Wilderness Images

June 17, 2011

GALAPAGO ISLAND PHOTO TOUR

October 24th through November 3rd 2012

Space is limited to only 14 participants

The Thumbnail Sketch

This exciting trip has been designed to maximize photographic opportunities for participants. Our group will have the entire boat, which is critical because it ensures that we will have total control over when we get on and off the islands. I can pretty much guarantee that we will be the first folks on the islands every morning and the last people off the islands every evening. In this way we will take advantage of the nice warm light of early morning and late evening. Most boats don’t even get their people on the islands until 10:00 or 11:00 am, you can imagine what the light on the equator looks like at that time of the day, not to mention how inactive the wildlife is during the middle of the day.  The middle of our days we will be snorkeling, cruising to another location, downloading and editing images and, having classroom discussions. Late afternoons and evenings we will be back on the islands photographing. While we are sleeping we will be cruising to our next location. Each morning we will awaken to a great breakfast with a totally new view, and a great new destination to explore.

The Accommodations

While in Quito we will be staying at Casa Alisoa four star luxury hotel. I like to spend two nights at the hotel at the beginning of the trip. This does two things, it gives us a day to explore the city of Quito. It also gives us a buffer day to solve any unforeseen travel problems ie, missed connections, lost luggage etc. We will spend another night at this same hotel at the end of our trip. While touring the Galapagos Islands we will be aboard the Journey, a 90 foot diesel powered catamaran. Built in 2006 the Journey features spacious twin bed cabins, each cabin has an ocean view, individually controlled air conditioning, and a private bath with full shower. The boat has many common areas, including numerous sun decks, a bar and lounge area, dining area, and even an on deck hot tub to soak in after a day exploring the islands.  Meals will consist of the finest international and local dishes prepared using fresh ingredients. Each meal will include a choice of meat, poultry or seafood. Special dietary choices and needs will be gladly accommodated. In addition to the ten crew members taking care of our every need. There will also be a highly trained Galapagos Islands guide on board with years of experience and a passion for sharing their knowledge of the wildlife, biology, geology and natural history of the islands.

The Itinerary

Wednesday, October 24th Arrive Quito check in to hotel.

Thursday, October 25th Explore the city of Quito.

Friday, October 26th Santa Cruz Island

Morning: Flight to Galapagos from Quito Airport The flight from Quito to the Galapagos is approximately 2 ½ hours on a Boeing 727. (The cost of this flight is  included in the cost of the tour.) Upon arrival at Baltra travelers pass through an airport inspection point to insure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands and to pay the park entrance fee of $100, and $10 for the INGALA card which is an identity card that you need . Guides will meet you, collect your luggage and escort you on the short bus ride to the harbor.  Motorized rafts, called ‘Pangas’ will transport you to the Journey our crew will welcome you on board.  After departure and lunch, the first island visit is made.

Afternoon: Bachas Beach These two small beaches are found to the West of Turtle Cove.  Their sand is made of decomposed coral, which makes it white and soft, making it a favorite nesting site for sea  turtles.  Behind one of the beaches there is a small brackish water lagoon, where occasionally is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels.  The other beach is longer, but it has two old barges that were abandoned during the Second World War, when the USA used Baltra Island as a strategically point to protect the Panama Channel.

Saturday, October 27th     Genovesa Island

Morning: Darwin Bay This bay has its origin when the crater of this island collapsed below sea level. The wet landing is on a beautiful white coral sandy beach. This is a favorite island for birdwatchers: red footed-booby, masked boobies, wandering tattlers, lava gulls, whimbrels, yellow-crowned and black-crowned lava herons, and yellow warblers can be seen in the area. Continuing on the trail, visitors climb gradually to the edge of the cliff seeing red-footed boobies nesting in the Mangrove trees below. Bird watching includes sightings of sharp-beaked finches, large cactus and ground finches, Galapagos doves and swallow-tailed Gulls.  Reaching the end the trail at the cliff’s edge offers an incredible view of the island and the many birds living there.

Afternoon: El Barranco The visitor site of El Barranco is located in the southern part of Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island. The trail is on volcanic rock that has a length of 1.5 km and the tour can be done in about 2 hours.  The youngest area of the island, from a geological point of view, lies in this area. The cliffs located in the south are composed of very fragile lava. The natural erosion that has occurred in these lava flows has become the ideal place for nesting Storm Petrels. You can see two species of petrels that nest in cavities and holes in the lava. One of its main predators is the often seen short-eared owl. The red-footed booby nests only in the outer islands of the archipelago, Punta Pitt, Gardner (Floreana), Wolf, Darwin and Genovesa. Also present on this island is the masked booby. During the panga rides along the cliffs fur sea lions can be seen and several species of seabirds.

Sunday, October 28th Santa Cruz Island

Morning: South Plaza Plaza is located at the east of Santa Cruz Island, and forms part of two islands known as Islas Plazas. Despite its small size, some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the Galapagos are found here. The Plaza land iguanas are smaller than its relatives found at other islands. Throughout the island are several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a male marine iguana and a female land iguana, they are unique, recognizable at first glance by their black/gray color, with a land iguana’s crest, but face and tail of the marine iguana. The big population of iguanas is due to the presence of tunas, their favorite food.  Swallow tailed gulls nesting in the rugged cliffs are seen along with other sea bids as: Audubon shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, and brown pelicans.

Afternoon: Santa Fe Located in the southeastern part of the Galapagos, this island was formed from an uplift instead than a volcanic origin, this is why it is mostly flat. There are some theories which speculate this could be the oldest island in the Archipelago. Santa Fe is the home of a number of endemic species like the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, Galapagos mockingbird, rice rats, and one of the two species of lands Iguanas of the islands. After disembarkation in the beautiful and clear waters you will be in contact with one of the many sea lion colonies.  Along the trail many salt bushes can be seen as well giant Prickly pear cactus, gigantism is a characteristic of oceanic islands. There are great possibilities of snorkeling with playful sea lions and tropical fishes.

Monday, October 29th San Cristobal Island

Morning: Pitt Point This site is on the north of San Cristobal. Here there are endemic species such as lava lizards and red-footed boobies. The view is impressive when you walk up to the high part of the island. You may be lucky to see the red footed booby – the least seen of the bunch. It’s also the home of the chatham mockingbird, only found here on San Cristobal island.

Afternoon: Kicker Rock Also known as the Sleeping Lion because of its resemblance, it is located of the coast of San Cristobal. The remains of a lava cone eroded by the sea, the two vertical rocks rising 500 feet from the ocean form a small channel that is navigable by small boats.  This Galapagos Islands natural monument has become a favorite sight for cruises due to the many tropical birds, frigates, and boobies that fill the surrounding air. Beneath the sea the nearly crystal waters offer a brilliant show of colorful tropical fish and invertebrates.

Lobos Island Isla Lobos is about an hour by boat from Port Baquerizo Moreno. The length of the trail is 850 meters and the estimated travel time is one hour.  There is a small population of blue-footed boobies and common frigate birds nesting on this site. You can observe the two species of sea lions present in the archipelago.  During the tour you go through a dry vegetation zone, substrate of volcanic rocks and a sandy area.  During the panga tour brown pelicans and several species of shorebirds can be observed; although, snorkeling, it’s common to see juvenile sea lions, manta rays and sea turtles.

Tuesday, October 30th San Cristobal Island

Morning: Interpretation Center An Interpretation Center’s, lush gardens and sweeping ocean views are a strong contrast to the 1960′s style buildings at the Charles Darwin Center. Visitors to the Interpretation Center can learn about both the geological and human history of the islands, conservation issues, and natural history. The older Museum of Natural History attempts to preserve the natural history of the islands.

Frigate Bird Hill To reach Frigate Bird Hill the trail begins starts just on the road beyond Cabañas Don Jorge. At the end of the road there are two paths one leading through the woods and along Playa Mann Beach and the other up a rocky path. A pleasant journey goes up one way and returns along the other path. The trip to the Hill takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Once there, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the white beaches on one side and the roofs of Puerto Baquerizo on the other. The hill is often visited by frigatebirds, giving it its name. Both magnificent frigatebirds and great frigatebirds can be seen.  Here it is possible to see magnificent frigatebirds and great frigatebirds in the same colony. This is the perfect place to compare and learn to distinguish them.

Afternoon: La Lobería It is a coral sand beach with sea lions.  La Loberia is a piece of coast that has been named for the large number of sea lions resting on the rocks and sand. Despite being outside the boundaries of the National Park area, due to its great importance, the park staff obliges for its care and maintenance.  The tour will find button mangrove, white mangrove, chala, palo santo, cotton, Tiquilia, morning glory and other species of the littoral zone as the cacho de chivo, whose seeds is the main source of food for several species of finches. Besides the sea lions, yellow warblers, frigates and various species of finches can be seen. On the rocks, large Galapagos marine iguanas can be found, unique in the world.

Wednesday, October 31st Española Island

Morning: Punta Suarez This rocky land spot sustains one of the most impressive and varied colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos. Visitors find migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored marine iguanas, lava lizards, waved alabatross, Galapagos hawk, as well as blue-footed and masked boobies. Along its southern shore, high cliffs rise up from the sea affording the visitor spectacular views of soaring birds and of the blow whole where water spouts up to 50-75 feet into the air according to the intensity of the surf.

Afternoon: Gardner Bay Located on the north-eastern coast of  Hood, Gardner Bay provides an excellent beach for relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and the opportunity to observe sea lions. Here we can also observe sharks in the crystal clear ocean waters. Oyster catchers and yellow finch are some of the birds you might see here.

Thursday, November 1st Floreana

Morning: Cormorant Point This site offers probably the best flamingo lagoon in the Galapagos; it is also one of the largest in the islands. It’s situated between two tuff lava cones that give the area a special atmosphere. There are various species of shorebirds to observe besides flamingos; the most frequent are common stilts, white-checked pintail ducks, and other migratory birds. It is very interesting to see the two distinct beaches: “The Green Beach” (due to its high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and the “Flour Sand Beach” which is made up of coral.

Devil’s Crown The Devil’s Crown, located just off Punta Cormorant, offers some of the best snorkeling in the Galapagos. In fact, the only way to see the Crown is by water; it is termed a Marine Visitor Site, and no landings are allowed. Sometimes referred to as Onslow Island, this is an almost completely submerged volcano, and erosion has transformed the cone into a series of jagged peaks; as a result, this site really does look like a devil’s crown.

Afternoon: Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship.  It has been used since this time by mariners and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. Apart from being the Post Office Barrel, this site was the landing area for some of the first colonists. We will continue to the north of the island and will ascent to an elevated slope to enjoy a beautiful vista at the Baroness lookout. It is said that Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner loved this place and spent several hours watching the horizon. Within walking distance (30 m) are the ruins of what is known as her house. From this lookout, the landscape covers the coastline from the Enderby islet to Post Office Bay, as well as Cerro Pajas, the pool of flamingos and wide forest of Palo Santo.

Friday, November 2nd Santa Cruz Island

Morning: Charles Darwin Station Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out.  One of the main attractions are the National Park information center, the Van Straelen Exhibition Hall, the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises, Lonesome George (turtle from Pinta), and adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.

For a more pictures and a complete trip report please see my post about my recent trip to this amazing destination. http://www.stevegettle.com/pages/2008/07/20/the-galapagos-islands/

After the morning excursion you will be taken to the airport for your flight to the mainland.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Aliso in Quito

Saturday, November 3rd  Transfer to airport for flight home.  Unless you are fortunate enough to be joining me for the four day extension to Tanadayapa (see below)

Cost $5,675.00

Based on double occupancy

Registration

SOLD OUT

Payment schedule:

Deposit of $1,000.00 with your reservation

Second payment of $2,300.00 due February 1st, 2012

Final payment of $2,375.00 due on June 1st, 2012

Price does not include, air travel to and from Quito*,  gratuities, entrance fee to the park ($100.00) and INGALA card ($10.00) lunch and dinner while in Quito (breakfast is included with room), any alcoholic beverages on the boat.

***Note price does include roundtrip flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands

 

Optional

Four day extension to the Tandayapa Lodge in the

heart of the cloud forest

FULL

After the Galapagos cruise join me for four days and three nights at the beautiful Tandayapa Lodge. This amazing lodge is located on the west slope of the Ecuadorian Andes, it is one of the premier locations in the cloud forest for photography. With over 30 species of hummingbirds recorded at the feeders and over 15 species seen on most days it is the best place I know to photograph these tiny jewels. Check out this video recorded at one of the feeders: Tandayapa Feeder Video. I will be bringing my high-speed flash setup for participants to use. All you will need is a camera that accepts a PC cord and a 200mm or greater lens. in addition to the hummingbirds there are also over 300 species of other birds. The lodge also has butterfly feeders and lights set up at night that attract the most amazing collection of moths and insects I am sure you will ever see. A great trail system winds through the forest to allow you to photograph the many unique plants and insects of the cloud forest.

On our last day on the way back to Quito we visit Refugio Paz in search of the stunning Andean Cock-of-the-rocks displaying on their lek. Being at a different elevation this refuge will offer up a totally different variety of palants, birds, and insects for us to photograph.

Then one more night in Quito to relax and recharge before we begin our journey home the next morning.

Only $940 per person

Only 8 spots available

Registration

Price includes all ground transportation, lodging, and all meals while in Tandayapa.

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