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2021 Galapagos Voyage: Darwin's Enchanted Islands

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2021 Galapagos Voyage: Darwin's Enchanted Islands

Thirteen major islands, six minor islands and 42 volcanic islets make up Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago, and while most of these islands are known by both English and Spanish names, you’ll find the landscapes and wildlife on each isle to be singularly enchanting. It is against a contrasting patchwork of deserts, forests, volcanoes, beaches and cobalt water that International Expeditions invites you on a Galapagos cruise to discover the islands’ compelling wildlife.

Witness this fantastic microcosm of natural history by joining a true pioneer in Galapagos travel. Standing on the lava of Fernandina with a vista of volcanoes; snorkeling with a friendly sea lion; or sitting in a lush field on Santa Cruz watching the giant tortoises graze — these are the moments of sheer wonder you can expect on this small-ship adventure. IE invites you aboard the 32-guest Evolution, which offers the ideal retreat with spacious cabins, superb cuisine and a host of amenities. From the moment you arrive and see the first iguanas and sea lions basking on the dock where we board our Galapagos cruise ship, you will be delighted. And for all the documentaries and research most people have seen on these islands, nothing compares to the wonder of being here.

Testimonials

  • “You cannot realize until you get to the Galapagos how really close you get to the animals. It was an amazing place — I’m glad I went with International Expeditions instead of other companies I looked at! There were so many advantages to cruising on a smaller ship. On the Evolution, I never felt rushed and the guides pointed out so many things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.” 

  • “I love the Galapagos Islands and think they are a very endearing and precious place, worthy of making every effort to protect. I hope to return someday. The adventure your team provided encouraged me to feel this way.” 

  • “We truly appreciated being able to take our 13-year-old grandson on such a memorable trip. The special and very appropriate attention paid to him and the other young people enabled us to relax when he was being challenged by some of the activities and added greatly to the adventure. Naturalist guides Boli and Cristina were extraordinary, exhibiting top-notch skills in conveying their extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna, geology, history and lore. They also had wonderful personalities that enlivened every lecture and excursion. Being on the Evolution felt like being in a good friend's warm, hospitable home.” 

  • “My experience was exceptional. The staff was courteous, friendly, knowledgeable and fun. Everything...thoroughly organized, friendly staff who demonstrated their desire to satisfy the customer, knowledgeable guides, and remarkable destination. IE’s naturalist guides are exceptional! They are so knowledgeable and friendly which is a major differentiating factor in hindsight in choosing IE over another travel company.”

  • “I liked the small group instead of a large cruise ship. The crew of the Evolution was wonderful! They were friendly and helpful. They did everything to make our trip perfect. They provided outstanding service in a friendly manner.” 

  • “The food on the Evolution was truly outstanding. Having Champagne and a small cake celebrating our 25th anniversary was very special!” 

Daily Itinerary

2021 Galapagos Voyage: Darwin's Enchanted Islands

  • Day
    1

    Arrive Guayaquil

    Arrive in Guayaquil and transfer to the Hotel Oro Verde for dinner and overnight. (D)

  • Day
    2

    Guayaquil / Baltra / Daphne Major

    Meet your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers. Fly 600 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the Galapagos Islands and board the Evolution. After a safety briefing, enjoy a circumnavigation of Daphne Major, a paradise for sea birds such as magnificent frigatebird. (B,L,D) 

     

  • Day
    3

    Isabela Island / Fernandina Island

    Zodiacs take you on a dramatic ride into the heart of a sunken volcano at Punta Vicente Roca. Take to the water, where we swim and snorkel among sea turtles, penguins and possibly even sea horses. Explore the lava fields of Punta Espinosa, located on Fernandina, the youngest and most volcanically active island in the Galapagos. Here we spot flightless cormorants and marine iguanas. Whale watch from the Evolution’s open-air decks as we cross the Bolivar Channel. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    4

    Isabela Island

    Isabela is the Galapagos archipelago's largest island, and is composed of five volcanoes – Cerro Azul, Sierra Negra, Darwin, Wolf and Alcedo – all of which are actually still considered active! Hike along the uplifted section of sea floor in Urbina Bay at the base of the Alcedo Volcano. Our naturalists point out the tortoises, colorful land iguanas and other wildlife that feed on the vegetation. Board our Zodiacs for an excursion to Tagus Cove, where we look for penguins, flightless cormorants, pelicans along the cliffs before a chance to snorkel and swim. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    Bartolomé / Santiago Island: Sullivan Bay

    Visit Bartolomé Island, hiking to the top of a dormant volcano for a dramatic panorama, including famed Pinnacle Rock. The island is dotted with craters, cinder cones, lava flows, spatter cones and broken lava tunnels which run down from the summit. Our Zodiac drivers will take “non-hikers” for a ride around the cliffs, observing a stunning volcanic landscape and Galapagos penguins. Swim and snorkel with sea lions and maybe even speedy penguins. This afternoon, hike across the panoehoe lava of Sullivan Bay, seeing some of the hearty flora colonizing the landscapes. Stroll along the coralline beach spotting black and white oystercatchers. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    6

    Santa Cruz Island: Bachas Beach / Rabida Island

    Bachas Beach is home to one of the last remnants of the US World War II presence in Galapagos-a floating pier- which we’ll see on our morning walk along with Sally Lightfoot crabs, black necked stilts and whimbrels. Snorkel in the calm waters where sea turtles nest. While exploring uninhabited Rabida Island at the archipelago’s geologic center, watch for up to nine species of Darwin’s finches, doves, yellow warblers and mockingbirds. A small saltwater lagoon is home to white-cheeked pintail ducks and black-necked stilts. Snorkelers may take to the water with sea lions, sea turtles and reef fish such as damsels and pufferfish. During a guided kayaking excursion, watch for brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies while savoring views of the island’s sloping volcanic peak. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7

    Santa Cruz Island

    After a tasty breakfast onboard, head to a private reserve in the forested highlands to see and photograph giant tortoises. Stop at a family run sugar cane farm that also produces small-batch moonshine. Since 1970, more than 2,000 tortoises have been hatched, raised and released from the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center at the Darwin Research Center, which was founded in 1959. Learn about the vital work being done here before returning to the Evolution. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    8

    Española Island

    As the southernmost island in the archipelago, Española’s relative isolation has resulted in not only an abundance of unusual wildlife, but species and subspecies that are endemic to the island, such as Española (Hood) mockingbird, Española (Hood) racer snake, Española (Hood) lava lizard, waved albatross and brightly colored marine iguanas. Enjoy a Zodiac ride before wading ashore to Punta Suarez through a sea lion colony. Walk along the cliffs looking for waved albatrosses, Galapagos hawks, Hood mockingbirds and the red-colored race of marine iguana en route to Española’s blowhole, where waves spout 90 feet into the air. After lunch on our yacht, swim, snorkel and kayak in the waters off Gardner Bay. You are also welcome to bring along your book or a camera for a relaxing afternoon on this white-sand beach. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    San Cristóbal Island / Guayaquil

    End your Galapagos Islands cruise by returning to San Cristóbal to visit the Interpretation Center, opened by the park in 1998. Fly to Guayaquil, where you board your flights home. (B)

Optional Post-Trip Extensions

Machu Picchu & Cusco Extension

A visit to Machu Picchu, the grandest of all the Inca sites, must stand out as a highlight of anyone’s travels. It has the most dramatic of settings, atop an Andean mountain surrounded by other peaks. For all its extent — Machu Picchu has some 200 structures, along with brilliant stone masonry — it was almost forgotten until its rediscovery in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. But there is a great deal more to see, and this Machu Picchu tour includes a variety of experiences in the great city of Cusco and in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Day
9

Galapagos / Lima

Fly to Lima and transfer to Costa del Sol Wyndham. (B, Meals Aloft)

Day
10

Lima / Cusco / Urubamba Valley

Fly to Cusco — the heart of the Inca Empire. Drive into the historic Urubamba Valley, stopping in Chinchero to browse and shop for Andean handicrafts and alpaca sweaters. Visit the Urubamba Market and spend tonight at the Aranwa Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day
11

Machu Picchu

Board the train to Machu Picchu, where we spend the afternoon exploring the ruins with our guide. Our home for the next two nights is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day
12

Machu Picchu

Today is yours to enjoy a private Machu Picchu tour or simply relax! You may wake up early and hike to the Sun Gate if you wish to return to the citadel. Alternatively, enjoy early morning birding in the abundant gardens surrounding our hotel. This afternoon, treat yourself to the spa or visit the extensive orchid garden, currently considered the biggest in-habitat garden on the planet. The grounds of the Machu Picchu Pueblo are home to exquisite birds including 16 species of hummingbirds and the Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru. Tonight, enjoy an enriching lecture on the history and mysticism surrounding the ruins, along with a detailed discussion of Inca culture. (B,L,D)

Day
13

Ollantaytambo / Sacsayhuamán / Cusco

Catch the morning train back to the Sacred Valley. Explore the mighty archaeological wonder of Ollantaytambo, where ancient temples and fortresses were built to protect the Sacred Valley. After a Paso Fino horse show at Wayra Ranch, continue across the valley toward Cusco. We stop at Sacsayhuamán — a huge fortress of massive stones which zigzags across the side of the mountain. Spend tonight at the Aranwa Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day
14

Cusco

Stroll the streets of Cusco, exploring the Koricancha — also known as Santo Domingo, Santa Catalina Convent and the Cathedral. After lunch, the afternoon is free to explore on your own before a farewell dinner featuring Andean fare. Return to the Aranwa Hotel for the night. (B,L,D)

Day
15-16

Lima / Arrive Home

After lunch in Cusco, return to Lima for check in at the Costa Del Sol Wyndham. Enjoy dinner and the evening at your leisure. Late evening you will transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home. Arrive home Saturday. (Day 15: L,D; Day 16: Meals Aloft)

Things to Know

What's included in the cost of this expedition?

  • Accommodations on group dates
  • Excursions, activities, and meals as listed in the itinerary
  • Services of experienced English-speaking guides
  • Arrival and departure transfers between the ship and airport 
  • Selected beverages included with lunch and dinner
  • Potable water
  • Medical expense coverage and emergency evacuation insurance

Accommodations

Evolution

Evolution

The classic lines of your Galapagos expedition ship, the 204-foot Evolution, capture the romance and spirit of an earlier era. While the Evolution may carry just 32 guests, she is far from a small ship. In fact, there’s a great deal of space, both public and private. The ship’s interior is fully air-conditioned, and cabins on all three decks offer plenty of space. Your cabin is the perfect haven for an afternoon siesta between our frequent land and water excursions. (Snorkeling equipment, kayaks and wetsuits are available free of charge.) Before dinner, enjoy nightly briefings by our naturalists on the islands’ natural and human history in our comfortable lounge. You may also spend time with a snack and your fellow passengers at the canopied bar, a superb place for whale watching or to enjoy sunset over the Pacific. From relaxing on the sun deck to reading in the lounge, you’re sure to relish the wonderful friendly ambiance. And the food is something to rave about — each meal is an event to look forward to, featuring both international and traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, from fresh fruit and desserts to lobster and sumptuous soups

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Field Leaders

galapagos islands guides boli

Bolivar Sanchez

Expedition Leader

Expedition Leader Bolivar Sanchez is not only an expert in Earth science, earning degrees in Biology, Geology and Conservation, but he is also an IE favorite! Boli developed a strong interest in wildlife and the outdoors as a child and has been learning as much as possible ever since. For the past two decades, he has worked as a certified naturalist and guide in Galapagos National Park, as well as leading expeditions in Cuba, Iceland and beyond. His great personality and wonderful sense of humor make him an incredible travel companion. Boli's other interests include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.

Wildlife

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Galapagos: Nesting waved albatrosses

Waved Albatross

Darwin’s Finches

Blue Footed Boobies

Boobies

Galápagos Flamingo

Galápagos Fur Seal

Galapagos land iguana

Galápagos Land Iguana

Galápagos Penguin

From: $7,490 per person
Duration
9 Days, 8 Nights
Guest Capacity
32 Guests
Trip Type
Sea

Trip Highlights

  • Snorkel, kayak & hike alongside experienced Galapagos guides
  • Enjoy seven nights aboard the spacious yacht Evolution
  • Learn about conservation efforts at the Charles Darwin Research Station
  • Swim and snorkel sea turtles, curious sea lions, and perhaps Galapagos penguins