One of the larger 16-passenger yachts in the Galapagos, the San Jose can guarantee an intimate and very exclusive experience in a comfortable way. San Jose’s design has left ample room on its sun and shaded decks with lounge chairs. There, you can privately enjoy your company, read a book, feel the sea breeze and marvel at the panoramic views. On this 8-day/7-night Galapagos tour, you will cruise on board the San Jose motor yacht between spectacular islands of the Galapagos archipelago. On this Galapagos tour, the spacious 16-passenger San Jose motor vessel will take you from the Galapagos’ central islands to its remote western islands, where you will encounter strange and wonderful bird and animal species perfectly adapted to the unique conditions of this archipelago. On Isabela Island, you are likely to find giant tortoises rubbing shoulders with marine iguanas; while on Santa Cruz Island, playful penguins and sea lions have no reason to fear the humans who are enjoying their Galapagos vacations.
“Everything went off without a hitch. Accomodation was just what we wanted. Clean, great location and within our budget. The dive master was great. ”
AM: In the morning, you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil (on the Ecuadorian mainland) to Baltra Island, in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago and the main point of entrance to this natural paradise. Upon your arrival at the airport, you will need to pay the national park entry fee, which goes to protecting both the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve. A member of your ship's crew will then welcome and accompany you to your yacht: the M/Y San Jose.
PM: This afternoon we will arrive on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where we will visit the long and sandy Bachas Beach, one of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles. Here you can also find flamingos, Black-winged stilts, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, and — with a little bit of luck — tiny Galapagos penguins. In addition, this beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs 3 or 4 times with an average of 70 eggs each, but they then spend 3 to 5 years without breeding. At this paradisiacal site, we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago; these were once property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II. In fact, the beach got its name because the English word “barges” was hard to pronounce for the local people – hence “Bachas” Beach. You will also have the opportunity to swim on this soft white sand beach or explore the fascinating underwater by snorkeling.
AM: In the morning we will take a short boat trip across the harbor of Isabela Island. After passing sea lions and pelicans that bathe in the sun on the fishing boats there, we will reach the small island of Tintoreras, where we will take an easy walk through the bizarre lava landscape with its huge colonies of marine iguanas. A colony of sea lions is also located here, and it’s common to see Whitetip reef sharks resting in the water near the shore. These sharks are called “tintoreras” in Spanish, giving the island its name.
Afterwards, we will visit the wetlands of Isabela Island. With some luck, you will be able to see pink flamingos in the lagoons. We will also enter lava tunnels, which are quite popular among the marine iguanas here.
PM: After lunch, we will drive to the “Wall of Tears,” one of the most touching human-built monuments in the Galapagos. This huge stone mound (8 meters high and around 200 meters long) was built in the 1940s and ‘50s by prisoners of a penal colony that operated here from 1946 to 1959.
Next, we will visit Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center, which is home to about 330 of these creatures. As the center is located only about a mile (1.5 km) from Puerto Villamil, you can either walk or drive to it. There, you can find a number of tortoise species that have been reproduced in captivity, with a few of them being in danger of extinction. In addition to tortoises, there are also beautiful gardens in which you can stroll around. These hold native plants such as manzanillo, mesquite, prickly pears and palo santos. Since there are wasps in the area, make sure you don’t wear bright-colored clothes, as these attract those insects.
AM: In the morning we will 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 for Punta Mangle, located on the southeastern coast of Fernandina Island and constituting one of the best snorkeling spots in the islands. While snorkeling here, you will be sure to meet sea lions and tiny Galapagos penguins. Returning to Isabela Island, our next stop will the notorious Tagus Cove, which was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers and whalers. Still exiting here is some graffiti that is believed to have been left by 19th-century pirates …a curious reminder of an intriguing past. Perched on the ledges of the cliffs around this deep blue bay, you can observe a large number of Blue-footed boobies, as well as marine iguanas, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns, swallow-tailed gulls and tiny Galapagos penguins (members of the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator). A steep trail also passes through an area of dry vegetation and volcanic landscapes with scalesia woods and cactuses.
AM: 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). Today 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.
PM: This afternoon, we will head to the “mouth” of the head of the sea horse that forms the northern part of Isabela Island: Punta Vicente Roca, an interesting rock formation. Here, the remnants of an ancient volcano form two turquoise coves, with a bay that’s well-protected from the ocean swells. With a bit of luck you can see Galapagos penguins, while Masked- and Blue-footed boobies, as well as pelicans, sit perched along the point and its sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline. The upwelling of currents of cool water in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life, which makes Punta Vicente Roca a great area for deep-water snorkeling.
AM: In the morning we will land on the fourth largest island in the Galapagos: Santiago Island, also known as “James Island” or “San Salvador Island.” The old rusted machines and run-down buildings of former salt mine workers are still apparent on the island, though the last attempts to populate Santiago Island were given up on forty years ago. On our first stop, we will visit Santiago Island’s Espumilla Beach, where marine iguanas relax and sea turtles nest. While snorkeling, you might come upon octopuses, morays and many types of tropical fish. There is also a Palo Santo forest close to this beach.
PM: From there 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 cliffs where many sea-bird nest. In the cliffs, you can try to find two rock formations that look like a monkey and an elephant.
Later this afternoon, we will make a wet landing onto Santiago’s Puerto Egas beach. Its black volcanic sand was visited by Darwin in 1835 and still maintaining an abundance of marine iguanas. After a short walk of about 2 km along the coast, we will reach the rugged lava coastline of James Bay. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago’s shores is home to a variety of resident and migrant birds, including the bizarre Yellow-crowned Night heron and an astounding array of marine wildlife – including lobsters, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally Light-foot Crabs. Colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water pools formed by volcanic rocks are another highlight.
AM: In the afternoon we will take a trip to the dark-rust-colored beach of the small, volcanic Rabida Island. A short path leads to a small lagoon that is popular among flamingos. This beach is one of the most beautiful snorkeling places in the Galapagos Islands and it has a great abundance of tropical fish and sea lions. Rabida Island is also the only site where Batfish live.
PM: We will make a wet landing on Chinese Hat Island, located southeast of Santiago Island. Its name describes the shape of the island, which you will be able to discern from a distance. This island’s landscapes are dominated by volcanic formations and fragile lava tubes. Because of this, it’s very important to stay on the paths. You will encounter a small colony of sea lions and then proceed to hike through this dark, unyielding island of solid rock.
AM: This morning 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 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.
PM: We will then 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.
AM: After a dry landing onto North Seymour Island, we will take a short walk along its coast, where 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 one of the largest colonies of Magnificent frigatebirds (a species different from the Great frigatebird). As you enjoy this relaxing hike around various nesting sites, you can also spot both of the endemic species of iguanas: marine iguanas and land iguanas.
PM: Concluding this amazing experience in the Galapagos Islands, you will be transferred to the Baltra Island airport for your return flight to the Ecuadorian mainland. Enjoy your last look back at the “enchanted islands,” a unique paradise with inspiring natural wonders.
“Everything about Surtrek was amazing. The hotels, the food, the tours. Everything exceeded our expectations. I cannot recommend Surtrek highly enough!”