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Galapagos ReQuest with the highlands of Ecuador 2018

The Galapagos Islands are located on the Equator, in the Pacific Ocean, nearly 600 miles off mainland Ecuador. Here we can play with sea lions, swim with penguins and photograph iguanas and giant tortoises. The animals are unafraid of humans and for anyone interested in wildlife, the Galapagos archipelago is a true oasis!

Accommodation: Hotels in Otavalo, Quito and Cuenca, cabin on board Coral II. Transport: Expedition yacht, Zodiacs, bus, plane. Ship: Coral II. Guides: One PolarQuest tour leader and one experienced National Park guide in Galapagos. Passengers: 11 - 15 participants. Languages: English & Swedish. Length: 14 days, 7 nights on ship. Price: From USD 9 590. Departures: 11 October 2018, 25 October 2018, 8 November 2018

Itinerary

This exciting trip starts on mainland Ecuador, where we explore its capital, Quito, and the Indian village of Otavalo. 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 our 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 swim with penguins, 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 9 300 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.

Day 2: Otavalo

Today we explore Otavalo and 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: Pinsaqui - 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 Cultura Manor for dinner and spend the night.

Day 4: Quito - Baltra & Santa Cruz, Galapagos

We fly from Quito to Baltra in Galapagos and transfer to the island of Santa Cruz. Here 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. In the afternoon we board our comfortable motor yacht Coral II and enjoy our first dinner on board.

Day 5: Santa Cruz & Bartolomé

Today we hike up to Dragon Hill to enjoy the magnificent views of the neighbouring islands. It also an important nesting ground for endemic land iguanas. On our way we pass by a blackish lagoon, where we hope to meet flamingos. The forest is also home to mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers and Galapagos doves. On Bartolomé we hike across a moon-like landscape of lava fields and volcanic craters and marvel at the incredible sceneries. At the beach we have chance to encounter the marine iguanas, lava lizards and the charming blue-footed booby. For some visitors, this might turn out to be the best snorkelling experience in the Galapagos. In the crystal clear water we hope to see sea turtles, reef sharks and the famous Galapagos penguin among a great variety of colourful fish. If you haven’t tried snorkelling before, our guides will help you!

Day 6: Rabida & Santiago

We land on the red beach of Rabida, an island that is home to sea lion colonies and nine species of the Darwin’s finch. We also head out on a panga cruise along the marine cliffs to observe nesting seabirds. The eroded shoreline of nearby Santiago is home to Galapagos fur seals and playful sea lions. A hike through a small palo santo forest leads us to saltwater lagoons that are home to wader birds such as flamingos. This is also an excellent spot for snorkelling with great chances of seeing rays.

Day 7: Santa Cruz

On the north shore of Santa Cruz lies Black Turtle Cove. With our pangas, we explore this enchanted internal lagoon surrounded by mangroves. The cove has been declared as a turtle sanctuary and hopefully we will meet some of these amazing creatures. It is also a hot spot for rays, reef sharks and sea birds, including pelicans, herons and egrets. In the afternoon we head for the highlands and the wild giant tortoises, weighting 250 kg on average! The mountains also offer rich birdlife and we keep our eyes open for species such as tree finches, vermillion flycatchers, paint-billed crakes, yellow warblers and cattle egrets.

Day 8: Isabela & Fernandina

Today we get familiar with Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago, formed by six young and still active volcanoes. As we cruise along the cliffs at Punta Vicente Roca we hope to spot the Nasca boobies, blue-footed boobies and the endemic flightless cormorant. Later, on our way to Fernandina, we cross the Bolívar Channel and keep a look out for whales and dolphins. Fernandina is the youngest island of the Galapagos and has no introduced animal or plant species. Punta Espinoza is famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas. It is also the habitat of Sally Lightfoot crabs and sea lions as well as several unique species such as the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin and Galapagos hawk - the king of the predators on the islands. The landscape is dominated by cactuses, mangrove areas and different types of lava flows.

Day 9: Isabela

We return to Isabela and go ashore at the black volcanic beach of Urbina Bay. During a walk we hope to encounter the colourful land iguanas. This is also one of Galapagos’ many great snorkelling sites and we have the chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Close to Urbina Bay is Targus Cove, a natural harbour, where whalers and pirates from centuries ago painted and carved their ships’ names on the rocks. From here we make our way up to Darwin’s crater, which today is a salt-water lake, to enjoy the rewarding views of lava fields and volcanic formations. Afterwards, we enjoy a panga ride along the shoreline to admire a variety of seabirds such as blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. If we are lucky we may also encounter the little Galapagos penguin – the only penguin species in the world living in the tropics.

Day 10: Santiago

Egas Port is a black volcanic sand beach, visited by Darwin in 1835. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago shore is home to a variety of animals including the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron and marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally Lightfoot crabs. It is also common to see colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water volcanic rock pools. On the South-eastern side of Santiago Island we find Sullivan Bay, named after Bartholomew James Sullivan - a lieutenant on Darwin’s vessel, the Beagle. Here we take a walk through a fascinating moon landscape, where the young pa-hoe-hoe lava flows were formed during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Day 11: Santa Cruz - Baltra - Cuenca

The inviting white paradise beach Bachas offers us a last chance of swimming and snorkelling in the amazing waters of Galapagos. Here we also find the remains of barges that sank during World War II, when the United States Navy operated a base on the island of Baltra. Behind the beach lie two small ponds, surrounded by red and black mangrove and popular among iguanas, mockingbirds and Darwin finches. In the afternoon it is time to say goodbye to this enchanting group of islands. On Baltra we disembark Coral II and fly to Guayaquil in Ecuador to explore the highlands. On our way towards the mountains we travel through a magnificent landscape. In Cuenca we check in at the hotel Mansion Alcázar, an impressive piece of architecture from colonial times. Before dinner we stroll along the cobblestone streets of Cuenca, considered by many the most beautiful city in Ecuador.

Day 12: Ingapirca

We venture deeper into the Andean highlands to Ingapirca, Ecuador’s most important archaeological site, built by the Inca Indians in the 1400’s. A local guide helps us grasp the intriguing history of this ancient empire. After lunch we return to Cuenca to explore the city with our guide or on our own. In the evening we enjoy a last delicious dinner at our charming hotel, Manison 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.

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.

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The ship Coral II

  • Klein Tours
  • Adrian Nordenborg
  • Klein Tours
  • Klein Tours

Our expedition yacht was refurbished in 2016 and the comfortable cabins accommodate 15 passengers . The yacht has the latest navigation equipment and is decorated in classic maritime style with teak and brass. All cabins are air-conditioned, have private shower/WC and windows/port holes. Facilities on board include a comfortable lounge, a dining room, a well-stocked bar, three sun decks and a plunge pool. The bridge is open to visitors at all times.

Cabins & prices

Cabin category Price per person
Standard Cabin (2 separate beds or double bed) USD 9 590
Superior Cabin (2 separate beds or double bed) USD 10 390
Standard Cabin for single use USD 12 490

Price includes: Flights London - Quito, Quito - Galapagos, Galapagos - Guayaquil, Guayaquil - London . 7 nights on board the CoralII . 2 nights at Hacienda Cusin outside Otavalo . 1 night at Cultura Manor in Quito . 2 nights at Mansion Alcázar in Cuenca . All transfers . All meals . 1 PolarQuest tour leader . 2 experienced National Park guides in Galapagos and 1 local guide in Cuenca . Lectures on board and guided walks ashore . Snorkeling equipment and wetsuit on board CoralII . Entrance Fee to the Galapagos National Park (USD 100) . Comprehensive pre-departure material and a post expedition logbook . The customary gratuity to all local guides and ship’s crew

Not included: Travel and cancellation insurance . Beverages . Airport taxes

Departures & booking

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or wish to make a reservation.

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Departure Return
11 October 2018 24 October 2018
25 October 2018 7 November 2018
8 November 2018 21 November 2018