Experience the island chain that has enchanted explorers since Darwin first dropped anchor off its shores. Spend a week exploring the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago aboard a stylish vessel - the Archipel I. Visit Espanola Island and snorkel at Gardner Bay, spotting large schools of tropical fish. Head to the northernmost island and find the nesting sites of red-footed boobies. And, of course, see giant tortoises in their natural environment.
7 nights comfortable boat
2 nights comfortable hotel
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Puembo, a quiet rural neighbourhood of Quito located around 20 minutes from the airport and 45 minutes from the downtown city centre.
Ecuador's mountain capital is, at 2,850m, the second highest capital in Latin America, lying in a narrow valley at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano. Arriving into the city by plane is quite spectacular as you approach over snow-capped mountains and extinct volcanoes - a window seat is recommended! You will be met on arrival at Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) by a driver to take you to this evening's hotel, where more information will be given to you about tomorrow's schedule.
The hotel is a tranquil, colonial-style property with a large garden and swimming pool. It's located in the countryside suburbs of Quito, near the airport; perfect for an early start tomorrow. The hotel can help organise a taxi for you into downtown Quito if you arrive early in the day and wish to visit the city.
Hotel Rincon de Puembo (or similar)
Today we transfer to the airport early for our flight to the Galapagos Islands via Guayaquil (refueling stop only, you will not disembark the plane).
Lying on the Equator, 970km west of the Ecuadorean coast, the Galapagos National Park is a unique collection of islands, formed by volcanoes over hundreds of thousands of years and consisting of six main islands, 12 smaller islands, and over 40 small islets, each one supporting a distinct and unique flora and fauna, including prehistoric creatures found nowhere else on earth. This desolate and fantastic habitat was discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga. Charles Darwin visited the islands on the Beagle exactly three hundred years later, in 1835. He observed the total isolation of the giant reptiles and other creatures, and this played a substantial part in his theory of evolution.
Of the extraordinary animals to be found in the Galapagos many are reptiles, such as the great tortoise, large land iguanas, numerous lizards and three species of non-poisonous snakes. There are also several species of turtle, which come ashore to mate. Up to three quarters of a million seabirds flock to the islands, including a third of the world's blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants, albatross and petrels. Only 35cm tall, the Galapagos penguin can be seen swimming among tropical mangroves, whilst offshore it is common to see dolphins, sea lions and fur seals playing in the water. Fearless though not tame, the extraordinary wildlife is often inquisitive and the opportunities for photography are superb.
The Galapagos National Park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD (subject to change), payable in cash on arrival, which funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other national parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the national park system are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.
At Baltra Airport, a guide will meet us to help us collect our luggage and accompany us to our stylish vessel - the Archipel I. We'll visit Bachas Beach this afternoon, a beautiful bay with soft, white coral sand that is frequently visited by sea turtles to lay their eggs. After enjoying some leisure time at the beach, we can explore a small lagoon hidden behind some bushes, where occasionally it is possible to observe flamingos, black-necked stilts and whimbrels. You might also observe some rusty barges, which were abandoned here after WWII when the USA rented this island as a strategic point to protect the Panama Channel from Japan.
Archipel I (or similar)
The northernmost island in the archipelago, Genovesa is a wild and windswept volcanically-formed caldera. Before our landing, we'll take a dinghy ride along the eastern arm of the caldera, where the soaring 25 metre-high walls are quite overwhelming. We may spot a Galapagos fur seal or a seabird resting on one of the ledges at the base. The landing point at the steep Prince Philip's Steps see us hiking up the steep stairs from the landing dock to a bush of palo santo shrubs on top. Red-footed boobies use these scarce nesting places so that they don't have to nest on the rocky ground. Upon arriving at the edge of the rim, the bushes open up and we can enjoy panoramic views, a strong sea breeze and the amazing flying skills of countless seabirds.
While here at Genovesa, we'll also visit Darwin Bay and marvel at the sheer number of birds along the many trails - nesting frigatebirds, gulls, and boobies are just a few of the species we may spot. Be sure to bring your camera to take some snaps of our new feathered friends.
We'll see the dramatic volcanic features of Bartolome today, hiking to Bartolome's summit for a stronger perspective of the islands' not-too-distant volcanic origins and enjoying panoramic views - it's one of the best among the islands. The other Galapagos Islands are visible in the distance, as well as Pinnacle Rock, the island's famous towering landmark. We'll take the opportunity to swim and snorkel along the shore, home to one of the most iconic volcanic rock formations on the islands. Home to Galapagos penguins, friendly sea lions, sea turtles and a huge variety of fish, Bartolome and its surrounding waters are a fantastic place to explore the natural wonders of the Galapagos.
We continue to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island this afternoon, where the arrival is like a moon landing. The desolate, sprawling lava fields seem to be mostly lifeless, but this island, which is particularly popular among photographers, is deceptive, with creatures proliferating even here. Green sea turtles burrow in the white-sand beaches, where you can also find sally lightfoot crabs, blue herons and oystercatchers.
In the morning we arrive in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and has the largest population, with Puerto Ayora as its main town. It also boasts the most varied of the islands' vegetation zones: coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa. The native scalesia forest of El Chato Tortoise Reserve is the best place to search for Galapagos giant tortoises in their most authentic setting. Though it can be quite moist and muddy, the visit will be an adventure, trying to spot the giant creatures silently leave their favourite ponds. While on the mainland, we'll also visit the Twin Craters - found on either side of the road leading to Puerto Ayora. These impressive formations were formed by magma domes, which hardened on the outside while the lava continued flowing inside, leaving huge and empty magma chambers that eventually collapsed into two large holes. The craters lie within a lush scalesia cloud forest, a high-altitude plant species that is endemic to the Galapagos. This area is also home to the carpenter finch, which uses tools to search for food.
This afternoon we visit the Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre, where we can observe tortoises that come from various islands of the archipelago - at Fausto Llerena they are breeding tortoises only to repopulate areas where their populations have been affected by non-native wildlife (predominantly feral dogs). One of the main attractions here is the embalmed Lonesome George - estimated to have died at between 93 and 109 years of age, Lonesome George is recognised as the last of its kind, and as a symbol of the efforts invested into conserving endangered species.
The peninsula of Cormorant Point forms the extreme north cape of Floreana, and at the landing beach we will be welcomed by a small Galapagos sea lion colony. Spot schools of stingrays hiding in the sandy bottom of the beach and, during the first months of the year, witness Pacific Green turtles coming ashore to bury their eggs. From Cormorant Point we head to the snorkelling spot at Devil's Crown, a coral reef surrounded by an eroded volcanic crater and the perfect home for marine life. Look out for small sharks, rays and schools of tropical fish. You may even spot Galapagos penguins here - this spot is the only place in the south-eastern archipelago where the Galapagos penguin resides.
Later in the afternoon, we stop at Post Office Bay. A barrel was placed here in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels to be used as a post office. Passing ships would stop to leave mail for loved ones, collecting at the same time any mail destined for ports on their itineraries. Today the box is used mainly by tourists, and you can drop off your own postcard, picking up an unstamped letter to post for someone else. You can also climb the small basalt cone at the Baroness Lookout for panoramic views of the coastline. This viewpoint was the famous spot of one of Floreana's first settlers, the eccentric baroness and self-proclaimed 'Empress of the Galapagos' Eloisa von Wagner.
Today we spend some time exploring Espanola Island, the southernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago and home to several wildlife species, including masked and blue footed boobies. We'll sail into Gardner Bay, an excellent swimming and snorkeling site. Strap on your snorkel and if conditions allow, see an abundance of sea life including; young sea lions and large schools of surprisingly big tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish, and bump-head parrot fish.
In the afternoon, we head to Punta Suarez, where a hike to the top of the cliff makes for spectacular photo opportunities. This rugged point on the western side of Espanola Island is spectacular: gargantuan waves break on jagged cliffs and large bird colonies thickly populate the interior of the island; there is a distinct feel of desolate wilderness here. The waved albatross is seen here from April to December during its mating/nesting season. This bird leaves land between January and March each year to make its annual odyssey far out to sea. Amazingly, Espanola is the nesting site of virtually the entire world population of this species, with more than 12,000 pairs residing here. Large numbers of masked and blue footed boobies are also found here, red-billed tropicbirds dash madly through the air, and both marine iguanas and sea lions are common. A huge blowhole at Suarez Point, where the surf is forced through a natural rock formation spouting seawater 15 to 20m into the air, adds to the island's impression of untamed beauty. We follow the trail through a rookery and learn the geological history of the island from our naturalist guide, including its dramatic volcanic features, climate, flora and fauna.
The wind-sculptured volcanic cliffs at Pitt Point make up the extreme eastern end of San Cristobal, and therefore of the whole archipelago. These cliffs were the first sight of land when HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrived on the 15th September, 1835. On the small green sand beach, we'll be welcomed by a group of barking Galapagos sea lions. This is a bachelor colony, where males usually relax and prepare themselves for fighting and mating. In the afternoon, we land at Witch Hill, where the primary attraction is snorkelling off the coral-sand beach. This was one of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin in this inaugural expedition, and has an impressive landscape, where we may see pelicans, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as marine iguanas.
The tiny island of Lobos has some wonderful wildlife encounters to experience. On foot, view the sea and shore birds nesting and feeding. Spot a small colony of blue-footed boobies, or nesting frigatebirds, who mate here with clumsy dances - heaving their striking blue feet or blowing up their balloon-sized scarlet pouches - as well as finding a large colony of sea lions. lions. Be sure to bring your camera to catch some snaps at this prime wildlife watching haven.
We'll then travel to San Cristobal Airport, from where we fly back to Quito and transfer to our hotel.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Puembo, Quito.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. Pick-up times for your airport transfer to Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) will be re-confirmed locally. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel. If you would like to book additional nights in Quito at the end of your stay, these can be arranged either at the hotel in Puembo, or in a hotel in downtown Quito.
We recommend spending extra time in Quito, or adding to your nature-based holiday by booking our four-night Amazon extension package (trip code: AE).
Temperature ranges are similar all year round. In the highlands: the dry season lasts from June to mid-September. November and December are partially dry. The rainy months are October and from January to May, but showers are short and mostly in the afternoons. Temperatures range from 12°C to 24°C. Nights are cold at altitude (4°C - 10°C). The Coastal Region: from December to May it is hot and wet. From June to November it is generally cool and misty with sudden light showers. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. The Amazon Area: it is humid all year round. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. From April to August the rainfall is heavier. The Galapagos: On the Galapagos, the hot season is January to April with largely sunny days and the possibility of heavy showers; the cool season runs from May to December and is generally more cloudy with much cooler seas. Please note that although it is windier from July to November the sea can be rough at any time of the year. On the mainland the dry season lasts from June to October, though September can be wet.
2 Pin Flat
We recommend that you do not bring too much clothing as space is limited in the cabins. We would advise that you pack a fleece top, waterproof jacket and a pair of hiking trousers or shorts, along with a small selection of casual clothes for shore excursions or relaxing on board. You will also need swimwear for the additional water-based activities offered.
Bring comfortable walking shoes or trainers for walking around the islands, and sandals for relaxing on board. Plastic sandals or water shoes (not flip flops) are useful for wet landings.
We recommend the use of a duffel bag or backpack (whichever you find easiest to carry). A good size daypack is also essential. If you don't wish to take your entire luggage with you to Galapagos, please ensure that you have an extra bag to leave behind in hotel storage and pick up on your return. Please note that the amount of luggage you can bring on the boat is LIMITED due to small cabin size. We recommend travellers use soft sided duffel bags of 40-50 litres in capacity. We will accept other luggage types onboard, however if you are a single traveller sharing with another traveller, it's especially important to keep in mind that cabins are small in size and it's best to pack light.
Pack a water bottle, sunglasses, insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, waterproof bag for camera and motion sickness tablets/patches for the boat. You may also wish to take binoculars. Full snorkelling equipment is provided free of charge on board, and wetsuits are available for rent if desired.
Bus, Archipel I, Flight, Zodiac
The Archipel I is a comfortable 16-passenger catamaran that comprises eight cabins on the main deck, and a large upper deck entirely made up of social and relaxing space - perfect for soaking up the Ecuadorian sun. Of the eight cabins, six are twin-share and two have double beds. Each one has a private bathroom, air conditioning and sea-view windows. All meals are served aboard the vessel. There is an outdoor and indoor dining area, as well as a comfortable lounge, open sun deck and a small selection of books available to borrow. Snorkelling equipment is included at no extra charge. The daily schedule consists of two excursions per day; these could be snorkelling, shore excursions or panga explorations. Lunch is taken aboard the boat, and there will be the chance for a siesta before the afternoon excursion. In the evening after dinner, your naturalist guide will brief you on the islands to be visited the following day. You are ferried from the yacht to shore via small boats called pangas. Landings are either 'dry' or 'wet', where you may have to wade ashore in shallow water. Your naturalist guide will accompany you during all excursions. Snorkelling and swimming are a large part of this trip and water-based activities will be offered on most days while travelling in the Galapagos. Please note, if you are not keen on water sports, there will often be no alternative to the extra water-based activity offered, other than staying and relaxing aboard the vessel. In some landing spots, there might be an option to walk on shore but this would be without a guide. Our Galapagos trips are often part of longer or shorter itineraries, so it is not unusual that some of the group may change mid-way through your trip.
Please note that the rooming on our Galapagos yachts is done on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we are not able to guarantee the specific cabin you will receive on board. All of the cabins on the Archipel I are on the main deck, accessed from the inside but with sea view windows, and are extremely comfortable with a private toilet and shower. We can also offer single occupancy at a supplement which will be subject to availability at the time of booking. A full layout of the deck plan can be found under the Galapagos Boats section on our website. Whilst navigating, there may be some noise from the engine room. Travelling between islands often takes place overnight, so we recommend bringing a set of earplugs with you, and expecting some movement.
On our Galapagos yachts, food is included, plentiful and made of fresh local ingredients. Dining is casual and tables are unassigned. There is always a selection of different meals available, and vegetarians will find plenty of options. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice, please advise us at time of confirmation. Coffee, tea and water are all provided free of charge. All other beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are not included and can be purchased at the bar. Approximate prices : Beer - $4 - 6 USD Bottle of wine - $30-$40 USD Spirits / cocktails - $6-10 USD Please note : While cards are accepted on board, the internet connection needed for the payment machine is intermittent. We recommend that payment for drinks is made in cash (USD).
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Ecuador: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. In order for your visa to be granted on arrival, you will be required to show proof of travel insurance valid for the duration of your trip. Please also ensure your passport is stamped with the T3 permit (for 30 or 90 days) on arrival in Ecuador. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Galapagos Islands: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: (including those in transit) Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - where you apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which applies if you enter the country by sea or by air. This must be done on line - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. Please note for your ESTA application you will be required to supply Point of Contact information. Explore' s USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. If you are leaving for the USA before this, please call the Explore team to get this information.(Not necessary if in transit) For further information please check out the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim. Snorkelling and swimming form a large part of this trip and are included in addition to the standard daily itinerary. Please note, if you are not keen on water sports, there will often be no alternative to the extra water-based activity offered, other than staying and relaxing aboard the vessel. In some landing spots, there might be an option to walk on shore but this would be without a guide.
We recommend protection against malaria, Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Yellow fever in only recommended for those travelling east of the Andes (Amazon Extension). Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.