Galapagos Islands“…by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings…I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted.” -.Charles Darwin
Sunday: Baltra – North Seymour
Monday: Chinese Hat – Bartolomé
Tuesday: Genovesa: Darwin Bay – Prince Phillips Steps
Wednesday: Puerto Egas – Rabida
Thursday: Darwin Station – Highlands of Santa Cruz
Friday: Española: Playa Gardner – Pta. Suarez
Saturday: Santa Fe – South Plaza
Sunday: Black Turtle Cove – Baltra
The island Baltra is the only island of all Galapagos, not included in its totality in the National Park Area. The Americans built the airport of Baltra in 1941-1948, using it as their air force base in the Pacific during the Second World War. The airport and harbor are now Ecuadorian military territory. Unfortunately, both of the military presences have left back their traces.
The flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos takes about 90 minutes. Arriving on the airport, the visitors have first to pay the entrance fee of US$ 100 for the National park. Leaving the arrival hall, the National Park Guide of the is waiting for you and accompanies the whole group to the harbor of Baltra, where your “Yacht Angelito I” is anchored. The cruise can begin!
It’s a flat uplifted island in the “rain shadow” of the island Santa Cruz and for this reason, with dry vegetation of the Arid Zone. Loop trail.
The dry landing on a landing peer is often somewhat difficult depending of the swell.
The arrival on the rocky coast is full of surprises with the sea lions, swallow-tailed gulls, sally lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas. The trail leads through the nesting area of colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigate bird.
Only a 200-meter wide channel separates this small island from the big island Santiago. The shape of the island looks like a Chinese hat and the island is very attractive because of the landscape.
The wet landing is on a small white coral beach with sea lions. The easy and short trail leads along the coast with very fragile lava. There are a lot of small lava tubes and little but very attractive vegetation. Pillow lava can be found on the turning point of the trail.
The dry landing is on a jetty. The summit trail leads to the top of Bartolomé on a wooden foot-bridge and stairs to protect the fragile landscape. The view from the top across Bartolomé, Santiago with Sullivan Bay and the surrounding islands is wonderful. All the secondary cones, lava flows and lava tubes mimick a moon landscape.
We have the possibility for snorkeling around Pinnacle Rock, the famous landmark of Bartolomé.
In the late afternoon we go with the dinghy along the coast to look out for the Galapagos penguins. The penguin lives and nests in the lava tubes of the rocky coast, along where he is also fishing.
Wet landing on a small white beach made of coral sand. The trail follows the shore vegetation of red mangrove and salt bush. The special prickly pear cactus grows on Genovesa often like a hanging cactus with only soft hairy spines. Under the shore vegetation are nesting the swallow-tailed gulls and in the bushes and trees there are the nests of the red-footed boobies and great frigatebirds. A few Nazca boobies are nesting on the ground. The trail leads along small tidepools up to the cliff with a spectacular view over the caldera. By low tide there are thousands of Galapagos fiddler crabs in the sandy ground
Prince Philip Steps:
Dry landing by the cliff. The Prince Philip’s Steps offer the only possibility to climb the steep basaltic cliff. The following easy trail leads first through a small nesting colony of masked boobies and crosses a low and dense forest of palo santo trees where the red-footed boobies have their nests. Arriving on the edge of the island there are thousands of the small petrels nesting in the crevices and tubes of the fragile lava. They are the favourite food of the short-eared owls. On both sides of the trail there is a big Nazca booby nesting colony.
Landmark of Puerto Egas are the tuff formations of the cliffs with the relief structures. The wet landing is on a black beach. The walk with the intertidal life shows during the always changing tide levels an interesting special fauna. Often we can observe lava herons fishing in the isolated tidal pools.
On the whole walk we can see Galapagos sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas. Depending of the season, there are also a lot of migrant shore birds, living on these rich coasts during wintertime. On the turning point of the trail is the start of a Galapagos fur seal colony. The Galapagos fur seal has found an ideal living space in the crevices and caves of the rocky lava coast.
Rábida looks red with the lava containing a lot of ferric oxide in the lava. Very special is the red sand of the beach with the saltbush vegetation and the silvery palo santo trees on the slopes. The batch of Rabida had before the last El Niño one of the biggest Galapagos sea lion colony. This colony has to recuperate again from the small remainder population. There is a small lagoon behind the zone of saltbush vegetation with (depending of the season) flamingos and white-cheeked pintail ducks.
Island Santa Cruz:
Charles Darwin Research Station:
The visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station gives the opportunity to get to known the scientific work taking place in the National Park. Especially the raising programs for the different subspecies of the giant tortoises are very well documented.
It is also a good opportunity to observe the Galapagos tortoises up-close; the symbol of Galapagos. In the Van Straiten Exhibition Hall, there is great documentation about the Galapagos Islands with photos and diagrams. The vegetation on this hike is exuberant green, and a lot of Darwin’s finches are easy to spot.
Highland Santa Cruz:
Drive up to the highlands in a bus. In a short time one can see the transition between the different vegetation zones from the Arid zone to the Transition zone up to the Scalesia zone (and agricultural area), where the problems of introduced animals and plants are quite obvious. On the highest point of the road the National Park starts again.
“El Chato”: we visit a farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz to look out for the Galapagos Tortoises in liberty. During their migration routes the spend part of the year in these highlands and can be easily observed.
Española belongs to the oldest islands of Galapagos. Because of its geographic isolation, a great number of endemic species can be found in the island, making it very attractive. The Galapagos albatross for example comes only to the island of Española for breeding during the months of April to December (with the exception of a few pairs on the island Plata near the coast of Ecuador).
Wet landing on a wonderful, long, white beach made of coral sand. For this visit you don’t need shoes. Very good place to observe the finches and mockingbirds in the saltbush vegetation, you can also enjoy the beach close to the Galapagos sea lions. You have the possibility to swim and snorkel from the beach.
Loop trail with an easy, dry landing on a jetty. The walk on a stony, rocky ground is long and quite difficult. The visitors can find even on the very beginning of the trail the colourful “Española marine iguana” and Galapagos sea lions. Everywhere the curious Española mockingbird approaches the visitors. The trail leads through the nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and waved albatross. The big Española lava lizards are to be found everywhere.
A resting spot close to a cliff gives the opportunity to watch all the different marine birds flying along the coast. An albatross during his “take off” from the cliff is an amazing event to witness.
There is another stop by the blowhole where the seawater is pushed through a fissure in the cliff into the air, depending of the waves and tide level till 80 feet high.
The wet landing is on a beach with a big sea lion colony.
The short trail leads from the sea lion colony on the beach through dry vegetation of the Arid Zone to a wonderful forested cliff with high prickly pear cactus and then back to a second beach.
Only the very attentive visitors can detect up there the endemic land iguana of Santa Fe, because he is perfectly camouflaged in the same colors of the vegetation and their territories are quiet big.
Easy loop trail with a dry landing on a jetty.
It’s a small uplifted island with a cliff 25 meters high on the southern side of the island. The whole flat, rocky northern coast has a big colony of Galapagos sea lions and on the East point is a bachelor sea lion colony.
Very attractive are the beautiful prickly pear cactus trees and of course the big colony of land iguanas. Depending on the season, the sesuvium ground vegetation changes its colour from intense green in the rainy season to orange and purple in the dry season.
Black Turtle Cove:
With the dinghy we go into the big protected mangrove cove. In the far away small corners we turn off the motor of the dinghy rowing then noiselessly to observe the marine turtles.
There are a lot of them in the cove during mating and nesting season (December to February), but even out of season there are always some turtles staying back in the mangrove cove to rest. Spotted eagle rays, golden rays, white-tipped reef sharks and young Galapagos sharks can often be spotted.
At the end of the cruise, the passengers leave the Angelito again in the harbor of Baltra and your guide takes care of everything until you fly back to the continent.