- Duration 9 days
- Difficulty 3/5
- Group Size 14
3 – 11 December, 2021
The Galapagos archipelago, on everyone’s bucket list, is one of the planet’s last wild and incredible places. We have chartered the S/S Mary Anne, arguably one of the best boats operating in the national park. This itinerary includes visits to the south, central and northern islands. We will walk on bare lava, come face to face with all three booby species and watch displaying frigate birds. We will wander the highlands for giant tortoises, be amazed by hundreds of unique marine iguanas basking at our feet and get up close and personal with the endemic waved albatross. We will swim with penguins, rays and sharks, interact with curious sea lions, snorkel alongside green sea turtles and be surrounded by yellow tailed surgeonfish. To the islands that inspired Charles Darwin, we offer a trip of a lifetime.
These December back-to-back Galapagos trips are combinable for a two week itinerary with a USD $500.00 per person discount.
USD $7,850.00 Per person sharing a cabin
Single Supplement: USD $600 limited to 4 spaces
Arrival: José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Departure: José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Arrival Time: 3rd December
- Hotel in Guayaquil the night prior to departure to Galapagos.
- Airport transfers.
- 7 nights accommodation aboard the S/S Mary Anne.
- All meals, drinking water, tea and coffee aboard the vessel.
- Naturalist guide plus two Pete Oxford Expeditions trip leaders.
- All activities, including INGALA fee and loan of snorkel gear.
- International airfare to and from Guayaquil.
- Domestic air fare between Guayaquil and Galapagos return. **Please note: For the domestic airfare Guayaquil-Galapagos-Guayaquil we will have a group block booking. DO NOT BOOK YOUR OWN FLIGHTS.
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee, international or domestic departure taxes and passport expenses.
- Tips to guide and crew.
- Items of a personal nature including laundry, postage, shipboard bar, personal shopping and internet.
- Hire of wetsuits while on board.
- Additional hotel nights not mentioned in the itinerary.
Day 1, December 3rd: Guayaquil
After arriving at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil we will transfer to the hotel for the night. Dinner is on our own.
A Day 2, December 4th am: Baltra Island, Santa Cruz Island
After breakfast in our hotel we fly to Baltra Island: the gateway to the Galapagos. On arrival, we immediately transfer to the S/S Mary Anne to settle in and have lunch. Beginning tonight and until the morning of day 9 we eat and overnight aboard our vessel. Our sailing ship the S/S Mary Anne a three-masted barquentine is the only one of its kind in the islands.
B Day 2, December 4th pm: Santa Cruz Island, Black Turtle Cove
The vessel navigates a short distance to Santa Cruz Island where we head out into the surreal mangrove system of Black Turtle Cove. This tranquil and sheltered lagoon is home to pelicans and herons that roost in the mangroves, while marine dwellers such as sharks, golden cownose rays and turtles may cruise right next to our panga (an inflatable motor boat). During December the Pacific green turtle comes here to nest. This is a special place and very different from all other sites to be visited. We travel overnight to the far north of the archipelago.
C Day 3, December 5th: Genovesa (Tower) Island: Darwin Bay & Prince Philip’s Steps
We sail into the sunken crater of this isolated island where we anchor and spend the entire day. The crater walls form tall cliffs above sea level but also plunge down over 60 meters allowing for excellent cliff face snorkeling. This island is the home to the largest red-footed booby colony in Galapagos and has a good population of breeding great frigatebirds. There are no lava lizards here and the marine iguanas are the smallest in the islands. Upon landing on the beach in Darwin Bay, finches come hopping over, sea lions feign nonchalance and red-footed boobies swirl continuously overhead. Great frigatebirds nest on the low saltbushes. We see yellow-crowned night herons, as well as swallow-tailed gulls, widely recognized as the most beautiful gull in the world and the only one that is nocturnal. After our visit we snorkel and kayak in the caldera before having lunch. On the afternoon’s landing we climb Prince Philip’s Steps to another bird spectacle. Nesting Nazca and red-footed boobies line our way as we head to a lava field, home to thousands of minuscule storm petrels on which one of our target species, the short-eared owls, have learned to feed. Our early evening sail out of the caldera is often in the company of dolphins as we say goodbye to this ‘island of birds’.
D Day 4, December 6th am: Bartolomé Island
Now in the heart of the archipelago we begin with a climb up a series of wooden steps to the most famous viewpoint in the Galapagos, the Pinnacle Rock of Bartolomé. The iconic view across the pinnacle to Santiago Island is spectacular and often evokes the sensation of being on the moon. The island is young and the ‘spatter’ or cinder cones look as if they were just formed. Our chance to swim with Galapagos penguins on this itinerary is here at the base of Pinnacle Rock. A small family of penguins lives in the area and its members are easily photographed in shallow water as they ‘fly’ past snorkelers in the bay. There are also sharks, playful sea lions, rays and a host of colorful fish.
E Day 4, December 6th pm: Santiago Island: Sullivan Bay
In the afternoon we head across to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island to a recent, barren lava field. The formations of black, basaltic pahoehoe or ropey lava are only 100 years old. The different lava formations, crystallized minerals and pioneer plants are stunning and highly photogenic. There’s great snorkeling here and we hope to interact with turtles, sea lions and rays.
F Day 5, December 7th am: Rábida Island
The dramatic red beaches of Rábida Island are made of sand eroded from cinder cliffs to the west, backed by large palo santo covered cliffs and Opuntia cacti. The beach is home to several young, approachable sea lions. Hiking further inland we look for a host of Galapagos specialties such as the radiant vermillion flycatcher, Galapagos mockingbirds and some of the 9 species of Darwin’s finches found on this island. While snorkeling again we hope to find large schools of black-striped salema fish and some playful sea lions underwater.
G Day 5, December 7th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Cerro Dragón
At Cerro Dragón beach on Santa Cruz we hike inland through palo santo trees on a trail frequented by land iguanas. These iguanas were once part of the Darwin Station’s breeding program. This is a good location to see them at their burrows as December is nesting season for all the reptiles in Galapagos. Another target species that we are on the lookout for is the tool-using woodpecker finch searching for grubs. A saltwater lagoon is the occasional home to flamingos, black-necked stilts and other waders.
H Day 6, December 8th am: Santa Cruz Island: Local ranch and giant tortoise viewing
We spend the day visiting Santa Cruz Island’s most famous highlights. After landing at the dock in the town of Puerto Ayora we head up to the highlands. In contrast to the arid coastal region, here we will see lush vegetation and forest due to the humidity that gathers in the higher regions. We look for barn owls, flycatchers and yellow warblers, but our objective is the wild tortoises found roaming around the local ranches, often among the cattle. These 600lb (270kg) prehistoric giants roam free and change locations according to food availability and season and which ranch we visit will depend on their presence. Lunch is at a local ranch.
I Day 6, December 8th pm: Santa Cruz Island: Charles Darwin Station & Puerto Ayora
Returning from the highlands to the town of Puerto Ayora, we visit the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more about the history and science of the islands. The station houses tortoises from the different islands in semi-natural pens. There are also breeding pens for the tortoises and land iguanas. Finches are easily photographed in this area as we explore the station. Returning through town we have a chance to shop for souvenirs or continue photographing the juxtaposition of the abundant wildlife in the urban environment.
j Day 7, December 9th am: South Plazas Island
The tiny South Plazas Island has much to offer. The red carpet of the succulent Sesuvium vegetation growing between the Opuntia cactus provides a beautiful backdrop to swallow-tailed gulls, land iguanas and sea lions, all present at the landing to greet us. This sub-species of land iguana is the smallest in Galapagos and some have bred with the marine iguanas to form a hybrid species only found here. The path winds its way to the cliff top where we sit and watch Galapagos shearwaters gliding over the waves and gulls, tropic birds and frigates cruising lazily below and at eye-level on the up-draught.
K Day 7, December 9th pm: Santa Fe Island
Santa Fe is idyllic. It has a beautiful natural bay filled with turquoise water and two lovely white sand beaches used by sunbathing sea lions. Inland we hike past a grove of giant, tree-forming prickly pear cacti, a different land iguana species endemic to the island and perhaps an endemic Galapagos hawk or two. We predeed the land visit with a snorkel to look for rays, surgeonfish, parrotfish and possibly even sharks.
L Day 8, December 10th am: Española (Hood) Island: Gardner Bay, Gardner Islet, Osborn Islet
We snorkel around the offshore islands of Española (Hood) Island where we may find and play with curious sea lions in the water. We then visit one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands, and sit with sea lions, walk the length of the beach or find a quiet place to sit in self-reflection.
M Day 8, December 10th pm: Española (Hood) Island: Punta Suárez
We saved one of the best sites for last: Punta Suárez is a true naturalist’s paradise! From the moment we set foot on land we are enthralled. The island’s endemic mockingbird is here as are sea lions, finches and the archipelago’s most colorful marine iguanas. We see nesting blue-footed and Nazca boobies, Galapagos hawks and the largest and perhaps most spectacular of the island’s endemic birds, the waved albatross. We spend time and sit quietly while observing the complex courtship rituals from a cliff edge and are awed by these magnificent birds as they glide past effortlessly at eye-level.
N Day 9, December 11th am: Santa Cruz Island: Los Gemelos & Baltra Island
We disembark the S/S Mary Anne for the last time in Puerto Ayora. Making our way across Santa Cruz Island we stop at the twin craters (Los Gemelos) and some lava tubes. These tunnels were formed by a lava flow that cooled and hardened on the outside while still maintaining its fluid scalding state on the inside, leaving hollow tunnels where it passed; some of these are the largest lava tunnels in the world. From here we head to Baltra airport where our journey began, for our flight back to mainland Ecuador and international flights home.
NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change at the discretion of the Galapagos National Park Service.
Discover the world with experienced travelers
Pete Oxford & RENEÉ BISH
Photographers | Owners | Trip Leaders
Pete and Reneé have lived in Ecuador since 1985 and 1991 respectively. They travel as a professional photographic and tour leading team specializing in wildlife and indigenous cultures. Pete began in tourism in 1987 while living as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands. Shortly afterwards he became a co-founder of the Galapagos Naturalist Guides’ Association, which was created to train a higher standard of naturalist guide. With the Galapagos Islands in their backyard, Pete and Reneé have been fascinated by and fallen in love with the archipelago. Together Pete and Renee have written four books on the Galapagos. They are excited to be able to share with you the islands that are so dear to them!