Central West Galápagos
8 Days Galápagos cruise on board the Golondrina
Central West Galápagos
The best snorkeling in Galapagos: Vicente Rock Point
Thousands of Marine Iguanas at Espinosa Point
Scientific insights at C. Darwin Research Station
Mars-like landscapes at Rábida
The Galapatours experience
Relaxed atmosphere on board
English-speaking guide for all activities
Lectures in the evening
Get to know the highlights of Galápagos with this Naturalist cruise on board the beautiful Golondrina! On this Expedition Cruise, you will discover the incredible wildlife of the Galápagos Islands: Fernandina, the youngest island, will blow your mind with its rugged lava landscapes. The youngest island in the archipelago, it is still being formed by volcanic eruptions and makes for a wonderful, otherworldly contrast to the other islands. Isabela, the biggest of all islands in the Galápagos, offers you fantastic hikes, views and arguably some of the best snorkeling spots in the Archipelago. During your time spent on Rábida, you will have the opportunity to watch wild Flamingos and walk on a blood-red sandy beach. During your time on Santa Cruz, you will have the chance to observe the famous Galápagos Giant Tortoises in the wild and learn more about the preservation and scientific study of these amazing animals. On Santiago, an island formerly inhabited by pirates, you will be able to enjoy hikes and dinghy rides.
We compensate all 2.08 tons of CO2 that this trip will cause.
Your ship: Golondrina
Golondrina is a tourist class motor yacht that offers some of the best cruise itineraries for those who really want to discover the true Galápagos. This makes her exceptional value and she is a popular choice for those who want a comfortable and relaxed way to see the best of the islands.
Golondrina is a motor yacht with classic lines that oozes friendly charm. There is always a great relaxed atmosphere on board and the main lounge and dining area with bar is the perfect place to get to know your fellow guests and relax after your day’s excursions. There is also a TV with DVD player and a mus … Read more about Golondrina
Transfers to and from ship
100% CO2 carbon footprint offset
Air conditioning & private bathroom
Single travellers can share cabin
Water, Coffee, Tea & fresh juices
Food & Drinks
The food on our Galapágos Cruises is among the very best you will find in South America. Most of the on-board chefs are internationally trained and have prior experience working in the best hotels and restaurants in Ecuador and indeed around the world.
You can expect a first-class selection of food, including a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally sourced poultry and fish/seafood, rice and pasta dishes. Most boats will always include some typical Ecuadorian dishes on the menu during your cruise. If you have specific dietary requirements then these can usually be accommodated by the chef providing you have given advance notice. Please make sure you tell us about any allergies or dietary requirements you have at the time you book with us. If you leave it until you arrive at the dockside, then it may well be impossible to accommodate your needs.
Most boats serve a range of options at meal times in a relaxed buffet-style. At the first class and luxury end of the market, some boats have more formal dining where you will be served at your seat. However the atmosphere is always relaxed on board our cruises, and never stuffy or formal.
Your itinerary below may vary, depending on the weather, wildlife breeding, and local conditions.
Arrival at Baltra airport+transfer to ship
Baltra • Arrival at Baltra airport+transfer to ship
Welcome to Galápagos! Once your flight has landed and you went through the immigration process, you'll be met in the Arrivals lounge by our English-speaking guide who will take you to your transfer vehicle for the short journey to your waiting ship.
Baltra Island, where your arrival airport is, was used as an important Air Force base in the Second World War. This is the primary airport for the Galápagos Islands and you'll be rubbing shoulders with fellow tourists, international naturalists and conservationists, researchers and academics, and Galápagos residents alike. The airport has been built as a "green" airport, and as well as using recycled materials in its construction, it's special design keeps the buildings relatively cool without the need for any air conditioning.
Once on board your ship, you will be introduced to the crew and given a welcome briefing as well as an important safety drill. After this you'll be shown to your cabin. While you're served a well-deserved and delicious lunch, the captain will cast off and your adventure truly starts.
Baltra • Mosquera Islet
Mosquera Islet, like may similar islets in the Galápagos, was formed by a volcanic uprising. Over the centuries it also attracted corals, and along with the rocks that form the islet this helped to capture the sand from the currents that flow between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island.
Mosquera is home to one of the largest populations of Galápagos Sea Lions on the archipelago, and you will be able to watch their playful antics and admire their sense of relaxation as they sunbathe on the beach.
There have been occasional sightings of Orca (Killer Whales) in the waters off Mosquera Island, probably attracted by the large number of Galápagos Sea Lions on which they prey.
Vicente Rock Point
Isabela • Vicente Rock Point
Galapatours clients regularly rate Vicente Rock Point as one of the best snorkeling and SCUBA diving sites in Galápagos, or perhaps even in the world! There is no landing here, and snorkeling is done directly from the boats. The scenery around the Point is stunning - the remains of two ancient volcanoes made this formation, and the cliffs and caves around the bay provide an amazing backdrop.
The bay is well sheltered from ocean swells, making it ideal for snorkelers of any experience. The cold-water currents bring a rich stock of food to these waters, and the bay around Vicente Rock Point is often home to feeding frenzies, with groups of whales, dolphins, Galápagos Sea Lions, tuna, Blue-footed Boobies and other marine birds all feeding together, making for spectacular sights.
Many boats also take visitors on a panga ride along the shore, offering the chance to explore some of the caves and to encounter some of the other species such as Galápagos Flightless Cormorants and a small colony of Galápagos Fur Seals.
Fernandina • Espinosa Point
Fernandina Island has never been colonised by any non-native species, and this makes it ones of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. Coupled with its young age (Fernandina was only formed a few hundred thousand years ago) this makes a visit to this Galápagos island very special indeed.
At Espinosa Point on the northeastern shore of Fernandina the vista is dominated by "La Cumbre", the volcano whose lava fields formed the island. A visit to Espinosa Point is high on many people's list thanks to the number of iconic unique Galápagos species you will see here. As well as the noisy and fun-loving Galápagos Sea Lions, Espinosa Point is a great place to see Marine Iguanas, the wonderful Galápagos Penguins and the unique and endangered Galápagos Flightless Cormorant. If you are very lucky and keep your eyes skyward you may also catch sight of a Galápagos Hawk circling overhead looking for its next meal.
Isabela • Urbina Bay
Urbina Bay is one of the youngest features in the Galápagos. It was mainly formed in 1954, when a sudden uplift of the land raised the seabed by over 5 metres, and pushed the coastline over 1 km further away. This has resulted in the astonishing site of heads of coral stranded far from the water. Exposed to the air and elements, the coral heads are rapidly deteriorating and are one of the sights of the Galápagos that won't be around for much longer.
Once ashore, a long hiking trail will take you away from the beach and into the island's arid zone. In this habitat, you are likely to see wild Galápagos Giant Tortoises and Galápagos Land Iguanas. As the trail circles back towards the shore line you'll come across colonies of the unique Galápagos Flightless Cormorant.
This is a pleasant area for snorkeling, and as you enter and leave the water you might do so watched by some Galápagos Penguins, who have a colony nearby. This is also one of the best sites to see Galápagos Marine Iguanas feeding underwater.
Isabela • Tagus Cove
Tagus Cove is a sheltered deep-water bay on the western coast of Isabela Island, overlooking Fernandina Island. This natural anchorage has been a popular destination for ships since the 1800s, and when you come ashore you can see ancient graffiti left by whalers and buccaneers.
A steep (but thankfully short) hiking trail then takes you up to the salt water Darwin Lake, formed inside a volcanic cone. How did salt water get all the way up here? Scientists think tsunamis caused by eruptions or landslides on Fernandina may have deposited seawater originally, and then evaporation has made it even more salty over time.
From Darwin Lake, a series of 160 steps takes you to a stunning viewpoint where you will not only enjoy amazing views over the Galápagos, but may also see some unique wildlife, such as Galápagos Hawks, Vermilion Flycatchers, and species of Darwin's Finches.
Santiago • Egas Port
The first trail runs along the coast to visit the so-called "Fur Seal Grottos". The Galápagos Fur Seals like to seek shade from the equatorial sun, and they prefer rocky shores with caves or other nooks and crannies in which they can keep cool. The grottos here are perfect for them, and the tidal pools are also popular with Galápagos Marine Iguanas who can be seen feeding in and around them.
The second trail from Egas Port heads inland to the "Salt Mine Volcano". This hike is just under 2 miles long and takes you to the rim of a salt mine crater. This "mine" is actually a small volcanic cone that is filled with a salt water lagoon that dries up in the dry season. At several points in the 20th century individuals or companies attempted to mine salt from it, but without commercial success. The name of your landing site is after the owner of the last company to try salt mining here, Hector Egas.
Santiago • Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.
The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.
There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.
Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.
The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.
Charles Darwin Research Station
Santa Cruz • Charles Darwin Research Station
The world famous Charles Darwin Research Center is just a 10 minute walk from downtown Puerto Ayora, and is the home of the non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation.
Inside, you'll find exhibits about the geography, geology and climate of the Galápagos, and the evolution of her unique species. There is also lots of information on the Foundation's current conservation and education programs.
As well as conducting it's own key research, the Charles Darwin Center also hosts international scientists, and supports the work of government agencies like the Galápagos National Park.
Next door is the site of the Galápagos' first giant tortoise breeding center, where pioneering work has been done since 1965 for the preservation of these species. Here you can see newly hatched babies, up to juveniles and full-grown adults ready to be released back into the wild.
Santa Cruz Highlands
Santa Cruz • Santa Cruz Highlands
Santa Cruz is the only island on the Galápagos that allows you to travel through every habitat type that exists in the archipelago. This makes the journey north from the coast up into the highlands a fantastic opportunity to experience the breadth of life that exists on these islands.
Your bus journey starts from Puerto Ayora on the coast and you slowly start to climb through the agricultural zone where open fields begin to give way to lush, green, mist-covered forests. This is a marked contrast to many of the islands which are at much lower elevation and much more arid. This rich verdant landscape is predominantly made up of dense Scalesia forest.
Your expert Galapatours guide will stop several times along the route to allow you to explore various different sites. Among the stops will be a Giant Tortoise reserve, and also a visit to the famous lava tubes. Over half a mile long, a walk through these natural volcanic features is eerie and unforgettable.
Also along the way you will stop for refreshments, and you'll be able to try locally-grown Galápagos coffee - we think it's among the best we've ever tasted!
Las Tintoreras & Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center
Isabela • Las Tintoreras
Las Tintoreras are a group of small islets just a few hundred metres from the shores at Villamil, only accessible by kayak or panga. The network of Tintoreras forms a patchwork over the stunning turquoise waters of the bay, and this natural shelter is a haven for wildlife.
At low tides, one shallow lagoon is famous for offering amazing views of sharks swimming near the surface - the water clarity is such that they often look like they are floating in air! Other species that call Las Tintoreras home include Galápagos marine iguanas and friendly (and noisy) Galápagos Sea Lions.
Depending on tide conditions and time of year, it may be possible to snorkel here. If this is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts who can advise you on the best itineraries to choose to meet your requirements.
Isabela • Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center
A short walk from Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island will bring you to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center. The short trail from town is lovely in itself - you follow a boardwalk that takes you across the wetlands and Opuntia cactus fields.
At the breeding centre you can see 5 different subspecies of Galápagos Giant Tortoise that are all native to Isabela, but currently threatened by habitat damage caused by introduced animals and volcanic eruptions. Here, the Giant Tortoise eggs are carefully incubated in a special hatchery, whilst the adults are cared for in large supervised corrals. This careful breeding program is aiming to increase the populations of these remarkable animals to ensure their survival as a wild species that's unique to the Galápagos.
The Wetlands & Wall of Tears
Isabela • The Wetlands
The Wetlands is the name given to the area of lagoons and mangrove swamps just along the coast from Villamil on Isabela Island. This is a popular excursion as it is just a short walk from town on good paths and boardwalks.
This is an important habitat, and is one of the only places where you can see all 4 of the native Galápagos Mangrove species. These mangroves are hugely important, not only for the wildlife they contain, but also for their help in preserving the coastline and resisting the eroding action of waves.
There are a large number of bird species that make their home in the Wetlands, and if you are a birdwatcher this is an excursion you will want to make sure is on your schedule. Speak to one of our Galápagos experts to help select the best itinerary for a visit to the Isabela Wetlands.
Isabela • Wall of Tears
Called “El Muro de las Lágrimas” in Spanish, the Wall of Tears is located 6km from the town of Villamil. For visitors who enjoy hiking this a very interesting and historic path that leads from the centre of town. You soon pass the the Villamil cemetery, which contains the graves of some of the first permanent settlers on the islands.
Halfway along its length, the walking trail goes along a white sand beach surrounded by lagoons which host all 4 of the native Galápagos mangrove species close to one another.
Your walk continues through the arid zone until, out of nowhere, you come across the Wall of Tears. This is close to the site of the former penal colony that existed on Isabela Island between 1944 and 1959. Prisoners were forced to construct The Wall for no other reason than to punish them with "hard labor". In places the wall is almost 20ft tall and 10ft wide, and it runs for over 300ft in length. It was constructed entirely by hand from the sharp lava rocks, and this cruelty is said to have resulted in many deaths.
Locals say that if you listen closely to the wall you can hear the cries of the spirits of long-dead prisoners…
A walk on Rabida Island
Rábida • A walk on Rabida Island
Rabida is a small, steeply-sloped island with red-sand shores, and was originally called Jervis. Despite its small size, Rabida has one of the highest concentrations of volcanic features in the Galápagos, and it's thanks to the iron-rich lava deposits that its sands and soils are so red.
After a wet landing on the northern coast you will often see Galápagos Sea Lions and marine iguanas around the beach, especially near the sheltered caves in hot weather. Just behind the beach is a nesting site for brown pelicans, who use the saltbush as cover. Rabida is one of the best spots in the archipelago to observe pelicans. Sometimes flamingos can also be seen in the lagoon here.
After your trip inland you can then have a relaxing swim and enjoy some snorkeling, which is very good in the clear waters off the beach. While you swim, you'll be able to see Blue-Footed Boobies taking off over your head from their cliff-top roosts.
Santa Cruz • Dragon Hill
Dragon Hill is the site of a success story in the history of Galápagos conservation. In 1975 almost the entire population of land iguanas in this part of northeast Santa Cruz was wiped out by packs of feral dogs. The Charles Darwin Research Center swung into action with an emergency breeding and rearing program for land iguanas. The program was extremely successful, and the last captive-bred land iguana was released from the breeding center onto Dragon Hill in 1991. Iguanas continue to be released here every 3 or 4 years from other breeding centers in the Galápagos to ensure the continued success of the Dragon Hill Iguanas.
As well as being the landing site to visit the Hill, the rocky shoreline here is a great snorkeling site where you can swim with green turtles, sharks and rays. A trail leads inland past two saltwater lagoons which often play host to flamingos. As you continue to circle Dragon Hill on the trail you'll be able to see land iguanas in the wild, and you can find their burrows all along the path.
As well as the land iguanas, the area around Dragon Hill is full of other species including Darwin's Finches, Galápagos Mockingbirds, and the native Opuntia cactus. This is one of the longer walking trails, and your Galapatours guide will recommend you use good footwear, especially as the trail can be uneven in places and gets slippery and muddy after wet weather.