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In the Steps of Pirates & Darwin

8 Days FROM USD 6,200

Overview

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A Galapagos island-hopping cruise takes you to places you would never be able to visit alone, in the steps of only Darwin and pirates. This eight day excursion aboard The Evolution – a sleek and spacious vessel – starts in Baltra before heading up to the Daphne Islands, Fernandina, Isabela and Santa Cruz. Expect to see wildlife such as blue-footed boobies, turtles, manta rays, marine iguanas and of course giant tortoise. The landscape in the Galapagos Islands traverses a spectrum of azure ocean to rugged volcanic scenes. Enjoy snorkelling, swimming and walking on these unique islands by day and the alfresco dining and comforts of your deluxe boat by night.

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Optional Activities :

Trip Code: ECQUISPD

Location: Galapagos Islands - Ecuador

Ship: Evolution

CRUISE ITINERARY

You’ll need to rise early this morning to catch your flight to the Galapagos. All our flights to the Galapagos originate in Quito, and stop briefly in the port city of Guayaquil to take on passengers before heading on to the islands. For this itinerary you will be landing on the island of Baltra. After passing through Galapagos National Park inspection your National Park Guide will be there to greet you, holding a sign with the name of your yacht. Your guide will accompany you on the short bus ride to the
waterfront. During WWII the island of Baltra was a US Air Force base and one can still see the remnants of the old foundations left behind from that era. We transfer via panga (launch) to the waiting M/V Evolution. The crew will see that your luggage is transferred to your cabin.

At the dock we board a dinghy (panga) to make the short crossing to M/V Evolution. You only need to bring your carry-on luggage on the anga as our crew will transfer your luggage to your cabin. You’ll have time to settle into your new home for the week before assembling to review safety procedures and coming events with your Galapagos National Park Guide. While this is taking place the M/V Evolution will start her engines and set off into the archipelago.

Daphne Minor, a tuff cone (giant pile of compressed volcanic ash shaped like a cone), sits off the north coast of Santa Cruz Island, west of Baltra Island and North Seymour Island. While off limits to all but limited scientific parties going ashore, we've obtained permission from the National Park to navigate around the island, close by. You will have a front row seat to witness bustling colonies of blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, magnificent frigate birds and more. You'll also have the opportunity to observe short-eared owls and red-billed tropicbirds. This island has (natural) historic importance as a result of the husband-wife biology team of Peter and Rosemary Grant conducting a 20 year field study into the behavior and life cycles of finches as relates to Darwin's theory of natural selection. Their work is chronicled in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Beak of the Finch. As the sun sets on your first day in the Enchanted Archipelago, you'll toast to the voyage ahead with a welcome cocktail.

Saturday, Baltra & Daphne Islands

Located at the ‘mouth’ of the head of the sea horse, which forms the northern part of the Isabela is Punta Vicente Roca. Here the remnants of an ancient volcano forms two turquoise coves with a bay well protected from the ocean swells. The spot is a popular anchorage from which to take panga rides along the cliff where a partially sunken cave beckons explorers. Masked and blue-footed boobies sit perched along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline. The upwelling of coldwater currents in combination with the protection of the coves make Punta Vicente Roca one of the archipelago’s most sought after dive spots. One cove is only accessible from the sea by way of an underwater passage. The passage opens to calm waters of the hidden cove where sea lions laze on the beach having traveled along the underwater route. The entire area of Punta Vicente Roca lies on the flank of 2,600 foot Volcano Ecuador. This is the island’s sixth largest volcano. Half of Volcano Ecuador slid into the ocean leaving a spectacular cutaway view of its caldera. The site offers deep water snorkeling where sea lions turtles, spotted eagle rays and even manta rays are the attraction. After our visit here we set off south and west across the Bolivar channel. Keep your eyes open in this best place in the islands for spotting whales.

Fernandina is the youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos. It sits across the Bolivar Channel opposite Isabela. Our destination is Punta Espinoza, a narrow spit of land in the northeastern corner of the island, where a number of unique Galapagos species can be seen in close proximity. As our panga driver skillfully navigates the reef, Galapagos penguins show off by throwing themselves from the rocks into the water. Red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while blue and lava herons forage through the mangrove roots. The landing is a dry one, set in a quiet inlet beneath the branches of a small mangrove forest. A short walk through the vegetation leads to a large colony of marine iguanas—a schoolyard of Godzilla’s children—resting atop one another in friendly heaps along the rocky shoreline, spitting water to clear their bodies of salt. Nearby, sea lions frolic in a sheltered lagoon.

Dominating this landscape from high overhead looms the summit of La Cumbre, 1,495 meters (4,858 feet), one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Farther down this stretch of shore, the world’s only species of flightless cormorants have established a colony near an inviting inlet frequented by sea turtles. Because these birds evolved without land predators—it was easier to feed on the squid, octopus, eel and fish found in the ocean—the cormorants progressively took to the sea.

They developed heavier, more powerful legs and feet for kicking, serpent-like necks and fur-like plumage. Their wings are now mere vestiges. Back toward the landing and farther inland, the island’s black lava flows become more evident, forming a quiet, inner mangrove lagoon where you will spot rays and sea turtles gliding just below the surface. Galapagos hawks survey the entire scene from overhead.

Sunday, Punta Vicente Roca & Punta Espinoza

Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago, accounting for half of the total landmass of the Galapagos at 4,588 square kilometers. Though narrow in places, the island runs 132 km from north to south, or 82 miles. Isabela is formed from six shield volcanoes that merged into a single landmass. It is also home to the highest point in the Galapagos, Wolf Volcano at 1,707 meters (5,547 feet), and calderas of up to 20 kilometers (12½ miles) across.

Urbina Bay is directly west of Isabela’s Volcano Alcedo, where we will make an easy, wet landing (a hop into a few inches of water) onto a gently sloping beach. In 1954, a Disney film crew caught sight of this gleaming white strip, and went to investigate. To their astonishment, three miles (5 km) of the marine reef had been uplifted by as much as 13 feet (4 meters) prior to their arrival. They discovered schools of stranded fish and other creatures in newly formed tidal pools along with the skeletons of sea turtles and sharks unable to make it to the ocean as a result of the uplift event. Alcedo erupted a few weeks later.

Now visitors can walk amongst the boulder sized dried coral heads, mollusks and other organisms that once formed the ocean floor. A highlight of this excursion is the giant land iguanas, whose vivid and gaudy yellow skin suggests that dinosaurs may have been very colorful indeed. Giant tortoises inhabit this coastal plain during the wet season, before migrating to the highlands when it turns dry. Our landing beach provides a nesting site for sea turtles and will also provide you with opportunities to snorkel amongst marine creatures, or just relax on shore. Here we must take care not to step on the sea turtle nests dug carefully into the sand. For those looking for snorkeling from a beach this is the place, with tropical fish hiding amongst the rocks to the north side of the bay.

We head north along the western coast of Isabela Island, to Tagus Cove, named for a British warship that moored here in 1814. Historically the cove was used as an anchorage for pirates and whalers. One can still find the names of their ships carved into the rock above our landing, a practice now prohibited. The cove’s quiet waters make for an ideal panga ride beneath its sheltered cliffs, where blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, pelicans and noddy terns make their nests, and flightless cormorants and penguins inhabit the lava ledges.

From our landing, a wooden stairway rises to the trail entrance for a view of Darwin Lake; a perfectly round saltwater crater, barely separated from the ocean but above sea level! From the air one can see that both Tagus Cove and Darwin Lake are formed from one, partially flooded, tuff cone on the eastern edge of giant Darwin volcano. The cove is formed by a breached and flooded section of the crater with Darwin Lake forming the very center of the same cone. The trail continues around the lake through a dry vegetation zone, and then climbs inland to a promontory formed by spatter cones. The site provides spectacular views back toward our anchorage, as well as to Darwin Volcano and Wolf Volcano to the north.
While one does not normally think of greener pastures when planning to snorkeling, that is exactly what you will find at Tagus Cove. The carpet of Green algae that covers the floor of the cove gives the impression of a submerged pasture, and really that is just what it is. You can find marine iguanas grazing the algae along with numerous sea turtles gliding and munching their way along.

Monday, Urbina Bay & Tagus Cove

Bartolomé is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering spearheaded obelisk that rises from the ocean’s edge and is the best known landmark in the Galapagos. It served as a back drop in the film Master & Commander. Galapagos penguins—the only species of penguin found north of the equator—walk precariously along narrow volcanic ledges at its base. Sea lions snooze on rocky platforms, ready to slide into the water to play with passing snorkelers. Below the surface, shoals of tropical fish dodge in and out of the rocks past urchins, sea stars and anemones.

A perfectly crescent sandy beach lies just to the east of the pinnacle and across a narrow isthmus another beach mirrors this one to the south. Sea turtles use both beaches and another to the west of the Pinnacle as nesting sites and can sometimes be seen wading back out into the shallow water near the shore, or resting in the sand recovering from the arduous task of digging nests, laying eggs and covering them over.

Penguins like to rest atop the nearby rocks by our next landing site, about a quarter mile east along the shore. Here the submerged walls of a tiny volcanic crater give the impression of a large fountain pool. This dry landing—no wet feet!—is the entrance to a 600-meter (2000-foot) pathway complete with stairs and boardwalks leading to Bartolome’s summit.

The route is not difficult and presents an open textbook of the islands’ volcanic origins; a site left untouched after its last eruption, where small cones stand in various stages of erosion and lava tubes form bobsled-like runs down from the summit. At the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Santiago Island and Sullivan Bay to the west, and far below, Pinnacle Rock, where the crystal turquoise waters of the bay cradle your yacht. Our next landing site is a short distance away to the southeast.

If you created a partnership between well know glass artist Dale Chihuly and mother nature the result would be Sullivan Bay. Back in 1897 the island fired up its own internal kiln giving birth to a field of pahoehoe (“rope-like” in Hawaiian) lava reaching out into the channel toward Bartolome. The results gleam in the sun like a gigantic, obsidian sculpture.

It stirs the imagination to envision the once-molten lava lighting up the earth, flowing into the sea and sending plumes of superheated steam skyrocketing into the air as pockets of gas in the flow exploded when the lava hit the water. The flow gave birth to new land as it engulfed vegetation, leaving some plants forever etched into the earth. Today the flow stands as a great walkway gallery of abstract shapes resembling braids, curtains and swirling fans. Brightly colored painted locusts and lava lizards punctuate the black volcanic canvas, as does the occasional finger of lava cactus and spreading carpetweed. We hike south into the flow taking time to admire the Earth’s craftwork as we proceed.

Upon our return to the black rocky coast you may spot Galapagos penguins that dot the shore. Unlike the penguins, which mimic the lava with their color, sally light foot crabs stand out against the black rocks as a reminder of their once molten state. The snorkeling along the edge of the lava flow is very good for swimming with penguins and sea lion. Squadrons of spotted eagle rays pass through the channel, and sea turtle that lay their eggs on nearby Bartolome swim past, while white-tipped reef sharks patrol the bottom.

Tuesday, Pinnacle Rock & Sullivan Bay

At the north end of Santa Cruz Island is Las Bachas, comprised of two sandy white-coral beaches that is are major egg-laying sites for sea turtles. The official story of how Las Bachas got its name comes from the Galapagos National Park. During WWII the US military discarded two barges on the beaches. When the first settlers to the area following the war arrived they mispronounced barges as bachas, resulting in the name. There are other explanations of how the location got its name having to do with indentations left in the sand by both egg laying sea turtles and their departing hat chlings, but we will go with the Park’s.

We go ashore the white sandy beach and are greeted by patrolling blue-footed boobies. A brief walk inland takes us to a lagoon where pinkflamingos are often found along with great blue herons, common stilts, brown noddys, white-cheek pintail ducks and migratory birds. Snorkeling today is from the beach and you can also enjoy a swim in these waters, which are typically warmer than in other places in the Galápagos.

At the geologic center of the archipelago, Jervis presents an island of a different color with its deep red sandy beach and equally red towering cliffs. Even the starfish are red. The flanks of a sloping volcanic cinder-cone rise sharply from the coast and looking up one can see where the vegetation transitions from the arid zone to the wetter Scaleisia zone. A hedgerow of green saltbush frames the beach between the clear teal waters of the Pacific making for one of the more colorful islands. A noisy colony of sea lions inhabits these scarlet shores. This is also the best place in the islands to get close to nesting brown pelicans raising their chicks in precariously positioned nests atop the saltbush.

A short trail inland offers observations of land birds including Galápagos dove, cactus finch and the large ground-finch. Hidden behind the narrow strip of green saltbush is a briny lagoon frequented by flamingos. These large pink birds feed for up to 12 hours a day on the pink shrimp larva and water boatman that give them their color. We follow the trail to the left and up from the beach to the top of the rocky peninsula that juts from the island towards north. As we climb higher we pass through groves of prickly pear cactus, some oddly reminiscent of Mickey Mouse. The top of the overlook reveals excellent views back toward the lagoon and red sea cliffs beyond.

Rabida also offers a nice kayaking route starting on the eastern side of the peninsula, then around and along it. The route continues west past the beach, then beneath the island’s towering red cliffs. This is a great place to spot sea turtles from your kayak. They sometimes swim right up without noticing you and then dart into the depths once they see you. Make sure you to stop kayaking when you reach the red diamond shaped sign where there is a large rock where both blue footed and masked boobies like to perch.

Beneath the ocean surface Rabida offers excellent snorkeling along the shore of the little peninsula. The sea turtles you just saw topside are easier to see once you are in the water. Giant schools of stripped salemas have been seen to carpet the deeper sections, attracting Galapagos sharks. Large schools of yellow tail surgeon fish thread through passages between the rocks. You can look for chances to swim with sea lions and penguins as well and keep your eyes open for marine iguanas grazing the underwater greenery.

Wednesday, Las Bachas & Rabida

Santa Cruz, our next stop, is the second largest island in the Galápagos and something of a hub for the archipelago. Baltra, where one of the archipelago's two airports is found, is on the far north end of the island. Puerto Ayora, located in the south of this large, round volcanic island is the seaside economic center of the Galapagos, focused on fishing and tourism. The little port town offers restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, internet cafés and a place to get your laundry done!

This morning we visit Puerto Ayora, home to both the Galapagos National Park Service Headquarters and Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of the great restorative efforts taking place in the park, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program run by the research station, which began by rescuing the remaining 14 tortoises on the island of Española in 1970. This program has restored the population of animals there to over 1,000 today. You will see many of these animals, with their sweet ET necks and faces; from hatchlings to juveniles to large, distinguished individuals. This is where famed tortoise, Lonesome George, lived out his last days as the last of his particular race of tortoise.

A highlight of any trip to the archipelago is a visit to the Santa Cruz Highlands, where the sparse, dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush wet fields and forests overgrown with moss and lichens. Our afternoon destination is the Wild Tortoise Reserve where we will have chances to track and view these friendly ancient creatures in their natural setting. This extends to the adjacent pasturelands, where farmers give tortoise safe quarter in exchange for allowing paying visitors to see them.

When viewing the tortoise in their natural setting you are literally scratching the surface because there is another world awaiting you beneath the highlands. Lava tubes are formed when the outer surface of a lava flow cools, insulating the interior lava, which continues to flow on leaving a hollow tube as the result. The tubes become covered with earth over time and the result is a perfectly formed underground tunnel courtesy of Mother Nature. A wooden stairway descends to the mouth of the arched entrance to one of these underground passages and continues to the narrow opening that marks its exit. There are lights to show you the way but it’s also a good idea to bring a flashlight.

The terrestrial world of the tortoise and underworld of the lava tubes meet at Los Gemelos (the twins). These two large sinkholes craters were formed by collapsed lava tubes. The contrast between the marine desert coast and verdant Lost World look of the highlands is most striking here and you can easily encounter rain even when sun is shining a half an hour away at the coast. Los Gemelos are surrounded by a Scalesia forest. Scalesia is endemic to Galapagos and many endemic and native species call the forest home. This is an excellent place to view some of Darwin’s famous finches along with the elusi ve and dazzling vermillion flycatcher. We return to Puerto Ayora with time for shopping, visiting an internet café or simply enjoying this little port town near the edge of the world.

Thursday, Darwin Station & Puerto Ayora

Hood is the southernmost island of the archipelago, and is one of the most popular due to the breathtaking variation and sheer number of fauna that greet visitors along with well known Gardner Bay. The giant tortoise was reintroduced to Hood in the 1970’s and counts as one of the park’s great success stories. They reside in an off-limits area.

The quantity and variety of wildlife at Punta Suarez is remarkable. Sea lions surf the waves beyond the breakwater landing, and tiny pups are known to greet your toes upon arrival. A few steps inland is a colorful variety of marine iguana in the Galapagos. They bear distinctive red and black markings, some with a flash of turquoise running down their spine. They nap in communal piles or cling to the rocks for warmth. The trail then takes us beside the western edge of the island where masked boobies (also known as Nazca boobies) nest along the cliff’s edge. The trail descends to a rocky beach before rising to an open area where you may see a large gathering of nesting blue-foot boobies. Galapagos doves, cactus finch and mocking birds forage nearby, unconcerned by human presence. Both lava and swallow-tailed gulls, with their red ringed eyes, sit atop the cliffs in company with marine iguanas.

The trail continues to the high cliff edge of the southern shore; below, a shelf of black lava reaches out into the surf where a blowhole shoots a periodic geyser of salt water into the air. Further east along the cliff is the Albatross Airport where waved albatross line up to launch their great winged bodies from the cliffs, soaring out over the dramatic shoreline of crashing waves and driven spray. These are the largest birds you will see in the Galapagos with wingspans up to 2.25 m or 7.4 ft. They are the only species of albatross exclusive to the tropics. In the trees set back from the cliff is one of only two places in the world where the waved albatross nests. The 12,000 pairs that inhabit Hood Island comprise all but a tiny fraction of the world’s population of this species. Lucky visitors can watch courtship ‘fencing’ done with great yellow beaks. Large, fluffy, perfectly camouflaged chicks adorn nests on the ground nearby. The Albatross lay their eggs from April through June though they can be seen fencing long after that. Eggs take two months to hatch. Hungry chicks can eat up to 2 kg (4.4 lb) a day which keeps their parents busy. By December the chicks are fully grown and ready to set out on their own in January. Pairs mate for life.

On the northeastern shore of Hood, Gardner Bay offers a magnificent long white sandy beach, where colonies of sea lions laze in the sun, sea turtles swim offshore and inquisitive mockingbirds boldly investigate new arrivals. You will be lured from the powdery white sand into the turquoise water for a swim, but just a little further off-shore the snorkeling by Gardner Island offers peak encounters with playful young sea lions and schools of surprisingly large tropical fish, including yellow tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish and bump-head parrot fish. The young sea lions like to snack and play along Gardner Island’s sea cliff. They dart up from the depths, playfully show off their skills and then disappear. Sleepy white-tipped reef sharks can also be seen napping on the bottom. Gardner Bay and Islet also offer inviting waters for those interested in kayaking. For all who visit here, Española is a highlight of the Galápagos.

Friday, Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay

San Cristobal was the first island Darwin visited when he arrived in 1835. He reported encountering a pair of giant tortoises feeding on cactus during that outing. Today the airport of this easternmost island in the chain is increasingly used as the arrival point for flights into and out of the Galapagos. The administrative capital for the province is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the southwestern shore. Your guide will give you clear instructions on the rest of the day’s events before we go ashore. Once we arrive in pot we board a dinghy (panga) to make the short crossing to dock. In recent years a great deal of effort has gone into sprucing up the waterfront including the building of the new municipal dock.You only need to bring your day pack as the crew will pick up your luggage at your cabin and insure that it gets to the airport, which is less than a 5 minute drive from the waterfront.

In 1998 the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center opened for the benefit of islanders and travelers alike, presenting a comprehensive exhibit of the islands’ natural history, human interaction, ecosystems, flora and fauna. This is our last stop in the islands and it is also the place where cultural activities take place, including theatre, exhibitions and workshops. From the Interpretation Center, a short trail arrives at Frigate Bird Hill, where both “magnificent-frigates” and “great-frigates” can be seen in the same colony—ideal for learning to distinguish the two bird species. The interpretation center will be our final stop today before departing the islands.

Along with your tour of the visitor center museum there will be time to stroll the quaint tiny port town, with time to shop for last minute souvenirs before taking the bus to the airport where you will have your last chance to make purchases in the Galapagos. There is one final check point before entering the waiting area from which you will board your flight. Almost all flights to the mainland stop in Guayaquil and continue on to Quito so make sure you know where to get off the plane. We say farewell to the Galapagos as you begin your journey home, or on to other destinations like the Ecuadorian highlands, Amazon or nearby Peru.

Saturday, Interpretation Center
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Important Information

  • Shipboard accommodation
    All meals whilst on-board including snacks
    All shore excursions 
    Guiding and lectures by Galapagos Naturalist Guide 
    English-speaking expedition team
    Use of snorkelling equipment and wetsuits

    EXCLUSIONS  
    Return airfares from mainland Ecuador 
    Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee (US$100 per person subject to change)
    Galapagos Transit Control Card (US$20 per person subject to change)
    Visa fees (if applicable)
    Travel Insurance
    Beverages (other than coffee and tea)
    Personal expenses such as laundry, on-board communication (telephone calls, faxes, email service)
    Gratuities for the crew 
    Optional Activities whilst on-board

  • 2 (light adventure)
  • Available upon request

  • Contact us for more details

  • Season and availability

SPEAK TO A SPECIALIST

Sustainability

Chimu Adventures undertakes a number of sustainability measures within its operations including:

1) Only using local guides and office staff to both maximise local employment opportunities and minimise carbon footprints. Local guides also ensure you benefit from the intimate knowledge, passion and culture of the country you’re visiting.

2) Where possible, using locally owned and operated boutique hotels to maximise the return to the local community.

3) Chimu’s “Pass it on” programme has provided funding to hundreds of local community projects in Latin America. Our aim is to empower local communities, helping them to develop their own infrastructure for the future. Since 2006, we have been working with Kiva (a well-known Non-Governmental Organisation), providing hundreds of loans to local businesses all over South America.

4) In our pre tour information we provide a range of tips and advice on how to minimise your impact on both local environments and communities.

5) Chimu Adventures’ offices also take a number of sustainability measures including carbon offsets for company vehicles and most staff travel. Chimu Adventure’s internal processes are also structures to create a paperless office and to reduce waste. There are also internal programmes to help staff minimise their carbon footprint such as our staff bike purchase assistance plan which encourages office staff to commute to work via bicycle. Currently almost half of our office based staff commute to work via bicycle.