Absolute Galapagos (Grand Daphne)


Discover the endemic wildlife, bizarrely beautiful landscapes and underwater treasures of the Galapagos Islands on this immersive 17-day cruise. Explore both the traveller’s favourites and quiter parts of the archipelago, all with a passionate local naturalist on hand to guide you over pahoehoe lava and through marine iguana colonies. Snorkel in clear waters off the coast of Isla Espanola, paddle through a green turtle breeding grove on Isla Floreana, look out for mottled Galapagos hawks on Isla Fernandina, and wander between sea lions lounging on beaches with red, black and white sand.

17 days, from

$13,720

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

3
Trip code: GMDE
Style: Comfort
Theme: Sailing
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Details

Countries Visited:  Ecuador
Accommodation: Hotel (2 nights), Overnight boat (14 nights)
Transportation: Boat , Plane , Bus , Zodiac (Panga)
Meals: 14 dinners, 16 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 1, Max 16

  • With over two weeks spent on the archipelago, this trip takes a more leisurely pace. Spend more time on each island, soaking up the sun and the sea (lions).

  • Hike, snorkel, sleep, repeat – this isn’t your average cruise. Get active in the rugged and isolated Galapagos Islands.

  • Sea lions are like the dogs of the ocean: playful, goofy and curious. And while you can’t pat them, you’re bound to fall in love with these furry frolickers.

  • Pink flamingos, red-throated frigates and blue-footed boobies will have you craning your neck, snapping photos and contemplating a career in ornithology.

  • Towering cacti, rocky cliffs, red-sand beaches and more await you in this otherworldly archipelago.

Itinerary

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Day 1: Quito

The adventure gets under way in Quito, Ecuador’s sprawling but refined capital city. A welcome meeting will be held this evening at either 5 pm or 6 pm, but aside from that you are free to check out the city on your own today. If you arrive with time to spare, perhaps head to Quito’s Old Town and pick one (or more) of the 30 churches to explore.

Day 2: Isla Baltra - Santa Cruz Highlands

Rise and shine! An early start is necessary this morning to make it to the Galapagos with time to play today. This could mean leaving as early as 4.30 am, and an Intrepid representative will confirm the exact departure time during the welcome meeting on Day 1. Transfer to Mariscal Sucre International Airport (aka Quito Airport), enjoying a boxed breakfast en route.

Fly to the Galapagos (approximately 3.5 hours). On arrival, collect your luggage and meet your naturalist guide in the arrival hall. Follow your guide on a public bus for a short distance (approximately 5 minutes), then board the public ferry and head across the Itabaca Channel (approximately 7 minutes). All public transport fees are included in your trip price. Once you reach Isla Santa Cruz, board a private bus to the highlands.

After a short journey (approximately 10 minutes), arrive at Los Gemelos – twin sinkholes created by the collapse of surface material in underground fissures and chambers. They are surrounded by the unique scalesia cloud forest, so be on the lookout for the abundant birdlife including different species of Darwin finches, woodpeckers, warbler finches and vermillion flycatchers. Continue further into the highlands (approximately 30 minutes) and explore a rancho farm, where you will take a walk and later enjoy lunch. The approximately 2-kilometre walk around the area will likely reveal giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

After lunch, travel to Puerto Ayora (approximately 45 minutes) where Le Grande Daphne and her crew will be waiting for you. Once on board, you’ll be assigned a cabin and have a chance to settle in for your first night on the islands before a safety briefing.

Day 3: Isla Floreana

Discover the quirky maritime history of Post Office Bay, home of the oldest postal system in the Americas. There’s a post box here that was first built by 18th-century whalers and is still in use today. Perhaps leave a letter to be collected by another traveller or look for one you can deliver. Snorkelling and a Zodiac ride are also included in this outing. Afterwards, head ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystal, a glassy volcanic mineral that gives the beach an olive-green colour. Take a 1-kilometre walk in search of sea lions, flamingos, pintails and stilts. Finish at a sandy beach where Eastern Pacific green turtles nest.

Just offshore, the famous Devil’s Crown waits for those who want a special snorkelling experience. The partially-submerged remains of a volcanic cone, Devil’s Crown is now a unique swimming hole and home to rays, sharks, sea lions and turtles.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Puerto Ayora to Isla Floreana: 4 hours (32 nautical miles)
Punta Comorant to Punta Suarez: 6.5 hours (52 nautical miles)

Day 4: Isla Espanola

Wake up and take a hike on Isla Espanola, the southernmost island of the Galapagos. It is the breeding site for almost all of the estimated 24,000 waved albatrosses on earth. If you’re lucky (and the timing is right), you might spot the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate during your walk. Hike through booby colonies to the rocky trails of beautiful Punta Suarez. This 3-km hike culminates at a clifftop viewpoint. Gaze out over views of rugged cliffs framed by swooping frigate birds, watching while albatross use the cliffs as their ‘runway’, getting airborne on the southeast winds.

Next, head to Bahia Gardner for a walk along the beach. Dodge lounging sea lions on this 1-kilometre walk, then cool off with a spot of snorkelling. The rocks off the coast are rich with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish (such as surgeon and angelfish). Small white-tipped reef sharks can also be spotted resting under the rocks.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Suarez to Bahia Gardener: 45 minutes (5 nautical miles)
Bahia Gardener to Kicker Rock: 5 hours (8 nautical miles)

Day 5: Isla San Cristobal

Shake off any early morning doziness with a trip to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). This basalt crater rises 150 metres above the water and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. Cruise through the channel as nesting seabirds flank the boat, tropicbirds soar overhead, marine iguanas swim about and sea lions lounge on the water. Snorkelling here gives you the chance to see Galapagos sharks, sea turtles and an incredible biodiversity of invertebrates living in the rock.

Later, sail to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal. Some passengers will be leaving and others joining the group today, so you have some free time to explore the town of San Cristobal. In the afternoon you will visit the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre, which brings the history and geography of the archipelago to life, from its volcanic origins to the present day. If there’s time, your guide may be able to organise an optional visit to the highlands of San Cristobal, for a chance to see giant tortoises in the wild. The price of this optional activity depends on the number of passengers attending. Relaxing on the beach is a great option for those who don’t wish to partake in this excursion.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Leon Dormido to Isla San Cristobal: 1 hour (8 nautical miles)

Day 6: Isla Santa Fe - Isla Plaza Sur

Sea lions, iguanas and hawks – oh my! Isla Santa Fe is home to all three, plus Galapagos mockingbirds, marine turtles, frigate birds, Galapagos doves and lava lizards. This stunning island boasts one of the most attractive coves in the whole archipelago. Take a hike along the coast into the opuntia forest (approximately 1.5 hours). The trail is rocky, so mind your step and make sure you’re wearing good walking shoes.

Afterwards, continue to Isla Plaza Sur, a small, picturesque island. Take another walk (approximately 1.5 hours), getting close to sea lions and passing one of the Galapagos’s largest land iguana populations. The southern cliffs are great for spotting tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as ‘the Gentlemen’s Club’ – a gathering of male sea lions. Today there may be an extra stop on the way to Plaza Sur to restock the provisions for the boat.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Isla San Cristobal to Isla Santa Fe: 3.5 hours (26 nautical miles)
Isla Santa Fe to Isla Plaza Sur: 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Isla Plaza Sur to Bahia Darwin (Isla Genovesa): 7.5 hours (59 nautical miles)

Day 7: Isla Genovesa

Explore Isla Genovesa, the archipelago's north-eastern outpost. The island’s varied landscapes are a twitcher's paradise, with all three kinds of boobies, including the rare red-footed booby, nesting here. Next, Bahia Darwin (Darwin Beach) is another superb birding site with large breeding colonies of seabirds, frigates, lava herons, swallow-tailed gulls, mockingbirds, and vampire finches.

Enjoy a moderate walk (approximately 2.5 hours) that passes tide pools, sea lions and diamond stingrays. This walk involves sand and some rocky sections. The steep Prince Philip's Steps lead you to the heart of the seabird rookeries, with birds swirling overhead and nesting among the cliffs. Look out for storm petrels on the island’s rocky plains – Genovesa is the only place in the world where these birds can be seen flying during the day. Afterwards, perhaps cool off with a snorkel, during which you could encounter manta rays, sharks, turtles and moray eels, plus many species of fish.

Later tonight, depart Isla Genovesa for Isla Santiago.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Prince Philip's Steps (Isla Genovesa) to Bahia Sullivan (Isla Santiago): 8 hours (48 nautical miles)

Day 8: Isla Santiago - Isla Santa Cruz

On Santiago Island's eastern coast sits Bahia Sullivan. Take a walk along pahoehoe lava (approximately 1 hour), which was created by an eruption that occurred here in 1897. With some luck you might see some marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions, finches, turtles, sharks and penguins. During your walk, as always, your naturalist guide will take you through the geological history of the island.

Travel to Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill): one of the best places to see land iguanas in the islands. From our dry landing, walk to a brackish, lagoon spotting lagoon birds such as stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and flamingos. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a nesting site for land iguanas, which is constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for an ideal place to see Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galapagos flycatcher and yellow warblers. The path can be challenging but it will be worth it for a spectacular view of the bay.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Bahia Sullivan to Cerro Dragon: 1.40 hours (17 nautical miles)
Cerro Dragon to Black Turtle Cove :50 minutes (8 nautical miles)

Day 9: Isla Santa Cruz

Explore Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) on a Zodiac. This red mangrove wetland is located on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz. Cruise through this peaceful cove and look out for mating green turtles, as well as golden cow-nose rays, eagle rays and Galapagos sharks.

Head to Las Bachas, where the soft sand made of decomposed coral is a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle. Marine iguanas are also commonly spotted along the beach. The rocks make for excellent snorkelling and are populated by Sally Lightfoot crabs which are plentiful on the island. A saltwater lagoon just near the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel – you might also see a great blue heron. Remnants of a floating pier, a testimony to the US presence in the Galapagos during World War II, can also be seen.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Caleta Tortuga Negra (Isla Santa Cruz) to Las Bachas: 30 minutes (4 nautical miles)

Day 10: Isla Rabida - Isla Isabela

Today you will sail from Las Bachas to Isla Rabida, known for its spectacular red sand beaches, caused by the high content of iron in the sand which rusts to form the unusual shade. Follow a trail from the shore along to a lagoon which is one of the best spots in the Galapagos to view flamingos. Keep an eye out for nesting pelicans, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions – all are commonly sighted on the island. Check out a vast opuntia cactus forest, hinting at the previous habitation of land iguanas, Galapagos hawks, mockingbirds, doves, finches and lava lizards. You may like to take the chance to go snorkelling and seek out sea stars, damsels, gobbies and surgeon fish.

In the afternoon, head to Albemarle on the northeast side of Isabela Island. Covered in mangroves, the bay is home to sea turtles, sea lions, penguins and flightless cormorants who feed on the algae and fish here. Take a walk inland and discover the remains of an old radar base from World War II and pass by pahoehoe and lava formations. Another fantastic location for snorkeling, you may like to have a look beneath the water’s surface in search of sea turtles and flightless cormorants.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Sail from Bachas to Rabida: 3.3 hours; 23 nautical miles
Rábida to Punta Albermarle: 6. hours; 56 nautical miles

Day 11: Isla Isabela

Sail overnight from Isla Santiago around to the western shores of Isla Isabela. Wake up near Tagus Cove, where pirates and whalers used to collect tortoises for their travels. Enjoy a short visit here (approximately 2 hours), perhaps snorkelling or checking out the graffiti on the walls (the oldest of which is from 1836). Witness flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, a variety of waterfowl and the most northerly penguins in the world. You will walk to a lookout point for a stunning view of the north of Isabela Island and Volcan Wolf (Wolf Volcano).

Today you will also visit Bahia Urbina on the west of Isabela Island, Urbina Bay has a wide variety of plant life which changes depending on the season. You will be able to observe the beautiful color of the plants which attracts many different insects. The site also features a short trek inland, where giant tortoises can be spotted amongst the bushes in their natural habitat. You may also see land iguanas which often nest in the middle of the trail where their distinctive, textured and yellowish skin can be observed from up close. Flycatchers, Darwin’s finches and mockingbirds are common on the ground and in the trees.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Albermarle to Caleta Tagus: 3.5 hours; 37 nautical miles
Caleta Tagus to Bahia Urbina: 1.5 hours; 15 nautical miles

Day 12: Isla Fernandina - Isla Isabela

Today we visit Punta Espinosa that is a narrow ledge of lava and sand extending from the base of La Cumbre volcano. Take a walk around the beautiful peninsula, which boasts such wildlife and plant life as lava cacti, marine iguanas, barking sea lions, tiny penguins and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Keep a lookout for that marvelous Galapagos predator hunting from the treetops: the Galapagos hawk. Top-notch snorkeling opportunities await in the clear waters, and turtles and sea lions can be seen swimming around and feeding on the shore. This is also a great spot to see flightless cormorants drying their atrophied wings on the rocks.

In the afternoon head to Punta Vicente Roca, this site allowed for panga rides to observe the abundant wildlife and offers one of the best snorkeling spots of the Archipelago. The snorkeling “route” takes us along the cliffs and offers the not so common chance of exploring two shallow underwater caves.

The primitive and unaggressive bullhead shark, known locally as the Port Jackson shark, is often seen here sharing its space with red-lipped batfish, frogfishes, Pacific seahorses, the endemic Camotillo, schools of barracuda and brown-stripped snappers. Sponges, corals, and other marine invertebrates are also abundant in the area.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Bahia Urbina to Punta Espinoza 1.4 hour: 16 nautical miles
Punta Espinoza to Punta Vicente Roca 1.4 hour: 16 nautical miles

Day 13: Isla Santiago

Sail this morning to Puerto Egas, a black-sand beach on the west side of James Bay, northwest of Isla Santiago, home to incredible volcanic tuff formations. Take a stroll along the beach with the native marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals. You can see the amazing tidal pools, formed from ancient lava flow, providing a home for sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. You might also end up snorkelling with a Galapagos fur seal – they’re always looking for a friend! In the afternoon travel to the northwest side of Santiago Island where you’ll find Caleta Bucanero, named after the pirates and buccaneers who once found shelter in the bay. Here you’ll have the chance to go snorkelling and take a dinghy ride to look for blue-footed boobies, pelicans and nocturnal seagulls nesting in the cliffs.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Albermarle (Isla Isabela) to Pto Egas (Isla Santiago): 5.2 hours; 45 nautical miles
Puerto Egas (Isla Santiago) to Caleta Bucanero (Isla Santiago): 1 hour; 9 nautical miles

Day 14: Isla Bartolome - Isla Sombrero Chino

Wake up in Bartolome Island, a spectacular volcanic landscape full of spatter cones and lava flows, and home to Galapagos penguins and lava lizards. Put on your walking shoes and climb up 360 wooden steps to the summit, where an amazing view of Pinnacle Rock awaits. This is one of the most photographed sights in the Galapagos – an abrupt jag of rock protruding from the earth like a tooth, providing a focal point for two nearby bays. Hike to the top of a once-active volcano and enjoy superb views across to Bahia Sullivan on nearby Isla Santiago. If you’re in luck, you might catch a glimpse of the Galapagos hawk. There’s also the chance to go snorkelling among the colourful marine life. In the afternoon, travel to the small island of Sombrero Chino, found on the southeast side of Santiago Island. With lovely sandy beaches and a striking volcanic landscape, this is a fantastic place to take a hike and look out for the sea lions and penguins that rest here, and snorkel in search of reef sharks and sea turtles.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Caleta Bucanero (Isla Santiago) to Isla Bartolomé: 2.2 hours, 21 nautical miles
Isla Bartolome to Isla Sombrero chino:1.25 hours, 7 nautical miles

Day 15: Isla North Seymour - Isla Santa Cruz

Wake up this morning in North Seymour, one of the most visited islands of the Galapagos. First up is a walk around the island to spot some blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship, sharing the same nesting area on North Seymour. Blue-footed boobies nest on the ground while the frigate birds nest just above them in the saltbushes. As you walk, look out for land iguanas, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions and the endemic incense tree. After the walk, cool off and go snorkelling and encounter a great variety of fish and perhaps some white-tipped reef sharks, rays and sea lions. Later in the day, travel to Isla Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. Pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station in the small town of Puerto Ayora. As well as undertaking vital conservation work, the station also makes for interesting exploration and offers the best opportunities for close encounters with giant tortoises. You may also see baby tortoises and land iguanas.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Isla Sombrero Chino to Isla North Seymour: 1.30 hours; 18 nautical miles
Isla North Seymour to Charles Darwin Station (Isla Santa Cruz) S: 3.45 hour; 31 nautical miles

Day 16: Isla Baltra - Quito

Flights to the mainland from Galapagos depart mid-morning, so it’s an early start for your last morning on the islands.

You will visit the Santa Cruz Highlands. Travel through the agricultural region and into the misty forests where you can see the unique scalesia cloud forest, dome-shaped giant tortoises in the wild, different species of Darwin finches and possibly the world-famous woodpecker and warbler finches. You might also glimpse a vermillion flycatcher.

Then it’s time to bid farewell to the archipelago and head to the airport for your mid-morning flight back to Quito for the last night of the tour. This flight takes approximately 2.5 hours with a transit in Guayaquil. Upon arrival at Quito Airport, at about 4 pm, you’ll be transferred back to your hotel for an overnight stay. A local Intrepid representative might stop by the hotel this evening to get your feedback on the trip.

Day 17: Quito

There are no activities planned for today, and your tour finishes after breakfast. Of course, that doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! Why not stay on in Quito for a few days and discover the charms of the city. Don’t know where to begin? Try an Urban Adventure, the perfect way to get under the surface. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/Quito-tours.

17 days, from $13,720

to book call 1-844-205-6226


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