Galapagos Cruises

# Wildlife Cruise

Galapagos Cruises

8 Days from £3200 per adult.
8 Days
Wildlife Cruise
Snorkelling and Diving

With dramatic volcanic landscapes and lying directly on the Equator, the geologically recent Galapagos Islands rate as one of the most unusual wildlife locations in the world. Above water there are plants and semi-tame animals whose geographical isolation and adaptation to the harsh conditions have led to the evolution of many unique natural histories, including marine iguanas, giant tortoises and the famous Darwin finches. Underwater, cool currents have introduced otherwise coldwater species to these tropical seas: penguins, orcas and fur seals happily rub along with parrot fish, turtles and manta rays.

Of the 29 species of land birds on the islands, 22 are endemic including 13 species of Darwin’s finches. Nineteen species of seabird include waved albatross, flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, two species of frigatebird and three species of booby.

Mammals include the Galapagos sea lion, fur seal and cetaceans such as sperm, humpback and pilot whales, dolphins and orca.  Ray and shark species include the Galapagos shark, scalloped hammerhead and whale shark.

Among the resident reptiles are a large nesting population of the Pacific green turtle, two species of land iguana, marine iguana, seven species of lava lizard, nine species of gecko (of which five are endemic) and three endemic snakes. Noteworthy is the giant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus), now sadly restricted to a mere handful of sites around the islands and most likely seen in the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, and other breeding centres.

There are in the region of 85 ships cruising the Galapagos Islands, ranging from 12 –  90+ passenger capacity. The best option to cover a wide variety of islands is a seven night cruise (or longer), though some ships offer shorter cruises as well.

For those wishing to sleep on dry land every night it is possible to have a land-based Galapagos program, staying in a hotel on Santa Cruz Island for a few days. These programs include day trips by boat to some of the nearby islands such as Bartolome, North Seymour and Santa Fe.

Some companies also offer ‘island hopping’ programs, visiting three or four islands (Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana), staying in a comfortable hotel each night.

The Galapagos Islands are a year round destination, but there are some variations in weather and sea temperature throughout the year.

From about June until November it is the cooler, dry, foggy season in the Galapagos Islands, with average daily temperatures in the region of 26 degrees centigrade, and average water temperatures around 21 degrees centigrade. November is the transition month into the hotter, wetter season (most rain occurs in the higher elevations) with average day time temperatures up to 30 degrees centigrade in March and April, and an average water temperature of 25 degrees centigrade.

Underwater visibility is at its best in April and May, whilst the choppiest seas are in August and September.

Wildlife activity varies throughout the year, and there are some islands where specific species can be seen. For example, waved albatross can only be seen on Española Island between April and December, flightless cormorants can only be found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands, red-footed boobies on Genovesa Island (and a smaller colony on San Cristobal Island), and the majority of the population of Galapagos penguins are on Isabela and Fernandina Islands (though smaller populations can be seen on some of the other islands, such as Bartolome) as well.

We work with a variety of Galapagos ships, a selection of which can be seen here. Please contact us for further details about any of these, or any other, ships that are of interest, or a land-based or island-hopping program if preferred.

The sample itinerary below (from the Cachalote Explorer “Tower” itinerary) offers a glimpse of what you can experience on a wonderful Galapagos cruise.

Itinerary

Price from £3200 per adult. Based on sharing double / twin rooms

Day 1 - Baltra and Santa Cruz

On arrival on BALTRA ISLAND meet the guides and cross the Itabaca Channel on a 5-minute ferry ride to SANTA CRUZ ISLAND. Here a vehicle will be waiting to take you on a tour of the highlands.

Visit Los Gemelos (The Twins), two sinkholes surrounded by endemic scalesia forest where vermilion flycatchers, short-eared owls and finches can be seen. Continue to Rancho Manzanillo or one of the other private farms in the area to look for giant tortoises in the wild and have lunch. Then descend to the town of Puerto Ayora, watching as the scenery gradually changes as you wind your way down through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos.

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre on the edge of the town of Puerto Ayora, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND. See all three tortoise corrals and the breeding centre with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology. Stop at Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can see the tortoise and land iguana corrals. Puerto Ayora is the social heart of the islands with the largest population of 24,000 inhabitants. Time permitting there may be an opportunity to do some shopping, and for those desperate to re-connect with the outside world internet is available in the town. Board the Cachalote Explorer in the late afternoon.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 2 - Plazas and Santa Fe

In the morning visit PLAZAS ISLANDS, two very small islands that were uplifted from the sea and separated by a channel. Only SOUTH PLAZAS ISLAND has a visitor site - the whole island is like a massive tilted plate with one side dipping into the water and the other raised into the air to form a cliff edge. It has tall, tree-like opuntia cactus and the ground is covered with sesuvium (a succulent plant). The main attractions here are land iguanas, sea lions including a bachelor colony, swallow tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds and Audubon’s shearwaters.

After lunch navigate to the small island of SANTA FE. The visitor site is located on the north-eastern side of the island and here there is a well-protected cove with a white sandy beach and shallow turquoise waters which makes a perfect location for snorkelling, swimming and kayaking. There are plenty of sea lions here which make the time in the water very interesting. On the small land trail, the main feature is the unique giant prickly pear cactus.

The land iguanas here are much lighter coloured than those elsewhere and are endemic to the island. You might see them feeding on fallen pads from the cacti. Galapagos mockingbird, magnificent frigatebird, brown pelican and several species of Darwin’s finch are common sights on the island.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 3 - San Cristobal

Today explore SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND, the easternmost island of the Galapagos archipelago and one of the oldest. Visit Cerro Brujo (Witch’s Hill), a volcanic cone that overlooks a beautiful white sandy beach which has plenty of sea lions, pelicans, blue-footed boobies, waders and marine iguanas. Here there will be an opportunity to snorkel and kayak.

In the afternoon visit El Junco Lagoon. El Junco is the only large freshwater lake in the archipelago and here frigatebirds can be seen swooping to drink from the lake.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 4 - Espanola

Spend the day exploring ESPAÑOLA ISLAND. The long white coral beach at Gardner Bay is frequented by sea lions and the endemic long-billed (or Hood) mockingbird, and colourful lava lizards. Here there will be an opportunity to snorkel and kayak.

Punta Suarez is one of the most interesting visitor sites in all of the Galapagos. The landing point is covered with sea lions and their young, and thousands of marine iguanas bask on the rocks. The marine iguanas here are unique, displaying copper red patches and keeping some red all year around. This is the only island where you find waved albatross and there is a large breeding colony of them here during the mating season (April to December). The island has a large blowhole around which hundreds of marine iguanas congregate. There are blue-footed and masked boobies nesting here, oystercatchers and swallow-tailed gulls.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 5 - Floreana

Spend the day exploring FLOREANA ISLAND. Floreana has had a colourful history: Pirates, whalers, convicts, and a small band of somewhat peculiar colonists—a Baroness among them—who chose a Robinson Crusoe existence that ended in mystery and death. In the morning visit Punta Cormorant which offers two highly contrasting beaches; a green-olivine beach and an iron-red beach. Between the two beaches is a salt lagoon frequented by flamingoes, pintails, stilts and other wading birds. There will be an opportunity to snorkel here.

Enjoy snorkelling at Devil's Crown, which is home to a myriad of marine species including a variety of corals, pencil sea urchin, wrasses, angelfish and amberjacks - making for some of the best snorkelling in the Galapagos.

Finish at Post Office Bay, where in 1793 British whalers set up a barrel as the island‘s Post Office, to send letters home on passing ships. The tradition continues to this day, simply by dropping a post card into the barrel without a stamp. There will be an opportunity to snorkel here.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 6 - Santa Cruz and Santiago

Morning visit to Cerro Dragon, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, named for the large number of land iguanas that frequent the area, and an important nesting site for iguanas reintroduced by the Charles Darwin Research Centre. A short walk from the beach leads to a hypersalinic lagoon that is frequented by pink flamingos, common stilts, pintail ducks and other species of birds. From here, pass through a forest of the endemic scalesia tree. There are only 400 specimens of the scalesia tree left in the world. Past the forest, hike up Dragon Hill for impressive views of the bay. There will be an opportunity to snorkel from the beach.

In the afternoon visit Sullivan Bay, SANTIAGO ISLAND, one of the most outstanding volcanic sites in the Galapagos. In the nearly 100 years since the Sullivan Bay lava flow, only a few plants such as mollugo and lava cacti have managed to take root in this harsh environment. Oystercatchers can be seen fishing for crabs and molluscs in the tide pools of Sullivan Bay. After exploring the lava flow, there is swimming and snorkelling with playful sea lions off two small coralline beaches.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 7 - Genovesa

Spend the entire day on GENOVESA ISLAND, considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species.

In the morning have a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca (formerly masked) boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, you find storm petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, you will see the elusive short-eared owl. Look for the beautiful red-billed tropicbird usually found in the crevices along the shoreline. There will be an opportunity for snorkelling.

In the afternoon have a wet landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of opuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of great frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich inter tidal zone where you find a wide diversity of wildlife. After the walk, you can swim and snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters.

Staying at Cachalote Explorer. Includes All Meals.

Day 8 - Santa Cruz and Baltra

Visit Black Turtle Cove, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND. No landing is allowed, but during a dinghy ride in this sheltered lagoon young white-tipped reef sharks are often seen, as well as schools of spotted eagle rays or golden rays.

Then return to BALTRA in time for the flight back to the Ecuadorian mainland.

Includes Breakfast.

Travel Info

Are International Flights Included?
No. Please contact us for a quote if required.

Flight Info:
There are direct flights from Quito and Guayaquil to both Baltra and San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands though most ship operators use the route Quito - Guayaquil - Galapagos.

Best Visited:
January to January

Area Specialist

John Melton

If you have any queries about this tour please feel free to call me directly on +44 (0)1803 866965 or...

The wildlife – especially in the Galapagos was superb + lived up to expectations. Our real Galapagos highlights were sub-aquatic – the marine life being spectacular – whales, manta rays, stingrays, sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas, octopi, plus so many huge fish!

Mrs M P - Kent

Route Map

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Baltra Island: -0.444172, -90.267314
Los Gemelos: -0.625542, -90.384431
Charles Darwin Research Station: -0.741125, -90.306350
Charles Darwin Research Station: -0.741125, -90.306350
South Plazas Island: -0.584399, -90.160783
Santa Fe Island: -0.824824, -90.063863
Cerro Brujo: -0.768124, -89.457896
El Junco: -0.895103, -89.479837
El Junco: -0.895103, -89.479837
Gardner Bay: -1.354250, -89.659259
Gardner Bay: -1.354250, -89.659259
Punta Suarez: -1.369189, -89.745475
Punta Cormorant: -1.225310, -90.425171
Post Office Bay: -1.236771, -90.449624
Cerro Dragon: -0.527182, -90.488070
Sullivan Bay: -0.287915, -90.565565
Prince Philip\'s Steps: 0.303487, -89.951647
Darwin Bay: 0.318326, -89.949541
Black Turtle Cove: -0.501765, -90.327481