6043
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos: Natural and Cultural History
Gain a comprehensive understanding of the Galápagos as you learn about iconic wildlife, delicate ecosystems, volcanic activity and the science-altering legacy of Charles Darwin.
Program No. 6043RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
4,995
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
Arrive to Quito, Transfer to Hotel
Quito
Sheraton Quito Hotel

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
Sheraton Quito Hotel

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 motorcoach to Quito's colonial section and accompany our 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 we will journey by motorcoach (approximately 30-40 minutes) to the Capilla del Hombre for an introduction to Guayasamin's life and work led by our Group Leader. Quito’s Bellavista neighborhood is home to some important spaces dedicated to the works of Ecuador’s beloved artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919-1999). The Guayasamin Foundation features various pieces from the artist’s private collection as well as a large exhibit of his paintings. A few blocks from the Guayasamin Foundation, on a hill overlooking the city, stands the Capilla del Hombre. This monument, chapel, and museum was designed by Guayasamin (he died before its completion) as a cultural space dedicated to the plight of Latin American people—from pre-Columbian times until the present—a subject featured prominently in the artist’s work. 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, Santa Cruz, El Chato, Los Gemelos
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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 Galápagos 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.

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

Afternoon: After lunch we will transfer to the highlands for a visit to El Chato Reserve. Here we will see giant tortoises, perhaps Short-earred Owls, Darwin Finches, Yellow Warblers, Galapagos Rails and Paint-billed Crakes. Enjoy a field trip to Los Gemelos ("The Twins") craters. A bus will take us to the highlands and drop us off at the trail head so that we can begin our short walk to the crater's rim. During our drive to the highlands it should be possible to see the dramatic change in vegetation zones as we travel higher into the island. The twin craters found in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island are actually large sinkholes--not volcanic formations. They were created as a result of the collapse, or the sinking, of surface materials into cracks. The surrounding Scalesia forest is a great place to view vegetation that is unique to this island and search for land birds. Wild giant tortoises begin nesting from June to August. Their eggs begin to hatch with the arrival of the warmer season (December-April). We'll board the bus and begin our return transfer to Puerto Ayora before taking a short panga ride 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
Isabela Island, Tintoreras, Breeding Center, Wall of Tears
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: Las Tintoreras: rough, rocky trail due to lava formations. Easy flat trail conditions. Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center: flat, easy trails. Wall of Tears: dry landing. Easy flat trail conditions.

Breakfast: On board the boat plus juice, coffee and tea.

Morning: After breakfast we will make a dry landing at Las Tintoreras for a walking exploration 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" referring to 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. After enjoying some swimming and snorkeling opportunities, we will return to the yacht.

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

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 high stone wall was built by prisoners 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. 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. (Please note that the day/time of lectures is subject to change).

DAY
5
Isabela Island, Elizabeth Bay, Urbina Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: Elizabeth Bay: panga ride along mangroves and islets. 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 hike.

Breakfast: On board the boat plus juice, coffee and tea.

Morning: After breakfast we will visit Elizabeth Bay. Navigate around the mangrove forests and rugged coastline to observe marine life and shorebirds. Elizabeth Bay, located on Isabela's west shore, is an extremely interesting site for observing marine life. It is also one of the best areas to spot and photograph the elusive Galapagos Penguin. A colony of these unique birds inhabits a rocky islet at the entrance to the bay. A small passage lined with mangroves leads into an enclosed cove. The sheltered waters host marine turtles, rays, Flightless Cormorants, and sea lions. Although the marine life is the star of this visitor's site, don't forget to look up once in a while and scan the skies; Galapagos Hawks are oftentimes seen circling overhead. Optional swimming, snorkeling. Return to the yacht.

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

Afternoon: This afternoon we will make a wet landing at Urbina Bay, we will 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. There will be the opportunity for swimming and snorkeling before we return to the yacht .

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

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
6
Isabela, Tagus Cove, Fernandina Island, Punta Espinoza
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: Tagus Cove: dry landing, moderate to difficult trail conditions due to rocky, uneven terrain. 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 walk on sharp volcanic rocks.

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

Morning: After breakfast, we will enjoy a panga ride around Tagus Cove for a chance to observe marine iguanas, sea lions, Galàpagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and Blue-footed Boobies. Learn about the eruption of five volcanoes that formed Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago. Hike the trail to Darwin’s salt water lagoon and an excellent view of the lava fields and volcanic formations. Observe marine life during a dinghy ride while you search for the Galápagos Penguin. In February, the Galápagos Penguins that live most of the year on Bartolomé migrate to the cooler waters around Isabela and Fernandina. In July, whales and dolphin can often be spotted off Isabela's western coast. Opportunity for swimming and snorkeling before we board a panga and return to the yacht.

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

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

DAY
7
Santiago Island, Puerto Egas, Espumilla Beach, Caleta Bucanero
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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 including eggs, cereals, fruit, 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. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling before going back to the yacht.

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

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. 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: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
8
Santa Cruz, Dragon Hill or Daphne Major, Black Turtle Cove
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: Cerro Dragon: moderate walking conditions due to rocky, volcanic beach. Black Turtle Cove: no landing. Navigate along the shores of the island.

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

Morning: This morning (dependent on the tide) we will visit Cerro Dragon or Daphne Major. 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. Or navigate around Daphne Island, located off the coast of Santa Cruz. Located just north of Santa Cruz Island and west of Baltra Island, Daphne Major is a volcanic island consisting of a tuff crater rising 394 ft. above sea level. Biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant conducted extensive studies of Darwin’s finches and their results have strongly supported Darwin’s theory of evolution. Daphne offers a large variety of other birds including the Galápagos Martins, Blue-footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Short-eared Owls, Red-billed Tropicbirds and Magnificent Frigate birds. Visitors are not allowed on the island but can only observe from the banks.

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

Afternoon: After boarding a panga we will navigate to Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island to observe its rich sea life. The inlet is surrounded by mangroves and the shallow cove is a haven for marine life. During this activity, the motor will be turned off so that we can enjoy close observation of marine turtles, white tipped reef sharks, yellow rays and other marine species. After our explorations we will 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
Rabida Island, Sombrero Chino
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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

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

Morning: After boarding a panga to Rabida Island, we'll make a wet landing on its red sand beach. This morning, 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 or snorkeling before returning to the yacht.

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

Afternoon: 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. 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: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
10
Santa Cruz, North Seymour, 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 including eggs, cereals, fruit, coffee and water.

Morning: Early this morning we will make a dry landing on North Seymour Island to enjoy a short 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. Return to the yacht for a farewell snack. Sail to Baltra Island and transfer to the airport to board your flight for the mainland. Say Farewell to your Galápagos group leader.

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 and transfer to the hotel. Time at leisure to finish packing or relax before joining the rest of the group for dinner.

Dinner: Farewell Dinner at the hotel. Our meal will include a two course plated dish plus juice and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Depart from Quito, Arrive 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).