Galapagos Cruise Aida Maria - North and South Route (15)

Tour/Activity in Baltra Island, Ecuador

About this activity

Discover the islands of Floreana, Española, Genovesa, Bartolomé, Santiago, Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristóbal and more

Your Travel Experience with Galapagos PRO

Day 1

Transfer from the airport to the port of Baltra

After your arrival at Baltra Island Airport, transfer to your boat.

Interpretation Center, San Cristóbal

Afternoon: The National Park Interpretation Center, located on San Cristóbal, was built in collaboration with the Spanish Science Center. The tour offered by the Center for Interpretation's facilities offer a good overview of the Galapagos Islands. The tour takes us through the history of the islands in the context of nature, humankind, and conservation. It also tells the story of the first settlers on the islands.

Day 2

Santa Fé Island

Morning: Upon arrival at the white sand beach you will be greeted by a large colony of sea lions. A trail leads you from the beach into a forest of prickly pears and Palo Santo trees. It is not rare to spot Galapagos hawks and even owls in the salt bushes. Even harmless snakes and the endemic rice rat can be discovered with a little luck while exploring the island. Arguably the most special, however, is the Santa Fé iguana. This species differs from its peers due to its significantly lighter color and distinct dorsal spines. Snorkeling and swimming on the beach, kayaking or a tour with the glass bottom boat make this trip unforgettable.

Please Note: The Galapagos National Park has placed a temporary ban on swimming, snorkeling or diving in the waters around Santa Fé.

Plaza Sur Island

Afternoon: One of the smallest and most colourful islands in the archipelago, Plaza Sur, or 'South Plaza' in English, is just a short sail from Santa Cruz. Reaching dry land, you will come across some of the islands friendly sea lions, one of the many types of animals in South Plaza for you to discover.

Wander by the nesting places of swallow-tailed gulls, audubon shearwaters, red-tailed tropicbirds, masked boobies and frigatebirds. The entire island is carpeted with dense sesuvium plants. From June to November, during the colder and drier season, the plants turn a deep red color which gives the island a dramatic, fascinating atmosphere. Watch the iguanas searching high up in the opuntia trees for fruit - a sight you'll never see anywhere else in the world.

Day 3

Charles Darwin Station, Santa Cruz

Morning: At Charles Darwin Station, scientists from around the world research the many tortoise subspecies that are endemic to the Galapagos islands. The highlight of the research center is the breeding station, Fausto Llerena, where baby turtles take a training course over rocks, branches and sandy stairs in prepareation for their upcoming release in to the wilderness.

Highlands of Santa Cruz

Afternoon: As you venture into Santa Cruz's higher altitude areas, you will notice the changes in the vegetation as the climate becomes wetter and warmer. The earth in the upper altitudes is rich in minerals. Coffee plantations and fruit orchards line the streets. Here you can observe the famous Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild, using the new knowledge you gained at Charles Darwin Station in the morning.

The Scalesia forests in this area offer the opportunity to discover endemic species of the Galapagos Islands, as well as giant cacti and a variety of deciduous trees and edible fruits.

Here you can also visit the twin 'craters' Los Gemelos. While they are not craters in the technical sense, these 70 meter vertical gullies with a carpet of lush vegetation are an impressive sight to behold.

Day 4

Volcano Sierra Negra, Isabela

Morning: Spend the morning exploring the volcanic landscape of Isabela Island, created by five side by side shield volcanoes, whose lava flows have united to form a landmass.

Although Sierra Negra is not the highest volcano at 1,200 meters, it has the second largest volcanic cone on earth, with a diameter of about 9 kilometers. From the endge of the crater, visitors are treated to a magnificent view out over the island of Isabela.

Note: Please remember to bring high SPF sunscreen. The Sun's harmful rays can be very strong here.

Los Humedales and Wall of Tears, Isabela

Afternoon: Many people consider Los Humedales to be one of Isabela's most spectacular hidden gems. The wetlands house all four mangrove species found in the archipelago. Following along the paths of the wetlands, you can admire the unique landscape of volcanoes, islets and rocks. You will discover secluded beaches, natural pools, lava tunnels and a nesting site for many of the island's flamingo population. In recent years, graduates of the Isabela Breeding Center's giant tortoise breeding and release program have been released in to this area so you may encounter some small 5 year old and 25 year old giant tortoises in the wild.

Afterwards you'll visit the Wall of Tears. The wall is about 150 meters long and was built under cruel conditions by convicts of the infamous penal colony "Porvenir" in the 40s and 50s. First named the Wall of Tears by local residents, who state that the wall often emits an eerie, crying sound and the area is said to have a "heavy energy".

The penal colony was closed after a prison uprising in 1959, but the wall remains intact as a memorial to the large number who needlessly lost their lives during the construction of the wall. Rumor has it that there are still descendants of the prison escapees living on the island.

Day 5

Punta Moreno, Isabela

Morning: Punta Moreno is a rugged young lava bay. At first it appears to be a lifeless landscape, however as you walk over the cooled lava, you'll see new green areas and lagoons hosting a wide variety of birds. Marine iguanas and lava lizards are usually found in the lagoons you'll often meet flamingos foraging here for their favourite meal. While the sharp rocks make this hike a little tricky, its path itself is easy enough to be enjoyed by everyone and provides an unforgettable landscape set against a backdrop of the volcanoes Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul.

We recommend bringing plenty of water during this visit, as the lava field reflects the sun making the temperature higher than average. Don't forget to apply sunscreen!

Elizabeth Bay, Isabela

Afternoon: The wide and sheltered Elizabeth Bay, on Isabela's east coast, hosts a bevy of the archipelago's unique wildlife. The mangrove-lined shore contrasts starkly against the surrounding lava fields. The myriad of small islets and rocky reefs make this is a particularly rich area for wildlife.

The waters here are particularly clear, and this makes Elizabeth Bay a great place to spot the rays, sharks, green sea turtles, Galapagos penguins, pelicans, and Galapagos sea lions known to gather here. Nearer to the shores and mangroves you'll see Galapagos flightless cormorants and the sunbathing marine iguanas.

Day 6

Punta Espinoza, Fernandina

Morning: Today you are heading towards Fernandina, the westernmost and with just about 700,000 years, the youngest island in the archipelago. Surrounded by hills amidst a lava landscape covered with cacti and mangroves is the visitor location Punta Espinoza. Meet sea lions and hundreds of marine iguanas basking on the black lava rocks and on the beach. While snorkeling you might come close to the resident penguins darting quickly through the water.

Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela

Afternoon: The sea-horse-shaped island of Isabela is the largest of the archipelago and the most volcanically active. Punta Vicente Roca is considered one of the most impressive and spectacular places of the enchanted Galapagos Islands with high cliffs and tuffstone giving this area a majestic feel.

While you explore the two coves and the large bay with spectacular sea life, keep an eye out for seahorses, sea turtles, and the weird and wonderful mola-mola, also known as sunfish. In good conditions, Punta Vicente Roca is considered one of the best snorkelling sites in the Galapagos.

Day 7

Puerto Egas, Santiago

Morning: After landing on the black sand beach of Puerto Egas, Santiago Island hike along a 2km long coastal area boasting sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs, lava lizards, Galapagos hawks and lava herons. The rugged lava coast with natural pools, where sea lions bathe and herons play marks the end of your hike.

An excursion to Santiago Island is also one of the rare chances to see Galápagos fur seals in the wild, though not in large numbers.

Rábida

Afternoon: On arrival at Rábida Island's red sand beach you will be greeted by the resident sea lions, basking in the sun. The island's otherworldy red colouring is a result of the high level of iron and magnesium left behind from previous volcanic activity.

A stroll along the beach reveals marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. If you look carefully you may also spot the bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs, who have found possibly the only place on earth where they can effectively camouflage themselves.

Day 8

North Seymour

Morning: The small island of North Seymour is one of the most diverse islands in the Galapagos archipelago. It is only about two square kilometers in size and above all known for of the intensive courtship rituals of many magnificent frigatebirds, taking place here during mating season. The island is also home to large colonies of land iguanas, marine iguanas and sea lions. The characteristic bush landscape features diverse species of animals amongst the aromatic endemic balsa trees.

Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz

Afternoon: On the north side of Santa Cruz, you will land on Bachas beach - one of the most important nesting sites for the Galapagos Island's sea turtle population.

A hidden lagoon behind the bay reveals a treasure trove of animal sightings - sunbathing iguanas, curious shorebirds, and Darwin finches, mockingbirds and seagulls frolic here. Native plant life is also interesting in this area. Red and black mangroves and salt bushes line the edges of the pond.

In this heavenly place you will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago when the US Navy operated a base on the island of Baltra during the Second World War. Local people changed the word Barges to "Bachas".

Day 9

Darwin Bay, Genovesa

Morning: Genovesa Island is secluded from the other main islands in the north of the archipelago and is well-known as the Bird Island.

Emerging from the narrow entrance, you'll reach Darwin Bay, surrounded by protective cliffs. Frigatebirds regularly patrol the skies here and petrels can be seen hunting coastal waters for smaller fish. The green water in the bay is evidence of a high plankton content which attracts fish and seabirds, making this wildlife-rich bay a wonderful site for snorkeling. With some luck, you may also encounter peaceful hammerheads and black spotted stingrays.

Prince Phillip's Steps, Genovesa

Afternoon: Prince Philip's Steps are a staircase sunken into volcanic rock that leads to a plateau rich with vegetation and wildlife. True to the nickname of Bird Island, this area is home to nesting masked and blue-footed boobies, Bahama ducks, petrels and gulls amongst a host of other local species. The Galápagos horned owls bask on the warm volcanic rocks here, paying no attention the tourists around them.

Day 10

Bartolomé Island

Morning: Bartolomé in the northern part of the archipelago was nominated for the World Travel Awards 2012 as the most beautiful beach of South America. Here, you will find a fascinating, lunar-like volcanic landscape. At its center, the famous landmark of Galapagos: Pinnacle Rock.

A climb to the highest point of the island offers a wonderful view of the landscape. Take a swim together with some of the penguins who play in the waters and on the shores of the bay here.

Sullivan Bay, Santiago

Afternoon: Although this beauiful beach deserves its place in the highlights list, the day will surprise you with another highlight: the special pahoehoe lava flows.

Almost 100 years ago, lava flowed across the island and left behind various forms of soil: braided and stringy lava fields alternate with sharp-edged jagged formations. Feel the warm stones of the black, unreal lava landscape under your hands and move back to the time of origin, when volcanoes raged here, ultimately creating a paradise.

Day 11

Daphne Island and Black Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz

Morning: Early in the morning you’ll arrive at Daphne Island, a cone formed by the accumulation of volcanic ash. Daphne is home to thousands of birds, including blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and tropic birds. You won't go ashore here, but you’ll navigate around the volcanic cone, so binoculars are recommended to get a good look at the birds. Daphne is a great research site on which many scientists have spent years studying the behavior of Darwin’s finches.

Black Turtle Cove is a red mangrove lagoon serving as a nursery for sharks and rays. Black Turtle Cove is a great location to observe mating sea turtles during nesting season. Travellers often see large groups of resting white-tip reef sharks, schools of golden rays and the incredibly beautiful spotted eagle rays. As the water is usually very calm, this area can be navigated using paddles instead of the loud panga engines, increasing your chances of wildlife encounters.

Cerro Dragón, Santa Cruz

Afternoon: You won't find a more apt place name than Cerro Dragón, "Dragon Hill", located behind a flamingo lagoon.

Dragon-like land iguanas roam across the sun-scorched, boulder-strewn island, grazing freely on the fruits and flowers of their favourite food, the Opuntia Cacti. Cerro Dragón is a great opportunity to get out your camera and capture some of what makes the Galapagos Islands so unique.

Day 12

Charles Darwin Station, Santa Cruz

Morning: At Charles Darwin Station, scientists from around the world research the many tortoise subspecies that are endemic to the Galapagos islands. The highlight of the research center is the breeding station, Fausto Llerena, where baby turtles take a training course over rocks, branches and sandy stairs in prepareation for their upcoming release in to the wilderness.

Visitors leave the station with a stronger understanding of the tortoises, iguanas and much of the flora native to the islands. You'll be impressed by the tiny tortoises, often only the size of your hand, who will grow over the next 100 years to become as large as the adults you'll also meet!

Highlands of Santa Cruz

In the afternoon: As you venture into Santa Cruz's higher altitude areas, you will notice the changes in the vegetation as the climate becomes wetter and warmer. The earth in the upper altitudes is rich in minerals. Coffee plantations and fruit orchards line the streets. Here you can observe the famous Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild, using the new knowledge you gained at Charles Darwin Station in the morning.

The Scalesia forests in this area offer the opportunity to discover endemic species of the Galapagos Islands, as well as giant cacti and a variety of deciduous trees and edible fruits.

Here you can also visit the twin 'craters' Los Gemelos. While they are not craters in the technical sense, these 70 meter vertical gullies with a carpet of lush vegetation are an impressive sight to behold.

Day 13

Post Office Bay and Asilo de la Paz, Floreana

Morning: Floreana offers wonderful testament to the fascinating human history of the Archipelago. Although paling in comparison to the geological history, the human history extends far beyond the island's first residents.

Here at Post Office Bay, learn about the historic barrel that has served as a post office in the archipelago for over two centuries. Lonely sailors, away from home for years at a time, would stop at Floreana to restock their supplies of food and water. The homesick sailors devised a clever solution - they left letters in a makeshift 'post box' on Floreana, and when passing ships stopped on the way back to their home port, they would pick up all the letters destined for that place and deliver them.

To this day, the system is alive and well - each year thousands of visitors continue to leave letters for loved ones, and search for letters to bring home and deliver. To keep the tradition alive, hunt for a letter destined for a town near you and hand deliver it.

As well as Post Office Bay, Floreana is famous for its mysterious stories revolving around its first inhabitants, Doctor Ritter, Dora Strauch and the Wittmer family. You should also be sure to visit the Cave of Pirates, which is located near a fresh water fountain that once served as the only source of fresh water for the families living there. The fountain was called the Asylum of Peace by the Wittmers.

Punta Cormorant and Devil's Crown, Floreana

Afternoon: Punta Cormorant is home to two stunning natural beaches. You'll make a wet landing in the first bay, where you'll find a special black sand beach that twinkles green in the sunlight. The shimmering sand is made of olivine crystals, remnants of a long-gone violent volcanic eruption. Following the short trail along the beach, you'll come to a second little bay. Visitors will be delighted by the soft, white powdery sand that feels like walking in fine baking flour. This gorgeous beach certainly earned the name "Flour Beach". In the bay you will likely spot green sea turtles, and if you wander back from the sandy stretch, you can find a salt water lagoon that attracts vibrant flamingos and the adorable white cheeked pintails.

The Devil's crown, a half sunken volcano crater, offers a small snorkeling paradise. The sandy sloping crater walls are a playground for starfish, sea turtles and tropical fish, while white tip reef sharks seem to prefer the rocky caves at the bottom of the crater. Schools of white-and-yellow Surgeonfish, large, colourful Parrotfish, and dazzling King Angelfish are a regular sight at the Devil's Crown. It is important to note that this site can get some stronger currents and there is no easy place to stand if you are getting tired. The boat remains nearby should you require it.

Day 14

Punta Suarez, Española

Morning: Española is a geologically interesting island where you can explore the volcanic formations and spot a lot more of the Galapagos's unique fauna. Regular sightings include large sea lion colonies and flocks of seabirds, such as the Española mockingbird, the nazca booby and the spectacular red-beaked tropicbird. There are also marine iguanas, lizards and Sally lightfoot crabs.

A long hike will take you past the world's largest colony of Galapagos albatrosses! During mating season (May to December) you will have the opportunity to see the nesting area of the albatrosses and if you're lucky, you'll even get to witness their courting dance. The courting dance of the albatross is extra special as it is the start of a life-long bond for these birds who mate for life. Other interesting birds include Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks, whip-tailed gulls.

Make a final stop to admire the dramatic topography of the famous Blow Hole, catapulting seawater an impressive 23 meters into the air.

Gardner Bay, Española

Afternoon: Join the colony of sea lions on the beautiful white coral beach. From the shoreline, you can observe the Galapagos hawks, American oystercatchers, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, gold-warblers, lava lizards, marine iguanas and three different types of Darwin finch!

When snorkeling or diving, you have the opportunity to see the diverse underwater world of Gardner Island. Californian angelfish, neon fish, parrotfish, manta rays and white-tip reef sharks all call these waters home.

Afterwards, visit Osborn Island for a stroll along a beautiful, white sand beach, again covered in sunbathing sea lions. If you choose not to sunbathe with the locals, you might prefer to swim or snorkel here.

Day 15

Lobos Island

Morning: Isla Lobos is sometimes known as Sea Lion Island, for the huge colony of resident sea lions. Fire engine red Sally lightfoot crabs strike a strong contrast against the black volcanic rocks during your hike on Isla Lobos. Other curious creatures living on the otherwise uninhabited island include land iguanas and pelicans. Bring your snorkeling gear and treat yourself to a refreshing dip.

Return to the harbor of Baltra

You will return to the harbor of Baltra. From there, transfer to Baltra Airport in time for your return flight to the mainland, or continue with your planned route through the Galapagos.

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