19 February 2017
Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin on this wonderful trip to Ecuador and see the unique wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. You begin this 10 day tour in the fascinating city of Quito, capital of Ecuador, then relax on board the M/V Santa Cruz as you are taken on a memorable cruise around the Galapagos Islands. You will see all the rare birds and animals revealed by Darwin on his famous voyage of discovery during walks and dingy rides around the islands. All this, and you will even get a special certificate for crossing the equator.
After arriving in Quito you will be met by one of our experienced tour representatives and taken to your city hotel, the Dann Carlton, where you can relax after the journey or go out on your own and explore, getting in some valuable early sightseeing and shopping.
A full day to enjoy this great city. Visit the downtown area and relish this urban jewel and its treasures of art and architecture. Quito's colonial quarter, the biggest and best preserved in South America, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Stroll through Independence Plaza, flanked by the cathedral and Presidential Palace then continue to the Equatorial Monument, 16 miles north of Quito, which marks the exact Middle of the World, latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Beside the monument is a colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, restaurants and gift shops. Here you will get a certificate for having crossed the Equator. Overnight Quito.
Today enjoy a private full day tour, which includes lunch, designed to provide visitors with a great overall view of the dramatic Andean scenery. Visit the town of Peguche where you see weavers at work in a textile shop, then visit South America's most famous Indian fair along the Panamerican Highway at Otavalo, travelling through dramatic mountain scenery to get there. Lunch is at one of the charming inns or haciendas and there will be plenty of time for shopping before returning to Quito for another night.
You are taken to the airport this morning for your flight to the Galapagos. After touching down on Baltra Island you will be taken to the M/V Santa Cruz which will be your home for the next five nights. Once on board you will have a talk on what you will be seeing and doing over the next four days. Sail to North Seymour Island for a walk along the coast and the interior, observing bird colonies of blue footed boobies, two species of frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls and also sea lions and marine iguanas.
Since there is no landing site on Isabela Island the coastal exploration is by panga, while the naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. This is the nesting place for flightless cormorants. Wildlife here includes sea lions, Galápagos fur seals, penguins, blue-footed and Nazca boobies and noddy terns. If conditions are right you can take a snorkeling trip along the cliffs of partly-sunken Ecuador Volcano, which is very rich in marine life. After lunch on board, visit Punta Espinoza, the youngest island of the archipelago, for a one-mile walk over dark lava to see the highest density of marine iguanas.
After breakfast visit secluded Tagus Cove, which provided a favourite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. An uphill hike takes you to the back of Darwin Crater, which is filled with salt water. The view at the end of the trail is worth the climb. After lunch anchor at Urbina Bay which is home to large and very colourful land iguanas, giant tortoises and is a good spot to see Darwin’s finches. Along the shoreline, after the hike, you may encounter flightless cormorants and see penguins while snorkeling in this beautiful cove.
In the morning visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, including tortoise celebrities like Lonesome George within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest which is home to many land birds. Lunch at the poolside of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. Then take a 30-minute bus ride to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island to enter the famous Giant Tortoise Reserve, and see the impressive migrations these giant reptiles must endure every year for feeding and reproduction. Santa Cruz hosts one of the largest tortoise populations in Galapagos. Return to Puerto Ayora and rejoin your ship for dinner.
A morning visit to Post Office Bay where a short walk leads you to the historic barrel where mail can be left for other guests from other vessels to be hand-delivered to its destination. This tradition of over two centuries is unique. Then you explore the north shore of Floreana Island with its long narrow channels teeming with life. Rays, turtles and sea lions can be seen gently swimming next to our pangas. After a wet landing and a short walk up to a volcanic cone, you reach the Baroness’s Tower, from where the entire northern shore can be seen. Later visit Cormorant Point landing on an olivine-crystal beach for a walk along a white sand beach to see turtles emerge from the sea to nest. Tonight there is farewell cocktail party.
Today you say farewell to the amazing wildlife of the Galapagos Islands and to your fellow passengers when you leave the MV Santa Cruz and are taken to the airport on Baltra Island to catch your flight back to Guayaquil taking with you a lifetime of memories of all those wonderful creatures discovered by Charles Darwin on these unique islands.
Today is the last day of your South American adventure but you may still have time to explore Guayaquil and get in some last minute shopping before being taken to the airport for your onward flight or to begin your journey home. The people of Guayaquil are outgoing and open, they enjoy their city, are fiercely proud of their heritage and will be delighted to welcome you.
Superior Rate fr £3609pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated