Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer included. There are no planned activities, so check into the hotel and enjoy the city. A G Adventures representative will greet you at the hotel and brief the group on the various aspects of the tour.
Transfer early to the airport for the flight to the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival, meet the Naturalist Guide and cross to Santa Cruz islands to visit the highlands and the Charles Darwin Research Station before boarding the boat in the late afternoon from Puerto Ayora. After arrival in Baltra, visit of the highlands of Santa Cruz Island for a special opportunity to view the islands' most famous reptile: the giant tortoises in their wild habitat. What a privilege to see an endangered species roving in this lush environment! The vegetation of the area includes the Scalesia Forest (an endemic giant daisy tree) and birds such as the vermilion flycatcher will delight everyone with its scarlet feathers against an emerald green forest. Look for Darwin's finches, particularly the famous Woodpecker Finch. We will then visit the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center and Charles Darwin Research Station to learn first hand of the conservation and research efforts in the islands. There, you'll see several subspecies of adult tortoises, lots of hatchlings, and learn of the repatriation programs that are saving several subspecies of tortoises and iguanas from extinction.
Enjoy the day on Espanola Island, one of the oldest in the archipelago. Visit the white sandy beach of Gardner Bay and the bird colonies of Punta Suarez. Take guided walks to observe wildlife and have free time for swimming or snorkelling. Spend part of the day visiting spectacular Gardner Bay. Walk across a lovely white sand beach amongst a busy sea lion colony and nesting sea turtles (seasonal). Later, take some time exploring the Punta Suarez visitor site, on the north-western corner of the island. Here, birds are everywhere??underfoot, on the trail, overhead, diving into the sea, taking off from cliffs, sitting quietly, and if the timing is right, engaging in ritual mating dances or hatching eggs. As the panga driver guides us in through the surf to the landing, sea lions are often seen "hanging 10" on the waves. A great tangle of marine iguanas, stretched out in the sun on the beach, are usually present when we arrive.
Travel to the dramatic Kicker Rock in the morning to witness the steep vertical stone walls rising from the ocean and enjoy some of the best snorkelling in the Galapagos. Continue to Isla Lobos on San Cristobal to observe sea lions before landing at Punta Pitt in the afternoon for a walk to observe wildlife, birds and spectacular scenery. Start the day with an early navigation around the spectacular Kicker Rock. This striking rock formation is located a couple hours off the western shore of San Cristobal. Jutting out of the water, the rocks stand vertically at hundreds of feet above the ocean divided by a small channel. Head to Lobos Island, the most easterly point in the archipelago is one of only a few visiting sites in Galapagos where red-footed boobies can be observed. All three boobies (blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca) are known to nest here, and at Islote Pitt which is a small islet near the anchorage. Blue-footed boobies can often be seen plunge-diving for fish while frigate birds soar overhead. The trail at Punta Pitt winds up through eroded volcanic tuff formations to a plateau for a spectacular view of the island, and Islote Pitt. Along the trail are endemic plants and wildlife unique to San Cristobal, such as the San Cristobal mockingbird and the San Cristobal lava lizard.
Visit Santa Fe island for a chance to mingle with the iguanas. Continue to South Plaza for some great bird watching opportunities and views from the oceanside cliffs. Today, spend time visiting fascinating Santa Fe, home to a small population of very large land iguanas, and the largest of the Opuntia cacti. The lagoon is ideal for swimming and snorkeling; sea lions and colorful fish are in abundance here, as well as the occasional sea turtle. Later, visit South Plaza, a small, but very rewarding island to visit. Here you see an array of endemic land iguanas munching on Opuntia blossoms and leaves. On the upper edge, at the windward side, Swallow Tailed Gulls nest. Watch these beautiful birds maneuver in the tricky air currents as they set up to land on the cliff face. From the bluff you can see schools of Yellowtail Mullet, occasionally a shark, and lots of birds flying back and forth.
Visit Darwin Bay and marvel at the sheer number of birds along the many trails. Head to El Barranco in the afternoon to see the many types of boobies, including red-footed boobies. In the morning, visit the white-sand coral beach of Darwin Bay which winds through mangroves filled with land and marine birds. See Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls, and further down the path, observe tidal pools where sea lions swim playfully. In the afternoon, visit El Barranco (also known as Prince Phillip's Steps), which is a steep, rocky path that leads up to a high cliff-face. If you're lucky, catch a glimpse of red-footed boobies, short-eared owls, Nazca Boobies, storm petrels, Galapagos swallows, and Galapagos doves, as you enjoy this magnificent views.
Visit Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island to witness the giant lava formations contrasting the white-coral-sand beach. Continue to Bartolome for a guided walk to see the island's dramatic volcanic features and the iconic Pinnacle Rock. The morning visit heads to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island, located on the southeast part of the island. This place is interesting for its geology because the area has elevations in form of small volcanoes, formed by the lava flows. Later, head to Bartolome Island, home of the famous Pinnacle Rock. This is an exceptional place to observe volcanic island geology and to snorkel. Among the many colorful species you will see Bi-color Parrotfish, Streamer Hogfish, and Flag Cabrilla. Sometimes you get a special treat??a penguin "snorkeling" right around you in hunt of fishy treats. The long climb up the wooden steps to the pinnacle of this cinder cone takes you through cinders and rough volcanic formations, a veritable moonscape. The lower slopes are graced with a light sprinkling of the delicate, silvery Taquilia, a ground hugging plant adapted to this harsh spot. On top you will enjoy the spectacular view of Bartolome, Santiago, and several other nearby islands.
Spend the morning exploring the red sand beaches and salt water lagoons of this tiny island. Look for wading flamingos and nesting pelicans before heading out to do some snorkelling. In the afternoon, discover the lava flows and lava tunnels on the small island of Chinese Hat. After, enjoy a refreshing dip in turquoise waters. Search for fish and sea turtles in the protected bay. Rabida is a "small red island," the colour of the volcanic cinders.The red beach is usually well populated with sea lions and pups. At times the low salt bushes are loaded with nesting California Brown Pelicans. Just behind the beach, in a brackish lagoon, see Bahamas White-cheeked Pintail Ducks, migratory shore and wading birds, and Greater Flamingos. Flamingos need the presence of a dozen or two other flamingos to stimulate their synchronous mating dance. If our timing is right, we will be able to observe this highly entertaining ritual as well as two species of boobies nest along the cliffs. Later, travel to Sombrero Chino, a tiny island just off the southeast tip of Santiago. Its name (Chinese Hat) describes the island's shape. Though centrally located, it is one of the least visited sites in the area. Patches of pahoehoe lava, cracked lava and lava tubes can be found on the island. If you're up for a walk, a path leads to some spectacular views of the waves crashing below. White-tipped sharks frequent the area, as do the playful Galapagos Penguins and sea lions.
Disembark in the morning at Baltra to catch the flight back to Quito for one final night on the town. Disembark the boat at Baltra to transfer to the airport and catch the flight back to Quito. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel and joy one final night on the town.