Galapagos and Ecuador - Onboard the Corals - Onboard the Coral I or II

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Day 1: Arrive in Quito

You will be met on arrival at Quito Airport and transfered to our Quito hotel. Remainder of the day is at leisure. Overnight in Quito.

 

Day 2: Quito

Explore the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical centre in the Americas. On our tour we visit some of its most important churches such as the majestic La Compañía (Society of Jesus Church) and iconic San Francisco, guardians of a stunning multi-ethnic artistic and cultural heritage. Drive through the traditional neighborhood of San Juan. Finish the tour at the “Panecillo” hillside with its breathtaking views of the old and modern city. Overnight in Quito.

 

Day 3: Explore Calerdon, Cuicocha, Crater Lake, Cotacachi

We depart early on our tour including Calderón, a village known for its decorative bread dough figurines, the valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe, with landscapes dotted with towering volcanoes and amazing opportunities for taking pictures. You will have a delicious lunch. of local Ecuadorian specialties while musicians play on traditional instruments. Then you will go to the crater lake of Cuicocha, and finally the leather-making village of Cotacachi. Overnight at a traditional hacienda or inn near Otavalo.

 

Day 4: Train to Ibarra, Salinas and Otavalo Market, back to Quito

From Otavalo, we drive to Ibarra and go to the train station. The Chaski Antawa Train (messenger train) runs on the railway built at the beginning of the 20th century connecting the northern highlands to the tropical coast. From Ibarra, the train climbs down to the warm, dry valley of Ambuqui, through sugarcane plantations, magical landscapes, and tunnels, crossing bridges that span deep canyons and gullies. The 26-km ride to Salinas plunges from 7,216 to 4,920 feet (2,200 mt down to 1,500 mt) above sea level in only about two hours. Enjoy a unique lunch at Kleintours' social project, the “Chaski Antawa Restaurant”, which is our way of helping the Valley of Salinas and its surrounding area become a tourist destination and raising the standard of living of its inhabitants. Its menu was carefully selected and drawn up by the community using high quality standards. We then travel to Otavalo and its famous indigenous arts and crafts market, the largest in South America. Overnight in Quito.

 

Day 5: Fly to Galapagos ­Islands, Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz)

This morning you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Baltra Island where we are greeted by our Galapagos guides.
We visit the Station where the Galapagos giant tortoise breeding program takes place and you will have the opportunity to meet Lonesome George, the last surviving specimen of his species and symbol of our efforts to preserve the fragile Galapagos environment. It is an excellent place for visitors to be photographed with them. Admire a prickly-pear cactus forest and a variety Darwin's finches and other land birds. The Darwin Station also works providing environmental education to communities and schools within the islands, and to tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands. You will also have some free time to visit the town and shop for souvenirs.

 

Day 6: Santa Fe, South Plaza (Plaza Island)

We land on Sante Fe on a white sand beach surrounded by a sea lion colony; continue walking through an endemic cactus forest as we search for the endemic Santa Fe land iguana, the largest in the islands and distinctively paler than other species of iguana. This island is home to a number of endemic species including Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, rice rats, a variety of finches and one of the four species of Galapagos mockingbirds. On Sante Fe we will have the opportunity for deep-water snorkeling.
Afterwards there will be a dry landing on the northern part of Plaza Islet. Our walk begins with an impressive cactus forest surrounded by land and marine iguanas; as we reach its highest point, be on the look out for tropicbirds and a bachelor sea lion colony.
On South Plaza there is a large colony of the smaller sized land iguanas. The population is approximately 300 individuals. They feed on all kinds of vegetation, but during the dry season survive on the fruits and flowers of Opuntia cacti. Due to their proximity with marine iguanas, where we will encounter the one and only Galapagos hybrid iguana.

 

Day 7: Rabida, Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz)

Dark-red sand covers these unique beaches; Rábida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting Brown Pelicans are found from July through September and nine species of the famous Darwin's finches can be seen as well. We will also take a dinghy ride along cliffs to observe nesting seabirds, and snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active.

We will have a wet landing on the north side of Santa Cruz; behind the beach lie two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as interesting native and endemic vegetation, red and black mangroves, salt bushes, and much more. This beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs 3 or 4 times with an average of 70 eggs each, but then spend 3 or 5 years without breeding.

At this paradisiacal site we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago. Once the property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II, this beach is called “Bachas” because the word “barges” in English was hard to pronounce for the local people.

 

Day 8: Daphne AND Ballena Bay/Eden Islet (Santa Cruz)

We circumnavigate the islet of Daphne, an eroded tuff cone formation that was created by successive volcanic activity, for an opportunity to see Darwin's finches, Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls and Brown Noddies.

We stop at Whale Bay, with its beautiful green sand cove at the base of Dragon Hill located on the west coast of Santa Cruz Island. The beach contains a large amount of olivine crystals of volcanic origin. The crystals were formed when the magma was still underground. The content is magnesium, iron and silica. A small population of tortoises from Pinzón Island lived at the site, but were probably taken by whalers or previous inhabitants. There will be an opportunity to see marine iguanas and sea birds followed by snorkeling.

 

Day 9: Puerto Villamil (Isabela)

Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island is one of the few inhabited areas of the Galapagos; we will visit four spots: Tintoreras, Humedales (lagoons of Villamil), Muro de las Lágrimas (the Weeping Wall), and the tortoise breeding center.

Tintoreras: The islet of the Tintoreras is situated to the south of Puerto Villamil; it has a small bay of beguiling turquoise water where we may find sea lions, marine iguanas, rays and reef sharks.
The Wetlands (Humedales): These lagoons are the best site in the entire archipelago to observe migratory birds, where more than 20 species can be observed in a single spot.

Muro de las Lágrimas: Of important historical interest, this site in Isabela Island was a penal colony from 1944 to 1959; it became renown due to the extreme cruelty and torture on prisoners. The famous Weeping wall was constructed during that period.

Tortoise breeding center: this center has captive breeding programs for tortoises from the populations of southern Isabela.

Sierra Negra Volcano: this volcano is considered to be the oldest on Isabela Island. The caldera of Sierra Negra is 10 km in diameter and it's the second largest in the world, a fascinating sight!

 

Day 10: Moreno Point and Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)

The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amidst black lava flows where bird life is particularly interesting. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos: Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul on Isabela Island and La Cumbre, on Fernandina Island. Mangrove forest, lava formations, coastal and migratory birds and usually flamingos, can be seen here. Lava cactus, sea turtles, lagoons and tidal pools, candelabra cactus are other highlights to be encountered.

At Elizabeth Bay we take a dinghy ride along the coast surrounded by a mangrove forest for an opportunity to spot Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Penguins, and resting areas for sea turtles.

 

Day 11: Tagus Cove (Isabela) and Espinosa Point (Fernandina)

Today we have a dry landing on the Galapagos' largest island, where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin's saltwater crater lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. We will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Bluefooted Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm. tall; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves.

The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. We will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by 19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past.

Espinosa Point is the only spot that we visit on Fernandina, and from it we can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive-looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the “King” of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk.

“Pa-hoe-hoe” and “AA” lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but we encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores.

 

Day 12: Depart for Quito

In the morning we will return to Baltra for our flight to Quito and a free evening in Quito. Overnight in Quito.

 

Day 13: Depart Quito

Transfer to the airport.

 
1-800-741-7956 North America  •  0808-234-1714 United Kingdom  •  416-588-5000 Worldwide
 
 

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