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
5,395
Flights start at
850
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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. This afternoon we will enjoy a lecture: Ecuador: it's Cultural and Natural Biodiversity.

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, Charles Darwin Research Station
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. 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: Following a dry landing at the pier at Puerto Ayora, we will accompany our naturalist Group Leader on a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and its Interpretive Center. 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. Once we complete our explorations at the Station, we will return to the pier and board a panga back 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
Santa Fe Island, South Plaza Island
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

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

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 on a small beach on Santa Fe Island. As we explore the island we'll be on the look out for opuntia cacti and Santa Fe iguanas. Before returning to the yacht we will have an opportunity to swim and snorkel from the beach. This spot is one of the best locations for swimming with sea lions!

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

Afternoon: Following our dry landing on Plaza Sur 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. After our explorations we will return to the yacht in time to freshen up for dinner.

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
Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat Island), Rábida Island
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Sombrero Chino: no landing. Rabida Island: wet landing, easy to moderate trail conditions due to hills and sandy terrain.

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

Morning: We will start the day by navigating around Sombrero Chino to observe its resident wildlife and lava formations. This small island can be seen a short distance from Santiago Island’s southeastern tip. The name, meaning Chinese hat, describes the volcanic cone’s unique shape. A cove on the northern side of the island offers good conditions for swimming and snorkeling; it is also a favored sea lion hangout. Other species frequently seen in and around the island include American Oystercatchers, Brown Noddys, Galápagos Hawks, Sally Lightfoot crabs, spotted eagle rays, whitetip reef sharks, Galápagos Penguins, marine iguanas, Lava Herons, lava lizards, and Brown Pelicans. Return to the boat.

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

Afternoon: After boarding a panga to Rabida Island, we'll make a wet landing on its red sand beach. This afternoon, we'll get to spend time on one of the most colorful and volcanically varied islands in the archipelago. Rabida Island's famous red sandy beach and stunning lookouts provide wonderful landscapes, and the snorkeling is great. The island is also a birdwatcher's delight. Some of the rarest species are in abundance, such as nine varieties of finches, Large-billed Flycatchers, Galápagos Hawks, and Brown Pelicans. Enjoy some free time for swimming, snorkeling, and/or kayaking before returning 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
Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove, Cerro Dragon
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Black Turtle Cove: no landing. Cerro Dragon: dry landing; easy to moderate trail conditions due to rocky, uneven terrain.

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

Morning: After boarding a panga we will navigate to Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island to observe its rich marine life. The inlet is surrounded by mangroves and the shallow cove is a haven for wildlife such as white-tipped sharks, sea turtles and a variety of rays. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling before returning 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 a dry landing, we will initiate our walk to the lookout point on Cerro Dragon. Cerro Dragon ("Dragon Hill"), located on a northwestern corner of Santa Cruz, was named after a colony of land iguanas that inhabited the site in the 1970s. Flamingoes and shorebirds seasonally visit the lagoons in search of shrimp, appearing in larger numbers during the dryer season when the crustaceans are more plentiful. The rocky beach provides good snorkeling opportunities when the tide is high. We will have a bit of free time for swimming and snorkeling before we have to make our way back 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
Floreana Island, Post Office Bay, Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Post Office Bay: wet landing and easy trail conditions. Punta Cormorant: wet landing and easy trail conditions. Devil's Crown: strong currents.

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

Morning: Our half-mile walk at Post Office Bay will begin with a wet landing on the sandy beach and a visit to the Post Office Barrel. The infamous Post Office Bay can be found on the northern side of Floreana Island. 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. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Before going back to the boat for lunch, we will enjoy a panga ride to La Lobería of Post Office, where we can observe sea lion rookeries on the beach and sea turtles and marine iguanas in the bay of the Lobería.

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 to Devil's Crown to enjoy swimming and snorkeling activities. Devil's Crown is a shallow sunken crater that makes for one of the best snorkeling sites in the islands. The largely submerged volcano has clear blue waters and a variety of colorful fish. Sea lions are sometimes seen frolicking in the waters and seabirds nest in the crevices. This site is only suggested for good swimmers as the currents can be very strong. Following our time at Devil's Crown 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 flamingoes 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 flamingoes 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. 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
Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay, Osborn Islet
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

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

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

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 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 sunbathing sea lions. The soft sand and clear waters make this a perfect location for snorkeling and swimming. 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. 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
San Cristobal, Punta Pitt, León Dormido, Cerro Brujo
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Tip Top III

Activity note: Punta Pitt: wet landing and moderate to difficult walking on steep trails. Leon Dormido: no landing. Cerro Brujo: wet landing and easy walking on sandy trails.

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

Morning: After making a wet landing at Punta Pitt we will join our naturalist Group Leader on a walking exploration in search of local flora and fauna. Punta Pitt is located at the northeast end of San Cristóbal Island. This is the only site in the islands where visitors can watch all three species of boobies and two species of frigates nesting in the same area. The abundant supply of food in the area makes it unnecessary for the birds to compete, leading to a peaceful coexistence among the species. Blue-footed Boobies generally nest in the interior areas of the island, while Red-footed boobies nest on bushes, and Masked Boobies nest along the cliffs. The wind-carved landscape of this seemingly barren island is quite breathtaking. A closer look reveals a surprising array of plant life that, against all odds, continues to thrive here. Look for Palo Santo trees, small cacti, saltbush, and red Vesuvius. We'll 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 lunch we will 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. Later in the afternoon we will make a wet landing at Cerro Brujo and enjoy a walk on a white sand beach that is often frequented by lively sea lions. There will be some free time for swimming and snorkeling from the beach before we go back 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
10
North Seymour Island, Flight to Quito
Quito
B,L,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: North Seymour Island: dry landing, moderate to difficult trail conditions due to uneven terrain.

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

Morning: Early this morning we will make a dry landing on North Seymour Island to enjoy a 1.5 mile walk on local trails. North Seymour Island is conveniently located next to Baltra Island. The island has a major nesting colony of Blue-footed Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. During April-May the Blue-footed Boobies can be spotted performing their comical mating dance. Blue-footed Boobies oftentimes nest very near the trails, giving visitors the opportunity to get a closer view during the walks. From August-November sea lions are giving birth and it is possible to view pups of all sizes. Just remember to stay at a safe distance as females tend to be very protective of their young. A walk near known iguana nesting sites offers a good opportunity to view marine iguanas and land iguanas. 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, where we will bid farewell to our Galápagos Group Leader and the Islas Encantadas.

Lunch: A sandwich and drink will be provided at the airport for lunch en route. A light snack will be offered 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).