GALAPAGOS 10-2023: SPECIAL EXTENDED 18-DAY Birding & Photography Adventure
/ BIRDS & PHOTO
From: $16,950 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Quito, Ecuador (UIO)
8 - 14 Participants
12 spaces available
PRIVATE TOUR OPTION
This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.
Highlights of GALAPAGOS 10-2023: SPECIAL EXTENDED 18-DAY Birding & Photography Adventure
Description of GALAPAGOS 10-2023: SPECIAL EXTENDED 18-DAY Birding & Photography Adventure
See all that we can see with this 18-Day Galapagos adventure that adds the western islands we don’t typically visit on our tours!
Everyone should visit the Galapagos Islands… the experience is magical! During our adventure we will seek out the endemic species of birds and other animals of the Galapagos. Some of the bird species include Darwin’s finches, Galapagos Penguin, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos 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.
Photography 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… so bring an underwater camera, too. We will also fit within our schedule mini photography workshops to help you get the best images of each location we visit while learning more and improving the quality of your photography.
Birding in the Galapagos is easy… however, the slower we go the more we will see. Our birding will entail quiet observation as we sit and enjoy our incredible surrounds. While taking our time birding, we will see other Galapagos wildlife like butterflies, reptiles and insects.
Length of Tour
Basic Galapagos Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Quito
Day 2 – Hummingbirds (and other species) of the Andes.
Day 3 – Fly to Galapagos – Baltra / Santa Cruz
Day 4 – North Seymour & Mosquera
Day 5 – Genovesa: Darwin Bay / Prince Phillip’s Steps
Day 6 – South Plaza / Santa Fé
Day 7 – San Cristóbal: Cerro Brujo / Cerro Colorado Tortoise Breeding Center
Day 8 – Española: Gardner Bay / Punta Suarez
Day 9 – Floreana: Punta Cormoran / Champion Islet / Post Office Bay
Day 10 – Isla Santiago: Sullivan Bay / Bartolomé: Pinnacle Rock
Day 11 – Santa Cruz: Black Turtle Cove / Bachas Beach
Day 12 – Isabela: Whitetip Reef Shark Channel / Wetlands / Tortoise Breeding Center
Day 13 Isabela: Moreno Point / Mangle Point / Tagus Cove
Day 14 Fernandina: Punta Espinoza / Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca Point
Day 15 Santiago: Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove / Puerto Egas
Day 16 Rabida / Sonbrero Chino
Day 17 Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Research Station / Baltra Airport / Quito
Day 18 – Return to USA
Detailed Galapagos Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive Quito
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.
Day 3 – Baltra / Santa Cruz
Early flight to Baltra, in the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide who will assist with the transfer to our yacht, the Solaris.
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.
Our first excursion, after lunch, will be to the highlands of Santa Cruz to enjoy the amazing Giant Tortoises in the wild. Here we will also explore the beautiful Scalesia Daisy Tree Forest to seek many of the endemic finches.
Day 4 – North Seymour & Mosquera
North Seymour Island, flat and rocky, is littered with Blue-footed Booby nests, and these birds can often be seen doing their comical courtship dance! In the surrounding saltbush we can find nesting Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds, males often with their bright red throat pouches inflated.
After a bird ID class and/or photo workshop on board the yacht, we will explore Mosquera, a tiny spit of land perfect for practicing what we learned as boobies and frigates fly by while shorebirds, sally lightfoot crabs and sea lions line the beach and rocks.
Day 5 – Genovesa
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.
DAY 6 – South Plaza / Santa Fé
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.
Day 7 – San Cristóbal
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.
Day 8 – Española
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.
Day 9 – Floreana
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.”
Day 10 – Isla Santiago / Bartolomé
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. Lava Heron feed from the rocky shoreline and Galapagos Penguins patrol the waters where we may see them while we snorkel!
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.
Day 11 – Santa Cruz: Black Turtle Cove / Bachas Beach
This 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 fish and birds, including Blue-footed Boobies.
These two small beaches are found to the west of Turtle Cove. Their sand is made of decomposed coral, which makes it white and soft, making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. There is a small brackish water lagoon behind one of the beaches, where occasionally it is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. The other beach is longer, but it has two old barges that were abandoned during the Second World War when the USA used Baltra Island as a strategic point to protect the Panama Channel.
Day 12 – Isabela: Tintoreras-Whitetip Reef Shark Channel / Wetlands / Tortoise Breeding Center
Tintoreras consists of several small islets off the coast of Puerto Villamil and is one of the most emblematic visitor’s sites of the Galapagos. Its impressive concentration of Galapagos wildlife can be admired easily during the tour From a viewpoint, you can see herons on mangrove branches whilst Galapagos penguins and sea lions can be spotted on the land. Whitetip reef sharks can be found in the tidal channels, and their abundance is what gives these islets their Spanish name. Another highlight is the breeding colony with uncountable numbers of marine iguanas!
After lunch aboard, you will visit the local tortoise breeding centre, where you can see hundreds of giant Galapagos tortoises of all sizes. The vulnerable hatchlings are not gigantic at all, even smaller than the size of your hand! This project, just outside Puerto Villamil, was created to rescue the endangered populations of Isabela’s southernmost volcanoes. In Puerto Villamil and the surrounding wetlands, there is the historical site called “The Wall of tears”, a national cultural heritage place where punished prisoners were forced to build this long wall and useless wall of lava rocks. Also, you might have the chance to see American flamingos. At the end of the afternoon, you will have some free time to explore the village and/or its beach.
Day 13 – Isabela: Moreno Point / Mangle Point / Tagus Cove
Moreno Point is located on the north coast of Isabela Island, between the volcanos Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. The trail runs along a solidied pahoehoe lava ow into a complex of coastal lagoons. Its main attractions are several species of birds, which are found around the lakes and mangrove forests.
We will enter the Bolivar Channel and navigate towards Tagus Cove. On the way, you will see how explosive eruptions have blown out a part of the outer rims of both tuff cones, and created their characteristic horseshoe shapes and Tagus Cove. Sailors used to write the names of their vessels on the eastern cliffs of this place. A tour along the cliffs in a dinghy will give the visitors a good chance to see the Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormorant and other sea birds. From the landing dock, it is about a 30-minute hike along the trail up to the top of the cliff from where you can view Darwin Lake; an uplifted ultra saline lake saltier than the sea. You can also see several volcanoes from this location. Look carefully at the graffiti on the surrounding cliffs of the cove! They were written by pirates, whalers and buccaneers in past centuries.
Day 14 – Fernandina: Punta Espinoza / Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca Point
Fernandina is the third-largest island in the archipelago and has a single visitor site: Punta Espinoza, located at the northeastern tip of the island. Marine iguanas conglomerate in larger groups than on any other island. They bask around in the sand, swim near the shore and sometimes block the way at the landing dock. Among the unique species found here, is the flightless cormorant. This bird had to adjust its way of survival and perfect its skills of finding food in the ocean. Their wings, tails and feet progressively adapted for swimming. To see these birds is to witness evolution happening right in front of you.
While having lunch, the yacht will cross the Bolivar Channel for the last time to Vicente Roca Point, just at the mouth of Isabela’s seahorse shape. While entering a dark cave below a spectacular arch, the roaring echoes of the waves will accompany you. Just around the corner, the collapsed amphitheater of Ecuador Volcano offers another impressive view. The calmer waters of the coves are well protected against the ocean swell and are a fairly cold but great place for snorkeling amongst various species of shark, penguins, puffersh and even seahorses!
Day 15 – Santiago: Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove / Puerto Egas
Espumilla Beach is a visitor’s site at the northern end of James Bay, on the western coast of Santiago. This beach has been revived as an important breeding site for turtles, as it is no longer suffering from digging wild pigs. The turtles return year after year to bury their eggs into the cinnamon-colored sand dunes. The beach ridge hides mangroves with two picturesque lagoons. The colony of American flamingos and aquatic birds used to be its main attraction, but after the climate phenomenon of El Niño, strong sedimentation altered the brackish water environment and it no longer contains their food. During the climb of a hill, you will be rewarded with a beautiful overview of the transitions from sea into beach into mangrove into dry palo santo forest.
At lunchtime, you will navigate south to Puerto Egas, with its famous fur seal grottos, where you will enjoy another, very different guided walk along the coastline. Its masterfully sculptured coastline of black basalts and polished multi-colored ash layers forms a photogenic scene with collapsed lava tunnels, natural arches, caves and blowholes such as “Darwin’s toilet”. In a grotto directly below a spectacular rock arch at the end of the beach, a colony of sea lions occupies the shade. Hundreds of sally lightfoot crabs seem even brighter orange against the black rocks.
Day 16 – Rabida / Sombrero Chino
The remarkable red beach of Rabida offers two short guided hikes. Oxidized iron particles give the rocks and sand their rusty color. The beach wall holds a shallow green-fringed lagoon. This oasis is the most fertile place on the otherwise arid islet, which is overgrown with leaf-dropping palo santo trees. The salty pool attracts all kinds of aquatic birds, like pintails and sometimes American flamingos. Between the evergreen foliage of the surrounding mangrove bushes, many species of songbirds hide and breed. One of the most outstanding attractions is the major breeding colony of brown pelicans; the only ones in the world that plunge-dive.
Chinese Hat is a 52 m/170 ft high volcanic cone, forming an islet off the rocky coast of Santiago, where a small colony of Galapagos penguins has settled. Because its primordial re has been extinguished recently, this is an excellent place to learn more about volcanism, lava bombs and lava tunnels. On the beach, you can also find curious pillow-type lavas with coral heads on top! These spheres had a submarine origin before being lifted above sea level. Beaches of white coral sand grow, and holes in the eroding lava fields are filled up with lava sand, which enables rooting. Galapagos sea lions and countless marine iguanas contribute to fertilization. This all together creates more favorable options for newcomers, like saltbush and the sesuvium carpet.
Day 17 – Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Research Station / Baltra Airport / Quito
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.
Day 18 – Return Home
Departures throughout the day…
Cost is $16,950 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Quito, Ecuador (Airport code UIO.
This trip ends in Quito, Ecuador (Airport code UIO).
Single Cabins, Shared Cabins & Suites
Our yacht for this tour, the Solaris, has two single cabins as well as two suites with queen-sized bed and four shared cabins with two beds. See current availability below:
– 4 Twin share standard cabins – 2 beds in each: $16950 per person (3 cabins/6 spaces available)
– 2 Single cabins: $17950 per person – includes single hotel room as well
– 1 Suites: $17950 per person (1 ‘matrimonial bed’ in each suite, plus a sofa/sitting area)
– $200 Galapagos Islands National Park Fee (subject to change)
– $300 (Recommended Gratuities) $200 for Boat Crew & $100 for local naturalist
– $50 Wet suit rental (mask & snorkel are free)
If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.
Tour Costs Include
Local Galapagos/Quito flights, Tourist Card fee ($20), all airport transfers, all accommodations (hotel and yacht), all meals from breakfast on Day 2 through dinner on Day 10, all permits, all land transportation.
Tour Costs Do Not Include
International flights, passport and/or visa fees, additional hotel nights, additional snacks or bottled drinks, alcohol, laundry, phone calls or anything of a personal nature or not specifically mentioned as included.
A $2,500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.
How to Book
In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.
For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.
For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.
NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.
Garden Hotel San Jose de Puembo
In Quito we will enjoy the wonderful Garden Hotel San Jose de Puembo, located only 15 minutes from the new airport near Quito. Spacious rooms and an excellent restaurant sit in a small town surrounded by rolling hills. Birds, llamas and beautiful flowers can be found in the hotel’s gardens. While here, enjoy the relaxing hot tub.
Category – First Class motor yacht
Length – 118 ft
Beam – 29 ft
Capacity – 16 passengers
Accommodations – All cabins are all above deck with doors that open outside to the deck. Each has private bath, hot showers and air conditioning. A top sun deck and large bow and stern area offer great pelagic viewing. Comfortable bar and lounge areas with TV and projector for presentations round out our boat.
Crew – Captain, 5 sailors, 2 chefs and 2 mechanics plus our National Park naturalist/guide.
Electricity – Two 110v/220v generators, standard USA three-prong receptacles throughout the yacht.
Activity Level Rating: 3 (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)
• Some trails on the Galapagos will be very rocky.
• We will need to board and disembark from zodiacs to the yacht as well as to shore.
Gear for Birding and Wildlife Viewing in the Galapagos
• Be sure to bring good, waterproof binoculars. Yes, much of the wildlife is close, but some is not, especially when viewing sea birds from the yacht.
• Spotting scopes are not typically needed as there will only be a couple locations where migrating shorebirds may be too distant for binoculars. None of the Galapagos endemics will require a scope. We will have a scope for use on our pre-Galapagos Hummingbird Day.
Photography Gear for the Galapagos Islands and Hummingbird Day
The best camera is the one you have with you! That said, we will help you get great photos no mater what camera you use.
For those with DSLR or Mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses, here is what we recommend that you bring two bodies to reduce changing lenses and just in case of accidental damage to one.
• 24-105mm (or equivalent)
• 100-400mm (or equivalent)
In addition you may also want to have an ultra-wide lens equivalent to about 16-35mm.
• Tripod for longer exposures and steady video
• Rain cover for camera
• Weather resistant Camera Bag (Backpack style is best)
• Polarizing Filters
• Batteries and chargers
• Lots of memory cards!
• Laptop or other downloading device
UPDATED VERSION COMING SOON!
GALAPAGOS: A NATURAL HISTORY
by John Kricher (and Kevin Loughlin in new edition)
This is one of the best books to get to know the islands well before your visit.
WILDLIFE OF THE GALAPAGOS
by Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter, David Hosking
Kevin’s favorite guide to the flora and fauna of the islands.
Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.
Detailed Trip Information
Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.
Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.
As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.
Passport & Visa
US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.
Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.
The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.