galapagos islands ecuador adventure holiday

Ecuador - Explore the Magical Galapagos Islands

A 7 Day Adventure Discovering the Spectacular Landscapes & Wildlife of The Galapagos Islands

After arrival we will transfer to Itabaca Channel to explore its turquoise waters. We will have a chance to kayak, snorkel and stand up paddleboard (SUP) where we will see some of the famous Galapagos wildlife such as blue-footed boobies, sea lions, brown pelicans, a variety of herons and white-tipped reef sharks. There’s no better introduction to the Galapagos than to get on the water upon arrival! We will glide through beautiful red mangrove forests and along lava rock cliffs on water so clear we can see sea life in the shallows. Our ocean (sit on top) kayaks come in doubles or singles, and life jackets are provided. A support boat escorts us throughout the water activities to ensure safety and to provide water, snacks and towels between activities.

From Itabaca Channel we head up to the Santa Cruz highlands where our exclusive giant tortoise reserve and tented camp is located. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the ocean, Magic Galapagos Tented Camp will be our home for the next two nights. The sounds of nature will be our lullaby in the evenings, and the Milky Way will be our night light. We’ll be able to feast our eyes on the mountains and forest surrounding the lodge, and enjoy the peace of having the entire hillside to ourselves, with the exception of seasonal resident giant tortoises. Watching the colorful sunset from Magic’s western perch is the perfect segue into evening. Dinners are sumptuous three course affairs, prepared by expert chefs in an open-air kitchen in the main lodge. A favorite post-dinner activity is a short walk to the natural lava tubes on the reserve for a night cap in the one-of-a-kind ‘Lava Lounge!’ It’s the perfect spot to relax around the fire and share stories from the day’s adventures.

Yacht Ride to Bartolome Island

After breakfast, we will head back to the Itabaca Channel to continue or exploration of the Galapagos. We will board our yacht, the Sea Finch, for our trip to Bartolome Island. The Sea Finch carries up to 16 guests, who can enjoy its outdoor seating areas and its air-conditioned dining lounge while taking in the sea and island views.

The Sea Finch will deliver us to uninhabited Bartolome Island, which offers some of the most dramatic views in the Galapagos Islands. A 600 meter wooden pathway leads visitors to the island’s highest point. Along the route, we will learn about the local flora and fauna, as well as about the volcanic origins of the Galapagos. We will stay on the top of the island for a few minutes’ to take in the view and to capture some fantastic images. After descending, we will take a dinghy ride along the coastline to search for the Galapagos penguin.

These curious birds nest among fissured lava flows and dive into the crystal-clear waters of Bartolome to fish. Sometimes awkward-seeming on land, the penguins are a marvel of speed and elegance as they swim through the water to feed. A wet landing on the island’s idyllic and deserted main beach will give us the opportunity to enjoy the sand where sea lions rest and a variety of wading birds feed. The waters are tranquil here, offering a great snorkeling experience where you might see tropical fish, sea stars, and perhaps even penguins under water. We’ll enjoy lunch on the yacht with views of Bartolome and Isla Santiago before returning to Santa Cruz. Along the way, we will likely see rays, turtles and other marine life as our boat speeds through the Pacific waters.

For those who are interested, we can make a late afternoon visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center where we will learn about the Darwin Foundation’s conservation efforts in the Galapagos National Park.

Floreana Island

During our stay, we will be hiking, learning about the fascinating local history and also seeing some of the Galapagos’ special wildlife. We may see giant tortoises, frigate birds, sea lions, Darwin’s finches, petrels and marine iguanas, among other species. Upon arrival on Floreana, we will take an open-air ‘chiva bus’ to Floreana Lava Lodge, which overlooks one of the Galapagos’ most beautiful and secluded bays. The lodge is operated by Claudio Cruz, a descendant of one of the Island’s original inhabitants. We are lucky to be hosted by Claudio, as he is able to share his deep knowledge of the Island and its history with us, as well as to meet several of his family members during our stay, giving us special insight into life on Floreana. Once we are settled in, we can walk or paddle (kayak or stand up paddleboard) to nearby Black Beach for some snorkeling.

After time in the water to whet our appetites, we will walk to a restaurant in the nearby village for lunch. The restaurant is part of a community tourism initiative that Tropic helped to develop and has been working with since 2012.

In the afternoon, we set out once again to paddle the pristine waters (kayak or SUP) across the bay to explore La Loberia, a sea lion breeding ground. Once there, we can enjoy more snorkeling and swimming in the calm, bright water with sea turtles, sea lions, stunning rays and an abundance of tropical fish. Later we will return to the lodge (30 minute walk or kayak/SUP) for a warm shower. We will watch the spectacular sunset and then head to the village for dinner where we will celebrate another incredible day in the Galapagos.

Exploring the Floreana Highlands

After breakfast, we leave to explore the Floreana highlands on our open-air bus (chiva) - an unbeatable, historic, and comfortable way to see the island.

After driving into the highlands, we reach Asilo de la Paz (Peace Haven) where our hike begins. We walk up to this historic site, explore the pirate caves, and visit the freshwater spring that provides water for the entire Island, with our guide sharing stories and history along the way. As we traverse the hillside, we can expect to see giant tortoises lumbering around in the vegetation or even on the trail. We depart Asilo de Paz walking down through a rural area where the local people grow produce for their own consumption. This is a fascinating example of how the island people survived in this remote place and over the years were able to develop an understanding of the local environment and now work to preserve their unique agricultural knowledge. On our way back to the coast, we will make a stop at Claudio’s farm, La Primavera, where we will watch the extraordinary behavior of the frigate birds who ‘dance’ as they wash their salty wings in the fresh water lake on the farm. With a little bit of luck, we may be able to see males puffing up the red pouches on their chests in an attempt to attract females. We’ll also see where some of the delicious fruit and vegetables that we’ve been eating at the lodge come from. From La Primavera farm we continue by chiva down to Las Palmas, where the Island’s first permanent inhabitant, the eccentric Dr. Ritter, lived and is buried. Arriving in 1926, the German physician believed that with a combination of exercise and the right vegetarian diet he would live to be 150 years old. He didn´t, but his story is one of the many strange episodes that make up the intriguing history of the island. Making our way back to the lodge, we will be treated to spectacular views of the Floreana shoreline. Back at Lava Lodge we will prepare a very special barbecue lunch, featuring delicious Cruz family recipes!

Isabela Island & The Tintoreras

Take an early morning speed boat and transfer to Isabela Island where we will check into our hotel. Our adventure begins with a tour of the Tintoreras, a group of small islands near the village of Puerto Villamil. The islands are named after the white tipped ‘Tintoreras’ reef sharks that swim in these calm waters.

On Tintoreras we will see almost all of the archipelago’s iconic wildlife: white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays, penguins, and of course pelicans and blue footed boobies. It’s like the Galapagos in miniature! After walking on the island, we will have a chance to snorkel in the bay. Don’t be surprised if some of the penguins or sea lions jump in to play alongside you in the water! In the afternoon, we bike the Wetlands Trail where we can see marine iguana colonies and a number of different types of mangrove trees (all four can be seen here) as well as enjoying the network of trails, beaches and historic sites. At the end of the trail is the Wall of Tears, built in the late 1940’s by Second World War prisoners held at the US base on the islands. Our guide will explain the importance of the Wall of Tears, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the island’s previous inhabitants. On this network of trails you will catch some beautiful views of the village below and we will have the chance to see birds and, maybe even some wild giant tortoises. After our ride, we will return to the Isabela Beach House to freshen up before heading into the heart of Puerto Villamil for dinner.

Hiking the Isabela Highlands

We start by hiking up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra volcano, and then onward to the rim of the Volcan Chico. This fascinating walk usually begins with some morning fog and drizzle which sometimes persists in the shadow of the volcano, adding to its mysterious character. Despite the drizzle, we might see Galapagos hawks, finches, flycatchers and short-eared owls en route. When we reach the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania, we will see the real reward for our efforts. The crater is so large, and the views so expansive, that photos can’t do it justice, but bring your binoculars and camera anyway! Later, as we head towards Volcan Chico, we may get the feeling we are walking on Mars due to the alien landscape. While it appears to be utterly desolate, a closer look reveals small lizards scurrying among the rocks. From its rim, we will enjoy more amazing views along with lava tubes and fumaroles. After Volcan Chico and its extreme landscape, we will relax under the shade of a lovely “jaboncillo” tree to enjoy a delectable picnic lunch while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of Isabela Island. In the distance, we will be able to see Fernandina, Pinzon and Santa Cruz Islands. We then head back down to complete our day of hiking (16 km in total) and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil.

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