GALAPAGOS AND ECUADOR
Galapagos is possibly the ultimate wildlife watching destination. Set in stunning scenery, penguins, albatrosses, and the special endemic birds can be enjoyed in equatorial sunshine. We will of course see the famous Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Sealions, sea turtles and Giant Tortoises, and will not ignore the other lesser-known treasures of the islands that are rarely mentioned. The endemic birds have tiny world populations due to their geographic isolation. Some are confined to a single island! There are only 130 pairs of Galapagos Hawk, and the Lava Gull numbers just 400 pairs.
Having enjoyed years of isolation, the birds and animals show no fear of man. As a result, much of the wildlife is totally oblivious to our attentions. This makes Galapagos one of the best places in the world to take nature photographs.
Our yacht is excellently fitted out and makes a wonderful base for our explorations. Taking just 20 clients, it allows us to avoid the crowds and gives access to special sites that larger ships are not allowed to visit.
We will have seven nights on board ship. Prior to this, we will spend four nights in Ecuador, at Mindo, just an hour and a half from Quito. This is a great place to see a multitude of tropical birds, whilst staying in excellent accommodation. Birds here include the amazing Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, some stunning hummingbirds and confiding Giant Antpittas! At the end of the tour there will be another night in Quito, before our return flight home.
Arriving at Quito, we take a short drive to the excellent Sachatamia Lodge, our base for the next four nights. The lodge has superb grounds and is ideally located for visits to the sites around Mindo. Foremost is a lek of the incredible Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, at the same site there are Giant Antpittas, Moustached Antpittas and Yellow-breasted Antpittas, all accustomed to come for grubs that the local farmer throws them! As Mindo is at just 1300 metres above sea level, there is little adjustment necessary for altitude.
Mindo is the world capital of hummingbirds. Feeders attract Tawny-bellied Hermit, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Western Emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet and Booted Rackettail and the fantastic Empress Brilliant. We will also search for Toucan Barbet, Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Golden-headed Quetzals, Rufous Motmot, Choco Toucan, Powerful Woodpecker, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Moss-backed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-tanager, Slate-throated Whitestart, and a myriad of other birds which make Mindo one of the world’s top birding locations.
On day six we will fly to the small island of San Cristobal on Galapagos, where we will be transported straight to the ship. When settled we set off towards Playa Ochoa to look for Chatham Mockingbird. Elliot’s Storm Petrels will probably follow the boat as we go. Afterwards we pass Kicker Rock where Audubon’s Shearwaters and Red-billed Tropicbirds nest. Friendly Galapagos Sealions allow us to enjoy their playful antics.
Travelling overnight, we then reach Tower (Genovesa). Not visited by most ships, this is a perfect location to see nesting Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds, and Red-footed, Masked and Blue-footed Boobies. Swallow-tailed Gulls, surely the prettiest gull in the world, will be courting, and we should also find a Lava Gull.
Charles Darwin worked out his theory of evolution by looking at the many finches on the islands. One, the Sharp-beaked Finch, has its own race confined to this island alone. Also called the Vampire Finch, these birds have adapted to take blood from the feathers of boobies.
On day three of the cruise, we will visit Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, the youngest and most pristine island in Galapagos. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Hundreds of Marine Iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, bask in the sun. Flightless Cormorants nest here and the trees may hide Dark-billed Cuckoos and Galapagos Mockingbirds. After lunch, we will cross the Bolivar Channel where we often spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave. In the afternoon, we will visit Tagus Cove, located on the western island of Isabela. Six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest island in Galapagos. The large ships and non-birding tours often fail to see the rare Galapagos Penguin and this is one of the few places where they are regularly found.
The next day finds us visiting Puerto Egas, Santiago, where we watch for Lava Herons, American Oystercatchers and Yellow-crowned Night-herons. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we should find Galapagos Fur Seals, a species once on the verge of extinction. At the southern tip of the island, a trail takes us through a primeval landscape of volcanic rubble including cracked lava formations and lava tubes. Darwin’s finches include Small Ground Finch, Medium Ground Finch and Vegetarian Finch. At sea we may see Orcas or Fin Whales, whilst searching for Band-rumped and Hawaiian Petrels.
Day five of the cruise sees us at Bartolome. Being a young Island, Bartolome is inhospitable to most plants and animals. There are sea turtles and White-tipped Sharks, and the landscape is very dramatic. Later at North Seymour, we will follow a trail that leads us to Swallow-tailed Gulls, Blue-footed Boobies and the endemic Galapagos Land Iguana, before visiting the largest colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds found in Galapagos.
On day six we will travel by bus to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Ascending through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos, we visit a Giant Tortoise reserve. Gaudy Vermilion Flycatchers sally above the largest lava tubes in Galapagos. Galapagos Doves can feed by your feet, while the moist forests provide home to yet more of Darwin’s finches. After lunch, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, home to Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise subspecies.
The next day, Hood Mockingbirds will greet us as we land among the seals at Gardner Bay, Isla Espanola. Here we witness the highest number of endemic species in Galapagos. We should find Large Cactus Finch as well as the Galapagos race of American Oystercatcher. In the afternoon, we will walk through a seabird colony where Blue-footed Boobies show off their bright blue ‘shoes’ in display. Nazca Boobies are at arm’s length, while Swallow-tailed Gulls and Red-billed Tropicbirds do their best to drive off Galapagos Hawks. The island holds the only Waved Albatross colony in Galapagos. They are not here year-round and our visit is timed to see some fluffy youngsters. Colourful Sally Light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous "blow hole". This is the scene most people envisage when they decide to visit Galapagos and is a delightful finale.
On the next morning we disembark and visit San Cristobal Interpretation Centre before heading to the airport. Our flight to Quito arrives in the afternoon. We will spend the night in Quito, in advance of our flight back to the UK.
Breakfast will be taken at 7.30am most mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. On land there will be short to medium walks. There will be some uphill but this will be at a sensible pace. To get ashore, small stable boats are used and no special ability is required to board them. Galapagos is an excellent place to bring non-birding partners, as there is the alternative opportunity to snorkel at most sites and equipment is provided on board. At Mindo, the climate is temperate/warm. To see the Cock-of-the-Rock lek requires a 20-minute downhill walk in the dark on a forest track.
The key to the best Galapagos tours is to find a small boat that provides comfort, a friendly crew, and very importantly, a carefully planned itinerary. The Eric takes just 20 passengers. Each room has its own bathroom with shower, sink and toilet. There is a restaurant, lounge and bar, and both a viewing deck and sun lounge deck!
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All excursions with expert leader and other guides, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 19th, ending with breakfast on 31st), soft drinks at meal times, local transport, entry to Galapagos National Park and all other sites mentioned above, use of snorkel gear, flight to Galapagos, international flights and airport taxes.
Cost of travel insurance, payable at time of booking. Tips to crew. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks.
Return flights from most UK airports (via Amsterdam) to Quito using the scheduled services of KLM. Outbound flight departs early evening, return arrives back early morning.
For a cruise only price please contact our office.
14 nights including
two overnight flights:
Local guide at Mindo:
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
5th May 2009):
18th August to 1st Sept. 2009
14 clients with one leader, plus local guide at Mindo and staff on board ship
£4100 per person sharing
£4250 per person sharing
£59 due at time of booking
(£89 for age 65 to 69)
(£118 for age 70 and over)
Galapagos Dove. Phil Palmer
Galapagos Tortoise. Phil Palmer
Golden Rays, Galapagos. Phil Palmer
Hood Mockingbird, Galapagos. Phil Palmer
Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos. Phil Palmer