10 days

Galapagos Panorama - Northern Islands - Australian Geographic Society

Galapagos Panorama - Northern Islands - Australian Geographic Society

The tortoises of Charles Darwin Research Station

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Colonial Quito

Frigatebird spotting

Sullivan Bay's black lava field

Trip rating
  • Joining you aboard Nemo III for his fourth Australian Geographic Society (AGS) Galápagos voyage will be Ian Connellan. An AGS advisory councillorand editor-at-large of the Australian Geographic journal, Ian has hosted AGS groups in places as diverse as the Everest region in Nepal, Latin America and various wild parts of Australia. He brings along a geographer’s curiosity, a photographer’s eye and 30 years’ worth of yarns and insights gained in his work and travels. Co-host on the voyage will beIan’s equally curious partner Gail MacCallum. By joining Ian and Gail, you’ll help to raise funds for the AGS’s work in Australia.

     

    The Voyage

    As we fly from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, located in the equatorial water of the Pacific Ocean, we suddenly find ourselves in a very different world. As we board our vessel, the Nemo III, and follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, we start to encounter nature at its finest. Remote Genovesa Island is a bird-lover’s paradise with three species of boobies present, all resplendent and wearing their colourful ‘shoes’. Storm petrels and frigatebirds can also be seen, as well as a myriad of underwater life. A walk on Santiago’s eastern coast, Sullivan Bay, takes us over Pahoe-Hoe lava. On Santa Cruz Island we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station for up-close encounters with giant tortoises.  We visit Isabela Island and walk on top of the black lava field for breathtaking views of Sierra Negra. This is indeed the Galapagos journey with something for everyone.

     

    Your hosts:

     

    Ian Connellan

    Ian’s love of learning, passion for accuracy and enthusiasm for all things new has seen him through a 25-year career as a journalist, writer, photographer and magazine and book editor. He’s travelled widely, written countless articles and authored several Lonely Planet travel guides; as a Lonely Planet Images (now Getty Images) photographer he’s had scores of photos published in magazines, books and online. Ian’s a regular guest expert on various radio broadcasts, an occasional photography competition judge, and a photography tutor – he’s the host of the AGS’s Masterclass photography workshops, and has also presented for Chris Bray Photography. Ian spent five years as editor-in-chief of the Australian Geographic group, leaving in 2013 to move to Hobart to avoid Sydney traffic and spend more time on photography and expeditions.

     

    Gail MacCallum

    A traveller from childhood, Gail’s a meticulous planner and dogged miner of information about natural history, culture and food. Her work background is in publishing, where she’s enjoyed a stellar 20-year career. She’s edited and published fiction and non-fiction books, written and edited for several magazines and newspapers, and performed the mind-numbingly complex role of chief sub-editor for two of Australia’s iconic publications – The Bulletin and Reader’s Digest. Gail first travelled to Latin America in 2010 and returned in 2012 for an extended visit. With Ian, she’s hosted AGS voyages in the Galápagos, visited Ecuador’s marvellous Yasuni National Park and slogged upstream in Canaima National Park, Venezuela, for a look Angel Falls. Early in 2013 she joined Ian to manage the AGS’s scientific expedition camp in the East Kimberley, WA.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Quito - Arrival day

    Your trip starts in Quito today and there will be a welcome meeting in the evening.

    You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

     Quito is located at 2850 metres above sea level and at this altitude you may possibly experience some effects from the high altitude, so we suggest that you avoid any strenuous activity on this day. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, this charming colonial centre offers a wealth of things to see and you could lose yourself for hours meandering through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets and exploring the lively Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco. The city is filled with Baroque art and architecture, as exemplified by magnificent churches, monasteries and public buildings. If your feel like exploring further afield, you might like to head for one of the many viewpoints over the city. El Panecillo (The Little Bread Loaf) offers sensational views of the city’s white houses and surrounding volcanoes. The 30-metre high statue of La Virgen de Quito sits atop this small hill and can be seen from all over the city. Incredible vistas can also be enjoyed from La Cima de la Libertad, the site of Ecuadorian independence from Spain.

    Day 2 - Fly to Baltra, visit Bachas beach

    This morning we transfer to Quito Airport for our early morning flight to the Galapagos Islands. Be prepared for an early start as this could mean leaving the hotel as early as 4am. A US$10 per person transit card is payable on departure at Quito Airport and a US$100 per person national park entry fee is payable on arrival. Please have cash on hand for these transactions as using credit cards can be time consuming.
    On arrival in the Galapagos we are met in the arrivals hall and then transferred to our boat, the Nemo III, anchored a short distance away. Once on board we'll be assigned our cabins, meet the crew members and get to know our naturalist guide and fellow travellers over a delicious lunch.
    The sandy, white beaches of Las Bachas on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island are a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle, and marine iguanas are also commonly seen. The sand here is particularly white and soft as it is made of decomposed coral. The rocks provide great snorkelling and are the perfect habitat for the Sally Lightfoot crabs, which are plentiful on the island. A saltwater lagoon near to the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel, and also look out for great blue herons. Remnants of a floating pier can still be sighted, and it is a testimony to the US presence in the Galapagos during World War II.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3 - Isla Genovesa

    It takes us an overnight sail to reach Genovesa the archipelagos north east outpost, but it is undeniably worth the voyage. Dolphins are often spotted in the waters around Genovesa while the island itself is one of abundant beauty, with varying landscapes and wonderful wildlife. It is also a twitcher's paradise, with all three kinds of boobies, including the rare red-footed booby, and numerous other species such as tropic birds and frigate birds. Walking the steep path known as Prince Philip's Steps get us into the heart of the seabird rookeries, with birds overhead and nesting among the cliffs. On the island's rocky plains we look out for storm petrels - Genovesa is the only place in the world where they can be seen flying during the day. Afterwards cool off with a snorkel!

    Darwin Beach is another superb site with large breeding colonies of seabirds and frigates and other birds such as lava herons, swallowed tail gulls, mocking birds and hopefully the vampire finch. During the walk we will pass by tide pools with playful Sea Lions and Diamond Sting Rays and the island's magnificent marine life makes for spectacular snorkelling and the chance of encountering manta rays, sharks, turtles and moray eels along with many fish.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - Isla Santiago and Cerro Dragón

    On Santiago's eastern coast sits Bahia Sullivan also known as James Island. We will walk on Pahoe-Hoe lava from an eruption that occurred in 1897, and witness the colonization of plant species since the last eruption. Hopefully see some Marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Sea Lions, Finches, Turtles, Sharks and sometimes Penguins. As we walk, our guide will inform us of the geological history of the islands.

    We then set sail for Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill), on Santa Cruz's north coast. From our dry landing we walk to a brackish lagoon frequented by lagoon birds including stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers, sanderlings and occasionally flamingos. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western area of the archipelago. This area is a nesting site for land iguanas, which is constantly monitored and assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. The arid-zone vegetation makes for a rewarding location for birdwatching, with Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, the endemic Galapagos flycatcher and yellow warblers all regulars here. The path can be challenging but we'll be well rewarded with a spectacular view of the bay!

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Santa Cruz and the Charles Darwin Research Station

    Today we visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos.
    The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic hub of the archipelago, and is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The station's visitor centre and museum are essential stops for anyone interested in the archipelago's natural and human history, and keen to learn more about conservation efforts to preserve the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos. It also offers our best chance for close-up encounters with giant tortoises, and we can see many newborn and young giant turtles - part of the breeding program to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Observe the Giant Opuntia and Jasminocereus cactus trees. Leisure time to explore Puerto Ayora, check email or have a drink at a local bar and see the local’s way of life.

    We head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz for a total change of scenery. Beginning at the coast we travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests where we can see the Unique Scalesia cloud forest, dome shaped giant tortoises in the wild, different species of Darwin finches and possibly the world famous woodpecker and warbler finches as well as vermillion flycatchers.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6 - Isla Isabela and Tagus Cove

    Today we land at the archipelago's largest island, Isabela where we will need to pay a USD$20 island entrance fee. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than a million years ago. We spend the morning at Punta Moreno on the south west coast. This coastline has some of the most beautiful blue lagoons and rocky terrain in the Galapagos, with a backdrop of 3 active volcanoes, flamingos, and incredible lava formations. Get ready for a great walk on top of the black lava field with the majestic view of Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul in the background. Depending of the season we can see brown pelicans nesting on top of the mangroves, lava and candelabra cactus, and Lava lizards. We walk by brackish water lagoons covered with several different plants where pink flamingos, ducks and black neck stills rest. Then back on board for some snorkelling!

    Tagus Cove was a place of anchorage for pirates and whalers who collected turtles for their trip. Approximately a two hour visit where we can snorkel, check out ancient graffiti on its walls, observe flightless cormorants, penguins, blue footed boobies and a variety of waterfowl. The walk leads to a high point where we take in a spectacular panorama of the island, Volcano Wolf and the North of Isabela Island.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 7 - Isla Fernandina - Punta Espinoza and Bahia Urbina

    This morning we visit nearby Fernandina Island, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. The third largest island in size it most recently erupted in 2009. The northeast tip, Punta Espinosa, is a narrow ledge of lava and sand extending from the base of La Cumbre volcano. The walk around the peninsula is stunning with an abundance of wild life, lava cacti, Marine Iguanas piled on top of each other, barking sea lions along the beach, Flightless Cormorants, tiny Penguins, and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Keep on the lookout for the biggest predator of the Galapagos Island, The Galapagos Hawk hunting from the very top of the trees. Great snorkelling opportunity in the crystal clear water where we can see Turtles and Sea Lions swimming and feeding on the shore. It is also a great place for flightless cormorants, drying their atrophies wings among the stark volcanic landscape.

    Urvina Bay is very interesting place to visit where, because of an eruption of Volcano Alcedo in 1954, it was uplifted 10 meters from the sea floor. We are able to catch a glimpse of some huge boulder-like formations on land. We negotiate a tricky wet landing on the black sand beach and along the shore there are sometimes Flightless Cormorants and Marine Iguanas. On the walk on the path you can find shells, coral, Darwin´s Finches and the beautiful colour of the Galapagos cotton. The main attractions are Land Iguanas and Galapagos Giant Tortoises!

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Isla Santiago - Playa Espumilla and Buccaneer Cove

    Puerto Egas is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island. Here we will see amazing volcanic tuff formations and the walk along the beach provides many opportunities for encounters with the locals - marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, mockingbirds, oystercatchers, California sea lions, Galapagos fur sea lions and lava grotos. We can also see amazing tidal pools formed from ancient lava flow and home to sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish. and we can snorkel with California sea lions and Galapagos fur sea lions.
    Espumilla Beach, on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay, is one of the most idyllic locations in the Galapagos Islands and is an important nesting site for marine turtles. With its large waves is often a favourite amongst beach lovers. Potentially we will see Galapagos hawks up close, ghost crabs, blue footed boobies plunging for fish and brown pelicans. It is also well known for its Palo Santo Forest and some extraordinary lava formations.

    We then go to view the spectacular geology of volcanic ash (Tuff) of Buccaneer’s cove. Here we can find remains of objects used by pirates in centuries past, hence the name Buccaneer Cove. A place of local legends and stories it is where Darwin camped for a 9 days while making his study of the islands and their wildlife. If conditions are good, we can snorkel again.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Daphne – Baltra – Fly Quito

    We visit Daphne island which has a peculiar and impressive landscape because it was shaped by volcanic activity. It is a great place to do some bird spotting and here we can find a variety of seabirds such as blue-footed and masked boobies, terns, petrels and even the beautiful frigate birds with their vibrant red pouches. No need to get wet for this activity as we circle the island.

    Sadly all good things must come to an end and this is our final excursion. We say farewell to The Galapagos Islands and head to the airport for our flight back to Quito for the last night of the tour. Upon arrival in Quito Airport we are transferred back to our hotel for an overnight stay.

    Breakfast

    Day 10 - Quito

    Our adventure ends today after breakfast.

    There are no activities planned for the final day so we are able to depart the accommodation at any time. There are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito so please speak to our customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest.

    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced English-speaking naturalist, cruise transfers, transport, 7 night cruise and activities.

    Not Included

    • International flights, airport departure taxes, international departure transfer, visas where required, meals not included in the itinerary, insurance, laundry, any optional tours or activities during free time, tips, items of a personal nature, Galapagos transit card and the entrance fee to Galapagos Islands National Park, Isabela Island park fee.
  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PSNAAGS
Start City: Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
End City: Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

What to know

The National Park and Transit Card fee of US$110 is not included in the trip cost and must be paid in cash upon arrival at Baltra airport. There is also a US$20 fee to be paid on arrival at Isabela Island.

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