Surtrek’s “Island Hopping Tours” allow travelers to visit various Galapagos Islands without having to be on board a ship for the entire trip. Instead, travelers spend their nights in modern hotels on the islands, while heading out each morning on speed boats to explore the wildlife and natural wonders of a different island each day. This allows non-seagoing travelers to enjoy the highlights of the Galapagos Islands without compromising their comfort and need to be on solid land.
Our boat trips are combined with trekking, wildlife watching and snorkeling excursions. On most days you can leave your luggage in the hotel, so you’ll only have to carry a light day pack. For these treks, you don’t have to be in a superb physical condition, as our daily Galapagos Island Hopping Tours are not very demanding – though they still involve walking on rough volcanic ground. And note that all of our land-based island hopping tours are guided by experienced multilingual guides.
On your first afternoon, this well-crafted 5-day itinerary through the “Enchanted Islands” will bring you face-to-face with 150-year-old giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. Over the course of your stay, you will also visit the islands of Isabela, and Bartolome or North Seymour or Plazas Island, Santa Fe Island, where in store for you will be a unique natural environment that includes a host of endemic species – including a quarter of the archipelagos’ species of shore fish, half of the plants and almost all the island’s reptiles.
“I enjoyed the scenery and the exotic wildlife on the islands very much. The airport transfers in both directions went smoothly and the service on board was very good.”
In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel in Quito or Guayaquil (on the Ecuadorian mainland) and driven to the airport for your flight to the Baltra airport, in the Galapagos Islands.
Upon arrival at Baltra airport, you will travel by bus to the Itabaca Channel, followed by a 5-minute ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island, and then an hour’s drive to the town of Puerto Ayora. En route, we will stop at a Highlands reserve to see amazing Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. You will also have a chance to walk through lava tunnels before having lunch at a local restaurant.
We will reach Puerto Ayora in the afternoon, where you will check in at your selected hotel and still have plenty of free time to explore the town at your leisure. Later that evening there will be a welcome dinner for you at a local restaurant.
[To protect the fragile environment of the Galapagos Islands, the park administrators control the flow of visitors to the various islands. Consequently, just in case one site reaches is visitor limit for this day, therefore becoming unavailable for us to visit, we are proposing four alternative sites for day two.]
Option 1: BARTOLOME ISLAND*
A hot lunch and refreshments are provided back on the boat. After this, you will have a chance to go snorkeling in a small sandy cove in which you can try to keep up with the speedy Galapagos penguins there. Numerous varieties of colorful reef fish, green sea turtles and various rays are also often spotted around this snorkeling site. The best way to photograph the penguins, however, is during the ride in a “panga” (a small boat), which will take you close to the rocks and around Pinnacle Rock. It’s possible to get within 3 or 4 meters of the birds while they look on, seemingly uninterested in your fascination with them.
A light snack will be provided on the return trip to Baltra Channel, where the bus will drive you back to your hotel.
(*) Bartolome Island, situated just off the east coast of Santiago Island, is one of the younger islands in the archipelago. This island and Sullivan Bay (off Santiago Island) were named after the naturalist and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, who was a lieutenant on board the HMS Beagle. Though having a total land area of just 1.2 sq. km (300 acres), Bartolome Island offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the archipelago. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of glistening red, orange, green and black volcanic formations.
Option 2: SOUTH PLAZAS ISLAND*
(*) Plazas Islands consists of two small islands just off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island, though visitors can only visit the southern island.
Option 3: NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND*
At the conclusion of the land tour you will return to the boat for a hot lunch and refreshments, before travelling to Las Bachas Beach on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. Here you can go snorkeling or take a relaxing walk along the beach. While snorkeling, it’s possible to see many colorful types of reef fish, various rays, benign Whitetip reef sharks and Green turtles.
Returning to the Baltra Channel, the bus will then transport you back to your hotel.
(*) North Seymour Island — 1.9 sq. km. (470 acres) and located approximately 7 km north of Baltra Island — is the site of one of the largest and most active sea bird breeding colonies in the islands. It is a very dry island with no natural sources of water, leaving the animals (namely the land iguanas) to rely on the succulent flowers of the cactus plants for nourishment. Whatever time of year, there’s always some kind of courtship, mating, nesting or chick-rearing to observe.
Option 4: SANTA FE ISLAND
Santa Fe Island (its English name is Barrington Island) is a 24 sq. km. islet that lies about 20 km. southeast of Santa Cruz. Quite popular for day trips, there is good anchorage in the attractive bay on the north side of Santa Fe. A short 300-meter trail will take you to one of the tallest stands of opuntia cactus on the island to find more land iguanas. Other attractions include a sea lion colony, excellent snorkeling, marine iguanas and of course birds (Blue-footed boonies, Frigatebirds, Galapagos gulls).
After enjoying your included breakfast at your hotel, the morning adventure will start. We will go on a trip to Tortuga Bay, a white-sand beach stretching alongside natural emerald-green ponds filled with thousands of colorful fish. It’s also common to see turtles, marine iguanas and pelicans here.
After lunch, we will leave for Isabela Island by speed boat – a voyage of about 2 1/2 hours, depending on sea conditions. Upon our arrival, you will check in at your hotel and still have time to leisurely explore Puerto Villamil, the island’s principal town.
Following breakfast, we’ll head out for the Sierra Negra Volcano. After driving to the highlands of Isabela Island, we will start hiking up the volcano’s slopes to the edge of its crater. The Sierra Negra — reaching an altitude of around 1,500 meters, and having an outer diameter of approximately 9 kilometers — is the second largest lava dome in the world. We will hike along the cone to the resting place on the ridge’s northeast side.
We will have lunch at Campo Duro, which is a charming organic farm whose owners prepare their food with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Cooked on a lava-rock grill, you can enjoy a delicious lunch that will be followed by a walk through fruit tree trails. Or, you can opt to just take a nap in one of their hammocks and breathe the clean, pure air beneath a huge Mango tree.
In the afternoon, we will visit Las Tintoreras, taking a short boat trip across Isabela Island’s harbor. After passing the sea lions and pelicans that bathe in the sun on the fishing boats there, we will reach the small island of Las Tintoreras. Here, we will take an easy walk through the bizarre lava landscape with its huge colonies of marine iguanas. A colony of sea lions also live here and it’s common to see whitetip reef sharks resting in the water near the shore.
The views from here will be lasting memories that you’ll carry for the rest of your life! The treacherous black lava field, the emerald green sea, the red mangroves, and the cloud-capped volcanoes of Isabela Island create an afternoon backdrop you’re not likely to ever forget.
We will head out on an early morning departure (6:00 a.m.) to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, we will visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station. This center includes an information center, a museum, a library, and a tortoise breeding station. Park rangers and park managers — along with others who make tremendous efforts to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site — work here for the conservation of the islands. In the tortoise breeding center you can see tortoises of different subspecies that are being prepared for reintroduction into their natural habitats.
Enjoy your last look at these “enchanted islands,” a unique and wondrous paradise! You will then be accompanied to the Baltra airport for your return flight to Quito.
(*) Note: Depending on sea conditions and flight schedule departing from Baltra, the visit to Charles Darwin Station will be schedule for first or last day.
|2 Person(s)||Single Supplement|
|Luxury||US$ 3,008||US$ 1,177|
|First Class||US$ 2,540||US$ 795|
|Tourist||US$ 2,163||US$ 321|
|Santa Cruz||Villa Laguna||Sol y Mar||Finch Bay|
|Isabela||Albemarle||Casa de Marita||Iguana Crossing|
“My wife and I just completed a 5-day tour around the Cotopaxi volcano and the stunning Quilotoa loop – overall an excellent trip and wonderful experience.”