25 September 2016
This six day cruise around the Western Galapagos on the M/V Santa CruzII is a great way to experience these fascinating and exotic islands. The 43 cabin Santa Cruz was built exclusively for Galapagos Island cruising and boasts superb service, expert crew, knowledgeable guides, and the very best international cuisine as well as Ecuadorian specialties. The sun deck features a bar and Jacuzzi and a platform for dolphin and whale watching while the dining room and lounge are elegantly appointed and there is also a well stocked library. A flexible programme allows for different activities every day and there is even a glass bottom boat so you can watch the marine life throughout the cruise.
Your Galapagos adventure begins when you arrive by plane on Baltra Island and immediately transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz II. After a welcome introductory briefing and lunch you set sail for North Seymour Island where yo go for a walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing bird colonies of blue footed boobies, two species of frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls and also sea lions and marine iguanas. You also have the opportunity for snorkelling or coastal exploration. Tonight enjoy a welcome cocktail before dinner.
Since there is no landing site at 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 also includes sea lions, Galapagos fur seals, penguins, blue-footed and Nazca boobies and noddy terns. Yo may also be able to take a snorkelling outing along the cliffs of partly-sunken Ecuador Volcano to see green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish. After lunch on board visit Fernandina Island, the youngest island of the archipelago, for a one-mile walk over dark lava and see the marine iguanas, sharing their space with sea lions, sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant.
After breakfast land at secluded Tagus Cove, a favourite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti is still found carved on its walls and the vegetation includes the fragrant palo santo trees. An uphill hike takes you to the back of Darwin Crater, which is filled with salt water and the view is worth the climb. Take a panga ride along the volcanic shore of the cove to see boobies, penguins, flightless cormorants, terns, and sea lions. After lunch on board visit Urbina Bay, located at the foot of volcanoes Alcedo and Darwin. Here you can find corals and shells and this area is home to large and very colourful Galapagos land iguanas, giant tortoises and is a good spot to see Darwin’s finches. You can also snorkel in this beautiful cove.
This morning visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, where tortoise celebrity Lonesome George lived within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest which is home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. After lunch at the poolside of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel take a 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. The enclosure is framed with lush vegetation and many unique land birds can be seen, such as the rare woodpecker finch, one of the world’s few tool-using species.
A morning visit to Post Office Bay, where a short walk leads to the historic barrel where mail can be left for guests from other vessels to be hand-delivered to its destination, a unique two centuries old tradition. Near Post Office Bay, explore the north shore of Floreana along narrow channels teeming with life. 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. After lunch on board visit Cormorant Point, an olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk to a brackish lagoon where lots of rare birds can be seen and a beach where turtles emerge from the sea to nest. You can also take a glass-bottom boat to Devil’s Crown. Tonight enjoy a farewell cocktail before dinner.
Your wonderful cruise around the Western Galapagos islands comes to an end today when the M/V Santa Cruz arrives back at Baltra Island. Say farewell to the crew and new found friends before being taken to the airport for the flight back to the mainland. Here you can continue your holiday and stay on in Ecuador, visit another country in South America, or go to the airport to catch your flight home having visited one of the most fascinating and exotic places on Earth.
Horizon Deck Explorer fr £3211pp
Expedition Deck Explorer fr £3341pp
Panorama Deck Explorer fr £3437pp
Panorama Deck DarwinSuite fr £3893pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated