DAY 1. QUITO OR GUAYAQUIL / SAN CRISTÓBAL
Please be at the airport 2 hours before your flight. You will have to go through the special Galapagos security check before approaching the airline counter. Upon arrival at the airport in San Cristóbal, our naturalist guide will meet you and take you to your hotel. After lunch, visit the Interpretation Center where our guide will explain how the Galapagos Islands were formed, the evolution of species, the migration of animals, and the human settlements within the Galapagos. Then, we make our way up Frigate Hill, where many frigate birds fly around, hence its name. From the top, about 200 meters above sea level (20-30 minute hike), enjoy an expansive view of the ocean and the nearby islands, such as Kicker Rock. The vegetation includes native species such as the red mangrove and Opuntia cacti. Here you can also snorkel for colorful fish species, starfish, sea urchins, or simply enjoy the crystal-clear waters. Lastly, visit Carola Beach, with one of the largest sea lion colonies in Galapagos. Enjoy the beach before returning to the hotel. (Lunch)
DAY 2. BOAT TRIP TO KICKER ROCK
We depart the hotel between 8 and 9 am. First, we head to Sleeping Lion or Kicker Rock (travel time about 45 minutes), a rock formation located off the coast of San Cristóbal Island. It is a magnificent island in the middle of the sea, rising 500 feet from the ocean and shaped like a giant sleeping lion, hence its name. The rocks are remnants of a vertical formation of tuff stone – a favorite spot for many species of seabirds. These two vertical walls with a channel in the center provide a haven for sharks and other fish species, such as barracuda and rainbow fish. We will snorkel for an hour around Kicker Rock to encounter even more marine life, such as sea turtles, rays, sea lions, reef sharks, white-tip sharks, hammerheads and octopus.
Then, we head for Manglesito (wet landing), comprised of mangroves and a lovely beach area. Travel time from Kicker Rock will be about 30 minutes to spend 1 hour walking and/or swimming, including lunch on board. The mangrove area is an ideal place for seeing aquatic birds, while the beach provides plenty of recreation, accented by sesuvium and button mangrove vegetation. There´s a gap among the mangroves to observe ducks, royal lapwings and curlews, including both native and endemic species. We will back in San Cristobal around 3 pm. (Breakfast / Lunch)
DAY 3. HIGHLANDS OF SAN CRISTÓBAL
We depart at 8 or 9 am. Today we will visit the highlands of San Cristobal. We start at El Junco Lake, whose name comes from a type of plant that is common to its surroundings. The lake covers an area of 60,000 m2 and its volume is 360,000 m3, equivalent to 9 million gallons of water! Its diameter is 270 m and its maximum depth is 6 m. Fed only by rainwater, during the dry season it decreases by up to 1 m, while during heavy rains it overflows into a stream. The lake is located 19 km from the port, within a small crater that in turn is located inside the caldera of a larger volcano, now extinct and difficult to distinguish without geological knowledge. Certainly, the Galapagos are forever changing, evolving to be exact.
Next, we visit La Galapaguera, a tortoise sanctuary located in the southeastern end of the island, about 22 km from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Close to Cerro Colorado, you can see the Calandrinia galapagosa, an endemic plant of San Cristóbal in danger of extinction. This sanctuary has been built to protect the island’s tortoise population, Geochelone chatamensis, creating an environment with similar conditions as its natural one. The infrastructure has been integrated into a large corral of 1,415 m2 and consists of: a visitor center (including an interpretation room, conference room, souvenir shop, bar, restrooms and administration office), a breeding center with a herpetology laboratory and growth pens, interpretative trails, and two dwellings. Along the trail observe different species of native and endemic plants of Galapagos such as: cat’s claw, manzanillo, matazarno, romerillo, chala, acacia, and guayabillo. In addition, around these plants you can observe birds like cucuve, maria canary, small ground finch, tree finch, and flycatchers.
Finally, we head for Puerto Chino Beach, located just a few kilometers from La Galapaguera. Access is by land via a rubble mine; from that point you must walk a path of approximately 1475 meters to reach the beach. There’re two ravines that end at the beach that, during the rainy season, produce sediments of white sand that, in turn, change the length of the beach throughout the year . The beach is an excellent place for recreation and relaxation, as well as for observing birds as they feed.
We return to town for lunch and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. You can visit La Lobería Beach or Mann Beach on your own. (Breakfast / Lunch)
DAY 4. DAY TRIP TO ESPAÑOLA
We depart at 7:30 am. Española is oldest of the islands in the archipelago (300 million years). Due to its aridness and lack of fresh water sources, it´s practically uninhabitable for humans, though a paradise for seabirds. This island is the most southerly, and is famous for its albatross community, one of the most incredible birds of the Galapagos, which can be seen from April to December. During this time, the albatross mate, lay their eggs and take care of their young. Come January, they head out to sea, in search of food. There are two places to visit on the island: Suárez Point and Gardner Bay. On the western part of the island, you will find a colony of marine iguanas. The 2 km-long trail leads through colonies of blue-footed and Nazca boobies to a vent, where the waves force the water to rise through this hole up to twenty meters into the air. It is best to go in the morning when the tide is high, because later you may not have the opportunity to see the water jump so high. Gardner Bay, on the eastern side of the island, has rocks ideal for snorkeling and a beautiful beach to rest and watch the sea lions. White-tipped sharks, globefish and colorful tropical fish fill the waters of Gardner Bay. Return to San Cristobal by 4 pm. (Breakfast / Lunch)
DAY 5. SAN CRISTÓBAL / GUAYAQUIL OR QUITO
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the mainland. (Breakfast)