Ecuador & the Galápagos
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Day 1 Quito.
An included sightseeing tour showcases Quito’s treasures: the historic stone murals of the Legislative Palace, Independence Plaza and the 16th-century San Francisco Monastery, the Jesuit’s La Compania Church with its stunning golden altars, and the impressive paintings at the Workshop & Museum of Oswaldo Guayasamin. Later, visit the Equatorial Monument, which marks the centre of the world, before tonight’s welcome dinner. (B, D)
Day 2 Quito. Excursion to Otavalo.
Today, visit Otavalo’s famous Indian market, full of textiles, clothes, vegetables and much more. Next, in Peguche, famous for its exquisite weavings, you will have the opportunity to visit homes and observe handicrafts being made. Finally, enjoy Andean delicacies prepared the traditional way at a former hacienda before returning to Quito. (B, L)
Day 3 Quito – Baltra Island – Embarkation – Santa Cruz Island
This morning, fly to the Galpagos Island of Baltra and head to the pristine highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where your Naturalist will introduce the island’s lush and vibrant landscapes. Visit the giant tortoise reserve for a chance to see the famous Galpagos tortoises in their natural habitat. Next, see the Twin Pit Craters, great depressions of volcanic material formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses, and orchids can be seen in the surroundings. Later, board the Isabela II for five days of cruising among the various Galpagos Islands. Each day travel ashore to the remote islands with your expert naturalist. On board the ship, enjoy a captains welcome cocktail and dinner.
Day 4 Galpagos Islands cruising: Santa F & South Plaza Islands
After breakfast, join your naturalist for an exploration of Santa F Island with its large population of sea lions. As you walk through the opuntia cactus forest, watch out for the endemic land iguanas found here. Galpagos hawks, a variety of finches, and mockingbirds are commonly spotted, too. Snorkel, swim, or kayak from the beach before returning to the boat for lunch. This afternoon at South Plaza Island, wildlife includes sea lions, land iguanas, marine iguanas, hybrid iguanas (only found on this island and a result between land and marine iguanas), and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Also known for its prolific birdlife, you will see blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, Audubon’s shearwaters, and many other species. (B, L, D)
Day 5 North Seymour & Santa Cruz Islands.
Disembark at North Seymour Island, where your Naturalist will point out colonies of blue-footed boobies, Magnificent and Great Frigate Birds, swallow-tailed gulls and lava herons. The shores teem with sea lions and marine iguanas and are a good spot for snorkeling. In the afternoon, visit Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island, where abandoned WWII military barges can be found. Today it is an important nesting area for the East Pacific green sea turtle. You will also see brackish lagoons just steps away from the sea and white-sand beach, which is a feeding ground for various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. (B, L, D)
Day 6 Bartolom & Santiago Islands.
At Bartolom Island, hike to the summit for a stunning view of two beautiful bays and fascinating formations of lava flows and spatter cones, including the iconic Pinnacle Rock. You will also have the chance to snorkel or cruise on the glass-bottom boast and possibly see Galpagos pengiuns in tropical waters, sea turtles and even some sharks and rays. On Santiago Island, walk over the lava flows from less than 100 years ago and learn firsthand how pioneering flora and fauna adapt to the volcanic surroundings. End your visit with a swim off the beach with the playful sea lions. Tonight, join your ship’s captain at a farewell cocktail party and toast to a memorable holiday. (B, L, D)
Day 7 Disembarkation – Baltra Island – Quito.
After breakfast, head to the airport in Baltra for your flight to Quito, where you will have free time this evening. (B)
Day 9 Quito – Final day