Join Naturalist Journeys for an exciting and adventurous Galápagos nature cruise. Chart a course through the stunning Galápagos Islands as you spend time in Ecuador’s incredible volcanic archipelago with its fascinating plants and animals. The wildlife here is simply breathtaking and shockingly docile (and many species cannot be found anywhere else on Earth)—it's not unusual to step carefully over a Blue-footed Booby or wait patiently as a young sea lion wakes from the comforts of your daypack that you left on the beach.

We cruise amongst some of the best islands in the chain, including Espanola, Santa Cruz, and Floreana. Expect a small group and a flexible journey, designed with natural history, birding, photography, and snorkeling in mind. Expert on-board naturalists teach you about the evolution, geology, natural history, geography, ichthyology, botany, entomology, and history of the Islands on your excursions.

Our Galápagos cruises are planned to leave a light footprint, and we support conservation throughout the voyage. There is simply no place like the Galápagos.

Tour Highlights

  • Cruise aboard a luxurious yacht
  • Observe and photograph plentiful seabirds as they court, nest, feed, and care for young
  • Challenge yourself to identify the famous Darwin’s finches
  • Seek out endemic species: Galápagos Dove, Galápagos Penguin, Flightless Cormorant, Galápagos Hawk, and the Galápagos form of Short-eared Owl
  • Spot animals like Sally Lightfoot Crab, Marine and Land Iguanas, and the massive Galápagos Tortoise
  • Enjoy snorkeling in quiet coves among active and colorful fish, and possibly dolphins and turtles
  • Wonder at the islands’ volcanic geology—compare “old” and “new” islands
  • Explore mangrove lagoons by small boat for an even more intimate experience
  • Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn about conservation efforts, including the control of introduced species like goats, rats, pigs, and cats

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., Nov. 10 : Flight to Galápagos | Arrival in San Cristóbal


Welcome to Ecuador! Our group has assembled over the past few days and today we set out for the Galápagos Islands. A two-hour flight from Quito takes us to one of the larger islands, San Cristóbal, situated on the eastern side of the archipelago. The plane departs Quito, stops in Guayaquil, then continues on to the islands, 600 miles off the mainland coast of Ecuador. We land on San Cristóbal, the fifth-largest island and the first island Charles Darwin visited in 1835. Our crew awaits us at the airport, where we pass through an inspection station to make sure you are not bringing in seeds or other harmful items; you may be asked to disinfect your shoes. Then, we’re off to discover this amazing and treasured archipelago.

After the welcome briefing, buffet lunch, and safety drill on our boat, we travel by bus to the interior of the island to visit La Galapaguera Cerro Colorado, where the National Park has established a tortoise breeding program and a visitor information center. Along the trail, we find the San Cristóbal (Chatham) Mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island. Here, we see these terrestrial tortoises in their natural habitat and learn about their origin, evolution, and threats from introduced animals.

We then venture to the southeast end of the island to walk through dry forest habitat at Red Hill, an important Galápagos Tortoise breeding facility. Here we learn about the tortoises’ history and conservation; this is also a great place to photograph them in the wild. There are hatchlings at the breeding facility of varying ages. Along the trail we may find the Chatham Mockingbird, Galápagos Flycatcher, and the familiar Yellow Warbler.

We board our ship at the harbor in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of the Galápagos Province. Watch for Galápagos Sea Lion, possibly snoozing in fishermen’s pangas. Out to sea, the boobies and frigatebirds soar! We enjoy our first Galápagos sunset from the observation deck and a welcome dinner. The motion of the boat rocks us to sleep as we cruise to Genovesa, one of the longer crossings of our journey. Our plan is to arrive by dawn. Be sure to be on deck - you don’t want to miss entering this spectacular bay!

Mon., Nov. 11 : Darwin Bay of Genovesa | Prince Philip’s Steps


We spend the entire day on Tower (Genovesa), considered one of the most spectacular Islands in the Galápagos for geology and for close-up views of nesting seabirds. The entry into the caldera is spectacular at first light. We anchor in the calm waters of Darwin Bay, the ocean-filled center of a now dormant volcano.

Tower is small (14-square miles) but one of the most intriguing islands due to its remote location. One of the outer islands, it lies close to deep ocean waters to the north, where upwelling currents produce abundant squid and other fish that feed the island’s seabirds. Tower is an ideal nesting area for Red-footed Booby (both light and dark phases), Great Frigatebird, Swallow-tailed Gull, and several species of storm-petrel. The Galápagos form of Short-eared Owl feeds on the abundant storm-petrels. We get very close to these animals today, so bring plenty of memory space and ample battery if you are a photographer!

Genovesa remains remote and unspoiled, lying one degree north of the Equator. Vegetation is sparse: dry Palo Santo forest occurs with mangroves at the ocean’s edge. One side of the caldera houses lush mangroves, which host Lava Gull and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

Our activities today include walks, a panga ride, and snorkeling (optional). This is a great place to take out the sea kayaks for a quiet paddle. We have a wet-landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where Swallow-tailed and Lava Gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of Great Frigatebird nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich intertidal zone where we find a wide diversity of wildlife.

Mid-day choose to relax or snorkel - there is easy snorkeling with a lot of fish from the beach, or more advanced snorkeling along the caldera wall where, on previous voyages, we have even seen Hammerhead Shark! Sea Lions join you as they frolic by the beach.

In the afternoon we take a more extensive walk at the Prince Philip’s Steps visitor site. Naturalist Journeys’ owner, Peg Abbott, calls this “a walk through wonderland.” Ascending a cleft in the rock wall that rims the caldera (on a trail), we emerge to the greeting of Galápagos Dove, up to four species of Darwin’s finches, numerous Red-footed Booby nesting in small shrubs at close range, Nazca Booby that we have to almost step over, swarms of swirling storm-petrels, and Short-eared Owl. We can only wish for more hours in the day!

After the walk, simply relax on deck and take it all in or kayak along the shoreline. Look for the beautiful Red-billed Tropicbird in crevices or flying overhead in search of fish. Tonight we motor to Santa Cruz Island.

Tues., Nov. 12 : Las Bachas or Black Turtle Cove | Cerro Dragon Santa Cruz


Wake to the sound of Sea Lions and water lapping against the sides of the boat. Enjoy coffee on deck and a view of a stunning white sand beach that beckons us to explore. There is gentle snorkeling from the beach, and a chance to walk, observing brightly colored Sally Lightfoot Crab as we go.

Las Bachas, Spanish for “barges,” offers a long stretch of soft, white sand beach and interior lagoons where we find Greater Flamingo. After lunch on board, our afternoon begins with a stop to visit Cerro Dragon, a fascinating dry site. We enjoy a shore excursion hoping to find Galápagos Land Iguana, Common Cactus Finch, and in shallow saline lagoons Greater Flamingo and Black-necked Stilt.

Our gracious hosts welcome us back aboard for dinner and a pleasant evening. The sun sets over the islands as we cruise to our next location on the remote western reaches of the archipelago!

Wed., Nov. 13 : Punta Vincente Roca of Isabela | Urbina Bay, Isabela (Albemarle) or Punta Vicente Roca


In the afternoon, we cross over to neighboring Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago. Isabela is actually a composite of six individual islands (one of which is submerged), formed by shield volcanoes and united by lava flows. One of the southern volcanoes erupted magnificently in October of 2005, so the island continues to grow. Scenery is astounding: the Wolf and Cerro Azul Volcanoes reach 5,100 feet high.

We disembark at Urbina Bay at the base of Alcedo Volcano (a wet landing), where we find four miles of coastal seabed, with marine life exposed due to a dramatic uplift in 1954 when the volcano erupted. The marine remnants of coral skeleton are impressive - some are waist-high. Brown Pelican and Flightless Cormorant nest here, and very large Marine Iguana abound.

Thurs., Nov. 14 : Punta Espinoza of Fernandina (Narborough) | Tagus Cove of Isabela


This morning we arrive at the westernmost island of Fernandina, the youngest of the islands. We have a semi-wet landing, followed by the adventure of navigating around Sea Lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory and Galápagos Hawk calling overhead. Recent volcanic eruptions occurred here; as a result, the island is sparsely vegetated. Lava flows stretch their way around the coast. This is the most pristine of the islands - no exotic animal has ever been introduced here. The mangrove-lined Punta Espinoza cove is home to Galápagos Penguin, which swim around like ducks. We search for sea turtles, a variety of large rays, and on the rocks, striking red and yellow Sally Lightfoot Crab. Watch Marine Iguana spit salt as you lay on your belly for a close-up. The Flightless Cormorant, an unusual species, nests here.

For many, this morning’s walk is a highlight of the journey with so many species to behold. We also explore here by panga boat, looking for sea turtles, eagle-rays, Galápagos Penguin, and other creatures at the margin of island and sea.

This afternoon, we have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western island of Isabela. Darwin also visited Tagus Cove in 1835. During the walk, we discover a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields, and volcanic formations. Graffiti dating back to the 1800s is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the coves by Zodiac or kayak to find Galápagos Penguin, boobies, pelicans, and other seabirds. An excellent snorkeling opportunity is offered here after the walk.

After dinner, a sky full of stars beckons us on deck to observe the galaxy.

Fri., Nov. 15 : Rabida Island (Jervis) | Black Turtle Cove


This morning, we disembark on Rabida Island (Jervis), located close to, but offshore from Santiago (James) Island. Rabida sports the most diversified volcanic rocks of all the islands and is considered the geographic center of the Galápagos. The dark red sand beach originated from the erosion of volcanic stones. Follow a trail that leads to a salt water lagoon and observe Greater Flamingo as they feed. Brown Pelican nest in the mangroves at the far side of the lagoon. After our walk, there is time for snorkeling before motoring to Santa Cruz.

In the afternoon we venture out on a Zodiac ride at Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove), passing through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. View pairs of mating sea turtles (active on our visit in February), White-tipped Reef Shark and Golden Cow-nosed Ray. Brown Pelican and both species of boobies are active in the lush mangroves.

We return to the boat for the Captain’s hosted cocktail party and dinner, as well as a special presentation by your guides and a chance to tally up all of our sightings to date.

Sat., Nov. 16 : Highlands of Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) | Darwin Station of Santa Cruz


Today we have the full day on Santa Cruz, accessed from the main port city of the islands, Puerto Ayora. It is a lively atmosphere and you can see homes of the early residents, including the family featured in the wonderful novel, My Father’s Island by Johanna Angermeyer.

We visit the highlands for a very different natural history excursion, one in lush forests. Witness vegetation changes as we drive through an elevation range of 2,700–4,500 feet. We travel by bus and then enjoy a walk near “Los Gemalos,” the Twin Craters, and Media Luna, where we search for Woodpecker Finch and Vermilion Flycatcher. At this elevation, the Miconia Zone, a seasonal mist called the “guara” cloaks the forest, producing lush vegetation. We also visit a private farm where Giant Tortoise can be seen in the wild, grazing on lush pastures.

Finding a town at all is a surprise to most, and Puerto Ayora has doubled in size since we began Naturalist Journeys’ trips to the islands in 1998. It is home to over 24,000 residents, as well as the famous Darwin Research Station and Galápagos National Park Headquarters. We walk to the research station from the docks, past plenty of tempting shops. The station, established in 1961, includes a captive breeding facility for several varieties of Giant Tortoise and exhibits on various projects and conservation. Larger trees and shrubs surround the tortoise pens, attracting several species of Darwin’s finches.

Sun., Nov. 17 : Interpretation Center, San Cristóbal | Departures


As we approach San Cristóbal, we pass by Kicker Rock, one of the most stunning vistas of the voyage.

This morning, we visit the Interpretation Center on San Cristóbal Island, opened in 1999. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the islands. Afterwards, we spend some time in port before heading to the airport for our flight back to the mainland, departing noon time. Our voyage comes to an end, but Galápagos will remain in your hearts forevermore!

Pre-Tour Extension

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Fri., Nov. 8 : Arrival in Quito


Winter weather, flight delays, and “adventures” en route can all wreak havoc on your travel times. And unlike most of our other trips, it is very costly, and often impossible, to arrange a transfer to “catch up” in the Galápagos. The important take away: Don’t miss the boat!

In keeping with this message, we suggest that all assemble in Quito, and to encourage this we offer a trip to Antisana National Park ahead of the voyage. These days are encouraged, not only for the experience, but also to ensure that you don’t miss the boat (literally).

You are met on arrival in Quito for a short drive to our hotel. Many have dinner on the plane tonight, but if you arrive earlier in the day, we can put in a dinner reservation for you for a small additional fee.
Accommodations at airport hotel

Sat., Nov. 9 : Andean Condor at Ecological Reserve


Today we explore the high paramo, a tundra-like terrain with the stunning and snow-capped Antisana Volcano in view. Vistas here are on a grand scale, and several large lakes and ponds attract a variety of species. Our eyes are peeled for Andean Condor, very much at home here. We also look for Black-faced Ibis, Andean Lapwing, and a high-elevation hummingbird, the Andean Hillstar. Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and Carunculated Caracara are two birds of prey we can study, and we also note plant life that exhibits adaptations required to survive in these high elevation grasslands. With luck, we have splendid views of one of the most beautiful peaks in the Andes.

We return to our hotel for dinner.
Accommodations at airport hotel (B,L,D)

Sun., Nov. 10 : Flight to Galápagos | Galápagos Cruise Begins!


Plan on an early morning as we transfer to the airport for flights to the Galápagos Islands. These are commercial flights that our cruise company has blocked seats on and booked for us. They depart at approximately 9:30 AM.

Post-Tour Extension

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., Nov. 17 : Overnight in Quito


Following the journey, we are often asked, “Since we’re in Ecuador, what can we do after the cruise for some great birding?”. We have the answer! We offer (and highly recommend) a four-night extension to the Mindo area of Ecuador. This is a guided tour with options for birding and natural history. There is a great variety of habitat here, including cloud forest, montane forest, and drier forest, where we discover species of the Chocó region. We also visit the farm of Angel Paz, where Giant Antpitta, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, and numerous hummingbirds are a delight. We have run this short extension for many years and find it the best route to see an amazing mix of species and habitats in a short period of time. If you prefer time to see the city or go to a market area for a full day or overnight, we can make recommendations.

Your amazing Galápagos voyage has come to an end, and tonight those continuing on the extension return to Quito to rest ahead of the morning departure for Mindo.
Accommodations in Quito

Mon., Nov. 18 : Transfer to the Mindo Area


We start early this morning from Quito, birding our way to the western branch of the Andes, west of the city.

Mindo is one of the most popular areas in all of Ecuador for nature enthusiasts. It’s a mountain town, and our lodge offers great bird and butterfly watching, as well as wonderful meals, and a cozy fireplace to gather around in the evenings. It is nestled in the valley of the Rio Mindo, a remarkable locale, home to over 360 species of birds. The ridges, slopes, and steep ravines to the north, west, and east of the village are cloaked in pre-montane cloud forest with a dense understory that includes Guadua bamboo. Much of the land around the village has been cleared for pasture, but small patches of secondary growth remain.

We arrive in time to settle in and look for Violet-tailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, Purple-throated Woodstar, White-bellied Woodstar, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Brown and White-collared Incas, Western Emerald, and more at feeders surrounding the dining area.

A hint to be most comfortable here: Bring easy-to-slip-off shoes, as you go in and out of the lodge in search of birds. (Ecuadorian custom is to remove shoes to protect their beautiful wooden floors!)
Accommodations at Sachatamia Lodge (B,L,D)

Tues., Nov. 19 : Birding at the Farm of Angel Paz | Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve


Early this morning we visit the farm of Angel Paz, famous for great views of two often difficult-to-see species: Giant Antpitta and Andean Cock-of-the-rock. Meet the family, walk the trails, and learn the story of how they started in conservation and make close acquaintances with these species a highlight of the tour.

After an amazing morning and brunch, we leave the farm and drive up to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, a private 1,000-acre nature reserve that encompasses a mix of primary and secondary forest. The botanical wonder here is something to behold! One of the top birding locations in Ecuador, the reserve is known for its diverse hummingbird species (at feeders for close-ups), as well as a colorful array of toucans and tanagers. At 5,000–7,000 feet we encounter spectacular cloud forest on the steep slopes above us. Here we may find a number of bird species with limited range, including the Tanager Finch.

The forest and gardens are draped with orchids and bromeliads, and butterflies abound. Some of the most beautiful birds of the forest include the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Golden Tanager, and Flame-faced Tanager. Lunch and the choice of hiking or birding fill our afternoon at Bella Vista
Accommodations at Sachatamia Lodge (B,L,D)

Wed., Nov. 20 : Milpe - A Taste of the Chocó Bioregion


We depart early to visit the lower elevation reserves at Milpe Reserve, where we hope to find a number of Chocó Region endemic birds. Some of these display fascinating social behavior. We hope to see White-bearded and Club-winged Manakins on their leks, while other species include Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Tri-colored Brush Finch, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, and others.

On past trips we’ve had great luck finding mixed flocks of tanagers that include Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, Golden-hooded, Moss-backed, and Ochre-breasted members of this colorful clan. The organization and behavior of members of the mixed flock has attracted a great deal of research in the Neotropics, which we discuss.
Accommodations at Sachatamia Lodge (B,L,D)

Thurs., Nov. 21 : Yanacocha Reserve: Cloud Forest & Hummingbirds | Evening Departures


If you wish, rise early this morning to bird close to the lodge, where a light brings in a great variety of species, eager to feed on large insects that have gathered during the night.

Then it’s back to Quito, again birding en route, with a visit to Yanacocha, known for its remarkable hummingbirds.
Yanacocha Reserve is located on the Pichincha Volcano west of Quito. Here we walk a trail through lush Polylepis forest to experience this Andean habitat and its unique plant life. We search for species like the colorful Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and Rufous-naped Brush Finch. Hummingbirds are the star attraction, with opportunities to see some high-elevation birds, including the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, and others. Feeding stations along the trail make for easy viewing. This is an important conservation reserve, managed for several rare species that find breeding range here. It is located on the old Nono-Mindo Road, a famous birding route.

We also plan a stop at Mitad del Mundo, a tourist facility on the Equator that has a good, small museum on native culture, interpretation of measurements of the Equator, and yes, a photo opportunity. There is a good handicrafts market here, too.

Our four-night Mindo extension ends back at the airport in time for a number of flights that go out right around midnight. You can plan for flights out after 8:00 PM (several are available on major airlines), or if needed, book an extra night hotel (not included in extension price, but reasonably priced) for departures the following day. (B,L)

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    Blue-footed Booby

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    Group Birding by Ed Pembleton

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    Group along the coast by Skip Palmintier

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Cost of the Journey

The cost of the cruise is $9950 per person, based on double occupancy. Ask us for single pricing.

Cost includes 7 nights on ship, all meals during the voyage, airport assistance in Quito or Guayaquil, all excursions with professional Galápagos guides, and miscellaneous program expenses. Pricing is for the cruise portion of your journey only. Not included in the cost of the cruise is the round-trip flight to the Galápagos ($500), the park fee ($100), and tourist card fee ($10 – $20), however all of these will be taken care of and added to your invoice, to smooth the arrival procedure. The flight from Quito to the Galápagos is required to be booked by the cruise operator who blocks space for our group. Cost does not include items of a personal nature like: laundry, telephone charges, or optional activities. It also does not include your flight to Ecuador, or departure tax from Ecuador though for most this is built into your international airline ticket. We recommend gratuity for local guides and ship crew, at your discretion.

Please note: Cruise payments are subject to the terms and conditions of the cruise company, Ecoventura, we contract with and may be fully non-refundable. These terms and conditions are primary over those of Naturalist Journeys. 

Cost of the Extensions: Cost of the Antisana pre-tour extension is $695 DBL / $815 SGL per person and includes accommodations for two nights, most meals (see itinerary), transportation, a professionally-guided full day outing, national park fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost of the Mindo post-tour extension is $1850 DBL / $2375 SGL per person. 

Naturalist Journeys’ Added Value: Why cruise with Naturalist Journeys? First and foremost, it doesn’t cost you more to cruise with us. You pay the same rate you would if you booked directly through the operator. That’s where the perks come in! When you book with Naturalist Journeys, you’re part of a group. We send a leader with you who adds excellent hosting and interpretation skills, and facilitates group interaction. We also send you a species list and trip report once the trip is over. So really, you get the benefit of a small-group guide without the added cost!

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Main Tour Arrival Airport: Mariscal Sucre International (UIO) in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International (GYE) in Guayaquil.
Main Tour Arrival Details: Please plan flights  to arrive November 9, 2024 at your leisure. Our flight to the Galapagos Islands leaves early on November 10. 

Main Tour Departure Airport: Mariscal Sucre International (UIO) in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International (GYE) in Guayaquil.
Main Tour Departure Details: Please plan flights to depart November 21, 2024 after 8:00 PM.

Antisana National Park Pre-Tour Extension Arrival Airport: Mariscal Sucre International (UIO) in Quito
Antisana National Park Pre-Tour Extension Arrival Details: Please plan flights to arrive November 8, 2024 at your leisure.

Mindo Post-Tour Extension Departure Airport: Mariscal Sucre International (UIO) in Quito
Mindo Post-Tour Extension Departure Details: Please plan flights to depart November 21, 2024 after 8:00 PM.

Travel Tips: If you arrive early in Quito to rest up from your travels, we can book an early night for you at the San José de Puembo Hotel. It’s a lovely Hacienda-style hotel that has a restaurant, bar, and beautiful gardens throughout the property that make it great for birding. If you arrive early in Guayaquil, we can book an early night for you at a hotel near the airport.

 

Ship Information

Discover intimate adventure on the Origin, a luxury expedition yacht for just 20 guests, whose ten spacious staterooms afford panoramic views of the passing sea.  Lounge in your light-filled spacious stateroom during the day and retreat here in the evenings. The gentle churning of the pacific will lull you to sleep, enjoy the fine bed linens, climate controls and both memory foam mattresses as well as soft pillows that will ensure a comfortable night’s sleep.

Interior & Exterior Amenities: Our ships’ interior social areas include a comfortable lounge for evening briefings and enriching lectures provided by our naturalists. A scholarly library features shelves filled with texts dedicated to the exploration of the Galápagos Islands and the ground breaking works of Charles Darwin, while our high-end boutique sells travelers everything from local handicrafts to essential sundries and souvenirs.  Dine at marble-top tables in our dining room. At the stylish bar, mingle with guests over hand-crafted cocktails, red, white and sparkling wines, local beer and fresh juices.

On the sundeck, unwind on daybeds and chaise lounges or cool off in the outdoor shower after enjoying an al fresco lunch or smoky barbecue and drinks from the wet bar. There’s also a Jacuzzi hot tub—perfect for sunny afternoons— and shaded areas for escaping the equatorial sun.  The onboard experience is matched only by the incomparable beauty of the islands we visit.

Cabin Amenities: A vanity and lighted mirror, a sectional closet with drawers, flat-screen TV with pre-loaded movies, a universal docking station, a USB, clock, safety deposit box, individual climate control, a memory foam mattress, reading lights, blackout curtains, Nespresso machine and tea kettle, pair of binoculars, and reusable water bottles.  The bathrooms are modern and bright with a walk-in rainfall shower.  Guests are provided with plush towels, bathrobes, slippers, a hair dryer, a vanity kit, and refillable dispensers of bio-degradable soap, shampoo, body wash, and lotion.

Ship Photos

  • Cabin Interior, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Hottub on Sundeck, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Loungers on sundeck, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Dining on deck, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Private bath, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Twin room, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Gym, courtesy of Ecoventura

  • Interior dining, courtesy of Ecoventura

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Galapagos

  • Hugh Simmons

    Hugh Simmons' interest in photography began when he was a young boy, as did his love of nature. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology during which he was “sparked” by a chance encounter with an Eastern Towhee. Not long after college he took up birding with, of course, a desire to photograph birds. Today he enjoys sharing his decades of photographic knowledge to help others get the most out of their photography whether it be of birds, landscapes, flowers, other wildlife or people. Hugh is a founding member of the North American Nature Photographers Association and served on the board of directors of the National Audubon Society. He is a long time board member of the Chesapeake Audubon chapter in Maryland and is the Audubon Climate Watch Coordinator for his area. Hugh also volunteers with the Cape May Bird Observatory and the Phoenix Wildlife Center.

    Photo credit: Mike West

    Other trips with Hugh Simmons

Map for Journey to the Galápagos

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this length in Ecuador. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Ecuador’s website for guidelines.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Ecuador and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Plan your international flight reservations to arrive and depart from Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito or José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil. Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans.  Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Quito (UIO)

If you know you will be delayed, please phone your local tour operator; both numbers can be found in your emergency contact list.

 

When you arrive at your arrival airport, look for Airport Shuttle or call the hotel for the shuttle. We have your arrival time and will reconfirm with your guide. 

 

You will fill out a tourist entry card for Ecuador on your flight. Visas are not needed in advance of travel. You will be given a customs form on the plane to fill out. Also have your emergency contact sheet handy when going through immigration to show your destinations. When you arrive in Quito, you will first pass through immigration. Look for the shuttle or call the hotel once you exit to the main terminal area.

There is an ATM at the airport if needed (see MONEY below).

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Quito (UIO)

Your departing airport is in Quito at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) or in Guayaquil at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE). There is an International Departure Tax, but this is normally now in your international ticket, and thus taken care of, just be aware that any time leaving a country, there could be notification of an increase or change. Plan your return flight at your leisure. You need to be at the airport about three hours ahead of your scheduled flight on this return. Most flights leave near midnight, so please watch the days/dates carefully.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Ecuador.html. If you are from another country, please contact the Ecuador embassy website for guidelines. 

Passport: At the time of writing, you must have a passport that is in good condition and valid for at least six months after your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per entry stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. 

Visa: At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for the duration of this tour for travelers with a U.S. passport. Your tourist card is part of your airline ticket and you will receive inbound forms to complete on your flight.  If you are issued a card at immigration, be sure to carry it with your passport at all times. You will need the card to exit the country. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well. The departure tax from Ecuador is now included in the cost of your flight, so you do not have to pay this separately at the International Airport before checking in for your flight.  

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency.  Be sure to pack your health and travel insurance and vaccination documents. Make sure we know of any allergies or foods that you cannot eat ahead of your departure. 

The Galápagos Islands and the highland areas of Ecuador (vicinity of Quito, the Andes, Mindo area, Haciendas near Otavalo Market and Antisana) present a safe, healthy environment for visitors. However, rest assured that the ship carries first aid kits and the guides are trained in first aid procedures. All vessels have radio contact with the mainland for any medical emergencies. 

Vaccinations: Bring copies of your current vaccination records with you. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip.  Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage for Ecuador for other helpful information or reach them by phone at (800) CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). 

Yellow fever: At the time of writing, the only immunization that is required (as opposed to recommended) to enter Ecuador is the yellow fever vaccine according to these conditions: required for all travelers (≥1 year old) arriving from or traveling through Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Uganda; this includes >12-hour airport transits or layovers in any of these countries. If your travel falls within these exceptions, please remember to bring your valid Certificate of Immunization for yellow fever.  If you have a current certificate from a previous vaccination, bring it with your other records. If you plan to continue your stay in Ecuador at lower elevations such as Amazonia, there are different recommendations, but travel in the mountain areas and islands keeps you out of the mosquito-vector disease zone.

Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin, though at this time of year there should be little mosquito activity.  Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites by using protective clothing.

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

In case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad, bring a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up”. However, note that while pharmacies and medical facilities are readily available on the mainland areas of Ecuador, they are NOT available outside of Santa Cruz Island (town of about 22,000 people) on the Galápagos Island or the small town on San Cristobal, so it is important that you carry any necessary personal medication with you.

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Motion sickness: If you experience motion sickness, you want to be prepared. Your ship’s crew will try to make deep water crossings at night and in all ways keep you comfortable, but this is the ocean, and it will rock and roll. Pills such as Bonine are often adequate here, as the waves and roll come only in certain sections. But if you tend toward motion sickness you will need more; ask your doctor about options, as there are various patches and pills.  Do ask for any complications with sun exposure as you can’t avoid that exploring the islands. For those with mild reactions, Ginger is very good for calming the stomach, though as fresh foods cannot be taken in, buy candied ginger in a sealed package.

Altitude sickness: It can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. These symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications that may be right for you.

Daily Itinerary

 

Bird Checklist & Wildlife Sightings

Your cruise naturalists and Naturalist Journeys guide will do a wildlife and bird list each day with the groups. Some of our guides post sightings on eBird so if you wish to have those shared, make that wish known to your guide.  For group travelers, a list of species will be sent to you at the tour completion.

Weather & Climate

In general, weather where we travel in Ecuador is quite variable, and particularly dependent on the altitude. We start in Quito at 9,350 feet of altitude. Temperatures should vary in the upper 40s°F to upper 60s°F. In the lower elevations and while on board, temperatures will be higher; expect mid 70s°F to upper 80s°F. Rain is possible, so do have good rain gear; shoes with good tread and support are essential. We recommend dressing in layers, with a good wind-breaking layer that can do double duty as raingear. Dressing in layers works perfectly for these conditions. Please bring warm enough clothing for the higher altitude, morning, and evening temperatures.

Annoyances & Hazards

Mosquitoes can occur, especially along the Napo River; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks; this helps a lot.  When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare.  Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.

Food & Drinks

Menus at lodges and restaurants are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.

Bottled water is provided in your cabin and at the bar at all times free of charge. Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient, we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles. Your guide will let you know when bottled water is preferable.

Ship Life and Things to Consider Ahead - Advice from Ecoventura, our Cruise Company 

Safety in the Galapagos

  • Life jackets will be provided, and a safety drill will be conducted by your captain, please pay close attention. Travel light in terms of your valuables – take off expensive jewelry and LEAVE IT AT HOME. It is most likely an open-door policy, with someone aboard to watch over the boat at all times. We recommend that you leave all valuables at home as they are not appropriate for an adventure cruise. The cabins lock from the inside only and there are no safety boxes in the cabins. If you have special concerns talk with the captain or your ship naturalist about how best to secure your possessions.

Safety equipment

  • All equipment meets SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and ISM standards including VIKING 25person inflatable capsule lifeboat, 40 life vests with whistles and fluorescent markers, 10 circular buoys, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, automatic radio buoy via satellite, EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon). All crewmembers are experienced and trained by ISM and in the regulations that local, Navy and National Park authorities require.

Wet suits

  • Wetsuits will be available for passengers to use during the cruise at no additional charge. Recently they have expanded their inventory, so you no longer have to reserve ahead.  These are full size and 3mm.  There may be special Covid protocols in place for use of these.

Snorkeling equipment

  • Masks, fins and snorkels in average sizes are available on board free of charge for use during the cruise. There is no guarantee there will be all equipment available in your size and therefore passengers may bring their own equipment. Again there may be Covid protocols requested for use of these.

Sea kayaks

  • There are two tandem and one single kayak on each yacht available at designated sites on a first come first serve basis at no additional charge. The model is a sit-on-top kayak with a modular hull providing an active alternative to view wildlife up close.

Paddle boards

  • Personal paddleboards can be used in the same areas that kayaking is made available.

Communication

  • Most telecommunication providers have signal in Galapagos and passengers can use their smartphones that are activated for international calling on days when the yachts are in close range to port. The Letty does not offer Wi-Fi service.

 

Special Occasions: PLEASE LET THE STAFF AT NATURALIST JOURNEYS KNOW AHEAD OF TIME (BEST) OR THE SHIP KNOW SO WE CAN ALL CELEBRATE!

Purchases on board

  • Every passenger has an open tab at the bar and boutique, which are paid the last day of the cruise. We accept cash (US Dollars), Travelers checks, Master Card or VISA credit cards. Preference of payment is in that order.  Note, there is a VAT tax now (14%) for credit card purchases.

Gratuities to guides and crew

  • Aboard our vessels, gratuities are not included. We prefer that our guests reward our crew based on their performance. Tipping is a personal matter and passengers are encouraged to tip an amount they find appropriate.  Please bring cash for your gratuities, if credit cards are used it’s a long wait for crew members and complicated to divvy them out due to varying schedules. Ecoventura suggests giving $250-$300 per person, for a 7-night cruise. Gratuities are divided among all crew members including the captain and two naturalist guides.  Cash is preferred and available immediately for staff, credit cards can be used as backup but it will cause a delay in delivery.

Satellite telephone communication

  • Ecoventura has an IRIDIUM satellite phone with service available for passengers for an additional charge of $20 for a 5-minute virtual card. In an emergency, you can be reached on board your vessel by calling Ecoventura at 011-5934-2-207-177 Monday through Friday 9am to 6pm only. The yachts also have VHF and HF-SSB radios.

Navigational equipment

  • Highly sophisticated navigational and mechanical equipment meet the highest safety standards found in Galapagos including: 24-mile Furuno radar, Furuno Satellite Navigator, Electric compass, magnetic compass, clock and barometer.

Classification of vessels

  • ABS (American Bureau of Shipping). Registry: Ecuador.

Medical attention

  • The yachts carry first aid kits and the guides are trained in first aid procedures. All vessels have radio contact with the mainland for any medical emergencies. Make sure we know of any allergies or foods that you cannot eat ahead of your departure.

Smoking policy

  • Smoking is prohibited in enclosed areas aboard the vessels and on the Islands. Smoking is only allowed on the outer deck in a designated smoking area.

Laundry

  • Laundry service may be available [for a reasonable charge] from a crew member on the ship who goes on Santa Cruz Island.

Drinking water

  • Bottled water is provided in your cabin and at the bar at all times free of charge.

Fees You have Pre-Paid Include: 

  • Galapagos entrance fee or “park tax”: The Islands are part of the Ecuador National Park system and the entrance fee is $100.00 per person.  Children age 11 and younger get a reduced rate of $50.00. The fee is divided up among various entities including the GNPS, Marine Reserve, agriculture, municipalities, INEFAN and INGALA.
  • Transit card fee: All visitors to Galapagos are required to purchase a “Tarjeta de Control de Transito” or TCT card for $20.00.  This card allows INGALA, the institution that controls migration to the islands to better regulate the flow of all arrivals and departure to Galapagos. Ecoventura will register all passengers in advance provided the fee is pre-paid and we receive the passenger information form.

Physical limitations

  • The majority of Ecoventura passengers are healthy, active and reasonably fit. Passengers able to walk a few hours a day unassisted will be able to fully enjoy Galapagos. Some of the excursions require more physical activity than others involving short steep climbs or long walks in hot weather or on uneven rocky trails. However, most excursions require moderate activity and the walks are at a leisurely pace. Entering and exiting the Zodiacs require that you need to be sure footed. If you are concerned about your ability to do any particular day hike, please consult with the naturalist before disembarkation. In order to enjoy your trip to its fullest potential, it is a good idea to do some exercise before your trip, such as walking, swimming or bicycling.   Please see your doctor for a check-up before traveling to Ecuador.  Any medical condition or physical disability that may require special attention or treatment must be advised to Ecoventura at the time of booking.

Island visits/ Activities

  • Passengers will be assigned by Ecoventura to any of the three identical sister yachts Eric, Flamingo or Letty at the company’s discretion. The vessels anchor offshore at two visitor sites or Islands per day.  Passengers are ferried to the landing point in zodiac style inflatable landing craft. The landings are either wet (where one must step into water anywhere from your ankles to your knees and wade to shore) or dry (where one steps from the panga directly to the volcanic rock). Your guide and Zodiac driver will assist you with a steady hand.  On the Islands, one follows marked trails set by the National Park walking at a leisurely pace together with your guide. You will spend 3-4 hours at each site allowing plenty of time to explore and photograph the wildlife.  In addition to the guided land excursions, we offer deep water snorkeling, beach swim/snorkel, kayaking and zodiac (dingy) rides. Ecoventura is not currently offering any optional scuba diving until further notice.

Yacht & Itinerary Stipulations

  • Ecoventura reserves the right at its sole option and discretion and that of the Captain of the vessel or National Park impact studies without liability for damages or refund of any kind to deviate from the vessel's advertised or ordinary itinerary for any reason including mechanical failure. Ecoventura will not be held responsible for any refund whatsoever for changes to the printed or scheduled itinerary.

Motion sickness

  • Due to strong currents, there will be moderate movement of the vessel while navigating.  Most passengers are not affected. However, if you are prone to seasickness, we strongly urge you bring some type of medication to prevent motion sickness.

Food & Drinks

  • Meals are safe (in the same way they are in the USA) in the restaurants we use on mainland Ecuador, and on the ship.  They are varied and delicious, reflecting the contributions of American, European, Spanish and local cuisines. However, outside of your hotel or organized meals, you should avoid eating unpeeled fruits or uncooked vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, etc., unless your guides tell you they are okay. Make sure we know of any allergies or foods that you cannot eat ahead of your departure.  And if you just love snacks, bring some of your favorites – though no fresh fruits or vegetables can pass through customs, so this advice is for chips, candy etc. in sealed packages (not ziplocks - their original packages is safest).
  • Water is generally safe in our hotel restaurants in Quito. Be prepared to purchase bottled water (typically available at the bar) if you do not find it provided while on the mainland, and on the ship, it will be provided as needed.  For your field trip to Antisana and on the Mindo trip it will be provided. A Steri-pen, readily available online, is a wonderful device that treats water as you go, saving on use of plastics.
  • The ship will have potable water and you should follow their instructions on what to drink, filtered water will be available to fill your bottles to reduce the use of plastic. (Tap water will not be treated the same as filtered water from the kitchen and bar, okay to brush teeth but not advised for drinking). Outside of Quito while on field trips, your guides will provide advice on water potability. In most areas you don’t know, play it safe and avoid ice and drink bottled water.  In spite of all precautions, certain individuals still develop lower intestinal disorder while traveling anywhere. Bring along some over the counter medicine, or if you are particularly subject to this condition, please discuss appropriate medication with your physician.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.

Please, pack light.  We are serious about this – we move around a lot and you just do not need many changes. Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down.

Laundry services are available for a fee at our hotels. On the ship, laundry service may be available [for a reasonable charge] from a crew member on the ship who goes on Santa Cruz Island. For items you choose to hand-launder, consider quick-dry fabrics that will dry faster in high humidity.

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear! And please do not pack any essential medications, original travel documents, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Spending Money

The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card or two. Bring crisp, unsoiled U.S. dollars in good condition in SMALL denominations ($1, $5, $10, $20) for purchases and tipping. Bring large U.S. bills ($50 or $100) that will give you the better rate when choosing to exchange to local currency.

When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.

We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees. Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.

Gratuities

Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, lodging and cruising staff, or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and at hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.

Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:

  • Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest
    Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
  • Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
  • Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
  • Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
  • Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase

You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches, and baseball caps are always popular.  Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turned on for your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.

If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.

Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote locations.

Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests; plan on cell phone calls on your own time.

Electricity

The standard in Ecuador is the same as in the United States: 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles). Plugs are set up in the same style. However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce, so it's helpful to bring along an adapter for a two-prong outlet. If your appliance plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. More information can be found at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/ecuador/.

Time

Ecuador is in the Eastern time zone (GMT-5 in the mainland). Daylight savings time is not observed. Galápagos is one hour behind mainland Ecuador. On board, we observe mainland Ecuador time.  Check www.timeanddate.com before leaving home for your conversion.

The link to check the time in Quito, Ecuador is https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/ecuador/quito.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!

 

Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation

As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.

 

Packing List +

Please Pack Light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please Pack Light!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Remember, you also have to store your suitcase under the bed or in a cabinet of your room, so if they fold up or stack together, that works well.  Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle.  It is our hope that you can pack in a suitcase that does not exceed 44 pounds, the weight limit on the flight to Galapagos.  On the mainland of Ecuador, you will need one warm layer (fleece vest or jacket layered with a raincoat will suffice), as you are at higher elevations.

 Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag.  Please remember that your carry-on bag must be able to fit under the seat or in the storage bin above, or it will be taken away by airline staff and put with the regular luggage.  You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on. We recommend that you double check with your airline a week or so before departure to verify their luggage weight and height restrictions.

 In general, the weather during your stay should be warm to hot and we want you to be comfortable. Quito will be cooler as you are at a higher elevation. Average high in Quito is 66°F and average low is 49°F. You may wish to check your favorite weather website like, www.weather.com, closer to your departure to best predict what the weather will be on your adventure. On the mainland, lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation. 

 Dress is very informal. On the islands, shorts and T-shirts are fine, though you may want more protection from the sun.  Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – and things that are comfortable and easy to launder and quick to dry.  Supportive hiking boots are essential for longer trails on the islands, as are TEVA type sandals that you do not mind getting wet during boat landings. 

 Most people like two bathing suits for the islands, as if you swim twice a day (your choice) you may not want to wrestle putting on a wet bathing suit!  Snorkel gear is available on board. Some people also just bring a long-sleeved thermal shirt and exercise tights, which is enough for many due to short durations of most of your snorkel outings.  If you snorkel a lot, you may wish to bring your own mask or other equipment.

*Note: The Letty (and most likely The Origin, the other luxury ship that is used) provides biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner, beach towels, a reusable metal water bottle, wetsuits, snorkel masks and flippers, and hair dryers on first class and luxury yachts.

 Extension Packing Notes:

Good hiking boots for both extensions. Antisana is cold halfway up to the top.  I bring hat, gloves, and a buff for neck. Down vest is good with a raincoat, or at least a fleece, maybe rain-pants as well . Then layers. If its sunny all is well, but if not, it can be so chilly! Mindo is mild  but can be wet. Fleece is good for evenings and mornings. Definitely rain gear. Good hiking boots for both extensions.

Clothing & Gear

  • Lightweight long pants (like trekking or khakis), 1 to 2 pair
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirts
  • Shorts (optional)
  • T-shirts or equivalent (1 per day recommended – remember you may be buying some there anyway!)
  • Personal underclothing and sleepwear
  • Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
  • Lightweight, waterproof windbreaker
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
  • Bathing suit and lightweight cloth/cover-up. If you like the water bring 2 suits – that way you don’t have to struggle to put on a wet bathing suit!
  • Rash guard (optional)
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana (check out the gel-filled ones for great cooling effect)   
  • Comfortable walking shoes and lightweight hiking boots – good tread and support is essential!
  • Sandals for boat landings and boat wear – TEVA type with straps advisable, or some sort of closed watersport shoe
  • Walking stick (optional)
  • Lightweight jacket, fleece fabric is ideal
  • Warm hat and gloves for days at higher elevation

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Airline tickets or E-ticket, and copy of your itinerary with flight record number in case of loss
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the  ID and entry stamp pages.
  • Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear (essential!)
  • A dry bag, or gallon-sized ziplock, to protect your optics during landings (good idea for anyone with quality optics)
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock
  • Sunscreen – reef- friendly and Chapstick - https://savethereef.org/about-reef-save-sunscreen.html
  • Sunglasses with UV filter (polarized) with neck strap
  • Insect repellent (containing DEET)
  • Toilet articles
  • Binoculars
  • Umbrella (lets you keep using optics in the rain, though rain is most likely on the mainland only)
  • Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit
  • Camera and extra batteries, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
  • Underwater camera (optional)
  • Water bottle (optional)
  • Notebook and pen or journal (optional)
  • Spanish phrase dictionary (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Sink plug (a flat universal one is easiest to use)
    Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • Snorkeling gear if desired (optional) - equipment is available on the ship but if you have your own, we recommend that you bring it. Galapagos waters are cool or cold. You may wish to bring a fleece top or old T-shirt that you don’t mind getting wet.
  • Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles (optional)

 

WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

 Medical & First Aid Items

  • Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions)
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on the boat, bus, van, drives, etc.  Anyone sensitive to motion WILL want prescription medication while on the boat in Galapagos, talk with your doctor as several excellent ones are now available.
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, Antihistamine cream or tablets, Eye drops, etc.)
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, and any medical alerts
  • Insurance information
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters

The following items are provided on the Letty:

  • Bio-degradable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • Beach towels and plush bath towels, Hairdryer, vanity kit
  • Flippers (full foot) for snorkeling, mask, and snorkel
  • Reusable metal water bottle (that you can take home)
  • Hand sanitizer and Clorox/ Lysol wipes

Snorkeling Equipment: There are many snorkeling opportunities during the cruise, sometimes twice a day, from the beach and in deeper water. Masks, fins, and snorkels are available onboard free of charge for use during the cruise.  Although all equipment is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, we suggest bringing your own mask and snorkel for a proper fit.

Wetsuits: Full 3mm Scuba Pro or Aqualung wet suits are provided for guests to use during the cruise at no additional charge on a first come, first serve basis. Wetsuits are most prevalent from June to November when water temperatures are between 65 and 72 degrees. We have a large inventory of various sizes including:  Men: S, M, MT, L, XL, XXL, XXXL, Women:  S, M, MT, L, XL, Children:  S, M, L and there is no need to reserve in advance.

Suggested Reading List +

  There are many wonderful books about the Galapagos Islands and its important natural history. Here Read more

 

There are many wonderful books about the Galapagos Islands and its important natural history. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started.

Top Picks

The Galapagos: A Natural History

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands: An Identification Guide

Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Ecuador: Galapagos.

Field Guides

Birds of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

A Guide to the Birds of Galapagos

A Field Guide to the Wildlife and Plants of Galapagos

Wildlife of the Galapagos

Reef Fish Identification: Galapagos

Eyewitness Handbooks: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, The Travellers’ Wildlife Guide Series

Galapagos Wildlife (Bradt Wildlife Guides)

Photography

John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide

Natural History

Galapagos: A Natural History, Revised and Expanded

Galapagos: Discovery on Darwin’s Islands

The Beak of the Finch, A Story of Evolution in Our Time

Galapagos Diary: A Complete Guide to the Archipelago's Birdlife

A Naturalist Guide to the Galapagos

Galapagos

On Natural Selection

On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition

History and Culture

Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands

Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands

Insight Guides Ecuador & Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands: The Essential Handbook for Exploring, Enjoying and Understanding Darwin’s Enchanted Islands

Travelers Guide to the Galapagos Islands

Fossils, Finches and Fuegians: Darwin's Adventures and Discoveries on the Beagle

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin: The Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man

Galapagos World’s End

Voyage of the Beagle

Local Authors

Galapagos: Preserving Darwin’s Legacy

Galapagos: Both Sides of the Coin

Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World

The Galapagos: Exploring Darwin’s Tapestry

Fiction

Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos

Galapagos: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.

 

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

Ecuador – Encyclopedic Overview

Quito

Explore the Galápagos (Video)

Galápagos Island-By-Island Guide

Puerto Ayora

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Free, printable maps of Ecuador

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Ecuador Birding Overview

Galápagos Islands Bird Checklist

Species of the Galápagos Islands

Galápagos Flora

Genovesa – Prince Philip’s Steps – eBird Hotspot

Darwin’s Galápagos Finch

Galápagos Penguin

Andean Condor

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Challenges Facing the Galápagos Islands Conservation

Galápagos Marine Reserve

Galápagos National Park

Giant Tortoise Restoration

Charles Darwin Research Station

Galápagos Conservation Trust

Effects of El Nino on Galápagos Penguin

Artists for Conservation – “Cerro Dragon”

Geology & Geography

Geology

Geography

Volcanoes

History & Culture

History of Galápagos

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Charles Darwin

Food of Ecuador

Speaking Spanish in Ecuador

Pre-Tour Extension to Antisana Ecological Reserve

Antisana Ecological Reserve

Species of Antisana National Park – iNaturalist.org

Post-Tour Extension to Mindo Area

Mindo, Ecuador

Species of Mindo Valley – iNaturalist

Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Milpe Bird Sanctuary – eBird Hotspot

Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation

Wildlife at Un Poco del Choco Nature Reserve

Yanacocha Reserve

Mitad del Mundo

Helpful Travel Websites

Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO)

Alternate:  José Joaquín de Olmedo International in Guyaquil Airport (GYE)

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Ecuador

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Ecuador

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Ecuador

Canadian Travel Advice and Advisories - Ecuador

Travel Health Pro (UK) – Ecuador

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

Electricity and Plugs - Ecuador

Date, Time, and Holidays – Ecuador


Photo credits: BANNERS: Galapagos Scenic (NJ Stock), Sally Lightfoot Crab (NJ Stock), Magnificent Frigatebird (NJ Stock), Galapagos Tortoise (NJ Stock), Galapagos Hawk (NJ Stock), Sea Lions Snorkeling (NJ Stock) THUMBNAILS: Magnificent Frigatebird (NJ Stock), Galapagos Scenic (NJ Stock), Blue-footed Booby (NJ Stock), Short-eared Owl (NJ Stock), Land Iguana (NJ Stock), Galapagos Penguin (NJ Stock), Waved Albatross (NJ Stock), American Flamingo (NJ Stock)

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