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Galapagos Hiking & Kayaking Adventure

10 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
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Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Upon arrival at the airport in Quito, you are met by our local representative and transferred to Quito's historic Old Town, about an hour away. Settle into your luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the colonial quarter and enjoy dinner at your leisure this evening at one of Quito’s many fine restaurants.
 
Day 2: Exploring Quito
After breakfast, embark on a full day of discovery in Ecuador’s historic capital. Heralded as Latin America’s most beautifully preserved colonial city, Quito’s Old Town is filled with cobblestone lanes, elegant plazas and monuments, and ornate gilded churches and monasteries. Your tour of the historic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, may include the 16th-century Church and Convent of San Francisco and the baroque splendor of La Compañia Church with its gleaming gold-leaf interior. Along the way, we'll stop for a leisurely lunch of traditional Ecuadorian food in a classic local restaurant. Visit Independence Plaza, the original center of Quito from which we view the Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral and Presidential Palace. And take in a sweeping view of the city and surrounding volcanic peaks from the overlook at Itchimbia or Panecillo Hill. As the sun sets over Quito, enjoy a welcome dinner with one of our Expedition Leaders.
 
Day 3: Quito / Baltra, Galapagos Islands / North Seymour
Rise early for the return transfer to Quito airport, where we board our flight to the Galapagos Islands this morning. Our second Expedition Leader meets us as we land on the island of Baltra, then we transfer to the jetty to board to the S/C Nemo III. This deluxe motor sailing catamaran will be our home base for the next week as we kayak among the islands. Once we get settled into our cabins, we gather for a safety drill and an orientation to our kayaks. Our Expedition Leaders help us get fitted to our boats and review paddling techniques and safety information. 
 
Our first landing awaits on North Seymour, a small geological uplift where we follow a trail that leads us to swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies and endemic land iguanas. North Seymour is also home to the largest colony of magnificent frigatebirds in the Galapagos. Strolling along the beach, we find marine iguanas and sea lions bodysurfing the northerly swells. Back aboard the Nemo III, our Expedition Leaders offer a briefing about tomorrow's activities, followed by sunset cocktails and dinner. 
 
Day 4: Isla Lobos / Kicker Rock / San Cristobal—Cerro Brujo
This morning we land at Isla Lobos, where our adventures begin with a shallow-water snorkel with the resident sea lion colony, plus a chance to look for feeding marine iguanas below the surface. Then, a short ride by panga (motorized inflatable raft) along the shoreline offers a look at a frigatebird colony, prior to a walk inland. Back on board the Nemo III once more, we sail on to Kicker Rock, a dramatic volcanic tuff cone that rises 300 feet above the ocean's surface. Here, depending on conditions, we have our first chance to snorkel in deep water to look for sea turtles, rays and reef sharks. 
 
This afternoon the Nemo III lands at Cerro Brujo, or "Wizard Hill." This ancient volcanic tuff cone on San Cristobal Island sits next to an expanse of powdery white sand that's home to a large colony of Galapagos sea lions, as well as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, egrets and marine iguanas. We paddle kayaks along the shoreline of Cerro Brujo, observing tunnels and caves eroded by the relentless action of the waves. Later there's time for a hike along the beach to look for sea lions. At every turn, our discoveries are enhanced by the in-depth knowledge of our Expedition Leaders, who are expert naturalists on the flora and fauna of the Galapagos. 
 
Day 5: Española—Gardner Bay / Punta Suarez
Española is one of the most prolific wildlife sites in the Galapagos. On a paddling excursion along the island's north shore this morning, we follow a cliff formed by eroded cinder cones and layers of old basalt where we observe giant cacti and many different bird species. Next, we do some deep-water snorkeling at one of the offshore islets in Gardner Bay—keep an eye out for gentle hammerhead sharks that often swim in schools near here. 
 
Ashore, an idyllic white sand beach awaits, where sea lions laze by the dozens and Pacific green sea turtles frequent the rocky part of the shoreline. Return to our catamaran for lunch aboard as we sail to Punta Suarez. Hiking on the headlands, we witness abundant birdlife, hoping to see Hood mockingbirds, blue-footed boobies, nesting swallow-tailed gulls and Galapagos hawks. Española is also the world's main nesting site for the huge waved albatross.
 
Day 6: Floreana—Punta Cormorant / Post Office Bay
This morning we land at Punta Cormorant on Floreana, one of the few populated islands in the Galapagos. Following a trail through a Palo Santo forest to a brackish lagoon, look for pintail ducks, common stilts and bright pink flamingos. As we wind our way past a wide variety of plants, we reach a beach of fine sand where sea turtles lay eggs in the dunes and rays swim in the shallow water. Back aboard the Nemo III, we sail a short distance to Champion Islet just offshore, one of the best drift-snorkel spots in the Galapagos. As the current floats us past the steep walls of this submerged volcanic crater, we spy large schools of fish and bright corals as we're followed by playful young sea lions. 
 
Floreana's rich cultural history is filled with intrigue, including tales of pirates who once hid out here. One relic of this colorful past is the "Post Office Barrel," established by British whalers in 1793, where travelers still leave mail for personal delivery via visitors passing through. After a short snorkel to look for sea turtles and a brief walk to a lava tube, we paddle around the mangrove shores of Post Office Bay where large bull sea lions patrol the rocky terrain and reddish-colored marine iguanas bask near the tree cacti.
 
Day 7: Santa Cruz—Tortuga Bay / Natural Habitat's Tortoise Camp
Santa Cruz is our destination this morning, the largest island in the Galapagos. The day begins with a visit to secluded Tortuga Bay, where a trail leads to a long, pristine white sand beach that is a sanctuary for many birds, iguanas and bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs that dot the lava rocks. Swimming is permitted in a separate cove nearby, where it is common to view schools of white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and colorful fish in the aquamarine waters. A paddle among mangrove lagoons on the bay's edge offers a chance to see sea turtles, frequently found here. 
 
After lunch on the boat, we head ashore and ascend into the misty highlands of Santa Cruz to arrive at NHA's private Tortoise Camp. This exclusive setting offers a rare opportunity to spend a night in wild tortoise habitat, and these ancient, amiable reptiles that are the archipelago's namesake often wander right through camp. Accommodations are in safari-style raised platform tents and treehouses with views of the ocean. While rustic, they offer comfortable amenities, including real beds and private en suite facilities. But the real treat of a stay here is our proximity to wild tortoises, who are attracted to the area by the lush vegetation. They are most commonly seen in camp from July through February. From March to June, we make an excursion to a nearby tortoise reserve for closer views, as they migrate seasonally to a lower elevation. Nearby, we can also explore a network of subterranean lava tubes and caverns. Please note: At times, Tortoise Camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.
 
Day 8: Santa Cruz Highlands / Darwin Station / Santa Fe
Spend the morning exploring the highlands, possibly with a stop to view more tortoises at El Manzanillo reserve, where we find tortoises year-round in the wild. Then we head into Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz, to visit the world-famous giant tortoise-rearing center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, international scientists conduct research dedicated to conserving the unique habitats and species of the Galapagos. At the facility, we visit the protection pens where hatchlings are bred to help increase depleted tortoise populations, a central mission for both the research station and Galapagos National Park. To date, more than 5,000 tortoises bred at the station have been released into the wild.
 
Returning to the Nemo III, we have lunch aboard and sail for Santa Fe. On a short hike through a forest of prickly pear cacti, look for the endemic land iguanas that wait patiently underneath for fruit to drop. Returning to our catamaran, we explore a small islet surrounded by great reef diversity, then set out for a paddle along the north coast. Along this expanse, large cliffs and sea caves are used by many species of marine birds for nesting and roosting—as well as basking green sea turtles and sea lions. 
 
Day 9: Bartolome / Sombrero Chino
Sailing on to Bartolome, some of the best snorkeling in the Galapagos awaits around the base of this ancient submerged volcano. It's an underwater playground that's home to enormous schools of fish permanently under attack by Galapagos penguins. Sleeping white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays are also common sightings. We then make a dry landing to climb to the island's highest point for 360-degree views, passing intriguing geological formations including spatter cones, tuff cones and lava tubes. From the summit, a panorama unfolds of the surrounding islands and Pinnacle Rock, famously shown in the 2003 film Master and Commander. Over lunch, cruise to nearby Sombrero Chino, which really does look like a Chinese hat! A 2-hour paddle through the Bainbridge Rocks, shaped like a string of floating mushroom tops, reveals more of the Galapagos' fascinating marine life. During a final snorkel in the channel, we hope the resident penguin family will join us. Back on board, it's time for cocktails and a convivial farewell dinner. 
 
Day 10: Mosquera / Baltra / Quito / Depart
This morning's adventure will depend upon sea conditions. If tides permit, we may opt to land on Mosquera, a tiny islet that's home to a huge population of sea lions, as well as many shorebirds. Or, we'll venture out on the panga in search of fur seals lounging on the rocks along North Seymour. Too soon, our time in the Enchanted Isles comes to a close as we say goodbye to the Nemo III, her crew and our Expedition Leaders. Transferring to Baltra, we board our flight back to the mainland. Upon arrival at the Quito airport, travelers departing on overnight flights may choose to transfer to a hotel located just minutes away, for a relaxed layover in a comfortable day room. A complimentary shuttle will return you to the airport in time for your evening flight.
Map
All This Included
The far-flung Galapagos archipelago is unique on Earth. Giant tortoises roam misty meadows. Sea lions loll, nonchalant, on pristine beaches. Iguanas bask on sun-baked lava while sea turtles, rays and reef sharks swim with snorkelers in aquamarine waters. Paddling this primeval paradise is a privilege few visitors get to enjoy. We pioneered kayaking in the Galapagos, and our special paddling permits allow us access to places most visitors never see. Our privately chartered deluxe catamaran whisks us between anchorages and provides comfortable accommodations. Each day we explore a different island, on foot, by kayak, via snorkeling, and sometimes all three—you won't sit around on deck on this adventure! The islands are surprisingly diverse, with new discoveries at each spot we visit.
  • Activities, accommodations and land transportation as detailed in the itinerary
  • Airport transfers when using our preferred hotels
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on the final day
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • Soft drinks (soda, coffee, tea and juice) at meals
  • Local beer and house wine with dinner aboard the Nemo III
  • Snorkeling gear and wetsuit
  • Services of Natural Habitat Adventures professional Expedition Leaders
  • Most gratuities, taxes and service charges
Highlights
  • A one-of-a-kind active adventure in the world’s most unique wildlife destination—meet marine life at eye level as we paddle in more remote areas where others can't go
  • Discover wild wonders on a diverse mix of nature walks, snorkeling and tropical sea kayaking—we hold a special paddling permit from Galapagos National Park
  • Sleep comfortably aboard our chartered sailing catamaran in en suite cabins as we cruise overnight between the islands...and spend a night at our private Tortoise Camp!
Accommodations
Quito: Patio Andaluz
Cruising: Cabin onboard S/C Nemo III
Santa Cruz: Natural Habitat's Tortoise Camp
Quito: Wyndham Quito Airport
Pre and Post Add-ons
Guided Machu Picchu Adventure
6 Days / Year-Round, From $3995 (+air)
 
Journey through Peru's Sacred Valley to the "Lost City of the Incas" where our guide unveils this remarkable archaeological phenomenon.
 
Amazon Lodge Extension
4 or 5 Days / Custom, From $1695 (+ air)
 
Journey to Ecuador's Amazon Basin where we stay in secluded jungle lodges and explore the rich biodiversity of the rain forest on foot and by traditional dugout canoe.
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 14 Travelers.
  • The itinerary provided is meant as a guideline and is subject to change without notice. On rare occasions, it may be necessary to deviate from our regular itinerary for reasons beyond our control. In these instances we will provide the best available alternative.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, some alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (if any), required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel protection insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate to Difficult. This is a very active trip with early mornings and long days filled with varied activities. General physical fitness and mobility are required to participate in this trip. If you have no prior experience with kayaking, we ask that you are prepared to learn and sign on knowing that your participation may be limited if you cannot meet minimum abilities. Activities include mainland and island walking, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. Snorkeling opportunities will be offered nearly every day in the Galapagos, so we strongly recommend practicing beforehand if you have limited experience.
  • Elevation: Please note that the first two nights of this adventure are either spent in the Otavalo region in the foothills of the Andes Mountains at elevations between 8,500–10,500 feet above sea level or in Quito at an elevation of 9,400 feet. The relative lack of oxygen at these elevations may manifest in altitude-sickness symptoms that can include headaches, dizziness, tiredness and nausea during the first few hours or days spent at elevation. Hydration and rest usually help symptoms to resolve, though participants may wish to talk with their doctor about taking along a prescription for a medication such as Diamox to better manage potential physical reactions to high altitude.
  •  Arrive in Quito any time on Day 1. You are free to depart from Quito after 8 pm on Day 10.
  • NHA recommends a minimum age of 12 years old given the demands of the activities and nature of the boat. We believe it's best to consider this age recommendation a guideline—you, as a parent or guardian, are best qualified to decide whether your child would enjoy the experience without compromising the comfort of others. We strongly encourage you to speak with one of our Adventure Specialists about the specific requirements of the trip so you can make an informed decision. We do not permit children younger than seven on our scheduled departures due to safety regulations, physical limitations and concerns regarding group dynamics.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.