The evolutionary story of the Galapagos Islands has been told many times but only through personal experience on these isolated islands can one truly appreciate the impressive forces that shape nature here and around the globe. Embark on the most in-depth itinerary currently possible to explore this tropical, volcanic archipelago rich in charismatic wildlife unafraid of you or your camera. This very special expedition caters to photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, delivering maximum time in the field with early and late landings to take advantage of the best conditions for photography. With our expert resident guides, you will discover the islands' famous reptiles, endemic land birds, breeding boobies, albatross, penguins, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and much more through many landings and snorkeling opportunities. Our guides and the Captain and crew of the Samba are environmentally and socially responsible and are devoted to making your journey the trip of a lifetime, whether this is your first or twenty-first time visiting The Enchanted Isles.
Cost: $6,300 to $6,900 per person, double occupancy, depending on cabin choice. Not including airfare. Review cost details.
Boat: The Samba, 14-passenger yacht.
Leader: Juan Manuel Salcedo and assistant guide.
Participants: 14 participants with two leaders for maximum flexibility.
Conditions: A non-smoking safari for people who are very interested in all wildlife and spending the maximum time in the field.
Update: This itinerary was updated in October 2012.
Note: All routings and visitor sites in the Galapagos Islands are subject to change by the Galapagos National Park Service in an attempt to minimize traffic and impact on all visitor sites.
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May 19, Sunday: Flights to Quito (or optional day trip to Yanacocha if arriving early)
May 20, Monday: Free day to enjoy the city of Quito or optional city tour
May 21, Tuesday: Flight to Galápagos, embarkation and first landing at Bachas on Isla Santa Cruz
After introductions, lunch, and a safety briefing, we'll make our first landing at Bachas, a lovely white sand beach on nearby Santa Cruz Island. Here we will have our first introduction to the fearless wildlife of the Galapagos. Mangrove lagoons behind the beach may delight us with flamingos and shorebirds and we are likely to enjoy a glorious sunset. Once back on board, we will be served a welcome cocktail and meet all the members of this very friendly, professional crew, including the Captain, first mate, engineer, chef, and sailors.
The chef on the Samba serves excellent international cuisine and is happy to prepare special dishes to fulfill dietary requests (with advance notice). The majority of the food on board is organic and grown locally. The beef is from Santa Cruz Island, the poultry and pork from Floreana, and fish is specially provisioned from carefully chosen fisherman known to the Salcedo family who own the Samba. Given the endangered status of the Galapagos Islands, it is very important to buy from fishermen with responsible fishing techniques.
This evening, we will travel to Genovesa in the outer archipelago. Before dark, it's possible to view marine mammals and seabirds from the open deck. After dark, look for phosphorescence from ctenophores (comb jellies) and other plankton on the surface of the water. If you are lucky, you may even see these tiny invertebrates glowing on dolphins as they bow-ride with the boat after dark.
May 22, Wednesday: Isla Genovesa (Tower): Darwin Bay and Prince Phillip's Steps
Snorkeling in the Galapagos is a very enjoyable experience with many beautiful species of tropical fish to discover along with the chance of seeing sea turtles and rays. This is a great place for the first snorkel of the trip in the calm caldera waters of Darwin Bay. Juan Manuel will assist you in the techniques of snorkeling if you have not yet tried this wonderful sport, which we equate to "birding underwater."
The grand finale of this very special day at remote Genovesa is a landing at the small beach in Darwin Bay. Genovesa's four species of Darwin's finches – the Large Ground Finch, Large Cactus Finch, Small-beaked Ground Finch, and Warbler Finch – show huge variation in bill size. All four species can be found here at this landing, making it one of the two most outstanding sites that we will visit for Darwin's finches (the other being the Highlands of Santa Cruz). Noted evolutionary biologist Rosemary Grant has done much of her research on Darwin's finches here at Darwin Bay. Also here, boobies and Great Frigatebirds nest with unparalleled density. Following the cliff edge, we will find ourselves in a flyway for incoming boobies and frigatebirds, an ideal opportunity for photographing these incredible birds in flight. They are ceaseless with aerial displays of kleptoparasitism as they "dog-fight" along the cliffs for scarce nesting material. Unlike boats with shorter itineraries, we'll have the luxury of spending the night anchored at Genovesa and will travel west to nearby Marchena early the next morning.
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May 23, Thursday: Isla Marchena: Snorkeling at Punta Mejia and Playa Negra
May 24, Friday: Isla Isabela: Punta Albermarle and Punta Vicente Roca
The northwest tip of Isabela, called Punta Vicente Roca, sits at the edge of a sharp drop into deep, nutrient rich waters. While cruising Punta Vicente Roca, we may see Galapagos Penguins, Brown Noddies, Sea Turtles, Marine Iguanas, and Blue-footed and Nazca boobies. We will also be on the lookout for marine mammals and the unique and gigantic Sunfish (Mola mola). From here to Fernandina, we will again keep our eyes out for whales as this is an excellent place to see them due to the cold, deep water on the western side of the archipelago. These deep waters offer the chance to see Orcas, Pilot Whales, and larger species such as Sperm Whales. A study by Hal Whitehead, with the help of World Wildlife Fund, found Sperm Whales particularly abundant in an area 250 km long and 150 km wide west of Isabela Island where the subsurface Cromwell Current, traveling eastward along the Equator, meets land. It is likely that the whales find high densities of squid (their favorite food) in this region. Whitehead found that, like elephants, male Sperm Whales roam between female/calf groups, instead of one male dominating a harem.
May 25, Saturday: Isla Fernandina: Punta Espinoza, Isla Isabela: Urvina Bay
We cross back to Isabela for a very interesting landing at Urvina Bay this afternoon. In 1954, a portion of the coast of Isabela lifted out of the sea so suddenly that fish and even a sea turtle were trapped literally high and dry on a freshly changed coastline. We will explore this unusual site at Urvina Bay at the foot of Volcán Alcedo. Along our walk, we will find rocks full of bleached shells and massive coral heads now far from the sea. Large iguanas of both species, land and marine, live here as well as a few Giant Tortoises, the species for which the Galapagos Islands were named. At Urvina Bay, we will be snorkeling in some of the coldest water of the trip, but there is also great potential for discovery in these rich waters.
May 26, Sunday: Isla Isabela: Elizabeth Bay and Punta Moreno
May 27, Monday: Floreana: Asilo de la Paz, Cerro Alieri, La Lobería
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May 28, Tuesday: Isla Santa Cruz: Highlands, Los Gemelos, and Charles Darwin Research Station
We return to Puerto Ayora in the afternoon for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of evolutionary science and conservation in the Galápagos. Our visit to the station will include the opportunity to see the resident tortoises and enjoy an intimate look at the captive breeding programs that are designed to return the Galápagos to a more pristine, pre-colonization state. This will be one of our best opportunities to photograph tortoises up close. Tonight we will travel back south for more of beautiful Floreana.
May 29, Wednesday: Isla Floreana: Punta Cormorant and Post Office Bay
May 30, Thursday: Isla Española (Hood): Punta Suárez with Waved Albatross, Gardner Bay
For the afternoon, we sail east to Gardner Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Galapagos. A nearby snorkel is likely to find us in the water with playful sea lions, a great diversion before time on the beach. Galapagos Sea Lions populate the surf while the remarkably brave Espanola Mockingbird has been known to peck at shoelaces. Enjoy photographing shorebirds and sea lions, looking for the Large Cactus Finch (which looks very different from the subspecies on Genovesa), or just walking along the beautiful beach.
May 31, Friday: Isla de San Cristobal: Isla Lobos, Kicker Rock, and Punta Pitt
June 1, Saturday: Isla Santa Fe: Barrington Bay, Isla Plaza Sur
The small yet incredible island of South Plaza is our afternoon destination. This is a beautiful island with abundant Land and Marine iguanas, enough of each that there are often a few hybrids near the shore. The landscape is colorful with a red and green ground cover of Portulaca, sometimes sprouting yellow flowers that the iguanas enjoy dining on. In the Tree Opuntia we can compare the Cactus Finch alongside Small and Medium ground finches, stars of the excellent book, The Beak of the Finch, the story of modern-day Darwinian evolution as deciphered by pioneers Rosemary and Peter Grant. At the top of the island we come to a cliff where bachelor sea lions escape from the competition of stronger males and Red-billed Tropicbirds fly gracefully by, circling again and again before slipping into their cliff-side nest holds at our feet. This evening we travel along the northeast coast of Santa Cruz and Baltra then head west to Santiago.
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June 2, Sunday: Isla Santiago: Sullivan Bay, Isla Bartolomé
Right across from Sullivan Bay is the small island of Bartolomé. This afternoon, we will climb the boardwalk trail and steps to the summit (360 feet) for a gorgeous, iconic view of Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding bays. Then a wet landing puts us on a beach for a short walk through mangroves and dune vegetation. Near Pinnacle Rock, Galápagos Penguins are often present in small numbers. Our snorkel here gives us a decent chance to snorkel with the penguins (or near them at least), and maybe even harmless, but exciting, White-tipped Sharks. Also enjoy colorful starfish, tropical fish, and amazing underwater lava formations. We'll have a short navigation tonight to the island of Rábida on the south side of Santiago.
June 3, Monday: Isla Santiago: James Bay, Isla Rábida
In the afternoon we'll head to the south side of Santiago and the nearby islet of Rábida. The beaches on Rábida are a beautiful deep ochre red, creating a striking landscape for the wonderful flora and fauna found here. Sea lions playing in the surf make for splendid photo subjects against the red sand in the late afternoon light. Tonight we head back east to North Seymour, just off the northern tip of Baltra (also known as Seymour Island). Sadly, this will be our final evening onboard the Samba.
June 4, Tuesday: Isla Seymour Norte, Isla Baltra, flights to Quito
We must reluctantly depart for Baltra and bid farewell to the Samba and its crew. Juan Manuel will escort you to the Baltra airport for your return flight to Quito. After arriving back on the mainland in the late afternoon, there will be time to check in and freshen up before heading to the farewell dinner together, in celebration of our wonderful exploration of Las Islas Encantadas.
June 5, Wednesday: Flights homeward
Yacht: The Samba is the perfect choice to experience the mystical isolation that shaped the life of the Galapagos Islands. This sturdy, stately, and very comfortable motor yacht is a true European Dutch classic and best in her class. A great ocean-going vessel with her specially designed high bow, she provides safe crossings and boasts a special stabilizing sail. Her main salon and aft dining facilities make her socially versatile while top-side settees and a flush and ample forward deck provide great getaways or extra space for group activities such as stargazing, whale watching, or simply sunbathing. The Samba accommodates 14 guests, a perfect number to enjoy the magic of the islands with privacy and flexibility. The professional, experienced, and friendly crew are committed to redefining your idea of quality of experience and excellence of service. The Samba is a graceful, top-quality craft and the crew take great care to make everything environmentally friendly as well as socially responsible. She is locally owned and all the crew members are from the Galapagos. Accommodations include six air-conditioned double cabins and one exterior double bed cabin, all with private bathrooms and hot water. Additional ship information, photos, and deck plan are available on our website or by mail upon request. View the deck plan and more details.
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Costs, Payments and Cancellations: All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form, we will send trip materials with additional information to help you prepare for your safari. Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person. This fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date. There are no refunds given after the Final Payment due date. If you are a single traveler and desire so, we will find a roommate for you: if we cannot find a roommate we may have to charge you the single supplement fee. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation and in the exchange rate. All costs are in US$.
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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us (there are many methods of contacting us) to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.
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Leader: Juan Manuel Salcedo was born in the Galapagos Islands. He grew up in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, living and learning in the outdoor evolutionary lab of the Galapagos. Outside of school, Juan spent time sailing on his father's boat where he developed his love and passion for observing and interpreting the wildlife of the archipelago. He moved to Quito to finish high school and begin his academic studies. Juan Manuel spent a year in Los Angeles studying sailing and navigation to gain a skipper certificate. Through all of his experiences, Juan has maintained and nourished his love and passion for the world around him. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of San Francisco, Quito where he studied Applied Ecology with minor degrees in Biology and Geology. He has been involved in Environmental Education projects with several non-governmental organizations in the Galapagos Islands and on mainland Ecuador. Juan is pleased to be able to offer the most in-depth voyages possible in the Galapagos on board his own boat, the Samba.
Flight Information: Please let us know if you would like help arranging your international flights and we will put you in contact with our excellent ticketing agent. Airport transfers are included on July 28 and August 14 only. Please contact us if you would like to arrive earlier or stay later. We will be happy to arrange your separate airport transfer and book extra nights at the El Relicario del Carmen (not included and subject to availability), unless you prefer to make your own arrangements.
Arrival: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador (UIO) no later than the evening of May 19. Most international flights to Quito arrive in the evening. (If arriving early for Yanacocha trip, please book early arrival on May 18 to be prepared for early departure to Yanacocha the next morning.)
Departure: Depart from Quito (UIO) the morning of June 5.
Domestic: The round-trip flights on TAME from Quito to the Galápagos will be arranged by Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris. The cost of this round-trip booking will be added to your final balance.
Climate: There are basically two seasons in the Galápagos. From January to roughly mid-May is the wet/warm season, with June to December being the dry/cooler season. Late May is the transition between the two seasons, so it will be a bit cooler than even earlier in May and less chance of rain (although, even earlier in the year, the showers are usually brief). In late May, daytime highs tend to be in the 80's °F (around 27-32°C) and nighttime lows are low to mid-60's (15-18°C). The water temperature averages between 70 and 74°F (21-23°C). The change of seasons is primarily due to the southern trade winds bringing the colder Humboldt Current north to the Galápagos and with it excellent snorkeling conditions, more cetaceans and more activity among the sea birds. Breeding activity of land animals is increased in the spring due to the plant growth from the wet season. Courtship of several species, including the Waved Albatross and Great Frigatebird, are best in April and May, with late May being a good time to see both courtship and possibly a few chicks. Sea Lion pups are also just reaching their most playful stages in spring and early summer.
Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is optional, but encouraged, for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.
Seasickness: Don't let a fear of seasickness prevent you from signing up! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Trip Materials: Detailed information about your specific tour will be sent to you after you make your reservation with us. These trip materials include information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, packing, etc. Please take a moment to read this important informtation upon receipt.
Conditions: We have a strict non-smoking policy - smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours. We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience. Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants. For all tours that are ship-based, please note that although we cannot guarantee a request for a specific cabin, we do guarantee that you will be in a cabin of equal or greater value specified in your reservation.
Mailing List: If you would like to be on our mailing list or request information, please use our online information request form or contact us to give us your name, address, email address and phone number. Please note we will never share your personal information with anybody!
Responsibility: Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California, act only as agents and shall not be responsible or become liable for any delay incurred by any person in connection with any means of transportation, nor for the loss, damage, or injury to person or property by reason of any event beyond the control of the agency or default of such agency suppliers. We reserve the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. All rates are based on current tariffs, exchange rates and fuel prices and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited. Baggage is at the owner's risk.
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.
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