Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
Travel to Quito, Ecuador. Our local agent will transfer you from the airport to the hotel. If you would like to arrive earlier, we can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra nights.
Embark on the most in-depth 15-day voyage through the Galápagos Islands, famous for fearless wildlife. Begin in Ecuador’s cloud forest, then sail on the Samba around the Enchanted Isles. With our expert resident leader, witness endemic reptiles, tropical birds, breeding boobies, waved albatross, Galápagos penguins, marine mammals, sharks, and more. Early and late landings maximize wildlife encounters, catering to photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the splendor of the Galápagos to appreciate the impressive forces that shape this unique ecosystem.
Itinerary Updated: September 2023
|May 3||Arrive in Quito, Ecuador.||Holiday Inn Quito Airport, Quito|
|May 4||Explore the cloud forest, bird watching in Yanacocha and Old Nono-Mindo. Observe Andean cock-of-the-rock lek. Watch nocturnal mammals near the lodge.||Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, Tandayapa||B, L, D|
|May 5||Watch for many dazzling species of birds at Bellavista and return to Quito after lunch.||Holiday Inn Quito Airport, Quito||B, L, D|
|May 6||Fly to Baltra and board the Samba. First landing on Mosquera Islet.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 7||Genovesa: Darwin Bay and Prince Philip’s Steps.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 8||Marchena: Snorkel at Punta Mejía and Playa Negra.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 9||Isabela: Punta Albemarle and Punta Vicente Roca.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 10||Fernandina: Punta Espinoza. Isabela: Urbina Bay.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 11||Isabela: Elizabeth Bay and Punta Moreno.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 12||Floreana: Post Office Bay and Champion Islet.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 13||Santa Cruz: Highlands and Charles Darwin Research Station.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 14||Floreana: Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown, and the Baroness lookout.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 15||Española: Punta Suárez with waved albatross and Gardner Bay.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 16||San Cristóbal: Punta Pitt, Cerro Brujo, and Isla Lobos.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 17||San Cristóbal: Punta Pitt, Cerro Brujo, and Isla Lobos.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 18||Sombrero Chino Islet. Bartolomé: Pinnacle Rock.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 19||Santiago: James Bay. Rábida.||Aboard the Samba||B, L, D|
|May 20||Last landing at Seymour Norte, disembark at Baltra, and fly to Quito.||Holiday Inn Quito Airport, Quito||B|
|May 21||Fly home.||B|
Juan grew up in the Galapagos Islands where he developed his passion for wildlife while sailing on his father's boat. He received a degree from the University of San Francisco, Quito after studying Applied Ecology, Biology, and Geology. Juan also earned a skipper certificate after studying sailing and navigation in Los Angeles. Involvement in Environmental Education projects in the Galapagos Islands and on mainland Ecuador fills his spare time.
Travel to Quito, Ecuador. Our local agent will transfer you from the airport to the hotel. If you would like to arrive earlier, we can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra nights.
Travel from the high Andes to the cloud forest and observe the change in climate, vegetation, and geology while on the mainland. You’ll visit Yanacocha Reserve and drive through Old Nono-Mindo Ecoroute for vibrant bird life. Spend your time observing the Andean cock-of-the-rock lek for colorful displays by the males plus many other special bird species in this area. Experience nocturnal mammals close to your lodge.
Spend the morning bird watching a variety of dazzling, colorful birds around the lodge at Bellavista, including countless colorful hummingbirds that frequent feeders on the lodge grounds. Return to Quito after lunch.
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival in the islands, you’ll transfer to the dock where the Samba, your home for this glorious adventure, awaits.
All routings and visitor sites on the Galápagos Islands are subject to change by the Galápagos National Park Service in an attempt to minimize traffic and impact.
After introductions and a safety briefing, you’ll make your first landing at nearby Mosquera Islet where the beach rises from the ocean floor with sand grains as soft as sugar. This volcanic uplift, dating back 100,000 years, is home to Galápagos sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs, and shorebirds. Once back on board, relax with a welcome cocktail and meet the Samba’s friendly, professional crew. In the evening, you will travel to Genovesa in the outer archipelago. As the moonlight beams on the dark waters, look for phosphorescence from ctenophores (comb jellies) and other plankton on the surface. If you are lucky, you may see them appearing to encapsulate dolphins in a glowing shield as they bow-ride with the boat.
Anchor in the huge flooded volcanic caldera that created Darwin Bay. As you approach, observe the walls of the caldera, which provide wonderful ledges for the very rare Galápagos fur seals and nesting sites of red-billed tropicbirds. You will hike up a stony stairway known as Prince Philip’s Steps for great views of red-footed and Nazca booby colonies on the way to the wedge-rumped (Galápagos) storm-petrel colony. The island’s largest red-footed booby nesting site is located here too. Keep an eye out for the elusive short-eared owl that hunts for storm-petrels during the day.
After your first snorkeling of the trip, you’ll end your day with excellent views of red-footed boobies and great frigatebirds nesting with unparalleled density. Following the cliff edge, photograph and observe incoming boobies and frigatebirds. Frigatebirds are ceaseless with aerial displays of kleptoparasitism as they “dog-fight” along the cliffs for scarce nesting material. Genovesa’s four species of Darwin’s finches – common cactus-finch, green warbler-finch, gray warbler-finch, and large ground-finch – show huge variation in bill size, and you can find all four species here (one of the most outstanding sites that you will visit for Darwin’s finches along with the Highlands of Santa Cruz). Unlike trips with shorter itineraries, you’ll have the luxury of anchoring in the calm waters of Darwin Bay for the night.
You will have the rare opportunity to visit Marchena, making your experience truly unique. Although landings are not permitted, it is one of the best places to snorkel with tropical fish, rays, sea turtles, sharks, and eels. You may also find hermatypic (reef building) coral formations here, an uncommon sight in the rest of the archipelago. During your navigation to and from Marchena, you sail through some of the most whale-rich waters in the region, so keep your eyes on the horizon and your binoculars ready!
Punta Albermarle is not commonly visited, but home to one of the loveliest flightless cormorant colonies in the Galápagos. This landing is your first endeavor on Isabela, by far the largest in the archipelago.
The northwest tip of Isabela, called Punta Vicente Roca, sits at the edge of a sharp drop into deep, nutrient-rich waters. You may see Galápagos penguins, brown noddies, sea turtles, marine iguanas, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, marine mammals, and the bizarre-looking sunfish (Mola mola).
En route to Fernandina, keep your eyes out for whales in the cold, deep water on the western side of the archipelago. These 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 west of Isabela where the subsurface Cromwell Current meets land and provides oxygen and nutrient-rich upwellings that supports a high density of squid that they feed on.
Across the calm Canal Bolivar, separating Isabela from Fernandina, sits Punta Espinoza, one of the most wildlife-rich sites of the trip. Fernandina, the youngest of the Galápagos Islands, is one of the world’s most pristine islands because no known introduced animals have become established here. You’ll have the unique opportunity to observe and photograph marine iguanas sunbathing in piles by the hundreds. The famous flightless cormorant also inhabits this island along with Galápagos penguins, lava lizards, and pelicans. Take a walk along the relatively young basalt (lava rock) to find lava cactus (Brachycereus nesioticus), the only species in its genus, growing directly out of what still seems like fresh lava. To protect the algae-covered coastline that marine iguanas depend on for food, snorkeling is no longer allowed.
This afternoon, you head back to Isabela for a very interesting landing at Urbina Bay. In 1954, this portion of Isabela lifted out of the sea so suddenly that fish and sea turtles were literally trapped high and dry on a freshly changed coastline. You will explore this unusual site to examine evidence of the geologic forces that continue to shape these islands. Along your walk, you will find rocks full of bleached shells and massive coral heads now far from the sea. Large iguanas, both land and marine, live here as well as a few giant tortoises, the species for which the Galápagos Islands were named. You will snorkel in some of the coldest water of the trip but, thankfully, your full-length wetsuit will provide insulation as you discover the underwater world.
Your morning begins with a visit to Elizabeth Bay, one of the most spectacular locations for panga (small boat) cruising. You cruise with the swimming sea turtles in this paradise, following channels through the verdant green mangrove forests. The endemic flightless cormorant and the Galápagos penguin are in their prime habitat in these cold, rich waters. Then you travel to the wildly stark landing site of Punta Moreno (Dark Point) where raw basalt coats the landscape and rises into the slopes of the shield volcanoes of Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. Yet amid the stark, seemingly sterile landscape, you’ll discover rich lagoons full of life. This evening, you’ll travel through more nutrient-rich waters excellent for whale watching.
After breakfast you’ll stop briefly at Post Office Bay, where you can continue the whalers’ tradition of dropping a letter or postcard in the box and taking one to hand deliver to someone else. The fantastic landscape of the Floreana highlands is decorated with lichens and epiphytes, while the waters around the island are great for dolphins so keep your eyes open! These waters are also rich with seabirds, such as waved albatross, three species of storm-petrels, Galápagos shearwaters, and large flocks of diving boobies. You’ll spend time visiting Champion Islet off the coast of Floreana before navigating to Santa Cruz Island for a quiet dinner in Academy Bay.
Upon reaching Santa Cruz, you’ll anchor in Academy Bay beside the bustling small town of Puerto Ayora, the islands’ primary population center. You’ll travel to the Santa Cruz highlands to seek out elusive island endemics in beautifully unique habitats. You will explore Los Gemelos, two incredible volcanic sinkholes surrounded by Scalesia forest. The elegantly tall Scalesia trees evolved from beach composites, making it essentially the world’s largest daisy. In the highlands you may see the shy Galápagos rail, short-eared owl, large and small tree-finches, vegetarian finch, and the famous tool-using woodpecker finch. You will also walk through a lava tube left over from Santa Cruz’s active volcanic island-building days.
You return to Puerto Ayora in the afternoon to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of evolutionary science and conservation in the Galápagos. Your visit includes the opportunity to see the resident tortoises and enjoy an intimate look at the captive breeding programs whose goal is to return the Galápagos to a more pristine, pre-colonization state. This is one of your best opportunities to photograph tortoises up close.
In the morning you will land behind Punta Cormorant for a walk to the flamingo lagoon in search of shorebirds and a few flamingoes. The plant life here is unique and includes another species of the endemic composite Scalesia. After returning to the Samba, you will sail to one of the best spots in the world for snorkeling – Devil ́s Crown. You normally see rays, sea turtles, surgeonfish, parrotfish, jacks, wrasses, and many other tropical fish. Floreana also holds compelling human history that includes pirate caves, European settlers, the islands’ first citizen birth, and unexplained disappearances. Experience a piece of this history with a visit to Baroness Lookout.
Punta Suárez is unique beyond description and as rich as any spot in the Galápagos Islands. You’ll find huge numbers of breeding birds and iguanas, and most significantly, the majority of the world’s waved albatross nest here. Young adults and birds that recently pair will court each other, a most enticing expression of the lifelong bond that breeding and survival depend upon – an unforgettable site to observe! You will also find the fearless Española mockingbird, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gull, Galápagos hawk, marine iguana, lava lizard, and Galápagos sea lion. The seascapes are spectacular, particularly where the waves force water through a blowhole spouting up to 75ft high.
This afternoon, you’ll sail to Gardner Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galápagos. A nearby snorkel is likely to find you in the water with playful sea lions. Galápagos sea lions populate the surf while the remarkably brave Española mockingbird may peck your water bottle for water. Enjoy photographing shorebirds and sea lions, looking for the large cactus-finch, or walking along the beautiful beach.
One of the oldest islands is home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital and second largest population in the Galápagos Province. In the morning you’ll have an opportunity to stretch your legs at the geologically striking Punta Pitt and examine some of the island’s vegetation, which includes endemic flowering plants such as Calandrinia galapagosa (a plant that resembles a small baobab and is in the Miner’s Lettuce family) and Lecocarpus darwinii (a plant in the Sunflower family). Make a stop at Cerro Brujo, an eroding tuff cone with a beautiful white sand beach and impressive volcanic landscape. Then travel along the north coast for some excellent wildlife and snorkeling at Isla Lobos. Look for frigatebirds, sea lions, sea turtles, blue- and red-footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, and dolphins.
This morning, you’ll land on Santa Fé Island. The short hike from the beach to a low plateau rewards you with great views and Scalesia that thrives near a large forest of the amazing giant prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.). Search the cacti for Santa Fé land iguanas, which are a separate species from the others in the Galápagos and can grow up to 5ft in length!
The small yet incredible island of Plaza Sur is your afternoon destination. This beautiful island is home to many land and marine iguanas. The colorful landscape is covered with reds and greens of Portulaca that may have yellow flowers that the iguanas enjoy eating. In the giant prickly pear cactus you can compare the common cactus-finch alongside small and medium ground-finches. At the top of the island bachelor sea lions escape from the competition of stronger males as red-billed tropicbirds fly gracefully by.
If the light is good in the early morning, you’ll visit the surreal landscape of Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat), a symmetrical cinder cone. Lava tubes run like petrified rivers and white sand from eroded coral surrounds the black rock. This afternoon, land at Bartolomé and climb to the 360ft-high summit for a gorgeous, iconic view of Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding bays. Then land on the beach for a short walk through mangroves and dune vegetation. Galápagos penguins are often present in small numbers near Pinnacle Rock so you will have a decent chance to snorkel with or near the penguins, and maybe even whitetip reef sharks (harmless but exciting)! Also enjoy colorful starfish, tropical fish, and amazing underwater lava formations.
This morning you’ll land at James Bay on the western side of Santiago. During low tide, explore the tidal pools that lead you to Fur Seal Grotto, where you are likely to find Galápagos fur seals swimming in emerald pools of the collapsed lava tubes.
In the afternoon you’ll head to the islet of Rábida, with deep ochre red beaches creating a striking landscape. Sea lions playing in the surf make for splendid photo subjects against the red sand in the late afternoon light. Tonight, you head back east to North Seymour, just off the northern tip of Baltra. Sadly, this will be your final evening aboard the Samba.
You’ll enjoy the last landing site teeming with wildlife and wander past many breeding blue-footed boobies and a large colony of magnificent frigatebirds. Hopefully you’ll find males of both species in full display, the boobies sky-pointing and showing off their bright blue feet as they dance and the frigates calling for females with their wings spread wide and their dramatic red throat pouches inflated – an unforgettable sight! You also have the chance to see Galápagos sea lions, marine iguanas, striated herons, brown noddies, swallow-tailed gulls, and lava gulls. The endemic palo santo and low, bushy prickly pear cacti add great scenery to the amazing abundance of Galápagos wildlife. You’ll reluctantly depart for Baltra and bid farewell to the Samba and its crew.
Sail on the most in-depth itinerary possible around the Galapagos Islands, famous for charismatic wildlife.
The Samba is a 78-foot steel-hulled motor yacht with a stabilizing sail making her the perfect choice to experience the Galapagos Islands to their fullest. This sturdy, stately, and very comfortable ocean-going vessel is a European Dutch classic and best in her class with a specially designed high bow.
|Type||Description||Cost Per Person|
|Lower Deck||Double occupancy, twin-sized upper and lower beds, private bath, and drawers for storage.||$12,150|
|Upper Deck||Double occupancy, double bed, private bath, windows that open, closet, and drawers for storage.||$13,300|
Costs are per person depending on cabin type, double occupancy, not including airfare, singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.
If you are a single traveler, we will find a roommate for you, but if we cannot find you a roommate, we will not charge you a single supplement. If space is available, some cabins can be booked as a single by adding 90% over the listed cabin cost.
We cannot guarantee a specific cabin number, but if changes occur, we will assign a cabin of equal or greater value.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Final||November 24, 2024||Remaining balance|
Payments are due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space.
Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. Through September 23, 2024, the cancellation fee of $300 per person can be applied toward another trip if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable.
|Dates||Forfeited Amount per Person|
|On or before September 23, 2024||$300|
|September 24 to October 23, 2024||10% of tour cost|
|October 24 to November 23, 2024||40% of tour cost|
|On or after November 24, 2024||100% of tour cost|
Average temperatures range from the low to mid-60s°F (15 to 18°C) at night up to the 80s°F (26 to 31°C) during the day. The water temperature averages 70 to 74°F (21 to 23°C). Average temperatures during your mainland excursion range from nighttime lows in the 50s°F (10 to 15°C) to mid 60s°F (18°C) to daytime highs from mid 60s°F (18°C) to low 80s°F (26°C).
Walks on shore vary from short strolls on the beach to a few miles over uneven terrain. If you are not accustomed to walking long distances, you will still enjoy most activities as your pace allows you to see, appreciate, and photograph the unique nature of the Galápagos. If you anticipate struggling with the walks, do some hiking beforehand to get in good shape. You must be comfortable going up and down stairs on board and getting in and out of the panga (small boat).
Although snorkeling is not mandatory, it is a significant part of the voyage as you are in the water every day, sometimes twice a day. Even though you do not have to have snorkeling experience, proficient swimming abilities will allow you to fully enjoy this activity. Most snorkeling will be panga-based, sometimes over deep water, which is not an ideal place to learn to snorkel, especially if you are uncomfortable or intimidated by these conditions. It’s beneficial to get some experience in advance, however, the Sambacrew will always assist you. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.
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Detailed logistical information is included in the Trip Planning Materials we will send you.
Flights you book
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May and June are the best months to see breeding activity, especially bird courtship. Waved albatross perform their exquisite courtship dance, and some may already have eggs. Frigatebirds will court females by inflating their blood red throat sacs while clattering their bills, quivering their wings, and waving their heads back and forth; great frigatebirds courtship will wind down on Genovesa, while magnificent frigatebirds courtship will be active on North Seymour. Because the well-known blue-footed booby is an opportunistic breeder, it’s very hard to predict whether you will see them courting, but we have reliably seen courtship in previous years during these months. You may even see a few chicks!
In June, as the garua (cool/dry) season becomes more prominent and the water temperatures cool, marine life becomes more plentiful. You may have a better chance to encounter more Galapagos penguins, whales, and dolphins feeding in the nutrient rich, cool waters.
Year after year, many of our travelers comment that the beautiful underwater environment was their favorite part of the trip. We strongly encourage you to snorkel even if you are not a strong swimmer. The Samba crew will always assist you! If you elect not to snorkel, you can relax aboard the Samba.
Don’t let a fear of seasickness keep you away! For all but the most sensitive, seasickness is rarely a problem in the Galapagos. Because you are close to the islands most of the time, the seas tend to be gentle and the few open-ocean passages will be overnight. It’s a good idea to bring medication if you get seasick or are unsure, but you may find that you do not need it after a couple days once you have your “sea legs.” Even those who have experienced seasickness reported that the charm and beauty of the islands and their incredible wildlife were well worth the temporary discomfort. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness at coping with seasickness and contact us if you have any concerns.
Our company ethos has always regarded conservation as inseparable from responsible tourism. We struggle with the dilemma that traveling worldwide expends climate-changing carbon. However, we wholeheartedly believe that traveling with us will cultivate your passion for conserving our beautiful world while stimulating each destination’s local economy. We encourage you to explore the various ways in which Cheesemans’ operates within this context:
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"We were very active every day and we saw a lot of wildlife. Each day we had a number of activities. We spent time hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. Snorkeling with penguins, sea lions, turtles, sharks, manta rays and a pod of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins as well as a wide variety of fish was a lot of fun."
"I was shocked there were flamingos in the Galapagos; we saw them three different times. Watching and listening to flamingos gracefully eat was a bonus for me. I had no idea the 'humming' that comes from this necessary action. And the fact that we could get so close - bonus!"
"The Galapagos trip with you last week was beyond incredible, more amazing than we thought possible. We have traveled lots and it has to rank up there on our all time bests. As you know we are leery of tours but everything about the trip was stupendous.. the crew, the guides, the boat, the weather, the locale, the never ending natural wonders , the food and wonderfully amazingly compatible passengers."
"Thank you for an unparalleled experience. That is my sentiment now: gratitude that I was so privileged to experience so many wonderful places and wildlife, get so much information and understanding from Juan, learn so much and enjoy the trip, my fellow travelers, the ship and the crew."