Galapagos Photo Cruise with Naturescapes & Greg Downing

Join NatureScapes founder Greg Downing for 8 days in the Galápagos Islands. We’ll spend a day with the giant Galápagos tortoise, visit the world’s largest breeding albatross colony, search for land iguanas and frigate birds as well as 3 species of booby: Nazca, Red-footed, and Blue-footed. This trip is one you do not want to miss!

The Galápagos National Park strictly controls the itineraries of the boats operating in the archipelago and approves itineraries that each boat cruise can work. NatureScapes has chosen a great boat with a great itinerary, the Reina Silvia. This elegant boat and its itinerary will allow the best chances for pictures in the Galápagos visiting the best islands both for wildlife and scenery shots.

Galapagos Penguin
Galapagos Penguin (Greg Downing)

Please be aware that this itinerary is highly likely to change based on the complicated and ever-changing Galapagos National Park permitting process.

Day 1 – Friday, October 31, 2014

Arrival in Quito. Unless you have chosen to arrive early, you’ll arrive in Quito tonight. We’ll arrange a transfer to the Hotel Dann Carlton, a four-star hotel in the tourist district. For this tour we recommend arriving a day early, since if your flight is delayed, you could risk missing the boat.

Lava Lizard
Lava Lizard (Greg Downing)

Day 2 – Saturday, November 1, 2014

Baltra, Highlands of Santa Cruz and Darwin Research Station. 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. We will be transferred with a bus towards the highlands of Santa Cruz where some of the smaller endemic birds are present. Depending on the weather we could walk along a trail to try getting some of the most difficult birds like Galápagos Rails. In the afternoon we will drive towards the southern part of the island and will reach Puerto Ayora (the biggest town on the archipelago) where the renowned Charles Darwin research station is located. Late in the afternoon we will be transferred to the Reina Silvia and this evening we’ll cruise overnight towards Española Island.

Day 3 – Sunday, November 2, 2014 – Española Island

The morning will be spent on the north part of the island in Gardner Bay. The beach here is paradisiacal with white sand and dozens of Galápagos Sea Lions laying close to the aquamarine blue water. Scenery is gorgeous for that kind of shots, nevertheless, the ones who are into birds will have the chance to photograph one of the tamest birds in Earth, the Española Mockingbird. This species will land on you and on your gear if they think you have water or food for them; of course feeding wildlife is strictly prohibited. You can try though getting interesting photos of these birds tricking them with something shining. The afternoon scenery is even more fascinating with dramatic cliffs where dozens of marine birds nest, including the handsome Waved Albatross. Pictures here will try to aim the Red-billed Tropicbird and Swallow-tailed Gulls in flight which many times fly eye-level or lower allowing great shots. In the evening we set sail for San Cristóbal.

Day 4 – Monday, November 3, 2014 – San Cristóbal

The coastal area of San Cristóbal does not have the beauty of areas visited later on the trip, but close to the main island there are two small isles that we will visit in the morning which are quite picturesque. Those are Isla Lobos and Leon Dormido where small colonies of Blue-footed Boobies and Frigatebirds can be reached. The afternoon will be spent the main island and a short ride on a bus will take us to the highlands to visit an interesting crater lake called El Junco. During the evening we will sail towards Santa Fe.

Blue-footed Booby
Blue-footed Booby (Greg Downing)

Day 5 – Tuesday, November 4, 2014 – Santa Fe and South Plazas

For the morning the small island of Santa Fe will be the visit area. A beautiful turquoise lagoon needs to be crossed on the pangas to land on the island. A loop walk on a trail gives the chance to get close to a couple of special endemics being the target of the morning the tame Galápagos Hawk which sometimes allows quite close photographs. There is also a land iguana that is endemic only to this island which, even though it is not the most colourful, it is still a super local species. At some point during the day, after some snorkelling in this stunning lagoon, we will have the first chance of navigation during light hours so flight photos of pelagic birds will be the challenge to try accomplishing.

Once at Plazas Island we will have a short walk after the more colourful species of Land Iguana feeding on the Opuntia cactus. During the night a long navigation will be done towards Genovesa.

Day 6 – Wednesday, November 5, 2014 – 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.

Nazca Booby
Nazca Booby (Greg Downing)

Day 7 – Thursday, November 6, 2014 – Santiago and Bartolomé

Waking early, 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 Galápagos. We’ll find from the pangas some Galápagos Penguins diving for fish and with some luck one or two perched. In the afternoon we will visit one of the most emblematic islands in the archipelago, Bartolomé. The pinnacle rock of this island is present on every postcard shop in the islands.

Day 8 – Friday, November 7, 2014 – Rabida and Sombrero Chino

A combination of ignite rocks and arid terrains of Rabida has result on a terrain of varied striking colors. The hike takes us to a small salt water lagoon that is supposed to be the best area for the bright American Flamingo. Another short navigation around noon will take us to Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat, named after its shape) where we may have the best chances for the famed Galápagos Penguin so far, in fact here you would have the chance to snorkel together with this playful birds and with some White-ripped Reef-Sharks as well. Galápagos Hawk is also present here and if we did not achieve good shots of this endemic we will try some more.

Day 9 – Saturday, November 8, 2014 – Baltra

Our last day in Galápagos will be spent around Baltra Island. Depending on the flight schedule we might have a chance to explore around. We will be transferred to the airport and later fly back to Quito. Participants will be transferred to Quito and will spend the night at Hotel Dann Carlton.

Day 10 – Sunday, November 9, 2014 – Departure

We’ll transfer you to the airport to catch your flights home.

 

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Includes

  • Boat accommodation, meals, trips
  • Hotel accomodations at the Hotel Dann Carlton on October 31 and November 8
  • Group airport transfers
  • Air tickets (Quito to Galápagos to Quito)
  • All ground transfers
  • Flight to and from Baltra
  • Ingala Tax
  • Galápagos National Park Fees

Does Not Include

  • International flights
  • Visa and passport Fees
  • Medical / vaccination fees
  • Excess baggage charges
  • Expenses arising from delay or extension of a trip due to circumstances beyond our control
  • Travel insurance
  • Snacks
  • Laundry services
  • Telephone calls
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips
  • Alcoholic drinks

About the Reina Silvia

M/Y Reina Silvia, one of the finest vessels of her size in the Galapagos, permits you to discover the Enchanted Islands in relaxed comfort.

Named after H. M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, with gracious permission, Reina Silvia operates carefully arranged cruises in the Galapagos Archipelago. Built by Lydia Inc. of Stuart, Florida, USA, Reina Silvia is 90 feet long.

With a highly trained crew of eight, including a multilingual naturalist guide, Reina Silvia accommodates her guests in six staterooms. Two staterooms are doubles which can be configured with either two twin beds or one king-sized bed. The four additional staterooms are furnished with two lower beds, which can be configured as twins or king, and one Pullman-style bed. They will be considered doubles and used as triples only upon request. All staterooms have en suite facilities, including shower, lavatory and vanity.

Key Features:

  • Air-conditioning controls in each of the dressing rooms
  • Salon with entertainment center, DVD and wet bar.
  • Satellite phone
  • Well equipped kitchen and a spacious dining room.
  • Hall and sundeck are used for lectures and conferences.
  • Swimming / diving platform