Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend. Well-organised and very enjoyable!
A fantastic premium multi-activity holiday in the Galapagos. A full week of sea kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, and snorkeling in the incomparable beauty of the islands awaits, and you can easily combine this with mainland Ecuador to provide a holiday of great contrast. Focusing on the Central and Southern islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela, you will be able to discover these enchanted islands in a way you never thought possible.
The program comes alive in a unique way as you sea kayak and snorkel in the marine reserve, or hike and even mountain bike on the highlands. Diving in the world-class marine reserve is optional, but highly recommended. The main highlights will be hiking to the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela; paddling sea-kayaks in gin-clear waters past penguins or sea lion pups; mountain biking to the top of Santa Cruz in search of giant tortoises; and snorkelling or scuba-diving through huge shoals of tropical fish.
Based in high quality hotels with daily activities suitable for all levels, this weeklong program combines the best of the Galapagos – nature, wildlife, history and landscapes along with adventure and sports.
You visit areas that other cruise-based groups cannot reach, and in so doing are able to share experiences with the local people and learn more about the challenges they face living on these islands and support local people through this sustainable program. There are also plenty of options for extending your trip in Ecuador afterwards, or including this programme within a longer South American adventure.
GALAPAGOS WILDLIFE ADVENTURE ITINERARY
Day 1: Arrival at San Cristobal Island and Hike on the Island (L,D)
After a morning flight to San Cristobal Island, we will meet you at the airport and you’ll be given a briefing over lunch at our Hotel. We will begin our journey at the Interpretation Center to learn about the Galapagos’ unique wildlife, geology, history, and social dynamics before hiking to Tijeretas along lava rock trails.
Along the way, our naturalist guide will explain all about the Galapagos cotton, palo santo, acacia, and cacti you encounter. You will also spot blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, herons, gulls, warblers, mockingbirds, and finches amongst the vegetation and sea cliffs. In addition to unique species, the hike provides marvelous views of the rugged coastline and the tranquil town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
On the way back, we stop for a refreshing snorkel or swim at post-card worthy Carola Beach. Here, you will find sea turtles, sea lions, and marine iguanas. After a gorgeous sunset and dinner, we explore the friendly and laid-back town. We recommend you take a 5-minute walk from the hotel down the boardwalk to view the immense colony of endemic Galapagos sea lions.
Overnight at Casa Opuntia Hotel or Golden Bay Hotel
Day 2: KAYAK AND SNORKEL IN SAN CRISTOBAL’S NORTHERN COAST (B,L,D)
The morning is spent kayaking coastal bays and coves full of wildlife. You will see blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, sea lions, and sea turtles. We may visit Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), Punta Pitt or Cerro Brujo. The visiting site will depend on the week day and Galapagos National Park regulations.
Here we will snorkel with marine iguanas, sea lions, and countless reef fish. We will swim with spotted eagle rays, golden rays, Galapagos sharks, starfish, clams, and fish of every shape, size, and color. If you are lucky, you may even see hammerhead sharks! After a full day exploring the seas, head back to Casa Opuntia or Golden Bay for a gourmet dinner and a well-earned rest.
Overnight at Casa Opuntia Hotel or Golden Bay Hotel
Day 3: Mountain bike the coastline / Explore Tintoreras Islets (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we take a short plane ride over to Isabela Island. This is the largest island in the Galapagos and is still being formed by 6 shield volcanoes. Hence, Isabela is one of the most volcanically active spots on the planet.
This morning, we embark on the most scenically-varied bike ride in the Galapagos. Along our ride, we will pass through white sand beaches, mangrove forests and brackish lagoons and a lava tube cave. The area is filled with giant tortoises and birdlife including flamingos. We end our ride at El Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears). When Isabela was used as a penal colony, prisoners constructed a towering wall of lava rocks for no other purpose than to keep them distracted from the madness of isolation.. After lunch, we explore Tintoreras, a set of small islets filled with hidden coves and beaches. Here, we will find the endemic Galapagos penguin as well as reef sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions. At the end of the day, retire to our hotel. After a gourmet dinner, feel free to take a stroll down the seemingly endless beach or down the sand streets of this idyllic beach town.
Overnight at Casita de la Playa Hotel or Hotel Iguana Crossing
Day 4: Volcano Hiking in Isabela’s Highlands (B,L,D)
This morning, we drive up to the highlands until the road ends. Here, we don our daypacks and hike into a world of recent geological history. On the hike up, admire the incredible views of the surrounding volcanoes and sea. However, when you arrive at the rim of Volcano Sierra Negra, your jaw will drop. This is the second largest active caldera on the planet. You will walk along the rim of this enormous 30 square mile crater, and if feeling energetic, continue your hike into the caldera of Volcano Chico. Volcano Chico is an otherworldly landscape with endless hues of oranges, reds, blacks, and yellows. Here, you can explore puffing fumaroles and spectacular lava formations. After a stop at an idyllic tortoise reserve for lunch, we’ll head back to the lowlands in time to spend our last afternoon on Isabela relaxing on the perfect beaches and soaking up the island-life atmosphere.
Overnight at Casita de la Playa or Hotel Iguana Crossing
Day 5: Tortoises, Pirates, Lava tunnels and Volcanic Sinkholes (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we take a speedboat (or internal flight) to Santa Cruz Island. Along the way we may see whales and dolphins. Upon arrival, we head to El Chato in the Santa Cruz highlands to find the giant tortoise in its natural habitat. It is truly an honor to hike amongst these fascinating giants, who can live to be over 175 years old. You will also see pintail ducks, finches, frigate birds, egrets, and hopefully the vermillion flycatcher – a red jewel of a bird.
We will then explore some incredible lava tunnels in which pirates frequented and perhaps hid Inca gold. We then carry on to Los Gemelos, two deep volcanic sinkholes at the top of the island. We will hike through a forest of endemic scalesia trees, where we will be on the lookout for the short-eared owl. The trees are covered with ferns and epiphytes and exude an almost eerie feel.
Overnight Fernandina Hotel or Angermerver Hotel
Day 6: Kayak in Lava Wall Channels / Hike to Tortuga Bay (B,L,D)
This morning, we take to sea kayaks again to explore a different landscape, Punta Estrada and Divine Bay. We paddle through serene turquoise waters that meander through towering lava channel walls. Below the clear waters, you should be able to see rays and white-tipped reef sharks. You can also paddle right up to the fearless blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, herons, sally light-footed crabs, and marine iguanas perched along the cliffs.
After lunch, we take a 40 minute hike to Tortuga Bay through a unique dry forest. Along the hike, you will find many birds and interesting plants. When you reach the beach, you will hardly believe your eyes, as this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos. Take time to relax on its fine sands or in its turquoise waters. Return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy your last evening on the Galapagos.
If there is enough time we’ll stop for a visit at the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn from local scientist about the ongoing conservation efforts on these enchanted islands.
Overnight Fernandina Hotel or Angermerver Hotel
Day 7: Transfer to Baltra Island for Return Flight (B)
We transfer to Baltra Island for our return flight to the mainland. End of expedition.
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Can I say a huge thanks for the holiday - it has been excellent! The local provider couldn't have been better. The standard of the hotels, meals and guides were top notch and probably the best I have experienced. All 3 guides were great - excellent English and really knowledgeable, professional and informative.
Many thanks for everything you did as well - we've all had a great time!
What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday? "Seeing some fantastic birds right up close. Three very different islands . Unique experiences on all. Particularly loved the kayaking out from Pelican bay on a Santa Cruz. Also fell in love with Isabela .....perfect to have the longer stay here." What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday with Pioneer Expeditions?
"The inter island flight(between San Cristobal and Isabela) only allows 10kg each in luggage (that includes hand luggage) so do try and pack light and wear your heavy shoes! You'll be charged about 3$ per kg for any extra." Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation? "Our guide took us somewhere different to eat lunch each day. And we chose to go to a different restaurant each night. We stayed in their hotels which is all helping to give locals employment. Conservation is of course, at the heart of this holiday!" How would you rate your Pioneer Expeditions holiday overall?
5* - "It was a dream to one day get to the Galapagos and I am delighted I chose this holiday . The activities are great and probably manageable for everyone with a modicum of fitness. We learnt a lot from our guides not only about the animals, but also about the flora and fauna and geology"
“Thank you for organising our Galapagos trip. Everything ran perfectly to plan - Flights all pre booked, transfers waiting for us at all destinations, excellent hotels & food. We had our own expert guides and transport for all excursions which included cycling, boat trips, snorkelling with turtles, rays and sharks, hiking to the rim of a volcano, walking amongst the giant tortoises and many opportunities to observe the incredible range of flora & fauna…..including the iguanas. As a keen birdwatcher I was thrilled to see forty of the sixty or so species on the Islands. We saw much more by being land based as opposed to the cruises which most companies offer. The Galapagos are a unique experience and we loved every second - we cannot stop talking about our trip and I can honestly say that the only criticism I have is that we did not stay longer. Once again, thank you for a lifetime experience……”
**** Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend Well organised and very enjoyable! The SEA LIONS are great encounters. Especially on San Cristobal Island being such close proximity with them on beaches is almost unheard of anywhere else in the world! I recommend extending your holiday by 1 day and scuba dive. It shouldn't be missed. Sea lions behave differently when you are in the same realm as them, deep under water. They come up and say hello. During snorkelling this doesn't really happen! If you want REAL close encounter with these sweet and entertaining creatures, it is a MUST DO!