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Galapagos Adventure with Carefree Birding

Galapagos-Islands-91 Why go with Wildside to the Galápagos?

• Kevin Loughlin has led more than twenty-five trips to the Galápagos!
• We choose our itineraries very wisely as every boat has several different itineraries.

• We choose our boat wisely, too, for comfort and for its itinerary.
• We spend more time on the islands than any other company.
• We maximize the best light for photography.
• We maximize wildlife activity viewing time.

This is a great trip for photographers, birders and nature lovers, as everyone should visit the Galápagos Islands… the experience is magical! During our adventure we will seek out the endemic species of birds and other animals of the Galápagos. Some of the bird species include Darwin’s finches, Galápagos Penguin, Galápagos Hawk, Galápagos Dove, Swallow-tailed Gull and Waved Albatross—doing their wonderful courtship dance! Other creatures we will see include Land Iguanas, Marine Iguanas, Lava Lizards and two endemic species of butterflies.

Kevin Loughlin is not only a birder, but also a professional photographer and will be sharing hands-on instruction, hints and tips throughout the trip excursions. Photographic opportunities abound as each day will include land excursions on different islands. Most days will also include snorkeling opportunities to enjoy swimming with sea lions, sea turtles and hundreds of species of fish! We will also fit within our schedule mini photo workshops to help you get the best images of each location we visit.

Kevin Loughlin, founder of Wildside, has led over 25 trips to the Galapagos since 2001 and is intimately familiar with the landscape and wildlife.

“Galapagos and mainland Ecuador was incredible, even better than I expected — and I had had high expectations. Kevin Loughlin, the president of Wildside Nature Tours, is an expert birder, naturalist, and photographer as well as being helpful and a genuinely nice guy. A great tour leader, he smoothly led us through complicated logistics that would have been formidable for a single traveler. The tour was so well done in fact that one of the first things I did upon returning home was to sign up for his tour of Costa Rica. I will be going there next April.”
— David M, Boulder, CO

*Note that if private tour does not fill by December 31, 2017 it will be opened up to the public so that we can fill the remaining spaces.

  • Tour Cost
  • 11-days/10-nights plus


    2018 Cost

    $7250 per person, double occupancy from Quito Ecuador


    Single Supplement (Hotel Only)

    If a single room is preferred or a suitable roommate is not available a single supplement fee of $200 will be charged for the Quito hotel portion.


    Single Supplement (yacht and hotel)

    Due to the limited number of rooms (cabins) on board the yacht for our small-group adventure, the single supplement fee will be an additional 75% of the tour coast and will only be offered less than 60 days from departure.


    Included in the Tour Cost

    All ground transportation, including transfers from arrival airport. R/T flights Quito/Galapagos/Quito. All accommodations (hotel and yacht). All meals from breakfast on first full day through breakfast on departure day. Tips for meal service at hotel. Snorkeling mask and fins on boat.


    Not Included in the Tour Cost

    International air travel, passport fees, luggage fees, trip insurance (required), tips for boat crew and naturalist (optional), $100 National Park Entrance Fee, alcoholic beverages, bottled beverages on board the boat, departure taxes, phone calls, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.


    Deposit Information

    A deposit of $1000.00 is required to hold a space on this trip (Cancelation Policy, Indemnity and Client Information Form). This payment may be paid by credit card online by clicking the button to the right, or you may call our office at 888.875.9453 to pay.


    Final Payment

    Final payment for all boat-based tours is required 180 days prior to departure. For this tour that will be January 5, 2018.

  • Itinerary


    Day 1 Arrive in Quito

    Day 2 Hummingbirds (and other species) of the Andes eastern slope

    Day 3 Fly to Galapagos - Baltra / Mosquera

    Day 4 Genovesa

    Day 5 South Plaza / Santa Fé

    Day 6 San Cristóbal

    Day 7 Española

    Day 8 Floreana

    Day 9 Isla Santiago / Bartolomé

    Day 10 Black Turtle Cove / Baltra / Quito

    Day 11 Return to USA




    Arrive in Quito at any time. Our representative will greet you at the airport and transfer you to our hotel.


    DAY 2 Papallacta Pass and Guango Lodge hummingbirds
    Today we will drive east through Papallacta Pass at nearly 13,000ft where we have seen Andean Condors on occasion. Continuing east we will arrive at Guango Lodge to enjoy Hummingbirds in their gardens and at their feeders. Incredible photo opportunities abound as we try to capture images of these wonderful creatures. We will have lunch at the lodge and enjoy a walk along the river before we return to Quito for dinner.


    Early flight to Baltra, in the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide who will assist with the transfer to our boat, the San Jose. Our first excursion will be to Mosquera Island after lunch to walk along the beach and observe the sea lion colonies. Here will be a great chance to practice the challenge of exposing for bright sand and dark volcanic rocks.

    The national park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD, payable on arrival, which funds Park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the National Park System are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.


    Land at Genovesa Island, an old imploded volcano, to observe the massive colonies of Frigate Birds, Boobies and other seabirds as well as striking volcanic cliffs rising from the ocean.

    Well to the north of the main Galapagos Island group, Genovesa is the shape of a horseshoe given it's volcanic history. The island has a volcanic caldera whose wall has collapsed, forming the Great Darwin Bay, surrounded by cliffs. Lake Arcturus, filled with salt water, lies in the centre, and sediment within this crater lake is less than 6,000 years old. Our first excursion in Darwin Bay provides us some fantastic snorkeling opportunities within the a partially eroded crater.

    In the afternoon there will be an excursion to "El Barranco," otherwise known as Prince Phillip's Steps, on the southern tip of the island. This is an extraordinary path that leads through a seabird colony full of life, up to cliffs that are 75ft high. At the top, the trail continues inland, passing more seabird colonies in a thin palo santo forest. Storm-petrels nest here and can sometimes be seen avoiding their chief predator, Short-eared Owls.

    This island is also known as Bird Island, because of the large and varied bird colonies which nest here, and the whole ecology is made of birds and marine iguanas, no mammal. There are an abundance of frigatebirds and it is the best place to see Red-footed Boobies in the Galapagos.


    One of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, South Plaza has one of the largest populations of Land Iguanas. A large colony of noisy sea lions has its prime habitat on these smooth rocks. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation. The small cactus forest is populated by land iguanas, which can be seen sunning themselves or feeding on opuntia pads and fruits. Swallow-tailed gulls, which nest on the rugged southern cliffs, are usually seen, along with Red-billed Tropicbirds and Galapagos Shearwaters. During the garua season you can see the sesuvium turn bright colors of red, orange and yellow, like an Autumn day in New England.

    In the afternoon, we'll explore Santa Fé, a fairly small and dry island. Also called Barrington, Santa Fé Island is well-known as a great place for watching (and swimming with) sea lions. Santa Fé was formed from an uplift (rather than a volcano) giving the island a relatively flat surface rather than the typical conical shape of the other islands. Introduced goats were eradicated in 1971, and Santa Fe is now home to a number of endemic species, which have bounced back from the outside threat, including: Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, Galapagos Rice Rat, Galapagos Mockingbird and a variety of finches.

    Hiking towards the cliffs along the island's northern shore you can view the forest of giant Prickly Pear Cactus. A member of the cactus family their name comes from the pear shaped fruit the plant produces. Santa Fe is home to an endemic Land Iguana. Once back at the beach there is normally plenty of free time to snorkel back in the lagoon. Playful sea lions pups and bright-colored fish make for fascinating company.


    We will pass by Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), which is a magnificent rock in the middle of the sea, set in a shape resembling a sleeping lion (or for the not-so-creative, a shoe. Hence the english name Kicker Rock). The rock rises nearly 500ft above the ocean surface and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel navigable by small vessels. We also visit Cerro Brujo, where there is a chance to go hiking, swimming and snorkeling. The sandy beach is home to Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Brown Pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies and many sea lions.

    The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal is the capital and administrative centre of the Galapagos Islands. From here, in the afternoon, we will visit a newer site near Cerro Colorado where we can find the San Cristobal variety of saddlebacked Giant Tortoises.


    At Gardner Bay on Española Island (also called Hood Island) we'll walk along one of the most beautiful beaches in the archipelago. Sea lions and bird life will keep us very occupied, but there will also be the opportunity to go snorkeling.

    Punta Suarez on the western side of Española is spectacular: gargantuan waves break on jagged cliffs and large bird colonies thickly populate the interior of the island; there is a distinct feel of desolate wilderness here. The Waved Albatross is seen here from April to December during its mating/nesting season. This bird leaves land between January and March each year to make its annual odyssey far out to sea. Amazingly, Española is the nesting site to virtually the entire world population of this species, with more than 12,000 pairs residing here. Large numbers of Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies are also found here, Red-billed Tropic Birds dash madly through the air, and both Marine Iguanas and sea lions are common. A huge blowhole, where the surf is forced through a natural rock formation spouting seawater 50 or more feet into the air, adds to the island’s impression of untamed beauty.


    Make our way to Punta Cormorant on the northern part of Floreana. The landing is on a beach of greenish sand, colored by olivine crystals, volcanic-derived silicates of magnesium and iron. The trail leads to a lake normally inhabited by flamingos and other shore birds and continues to a beach of fine white sand particles known as “Flour Beach”, an important nesting site for turtles. Around the point, Devil's Crown derives its name from the broken remains of a partially submerged volcanic cone. This is a perfect spot to go snorkeling from the boat, as the waters are home to a multitude of colorful fish and sea lions. Please make sure you are a comfortable swimmer, however, as despite the protection from the open sea provided by the "crown," the water here can be rough and the currents strong.

    Later in the afternoon we stop at Post Office Bay. A barrel was placed here in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels to be used as a post office. Passing ships would stop to leave mail for loved ones, collecting at the same time any mail destined for ports on their itineraries. Today the box is used mainly by tourists, who may drop off and pick up unstamped letters to be carried to far destinations. The remains of a Norwegian canning factory are the only evidence of the Island’s history prior to its designation as a protected area.

    The history of Floreana Island (also called Charles) has gradually evolved to reach near mythic proportions. The story begins when a baroness and her two lovers, a German doctor and his mistress, and a German couple and their young son all came to settle on this land. Their dalliances and disasters, shrouded in mystery, were chronicled in John Treherne’s book The Galapagos Affair. Descendants of the German family, the Wittmers, still live on the island in the small community of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Mrs. Margaret Wittmer has also written a booked entitled "Floreana".


    Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island offers striking lava formations. Very few plants have managed to survive on this island due to the harsh environment and relatively new lava floe, about 110 years old.

    Bartolomé Island has two main areas of interest. A hike to the summit of the island provides a clear perspective of the islands' not-too-distant volcanic origins, and the panoramic view is one of the best among the islands. From here are visible the double-sided beach of Bartolomé directly below, the volcanic tower rising out of the water next to it, and Santiago in the distance. After the summit hike, stop at the beach to relax in semi-tropical tranquility. There is great snorkeling among the submerged volcanic rock and around the base of the tower. A short hike to the beach on the opposite side is worth the minimal effort. It is not unusual to see sharks in these shallow waters.


    Early morning we'll visit Black Turtle Cove, a nursery area for not only Green Turtles but many sharks and rays as well. We will motor through the mangroves enjoying views of many birds as well. After our visit we will disembark at Baltra and transfer to the airport for our flight back to Quito.

    In Quito we will have our final evening meal together .

    Departures throughout the day...

  • Accommodations
  • Garden Hotel San Jose

    In Quito we will enjoy the beautiful Garden Hotel San Jose (not related to our boat, just coincidence!). This family owned hacienda is close to the airport as well as an easy drive for our hummingbird day. Great food and great service as well as comfortable rooms and a garden full of birds!


    SAN JOSE Yacht Information (Click for yacht photos and info)
    Category: Tourist superior class motor yacht.

    Length: 110 ft.

    Beam: 24 ft.

    Capacity: 16 passengers

    Cabins: 7 double cabins above deck, 3 single cabins below deck

    Construction: Steel hull, wood interior and trim.

    Accommodations: 8 large cabins are all above deck with doors that open outside to the deck. Each has private bath, hot showers and air conditioning. A rear sun deck and large bow area offer great pelagic viewing. A comfortable bar and lounge areas with TV and DVD rounds out our boat.

    Crew: Captain, 5 sailors, chef and mechanic plus a National Park naturalist/guide.

    Electricity: Two 110/220v generators, standard two-prong receptacles

  • Additional Info
  • Additional Costs

    $100 Galapagos Islands National Park Fee

    $150 (Optional, but recommended) Boat Crew / Naturalist Gratuities

    $40 Wet Suit Rental (optional, if you find the water too cold)


    Note that due to the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands, trip insurance with medical evacuation is required. We highly recommend CSA Travel Insurance. GET QUOTE


  • Trip Reports
  • NOTE: Please visit our blog, NOTES FROM THE WILDSIDE to read our many trip reports over the years!


    The Galapagos Islands are very regulated and every trip has a different itinerary. The birds and wildlife we see will vary with the islands we visit, as many species are only found on one or two islands.


    Kevin Loughlin, your trip leader, has been to the Galapagos more than 20 times and he chooses our itineraries wisely in order to see the most possible birds and wildlife as well as the most diversity of scenery and habitat on every trip!



    Galapagos Island Trip 2012 by Sarah


    TRIP REPORT Galapagos Oct 2005