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M/S Samba: 8 Day Northwest

Overview

The wonderful Samba Galapagos was Dutch built in 1966 with teak decks as a luxury private yacht, before being converted to a beautiful cruise boat specializing in Galapagos Island cruises. The Samba Galapagos accommodates only 14 guests, giving privacy and flexibility as you enjoy the magic of the Galapagos archipelago. This itinerary takes you to the northwestern islands with opportunities to explore the islands of Mosquera, Genovesa, Marchena, Isabela, Fernandina and Floreana and the highlands of Santa Cruz. The wildlife will intrigue you and the beauty of the islands astound you.

Optional Activities :

Trip Code: ECTSSNW8

Location: Galapagos Islands - Ecuador

Ship: Samba

CRUISE ITINERARY

On arrival at Baltra Airport all visitors pay their entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park and get their hand luggage checked by the quarantine system. You will then be met by the Samba’s naturalist guide, who will assist you with your luggage collection and accompany you on a short bus ride to the harbour to board the Samba.

After a light lunch on board, the Samba will navigate for 45 minutes to Mosquera with its soft sandy beach rising from the ocean floor, its sea lion colony and the opportunity for a fabulous sunset. Mosquera Islet is probably the best beginning of a Galapagos journey. This volcanic uplift dates back 100,000 years, a geological treasure in the Galapagos. On the shore it is easy to encounter Galapagos sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs and a variety of shore birds. Visitors are welcome to swim or snorkel from the beach.

Baltra Airport / Mosquera

After 6 to 7 hours of navigation from Santa Cruz you will wake up to the beautiful cacophony of one of the largest tropical seabird colonies on the planet. The cliff tops are decorated with frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallow tailed gulls, tropic birds and many other pelagic animals. Darwin Bay is the home of many nesting seabirds. Following a wet landing you may see red-footed boobies displaying for potential mates as they collect nesting material. The great frigatebirds inflate their gulag sacks hoping to attract a female while others play their favourite game of piracy. Darwin’s finches, Galapagos doves and mockingbirds stroll the ground to find seeds and insects. The red mangroves, cactus and saltbushes contrast with the blue sky and the dark basaltic walls.

Following lunch there is a dry landing to climb Prince Philip’s Steps. The steep ascent takes us 100 feet above sea level, where we may be welcomed by the elegant silhouette of red billed tropicbirds and the aerobatic Galapagos shearwater. The lava rock trail takes us through the endemic dwarf incense tree forest, to find more red-footed boobies nesting and many of their gannet like relatives, the Nazcas, loudly claiming the floor as their residence. The Palo Santo forest is dormant most of the year, awakening in the rainy season and giving the air a refreshing aroma. As you exit the latent trees your breath may be taken away by the panorama of thousands of storm petrels flying erratically beyond the lava flows. This is the perfect scenario for the island predator to make a successful kill. The short-eared owl, known elsewhere around the world as a nocturnal predator, in Genovesa hunts in bright daylight. More cat than owl, it waits patiently outside lava tunnels and crevasses to capture the stormy petrels as they leave their nests after feeding their young.

Snorkelling on Tower offers a view of a wide variety of tropical fish.

Genovesa Island

All boats travel back south after sailing to Tower except for the Samba, the only vessel that heads west-northwest. The Galapagos National Park Service granted the Samba the chance of using Marchena’s magical shorelines to snorkel, dinghy ride and kayak. Here there are the forbidding, endless and untouched lava flows, no fresh water and very little precious soil. Bindloe’s serenity is only broken by the murmur and surge of the Pacific swells and the musical argument of the castaway sea lions. Punta Mejía is one of the best sites in the archipelago to snorkel. The calm and clear deep blue water of the northwest coast, and the dark hostile topography of the location give the sensation of witnessing the beginning of our planet and its underwater world. Apart from great fish diversity, snorkelling here is often amongst rays, reef sharks and sea turtles.

Navigating southwest for 45 minutes to Playa Negra is always an exciting experience. More than once in the past we have seen bottle nosed dolphins, other cetaceans or feeding frenzies. After an early afternoon snorkel around a recently formed lava grotto where marine iguanas feed, we will start a 5 to 6 hour sail to the west. As we get further away from the island the sea floor changes dramatically and we enter deep water, an oceanic drop-off. The Cromwell current, which arrives from the west from the very deep waters, brings richness to the surface and generates a superlative upwelling. As a result, there are positive effects throughout the marine food chain and we have a good record of cetaceans and other marine wildlife on this navigation. Whales or dolphins are never a guarantee, but we will we do our best to find them.

Marchena

Human history has left its footprint on this small corner of the Galapagos. Punta Albemarle, the most northerly point of Isabela, was once an important US radar station whose aim was to prevent any Japanese attempt at destroying the Panama Channel. A small and deteriorated building is the reminder of the boredom and routine that rusted the minds of the young navy officers. The soldiers were in charge of three-week shifts where they never saw any action. Nevertheless, the wildlife gives the best example of constant struggle for survival, a fight were only the fittest survive. The recent lava flows are the nesting ground of the only flightless cormorant in the world and the basking terrain of the largest marine iguanas of the Galapagos. Because not many boats visit this site, the cormorants, that are very shy birds, display as they build their bulky nests with seaweed with total indifference to human presence. As the morning advances the iguanas give a show of adaptation as they wander in to the shoreline to feed on green and red algae. With this fantastic setting you can only be reminded that the only constant of the Islands is change.

Punta Vicente Roca offers an overwhelming diversity of geological formations. Located on the southwest end of Ecuador Volcano only a few miles south of latitude 0, the area is an outstanding example of how the Islands were formed and how the forces of change have transformed the landscape and shaped the wildlife. Vicente Roca is the home of tuff cones and lava dikes and is fertile ground for erosion and the disaster of collapse. We will look at the dramatic structures from our dinghies, as we also enjoy watching the Galapagos penguins, brown noddies, blue-footed boobies and other marine life. When the waters are calm enough the snorkelling is fascinating. The walls of the tuff cones are full of colourful invertebrates and rich algae blooming that give us the great chance to watch numerous sea turtles feeding.

Isabela Island

Only 30,000-100,000 years old Fernandina is the youngest island of the archipelago. This immature shield volcano is less than an instant in the geological time scale. Not even your wildest imagination can give you a better setting to experience the start of life on an island. The whole Island is covered with hostile worthless lava. However, at Punta Espinoza the shoreline is teeming with life. Reptiles, birds and mammals all coexist, singing, nesting and mating. It is a living museum with piles of marine iguanas, playful sea lions, flightless cormorants, dwarf penguins, busy Sally Lightfoot crabs and much more. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the Galapagos hawk that is always on the hunt. The site is a true cradle of evolution. Snorkelling with turtles, iguanas, cormorants and plenty of fish is the best way to refresh after the lava walk.

The hotspot under the Galapagos generates intense volcanic activity. The west islands are the youngest and most active of the archipelago. Located in the centre of Isabela, Alcedo Volcano is a reminder of how volatile these islands are. On the west shoreline of Alcedo lies Urbina Bay. The landmass of the inlet was uplifted in 1954. More than ¾ of a mile of shoreline was created, and many coral reef extensions where exposed to air as the upheaval raised the seabed. The brand new land became a perfect nesting terrain of the most beautiful land dragon. The land iguanas of Isabela are the largest in the Galapagos and in Urbina the colourful population offers a great example of their growing potential. The impressive yellow, orange/brown iguanas roam the lowlands looking for flowers, fruits, leaves and shoots of their favourite plants. Also, when the rains arrive it is possible to see giant tortoises sharing the land with the other primitive looking reptiles. Urbina is a miniature reminder of a Jurassic time.

Fernandina Island

Isabela Island constitutes almost half of the entire surface of the archipelago. It is nearly 100 miles long and offers a remarkable diversity of habitats. Shaped like a seahorse and with volcanoes over 5000 feet in altitude, it is also the place of birth of vast mangrove extensions. Elizabeth Bay is the only place on Earth where old tropical mangrove forests and penguins can both be seen. The ecosystem is also the residence of spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and a nursery for fish and marine invertebrates. With the outboards off and using only our oars for speed, we will enjoy this serene array of life.

When you land on Punta Moreno you understand why the Spanish Bishop that discovered the Islands said: “It was as if God had decided to rain stones”. When he first set foot on a lava field he struggled to find fresh water and in desperation was reduced to chew on cactus pads to quench his thirst. More than three centuries later a young naturalist saw beyond the lava. Charles Darwin was amazed by the colonization of plants and the start of life over this terrain. He thought this process could easily compare with the origin of life on our planet. The mystery of mysteries… The pioneer cactus growing over the country of lava is contrasted with stunning oasis. Where lava tunnel roofs have collapsed, brackish water accumulates to give life to greater flamingos, moorhens, black-necked stilts and Galapagos martins.

Isabela Island

After breakfast we land on Puerto Velasco Ibarra to ride on a ¨chiva¨ (endemic transportation) to visit the highlands of Floreana. On the way to the humid zone we stop to climb Cerro Alieri. A good number of steps will take us to a breathtaking view. A fantastic landscape awaits decorated with lichens and epiphytes. The mysteries of this island are hidden in the pirates cave. At Asilo de Paz we will engage with the fascinating story of the Wittmers, Doctor Ritter and Dora, and the famous Baroness and her three lovers. Charles, Floreana and Santa María are the official names of the island that holds an overwhelmingly rich human history.

In the afternoon we make a landing to visit la lobería (sea lion rookery) and to swim or snorkel off the beach. It is a refreshing end to a wonderful day.

Floreana Island

If you are not joining us for 15 days, before transferring to the airport you will stop at the Highlands of Santa Cruz. At 1800 feet the greenery offers the opportunity to admire the remnants of a Galapagos mature forest. The daisy trees of the genus Scalesia decorate a couple of extraordinary geological formations. Known as “Los Gemelos”, these collapsed craters and their surroundings are the home of many Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, vermillion flycatchers and a wonderful diversity of indigenous plants.

It is important to leave the boat early in the morning to have enough time for the visit. Breakfast will be served at 6:00 am.

Departing guests visit the craters before being transferred to Baltra airport for their flight back to the Ecuador mainland. Those clients staying on board will have a full morning around the Highlands to see the lava tubes and giant tortoises in their natural habitat with lunch on board the Samba.

Santa Cruz Highlands / Departure day
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Pricing & date

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Important Information

  • Airport transfers in Galapagos;

    Lodging in Twin/Matrimonial cabin as confirmed

    All meals during your stay on board the M/S Samba

    Snorkel equipment

    All excursions lead by an English speaking naturalist Guide 

  • 2 (light adventure)
  • Available upon request

  • Contact us for more details

  • Season and availability

SPEAK TO A SPECIALIST

Talk to one of our Destination Specialists to plan your South American adventure and turn your dream into a reality. With exceptional knowledge and first hand experience, our consultants will assist in every way possible to make your journey the most memorable it can be, matching not only the itinerary, but the accommodation and activities to suit your style of travel and budget.

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.