Galapagos Cruise Galaxy: West Route (8)

Tour/Activity in Baltra Island, Ecuador

About this activity

Explore the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, Fernandina, Rabida and Santiago onboard Galaxy

Your Travel Experience with Galapagos PRO

Day 1

Transfer from Baltra Airport to Harbour

You will arrive in Baltra in the morning where the crew will greet you. Your guide will accompany you to your cruise, and a briefing will be held regarding the following days onboard. Then, you will be brought to your cabin.

Santa Cruz Highland

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 and giant tortoises roam around at ease in their natural environment. 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 2

Las Tintoreras, Isabela Island

Morning: Off the port of Puerto Villamil, on Isabela, a group of islets protrudes from the ocean. The jagged black formations littered with mangroves and candelabra cacti are the remains of a lava flow that flowed into the ocean millennia ago. Subjected to constant waves, the formations are hollowed out and today a collapsed lava tube forms a channel that fills up during the flood and closes the channel during low tide. Marine life remains in the canal, including the spectacular white tip reef sharks ( also known as "tintoreras" in Spanish). This species of shark is quite common in the archipelago and is mostly sighted during a snorkel on the ocean floor where they rest from their nightly hunts. This unique place allows you to observe the different marine creatures in the crystal clear, turquoise water from the shore. Turtles, elegant white-spotted eagle or golden rays can be seen gliding through the calm canal, as well as smaller fish and Galapagos sea lions. The rocky coast with its tidal habitat also attracts red cliff crabs, lava herons, and Galapagos penguins.

Punta Moreno, Isabela Island

Afternoon: 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!

Day 3

Elizabeth Bay, Isabela Island

Morning: The wide and sheltered Elizabeth Bay, on Isabela's east coast, hosts a bevvy 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.

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 kilometer out. Marine life found a way to thrive in this newly fertile area and many species chose to stay. Today, this area is a great place for snorkeling. During your hike, you may see a large colony of land iguanas, Darwin's finches, giant tortoises (from June to September) and flightless cormorants.

Several species of whale have been spotted in the waters you'll be navigating through today.

Day 4

Tagus Cove, Isabela Island

Morning: 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. You can enjoy a panga ride through the cliffs, observing penguins, flightless cormorants, boobies, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs or return to the cove to relax on the shore or snorkel.

Punta Espinosa, Fernandina Island

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 tuff stone 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 snorkeling sites in the Galapagos.

Day 5

Puerto Egas, Santiago Island

Morning: After landing on the black sand beach of Puerto Egas in Santiago Island, there are two hiking trails for you to choose from. The one first one leads you along the coast to the "fur seal cave" where adorable fur seals can be found laying in the shade or resting on cool rocks by the coast. The cave and nearby areas are a favorite feeding location for marine iguanas as well. The second path leads you to the Azucar Volcano who we hold responsible for the unusually dark color of the beach. The crater of the volcano is filled with salt water, and when it is dried out during the warmer days, a gorgeous salt landscape reveals itself. Between 1928 and 1930, the place was once taken inconsiderate to be used as a salt mine. However, upon realizing that it is not realistic nor lucrative to do so, this plan has fortunately been abandoned. Do keep a lookout for the Galapagos Flamingos, Galapagos Falcon and other birds on the island. Sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs, lava lizards, Galapagos hawks and lava herons can also be found on this island!

Espumilla Beach and Buccaneer Cove, Santiago Island

Afternoon: Espumilla Beach is known for its marine iguanas and red cliff crabs, also known as Sally Lightfoot crabs. The crabs attract hunting herons, who perform their hunter-prey dance. The richness of marine fauna, such as octopus, moray eels and various sharks lends a unique feel to snorkelling in the waters off Espumilla.

Buccaneer Cove is evidence of Santiago's long history as a haven for British buccaneers. These pirates were likely anchoring in this sheltered bay to make repairs and, among other things, to increase their supplies of turtle meat. The steep cliffs surrounding the bay, where hundreds of seabirds settle on the dark red sand beach, are an impressive sight to behold.

Day 6

Cerro Dragon, Santa Cruz Island

Morning: 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.

The dragon hill is a symbol of the successful protection and conservation of the Galapagos Islands. In 1975, all the land iguanas on Dragon hill were almost completely wiped out due to the presence of dogs on the islands brought in by humans. Through the breeding program, the population of land iguanas increased once again and the last iguana born in captivity was released in 1991. Up till today, the breeding station continues to monitor the population closely. Dragon hill also offers a marvellous view of the coast and the rocky beach is a great place to explore the underwater world where rays, sharks and green turtles can be seen.

There are also two saltwater lagoons, where flamingos can be seen, and during this short hike, be on the lookout for darwin finches and mockingbirds.

Black Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon: 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 7

Rábida Island

Morning: 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.

Sombrero Chino Island

Afternoon: One of the most recognisable of the Galapagos Islands, Sombrero Chino's name means "Chinese Hat" and it's easy to see why: this islet off of Santiago is shaped like an old-fashioned Chinese hat, with its gently sloping cone rising out of the clear Galapagos water. It's one of the smallest Galapagos Islands but don't be fooled - it has a terrific visitor site with an unforgettable view!

Day 8

Departure from Baltra Island

Your cruise ends here and from the harbor at Baltra, you will transfer to the airport where you will travel back to Ecuador or continue with your planned program in the Galapagos Islands.

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