A cruise on this luxurious 16-passenger Galapagos Islands cruiser is a bit like staying in a boutique hotel, but with ever-changing scenery and mesmerizing wildlife just off the deck. The 141-foot luxury Integrity motor yacht was designed with painstaking attention to detail and has been spotlessly maintained. On this 8-day/7-night Galapagos luxury cruise you will swim and snorkel among some of the richest marine life on the planet. On land, you will find yourself transfixed by the wealth of prehistoric reptiles and exotic birdlife. As you cruise on board the Integrity Motor Vessel, a 16-passenger luxury yacht, you will travel from one spectacular Galapagos island to the next while reveling in all the creature comforts you could hope to find. This Galapagos Islands cruise, dubbed the “Western Route,” will take you to the archipelago’s amazing central, western and southern islands, including scenic Floreana Island in the south.
“I had a great trip with the liveabord at Agressor II, everything was just perfect, the boat, the trip, the team and the dives. I would like to thank for all the support from Surtrek team.”
AM: In the morning, you will fly from the Ecuadorian mainland to Baltra Island. Upon your arrival at the airport, you will pay the national park entrance fee, which help support the protection of Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve. A member of the crew will then welcome you and escort you to the ship: the Integrity motor yacht.
PM: This afternoon we will visit the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where the lush landscape is a welcome contrast to the arid scenery of the smaller, lower islands. On the way, we will cross through different vegetation zones – from the dry lower region full of cactuses, to the scalesia woods in the Highlands. There one can find two small agricultural communities that grow the famous organic Galapagos coffee.
While in the highlands, we will head for one of the most visited spots in the islands. Located on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is primarily an international scientific research station situated on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. You will be taken to its visitor center to learn about the geology, climate, natural history and the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. However, the highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles can live up to 150- 200 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. Approaching them in their humid and forested spaces is always an inspiring adventure. For decades, the Fausto Center was home to “Lonesome George,” who finally died in 2012 as the last of his particular species. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to humans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them. Remember that looking at the animals is allowed, but touching is not; and it’s absolutely forbidden to jump over the walls or open the pen doors at any time.
AM: Today we will visit Floreana Island, considered to be one of the most exotic in the Galapagos archipelago. Countless legends are part of the history of this island, as pirates and buccaneers were drawn to here in search of for food and water. Later the island was colonized by Norwegians, Brits, Germans and others who were in search of ways to make money from what they hoped to discover here. The name Floreana is in honor of Juan Jose Flores, Ecuador’s first president.
This morning’s excursion on Floreana will be to the Cormorant Point visitor site. After a wet landing on the beach, you will go down a 100-meter-long path to a mangrove lagoon. The lagoon is home to Galapagos ducks, black herons, oystercatchers, and plovers. With a little bit of luck, you can also see flamingos. Another path leads to a little beach which is an important nesting site for sea turtles and in the shallow water you will often find stingrays and, now and then, a white-tipped reef shark.
The next spot is Champion Islet. Though the island itself is off limits to visitors, the waters around this small landmass are great places to snorkel with sea lions and to see colorful tropical fish. Occasionally, dolphins are sighted as boats approach the shore, and the cool currents here make Champion an excellent site for spotting schools of stingrays.
PM: Later we will visit Post Office Bay, where the legendary post barrel that whalers historically used to put their mail in is still kept. After a wet landing, you can walk just off the beach to leave a letter here in hopes that it will make to its destination via another tourist. …So don’t forget to bring postcards along. Next we will visit the Asilo de la Paz (“The Haven of Peace”), which is hillside and the cave where the pioneering Wittmer family first settled. In fact, the first person born in the Galapagos Islands was Rolf Wittmer. Your guide will tell you more all about this family and the island’s history of tragedies, colonization and fascinating events. From there, we will visit a fresh-water source and a deserted pirate cave. You will also be able to enjoy the fantastic view of the island from this 450-meter-high hill. We will visit Playa Negra, meaning “Black Beach,” which has dark lava rocks and black sand. This famous and beautiful Galapagos beach stands out for its surprising colony of seals, though amazing sea turtles also come here to lay their eggs. You will have the opportunity to go snorkeling. The beach is also a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts.
AM: This morning will take us to the largest landmass in the Galapagos archipelago: Isabela Island. With a surface of 1,770 sq. miles (4,588 sq. km.), the island constitutes more than the half of the land area of the entire Galapagos archipelago – which is why it has the most visitor points in the islands. Five volcanoes are found on Isabela, including the archipelago’s highest: Wolf Volcano, reaching 1,707 m (5,600 ft.). In addition, Isabela is the only island in the Galapagos that is actually crossed by the Equator.
On Isabela Island, we will first explore Moreno Point, a young volcanic landscape with numerous fresh-water pools and lagoons. You will be able to see flamingos, Bahama ducks and other birds here.
PM: This afternoon we will head to the mangrove area of Elizabeth Bay, on Isabela Island, and visit the small islands offshore. You are likely to see dwarf penguins as well as schools of manta rays, turtles and other giants of the ocean – possibly even surfacing whale sharks. The mangrove woods are also home to various species of seabirds and herons.
AM: After breakfast, we will make a wet landing in Urbina Bay. Coral reefs are visible here as a result of an especially violent eruption of the Alcedo Volcano in 1954, when large sections of Isabela Island’s coast were suddenly raised about four meters. These reefs are now covered with poison apple and muyuyo trees. You can also observe land iguanas and the rare Mangrove finch up close here. From January to June, land turtles occasionally visit the bay, descending from their higher mountain living environments. After a short walk inland, we will have some time for snorkeling, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish.
PM: Fernandina Island is not only the westernmost island, but also the youngest and most pristine island in the Galapagos. Huge fields of lava were created here by the La Cumbre Volcano’s 2005 eruption, which was followed on April 11, 2009 when the volcano flared up again, forming a cloud of ash and steam as hot lava flowed down the slopes of the volcano into the ocean. Nonetheless, an abundance of wildlife call this island home, including the famous Flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans, marine iguanas and sea lions. You can also find mangroves on Fernandina Island, in addition to a great diversity of wildlife – such as orcas and whale sharks (which can sometimes be seen while snorkeling and when they surface).
We will make a dry landing on Espinoza Point, one of Fernandina Island’s visitor points. It is filled with fascinating scenery, such as cactuses growing on the surface of lava. One gets a sense of how life fought to begin when seeing these plants emerging from crevices in this barren landscape. Within this unique scenery you will encounter numerous animals – the highlights being sea lions, Galapagos penguins, Flightless cormorants (especially in the spring and summer), and one of the largest iguana colonies in the Galapagos Islands. In fact, on this small strip of land that constitutes Espinoza Point, you can find literally thousands of marine iguanas, which gather in large groups.
AM: After a dry landing back on Isabela Island, we will visit the notorious Tagus Cove, which was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers, and whalers. Around the deep blue bay you can observe a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns, and swallow-tailed gulls. A steep trail passes through an area of dry vegetation and volcanic landscapes with scalesia woods and cactuses.
PM: Located at the “mouth” of the head of the sea horse that forms the northern part of Isabela Island is Punta Vicente Roca, an interesting rock formation. Here, the remnants of an ancient volcano form two turquoise coves with a bay well-protected from the ocean swells. With a bit of luck you can see penguins. Masked and blue-footed boobies as well as pelicans sit perched along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline.
AM: In the morning you will land at Santiago Island, also known as James Island or San Salvador Island, the fourth largest island in the archipelago. The influences of the former salt mine workers and their imported animals are still apparent on the island. The last attempts to populate Santiago Island were given up on forty years ago. On Santiago Island, you will have a wet landing at the dark sand beach of Puerto Egas where you can find many marine iguanas. After a short walk of about 2 km along the coast, you will reach the rugged lava coastline with natural pools where you can find sea lions, herons, and other sea birds. The surrounding area is also a good spot for observing colonies of red sally light-foot crabs, lava lizards, Galapagos buzzards, and lava herons. Next we will go on an excursion to the Salt Mines visitor site, located northwest of Santiago Island. For decades, salt was extracted from a local salt crater. However, this industry was abandoned in the 1950’s, leaving behind a variety of old rusted machines and the remnants of buildings. The trail to and from this site — approximately five miles (eight kilometers) round trip — follows the path that was once used by wagon trains to the crater’s cone. Bird lovers will be delighted with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Darwin’s finches, endemic Galapagos hawks and colorful Vermillion flycatchers. Despite the easy terrain, the walk can be a bit strenuous due to the blazing sun.
PM: In the afternoon we will head for Espumilla Beach, where marine iguanas relax and sea turtles nest. While snorkeling, you might find octopuses, morays, and many other tropical fish. There is also a Palo Santo forest close to this beach.
Later we will go to Buccaneer Cove, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was a shelter for pirates, whalers, and sailors. The bay is surrounded by high tuff clips where many sea birds nest. In the cliffs you can try to find the two rock formations which look like a monkey and an elephant.
AM: This morning is reserved for Black Turtle Cove, a nesting site for sea turtles. There are many mangrove forests here as well. With luck, you can see different types of sharks in the calm water, such as the white-tipped reef shark, or schools of golden mustard rays.
From there we will head for the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where you will visit the long and sandy Bachas Beach, one of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles. Here you can find flamingos, black-winged stilts, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, and, with a little bit of luck, penguins. You will also have the opportunity to swim at this soft white sand beach. Snorkeling enthusiasts can explore the fascinating underwater world as well.
PM: After a dry landing on North Seymour Island, we will take a short walk along the coast. Here you will encounter swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, and cliff crabs. This part of Seymour Island is also known for being a major nesting site for blue-footed boobies and the largest colony of the magnificent frigate bird, a species different from the great frigate bird. You can also spot both endemic species of iguanas: marine iguanas and land iguanas. You will enjoy this relaxing hike around the nesting sites. Aboard the Integrity, we will celebrate our last night together.
AM: Have breakfast on board the Integrity, then disembark on Baltra Island for your international flight home.
“The trip was excellent from beginning to end. The Isabella II was a fine ship and the crew and guides were all of the highest quality. I would recommend them to others. For us, the ship was the perfect size – not too small and not too large”