Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a captivating experience that offers you the chance to appreciate a habitat where people and animals coexist peacefully. This five day land based expedition is the ideal way to get a taste for the wildlife and landscapes, while practicing sustainable tourism and preserving the natural heritage. Working together with the local communities, you can help create a better future for everyone. This specific itinerary will lead you on an exploration through the islands of Santa Cruz, South Plaza and Isabela. Perfect for travelers on a tight schedule, this trip will ensure you make the most of every day, from extraordinary lodges to spectacular excursions. Combine this itinerary with a few nights on mainland Ecuador before and after, for the true blend of relaxation, culture, nature and discovery.
Welcome to the Galapagos! You will be arriving this morning on Baltra, the first ecological airport in the world. With so much to see and do on these incredible islands, your adventure will begin right away.
The first stop will be the special VIP lounge to get changed for your transfer to the Itabaca Channel, where you will have your first opportunity to explore the beauty of the Galapagos Islands while kayaking! Stand up paddling and snorkeling are also possible for the first hour before switching to kayaks. The unique turquoise colored waters are home to some of the most amazing wildlife in the Galapagos and will captivate your imagination and encourage you to become a true fan of this paradise. Stunning wildlife can be seen throughout this introduction to the Galapagos including sea lions, blue footed boobies, brown pelicans, lava herons, great blue herons, white-tipped reef sharks and more…and you'll see many of them as you kayak over the northern flank of the St. Cruz Island towards the Punta Carrion area. You will glide through amazing red mangrove forests, lava rock cliffs and crystal clear water.
You will have a choice of either single or double ocean kayaks (sit on top kayaks with comfortable seats). Paddles, life jackets and a safety support boat will be provided for you. Average paddle lasts between 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on the activity of fauna and skills of the kayakers.
From the Itabaca Channel, you will head to the Santa Cruz highlands, where the exclusive giant tortoise reserve and tented camp is located, perched high on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Galapagos Magic Tented Camp will be your home for the next two nights. The sounds of nature will be your lullaby in the evenings, and you can feast your eyes on the scenic tapestry of mountains and forest surrounding the lodge and fantastic views of the ocean. On a perfect day, you can spot Floreana Island in the distance. Giant tortoises will be your companions at the lodge, and starlight will guide you to your rooms after a sumptuous dinner near the crackling fire. After dinner, explore the natural lava tubes on the reserve and enjoy a glass of wine or beer in the one-of-a-kind Lava Lounge built inside a lava tube! This is a truly special and unique place to relax around the fireplace and share stories from the day’s Galapagos adventures!
This morning proceeding breakfast, you will head back to the Itabaca Channel to continue your exploration of the Galapagos. You will board the Sea Finch yacht, for your trip to South Plaza Island. The Sea Finch can carry up to 16 guests on board, who can enjoy the outdoor seating areas and air-conditioned dining lounge, while admiring the ocean and island views.
The Sea Finch will deliver you to Punta Carrion first, where you will have the chance to snorkel in its beautiful waters. Make the most of this opportunity to marvel at a variety of tropical fish and graceful rays, and if you are lucky, you might even see white-tipped reef sharks that rest on the sandy ocean floor!
In the afternoon, you will continue on to visit South Plazas Island. Just a few hundred meters from the eastern shore of Santa Cruz Island, the Plazas Islands were formed from an uplifted seabed, almost giving them a tilted tabletop quality. You will disembark the yacht (dry landing) on South Plazas, where you will be greeted by a colony of sea lions. As you make your way up the shore, you will come upon a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents. The succulents are a beautiful contrast to the luminescent green prickly-pear cactus grove that dots the shore – it is an incredibly unusual and memorable sight. Yellow-gray land iguanas sit beneath the cactus', patiently waiting for pears to drop.
As you head further along the trail, you will approach the southern cliff of the island. From there, you will observe nesting swallow-tailed gulls and several sea birds, such as tropic birds, Nazca and blue footed boobies, as well as spend time soaking up the picturesque scenery. You will enjoy lunch on the yacht with island views, before returning to Santa Cruz. Along the way, you will likely see rays, turtles and other marine life, as the boat speeds through the Pacific waters. You will then head back up into the Santa Cruz highlands for another memorable night at Magic Galapagos.
Today, you will head off on an early morning speed boat transfer to Isabela Island, where you will check into your hotel. After getting settled, your adventure begins with a tour of the Tintoreras, a group of small islands near the village of Puerto Villamil. The islands are named after the white tipped ‘Tintoreras’ reef sharks that swim in these calm waters. On Tintoreras, you will see almost all of the archipelago’s iconic wildlife: white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays, penguins, and of course, pelicans and blue footed boobies. It’s like all of the Galapagos varieties in one! After walking on the island, you will have a chance to snorkel in the bay. Don’t be surprised if some of the penguins or sea lions jump in to play alongside you in the water!
In the afternoon, you will bike the Wetlands Trail, where you can see marine iguana colonies and a number of different types of mangrove trees (all four can be seen here). as well as enjoying the network of trails, beaches and historic sites. At the end of the trail is the Wall of Tears, built in the late 1940’s by Second World War prisoners held at the US base on the islands. Your guide will explain to you the importance of this site, offering a glimpse into the lives of the island’s previous inhabitants. On this network of trails, you will catch some beautiful views of the village below and will have the chance to see birds and, maybe even some wild giant tortoises.
At the end of your ride, you will return to your accommodations to freshen up, before heading into the heart of Puerto Villamil for dinner.
Volcanic eruptions created all of the islands in the Galapagos, and today you will get to see this geologic process first-hand, as you explore Isabela. This island is one of the youngest and most volcanically active islands of the archipelago. You will have the whole day to explore the Isabela highlands, beginning with a hike up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra Volcano, and then onward to the rim of the Volcan Chico. This fascinating walk usually begins with some morning fog and drizzle, which sometimes persists in the shadow of the volcano, adding to its mysterious character. Despite the weather, you may see see Galapagos hawks, finches, flycatchers and short-eared owls en route.
When you reach the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania, you will truly be rewarded for your efforts. The crater is so large, and the views so expansive, that photos simply cannot do it justice, but bring your binoculars and camera anyway!
Later, as you head towards Volcan Chico, you might get the feeling that you are walking on Mars, because of the alien-like landscape. While it appears to be utterly desolate, a closer look reveals small lizards scurrying among the rocks. From its rim, you will enjoy more amazing views along with lava tubes and fumaroles. After Volcan Chico and its extreme landscape, you will have some time to relax under the shade of a lovely “jaboncillo” tree and enjoy a delectable picnic lunch, while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of Isabela Island. In the distance, you will even be able to see Fernandina, Pinzon and Santa Cruz Islands. On a satisfied and happy stomach, you will head back down the trail, to complete your day of hiking (16 km in total) and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil...a well deserved slice of paradise!
Sadly, the time has come today to take an early morning speed boat back to Santa Cruz and then transfer by land to Baltra for your departure flight. However, we don't blame you if you decide to extend your journey in the Galapagos! There is still exploring to be done in other Islands or on the mainland, visiting the spectacular peaks of the Andes or the lush jungle of the Amazon region!
The Galapagos Magic Tented Camp is a tortoise camp, perched in the highlands of Santa Cruz and surrounded by a Scalesia forest and volcanic caves. This is the native habitat for wild tortoises, where you will be able to enjoy an intimate encounter with nature. The areas around the campsite are home to several dozen giant tortoises, seen roaming around property from June through February. During the months of March, April and May the giant tortoises generally move to lower elevations, though a handful sometimes remain, so keep your eyes out!
The Isabela Beach House is located along the charming beaches of Puerto Villamil. Each of the guest rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, shower and complimentary toiletries. Start your day by admiring the panoramic sea views from your outdoor terrace, as you get ready to explore more of the island. Leaving the property, you will step right out onto the beach, feeling the sand between your toes and watching the turquoise waters roll into shore. This unique boutique hotel offers a serene setting, with chances to see the local wildlife just outside your door!
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.