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.
Rating (4.93)
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
In Transit to Program, Arrive to Quito
Quito
Sheraton Quito Hotel

Activity note: 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.

Afternoon: Upon arrival, proceed through Immigration, Baggage Claim, and Customs before exiting the secured arrivals area of the airport. Road Scholar flights will be met by a Road Scholar representative who will assist with transfer to the hotel. After checking in and getting your room, take some time to freshen up and relax.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

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
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, 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 will journey by bus to the Capilla del Hombre for an introduction to Ecuador's beloved artist-- Oswaldo Guayasamin. The Group Leader will offer insights into the artist's life and work during our explorations of the museum and cultural space. 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. Get a good night's rest in preparation for early morning activities the following day.

DAY
3
Flight to Baltra Island, Board Yacht, Mosquera Islet
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. Mosquera Islet: wet landing, easy, flat terrain.

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 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 a wet landing, we'll accompany our naturalist Group Leader on an exploratory walk at Mosquera Islet in search of resident wildlife. The islet is easily accessible and sits between Baltra and North Seymour. It's flat and sandy shores attract a large number of sea lions as well as shorebirds such as herons and Lava Gulls. We'll return to the boat and enjoy our first sunset in the Islands.

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
Galaxy I

Activity note: Sullivan Bay: wet or dry landing depending on tides. Moderate trail conditions due to sharp lava rock trails. Wear closed toed shoes with good traction. Bartolome Island: dry or wet landing. Difficult climb of stairs to the top of the viewpoint.

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

Morning: After a wet or dry landing at Sullivan Bay, our naturalist leader will escort us on a walking field trip across recent lava fields and local trails. Good walking shoes are a must--the volcanic terrain is sharp and rough. This area of Santiago Island is covered by pahoehoe lava flows (solidified lava in corrugated or accordion form). It was very active in the last 25 years of the nineteenth century, making this flow geologically very young. The magma formed is flat, but the movement of underground lava, the rapid cooling and other eruptions led to the break in many places. 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. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling before going back to the yacht.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will make a dry or wet landing on Bartolome Island. The 1.2 mile walk to the top of the volcano includes a climb up a long wooden staircase (375 steps) with railings. The views are worth the effort! Bartolome Island is home to Pinnacle Rock, the "Guardian of the Isles" which rises sharply from the coast. The lunar-like landscape is home to one of the islands' most endearing residents: the Galápagos Penguin. The penguins make their home here, fishing in the waters nearby. During our hike we will be able to observe volcanic formations such as lava bombs, spatter, and cinder cones. From the summit, we'll get to enjoy great views of the surrounding islands, including Pinnacle Rock's eroded tuff cone. On the way to the summit we might come across colonies of marine iguanas, lava lizards, tiquilla and various cacti. 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
5
Genovesa Island, El Barranco, Darwin Bay
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: 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. 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.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: Dry landing at El Barranco (a.k.a Prince Phillip's Steps). After climbing the stone steps we will walk on local trails with our naturalist 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. A panga will take us back 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. The 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 or snorkeling before returning to the yacht.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
6
San Cristóbal, Interpretation Ctr, Lobos Island, Kicker Rock
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

Activity note: San Cristobal: easy, flat trail conditions. Lobos Island: easy to moderate trail conditions.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: This morning we will make a dry landing on San Cristóbal and visit the Interpretation Center. Opened in 1998, the center features expositions on natural history, human history and conservation efforts in the islands. The Museum of Natural History explains the series of natural circumstances such as the ecological and environmental events that formed the islands. The Human History exhibit narrates the most significant events regarding the discovery and colonization of the islands. We'll board a panga for our ride back to the yacht.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will transfer by panga for swimming and snorkeling near Lobos Island (a.k.a. Sea Lion). After this we will navigate around Leon Dormido (a.k.a. Kicker Rock) to get a closer look at the iconic stone formation and with the help of our naturalist we'll 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 frigate birds dotting its cliffs. 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
7
Espanola Island, Gardner Bay, Suarez Point
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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: 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. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling before going back to the yacht.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: 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. After our explorations we will return to the yacht in time to freshen up for dinner.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

DAY
8
Floreana, Post Office Bay, Cormorant Point, Devil’s Crown
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: Our half-mile walk at Post Office Bay will begin with a wet landing on the sandy beach and then 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. Next, we'll 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.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will board a panga and navigate to Devil's Crown to enjoy swimming and snorkeling and search for for local marine life. 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. We'll then return to the yacht and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation to the next day's activities.

DAY
9
Santa Fe Island, Plaza Sur, South Plaza
Galapagos Islands
B,L,D
Galaxy I

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: Aboard the yacht.

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 lookout 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! We'll return to the yacht in time for lunch.

Lunch: Aboard the yacht.

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: Aboard the yacht.

Evening: Orientation of next day's activities.

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

Activity note: 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. Due to limited flight times from the Galápagos to Quito, the timing between the farewell dinner and the transfer afterwards to the airport can be diminutive. Please see “Program Notes” section for more options.

Breakfast: Aboard the yacht.

Morning: 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. 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: A sandwich and drink will be provided at the airport*, for lunch en route. A light snack will be offered on the flight. *Location of lunch may change depending on the flight schedule.

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 international 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).

Morning: Early transfer to the airport in preparation for flights to North America. This concludes our program. 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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