Galapagos Endemics Cruise

This famous archipelago straddles the equator 600 miles (1000 km) off the coast of Ecuador, and it is home to 24 endemic bird species. It is not just the hope for a few lifers that draws birders here, but the chance to get up-close and personal with wild animals that are still unafraid of humans; you can feel as if you are a participant in nature rather than just a spectator. The stark volcanic scenery is beautiful in its own right and some visitors find themselves returning again and again.

PLEASE NOTE: The itinerary listed here is subject to approval by the national park; if we do not get approval for this, day 4 on Isabela, will be changed to visit South Plaza Island and Santa Fe Island instead, while the rest of the itinerary will more than likely remain the same.

Lava Lizards are all over the place
Lava Lizards are all over the place
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Blue-footed Boobies, the clowns of the Galapagos
Blue-footed Boobies, the clowns of the Galapagos
Katherine

Keith Barnes Read More

 
A male Magnificent Frigatebird displaying
A male Magnificent Frigatebird displaying
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Swallow-tailed Gull is one of the prettiest of the family
Swallow-tailed Gull is one of the prettiest of the family
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Like many Galapagos species, the Espanola Mockingbird is remarkably tame
Like many Galapagos species, the Espanola Mockingbird is remarkably tame
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
Small Ground-Finch is one of the 14 endemic finches on the Galapagos
Small Ground-Finch is one of the 14 endemic finches on the Galapagos
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
San Cristobal Mockingbird; one of four endemic mockers in the islands
San Cristobal Mockingbird; one of four endemic mockers in the islands
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
A Galapagos Hawk watching us on Española
A Galapagos Hawk watching us on Española
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Marine life is also a big draw in the Galapagos as this Eagle Ray proves
Marine life is also a big draw in the Galapagos as this Eagle Ray proves
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
An Espanola Lava Lizard shows off its best feature
An Espanola Lava Lizard shows off its best feature
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
Short-eared Owls feast on storm-petrels on Genovesa
Short-eared Owls feast on storm-petrels on Genovesa
Katherine

Christian Boix Read More

 
Marine Iguanas are common in the islands, and especially colorful on Floreana and Espanola
Marine Iguanas are common in the islands, and especially colorful on Floreana and Espanola
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
Lava Gull, one of the world's rarest gulls and endemic to the Galapagos
Lava Gull, one of the world's rarest gulls and endemic to the Galapagos
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin resident in tropical waters
Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin resident in tropical waters
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
American Flamingoes add a dash of color to the archipelago
American Flamingoes add a dash of color to the archipelago
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
The rare Galapagos Petrel wings it's way across the Bolivar Channel
The rare Galapagos Petrel wings it's way across the Bolivar Channel
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Great Frigatebird and young
Great Frigatebird and young
Katherine

Christian Boix Read More

 
A Large Cactus-Finch having a snack on Española
A Large Cactus-Finch having a snack on Española
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Nazca Booby
Nazca Booby
Katherine

Scott Olmstead Read More

 
Those famous, and comical, feet
Those famous, and comical, feet
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
A dormant volcano on Floreana provides a backdrop to the endemics and fascinating history of the island
A dormant volcano on Floreana provides a backdrop to the endemics and fascinating history of the island
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
Birding from a panga
Birding from a panga
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Trying to get the best shot
Trying to get the best shot
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Chaos on the pier at Puerto Ayora
Chaos on the pier at Puerto Ayora
Katherine

Iain Campbell Read More

 
Lava flows and cacti are a familiar sight here
Lava flows and cacti are a familiar sight here
Katherine

Iain Campbell Read More

 
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
A colorful Land Iguana
A colorful Land Iguana
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
A sea lion giving birth on North Seymour
A sea lion giving birth on North Seymour
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
A Giant Tortoise on Santa Cruz
A Giant Tortoise on Santa Cruz
Katherine

Iain Campbell Read More

 
Galapagos Petrel is one of many specialty seabirds in the islands
Galapagos Petrel is one of many specialty seabirds in the islands
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
Piles of Marine Iguanas
Piles of Marine Iguanas
Katherine

Christian Boix Read More

 
A baby Nazca Booby
A baby Nazca Booby
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Sometimes Waved Albatrosses follow us on the island crossings
Sometimes Waved Albatrosses follow us on the island crossings
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Pacific Green Turtle
Pacific Green Turtle
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
A seabird frenzy
A seabird frenzy
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Galapagos Doves are handsome and very common
Galapagos Doves are handsome and very common
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
Hood Mockingbirds are some of the most curious birds you'll ever see
Hood Mockingbirds are some of the most curious birds you'll ever see
Katherine

Christian Boix Read More

 
A territorial male Galapagos Fur Seal content in his strong position on the rocks of Genovesa
A territorial male Galapagos Fur Seal content in his strong position on the rocks of Genovesa
Katherine

Sam Woods Read More

 
A Lava Heron
A Lava Heron
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 
The majestic and unforgettable Waved Albatrosses
The majestic and unforgettable Waved Albatrosses
Katherine

Jose Illanes Read More

 
This Red-billed Tropicbird stowed away on the yacht!
This Red-billed Tropicbird stowed away on the yacht!
Katherine

Nick Athanas Read More

 



The Galapagos Islands are a photographer’s dream, and millions of photographs have been taken of nesting Waved Albatrosses, dancing boobies, displaying frigatebirds, and even the drab but fascinating finches endemic to the islands. We will explore these amazing islands from a medium-sized motor yacht which holds 16 passengers in comfort. All cabins have private bath and air conditioning. Plenty of food and juice are provided during the family-style meals, and snorkel gear is available.

Day 1: Arrival in Quito. You arrive in Quito and are transferred to a hotel for the night.

Day 2: Baltra and Bachas. We begin our tour with a 2.5 hour flight to the island of Baltra. Here we’ll be met by the crew of the yacht, which will be our home for the next week. After boarding, we steam to the nearby beach of Playa Bachas, where Small and Medium Ground-Finches can be seen in the scrub, and we’ll likely find our first Galapagos Mockingbirds and Yellow Warblers. A nearby lagoon often has a small colony of Greater Flamingos, and occasionally Galapagos Martins can be seen overhead. This is also a great spot for migrant waders. Late this evening we’ll start a longish cruise Genovesa Island

Day 3: Genovesa. This island is simply fantastic and is often the favorite island of tour participants. Huge numbers of seabirds nest, including Great Frigatebird, Swallow-tailed Gull, Red-billed Tropicbird, and three species of booby: Nazca, Red-footed, and Blue-footed. This is a great place to see some of the harder finches like Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch and Large Cactus-Finch, as well as an endemic subspecies of Short-eared Owl. Genovesa also holds a subspecies of Large Ground-Finch that somehow is longer-beaked than the other subspecies, and probably deserving species status. During the night we navigate southwards towards Bartolomé.

Day 4: Isabela (pending approval by the national park). This morning after a longish navigation we wake up in front of the north most visit site of Isabela Island. The Pahoe hoe lava fields end on some mangrove patches where Galapagos Flycatchers sometimes are present. The main target of the site is the unique and funky looking Flightless Cormorant which here is present on a sizable colony. We will see the contrast in sizes on Marine Iguanas, having seen the smallest subspecies in Genovesa the previous day, in Albermarle we will find the biggest of the individuals of the entire Archipelago. It is still a not well explored site for birders and surprises like Galapagos Martins may be present given the interesting conditions of the fields. After having spending the morning on this site we will start a navigation towards Bartolomé and this will be the first navigation during the day in open seas where we can eventually find the first pelagics like Galapagos Petrel, some Storm-Petrels, and even the first Waved Albatross.

The majestic and unforgettable Waved Albatrosses
The majestic and unforgettable Waved Albatrosses (Jose Illanes)

Day 5: Bartolomé and Sullivan Bay (Santiago). Waking early, we’ll find from the pangas (small boats required to land on shore) some Galapagos Penguins diving for fish and with some luck one or two perched on our way to one of the most emblematic islands in the archipelago, Bartolome. The pinnacle rock of this island is present on every postcard shop in the islands. In the afternoon we’ll take a walk on a barren lava field, where scattered endemic lava cactus can be interesting either for macro or wide angle shots. The shape, pattern and texture of the lava fields can produce some attractive pictures as well. Remember that we are talking about pahoehoe lava that is rare in the world but only common in Hawaii and the Galapagos. Here we have the first chances for the desired Galapagos Hawk which regularly soars overhead and we can even see it from the boat with having some beers. By night we will cruse to San Cristobal.

Day 6: San Cristobal. The coastal area of San Cristobal does not have the beauty of areas visited later on the trip, but the scrub does have the endemic San Cristobal Mockingbird. Here we will have the chance to find some of the local highland species like Vegeterain Finch, Small Tree-Finch, and Woodpecker Finch. Normally not difficult to find, Galapagos Flycatcher and Galapagos Doves are common at several elevations. The afternoon would be partially spent visiting some snorkelling spots called Leon Dormido and Lobos islets which are very attractive visually and very rich in terms of marine life. When we are done we might start the navigation towards Española. Time permitting we will do this navigation still in daylight.

Blue-footed Boobies, the clowns of the Galapagos
Blue-footed Boobies, the clowns of the Galapagos (Keith Barnes)

Day 7: Española. The whole day will be spent on this wonderful island, the southern part during the morning and the fantastic northern beach of Gardner Bay in the afternoon. The morning takes us to one of the nicest visit points of the Galapagos, Punta Suarez. We will walk along risks that hold colonies of several marine birds, typically nesting along the path. The highlight is for sure the wonderful Waved Albatross, which nests only here and on Isla de la Plata off the Ecuadorian coast. This island is also home to the super curious Española Mockingbird, a bird so tame that it will sometimes land on people. If we had not seen well a Galapagos Hawk, we have great chances here. Gray Warbler-Finch is regular on the scrub near the beach and the Española subspecies of Large Cactus-Finch is normally close by. We will navigate by night towards Floreana.

Day 8: Floreana and Santa Cruz. While we approach Floreana Island around dawn, we will be passing close to Champion Islet. These tiny islands support the last populations of the critically-endangered Floreana Mockingbird, which was extirpated from Floreana by introduced predators. While we are not allowed to set foot on the islets, we can approaching the edge, where the mockingbird is usually found. Afterwards we will walk a bit around Punta Cormorant in Floreana after some specialties. The target is the super local Medium Tree-Finch and once we get it, we will focus on the brackish lagoons after American Flamingos and several shorebirds. We will not spend much time here as we need to navigate to Santa Cruz during the day. Once we reach the island we will need to take a short trip by bus to the higher elevations of Santa Cruz Island, visiting Media Luna area for Galapagos Rail, Large Tree-Finch, and Giant Tortoise. The climate becomes more humid the higher we climb, and we’ll take a walk through the wet Scalesia forest, which is a very cool experience itself. Here we’ll be looking for any of Darwin’s finches that we may have not seen yet, such as Green Warbler-Finch, Woodpecker Finch, Small and Large Tree-Finches, and Vegetarian Finch. After we have nailed the needs, we’ll try to return on time to visit the Charles Darwin station.

Day 9: North Seymour. We have a journey back from the south of Santa Cruz, and we’ll arrive at North Seymour before we wake up. This area is very good for land iguanas which are always fun to watch. Nesting Frigatebirds are easy to photograph and Blue-footed Boobies dance their famous feet-up swing. Later we return to Baltra and fly back to Quito, to be transferred to the Hotel Sebastian for a farewell dinner.

Day 10: End of tour. You depart on morning international flights or join another Ecuador tour.

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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

CLIMATE: Warm and overcast, occasionally sunny and hot. Water temperature can be surprisingly cool during this season.

DIFFICULTY: Fairly easy. Most trails are flat, but a few are a bit steep. The terrain is rough and rocky. It is necessary to transfer from the yacht to shore with small boats called pangas to reach many landing sites, and some of the landings are “wet” landings, where you have to wade from the panga onto the beach.

ACCOMMODATION: We have charted the Fragata yacht for the 2013 tour. Cabins are very comfortable and  have A/C and private bath. Single rooms cannot be guaranteed on the yacht without paying for an extra berth. If space is available at the time the tour runs, we will give out single rooms. The single supplement for the two nights in the hotel in Quito is $80 (2012 rate).