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Explore the two top Galapagos volcanic islands: Santa Cruz, and Isabela with their wild scenery. Begin this journey on Santa Cruz Island, where you will be able to observe the symbiosis between lava, endemic plants and animals.
Continue your adventure to Isabela, the iconic seahorse shaped island, where you will enjoy of the diverse and rich fauna of endemic and native species such as Penguins, Blue Footed Boobies, Marine Iguanas, Flamingos, Pelicans, Sally light foot crabs abound, and countless fascinating underwater creatures.
This adventure has been designed to optimize your time by diminishing unnecessary commuting between several islands and investing this time in a deeper and more adventurous exploration of these two islands, which have the very best Galápagos has to offer. Enjoy accessing these wild sites by snorkeling, kayaking, biking and more.
This tour is similar to Darwin’s Footprints (6 Days) with the addition of two extra days to visit Garrapatero Beach, Tortuga Bay and a Sugar Cane Mill & Farm (Santa Cruz).
Darwin’s Footprints (8 Days)
Day 1: Travel to Galapagos
Morning: Travel from mainland Ecuador to Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos.
Don’t forget to have your camera out. You will be in the Galapagos and you can see wildlife at any time. You don’t have to be on an excursion to spot some amazing Galapagos animals.
The adventure starts the moment you arrive at the airport on Baltra Island. Seymour Airport is the first ecological airport in the world.
The terminal was built in 2013 and uses solar panels to protect this fragile ecosystem.
After a very short bus ride, you will head to the Itabaca Channel, a small channel with clear blue waters which divides Baltra Island from Santa Cruz Island. During your five minute crossing, watch the water and you may see some sharks, sea lions and sea turtles.
Once on Santa Cruz, you’ll travel south across the Island to Aventura Lodge. During the 45 minute drive, you’ll experience a variety of micro climates. Watch the change from desert in the lowlands to tropical forest in the highlands. The highlands represent the agricultural resource of the island.
On the south side of the island, we will pass through Santa Rosa – a very small town inhabited by the local farmers. As we near the southern coast, the climate becomes drier and hotter until we arrive in Puerto Ayora. This is the main town on the Island and where Red Mangrove is located.
Welcome to the Galapagos!
Before lunch, you can relax on the deck of the Aventura Lodge and watch the sea lions and marine iguanas.
After lunch, you’ll take your first excursion to Los Gemelos (The Twins), two enormous collapsed lava chambers. This is a wonderful introduction to the majestic power of the forces of nature and the great biodiversity of the Santa Cruz Highlands. This short, easy hike to each of the twins is swarming with endemic flora and fauna. You’ll see a remnant of a Scalesia Forest, draped in liverwort, lichens and mosses. It’s easy to spot some Darwin finches and perhaps the short eared owls.
After Los Gemelos, a short bus ride will take you to a 600-acre private tortoise reserve. Here the giant Galapagos tortoises freely roam, graze and sleep. Sometimes it’s a bit muddy here, so before setting out, you can put on some rubber field boots (Wellington boots). We have a selection of sizes, including large sizes for men.
Walking among the giant tortoises in the wild may be one of the your most treasured moments.
After visiting these prehistoric creatures in their natural habitat, we’ll take a 5-minute ride to the entrance of a 450-meter (1350 feet) illuminated lava tunnel. With a ceiling nearly 20 feet high, this is an incredible opportunity see lava stalagmites, stalactites, sulfur, and mineral-colored walls. Even the rippled floor was formed by lava.
Ask for Le Carte Dinner (special price for our tour guests).
Day 2: Kayaking & Snorkeling (Travel from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Early in the morning If we have a good hide tide, we will begin the adventure from the hotel dock, otherwise from the municipal pier. In a water taxi we will sail for about 10 minutes to the German Beach, then take the kayaks, where we will begin to surround the mangroves home of pelicans, frigates, and blue footed boobies, then reach to Franklin Bay, where we will stop to observe sea turtles, mantarays, etc.
Then enter to the fascinating Love Tunnel, two natural cliffs made of volcanic rocks, where we can spot endemic plants and nesting birds.
We will have time for snorkeling activity at the German beach with high opportunity to swim with schools of fish, mantarays, sea turtles, etc.
After this, you will be scorted to Las Grietas a wonderful place to swim in cool and clear waters between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a “crack”
Lunch at Aventura Lodge and Navigation to Isabela (depending on the number of guests). The trip takes about two hours, and you may see marine life such as whales, dolphins, manta rays among others.
Upon arrival check in at the lodge and enjoy a welcome cocktail at our deck located in front of this white sand beach. Our Naturalist Guides will share with you features of their culture and the islands history.
Dinner, briefing and overnight at our Lodge.
Day 3: Isabela
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Early departure to Sierra Negra Volcano. We’ll head through the humid highlands of Isabela, to the slopes of Volcan Sierra Negra in local truck taxis. Sierra Negra is considered the second biggest active crater in the world. The size of the Sierra Negra Caldera is 7.2 x 9.3 km (4.5 x 5.8 miles).
We will hike about 800 meters to reach the rim of the caldera (crater) of Sierra Negra. The views are breathtaking. After hiking about 6 km along the caldera on an easy trail we’ll relax a bit and have a snack under a “Jaboncillo” tree.
If we feel strong enough we can continue to Volcan Chico, an otherworldly landscape with fumaroles and amazing lava formations. From here, the landscape is more than spectacular. (Total hike from the starting point to the Volcan Chico area is 8 kms).
Lunch at Campo Duro
Campo Duro is a beautiful farm, where the owners prepare delicious dishes with fruits and vegetables from their organic farm. The meal is grilled on lava rock. After lunch you can take a walk among the fruit trees on the farm. Or maybe you’ll choose to nap in a hammock while breathing the clean air and the smell of a mango tree.
In liaison with the Galapagos National Park, Campo Duro takes care of giant tortoises that roam freely in the farm.
Return to the lodge where you can enjoy swimming, simply relax at the beach in front of the hotel, or you can discover Isabela on your own.
Overnight at our Lodge.
Day 4: Isabela (Los Tuneles)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Breakfast at the Lodge and departure Los Tuneles. The boat ride will take about 45 minutes.
Along the ride, we will enjoy seeing the beautiful Galapagos wildlife such as giant mantas rays, sea turtles and more. We will make a short stop at Roca Union (pictured below) where we can see masked boobies, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea lions and occasionally a fur seal from the boat.
Los Tuneles is a breathtaking site formed by lava arches on the water. Tour the site by boat and go snorkeling. Experience close encounters with many species of fish, rays, sea turtles and perhaps the Galapagos penguins.
After this first snorkeling, we will continue discovering this labyrinth of lava arches and try a second snorkel.
Only here in Galapagos, you will have the chance to snorkel with penguins and sea lions in the same spot! (This activity and time schedule may change according to sea conditions).
Return to the lodge for lunch.
Enjoy the simplicity of this traditional island town and travel to the Flamingo area.
Visit the Galapagos National Park Isabela Breeding Station where you will be able to know the different specifies of Galapagos tortoises, the growing process from newborns up to centenary individuals found at this station.
After this visit hike along a beautiful boardwalk for about 45 minutes enjoying part of the Isabela wetlands, with high opportunities to see flamingos and other stunning seabirds.
Before returning to the lodge, visit the well known Playa del Amor (Love Beach) and enjoy the magical feeling of this organic sand beach surrounded by mangroves.
Time to relax and discover the town of Puerto Villamil on your own.
Dinner and overnight at our Lodge
Day 5: Isabela – Santa Cruz
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Departure to “Las Tintoreras” and Bay Tour. We will board a small craft to head out across the bay, slowing down to view blue-footed boobies and, perhaps Galapagos penguins.
Take an intriguing walk through a jagged lava field, passing abundant colonies of nesting marine iguanas and sea lions, to see a small canal of shallow waters full of resting white-tipped reef sharks.
The views from here are something you will take with you for the rest of your life! The black, treacherous lava field, the emerald green sea, the green mangroves, and the cloud-capped volcanoes of Isabela, create an afternoon backdrop you are not likely to ever forget.
Once you finish the walk, you can snorkel in this warm, shallow bay surrounded by mangroves, for an opportunity to see white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, and, of course, the mystery of the mangrove below the surface.
Don’t worry, white-tipped reef sharks are not aggressive.
Back to the lodge for lunch.
Depart to Santa Cruz. Our navigation will take about 2 to 2.30 hours depending on sea conditions.
Day 6: Santa Cruz
After breakfast, you’ll head to Garrapatero Beach, a 25-minute bus ride to the beach entrance. After a 15-minute hike along an easy trail, you’ll arrive at the beach. This beautiful white sandy beach is known for finches – and is a place where you can relax and enjoy the surroundings.
This is one of the most peaceful and calm places on the island. The 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of sand on Garrapatero Beach is a tropical paradise. It’s about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) northeast of Puerto Ayora.
Return to the lodge for lunch.
Enjoy a guided tour to the fascinating Charles Darwin Research Station where you can learn about one of the most successful reptile breeding programs.
Day 7: Santa Cruz
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Escorted Tour to Tortuga Bay. Take a walk to Tortuga Bay, through a path that merges with a giant Opuntia and Candelabra cactus forest, home to numerous Darwin finches, mockingbirds, yellow warblers, lava lizards and many more of the Galapagos endemic and native species.
As you enter the white sandy beach, you will have a chance to observe different marine species, like sting rays and baby reef sharks in the shallow waters of the mangrove ecosystems. After swimming on the beach, take a very short hike to the marine iguana nesting site. The walk back is through a prickly pear forest carpeted in crimson sesuvium with black lava outcroppings, this area is home to more marine iguana colonies.
Short boat ride to the Lodge.
After lunch, we will take you to the highlands of Santa Cruz for an encounter with a cultural site full of tradition and history.
We will begin the journey with a ride through the towns of Santa Rosa and Bella Vista on our way to The Trapiche Sugar Cane Mill & Farm. Upon arrival, we will be greeted by the owner and founder of this farm famous for its coffee and sugar. We will be briefed about the tour by the owner who will speak and guide in Spanish (and will being translated for everyone.)
The visit will begin first with a description and demonstration of how the rudimentary sugar mill works and how it is used to extract the sugar cane nectar. Free sample of coffee beans with cheese and sugar cane honey (obtained after processing the nectar at high temperatures.)
Our next stop will be at the sugar cane liquor distillery partially composed of World War II purified cylinders pieces that were left behind years ago in the islands. At the end you will enjoy complimentary shots of this famous sugar cane liquor served with tangerine and oranges as is the tradition of the owner.
Day 8: Depart for Quito or Guayaquil (Mainland Ecuador)
Breakfast included. Early departure from Santa Cruz, for your flight to mainland. Ask for transfer detail and rates.
|Accommodation||Single / Person||Double / Person||Triple / Person|
|Suite – Ocean View||$ 5.299||$ 4.199||$ 3.999|
|Superior||$ 4.799||$ 3.869||$ 3.649|
|Standard – Mangrove View||$ 4.299||$ 3.499||$ 3.299|
- Included: Accommodations in the Red Mangrove Lodges. All meals as listed (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), soft drinks during meals. Guided tours as listed, Inter island transportation. All diving and snorkel gear, bilingual Galapagos naturalist guide, 10% Service Charge as per Ecuadorian Law. Free use of bikes.
- Not included: Flights to and from Galapagos, entrance fee to Galapagos National Park ($100 USD must be paid in cash in Galapagos airport), Galapagos transit card ($10 USD (must be paid in cash in mainland airport), tips, alcoholic beverages.
Note: This itinerary is subject to change without notice due to seasonal changes, weather conditions, and Galapagos National Park regulations.
- DAY 1: Walk among giant tortoises at a private reserve, and explore amazing lava tunnels and Los Gemelos. Santa Cruz (L)
- DAY 2: Kayaking and snorkeling at the Itabaca Channel. Santa Cruz navigation to Isabela (B,L,D)
- DAY 3: Hike to Sierra Negra Volcano, lunch at Campo Duro. Isabela (B,L,D)
- DAY 4: Tour to “Los Tuneles”: A series of lava flows that forms amazing formations of arches and tunnels both under and above water. “Finados”: snorkel between mangroves and lava, where you may see, sharks, sea turtles and even seahorses! Isabela (B,L,D)
- DAY 5: Visit Tintoreras walking among iguanas and seeing white-tipped reef sharks. (Isabela). Navigation to Santa Cruz (B,L,D)
- DAY 6: Escorted tour to Garrapatero sandy beach surrounded by mangroves home to herons, stilts and other shore birds. Visit Charles Darwin Research Station. Santa Cruz (B,L,D)
- DAY 7: Take a walk to Tortuga Bay, through Opuntia and Candelabra cactus forest, watching Darwin Finches, Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Lava Lizards. Relax on a white sandy beach and observe baby reef sharks and marine iguanas. Visit Trapiche and get to know the rudimentary sugar cane mill and distillery. Santa Cruz (B,L,D)
- DAY 8: Early departure to your flight back to mainland. (B.)
(Ask for private transfer details)