Discover noisy sealion colonies, Galapagos sharks, and a wealth of the archipelago's colourful birdlife on this one week trip in the Galapagos.
Taking in at least ten islands, this voyage starts at San Cristóbal with its frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies, after which you can cool off by swimming with green turtles, eagle rays and an array of colourful fish.
You will then visit the oldest island in the Galapagos - Española - where you’ll find fiery coloured iguanas and sea lions leisurely wandering around you, and Sally Lightfoot crabs coating the rocks.
Moving on to the southern island of Floreana, home to flamingos and green turtles, before sailing to Barrington Bay on Santa Fe, which is one of the most picturesque islets in the Galapagos with its white sand beach and turquoise water. Nearby you’ll find land iguanas and swallow-tailed gulls, both indigenous to the Galapagos, on South Plaza. Bartolomé Island offers some dramatic volcanic scenery, while a visit to Sombrero Chino provides fantastic snorkelling, with frequent sightings of white-tipped sharks, Galapagos penguins and sea lions.
A typical Southern Islands itinerary is shown below, on board Nemo II, however we offer a variety of other voyages, durations and vessels.
Day1: Arrive at Baltra airport & transfer to vessel
After settling into your cabins, you will land for an afternoon visit to Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island – a popular landing site for swimming, walking and looking for wildlife. The beach is a nesting site for green turtles, which leave tracks on the beach from November to February. Nearby there is a saltwater lagoon, where you may see great blue herons, sanderlings and semi-palmated plovers.
Day2: Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz highlands are an excellent area for birdwatching, where you may see a few species of Darwin’s finches. A visit to private fincas ‘Las Primicias’ – a reserve offering you the best possibilities to see the giant Galapagos tortoise in its natural habitat. This afternoon, you visit the Charles Darwin Scientific Station in Puerto Ayora. Here, you can learn about the extensive turtle breeding programmes that operate on the island.
Day3: San Cristóbal
You take a trip to the beautiful white sand beaches of Cerro Brujo, once of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin, where you may spot blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, sea lions and marine iguanas. You’ll have a chance to swim with sea lions here – few creatures are as playful as these marine mammals.
Before lunch, you sail to Kicker Rock, where a great number of tropicbirds, frigates and boobies nest and rest on its walls. Afterwards, you can swim with Galapagos sharks, sea turtles, eagle rays, and enjoy the colourful tropical fish and invertebrates in the near crystal clear waters.
Later in the day, you visit Lobos Island - known for its large populations of sea lions and fur sea lions. There is a nesting ground for the great frigatebird and blue-footed boobies. A visit to a breeding centre will explain the natural history of the Galapagos Islands, taking a look at the series of volcanic eruptions and processes which led to the formation of this wildlife-rich location.
Day4: Española Island
You will land at Punta Suárez, on the western tip of Española, a beautiful island, rich in wildlife. Sea lions leisurely wander around you, while fiery coloured marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, masked boobies and Sally Lightfoot crabs can be found on the surrounding the rocks. A long walk leads you to the home of the only tropical albatross of the earth, which shares its precipice with other seabirds such as the swallow-tailed gull and the Nazca booby.
Depending on weather conditions, either at the end of the morning or early in the afternoon, you can snorkel or kayak around Gardner Island.
Day5: Floreana Island
Today, you will do a wet landing on the volcanic beach at Punta Cormorant, on the northern shore of Floreana. On one side, the point is partially flooded with a brackish lagoon where flamingos nest and feed. Whimbrels, herons and stilts are other common shore and migratory birds of the wetlands. On the other side sea turtles use every corner of a white sand beach to deliver their eggs. You can often see stingrays and reef sharks from the shore.
Mid-morning, enjoy a panga ride and snorkelling at Champion Islet. This small piece of land is one of two places where the Floreana mockingbird survives after its extinction on the big island. The snorkelling around the island is extraordinary, with lots of fish, rays, sharks and the playfulness of the Galapagos sea lions.
Day6: Santa Fe & South Plaza Islands
Barrington Bay, on Santa Fe Island, is one of the most picturesque inlets of the Galapagos, with its white sand and calm turquoise waters – perfect conditions for a large sealion colony. Santa Fe is an ancient extinct volcano and it has been isolated from other island long enough to have an endemic land dragon. Galapagos hawks, mockingbirds and finches can also be found here.
A two hour navigation north takes you to South Plaza, where you will find land iguanas wandering through bright red carpet weed, feeding on the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. The sheer cliffs of the southern shore are a perfect bird habitat, making it an unparalleled bird observatory for swallow-tailed gulls, Audubon shearwaters, and red-billed tropicbirds. If there is enough time and good weather you can swim or snorkel in Punta Carrion.
Day7: Sombrero Chino & Bartolomé Islands
Today, you visit Sombrero Chino (Chinese hat - named after the island’s shape), which is located off the southeast tip of Santiago. Although a centrally located island, it is one of the least visited due to National Park visitor restrictions. Here you will land on a stunning white sandy beach, before exploring the volcanic origins of the island on foot. Snorkelling excursions provide sightings of white-tipped sharks, Galapagos penguins and sea lions.
Bartolome Island offers an explosive volcanic landscape, and you can climb around 80 metres to admire the dramatic view of Pinnacle Rock. Between December and March green turtles nest on the beaches here.
Day8: Santa Cruz & disembark at Baltra
This morning, you travel to Caleta Tortuga, also known as Black Turtle Cove, by panga (dinghy). Located on the north side of Santa Cruz, there is a mangrove swamp where you can see nesting marine turtles during certain months, as well as rays, sharks and pelicans. You will return to the vessel following the morning excursion, before disembarking at Baltra shortly afterwards.
You should note: Exact itinerary and duration will depend on your chosen vessel, departure date and local conditions.
Duration and price excluding international flights: 8 daysfrom £3,110 pp
Group size: Varies according to vessel
When to go: Jan-Dec: Departs Sundays year round
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
Studded with volcanic cones, Floreana is one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos – its volcano has long been extinct. It has a luxuriant vegetation, and nutrient rich soil, with diverse native and introduced flora. The submerged crater of Devil’s Crown is one of the best snorkelling sites in the Galapagos.
Where: Southern islands
Ideal for viewing: red-tailed tropicbird, South American sealion, Sally Lightfoot crab, green turtle, lava lizard
Española is the southernmost island, its remote location means that it has a large number of endemic species – the marine iguanas here are the only ones to change colour during the breeding season. It has large colonies of blue-footed boobies and is also the only breeding site of the magnificent waved albatross.
Home to frigatebirds, red and blue-footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises and sealions, this was the first island on which Charles Darwin set foot in 1835. A crater in the highlands holds the largest freshwater lake in the Galapagos, which is home to a lot of birdlife. It has one of the two commercial airports in the Galapagos.
Where: Eastern islands
Ideal for viewing: blue-footed booby, magnificent frigatebird, South American sealion, great blue heron, swallow-tailed gull
Excellent for: Birdwatching
Santa Fe (Barrington) is home to a picturesque small bay which provides a sheltered anchorage on the island’s northeast coast. The bay has two visitor trails: one leads to a scenic viewpoint at the top of a cliff, and the other crosses a small beach before leading into a forest of tall prickly pear (opuntia) cactus.
Where: Central islands
Ideal for viewing: land iguana, Galapagos mockingbird, Galapagos dove, lava lizard, Galapagos sealion
Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. The island’s rocky coastline and mangrove-lined inlets are good for marine life. The lush greenery of the highlands offers a welcome contrast, with its huge craters, lava tunnels and giant tortoises roaming freely.
Where: Central Islands
Ideal for viewing: giant tortoise, green turtle, marine iguana, vermilion flycatcher, Galapagos rail
This small island with its steep cliffs was formed by rising lava and is now covered with opuntia cactus. Despite its small size, it is home to one of the largest sealion colonies in the archipelago, as well as colourful yellow and red land iguanas. Birds to be found here included red-billed tropicbird and swallow-tailed gull.
Where: Central islands
Ideal for viewing: land iguana, Galapagos sealion, swallow-tailed gull, Nazca booby, Audubon’s shearwater
Home of the iconic Pinnacle Rock, Bartolomé consists of an extinct volcano (114 metres altitude) with a variety of red, orange, black and even green volcanic formations. The trail that leads to the summit offers one of the finest views in the islands, including the black lava flows on nearby James Island.
Where: Central islands
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, lava lizard, brown pelican, blue-footed booby, Galapagos green turtle
Excellent for: Penguin watching
This itinerary is available on the following
The Nemo II is a first class sail catamaran accommodating a maximum of 12 passengers in six tastefully designed cabins, each slightly different in size and configuration. There is a common area both inside and out, as well as a small sun deck complete with lounge chairs, and a small bar.