Upon arrival in Quito today, you will be met and transferred to your hotel, where the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 2 Wed Quito (B)
Today colonial Quito comes to life during your tour of the city. Quito displays the largest colonial town of the Americas and is the first Unesco's World Heritage Site. You will visit parks like El Ejido and Alameda, the monument of Simon Bolivar, the gothic Basilica of the Heart of Jesús, Independence Square and the Metropolitan Cathedral with excellent samples of the Spanish renaissance. Walk along the so called street of the seven crosses and pass by the Jesuit convent, once headquarters of the first university in the country. You will see El Sagrario church with a unique orthodox cross lay out dating back to the seventeenth century. Finally you will explore the jewel of the crown, the Jesuit temple of`La Compañía de Jesús, perhaps the most important monument of the baroque art in Quito. From there, continue to the plaza of San Francisco. The largest temple and convent of the former Spanish colonies in the Americas display a rich sample of artistic and cultural heritage.
Day 3 Thu Quito-Baltra-Embark M/V Legend-Ballena Bay-Eden Islet (Santa Cruz) (BLD)
This morning, a 2 ½ hour flight takes you to Baltra, where you will be met and transferred the short distance to the pier to board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
The first stop today is a Wet landing. Ballena (Whale) Bay is a beautiful green sand cove at the base of Dragon Hill on the west coast of Santa Cruz Island. The beach contains a large amount of olivine crystals of volcanic origin. The crystals were formed when the magma was still underground. The content is magnesium, iron and silica. A small population of tortoises from Pinzón Island lived at the site, but were probably taken by whalers or previous inhabitants. Your walk takes about an hour on rocky terrain, with opportunities to see marine iguanas and sea birds followed by snorkeling.
Day 4 Fri Moreno Point (Isabela) (BLD)
Dry landing. The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amidst black lava flows where bird life is particularly interesting. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos: Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul on Isabela Island and La Cumbre, on Fernandina Island. Mangrove forest, lava formations, coastal and migratory birds, usually flamingos, can be seen, lava cactus, sea turtles, lagoons and tidal pools, candelabra cactus are other highlights. (This walk is about 2 hours on rocky terrain and could be a bit difficult, depending on your fitness level.)
This afternoon, the ship continues to Elizabeth Bay (Isabela). We take a dinghy ride along the coast surrounded by mangrove forest for an opportunity to admire Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Penguins, and a resting area for sea turtles.
Day 5 Sat Urbina Bay (Isabela) (BLD)
Wet landing on a volcanic "black" beach. Depending on the season, we may find giant tortoises, land iguanas and the unusual Flightless Cormorant. After a short walk inland, snorkeling time is allotted, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plant life that changes depending on the season. We can observe the beautiful colors of plants that attract different insects, birds and reptiles. We will explore the uplifted coral reef that resulted from 1954 volcanic activity, with a spectacular view of Alcedo Volcano. (The walk takes about 1 ½ hours on flat terrain, followed by about an hour for snorkeling.)
Later this afternoon, the ship visits Tagus Cove (Isabela). Dry landing on Galapagos' largest island, where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin's salt-water crater lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations.
We will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm. tall; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves.
The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. We will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. (This walk covers steep terrain and takes about an hour. The dinghy ride is about 40 minutes and your snorkeling time in deep water is about an hour.)
Day 6 Sun Espinosa Point (Fernandina) (BLD)
Dry landing. Espinosa Point is the only spot that we visit on Fernandina, and from it we can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive-looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the "King" of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk.
"Pa-hoe-hoe" and "AA" lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but we encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores. (The walk is about 2 hours on rocky terrain. Snorkeling time is about one hour.)
This afternoon, we stop at Vicente Roca Point (Isabela), where you can enjoy great deep-water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth (Bolívar Channel). We take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life. (The dinghy ride is about an hour and the snorkeling is about one hour.)
Day 7 Mon Highlands (Santa Cruz)-Disembark-Quito (B)
Dry landing. A 45-minute bus ride will take us to the Santa Cruz highlands, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where we will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island's name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. (The drive is about 45 minutes, and the walk through the reserve takes about 1 ½ hours on flat, sometimes muddy terrain.)
After the visit, you will be transferred to Baltra airport for the return flight to Quito. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 8 Tue Quito-Depart (B)
This morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight.