Ecuador - Galápagos
On Darwin's steps
The Galápagos archipelago is deserving of its alternative name of Enchanted Archipelago, and this is certainly true for the nature lover and particularly the birdwatchers. Instrumental in the formulation of the theory of evolution by natural selection by Charles Darwin, the archipelago displays one of the highest proportion of endemics in the world. A fair number of the species present on the islands are rather extraordinary and display unique evolutionary features: Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas – probably the first creature you will encounter – Land Iguanas, the odd Flightless Cormorant… The archipelago is home to no less than 29 endemic birds along with a fair number of rare and localized breeders.
We offer for this destination several short "custom" travel modules that can be cumulated or booked separately. The totality of the 29 endemics could potentially be seen, given a bit of luck. We offer you first to sail aboard our comfortable vessel to the west and north of the archipelago. Two other options are proposed: a circuit to discover the southern and eastern islands and another to the islands of Floreana and Santa Cruz.
On Darwin's steps - 10 days
Days 1-2. The trip will start in Quito, the country's capital city. We will take a flight to the Galápagos. From the Baltra airport, we will embark on our ship the Yolita II and will be ready to start our cruise and make our first steps on the beach of Las Bachas on Santa Cruz island.
Day 3. We will land on Genovesa, widely considered as the most beautiful island on the archipelago. Besides, it also hosts several endemics such as the Large Cactus-Finch or the Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch. Several other species will be looked for however during our excursion on the beach of Bahia Darwin or on the Prince Philip Steps: Great Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Short-eared Owl, Swallow-tailed Gull and Grey Warbler-Finch.
Day 4. Today we will discover a few geological wonders. After the gigantic Pinnacle, a tuff cone visible from Bartolome island, we will roam the “Pahoehoe” lava fields of Bahia Sullivan on Santiago Island. We will look for the odd pioneer plant species that live here such as the Lava Cactus. When crossing from one island to the other, we will look for the rare Galápagos Petrel.
Days 5-6-7. For the next days, we will discover several sites on Isabela, the largest of the islands, with its six volcanoes and on the mythical Fernandina, one of the youngest islands still showing a lot of volcanic activity. We will then have a chance to observe some of the most exciting endemics: the Flightless Cormorant and the Galápagos Penguin, the rare Galápagos Martin and with a good deal of luck the extremely rare Mangrove Finch. We will have ample time to look for these endemics along with the other more common species. It will also be worth looking for pelagic species and cetaceans during our crossing of the Bolivar channel.
Day 8. This last full day onboard will allow us to visit the magnificent Playa Espumilla on Santiago and the cliffs and volcanic red sands of the tiny island of La Rabida.
Days 9-10. After a short visit of the conical island of Daphne Major, we will return to Baltra for ou flight to Quito and the end of the tour.
The eastern part of the archipelago - 7 days
This module can be booked independently or following the itinerary On Darwin's steps. Day 1 (arrival in Quito) and Day 2 (flight to the Galápagos and start of the Yolita II cruise) correspond to the dates of days 8 and 9 of the itinerary On Darwin's steps.
Days 1-2. The trip will start in Quito, the country's capital city. We will take a flight to the Galápagos. From the Baltra airport, we will embark on our ship the Yolita II. For those who participated at the On Darwin's steps trip, after our visit to Daphne Major, we will disembark on Seymour Norte, north of Baltra. After having observed Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds and Swallow-tailed Gulls we will sail eastward to San Cristobal Island.
Day 3. The island of San Cristobal host a strict endemic, the San Cristobal Mockingbird. After having observed this strange species at Cerro Brujo, we will visit the site of Leon Dormido.
Day 4. Today, we will disembark on Española, immediately to be greeted by the local and inquisitive Española Mockingbird, yet another strict endemic. After and excursion in Bahia Gardner to observe the Large Cactus-Finch, we will head to the western tip of the island: Punta Suarez. This site hosts the colony of Waved Albatross and a gigantic colony of Red-footed Booby.
Day 5. We will visit two tiny islets. Santa Fe hosts an endemic species of the huge Land Iguana. Plaza Sur is a magnificent snorkeling spot and has sizeable seabirds colonies.
Days 6-7. Following a short visit to the C. Darwin research center in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, we will return to Baltra for our flight to Quito.
Santa Cruz & Floreana - 4 days
This 4-days module can be placed at the end of the itinerary On Darwin's steps (from day 9) or as a follow-up of the trip The eastern part of the archipelago (from day 6). It can not be booked independently of either of the two previous itineraries.
Day 1. The participants will disembark on Santa Cruz. The visit of two altitude ecosystems is on the menu today. The Scalesia forests of Rancho Primicias attract several Geospiza species, including the fascinating Woodpecker Finch. The site also has a healthy population of wild Giant Tortoises. A little further up, the site of Media Luna is characterized by it vegetation of Miconia which is home to the endemic Galapagos Rail.
Day 2. Floreana island host two of the rarest and localized endemics on the archipelago. The heights of the islands and Asilo de la Paz host the erratic Medium Tree-Finch. The tiny islet of Champion is one of only two sites where the critically endangered (only about 30 couples in total) Floreana Mockingbird subsist.
Days 3-4. We will return to Baltra to get our flight back to Quito and formally end this extension.
PRICE : Our trips in Galápagos are "custom" tours.
The price is available on request for the three modules. The tariff is variable and depends on the availability and the period on our partner boat, the Yolita II.
Tour duration : 10 days for the trip On Darwin's steps.
7 days for the trip The eastern part of the archipelago.
4 days for the trip Santa Cruz & Floreana.
Tour date : All year round except month of September.
Group size : The Yolita II can accommodate a maximum of 16 people in double cabins.
Tour Leader : Vincent MOURET on request.
Arrival : Quito.
Departure : Quito.
Lodging : Hotels of "comfort" category and "tourist superior" category vessel. Hot water and electricity are available 24 hours.
Pace : Easy.
Possible extension : On Darwin's steps trip could be followed by The Eastern part of the Archipelago and / or Santa Cruz & Floreana modules.
The Eastern part of the Archipelago trip could be followed by Santa Cruz & Floreana module.
Potential number of species : 65- 70.
Photography : Excellent opportunities.
Included : all transportation, internal flights, cruises on the Yolita II, lodging in double rooms with private bathroom, all meals except dinners in Quito, english speaking National Park guide, drinkable water.
Not included : International flight, travel insurance, visas, airport taxes, entrance fees for some sites, transit taxes in the Galápagos, entrance fee to the Galápagos National Park, alcoholic beverages, tips, dinners in Quito, snorkeling gear.
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