Galapagos Cruise Aqua Mare: Complete Route (15)

Tour/Activity in Baltra Island, Ecuador

About this activity

Visit almost all the islands of the Galapagos Archipelago

Your Travel Experience with Galapagos PRO

Day 1

Arrival on Baltra Island

You will arrive at Baltra airport in the morning where you will be met by the crew. Your guide will then escort you to the ship and you will be informed about the coming days and can settle into your cabins.

Las Bachas, Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon: The Bachas Beach, which meanders along the coast of Santas Cruz Island, seems to be full of life. But also the Turquoise Bay and the symmetrical tuff-cone island of Daphne Major attract attention. After a short walk, you will come to a lagoon in the dunes that is home to various species of wading and shorebirds, including black-necked wilts, blue-cheeked ducks (or Bahamian ducks) and hunting herons. Migratory birds that hibernate in the Galapagos in winter, such as whimbrels, also stay in this lagoon. As soon as the water level drops and the lagoon becomes salty in the dry season, you might even come across some American flamingos who tirelessly filter this water in search of shrimp and algae. The remote northwest coast on the main island of Santa Cruz has become the preferred nesting site for Pacific green sea turtles. Females wait for the tide at night before crawling ashore.

Day 2

Prince Philip's Steps, Genovesa Island

Morning: El Barranco, named after Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip, this natural rock formation runs steeply upward to the highest point of the cliff. From there, a pledge runs into the interior of the island. Genovesa is known for the variety of birds that live here and you will not be disappointed. After and already during the slightly slippery climb you will be surrounded by blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, masked boobies, little Galapagos owls, Galapagos doves and many more shore birds. Besides birds, sea bears, cliff crabs, sea lizards and sea lions also reside here. And with a little luck, you may also spot a hammerhead shark in the water.

Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island

Afternoon: On Genovesa Island, the ship docks in Darwin Bay, an ancient volcanic crater now flooded by the sea. The inflatable boats land on a picturesque sandy beach where Galapagos sea lions often rest on the fine white sand. Exploring along the coast, you may see numerous marine iguanas that look like prehistoric dinosaurs in miniature. A short distance inland, you will repeatedly encounter seabirds of all shapes and sizes. Dozens of young red-footed boobies perch on branches in the bushes along the way, just an arm's length away. Also, watch for the large frigatebirds and yellow-crowned night herons along the trail.

Day 3

Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

Morning: To the east of Santiago Island, you will reach the white coral beach of Sullivan Bay. Although this beach deserves your full attention, the day will surprise you with another highlight: Santiago's cooled lava blanket. Almost 100 years ago, lava flows flowed across the island here, leaving behind different ground shapes: braided and thread-like lava fields alternate with sharp-edged jagged formations. Feel the warm stones of the black, unreal lava landscape under your hands and transport yourself back to the time when volcanoes raged here and ultimately created a paradise.

Chinese Hat Islet

Afternoon: The small island gets its name from its shape because when you approach the island from the north, it looks like a traditional Chinese hat. The island is close to Santiago Island and the sea between the islands is well protected, which allows the visitor to look deep into the blue water. On the island, there is the possibility to walk a short path along the western coast and see the impressive landscape. You can see volcanic rocks and residues of lava that once flowed here. The atmosphere and rocks of the island are reminiscent of what the Galapagos Islands once were. Sea lions and Galapagos penguins bask on the island's shores or seek refuge from the sun and cool off in the shade. In the island's skies, you might see a Galapagos hawk or two circling overhead. One of the main reasons to visit this island, however, is the sea that surrounds it. It is a fantastic place to snorkel and spot marine life such as sharks, rays and various tropical fish. Since not all boats have a permit to go to this island, it is worth it even more in any case.

Day 4

Bartolomé Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

Morning: One of the most popular destinations for visitors to the Galapagos, Bartolomé is known for its double beach. The popular photo motif can be admired from a platform that can be reached via a path from the beach. The path leads up just under a kilometre with many erected wooden steps, but rest assured that the climb is worth it. From here, you will not only have a great view of the double beach but also of Pinnacle Rock, which rises 120 meters to a point. You can also see Sullivan Bay, the small island of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor. On your way back, observe the different rock formations formed by the lava, such as tuff cones or various rocks. The island is also a good example of how the environment adapts to its circumstances. Pay attention to the plants that grow here, they may look like they don't have leaves, but when you look closer you can see little white hairs that reflect the light so the plant can store water. Then on the beach, you have the opportunity to snorkel in underwater caves and meet sharks, rays and tropical fish. With a little luck, you might even see a penguin or two swimming by.

Cerro Dragón, Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon: You won't find a more fitting 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 5

Highlands, Santa Cruz Island

Morning: As the only island that makes all vegetation zones accessible to visitors, it is a great place for a short trip to the highlands. Already from the beach, you will be greeted by magnificent flora and fauna that will follow you up to the highest point of the island. The bus trip will take you along the island's agriculture and will smoothly transition into the green, mist-covered forests. Here you will experience a stark contrast to the other islands, which have less altitude and more aridity. Together with your guide, visit different places here in the highlands, such as the giant tortoise reserve and the famous lava tubes. Look forward to a breathtaking landscape and a short walk with unforgettable phenomena.

Fausto Llerena, Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon: Visit the Galapagos giant tortoises and land iguana breeding programme, where the famous Lonesome George (the last surviving specimen from Pinta Island) lived for decades. The centre is managed by Galapagos National Park (GNP) staff in collaboration with scientists from the Charles Darwin Station (CDS). Here, eggs from Pinzon, Santiago and Santa Cruz Islands hatch without the risk of introduced species. After artificial incubation, the "galapaguitos" (newborn turtles) are bred until they are 5 years old so that when they are released in their original habitats, they have enough skills to survive on their own. Since the 1970s, more than 2,000 specimens have returned to their native islands. In addition, Darwin Station works on several scientific projects, botanical research and provides environmental education for local communities, schools and tourists. If there is still time, you can take a stroll through the small town of Puerto Ayora.

Day 6

Punta Suarez, Española Island

Morning: Dry landing. A geologically interesting island where you will explore the volcanic formations and diverse fauna: large sea lion and seabird colonies, including the Española Mockingbird, the Nazca Booby and the spectacular Red-billed Tropicbird. Furthermore, there are sea lizards, lava lizards and the colourful cliff crabs. After a rather long hike past Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies, you will reach the nesting sites, which are sometimes located in the middle of the trail. Other interesting birds include the Galapagos Pigeon, Galapagos Buzzard, Fork-tailed Gulls and the world's largest colony of Galapagos Albatrosses which only come here to breed. Galapagos albatrosses hover far out at sea for most of their lives, coming ashore only to breed and care for their enormous chick (March-December). Huge waves crash against the southern basalt cliffs of Suarez Point. They create a spectacular blowhole where water sprays meters into the air (depending on the time of year, the tide, and how hard the ocean breeze pushes the waves in). Take your time to enjoy this fantastic view and let this unforgettable moment sink in.

Bahía Gardner, Española Island

Afternoon: The striking white beach of Gardner Bay is an important breeding ground for the Pacific green sea turtle. But without a doubt, the large Galapagos sea lion colony is the main attraction here. The females stay in this "nursery" all year round and nurse their young until they are 3 years old, although they begin to fish on their own after 5 months. During the breeding and mating season, the colony becomes even larger. The strongest bachelors and oldest males return from their remote places and start again to conquer and defend a part of the 1300 m long beach for themselves. Since there are no trails, stay on the shore and observe from there the Galapagos buzzards, American oystercatchers, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, golden warblers, lava lizards, sea lizards and three species of Darwin's finches: Geospiza conirostris, a subspecies of the large cactus finch that resembles the large ground finch; the small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa); and the wood warbler finch (Certhidea olivacea), another endemic species. Gardner Bay, located on the eastern side of the island, is the breeding ground of nearly all of the world's 12,000 Galapagos albatross pairs. While swimming and snorkelling, we will see the diverse underwater world: California angelfish, neon fish, parrotfish, manta ray and white tip reef shark.

Day 7

Santa Fé Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

Morning: You will reach the island, which is 24 km² and 60 meters high, only with a wet landing and is a unique place in the middle of the archipelago. You will enter the island in an incredible bay, filled with turquoise waters and surrounded by a rocky reef. The island is home to many land dwellers, like one of the land lizard species of the archipelago, They live on this island and feed on the fruits and leaves of the cacti that grow here. In addition, a large sea lion colony lives here and Galapagos hawks may be circling over your heads. If you are interested, you can also swim and snorkel here to explore the underwater world a bit. Here sea turtles, sea lions, rays and various tropical fish cavort in the water. If you don't want to go into the water you can watch sea lizards, Galapagos doves or cliff crabs on the shore. The Galapagos National Park has ordered a temporary ban on swimming, snorkelling and/or diving in the waters around Santa Fé. But rest assured, your tour operator will replace it with something equally fantastic!

Plaza Sur Island

Afternoon: A geological uplift created the small islands of Plazas, these two small islands are located to the east of Santa Cruz Island. The northern Plaza Island is inaccessible to visitors, but the southern Plaza Island offers something for the bird discoverer and nature admirer. The north coast of Plaza Sur Island is a dry landing, while the south coast is a 25-meter high inaccessible bluff. The island is about 1.5 km long and 500 m wide. The island is home to a considerable number of giant opuntias and a sea of sesuvia. Both plants are endemic to the islands. The sesuvias, with their almond-shaped leaves, are green in the rainy season from December to May and then turn yellow in the dry season, later turning red and purple, giving the island a somewhat otherworldly appearance. Sea lions await you at the jetty. From there you will hike to the cliff. On the way, you will see many, stately land iguanas. An ideal place to admire the flight maneuvers of the fork-tailed gulls and other seabirds.

Day 8

Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz Island

Morning: The Twin Craters are not craters at all, they were formed when underlying magma chambers collapsed and the earth caved in. This makes them no less impressive to see. They are easily accessible via a path from Puerto Ayora and offer a fantastic view. In addition to the avoidable craters, some of the endemic bird species also cavort here. The path leads you through the Scalesia forest, past Galapagos doves, Darwin's finches, Galapagos flycatchers, Galapagos owls and many other inhabitants of the air. And once you reach the crater rim, a view awaits you that you will never forget!

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon: You can enjoy this afternoon as you would like.

Day 9

Punta Cormorant, Floreana Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

Morning: 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 saltwater lagoon that attracts vibrant flamingos and the adorable white-cheeked pintails.

Post Office Bay, Floreana Island

Afternoon: Floreana offers a 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 homeport, 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 freshwater fountain that once served as the only source of freshwater for the families living there. The fountain was called the Asylum of Peace by the Wittmers.

Day 10

Punta Moreno, Isabela 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 favorite 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!

Urbina Bay, Isabela Island

Afternoon: Urbina Bay graces the southeast flank of the Alcedo Volcano. After volcanic activity in 1954 caused a significant uplift, the coast expanded almost a kilometre out. Marine life found a way to thrive in this new fertile area and many species chose to stay. Today, this area is a great place for snorkelling. During your hike, you may see a large colony of land iguanas, Darwin's finches, giant tortoises (from June to September) and flightless cormorants.

Day 11

Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island

Morning: Fernandina is the youngest island in the archipelago, at only around 700,000 years old. 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 snorkelling you might come close to the resident penguins darting quickly through the water.

Tagus Cove, Isabela Island

Afternoon: The historical pirate hideaway of Tagus Cove has been frequented by sailors since the 1800s. The names of visiting ships were often painted and carved into the cliffs surrounding the cove. Trails wind their way around Lake Darwin up to a ridge, offering wonderful views of the landscape and the ocean, with Wolf and Darwin Islands dotting the horizon. Punta Tortuga, just north of Tagus Cove, is another idyllic tropical beach surrounded by mangroves. Later, enjoy a panga ride through the cliffs, observing penguins, flightless cormorants, boobies, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Return to the cove to relax on the shore or snorkel.

Day 12

Puerto Egas, Santiago Island

Morning: The black beach along the northwest coast of Santiago Island is a great view, even from the ship. Upon arrival at the beach, two trails land for a walk. One leads you along the coast to "Fur Seal Grotto", where fur seals lie in the shade and rest on the cool stones of the coast from the strong sun. The grotto provides an excellent place for this and the surrounding pools of the tide attract marine lizards to forage in them. The second path takes you to the island's Pan de Azucar volcano, which is responsible for turning the beach black. The volcano's crater is filled with saltwater, which dries up in hot weather, leaving a dry saline landscape. Between 1928 and 1930, a salt mine was considered, but it was decided against because it was not feasible and lucrative. The lagoon is often home to Galapagos flamingos and other birds such as the Galapagos hawk, which circles over the landscape at high altitudes.

Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove, Santiago Island

Afternoon: At the northernmost end of James Bay is Espumilla Beach. Next door, feeding sea lizards, the Galapagos green sea turtles also visit this beach to lay their eggs. The beach also offers a nice snorkelling experience, sharks, rays and octopods have been observed here in the clear water. Continue on a trail that leads inland, past a seasonal lagoon that is partly quite green due to the algae in the water. Along the way, you might encounter Galapagos flamingos, Bahama ducks and many other bird species of the Galapagos Islands, if you are lucky you might also spot a Galapagos hawk circling in the skies above you.

In the days of piracy in the 16th century, this cave on the northwest coast of Santiago was used by pirates and privateers to rest, get fresh water and replenish food supplies. From here, it was best to go inland to find water and bring turtles as provisions to the ship, as the ship was well protected and undiscovered in the cave. Today, numerous Galapagos bird species nest on the cliffs of the cave and circle in the skies above the island's red beach. This is also a great place for snorkelling and relaxing on the beach with the odd sea lion or fur seal.

Day 13

Rábida Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

Morning: The small island has only one access point for visitors, it is located on the east coast. The red beach, the lagoon near the coast and the 1.1-kilometre long circular walk on the island are breathtaking. The red colour of the rock and the beach is due to the porous ferruginous volcanic rock and various environmental factors such as rain, saltwater and the coastal winds. In addition to the highest concentration of volcanic features and the environmental factors that act as oxidizers, the red colour of the island is created. After a wet landing, you can see sea lions and marine lizards relaxing on the Galapagos red beach. Just past the beach is one of the nesting sites for pelicans, which use the island's plants for shelter. It is one of the best places to see pelicans and sometimes a flamingo or two is spotted. The path of the island goes through opuntias and different birds can be seen here like Darwin's finches, Galapagos doves or Galapagos mockingbird. After the short walk, you can dive and swim in the bay, that clear water offers a good view of the underwater world.

Black Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz Island

Morning: 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.

Day 14

North Seymour Island

Today you can do an optional dive.

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 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.

Mosquera Island

Afternoon: Between the two islands, North Seymour and Baltra lies the small island, Mosquera. The narrow island's coastline stretches out with white sand beaches, lava rocks, and tide pools. Created by Geological uplift, the island has a relatively flat landscape. Mosquera is a great place for snorkelling, strolling on the beach, and enjoying the animal life without the tourist crowds that are common on many of the more popular islands. This islet is home to a huge colony of resident sea lions and is also home to many shorebirds.

Day 15

Daphne Island

Morning: Daphne Island is a cone formed by the accumulation of volcanic ash. Daphne is home to thousands of birds, including blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds. 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 behaviour of Darwin’s finches.

To learn more about evolution and the studies conducted here, we recommend "The Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner

Departure from Baltra Island

You will arrive at the port of Baltra. From there, you will either transfer to the airport for your return flight to the mainland or continue with your individual Galapagos program.

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