. On the trail we will have the opportunity to get close-up views of the large Santa Fe Opuntia cactus while we look for Santa Fe land iguanas and Galapagos hawks. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
6
Santa Cruz, Highlands & Charles Darwin Station
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: Santa Cruz Highlands: dry landing at Puerto Ayora and moderate to difficult trail conditions due to rocky, uneven (and possibly muddy) trails.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: We will tender ashore to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, then we'll board a bus and ride to the highlands. Our naturalist will lead us on a walking field trip on local trails and lightly wooded areas to view native forests and the Twin Craters. Then we'll drive to a nearby farm and walk on grassy trails in search of giant tortoises living in the wild. We'll learn more about their diet, breeding habits and overall biology as we observe them in their natural habitat. In addition to giant tortoises, Santa Cruz is home to several species of Darwin's finches as well as Yellow Warblers, Galápagos Rails and Paint-billed Crakes. A dramatic change in vegetation zones can be seen as one travels into the highland region of the island.

Lunch: At a local farm, we’ll enjoy traditional Ecuadorian fare with juice and water.

Afternoon: Our bus will deliver us back to Puerto Ayora in preparation for our field trip to the Fausto Llerena Center inside the Charles Darwin Research Station. Our naturalist will lead us on foot through the facility and introduce us to the station's mission and its tortoise breeding projects. The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a biological research station based on Santa Cruz Island and operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. The organization plays an important role in scientific research, environmental education, and conservation efforts in the islands. The station conducts its projects with the help of a large team of scientists, educators, volunteers, research students and support staff from all over the world. Late afternoon return to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
7
Floreana, Baroness Point & Post Office Bay, Champion Islet
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: Mirador la Baronesa: walking on trails, including uphill sections. Post Office Bay: easy trail conditions. Punta Cormorant: wet landing and easy trail conditions.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: After a dry landing, we'll hike on an uphill trail to the look out point known as Mirador de la Baronesa. The location was named after one of Floreana's early residents, the Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner. We'll stop at the mirador for a chance to enjoy the stunning views of the bay before continuing on to the ruins of her home and learn about the island's early settlers. Next, we will continue on to Post Office Bay. This is the site where whalers used to "mail" their correspondence. A barrel was used as a makeshift postbox, and held letters from sailors across the globe. If a passing ship happened to be heading where the mail was addressed to, the captain would collect and deliver it. Although the barrel is no longer the original one, the system still works since visitors continue to collect and drop off their letters and postcards. Return to the yacht.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: We will navigate by panga to Floreana and make a wet landing on the green beach at Punta Cormorant. During our walking explorations we hope to observe shorebirds and flamingos at the local lagoon and spot endemic plants such as Scalesia vellosa and Lecocarpus pinaffitidus. We will most likely have the chance to spot sea lions lounging lazily on the beach. The beach's unusual color is a result of the olivine crystals present in the sand. From here, a trail leads us to a lagoon where flamingos can be found wading with other birds such as oystercatchers, and Black-necked Stilt. A white sandy beach near the lagoon is good for swimming and is a known nesting site for green sea turtles. Around January, pregnant females come ashore at night to dig nests and lay eggs (between 75-100 eggs per nest) before returning to sea. The eggs begin hatching in April and May. Next, we'll board our pangas and navigate to Champion Islet to enjoy swimming and snorkeling in search of vibrant marine life. Champion Islet, lying off the north coast of Floreana, is a small rocky isle that is home to the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird, and a good location for sighting sea turtles, sea lions, and schools of fish as a result of the nearby coral reef. Occasionally, dolphins are sighted as boats approach the shore, and schools of stingrays can be spotted due to the cool currents in the area. We are not allowed to have a land excursion at this site, but we will have the opportunity to have a panga ride to observe the wildlife. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
8
Española Island, Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: Punta Suarez: dry landing and difficult trail conditions due to rocky, uneven terrain. Gardner Bay: wet landing and easy, sandy trail conditions.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: We'll make a dry landing at Punta Suarez this morning in preparation for our approximately 2 hour hike. Our walking exploration will take us over loose boulders and challenging rocky ground as we make our way to view nesting boobies and the famous blowhole. Punta Suarez is home to the Galápagos Hawk and the red form of the marine iguana. In January, the iguanas change color, adopting bright hues that are attractive to potential mates. Visitors have a good chance of seeing Blue-footed Booby chicks around October. Española is also the breeding site of most of the archipelago's Waved Albatrosses, so be on the lookout for these large and graceful flyers! Albatrosses display courtship behavior in April, nest and lay eggs in May, and by December the young fledge and leave for a few months before returning in March. A panga will take us back to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: Following a panga ride to Española we will make a wet landing at the white sand beach in Gardner Bay. A short walk and swimming/snorkeling/kayaking activities off the beach will give us the opportunity to relax in one of the islands' most beautiful locations. Gardner Bay's white beach is usually dotted with large quantities of sunbathing sea lions, especially during breeding season which takes place from May through January. This is also an important nesting site for sea turtles! In January, green sea turtles steal ashore under cover of night to dig pits and lay eggs before making their way back to sea. Eggs hatch from April to May. After our visit to Gardner Bay we will enjoy a panga ride around Osborn Islet for swimming and snorkeling before returning to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
9
Breeding Ctr., Interpretation Ctr., Cerro Brujo, Kicker Rock
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top V

Activity note: Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock): no landing. Cerro Brujo: wet landing and easy walking on sandy trails.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: Dry landing on San Cristobal, followed by a bus ride to Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center. The center breeds giant tortoises that will someday be released back into the wild. During the visit we hope to view some of the resident tortoises in various stages of development and we'll learn about the center's mission. Next, we'll ride back to the port to pay a visit to the Interpretation Center. Our naturalist will lead us through the exhibits and offer complementary information as we learn about the history of the human development in the Galápagos. Return to the yacht.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: We will make a wet landing at Cerro Brujo then begin walking on a white sand beach that is often frequented by lively sea lions. There will be some free time for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking from the beach. Then, we'll board pangas and navigate around Leon Dormido (a.k.a. Kicker Rock) to get a closer look at the iconic stone formation and search for nesting sea birds. The tuff-rock, which rises almost 500 feet from the ocean, has eroded to give it the shape seen as a shoe or sleeping lion. We will be on the lookout for Blue-footed Boobies, Masked Boobies, and frigatebirds dotting its cliffs. We will have some time to snorkel. Kicker Rock is often recognized as one of the best places for snorkeling in the Galápagos due to the abundance of marine wildlife often seen in its waters. If we are lucky, we may get to snorkel with hammerhead sharks. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Enjoy an expert presentation by our naturalist Group Leader, followed by an orientation to the next day's activities. (Please note that the day/time of lectures is subject to change).

DAY
10
Black Turtle Cove, Flight to Quito
Quito
B,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: Black Turtle Cove: no landing, dinghy ride.There is a 50 lb weight limit for checked luggage on the flights to and from the islands. Participants with international flights departing very late this evening/before dawn next morning will check out of the hotel after dinner and transfer to the airport for airline check in. Please see “Program Notes” section for more options.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: Early this morning we will navigate by panga to Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island to observe its rich marine life. As we maneuver around the inlet and into the cove we'll shut down the engines and quietly glide along the mangroves, looking for birds and marine life. The experience will be enhanced by our naturalist's expert commentary and spotting skills. If lucky, we might get to see white-tipped sharks, sea turtles and a variety of rays. Upon our return to the yacht, we will set sail to Baltra Island in preparation for our flight to Quito. From the pier we will board a bus to the airport and then we'll bid farewell to our Galápagos Group Leader and the Islas Encantadas. The flight to Quito makes a stop in Guayaquil; passengers remain on board.

Lunch: On your own, at the airport. Sandwiches, empanadas, beverages and snacks are available for purchase after going through security

Afternoon: Late afternoon arrival in Quito. We'll board a bus to our hotel and check in, followed by free time to finish packing or relax before joining the rest of the group for dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel. During a farewell dinner, share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and flights to North America. Participants with international flights departing very late this evening/before dawn next morning will check out of the hotel and transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in preparation for airline check in.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times). If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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