This exciting trip starts on mainland Ecuador, where we explore the Indian village of Otavalo and the capital, Quito. We continue to the Galapagos Islands and spend seven nights on board the comfortable 15-passenger yacht Coral II. A PolarQuest guide will escort us throughout the trip and in Galapagos two knowledgeable National Park guides will join us. We will use sturdy rubber boats (pangas) to make daily landfalls and explore the islands’ unique flora and fauna. There is snorkelling equipment on board and we will get several chances to explore the amazing underwater world of these enchanted islands. We photograph tortoises and meet charming and playful sea lions on white sandy beaches. The animals of the Galapagos are curious and unafraid of humans and we will have many incredible and close wildlife encounters. After eight days in the Galapagos we return to mainland Ecuador and head to the Andean highlands. We stay in Cuenca, known for its beauty and impressive colonial architecture. We also explore the magnificent Cajas National Park and the famous Inca ruins of Ingapirca.
Day 1: London - Quito - Otavalo, Ecuador
We fly from London and arrive to Quito’s International Airport, situated at 9300 ft above sea level and flanked by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. We transfer by bus to the Indian village of Otavalo, where we check in at the lovely Hacienda Cusin and enjoy a delicious dinner.
* We had deducted the air portion for not using our group flight from London to Quito. This you have booked yourselves
Day 2: Otavalo
Today we explore the colourful exotic market. Later we walk through one of the other picturesque villages in the area, Iluman or Pequche, where we visit some of the local craftsmen. We eat dinner and spend the night at Hacienda Cusin.
Day 3: Otavalo - Quito
On our way to Quito we pass the Equator and take a closer look at the monument that marks the centre of our planet. We visit El Panecillo, from where we have an excellent view of Quito. Afterwards we explore the old town and continue to the charming Café Cultura Manor for dinner and spend the night.
Day 4: Quito - Baltra, Galapagos & North Seymour
We fly from Quito to Baltra in Galapagos early in the morning and board our comfortable motor yacht Coral II. We start off our journey with the island of Santa Cruz. Later, we make a landing at North Seymour, one of few places in Galapagos where you can encounter the magnificent frigate bird with its red-coloured throat pouches. Here we also have the chance to see colonies of blue footed boobies, swallow tailed gulls and the endemic Palo Santo tree. In the evening we will enjoy our first dinner on board.
Day 5: Santa Cruz Island & Mosquera
We visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre, where giant tortoises and land iguanas are bred. During our exciting tour we learn more about these fascinating pre-historic animals. We continue to Mosquera Island, which has one of the largest populations of sea lions in the Galapagos archipelago and is also home to many sea birds. On land we have a chance to spot marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and sally lightfoot crabs. Mosquera Islet is also good for snorkelling as the sea lions often join us in the water! The coral reef offers a rich marine life, where tropical fish, turtles, rays and reef sharks are common sightings.
Day 6: Santa Fe & South Plaza
Santa Fe is the oldest island in the Galapagos (4.5 million years) and is one of the islands with the highest endemism. During a walk through an endemic cactus forest we search for the endemic Santa Fe land iguana, which is the largest of the iguanas and has a distinctively paler colour. We might also spot several endemic species including Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, a variety of finches and one of the four species of Galapagos mockingbirds. On South Plaza we have the chance to see countless birds soaring by the cliffs, sea lion colonies and a large colony of several hundred smaller sized iguanas. Due to their proximity with marine iguanas, this is the only place on Earth where you find the Galapagos hybrid iguana!
Day 7: Lobos Island & San Cristobal
This morning we arrive to Lobos Island, on this trail we will find a population of blue-footed boobies and a great frigatebirds nests. We will go on a boat ride and will visit brown pelicans. After lunch we will visit a museum where we get to learn more about the exciting history of the Galapagos Islands. We then head out on a hike to Tijeretas Hill, a spectacular view point where we have the chance to see a frigate bird colony.
Day 8: San Cristobal
We explore Kicker Rock, also known as León Dormido because of its resemblance to a sleeping lion. This spectacular volcanic rock towers 150 meter above the Pacific Ocean and is a popular spot for blue-footed boobies, frigates and pelicans. If time allows, we will enjoy a last snorkelling with sea turtles, Galapagos sharks and eagle rays.
Later we visit the beautiful white beach of Cerro Brujo. The beach welcomes you with wonderful snorkeling in the small lagoon. On foot we will reach the spectacular viewpoint Punta Pitt, here we can find Red Footed Boobies, Nasca Boobies and Blue Footed Boobies nesting together. We might also meet two species of frigatebirds and a sea lion colony.
Day 9: Espanola
At Punta Suarez we can observe the blue-footed boobies and this is also the place where around 12 000 pairs of waved albatrosses come to nest. We will have a beautiful view of the island and of Soplador, a blowhole where water shoots 20 meter up in the air. In the afternoon we get to snorkel with sea lions and relax at the wonderful coral beach Gardner Bay. We might also spot reef sharks and rays in the ocean.
Day 10: Floreana
At Cormorant Point we disembark on the green beach of Floreana. This place is often visited by sea lions and offers extra spectacular snorkeling for those who like to jump into the ocean. We also visit Post office bay and the unique "mail box" that was placed here as early as 1793 and still works today!
Day 11: Santa Cruz, Baltra & Guayaquil
At Santa Cruz, we head to the highlands to encounter the wild Galapagos tortoise. After that it is time to say goodbye to this enchanting group of islands and fly to Guayaquil in Ecuador to explore the highlands. On our way towards the mountains we travel through a changing landscape. After a few hours’ bus drive, we reach Cuenca and check in at Mansion Alcázar, an impressive piece of architecture from colonial times.
Day 12: Ingapirca Inca ruins
Today, we travel into the magnificent Highlands of the Andes to the Ingapirca ruins, built by the Inca Indians in the 1400s. Here, our local guide tells us about Inca’s fascinating history. After lunch, we return to Cuenca and explore the city’s market. Here we find Indian jewelry, textiles and exotic fruits. In the evening we enjoy our last dinner at our hotel Mansion Alcázar.
Day 13: Cajas National Park - Guayaquil
Travelling through high Andean mountain passes we reach Cajas National Park. Here we walk among the impressive paper bark trees, while our guide helps us identify some of the area’s many colourful bird species. In the afternoon we return to Guayaquil, leave Ecuador to fly back home.
* We had deducted the air portion for not using our group flight from Guayaquil to London. This you have booked yourselves.
Day 14: London
Arrive in London.
Please note: Our exact route and port calls will depend on local authorities and might be subject to change.