AM: To protect the fragile environment of the Galapagos Islands, the park administrators control the flow of visitors to the various islands. Consequently, just in case one site reaches is visitor limit for this day, and therefore becomes unavailable for us to visit, we are proposing four alternative sites for day five.
Alternative Site1: BARTOLOME ISLAND*
Departure: 6 a.m. bus pick up (approx.) Travel time: After being picked up from your hotel, a 40-minute bus ride will take you across the island to the Baltra Channel, where we will embark onto a passenger boat that has a restroom and plenty of room to relax for the 2-hour journey to Bartolome Island. The Tour: The tour begins with a hot breakfast on board the boat, along with a short introduction and tour briefing by a National Parks-accredited bilingual (English/Spanish) guide. Once we reach Bartolome Island, we will disembark and take a short 40-minute walk up to the 114-meter-high summit of the island. The dramatic views here make this a fantastic spot for group photos. The trail leads through a wild and otherworldly moon-like lava landscape, a walk that advances along a wooden boardwalk built to protect visitors and the erosion of the trail. A hot lunch and refreshments are provided back on the boat. After this, you will have a chance to go snorkeling in a small sandy cove in which you can try to keep up with the speedy Galapagos penguins there. Numerous varieties of colorful reef fish, green sea turtles and various rays are also often spotted around this snorkeling site. The best way to photograph the penguins, however, is during the ride in a "panga" (a small boat), which will take you close to the rocks and around Pinnacle Rock. It's possible to get within 3 or 4 meters of the birds while they look on, seemingly uninterested in your fascination with them. A light snack will be provided on the return trip to Baltra Channel, where the bus will drive you back to your hotel. Return: Approx. 5 p.m.
(*) Bartolome Island is situated just off the east coast of Santiago Island and is one of the younger islands in the archipelago. This island and Sullivan Bay (off Santiago Island) were named after naturalist and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, who was a lieutenant on board the HMS Beagle. Though having a total land area of just 1.2 sq. km., Bartolome Island offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the archipelago. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green and black glistening volcanic formations.
Alternative Site 2: PLAZAS ISLAND*
Departure: 8 a.m. bus pick-up (approx.) Travel Time: A 40-minute bus ride, followed by a 1-hour boat ride. Tour: Once on the island, we will follow a path through a forest of Opuntia cactus, which often reach heights of 10 meters. Sometimes it's difficult to know where to step due to the large numbers of land iguanas that inhabit the island; they feed on the succulent flowers of the cactus plants here. A 1 km.-long trail will take us through sea lion colonies and along a cliff top where Swallow-tailed gulls and other species nest. This is an excellent vantage point for photographing a variety of sea birds. Lunch will be served on the boat before we proceed to Punta Carrión (near the Baltra Channel) to go snorkeling with sea lions and non-aggressive Whitetip reef sharks. Return: Approx. 4:30 p.m. (depending on sea conditions)
(*) Plazas Islands consists of two small islands just off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island, though visitors can only visit the southern island.
Alternative Site 3: NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND*
Departure: 8 a.m. bus pick up (approx.) Travel time: After being picked up from your hotel, a 40-minute bus ride will take you across the island to the Baltra Channel, where you will embark onto a passenger boat that will have a restroom and plenty of room to relax for the 40-minute journey to North Seymour Island. The Tour: The tour begins with a guided tour by a National Parks-accredited bilingual (English/Spanish-speaking) guide. We will trek along a 2.5 km trail through the nesting sites of the largest breeding colonies in the islands. Here you will find Blue-footed boobies, Magnificent and Great frigate birds, and swallow-tailed gulls. This will also present a chance to see sea lions, Galapagos land iguanas, marine iguanas, lava lizards and pelicans. At the conclusion of the land tour, you will return to the boat for a hot lunch and refreshments before travelling to Las Bachas Beach on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. Here you can go snorkeling or take a relaxing walk along the beach. While snorkeling, it's possible to see many colorful types of reef fish, various rays, benign Whitetip reef sharks and Green turtles. Returning to the Baltra Channel, the bus will then transport you back to your hotel. Return: Approx. 4 p.m. (depending on sea conditions)
(*) North Seymour Island — 1.9 sq./km and located approximately 7 km north of Baltra Island — is the site of one of the largest and most active sea bird breeding colonies in the islands. It is a very dry island with no natural sources of water, leaving the animals, namely land iguanas, to rely on the succulent flowers of the cactus plants for nourishment. Whatever time of year, there is always some kind of courtship, mating, nesting or chick rearing to observe.
Alternative Site 4: SANTA FE ISLAND*
Departure Time: 8:00 a.m. bus pick up (approx.). Travel Time: A 40-minute bus ride, followed by one and half hour boat ride. The Tour: Upon your arrival on the island, you will be treated to a raucous welcome by the local sea lion colony. Following your naturalist guide, you will walk along a trail that will lead you to Santa Fe Island's main attraction: a towering forest of giant cactuses. Scattered around these cacti trees you'll see a number of the island's indigenous sun-seekers, including marine and land iguanas, as well as rainbow-streaked lava lizards. If you're lucky, you may even spot land tortoises - the island's namesakes. After the trek, you'll be able to plunge into the cool sea and snorkel in the company of sea lions, Lion fish and sea turtles.
(*) Santa Fe Island (its English name is “Barrington Island”) is a 24 sq. km. islet that lies about 20 km. southeast of Santa Cruz. Quite popular for day trips, there is good anchorage in the attractive bay on the north side of Santa Fe. A short 300-meter trail will take you to one of the tallest stands of opuntia cactus on the island to find more land iguanas. Other attractions include a sea lion colony, excellent snorkeling, marine iguanas, and of course tropical birds (Blue-footed boonies, Frigatebirds, Galapagos gulls).
Accommodations: Hotel Sol y Mar (ocean-view room)