Galapagos Natural Life
First - Yachts Galapagos
ANAHI - CATAMARAN
(8 Days – 7 Nights)
For those who are interested in the nature, flora, untouched landscapes, and fauna of Galapagos this is the most recommended itinerary. It goes around the remote areas of Isabela Island where we find lots of the most interesting wildlife existing in Galapagos. The landscape is beautiful, amazing. During this tour you will also visit the west side of Santiago Island, Rabida Island, Sombrero Chino Island, the very scenic Bartolome Island, and the North Seymour Island.
DAY 1. Friday: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND. HIGHLANDS
AM: Flight to Galapagos from Quito (or Guayaquil) Airport The flight from Quito (or Guayaquil) to the Galapagos Islands takes approximately 2 1⁄2 hours (from Guayaquil 2 hours). Upon arrival at Baltra Island airport, travelers pass through an airport inspection point to insure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands and also there you have to pay the park entrance fee of $100 (this price can change), and $20 (this can be modified) for the so called Transit Card. Our guide will meet you, collect your luggage, and escort you on the short (15 minutes) bus ride to the Itabaca Channel. The crossing of the channel will be using a local small ferry and in the other side of the channel our bus will be ready for a 45 min / 1- hour drive towards the small city of Puerto Ayora. From the pier of the town, motorized zodiacs (called ‘Pangas’) will transport you to the M/C Yacht Catamaran ANAHI. Once on board our crew welcome you with a refreshing drink, and after being accommodated in your cabins you are invited for lunch and after a short rest you will disembark from the yacht to start your first Galapagos visit.
PM: Santa Cruz Highlands
At about 2 p.m. you will be transported to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, up to a private farm where you will enjoy your first visit to the Galapagos Islands. This is a nice green lush area on the highlands of Santa Cruz. Our guide will take you for a nice walk among the beautiful threes of the forest including ferns and sedges, miconias, etc. And then you will amaze with the giant tortoises roam freely in the farm natural habitat. The Tortoises are very shy, and will typically withdraw into their carapaces as soon as they see you coming close. It is very important not to bother, touch or feed these beautiful animals.
The area also contains several species of birds including the famous finches of Darwin, the so called and rare “Pájaro Brujo” a beautiful red colored bird, etc. At this place we also found a simple but nice structure where you can rest and buy drinks, a beer or a try the delicious local juices. Later on the transport will take you for a visit to one of the lava tunnels existing in the area. Here you enjoy a short hike into the tunnel admiring the results of the powerful volcanic eruptions occurred some 5 million years ago. Transport back to Puerto Ayora and to the yacht. At 7 p.m. you will have the official welcome drink followed by dinner. After dinner you will have your briefing to explain about the next day activities. Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 2. Saturday: ISABELA ISLAND. PUERTO VILLAMIL & SIERRA NEGRA VOLCANO
Isabela Island is the largest and one of the youngest islands in the Galapagos archipelago. From Puerto Ayora the navigation towards Isabela will start at about 1 am. and at about 6 am. we will be arriving to the port of Puerto Villamil. At 6:30 am. you will be awaked up by the guide and breakfast will be ready at 7:30 am.
In the morning, at about 8:30 am we start our first visit to the islets known as Las Tintoreras. A panga is needed to reach this point. Access is easy and visitors can land during high or low tide and this beautiful visitor site is located south of Puerto Villamil. It has a small bay of completely calm turquoise waters, where you can appreciate sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays, etc. The bay is connected to a crevice of crystal clear water, that's shallow and when the tide is low, the entrance closes. In this crevice, you can see how reef sharks swim along with other small fish and sea lions. Most of the trail is lava AA, except for a white sand beach and a black stone beach. At the first beach are colonies of sea lions, it’s also a nesting site for marine iguanas. Here you can also see some Nolana galapageia plants, a rare endemic plant in the area. What's more, Nolana is not common in Ecuador, since this species is typical of the coastal zone and belongs to a genus whose distribution is restricted to Chile and Peru. The second beach is entirely surrounded by mangroves, button mangrove (Conocarpus erecta) and white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa). Throughout the trail you can see many marine iguanas in the rocks or under the mangroves.
Las Tintoreras is one of the few places where the iguanas breed successfully because of the absence of non-native animals that could kill the youth.
Special Indications: Various parts of Las Tintoreras are ideal for nesting marine iguanas, so during the nesting season be very careful with the nests. Reef sharks (here known as Tintoreras) have nocturnal feeding habits; certain animals during the day remain inside the crevice and marine ponds to rest. For this reason, you are not allowed to swim in this place. Another reason is that disrupting the colonies of sea lions could alter their natural behavior. Return to the yacht for lunch and a good rest.
P.m. Sierra Negra Volcano:
At about 2:00 pm. you disembark and from Puerto Villamil will be transported up to the highlands of the Sierra Negra Volcano. Sierra Negra (Black Mountain) is a large shield volcano located at the South eastern end of Isabela Island and it rises to an altitude of 1124m. It coalesces with the volcanoes Cerro Azul to the west and Alcedo to the north. It is one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes with the most recent historic eruption in October 2005. Our guided tour of the volcano starts at Puerto Villamil with a car drive for about 30 minutes and then we start walking (1 hour) towards the rim of the giant caldera along its East side. The view is really amazing and impressive. This Sierra Negra Caldera, with dimensions of 7.2 x 9.3 kms, is considered the 2nd biggest crater in the world (after the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania). From the several viewpoints located along the rim of the crater we can observe down inside of the crater the recent lava flow of the 2005 volcanic eruption. At about 2 hours hike from the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, is located the area known as Volcan Chico, an interesting volcanic area where still is possible to observe some fumes. The landscape is really strange, moonlike. From here we can also observe the faraway volcanoes of Isabela Island. This last visit is recommended for those tourists with good physical conditions. Return to our trek start point and transport back to Puerto Villamil and aboard the yacht for a well-deserved dinner and rest. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Note: depending on the weather conditions, itineraries on this day can be modified.
DAY 3/ Sunday: ISABELA ISLAND: PUNTA MORENO & ELIZABETH BAY
AM: Punta Moreno
Punta Moreno is located on the north coast of Isabela Island between the Sierra Negra volcano and Cerro Azul volcano. The distance of the trail is about 2100 meters, and runs along a lava flow Pahohoe (solidified lava in the form of corrugated or an accordion) into a complex of coastal lagoons. The vegetation found in the area is small and concentrated mainly in the mangrove area and around the lakes. It should be noted that the three kinds of cacti are found here. The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amid black lava flows where there are several species of birds. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos that are Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul of Isabela Island and La Cumbre of Fernandina Island. The population of wild dogs that existed on this site fed on marine iguanas, sea lions and other marine species and drank the abundant brackish water present here. These dogs were eliminated in 1980.
Special Indications: Do not frighten the Flamingos. They are sensitive to noise and get scared easily. Stay within the group. The road to the large lagoon is long you have to cross 700m of broken lava, where it is difficult to walk. Wear comfortable and appropriate shoes for this type of hike.
Due to high temperatures, especially during the hot season (December to May), it is better to take the early hours of the day or late afternoon due to type of terrain and strong sunshine.
P.m. Elizabeth Bay:
This is a marine visitor site, the excursion is carried out in a zodiac and so there is no landing point. Your zodiac ride starts with a visit to the Marielas islets where there is the largest and most important penguin colony in the Galapagos Islands. The excursion continues into the cove that is surrounded by red mangroves where you can admire their red roots and green leafs. It is here that you are able to observe sea turtles, flightless cormorants, spotted eagle rays, golden rays, brown pelicans, and sea lions. Frequently visitors have been able to see Galapagos hawks soaring overhead while schools of Pompano and Dorado fish swim below. This site is really amazing due to the high quantity of land and marine wildlife while also enjoying beautiful views of the landscape.
Return to the yacht for dinner and rest. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 4/ Monday: ISABELA ISLAND: URBINA BAY & TAGUS COVE
AM: Urbina Bay
This visitor site is located at the east base of the Alcedo volcano. The trail starts on the beach where a wet landing is made, with an approximate distance of 3200m, and runs through sand substrates, pumice rock, lava, coral and vegetable formations in a coastal area that has had a lift; in addition, burrows of land iguanas can be seen. This area is very interesting in that it is a perfect example of the geological activity of the islands. The waters of the bay are a good place to see turtles and rays and ashore is a short trail leading to a coral reef, which is evidence of an uplift from the sea which occurred in 1954.
From here it is easy to reach the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. You can see large colored land iguanas here and the possibility of seeing giant Galapagos turtles, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, pelicans, and marine iguanas is excellent.
The trail passes through the foundations of what was a coral structure. During the uprising that occurred in 1954, 6 km of reef were elevated 5 meters above sea level and the coast was extended 3/4 of a mile out. It is said, in that same year and after the uprising, there was an eruption in the northeast side at a height of 650 m of Alcedo Volcano, but there is no concrete evidence. There is an area of rhyolite (igneous rock that occurs at the violent exit to the outside of the earth) where no vegetation grows due to the acidity that this type of substrate has. This extrusive rock forms when magma of the same chemical structure as granite, acidic or felsic magma, reaches Earth's surface.
Protect your camera equipment well as the landing can be problematic due to the strong waves that occur often on this site.
Bring water for the hike because the trail is long and the place is very hot.
Do not take pieces of coral. Corals exposed to air will deteriorate quickly and should not be touched.
PM: Tagus Cove
A tour along the cliffs in a zodiac 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. Tagus Cove is located west of Darwin Volcano on Isabela Island. The route of the trail is about 1800 meters. This was a favorite spot for pirates and whalers, a tradition is still observed that has continued since that time: the inscription of the names of boats. At the start of the walk, going up and passing the staircase, is a small cave where we find inscriptions dating to the 1800s. Its name originated from a British warship that went through the islands in 1814 looking for Galapagos Tortoise for food. The trail, mostly gravel, leads into the interior, along Darwin Lake. During the walk, you can see various land birds; we can identify the characteristic vegetation of the arid zone. Finally, we observe the lava fields of Darwin Volcano. Darwin Lake contains saltwater and its depth is approximately 9m. It has no fish or other special life. The lake lies within a tuff cone. Due to explosive eruptions must have occurred at the site, the substrate has a large amount of volcanic rocks of different sizes, among the most common are little balls of nearly spherical shape known as the "lapilli" or petrified rain. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Take care when landing due to strong waves.
Apart from the ground path, a panga ride is very interesting and entertaining. The panga should keep its distance from birds, especially penguins who are easily frightened.
No littering is allowed near the shore. This applies even more here, since due to wind garbage accumulate in the coves.
During the rainy season this site offers a great attraction for those interested in the vegetation.
DAY 5/ Tuesday: FERNANDINA (ESPINOZA POINT) – ISABELA (POINT VICENTE ROCA).
AM: Espinoza 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. Punta Espinoza is a narrow ledge of lava and sand that extends from the base of the volcano to the sea. There is a vivid description given by Captain Benjamin Morrell that from its anchorage at Bay Banks witnessed and recorded an eruption of Fernandina in the decade of the 1820s that probably gave rise to the Point. In 1975, there was an uprising, about 90 cm, which is why the pier built for landing can only be used during high tide.
The last recorded eruption occurred in May 2005 that lasted three days. The greatest explosive eruption was in 1968, where two thirds of the caldera floor collapsed inwards to a depth of 300m.
Later there have been eruptions in 1972 and 1973 (mild and effusive) in 1977 (the collapse of the caldera), in 1986 (mild activity), and 1988 (collapse of the south-east side), in November 1991 (cloud of ash - eruption), 1995 (spewed along a fissure).
Punta Espinoza is a place famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas and as the habitat of unique species like the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, among others. It is an ideal place to observe the lava cactus (Brachycerus nesioticus), which grow on young lava and survive with little water.
In the past two land iguanas could be found at this site, but in 1989 they died of starvation. These iguanas came down from the flanks of the volcano, where they are numerous. In 1825 an American ship, the Tartar, was anchored in Bay Banks and witnessed a very strong eruption at Fernandina. The lava reached the sea and the air temperature rose to 50 ° C and the sea at 40 ° C. After being caught in the bay for a whole night, the ship escaped southward and while they passed through Fernandina the temperature rose to 65 ° C, the tar of calafeteado of the ship began to leak and melt. Two weeks later Fernandina was still active.
Fernandina is the only island, which has no introduced mammals. Be careful not to introduce organisms or take food of any kind. The area open to visitors is very fragile, stay on the trail at all times.
At the nesting season for marine iguanas (January to June) it’s important that one be careful not to step on their nests (holes in the sand). These reptiles nest in the sand and sometimes cover the entire area.
Stay within 2m of the cormorants and penguins.
Land when the tide is high, if the tide is low you cannot use the dock, you have to land on the rocks.
PM: Vicente Roca Point
Located at the ‘mouth’ of the head of the sea horse, which forms the northern part of the Galapagos Islands, is Punta Vicente Roca. Here the remnants of an ancient volcano form two turquoise coves with a bay well protected from the ocean swells.
The spot is a popular anchorage from which to take panga rides along the cliff that are the remains of the volcano or explore a partially sunken cave at the water’s edge. Masked and blue-footed boobies sit perched along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline.
The upwelling of cold-water currents in this part of the Galapagos, give rise to an abundance of marine life which, in combination with the protection of the coves, make Punta Vicente Roca one of the archipelago’s sough after dive spots.
One cove is only accessible from the sea by way of an underwater passage. The passage opens to calm waters of the hidden cove where sea lions like to laze on the beach having traveled along the underwater route. The entire area of Punta Vicente Roca lies on the flank of the 790 m (2,592 ft) high Volcano Ecuador. This is the Galapagos Island’s sixth largest volcano. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 6/ Wednesday: SANTIAGO ISLAND & RABIDA ISLAND
AM: Puerto Egas.
The visitor site Port Egas is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island. South of the beach is Sugarloaf Volcano, which has deposits of volcanic tuff, the same that has favored the formation of the black sand beach.
El Crater is just north of this site, it has a saltwater lagoon, which during the summer dry season becomes a salt mine. Between 1928 and 1930, there was the first exploitation of salt; there were no major achievement. Then in 1964 a new attempt was made that lasted for some time. These settlements caused environmental damage, because native and endemic wood was used as firewood and they introduced plants and animals.
This site is called Puerto Egas, because the last attempt was made by the company of Hector Egas, which failed because the price of salt in the continent was very cheap, and did not justify its exploitation in Galapagos. The project was abandoned and they left their infrastructure.
In 1928 a couple named Conway tried to settle in the upper part, near James Bay, but did not fare well. They wrote a book called "The Enchanted Islands," published in 1947.
The walk along the rugged shoreline, especially at low tide, will allow us to observe many marine species as Iguanas bask on the rocks and sea lions laze in the tide pools. At the end of the trail there is a series of grottoes or sea caves where fur seals and night herons are regularly found resting on the shady ledges. For many, this is the only opportunity to see the Galapagos fur seal, once thought to be on the verge of extinction.
Special Indications: It is not permitted to go down into the crater of the salt mine. Lagoon birds nest there and resent any intrusion. The Sugar Loaf is not a visiting area. Some people have gone down rolling. It's dangerous!
PM: Rabida Island
Rabida Island is unique because the red color of the rocks and sand. The volcanic material in this island is very porous and external factors as rain, salt water, and sea breeze have acted as an oxidizing agent. The visitor site is located on the east coast of Rabida Island, consists of a red sand beach, a coastal lagoon behind the beach, and a loop trail. The approximate distance of the trail is 1.1 kilometers. A short walk along a trail lead you to a coastal lagoon behind the beach which permits you to observe the land birds such as finches, doves, yellow warblers, and mocking birds. At the lagoon there is a colony of flamingos. The color of the rocks and sand on the beach is due to the very porous volcanic material, which with the help of environmental factors (rain, salt water and sea breeze, has acted as an oxidizing agent. The main attraction of the place is the red sand beach, scenery, aside from the vegetation of the arid zone and the presence of native and endemic species.
The beach area is open, but do not get too close when the pelicans are nesting, or disturb the sea lions.
Do not leave the trail and keep quiet, and avoid sudden or rapid movements. The flamingoes can be frightened and fly off easily if you get close.
Rabida has many ravines and shrubbery that provides good nesting and resting places for a variety of seabirds and also has a small colony of fur seals.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 7/ Thursday: CHINESE HAT & BARTOLOME ISLANDS
AM: Chinese hat
This is a small (1 sq. km) islet located near the south-east coast of Santiago. It's shaped like a Chinese hat when seen from afar. It is an island consisting of a cone type "Splatter" (lava ejected as drops and falls close to where it came from, which forms a cone inclined) that forms the summit and many lava tubes that go down to the coast.
On the west you can see pillow-type lava formations, which are an indicator that the flows were formed under the sea and have been raised upward, which is why coral heads are found on the lava. This visit provides an excellent opportunity for the interpretation of geological features such as lava tubes and lava flows. The landscape is covered by sea lion colonies, marine iguanas, and Galapagos penguins. The trail is 700 m (round trip) and the minimum time it takes this trek is half an hour.
It is prohibited to climb to the summit. Lava flows from this island are extremely fragile and easily eroded.
Sombrero Chino is separated from Santiago Island by a small channel of turquoise waters. The adjacent lava flow on Santiago Island, is not visiting area. It is very nice to snorkel near the Shore of Santiago Island. There is a variety of marine species.
PM: Bartolome Island:
A small barren island that is located across from Sullivan Bay off James Island, Bartolome has two main visitors’ sites. The first site offers the possibility to climb to the summit of the island, from where visitors can observe a variety of volcanic formations including lava bombs, spatter and cinder cones, lava flows, and lava tubes. The moon like landscape provides one of the most scenic panoramas in the archipelago.
At the second site, visitors have the chance to relax on a beautiful beach, which offers great snorkeling opportunities. Multi –colored fish and occasionally penguins and sea turtles have been seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock, which dominates Bartolome’s landscape. A short walk across to Bartolome ́s second beach, which swimming is strictly prohibited visitors can see white-tipped reef sharks, at a safe distance swimming along the shoreline.
Stay within the paths. The geological features and soils here are very delicate. Due to wear caused by use, the GNPS has built stairs to avoid further erosion and better manage visitors.
At the top of the island is a marine lighthouse, do not go up to this site because the top is a volcanic vent whose cover is extremely fragile and could collapse.
Do not get too close to penguins when they are resting on the ground because it can alter their natural behavior. It is better to see them and photograph them from the panga. Stay in the beach area.
When you are climbing to the summit and there is more than one group, wait a reasonable time to be kept separate from other groups.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 8/ Friday: SEYMOUR
AM: North Seymour
North Seymour is located north of Baltra (or South Seymour). The total distance of the trail is 3.5 km (2 miles). In 1932 and 1933, about 72 land iguanas from Baltra were introduced to North Seymour by Captain Alan Hancock and his crew with the intention that these animals could survive in better conditions than in Baltra, already populated by goats. The iguanas that the crew of Valero III (Hancock's ship) found at Baltra were undernourished, it was discovered in 1934 that the iguanas had colonized the island without problems. Later, during the Second World War when the United States occupied Baltra to install a military base, the land iguanas, which still existed there, disappeared as their habitat was altered for the construction of runways and barracks for soldiers.
Besides the presence of goats, dogs and cats. In 1980, two adults were taken to the breeding center at the Darwin Station's initiating the program of reproduction and rearing of land iguanas in captivity; and in 1985 eight more adults were transported and from these 80 youths were acquired by 1990. By the end of 2008, 600 iguanas have been accounted for on North Seymour, of which 400 have been repatriated and 200 were born in the wild. In contrast, on Baltra Island, the population has surpassed the 1,500 samplings. The vegetation is bush and hosts the largest nesting colony of Great Frigate birds in Galapagos. Importantly, the Galapagos is the westernmost distribution for this species. The common frigate is also present.
The frigates here are surly and it’s preferable to keep some distance from the nests. Do not let your visitors leave the trail for a closer look at these birds, especially in the breeding season.
Sometimes blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest along the path, there is no need to open other paths. We must always keep the group on the trail and finding birds nesting there, requires walking slowly to avoid disturbing them.
Watch that tourists who are in your care do not disturb the nesting iguanas.
After this morning excursion you will be taken to the airport for your flight to the mainland.
Quito - Ecuador - South America
Enjoy Ecuador with Galapagos Natural Life