Travel to Ecuador and encounter the extraordinary flora and fauna of the Galapagos’ central islands.

When it comes to encountering wildlife up close and personal, a voyage to the Galapagos Islands really is an adventure unlike any other. Wherever you look, opportunities for witnessing nature in its most unaffected state abound. Head underwater off Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Bartolome or Isla Isabela and you'll be snorkelling with sea lions, white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and penguins. Look to the skies in North Seymour or Cerro Dragon and you'll spy frigatebirds, boobies, pelicans and more swooping and soaring. Head out for a wander across the volcanic landscapes of Punta Espinosa and you'll likely happen upon land iguanas and flightless cormorants. Prepare to have your expectations of this unique destination more than exceeded.

Start
Quito, Ecuador
Finish
Quito, Ecuador
Countries
Ecuador
Themes
Sailing, Wildlife
Code
GMDD
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • If there’s one ultimate Galapagos adventure, this is it. Combining off-the-beaten-track gems with iconic sights like the Pinnacle Rock, this trip is a microcosm of the Galapagos
  • This unique, stand-alone sailing adventure shares its itinerary with no other Intrepid trip. Enjoy minimal contact with other travellers and boats
  • Explore the remote west coast of Isabela on a small Panga boat, and venture to the far-west Fernandino, home of the highest density of marine iguanas
  • Beach-lovers will be in heaven. The turtle-dotted Las Bachas is about as idyllic as they come, and the richly coloured sands of Espumilla on your feet feel like nothing else
  • Volcanically active, steeped in myth and flanked by gorgeous cliffs, the old pirate haunt of Buccaneer Cove has something for everyone, from birdwatchers to geology enthusiasts to history buffs
  • Las Tintoreras is like one big wildlife party. Snorkel among the iguanas and turtles and effortlessly spot sea lions, penguins and frigate birds

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador. This country might be smaller than its heavyweight South American neighbours, but this audacious land stakes a legitimate claim as the continent's most complete package, blessed with perfect beaches and the remarkable Galapagos Islands. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5pm or 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with the hotel reception or notice boards for where and when it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, get out and explore Quito (2,850 m), one of South America’s most attractive cities. Stroll around the Old Town, and be sure to visit the majestic Monastery of San Francisco if you have time. Alternatively, check out Cotopaxi volcano, the Cloud Forest, the local hot springs or the Equatorial Monument.
Special Information
Quito is located at 2850 metres above sea level. At this altitude you may experience some of the milder effects of altitude sickness, such as dizziness, insomnia and a shortness of breath regardless of age or physical health. If so, we recommend you avoid any strenuous activity. Please see the "Medical & Health Information" section for more details.
Transfer to Quito Airport for your early morning flight to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll leave the hotel as early as 4:30 am. A boxed breakfast will be provided. A transit card (USD20 per person) is payable on departure at Quito Airport, and a national park entry fee (USD100 per person) is payable on arrival on the islands. Please have cash on hand for these transactions, as credit cards can be time consuming. On arrival in the Galapagos, you’ll be met in the arrivals hall and transferred to your boat, Daphne. Once on board, you’ll be assigned a cabin, meet the crew and get to know your naturalist guide and fellow travellers over a delicious lunch. Sail from Baltra to Las Bachas (approximately 30 minutes; 4 nautical miles). The lush sands of Las Bachas, on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, are a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle. Marine iguanas are also commonly spotted. The sand here, made of decomposed coral, is particularly white and soft. 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.
Special Information
** Please note today is predominately a long travel day with an early morning start. Your first activity on the islands will not commence until after lunch. **
Sail from Baltra to Isla North Seymour (approximately 45 minutes; 5 nautical miles). This is one of the most visited islands of the Galapagos. First up is a solid walk, the highlight of which may well be 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, go snorkelling and encounter a great variety of fish – perhaps white-tipped reef sharks, rays and sea lions. Next it’s off to Isla Bartolomé (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 miles), one of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes in the Galapagos, full of parasitic spatter cones, lava flows, Galapagos penguins and lava lizards. Bartolomé is a relatively new island in the archipelago. Put on your walking shoes and climb over 360 wooden steps to the summit, where an amazing view of Pinnacle Rock awaits. This is one of the photographed sights in the Galapagos: an abrupt jag of rock protruding from the earth like a tooth, near two back-to-back golden bays. Hike to the top of a once-active volcano and enjoy superb views across to Sullivan Bay on nearby Santiago Island. If you’re in luck, you might catch a glimpse of the Galapagos hawk. There’s also the opportunity to go snorkelling among the colourful tropical marine life.
Head to Puerto Egas (approximately 4.5 hours, 35 nautical miles), a black-sand beach on the west side of James Bay, northwest of Santiago Island. It’s home to some amazing volcanic tuff formations. Take a stroll along the beach where marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals are known to frolic. You can see the amazing tidal pools, formed from ancient lava flow, providing a home for sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. Snorkelling in the midst of seals always offers the possibility of thrilling encounters. After Puerto Egas, sail to Espumilla Beach (approximately 45 minutes; 5 miles), located on the northern coast of Santiago Island. Experience the texture of its unique soft sand on your feet. The waters are tranquil, yet can also form large waves, making it a favourite among beach lovers. The vegetation is a vivid green. Not only is this island a nesting site for marine turtles, it’s also a place to see ghost crabs, blue-footed boobies (often plunging for fish) and brown pelicans. There’s also the chance to see Galapagos hawks up close. It is also well known for its palo santo forest and some extraordinary lava formations. Next you will visit Buccaneer Cove (approximately 15 minutes; 2 nautical miles) and witness its spectacular geology of volcanic ash (tuff). Here you might find the remains of objects used by pirates in centuries past. This is where Darwin camped for nine days while making his study of the islands and their wildlife. If conditions are favourable, you can enjoy some more snorkelling.
Visit Tagus Cove, where pirates and whalers used to collect turtles for their travels. Enjoy a short visit here (approximately 2 hours), perhaps snorkelling or checking out the ancient graffiti on the walls (the oldest of which is from 1836). Witness flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies and a variety of waterfowl and penguins (the most northerly penguins in the world). You will walk to a lookout point for a stunning panorama of the north of Isabela Island and the Wolf volcano. This morning you will also visit nearby Fernandina Island, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. It’s also volcanically active and the most westerly island, making it one of the least visited. The third largest in size, it erupted most recently in 2009. The absence of introduced mammals gives it a unique landscape, and it boasts the highest concentration of marine iguanas on the archipelago. The northeast tip, Punta Espinosa, is a narrow ledge of lava and sand extending from the base of La Cumbre volcano. You will 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 marvellous Galapagos predator hunting from the treetops – the Galapagos hawk. Top-notch snorkelling opportunities await in the clear waters, and turtles and sea lions can be seen swimming around and feeding on the shore. This is a great spot to see flightless cormorants drying their atrophied wings amid the volcanic landscape.

Estimated travel time/distance:
Buccaneer's Cove to Espinoza: 45 mins (6 nautical miles)
Espinoza to Elizabeth Bay: 4.5 hours (37 nautical miles)
Today you will land at the archipelago's largest island – Isabela. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having formed less than a million years ago. Here you will take a Panga ride along Elizabeth Bay, which is located on the west coast of Isabela Island and does not permit landings. Keep your binoculars and camera at the ready to photograph the second-smallest penguins in the world. You might also spot blue-footed boobies perched on the islets or diving for their next meal. Then you’ll head for the mangrove forest, which is quite unique in the Galapagos, to see sea turtles, sea lions, penguins, lava herons, rays and plenty of colourful fish – pompanos, dorados and mullets. Your destination is Punta Moreno (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 nautical miles) on the south west coast. You’ll spend the afternoon here. This coastline has some of the most beautiful blue lagoons and rocky terrain in the Galapagos, with a backdrop of three active volcanoes, myriad flamingos and incredible lava formations. Landing is impossible here too, due to the delicate ecosystem. Go for an amazing walk on top of the black lava field with the majestic view of Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul in the background. Depending on the season, you can see brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves, lava and candelabra cactus, plus lava lizards. You’ll pass brackish water lagoons, covered with several different plants, where pink flamingos, ducks and black neck stills rest. Then jump aboard once again and head out for a snorkel and look out for the elusive sea horse.
An overnight sail takes us to Puerto Villamil (8 hours, 64 nautical miles).
This morning, visit Las Tintoreras, a little peninsula at the entrance of Isabela Island’s Port. Here there’s a viewing walkway from where you can look down into the narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping – and the occasional sea lion among them. Blue-footed boobies, penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here. Enjoy a nice long walk on a gravel path, heading through lava flows and spotting plenty of marine iguanas. The natives of the islands call white sharks ‘tintoreras’, hence the name of this spectacular site. This is where everything comes together for one big marine and wildlife party. Without trying you will see sea lions, penguins and frigate birds. After breakfast you will take a bus up to Sierra Negra Volcano where you will see the crater and explore the area. This volcano last erupted in 2005. In the afternoon you will visit the Interpretation Center and Humedales, the wetlands of Isabela. You’ll reach them via a complex trail which winds around for some six kilometres. Upon arrival you’ll find an intriguing spread of flora and fauna (including flamingos) and some spectacular scenery.
Tonight, sail to Cerro Dragon (5 hours 45 minutes, 45 nautical miles).
Special Information
A port fee of US$5 is payable on arrival at Isabela Island.
Wake up this morning on Santa Cruz's north coast and visit Cerro Dragon aka Dragon Hill. From the dry landing, walk to a brackish lagoon that’s frequented by birds such as stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally 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 and is constantly monitored by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for some fine birdwatching. Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, Galapagos flycatchers and yellow warblers are all regulars here. The path can be challenging, but the reward is a spectacular view of the bay. In the afternoon you will visit Punta Carrion in north-eastern Santa Cruz. First sail to the Baltra dock (approximately 2.5 hours; 18 nautical miles), then to Punta Carrion (approximately 1 hour; 6 nautical miles). This is a shallow and protected cove, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. Wildlife is plentiful here – keep your eyes peeled for blue-footed boobies, Galapagos herons and great blue herons. Go swimming among the rays and white-tipped reef sharks. Afterwards, sail from Punta Carrion to Puerto Ayora (approximately 4 hours; 30 nautical miles).
Special Information
Please note that we will need to make a stop today at Baltra Port to re-fuel. This could take up to 2 hours.
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 4pm, 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.

Estimated travel times/distances:
Bus from Santa Cruz Highlands to the Itabaca Channel: 45 minutes
Public ferry across the channel: 5 minutes
Public airport bus from the dock to Baltra airport: 15 minutes
Special Information
ITINERARY AMENDMENT:
Originally this tour was meant to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station in the morning of day 9 but due to ongoing maintenance and until further notice, the Station will be closed in the mornings and therefore we will not be able to visit it on this tour. Instead the final excursion will be a visit to the Santa Cruz Highlands.

** Please note today is predominately a long travel day with an early morning start. There will be a short morning activity before our mid-morning flight back to the mainland. The flight back to Quito is not due to arrive until late afternoon getting back to the hotel in time for an optional final group dinner. **
There are no activities planned for the final day so we are able to depart our accommodation at any time. If you have not spent time here before, we recommend you stay on a few days as there are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, such as the Cotopaxi volcano, the Cloud Forest, hot springs, the Equatorial Monument or perhaps city tour of the fascinating Old Town. Please speak to our customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest. They can also assist you in booking a departure transfer to the airport.
Special Information
All travel times and distances listed in the itinerary are as a guide only and are subject to change.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
9 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
Transport
Boat, Plane, Bus, Zodiac (Panga)
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nights), Overnight boat (7 nights)
Included activities
  • Isla Santa Cruz - Bachas Beach Walk (1 hour) - Wet Landing
  • Isla North Seymour - Walk (2 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla North Seymour - Snorkelling (1 hours)
  • Isla Bartolome - Walk (1.5 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Bartolome - Snorkelling (1.5 hours)
  • Isla Santiago - Puerto Egas - Walk (1.45 hours) - Wet Landing
  • Isla Santiago - Puerto Egas - Snorkelling (1 hour)
  • Isla Sanitago - Espumilla Beach - Walk (1.5 hours) - Wet Landing
  • Isla Sanitago - Espumilla Beach - Snorkelling (45 mins)
  • Isla Sanitago - Buccaneer's Cove - Sail (15 mins)
  • Isla Isabela - Tagus Cove - Walk (1.45 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Isabela - Tagus Cove - Snorkel (1 hour)
  • Isla Fernandina - Punta Espinoza - Walk (2 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Fernandina - Punta Espinoza - Snorkel (1 hour)
  • Isla Isabela - Elizabeth Bay - Panga Ride (2 hours)
  • Isla Isabela - Punta Moreno - Walk and Panga ride (2 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Isabela - Las Tintoreras visit (1.5 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Isabela - Sierra Negra Volcano Crater Walk (3.5 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Isabela - Interpretation Center Visit
  • Isla Isabela - Los Humedales (Wetlands) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Santa Cruz - Cerro Dragon - Walk (1.5 hours) - Dry Landing
  • Isla Santa Cruz - Punta Carrion - Snorkelling (1 hour)
  • Isla Santa Cruz - Highlands Visit (3 hours) - Dry Landing

Dates

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Important notes

GALAPAGOS PARK, TRANSIT CARD & ISABELA ISLANDS PORT FEES:
Before checking in for the flight from Quito to the Galapagos, there is a US$20 transit fee that needs to be paid. On arrival in the islands you must pay the US$100 national park fee to enter Galapagos National Park. If your voyage visits Isabela Island, there is also a US$5 fee to be paid on arrival at the island.

PASSPORT DETAILS:
When booking, please make sure that your name is spelt correctly, and that you book using the name in your passport (particularly if you are recently married). If you are issued a new passport with a different number between the time that you book and the time you travel, please take both the old and new passports with you.

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS:
Should you have a special diet requirement (for example vegetarian, celiac, vegan, severe food allergies) it's essential that you inform us or your agent of the specific details at least 10 days prior to departure, in order to make sure the chef on board the boat or on the island can request the necessary food supplies.

MINIMUM AGE:
The minimum age on this trip is 15. Please note that triple cabins are not available. If travelling with a child, the child will need to share with one of the adults, and the other adult will share with another adult passenger, or pay a single supplement.

SEA SICKNESS- GALAPAGOS:
Please note that from June to August the water is rougher than usual. Consequently travel times will be longer than usual. If you suffer from seasickness you may want to reconsider travelling during this period.

ELECTRICITY, WI-FI & PHONE COVERAGE IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS:
Electricity in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands is 110 - 120V and requires US plugs so you may need to take an adapter.
Wi-Fi is not available on the boat at all whilst in the Galapagos Islands. There is limited access on the bigger islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela and there may also be internet cafes for you to use if there is time.
Like Wi-Fi, mobile phone coverage is pretty non-existent whilst travelling around the islands. Again, you may find that you have limited service when you are closer to the bigger islands.
There is a satellite phone on board, for the use of shipboard staff, in case of emergency.

DIVING IN THE GALAPAGOS:
We do not offer diving as a part of our Galapagos program and due to our internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Complete Galapagos - Central Islands (Daphne) trips score an average of 4.73 out of 5 based on 11 reviews in the last year.

Complete Galapagos - Central Islands (Daphne) , April 2016

Complete Galapagos - Central Islands (Daphne) , April 2016