Elite Itinerary D
Tuesday – Saturday
Day by day itinerary description
Tuesday AM: Arrival to Baltra Island Airport. Reception and Assistance at the airport by our members and transportation to our first visitor site.
Tuesday PM: Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz
The Fausto Llerena Giant Tortoise Breeding Center is managed by the Galapagos National Park Service and biologists from the Charles Darwin Research Station. The purpose of the center, named for a legendary park ranger, is to raise Galapagos tortoise hatchlings in a protected environment. When the tortoises are large enough to fend for themselves, they are released into the wild.
The program has been a great success and in recent years hundreds of young tortoises have been released on several islands. You will see different sub-species of tortoises in various species of development, from tiny young ones smaller than your fist to fully-grown behemoths lumbering about their enclosures. Your guide will accompany you and provide information about the programs and facilities.
The breeding center is located at the Charles Darwin Research Station, just outside of the town of Puerto Ayora. In addition to the tortoises, you may see finches, warblers and other birds in and around the tall tree cacti, and tiny lava lizards scurrying about underfoot.
After visiting the Research Station, passengers will be taken to the Puerto Ayora pier to board the M/C Elite.
Wednesday AM: Prince Philip’s Steps/El Barranco, Genovesa Island
Genovesa Island is famous for bird life and neither of its two visitor sites disappoint. Genovesa is the remnant of a once-mighty volcanic crater, and the island still has a distinctive crescent shape. The body of water formed by the crescent is called Darwin Bay, in spite of the fact that Charles Darwin did not ever visit this particular island.
There are no large land animals on Genovesa: not even tortoises or land iguanas. Unlike other islands, Genovesa never had a problem with destructive introduced animals like feral cats or goats, which has allowed bird life to thrive unmolested on the island for millennia.
In the morning, you will visit the Prince Philip’s Steps site. Getting to the visitor site from the landing area is tricky and involves a bit of climbing skill, but once you’re up, Prince Philip’s Steps is a visitor favorite. There is a magnificent view from the upraised plateau, especially on a clear day.
An easy trail wends through a low, scrubby forest and ends up at a rocky ravine of sorts, where lucky visitors will spot the rarely-seen Short-eared Owl. Visitors may also see Red-footed Boobys, gulls, or other birds nesting or visiting the site.
Wednesday PM: Darwin Bay and Snorkeling, Genovesa
The Darwin Bay visitor site is on the interior side of the crescent-shaped island, protected from wind and currents. It is a wide, sandy beach with a short trail that leads off to one side of the beach and up into some rocky formations.
There are many bird species here: visitors can expect to see Blue-footed Boobys, Frigate Birds, Lava Gulls, Herons, Swallow-tailed gulls and more. It is one of the few visitor sites in the islands where you can see Red-footed Boobys. There are some tidal pools off the trail: lucky visitors may spot a ray or some fish trapped there until the tide returns.
Following the visit, guests will get to snorkel in the sheltered waters of the bay. Although deep water currents can sometimes cause the water to be chilly or cloudy, the crescent shape of the island protects the bay from strong winds.
The bluffs along the side of the bay drop sharply into the water, which means that snorkelers can stay close to shore but still have deeper water off to one side. Lucky snorkelers might see sharks, rays, sea lions, sea turtles and dazzling reef fish including parrotfish, wrasses, king angelfish and damselfish.
Thursday AM: Buccaneer Cove and Espumilla Beach, Santiago
Back in the days of the great sailing ships, the Galapagos Islands were well known as a place where a traveling ship could stock up on food and water. Among the visitors were pirates, and the sheltered bay now known as Buccaneer Cove was a favorite place for them to repair their ships.
Your visit includes a panga ride along the coast, where guests will see some interesting rock formations as well as several species of nesting birds including gulls, boobys and pelicans. The formations, eroded into the colorful red rock, are quite striking. You may get to see not only sea lions but also their more reclusive cousins, the Galapagos Fur Sea Lion.
The panga ride is followed by a visit to unforgettable Playa Espumilla (“Foamy Beach” in English). The beach, known for reddish sand, is a favorite among guests: long, pristine and beautiful, it is home to a colony of sea lions as well as countless crabs and marine iguanas. It is possible to do some light snorkeling off of the beach.
Thursday PM: Egas Port
The human history of the Galapagos Islands is often as interesting as the natural history, and a good example is Port Egas. Decades ago, an Ecuadorian named Hector Egas tried to make his fortune mining salt on Santiago Island. It worked for a while, but in the end the enterprise failed. Port Egas bears the name of this intrepid entrepreneur, and there are still some remnants of the old salt mine facilities here if you know where to look.
Puerto Egas is a superb visitor site even without its history. The trail is a loop which goes through some low trees before swinging around along the coast. Along the inland part of the trail, look for finches and a medium-sized black bird: this is the Smooth-Billed Ani, an introduced species which somehow arrived in Galapagos at some point in the 1960’s.
On the coastal portion of the trail, you can expect to see numerous sea lions, marine iguanas, and shore birds. The coast is rocky due to its volcanic formation, but easy enough to walk along. Look in the shallow tidal pools: you never know what might have gotten stranded in there when the tide went out, and you might spot a stingray or an octopus in addition to the small fish usually found there.
Friday AM: Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz
Bachas beach is one of the more beautiful ones in all of Galapagos – and that’s really saying something. It is a long stretch of pristine white sand where sea lions lounge and crabs scuttle back and forth. It was used by the Americans during World War Two: “Bachas” is actually a version of the word “barges,” which were once landed here.
Sea turtles nest in some of the sand dunes here, and your guides will ask you to stay clear of the marked areas so as not to disturb the eggs.
A short distance away are two salty lagoons where flamingos are frequently seen. There is no real hike here: only the warm, sandy beach. After a stroll along the sand and a refreshing dip, some of our guests like to do some easy snorkeling in the gentle surf.
Friday PM: Twins and Santa Cruz Highlands
The Twins: The “twins” are a pair of sinkholes located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Created ages ago by collapsing lava tunnels, they are not far from the main road through the highlands. From the parking lot, it is a fun, easy hike through a lush tropical forest to the walkways which ring the top of the sinkholes.
Butterflies and smaller birds such as finches, doves and mockingbirds dart and flit through the dense forest on either side of the trail, and attentive visitors may spot the distinctive red flash of a vermillion flycatcher as well.
You will stay in the highlands of Santa Cruz island to see giant tortoises in the wild. These impressive animal gives the name to the archipelago. You can easily appreciate the Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat, eating, walking among others. This is also a good place to see birds such as short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, Galapagos rails and paint-billed crakes.
As part of this experience, you will visit underground lava tubes formed by cooled and solidified lava. Then we will continue our journey to board the M/C Elite.
Saturday AM: Kicker Rock, San Cristobal
They say your culture influences the way you look at things, and Kicker Rock may just be the proof of that. Kicker Rock is a distinctive, boot-shaped rock formation located off of San Cristobal Island. In English, it gets its name from this shape. In Spanish, its name is “León Dormido,” or “Sleeping Lion.” Does it look more like a boot or a lion? You’ll get a nice close-up chance to look for yourself and make up your mind.
Your final visit in the Galapagos islands will be a memorable one: a panga ride up to and around the rock, with the chance for some snorkeling as well. The snorkeling here is excellent, although the currents can be rather strong. Hammerhead sharks are often seen in the murky depths around kicker rock, and fortunate snorkelers might even see a large ray or two.
After our early morning visit, passengers will get ready and then be taken to San Cristobal Airport. Our airport personnel will assist passengers with the check in process. Farwell and boarding the flight back to mainland Ecuador.