Galapagos Island Ultimate Cruise

Darwin’s observations of the animals of the Galapagos Islands were the basis for his theories of evolution. Experience the sheer magic of these islands for yourself on this ultimate Quo Adventure in partnership with Creter Tours and their luxurious catamaran, The Treasure of Galapagos. This beautiful catamaran is available for charter with a maximum of 16 passengers. There are several cruise lengths available starting at 5 nights in duration. This itinerary represents the ultimate 15 day adventure, but Quo can customize to 5, 7, 9, 11 or 15 nights on board this remarkable ship. If you are interested be sure to book early as availability is extremely limited.

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The ships crew includes a knowledgeable naturalist who will lead us on expeditions and educate us on the animals, the variance between species from island to island and the geography of the islands themselves. This is the ultimate field trip for those interested in learning about the Galapagos.

A typical day begins with a scrumptious breakfast followed  by a meeting with our naturalist who will explain the schedule for the day and  what we should expect to see. Each day consists of a morning hike and snorkeling or swimming, and afternoon hike and often another opportunity to snorkel. Lunch and dinner are served on board the ship and the cuisine highlights local produce. Expect to see lots of fresh seafood, salads and Ecuadorian specialties.

This adventure is designed with the ultimate Quo adventurer in mind but is easily adapted to families or small groups of adults wanting to explore this mysterious land.

In addition we will see the capital of Quito, Ecuador and shop at the ultimate indian market in Otavalo! Should you wish to combine your cruise with the Amazon rain forest or Avenue of the Volcanoes, Quo can easily arrange that for you.

Program Snap Shot

Program length:  Varies

All Inclusive Price:  $5,995 – $10,195*

Departures available year round

*Note – price will be determined based on cruise length – cruises of 5, 7, 9 & 15 days are available for charter or available for individuals to join a published cruise


Highlights:

  • Cruise Galapagos Islands on a luxury catamaran
  • Up close and personal with animals of Galapagos
  • Cruise from 5-15 days
  • Explore lava flows
  • Follow in the footsteps of Darwin
  • Swim with Sea Lions
  • Charles Darwin Research Center
  • Wolf Volcano
  • Quito and Middle of the Earth

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Full Program Itinerary

Day One – U.S.A. to Quito
Bon Voyage! Today we depart the U.S. for Quito, Ecuador. Our flight arrives late in the evening and we will be met by our guide and transferred to our hotel in Quito for the evening.
Day Two – Middle of the World
This morning our guide will meet us and we will explore the old city of Quito with its beautiful plazas and examples of Spanish architecture dating back to 1534. We will visit the spectacular Society of Jesus Church, which offers the best expression of the Baroque architectural style found anywhere in Latin America. Following lunch, we’ll drive to “The Middle of the World”. The geographic center of the Earth is located a short 30 min drive from Quito. Guides will demonstrate strange phenomenon that occur at the equator. Did you know that you weigh less at the equator? Can you balance an egg on a nail? Our visit will reveal all.
Day Three – The incomparable Galapagos – Santa Cruz Island
This morning, we’ll fly out to the Galapagos Islands.  There are several formalities to clear to ensure that the delicate eco system is protected from invasive species. When we arrive at the Baltra airport, our expert naturalist meet us and transfer us to our home for the next 15 days, The Treasure of Galapagos.  After boarding the ship we will have chance to settle into our cabins and unpack before a delicious lunch. This afternoon we transfer by zodiac to the shore where a motor coach waits to take us to Santa Cruz Island’s  Charles Darwin Station. The station was established as a center to educate, study and protect some of the islands most endangered animals, the giant tortoise of the Galapagos.
Day Four – Santiago Island and Bartolome Island
The Sullivan Bay visitor site provides a unique opportunity to walk across a recent lava flow and view its beautiful structural characteristics. The lava flow was formed in the second half of the 19th century. As much of the barren, volcanic landscape of eastern Santiago, the trail at Sullivan Bay crosses relatively flat, black pahoehoe lava, dotted with a series of pyroclastic cones. Along the inland section of the trail, older, reddish-yellow-colored tuff cones stand out in the middle of the lava flow. Tiny Molluga plants can be spotted growing out of the fissures as they begin to colonize this barren terrain. Although there is little wildlife to speak of and lava is the main focus of the visit – don’t forget to bring your camera.  Next stop Bartoleme Island. Visitors land across the small bay, opposite Pinnacle Rock. They proceed to climb a 600-m trail to the 114-m summit (the climb includes a wooden staircase constructed by the Park Service to protect the island from erosion). The summit provides spectacular views of Pinnacle Rock, the immense black lava flows at Sullivan Bay and the rest of Santiago Island, and Daphne Major and Minor. Along the way, various volcanic formations including spatter and tuff cones and lava flows are seen. The climb also gives the visitor a unique insight into species adaptation. The Tequila plant, which appears to be dead brush, is actually made of leaves covered with small gray hairs, which help prevent moisture evaporation and reflect sunlight.
Day Five North Seymour Island and Mosquera Islet
This morning we head to North Seymour Island. The trail on North Seymour includes a short loop or an alternative longer loop, providing visitors with ample opportunity to observe the largest colony of magnificent frigatebirds in Galapagos, blue-footed boobies, and land iguanas, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas along the coast. At times in the past, marine iguanas on North Seymour have been observed eating land vegetation, a very unusual behavior for this species. At 120 meters by 600 meters, this small, flat, sandy islet sits in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour and is almost devoid of vegetation. It has one of the largest populations of sea lions and its sandy expanses offer visitors the perfect opportunity to observe sea lion behavior. It is also a beautiful site to observe lava gulls, coastal birds, and Sally lightfoot crabs.
Day Six South Plazas Island and San Cristobal Island: Cerro Brujo
South Plazas Island is a small island but despite its small size has an extraordinary number of bird species such as red billed tropicbirds and swallow tailed gulls. We will be amazed by the colors of the sesuvium which grows on the island and varies between green and bright red, depending on the season. This afternoon its off to San Cristobal Island where we will stop at Cerro Brujo. Here we find one of the nicest beaches on the island with white powder sand, a sea lion colony and blue footed boobies. There is excellent snorkeling in the turquoise waters of the bay.
Day Seven San Cristobal Island: Interpretation Center and Cerro Colorado
The San Cristóbal Interpretation Center explains the significant natural, human and geological events of San Cristóbal Island and the surrounding archipelago. Inside, we’ll find an installment dedicated to national history, which showcases elaborate illustrations and interactive exhibits depicting the Galápagos’ volcanic history, unique climate and rare native species. Meanwhile, the center’s Human History facility provides us with an enriching account of the island’s colonization, as well as current and future preservation efforts.  Later we visitCerro Colorado. Established by the National Park in 2003, the Galapaguera is a man-made breeding program for tortoises and an information center for visitors. Here we can can both observe giant tortoises living in a semi-natural habitat, and also learn about their origin, evolution, and threats by introduced animals.
Day Eight Española: Gardner Bay and Española: Punta Suarez
The beach at Gardner Bay offers one of the best beaches to experience “relaxing beach time” in Galapagos. The expansive white sand beach (one of the longest in Galapagos at 2 km) attracts many napping sea lions, as well as tourists. Three species of Darwin’s finches and Española Mockingbirds may be seen at this site. Española Mockingbirds are fearless and frequently land on visitors’ heads and shoulders in search of food. This mockingbird is slightly larger than other mockingbird species found in Galapagos. It has a long, curved beak and is the only carnivorous mockingbird species, feeding on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings, sea lion placentas, and even baby boobies.Here we can swim or snorkel along the rocks in the shallow water near the beach. Green Sea Turtles may be found gliding through the water or hauling themselves onto the beach for a rest or for nesting. One of the most popular visitor sites in Galapagos, Punta Suarez has an amazing variety and quantity of wildlife. Lazy sea lions may greet visitors at the rocky landing site, forcing visitors to step over or around them to get to the trail. Groups of young sea lions are often found nearby playing in the shallow water, waiting for their mothers to return with food. Brightly-colored red and green marine iguanas can be found lining the coastal areas near the landing site. They are the only marine iguanas that remain brightly colored throughout the year.
Day Nine Floreana: Post office Bay and Floreana: P. Cormorant
Today our first visit is Post Office Bay on Floreana. This is one of the few visitor sites in Galapagos where human history is the main focus. A group of whalers placed a wooden barrel here in 1793 and called it a post office. Traveling seamen would leave addressed letters in the barrel and hope that the next seamen to come along might be headed in the direction of their letters’ destinations. Today, visitors leave their own postcards and sift through the current pile of cards—if they find one that they can hand-deliver, they take it with them. This area was also the site of a failed colonization effort by Norwegians in 1926. A short walk from the Post Office Barrel leads to a lava tube, which visitors enter by descending a ladder. The trail inside the dark lava tube extends for several hundred yards. Cormorant Bay offers two contrasting beaches: the first is a green sand beach, made green by the presence of olivine crystals, and the second is Flour Beach, made of fine, pulverized coral. The main highlight at this visitor’s site is the flamingo lagoon, where visitors can watch Galapagos Flamingoes wade through brackish water, sifting through the mud for shrimp. Pintail ducks, stilts, Large-billed Flycatchers, several species of finch, and many other shorebirds can also be seen here. Visitors can take a short walk over a hill to Flour Beach where Green Sea Turtles nest and several species of rays glide through the shallow shoreline waters. Cormorant Point has a greater diversity of plants than most other areas, including some endemic to the Point and surrounding areas.
Day Ten Santa Fe and Tortuga Bay
Our visit to Santa Fe begins with a wet landing on the small beach in Barrington Bay on the northeast side of the island. Large numbers of sea lions are found on the beaches in the bay and can often be seen surfing in the waves. There are two trails, one short loop that is fairly close to the beach and provides a close-up look at the massive Santa Fe Opuntia cactus. Santa Fe land iguanas as well as Galapagos hawks are often seen along the visitor trail. The second trail climbs a steep cliff, providing a view of the inland section of the island. To get to Tortuga Bay you must hike an improved trail of rock and boardwalk surrounded by cacti, palo santo trees, and matasarno trees. The walk in the sun is rewarded with a spectacular white sand beach stretching across the southern coast of Santa Cruz. Tortuga Bay beach is famous for its expansive and pristine shoreline that gradually descends into the sparkling Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to try your hand at surfing (be careful) or just relax and soak in the sun with the Marine Iguanas. A snorkel in the beautiful lagoons reveals the full richness of the Galapagos marine life. You can see colorful reef fish, white-tip sharks, rays and the beach’s namesake, sea turtles. You should take time to walk through the Marine Iguana sanctuary where you might also catch a glimpse of Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigate birds along the shore.
Day Eleven Santa Cruz Island: Chato and Santa Cruz – Charles Darwin Station
 Santa Cruz also offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild tortoises, both roaming through pastures in the agricultural zone and in the Tortoise Reserve, which is accessible from Santa Rosa or Salasaca. Several farms serve food and allow visitors to explore their grounds in search of tortoises. Descending through the agricultural zone into the Transition Zone where the Tortoise Reserve is located, the introduced vegetation of the farmlands is replaced by native vegetation. The pond at El Chato is surrounded by forest where short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, Vermilion Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers, Galapagos Rails, and Paint-billed Crakes can be seen. As the visitor walks into the forests overgrown with lichens, ferns, and other epiphytes, it is time to listen carefully for the sound of heavy footsteps and the sound of shrubs being slowly crushed as the tortoises make their way through the brush.

A ten minute walk from the center of town, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the operational center of the international non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is included in many cruises. The visitor center contains exhibits dealing with climate and geography and provides insight into the evolution of flora and fauna as well as current conservation programs. The Darwin Station conducts research and provides technical assistance to other researchers and governmental agencies, in particular the Galapagos National Park. The results of the research are published in scientific journals, reports, and also included in interpretive displays for visitors. The Darwin Station also provides environmental education to communities and schools in Galapagos.

Day Twelve Santa Cruz Island: Ballena Bay and Santa Cruz Island: Dragon Hill
One of the least visited sites, Whale Bay is an open area where visitors can wander a bit. The boundary is a semicircle that extends 250 m around the base of the hill. Climbing the hill is best done from the inland southern side. The beach is green-colored due to the olivine crystals found in the sand. Ceramic pieces are sometimes found in the area and must be left in place. There is no verified information about the origin of the ceramic but there were two or three houses at Whale Bay in 1846. According to the captain of the Genie, this site had the only trail to the highlands, which served for obtaining fresh water. It is believed that various men lived here for a time and worked harvesting a species of lichen, Rocella tinctoria, which was used as a dye.

Dragon Hill is one of the few visitor sites directly related to a conservation program of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. In 1975 the population of land iguanas of northeast Santa Cruz, as well as at Cartago Hill on Isabela, were decimated by feral dogs. The breeding and rearing program for land iguanas was begun as an emergency response to this devastation. In addition to the breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station, 38 land iguanas were released on the nearby islet of Venecia. This semi-captive population lives under natural conditions. However, the islet had no suitable area for nesting. Therefore, approximately 100 m3 of soil was moved from Santa Cruz to Venecia to create an artificial nesting area. The population thrived. The program has been very successful and the last land iguana was repatriated to Dragon Hill from the Iguana Center in 1991. The population on Venecia continues to grow and iguanas continue to be transferred to Dragon Hill approximately every three years. The visitor site was opened in 1993 to provide an additional chance for observing land iguanas. The landing site at the rocky shore is a wonderful place for snorkeling. Heading inland on the trail, visitors pass two small salt-water lagoons where it is sometimes possible to see flamingos and other shore birds. The trail continues on and circles Dragon Hill where visitors can observe land iguanas and their many burrows on the hillside.

Day Thirteen Isabela Island: Tintoreras and Isabela Island: Humedales
To reach Tintoreras, a group of small islets off the coast, visitors must take a dinghy ride. The small bay of completely tranquil turquoise water provides habitat for sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays, and other species. The bay is connected to a shallow crevice of crystalline water that is frequented by sharks. The relatively short loop trail is primarily on aa lava. Marine iguanas nest on the islet and sharks can be seen in the crevice where they rest during the day.

The Wall of Tears is an interesting historical site, usually visited by tourists staying in Villamil for a few days. It is a 6-km walk (one-way) from town (it is possible to get a ride half way). The trail passes the Villamil cemetery shortly after leaving town, with tombs of the first settlers. About half way to the Wall, the trail passes a white sand beach with surrounding lagoons where all four species of mangroves that exist in Galapagos can be seen. The trail continues through the dry zone until reaching the Wall. A penal colony existed on Isabela from 1944 to 1959. The Wall of Tears was built by the prisoners to keep them busy. It stand 5-6 m high, 3 m wide and is approximately 100 m long. It is a testament to a period of cruelty and torture.

Day Fourteen Isabela Island: Punta Moreno and Isabela Island: Bahia Urbina
Punta Moreno is located on the north coast of Isabela Island between the volcano Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul volcano. The distance of the trail is about 2100 meters, and runs along a lava flow Pahohoe (solidified lava in the form of corrugated or an accordion) into a complex of coastal lagoons.

The vegetation found in the area is small and concentrated mainly in the mangrove area and around the lakes. It should be noted that the three kinds of cacti are found here.

The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amid black lava flows where there are several species of birds. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos that are Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul of Isabela Island and La Cumbre of Fernandina Island.

A long, loop trail leads the visitor away from the beach and into the arid zone of the island. Here visitors may have the chance to see giant tortoises, land iguanas, and flightless cormorants (near the coast). The most unique feature at Urbina Bay is the result of an uplift of the island in 1954, when a 6-km stretch of coral reef was raised up 5 m, stranding the coral heads above sea level with the new coastline more than a km away. However, exposed to the air, the coral heads are rapidly deteriorating.

Day Fifteen Fernandina: Punta Espinoza and Isabela Island: Caleta Tagus
This visitor site offers two major components – the short walk around the small peninsula and a longer walk inland to the edge of a large aa lava flow.

This point has been raised and lowered a number of times as a result of geologic activity throughout its history, with the last known activity in 1975, when it was raised approximately 40 cm, leaving corals and red mangroves exposed.

The highlights along the coast include Marine Iguanas and Flightless Cormorants. The Marine Iguanas nest here in the early part of the year with young emerging around June. At that time, snakes are commonly seen in the nesting zone. Other attractions include penguins, sea lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, and occasionally Galapagos Hawks and land iguanas.
Punta Espinosa is also one of the best places to see the Lava Cactus. One of the first species to grow on young lava, it can survive with very little water. The walk inland is predominantly through a pahoehoe lava field but it ends at a great wall of aa lava.

A favorite site of the early pirates and whalers, many of these early visitors wrote their names on the cliffs along the shore. The oldest include the Phoenix in 1836 and the Genie in 1846. The name Tagus comes from an English war ship that passed by the islands in 1814 looking for giant tortoises. A short, steep hike passes Darwin Lake, which sits within a tuff cone. It is approximately 9 m deep and filled with salt water. This site is an excellent place for viewing landbirds, including ground and tree finches, hawks, yellow warblers, large-billed flycatchers and even sometimes the woodpecker finch. An occasional land iguana or giant tortoise can also sometimes be observed. A dinghy ride along the cliffs provides viewing of the geologic features as well as penguins and other bird species.

Day Sixteen Santiago Island: Puerto Egas and Rabida Island
There are three visitor sites at James Bay. Espumilla Beach on the north end of the bay is a sea turtle nesting site. The trail inland passes a small seasonal lagoon where flamingoes and white-cheeked pintail ducks are sometimes seen. The trail continues in a loop through the arid zone where it is possible to view many land birds. At the southern end of the bay is Puerto Egas where two separate trails take off, the first along the coast to the fur seal grottoes and the second inland to the Salt Mine Volcano. The Galapagos fur seal prefers rocky coastlines where shade is available and the grottoes at Puerto Egas are ideal. The coastal trail ends at the grottoes. The inland trail is approximately 3 km long and ends at the top of the salt mine crater. During the 1920s and 1960s, companies extracted salt from the crater. Puerto Egas is named for the 1960s company owner, Hector Egas. The mine is a small volcanic cone whose crater has a seasonal, salt-water lagoon, where flamingos and other birds can be seen. Galapagos hawks are often observed in the area.

A visit to Rábida’s lone terrestrial visitor site begins with a wet landing on the maroon-colored beach on the northern coast (pictured above). Marine iguanas and sea lions are often seen resting in the shade of the caves nearby.

Brown Pelicans nest in the salt brush behind the beach. Rábida is one of the best places for visitors to see pelicans nesting up close. Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies frequent the cliffs above.

Behind the beach is a saltwater lagoon that, at times, is a feeding and breeding area for flamingos. These large pink or reddish birds live in shallow saltwater lagoons and feed 7-12 hrs each day, primarily on the pink shrimp larva and water boatmen that give them their color. The number of flamingos on Rábida has varied over the years and in some years they are not observed at all. Pintail Ducks and Common Stilts are also frequently seen feeding in the lagoon.

A short trail inland is a good place to observe land birds such as finches, Galapagos Doves, Yellow Warblers, and mockingbirds, as well as the occasional snake. The vegetation consists mainly of Opuntia cacti, Palo Santo trees, and scrubby bushes.

Visits to Rábida often end with swimming and snorkeling, which is very good here.

Day Seventeen  Santa Cruz: Bachas – Transfers out Baltra
On Santa Cruz Island, a bit west of Black Turtle Cove is Las Bachas, a sandy white-coral beach that is a major nesting site for sea turtles. A lagoon behind the first beach often has flamingos, white-cheeked pintail ducks, and migratory birds. The first beach is excellent for swimming. The remains of a floating dock used by Americans during World War II can be found there. The name “Las Bachas” resulted from poor pronunciation on the part of some locals when saying “barges” – as remains of barges from WW II were found there.

This afternoon we sadly leave Treasures of Galapagos and head to the airport for our flight back to the mainland.

Day Eighteen – Otavalo
This morning we’ll board our motorcoach and drive North on the “Panamericana” to Otavalo. This is home to a colorful Indian market that has endured at the “Plaza del Poncho” for many years. This is an ideal place to explore the diverse cultures and traditions on display, while admiring the clothing typical for local native people. It’s also an excellent place to purchase leather and woven products, rugs, “shigras” (colorful straw or linen woven bags), as well as hand-carved wood products, and many other items. Next, we’ll visit Cotacachi and their well-known “leather stores.” Our final afternoon will include a visit to Cuicocha Area, considered one of the most beautiful natural reserves on earth. After a farewell dinner, we’ll have to prepare for our journey back to the United States.
Day Nineteen
This morning we head to the airport for our flight back to the USA.

 

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