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GALAPAGOS 2013

The Islands of Enchantment

15 Day Natural History Trip from June 19 – July 3, 2013

There is no place on earth quite like the Galapagos. Lying 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, and straddling the equator, the Galapagos are an archipelago rich in history and even richer in natural wonders. From the time that Charles Darwin first arrived on the islands they have held a special fascination for adventurous travelers. These barren volcanic landscapes set against the blue of the Pacific are home to one of the greatest assemblages of wildlife oddities in the world. We will witness giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, flamingos, countless seabirds, huge sea lions and even penguins on the Equator. The years of protection mean close encounters with all these creatures and some of the best wildlife photography opportunities anywhere. The islands are surrounded by an incredibly rich marine environment and snorkeling among the great diversity of marine life is often an unexpected highlight of the trip. We will experience most of the Galapagos from the comfort of our private yacht and, unlike most companies, we will visit 11 islands during our trip in order to maximize our chances of seeing the greatest diversity of wildlife the Galapagos is famous for. We will also visit mainland Ecuador and have a chance to experience the rich tapestry that is Andean culture and the diversity of birds, especially hummingbirds, which inhabit the high Andean forests. EcoQuest Travel is proud to invite you to join us as we explore Ecuador’s Islands of Enchantment.


Day 1 – Wednesday, June 19: Our Gateway City to Quito, Ecuador

We will depart on a late afternoon flight from our US gateway city, likely Miami or Atlanta, to Quito, Ecuador. Please make sure that you arrive at our departure gate no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. Your EcoQuest Travel tour leader will meet you at our departure gate for Quito. We should arrive in Quito in the evening and after clearing immigration and customs we will transfer to our accommodations at Mansion del Angel. Mansion del Angel is a beautiful boutique hotel with extremely comfortable rooms that will be a welcome retreat after a long day of travel.

Day 2 – Thursday, June 20: Quito

Today is an extra day that was built into our program to allow for any airport delays. Hopefully this will not occur and we will all be situated in Quito for the day. It will be a day to rest and recuperate from our flights and to get ready for the Galapagos, but we will have a city tour for those that are interested. Quito is an old and vibrant city with many beautiful and historic sites to visit, particularly in the Old Town section. We will use the afternoon to visit some of these sites before having an authentic Ecuadorian dinner. After dinner we will settle back into our hotel for the evening. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Friday, June 21: Arrival in Galapagos and Our Journey Begins on North Seymour Island

We will depart on an early morning flight from Quito to the enchanted isles of the Galapagos making a brief stop in the port city of Guayaquil along the way. Our journey through these enchanted isles will begin shortly after our arrival on the island of Baltra where we transfer to our private yacht – the Beluga. The Beluga will be our home for the next eight days as we explore the islands. The Beluga is one of the finest yachts plying the waters of the Galapagos. She is 110 feet long accommodating 16 passengers in double staterooms with all the amenities. Our crew of 9 will ensure that we have the adventure of a lifetime. Once settled aboard we will depart for our first stop on North Seymour Island and its large breeding colonies of magnificent frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies. We could also get our first looks at Galapagos doves, sea lions and both marine and land iguanas. After dinner, while we are asleep, the Beluga will travel to our destination for tomorrow – a pattern that will repeat itself each night we are on the boat. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Saturday, June 22: Isla Genovesa (Tower Island)

We will awaken off the coast of one of the northernmost islands in the Galapagos – Genovesa. We will visit two visitor sites today one in the morning and one in the afternoon – another pattern that will repeat itself throughout our trip. After breakfast our first stop is Darwin Bay. The anchorage at this site is actually the caldera of a partially eroded extinct volcano and the towering cliffs may have given the island one of its names. Our visit to this site begins with a wet landing on a coral beach and a long, but fairly easy hike. Beautiful swallow-tailed gulls should greet us as we begin our hike and lava gulls, yellow-crowned night herons and fiddler crabs inhabit the mangroves. As the mangroves give way to Opuntia cactus and salt bush we should begin to see the nesting red-footed boobies and great frigatebirds for which this island is famous. We will return to the Beluga for lunch and as we dine we will sail on to our afternoon site at Prince Phillip’s Steps. This site begins with a fantastic panga ride along the base of cliffs upon which red-billed tropicbirds will be nesting. As we near our landing site we may see some rare Galapagos fur seals in the water or on the beach. We will have a dry landing at a staircase leading up the cliff face. After ascending the stairs we will be able to walk through breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, great frigatebirds and storm petrels. If we are lucky we should see the sharp-beaked ground finch (also known as the vampire finch for feeding on the blood of nesting seabirds) and maybe even a short-eared owl.  (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Sunday, June 23: Santa Fe and South Plazas

Our stop on Santa Fe begins with a wet landing on a beach full of sea lions. From there we will hike inland in an attempt to find the Santa Fe land iguana. One of two species of land iguanas in the Galapagos the species on Santa Fe is found only here and is known for its bright gold coloration and large size. We will also look for Galapagos hawks, as they are fairly common, and numerous seabirds such as brown noddies, blue-footed and Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. We will likely have a chance to snorkel as well before we depart for South Plaza Island. South Plaza is located off the east coast of Santa Cruz and is home to the other species of land iguana as well as numerous seabirds. A portion of the hike on South Plaza is along a cliff overlooking the ocean. Looking down into the water we will likely see large schools of yellow-tailed mullet and perhaps sharks. The most impressive features of the hike along the sea cliff are the numerous swallow-tailed gulls, Audubon’s shearwaters and red-billed tropicbirds gliding back and forth along the cliff. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Monday, June 24: Espanola (Hood Island)

Today we visit the southernmost island in the Galapagos. Espanola is famous for its wildlife. Blue-footed boobies nest here, but the most famous nesting bird of all is the waved albatross. This magnificent large seabird is found only on Espanola as is the Hood mockingbird and the Espanola lava lizard. The island is also known for its marine iguanas which are brightly colored in reds and greens (colors which only show up in the marine iguanas of the other islands during breeding season). We will begin our exploration of Hood at Gardner Bay for a chance to snorkel with sea lions. Beyond the beach we could spy Galapagos doves, Darwin’s finches, Hood mockingbirds and if we are lucky Galapagos hawks. After lunch we will visit Espanola’s other visitor site at Punta Suarez. Here is where we find the seabirds including red-billed tropicbirds, masked and blue-footed boobies and the entire world’s population of waved albatross. Espanola is surely one of the places that we will hate to leave! (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Tuesday, June 25: Floreana

The southern island of Floreana is a relatively lush island by Galapagos standards. A constant water supply and fertile volcanic soils have led to abundant plant life. Our first site is Punta Cormoran and after a wet landing on a green sand beach made up of olivine crystals we will hike to a brackish lagoon. This lagoon is home to flamingos, white-cheeked pintail ducks, stilts and other shorebirds. The surrounding trees are home to Galapagos flycatchers, dark-billed cuckoos and Darwin’s finches. After our land excursion we will have an opportunity to snorkel at one of the best spots in the Galapagos – the Devil’s Crown. This almost completely submerged volcano is teaming with life and if we are lucky there will be schooling white-tip reef sharks swimming below us (not to worry they are not dangerous). After our snorkel we will visit Post Office Bay which is known as more of a historical site than for its wildlife. This afternoon we will depart for the western islands of Isabela and Fernandina. These islands sit in the coolest nutrient-rich waters in the Galapagos. As a result the marine life is abundant including the largest populations of whales in the Galapagos. Cruising from Floreana to Isabela we should be on the lookout for Bryde’s whales, short-finned pilot whales and both common and bottle-nosed dolphins. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Wednesday, June 26: Isabela and Fernandina

Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos and continues to grow thanks to five large active volcanoes. These volcanoes form a dramatic backdrop as we continue to sail around Isabela. Volcanic activity influenced our first stop today as we visit Urvina Bay. Urvina Bay is situated at the base of Alcedo Volcano which erupted in 1954 uplifting four miles of coastal seabed forever exposing large coral heads onshore. After a wet landing we will hike among these marine remnants and coral skeletons. This is also a good site for nesting flightless cormorants, marine iguanas and, on the long hot inland hike, land iguanas and perhaps a tortoise. As we eat lunch we will cross the Bolivar Channel as we travel to Punta Espinosa on the island of Fernandina. We should see Galapagos penguins as we approach our dry landing site. Once ashore we will be surrounded by marine iguanas, lava lizards, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and nesting flightless cormorants. After our time on land we should have an incredible snorkeling opportunity. The water is cold, but the chance to snorkel with penguins, flightless cormorants, sea turtles, sea lions and marine iguanas grazing on algae should not be missed! After a full day we will sail north to go around the northern tip of Isabela. This area is also great for whales and watching the sun sink below Volcan Wolf and the vast Pacific beyond. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Thursday, June 27: Santiago (James) and Bartolome

This morning we will visit James Bay on the Island of Santiago. After a wet landing on a black sand beach we will visit the fur seal grotto. This is one of the best places to view the rare Galapagos fur seal and sea lions will be present as well. James Bay is also famous for its tidepools and we should be able to spy a myriad of interesting marine creatures in them. In 2005 we even saw an octopus out of the water chasing sally lightfoot crabs across the rocks! Our afternoon stop is the small island of Bartolome. A dry landing and a steep climb leads to one of the most panoramic views in the Galapagos including the famous tuff cone of Pinnacle Rock. The hike also gives us a chance to view volcanic features such as lava tubes and both spatter and cinder cones. Hopefully we will be treated to great photographic opportunities. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Friday, June 28: Black Turtle Cove, Baltra and on to Santa Cruz

This morning we will visit Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) on the island of Santa Cruz. At this site we will ride pangas (rubber rafts) through a series of mangrove coves and inlets. It is a great place to see green sea turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and beautiful yellow cow-nosed rays. It is also home to great blue herons, brown noddies and nesting brown pelicans. After our visit we will return to the Beluga, dock in Baltra and say our goodbyes to the Beluga and her crew. After disembarking we will be picked up, driven across the island and take a ferry across the channel to Santa Cruz. Once we disembark on Santa Cruz we will be picked up and transferred to our accommodations at the Hotel Silberstein in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos.  Along the way we will stop at Galapagos Safari Camp for lunch. This African-style camp is situated in the highlands and either before or after lunch we may have some free time to look for giant tortoises and birds. After lunch we will proceed to our hotel, check-in and have the rest of the afternoon free to do some shopping in Puerto Ayora. Puerto Ayora is full of shops selling everything from the ubiquitous Galapagos t-shirts to fine arts and crafts. After a full day we will have dinner tonight at the Hotel Silberstein. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Saturday, June 29: Santa Cruz

This morning, after breakfast, we will visit the Charles Darwin Research Center. Established in 1961, to promote research and solve conservation problems on the islands, the Center has a large Galapagos tortoise-breeding program. We should be able to see adults as well as babies that are being reared for reintroduction projects throughout the islands. The Center is also a great place to look for Darwin’s finches including large ground, cactus and vegetarian finches. The Center sells souvenirs and is a great place to shop because a percentage of the sales are used to benefit their conservation efforts. After lunch we will journey up into the highlands of Santa Cruz to look for tortoises in the wild. We will search for the tortoises on one of several farms located near the tortoise reserve. We could also see several species of Darwin’s finch that inhabit the wetter highlands including the tool-using woodpecker finch and both the small and large tree finches. Other birds might include dark-billed cuckoo, Galapagos rail, vermillion flycatcher and smooth-billed anis. Our hike around Los Gemelos Craters is particularly good for birds. After a full day we will return to the Hotel Silberstein for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 12, Sunday, June 30: Puerto Ayora and Depart the Galapagos for Quito

After breakfast, we may have a bit more time for shopping before we depart for Baltra and our flight to Quito. Upon arrival in Quito we will be picked up and transferred to our accommodations at Mansion del Angel. Once settled in our hotel the rest of the afternoon will be free before we transfer to dinner tonight at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 13, Monday, July 1: Yanacocha and on to Cotacachi

We will be picked up at our hotel very early in the morning to begin our drive north. Our destination for the morning is the temperate forests of Yanacocha. We should arrive at dawn and at 11,500 feet it could be very cold, so we will need to dress warmly and wear gloves. We will hike a wide flat trail that is home to a variety of high altitude hummingbirds, tanagers and other birds. Spectacled bears and puma also inhabit this area although we are very unlikely to see them. Yanacocha is most famous for its variety of hummingbirds including the shining sunbeam, great sapphirewing, the rare black-breasted puffleg and the spectacular sword-billed hummingbird. We will stay in Yanacocha until noon, have a picnic lunch and then continue to our overnight accommodations at La Mirage in Cotacachi, Ecuador. This is a beautiful hotel and spa situated on five acres of lush gardens. The gardens are great for birds, especially hummingbirds, the food is terrific and the service is outstanding. (B,L,D)

Day 14, Tuesday, July 2: Otavalo Market and back to Quito

This morning will be spent in the great Andean market of Otavalo. As Ecuador’s most famous native market, Otavalo is a fantastic place to shop for local handicrafts especially woven products such as ponchos, blankets, scarves, sweaters, rugs and tapestries. Leather goods and wooden handicrafts are also good buys. We will also have the opportunity to visit a local weaver who will demonstrate how he creates incredible tapestries, and a local musician who builds instruments. We will have lunch in the Otavalo area and after a day of shopping we will return to La Mirage for our farewell dinner together and the comfort of our overnight, accommodations. (B,L,D)

Day 15, Wednesday, July 3: Quito to Our Gateway City and Home

After an early breakfast we will transfer to the airport for the flight from Quito to our US gateway city. Once we have cleared immigration and customs we will transfer to our flights home. (B)

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability. Additionally, please keep in mind that the itinerary for the boat in the Galapagos is contingent upon Park Service approval. The itinerary above is different than the normal itinerary for our boat and as such requires approval which in the past has been granted. It is possible, however, that the itinerary will have to be modified if Park approval is not granted.

Cost:

  • $6,472.00/person all-inclusive tour package
  • $   506.00/person estimated domestic airfare Quito to the Galapagos and return
  • $6,978.00/person all-inclusive

Airline Ticketing

International airline tickets are not included in the above costs. EcoQuest Travel is a full service tour operator and we will gladly assist you with your flights for this tour. We do not charge a service fee for this assistance to clients who book a tour with us. We are aware, however, that clients often prefer to use frequent flyer miles, or points, to purchase tickets or to shop online. Regardless of which method you choose EcoQuest Travel will be happy to help you with ticket prices, scheduling and ticket purchase. If you decide to obtain airline tickets on your own please make sure to check with EcoQuest Travel prior to purchasing your ticket to make sure the flights you have chosen will work with the tour itinerary and that the tour has sufficient participation to operate. Please be aware that once purchased, most airline tickets are non-refundable and carry a financial penalty for any changes. Also, it is essential that we receive a copy of your flight itinerary so that we may track you in case of missed connections, flight delays or other mishaps that might impact your arrival.

Note: Domestic airline tickets from Quito to the Galapagos and back to Quito are included in the tour cost, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, we are only able to provide an estimated airfare at this time.  The actual date of ticketing will determine the price.  Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimates the savings will be passed on to you. Likewise if ticket prices exceed our estimates at the time of booking you will be invoiced the difference.

What’s Included:

  • Round-trip airfare from Quito to the Galapagos (see the above paragraph)
  • All boat and land transportation, including a privately chartered yacht in the Galapagos
  • All accommodations – based upon double occupancy
  • All tours within the scheduled itinerary
  • Most meals are included – see the itinerary for details
  • Permits, National Park entrance fees and guides
  • The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel professionals

What’s Not Included:

  • International airfare is not included in the above price – please see the airline ticketing information above.
  • Gratuities (for drivers, guides and our boat captain and crew)
  • Fees associated with obtaining a passport
  • Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
  • Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)
  • Gifts and items of a personal nature

Travel Documents:

A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Ecuador. No visa is required.

Group Size:

The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 14 people.

Health Requirements:

The Ecuadorian Government does not require any vaccinations; however, there are several vaccines that would be prudent to consider prior to traveling to tropical South America. These include: Hepatitis A; and Typhoid. One should also check to make sure that vaccines against Tetanus/Diphtheria and Polio are up to date. Both malaria and yellow fever are not present in the Galapagos, but are present on mainland Ecuador. The use of anti-malarial drugs is not necessary for this trip as the time spent in mainland Ecuador will be at relatively high elevations where the risk is very low. The same is true of yellow fever and a vaccine against yellow fever is not necessary for this trip. Information on travel-related diseases and vaccines to prevent them can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website at: www.cdc.gov/travel

We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date (at least 6 months prior to departure).

Payments and Reservations:

A deposit of $2,000.00 per person is required along with your reservation form in order to reserve space on the trip. This ensures airline seating space and necessary early deposits. We encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of the date the first payment is due, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Galapagos Trip 2013. If paying by credit card you can include your credit card number and expiration date on your reservation form. This form is available on our website: www.ecoquesttravel.net and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, you can phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard, and most bank debit cards.

  • A payment of at least $2,489.00 is required no later than December 14, 2012
  • The remainder of the trip expense ($2,489.00) will be due on or before April 5, 2013

Cancellation:

The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in Ecuador and the Galapagos. Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you; however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.

  • Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. cancels this trip, due to circumstances beyond our control or low trip participant numbers, a refund of the initial deposit and any payments made will be issued.

Travel Insurance

EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Allianz Global Assistance (formerly – Access America) to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients.  They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits.  You can find more information on EcoQuest Travel’s website (www.ecoquesttravel.net) including how to get quotes and sign up. You do not have to use Allianz Global Assistance and may choose to use another company. In either case, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance. If you do decide to purchase travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance please give them the following EcoQuest Travel vendor (or ACCAM) number: F031120. This number identifies that you are working with an Allianz Global Assistance partner.

Note:  Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Allianz Global Assistance if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit.  For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.

General Information:

Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate will vary from very hot and dry inland on the Galapagos to near freezing at night in the Andean highlands. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.

Trip Leaders:

Dave Davenport: Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.

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