20873
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos: Natural and Cultural History: Family Program
Get to know the Galápagos alongside your family as you learn about iconic wildlife, delicate ecosystems, volcanic formations and Charles Darwin’s connection to these historic islands.
Program No. 20873RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
5,495
Flights start at
495
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11 days
10 nights
28 meals
10 B 9 L 9 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
In Transit to Program, Arrive to Quito
Quito
Hotel Quito

Activity note: The Mariscal Sucre International Airport is located approximately one hour from downtown Quito. 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.

DAY
2
Orientation to Quito, Ecuador, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Quito
B,L,D
Hotel Quito

Activity note: 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 restaurant.

Morning: Meet your Quito group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. After the program orientation we will travel by coach to Quito's colonial section. Accompany the group leader in a walking exploration of the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site. While walking through the narrow streets, we will learn about Quito’s rich history going from pre-Hispanic times, through the Colonial Period, to the Republican Era. We will have the opportunity to study the architectural styles of local buildings and the uniqueness of religious art pieces from the famous Quitenian School of art that combines the European Renaissance and Baroque styles with the indigenous and mestizo influences. After our city explorations we will enjoy a visit to the Museo Casa del Alabado to learn about pre-Columbian art. The art museum is housed in a two-story, renovated 17th century Spanish colonial residence in Quito’s historic downtown area. Unlike most museums which arrange displays in chronological order, the Casa del Alabado has organized its exhibits based on Andean cosmology. The approximately 5000 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, continue to the famous Middle of the World and celebrate the ability to be in both hemispheres at the same time - a once in a lifetime experience. Learn important facts, myths and legends about the Geography of Earth while visiting the Equator as well as the history of the first group of scientists who had the hard mission to determined Earth’s shape in 1743. Visit the Ethnographic museum where you will get a general vision about Ecuador’s demography, geography and economy. Return to the hotel. Lecture: 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: Time at leisure. Get a good night's rest in preparation for early morning activities the following day.

DAY
3
Flight to Baltra Island, Board Yacht, Playa de las Bachas
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: There is a 44 lb weight limit for checked luggage on the flights to the islands. Please note that the 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 restaurant.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll transfer by motorcoach to the airport in preparation for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. Our Group Leader will assist us with check-in procedures at the airport. After saying a fond goodbye to our Quito Group Leader, we will proceed through security and get ready to embark on our flight. **Note: The Galápagos airline tickets are issued in Ecuador and held by the group leader for safekeeping. The airline tickets will be distributed to participants on-site.** 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 board a bus that will drive us as far as the Itabaca Channel. After a short ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island, we will get on another bus and transfer to the Puerto Ayora dock. A short panga ride will deliver us to the yacht. Once on board, we'll take part in a welcome orientation and a safety drill as we sail to our first visitor site in the Galápagos.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch we will navigate a short distance along the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. We will board pangas and make a wet landing at Bachas Beach in preparation for our first adventure in the Galápagos. We will join our naturalist leader on a walking exploration in search of aquatic and migratory birds. The sand dunes at this site are nesting grounds for Galápagos Green Turtles and a nearby lagoon is home to flamingoes, White-cheeked Pintail ducks, Common Stilts, and some migratory species. There will be an opportunity for snorkeling and/or swimming before we return to the yacht.

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
Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay, Bartolome Island
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Sullivan Bay: wet landing and moderate difficulty due to rocky, volcanic terrain. Bartolome: dry landing. The 1.2 mile walk to the top of the volcano includes a climb up a long wooden staircase (375 steps) with railings.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: Wet landing at Sullivan Bay, followed by a walking field trip led by our naturalist leader. During this activity we'll be able to get a good look at the island's unique geological features. Good walking shoes are a must--the volcanic terrain is sharp and rough! Santiago (a.k.a. San Salvador) is the fourth largest island in the Galápagos. A volcanic eruption that took place in the early 1900s formed huge lava flows in the area that is now Sullivan Bay. As the lava cooled off, it solidified into a black sheet of interesting shapes and textures that made its way to the sea. The rope-like lava seen on this island is called pahoehoe lava. Other interesting formations include lava bubbles and tree shapes, ghosts of Santiago's past. Few plant species have been able to root in this harsh environment. Although the volcanic formations on Santiago have the obvious spotlight, keep an eye out for American Oystercatchers nesting along the coast (July) and Galápagos Hawks performing their acrobatic courtship rituals (August). We will have the opportunity to swim and snorkel before returning the yacht.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: Dry landing at Bartolomé Island. After disembarkation we will accompany our naturalist leader on a hike up Escalera Hill. On Bartolomé Island we will be able to view volcanic formations such as lava bombs, spatter, and cinder cones. From the summit it is possible to see surrounding islands as well as Pinnacle Rock's eroded tuff cone. On the way to the summit, watch for colonies of marine iguanas, lava lizards, tiquilla and various cacti. Bartolomé is one of the best places to find Galápagos penguins. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Lecture and orientation to the next day's activities. (This lecture may take place on another evening of the cruise.)

DAY
5
Genovesa Island, El Barranco and Darwin's Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: El Barranco: difficult dry landing onto the rocky shore, followed by a climb up a steep stone staircase with railings. Much attention must be given when climbing and descending the staircase since steps might be 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 plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: Dry landing at El Barranco (a.k.a Prince Phillip's Steps). After climbing the stone steps we will walk on local trails in search of local birds. El Barranco visitor site includes a steep stone staircase and a rocky trail that extends for approximately 1 mile through squadrons of frigatebirds 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. Return to the yacht.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: After a panga ride and wet landing, we will accompany our naturalist leader on a walking exploration of Darwin’s Bay. The island's volcanic sea cliffs and salt bush offer a prime habitat for the birds of the Galápagos. In March and April, male frigatebirds 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 we return to the yacht. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
6
Santiago, Puerto Egas and Caleta Bucanero
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Puerto Egas: wet landing and easy to moderate walking conditions. Caleta Bucanero: Panga ride and a wet landing on a red sand beach. Short walk on coastal trails.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: A short panga ride will take us to Santiago Island in preparation for a wet landing at Puerto Egas' black sand beach. As we explore local trails, our naturalist leader will help to point out local wildlife. Puerto Egas, located on the northwestern side of Santiago Island, has black volcanic formations that provide shelter to a number of creatures. Here it is possible to see marine iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks while sea birds fly overhead in search of food. Brightly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs live in the rock crevices and tide pools; a sharp contrast to the black lava formations they call home. Galápagos fur seals enjoy the inlets along the western shoreline and have been known to swim with visitors from time to time. Opportunity for swimming, snorkeling and/or kayaking before returning to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: This afternoon, we will board a panga and navigate along the cliffs and beaches of Caleta Bucanero (a.k.a. Buccaneer Cove) in search of nesting seabirds. There will be an opportunity for swimming, snorkeling and/or kayaking before we make a wet landing on the beach and accompany our naturalist leader on a walk along the coast to an abandoned salt mine. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Lecture and orientation to the next day's activities. (This lecture may take place on another evening of the cruise.)

DAY
7
Isabela, Punta Vicente Roca, Fernandina, Punta Espinoza
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Punta Vicente Roca: no landing. Punta Espinoza: dry landing, moderate trail conditions due to slippery rocks at low tide and uneven terrain. Good walking shoes are a must for the 1.2 mile walk on sharp volcanic rocks.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll join our naturalist leader in a panga ride to Punta Vicente Roca. As we navigate in and around the coves we will look for resident wildlife. As cold currents flow around the northwestern tip of Isabela, food-rich waters are brought closer to the surface, attracting all sorts of marine life and birds. Punta Vicente Roca’s coves, rich marine life, and well protected bay have made this into a prized diving location in the islands. Flightless Cormorants, Masked Boobies and Blue-footed Boobies can be seen along the cliffs and the water’s edge. Before returning to the yacht we will have the opportunity to enjoy a bit of swimming and/or snorkeling.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will make a dry landing at Punta Espinoza and then walk on local trails in search of the resident sea lion colony and Flightless Cormorant nesting site. Fernandina has some of the most dramatic landscapes found in the archipelago and is also one of the best places to see the lava cactus. The aa and pahoehoe lava formations create a unique landscape and provide visitors with a great chance to study lava flows and the forces which gave birth to the Galápagos Islands. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
8
Isabela Island, Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove and Elizabeth Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Urbina Bay: strong waves can make disembarkation tricky at this site. Use a zip-lock bag to protect cameras and binoculars from splashes during the wet landing. Please take steps to remain hydrated during this approximately 2-mile hike. Elizabeth Bay: Approximately a 2 hour panga ride along mangroves and islets.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: After breakfast we will make a wet landing at Urbina Bay and begin our walking exploration of this unique site. Urbina Bay is situated approximately two fifths of the way along Isabela’s western coast. The flattened area of the bay exhibits signs of a coral reef on land; proof that the flat land we see today in that area was once uplifted from the sea. Cormorants, pelicans, marine iguanas, and Flightless Cormorants frequent this site in addition to marine turtles and rays which are sometimes seen swimming in the bay. Opportunity for swimming, snorkeling and/or kayaking before we take a panga ride to Tagus Cove to view Galapagos Penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and a variety of birds. Return to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will enjoy a panga ride in and around the mangroves and islets of Elizabeth Bay to look for shore birds, marine turtles, rays, sea lions, and more. Return to the yacht.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
9
Isabela Island, Tintoreras, Breeding Center, Wall of Tears
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Las Tintoreras: moderate walking on aa lava, rocks and sandy terrain. Sierra Negra: the hike to the volcano lookout point can be very challenging due to the trail's incline and oftentimes muddy conditions. Misty and/or rainy weather is the norm at this site, so dress accordingly. Wall of Tears: dry landing and easy walking.

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: After a dry landing at Las Tintoreras islet, we will walk along the coast in search of marine life. Las Tintoreras is located just south of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. The small island's name means "sharks," refering to the reef sharks that are commonly found resting in the shallow waters at this site. A small bay and a connecting crevice provide shelter to a multitude of small fish as well as turtles, sharks, rays, and marine iguanas. The island is a prime nesting site for marine iguanas because it lacks non-native predators. At Puerto Villamil we will board a bus and travel for 45 minutes to the highlands of Isabela. After disembarking at the Paradero Sierra Negra, we will begin a challenging hike along the slopes of the volcano. Sierra Negra is a shield volcano, with a large and shallow caldera and relatively flat slopes. In October of 2005, it erupted after a period of seismic activity and lava from the eruption covered up to 14 square kilometers of the caldera floor. Both old and new lava formations can be spotted in the area including cinder cones, tuff cones, and spatter cones. On a clear day, the views from Sierra Negra’s caldera are awe-inspiring. The site also offers good birding opportunities. Transfer by bus to Puerto Villamil and return to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: On board the boat we’ll enjoy a typical two course Ecuadorian meal, plus juice and water.

Afternoon: After making a dry landing on Isabela we will drive a short distance to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center where we will learn about local tortoise conservation efforts. The center raises hundreds of juvenile and adult tortoises from the southern region of the island, many of which are in danger of extinction. The landscaping at the center showcases native plants. < After leaving the breeding center we will pay a visit to the historic Wall of Tears. The 16-20 ft stone wall was built by prisioners when Isabela Island hosted a penal colony (1944-1959). Before returning to yacht we will enjoy a short walk through the humedales (wetlands) for a chance to observe flamingoes and migratory birds that frequent the local lagoons and mangroves.

Dinner: On board the boat, enjoy a plated meal, dessert, juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
10
Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station, Flight to Quito
Quito
B,L,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Breakfast: On board the boat, enjoy a buffet with traditional breakfast foods plus juice, coffee and water.

Morning: Early this morning, after breakfast, we will disembark at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in preparation for our last activity in the Galápagos. We will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and its Interpretive Center to learn about local research and conservation efforts. The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a biological research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. The objective of the CDRS is to conduct scientific research and environmental education to promote conservation of the islands' unique environments. The Station has a team of over a hundred scientists, educators, volunteers, research students and support staff from all over the world. After completing our morning field trip we will board a bus that will take us as far as the Itabaca Channel. From there we will take a short ferry ride to Baltra Island and then transfer by bus to the airport. After checking in for our flight to Quito, it will be time for us to bid farewell to the Islas Encantadas and our Galápagos Group Leader.

Lunch: We will be provided a sandwich and drink at the airport, for lunch en route. A light snack will also be served on the flight.

Afternoon: Late afternoon arrival in Quito. Transfer to the hotel. Time at leisure to finish packing or relax before joining the rest of the group for dinner.

Dinner: Enjoy a Farewell Dinner with a typical two course Ecuadorian plated dish, juice and water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, Flights to the U.S.
In Flight
B

Activity note: Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.

Breakfast: Early morning buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant (depending on flight times).






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