Galapagos Island Hopping - 5 Days to Santa Cruz,
South Plazas and Isabela
Day 1: Baltra Island - Santa Cruz Island
Today we arrive on Baltra Island, the gateway to the Galapagos. This tiny island was a military base during the Second World War and hosts the Islands’ principal airport. The airport was the first ecological airport in the world.
We dive into a Galapagos Island-hopping adventure just after we arrive! We will enter the airport through a special VIP lounge where you will have a chance to change clothes, put on some sunscreen and get a cool drink before we transfer to the 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. 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.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Kayak: 1.5-2 hours depending on fauna activity and skills of kayakers
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.
Day 2: Santa Cruz Island - South Plazas
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 South Plaza Island. The Sea Finch will deliver us to Punta Carrion, where we will have the chance to snorkel in its beautiful waters. We will have the chance to see a variety of tropical fish and graceful rays, and if we’re lucky, we might see white-tipped reef sharks that rest on the sandy ocean floor.
In the afternoon, we will visit South Plazas Island. Just a few hundred meters from the eastern shore of Santa Cruz Island, the Plazas Islands were formed from an uplifted seabed, almost giving them a tilted tabletop quality. We will disembark (dry landing) on South Plazas where we will be greeted by a colony of sea lions. As we make our way up the shore, we will come upon a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents. The succulents are a beautiful ground cover in color contrast to the luminescent green prickly-pear cactus grove that dots the shore – it’s an incredibly unusual and memorable vista. Yellow-gray land iguanas sit beneath the cactus patiently waiting for pears to drop. As we make our way further along the trail, we approach the southern cliff of the island. From there, we will observe nesting swallow-tailed gulls and several sea birds such as tropic birds, Nazca and blue footed boobies, as well as spend time taking in the beautiful views.
We’ll enjoy lunch on the yacht with island views before returning to Santa Cruz.
** These excursions are subject to availability and change without prior notification
Day 3: Santa Cruz Island - Isabela Island
Today we 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. Overnight at Albermarle Hotel.
Day 4: Isabela Island
Volcanic eruptions created all of the islands in the Galapagos, and you will get to see this geologic process first-hand as we explore Isabela, one of the youngest and most volcanicly active islands of the archipelago. We have the whole day to explore the Isabela highlands, and 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, 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 your box 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.
Day 5 - Isabella Island - Santa Cruz Island - Baltra Island
Today we take an early morning public speed boat back to Santa Cruz and then transfer by land to Baltra for our onward journey or flight back home.
2016-2017 prices per person, double occupancy in US$: $2250. Single supplement = $224. Surcharge for Dec. 17-Jan. 5 = $224
2016-2017 Dates: Feb. 6-10, March 6-10, April 3-7, April 10-14, April 17-21, May 1-5, May 22-26, May 29-June 2, June 5-9, June 12-16, July 3-7, Aug. 14-18, Aug. 21-25, Aug. 28-Sept. 1, Sept. 11-15, Sept. 18-22, Sept. 25-29, Oct. 2-6, Oct. 23-27, Oct. 30-Nov. 3, Nov. 6-10, Dec. 4-8, Dec. 11-15, Dec. 18-22
Included: Accommodation, All meals, Airport VIP services on arrival, Transfers & ground transportation, Boat excursions with snorkeling on a sharing basis, Speed boat transfer on a sharing basis, Kayak, SUP and snorkeling equipment, English-speaking naturalist guide, Activities and visits detailed in the itinerary
Not Included: Flights (all flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands can be arranged upon request), Galapagos National Park entrance fee (US $100 per adult/$50 per child under 12), tourist transit card (US $20 per person), Beverages, Laundry service, Insurance (prior to your journey please ensure your travel insurance is valid in your country of origin), Gratuities
Magic Galapagos is a million miles from the world’s hustle and bustle. Set in the highlands of Santa Cruz (and away from the waterfront crowds), this totally unique property surprises and delights. All six safari tents and four tree houses have gorgeous views, and guests are surrounded by nature as they sleep. Magic is a place to relax, walk the beautiful mountainside, turn your gaze to the beautiful heavens and to admire nature. Giant tortoises call Magic Galapagos their home much of the year, and guests might see a handful slowly moving through the grounds or many dozens dotting the meadow.
Sunsets from Magic are, well, magic! Enjoying the last light of day with a cocktail on the meadow deck is a relaxing pastime, as is sharing stories of the days’ adventures in front of the open-air main lodge’s crackling fire. Magic serves sumptuous, three course dinners. The chefs use their culinary skills in the open kitchen to turn local ingredients into creative and elegant dishes. An after dinner stroll to the ‘Lava Lounge’ for a nightcap is the perfect way to end the day.
Screened tree houses are equipped with a flush toilet and a basin/vanity with running water, as well as a small deck and bench. Twin beds are comfortable and windows allow guests to look at the stars as they fall into a peaceful sleep. Magic’s raised, walk-in safari tents are similarly equipped. There are two shared bathhouses with flush toilets and hot showers.
The Albemarle Hotel occupies a Mediterranean-style house located right on the beach at Cuna del Sol and has a lush garden with outdoor pool. It offers air conditioning. Rooms at the Albermarle Hotel are large, decorated with tiled floors and wooden beams on the ceiling and feature elegant furnishings, TV and a private marble bathroom. All rooms have sea or pool view. The Albemarle Hotel enjoys a prime location in the center of Puerto Villamil, a 2 hour boat ride from the island Santa Cruz and 3 km from General Villamil Airport.