Galapagos Hiking & Kayaking Adventure 2020 (Southern Itinerary)
8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Arrive in Ecuador's capital city, where our local host meets you at the airport and joins you on the drive to Quito's historic Old Town, about an hour away. Settle into your boutique hotel in the heart of the colonial quarter and enjoy dinner on your own at one of Quito's many fine restaurants.
Day 2: Exploring Historic Quito
After breakfast, set out on a full-day discovery of Ecuador's historic capital with your Expedition Leader and a local guide. Heralded as Latin America's most well-preserved colonial city, Quito's Old Town is filled with cobblestone lanes, stately plazas and monuments, and ornate churches. Our tour of the old 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. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner to celebrate the start of our adventure.
Day 3: Baltra, Galapagos Islands / Nat Hab's Tortoise Camp
Rise early for the transfer back to Quito airport, where our flight to the Galapagos awaits. Our second Expedition Leader meets us once we land on the island of Baltra later this morning. We're then off via road and ferry for Santa Cruz Island, winding up into the misty highlands to land at Nat Hab'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 true treat of our stay is the proximity to wild tortoises, which 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.
Day 4: Kayak Itabaca Canal / Embark Nemo III / North Seymour
This morning we have our first chance to kayak as we paddle in Itabaca Canal, located between Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. The channel offers excellent conditions for an introduction to Galapagos kayaking, with calm waters and very little wind. Paddle past mangroves where pelicans and herons perch and rocky cliffs where we'll see blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, gulls and shearwaters. We sometimes see sea lions along the shoreline, and in shallow areas, look for white-tipped reef sharks.
Then it's time to board the Nemo III. This deluxe motor sailing catamaran will be our base for the next three nights as we kayak and hike in the islands. Following lunch aboard, our first landing is at North Seymour, a small geological uplift where we follow a trail leading 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. Along the beach we find marine iguanas and sea lions bodysurfing the northerly swells. Back aboard ship, our Expedition Leaders share a briefing about tomorrow's activities, followed by sunset cocktails and dinner.
Day 5: San Cristobal
Landing at San Cristobal, we hike to the top of Cerro Brujo, or "Wizard Hill." This ancient volcanic tuff cone sits next to an expanse of powdery white sand where we find a large colony of Galapagos sea lions, as well as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, egrets and marine iguanas. Paddling kayaks along the shoreline, we observe tunnels and caves eroded by the relentless action of the waves. Later there's time for a hike along the beach to look for more 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 6: Española
Española is one of the most prolific wildlife sites in the Galapagos. On a paddling excursion along the island's north shore, we follow a cliff formed by eroded cinder cones and layers of old basalt where we observe giant cacti and many different bird species. Then it's time for some deep-water snorkeling at one of the offshore islets in Gardner Bay—keep an eye out for docile 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 7: Floreana
This morning we land at Punta Cormorant on Floreana, one of the few populated islands in the Galapagos. Following a trail through the Palo Santo forest to a brackish lagoon, look for pintail ducks, common stilts and bright pink flamingos. Winding 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 8: Puerto Ayora / Baltra / Quito / Depart
Nemo III returns to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz this morning, where we disembark. From here, we ferry over to Baltra where 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.
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
Quito: Patio Andaluz, Hacienda Cusin or Wyndam Quito Airport
Cruising: Cabin onboard S/C Nemo III
Santa Cruz: Natural Habitat's Tortoise Camp
Pre and Post Add-ons
Extra Day in Quito, 2 Days / Year-Round, From $435
Begin your Galapagos adventure with an overview of Ecuador's historic capital, including a tour of the magnificent Old Town, South America's best-preserved colonial quarter.
Guided Machu Picchu Adventure, 6 Days / Year-Round, From $3,995
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 $1,595
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.
Terms and Conditions
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* 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.