Galapagos Island in the Steps of Charles Darwin

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“A walking exploration of the Galapagos is a different but extraordinary way for clients to get to know the Galapagos Islands up close,” says Allie Almario, v.p. of Myths and Mountains, who will lead the company’s May 1-8 tour called Fire, Land and Sea: Galapagos Volcanoes by Foot. “On this trip, we will have a chance to meet people behind the Galapagos wildlife conservation movement; dine with them and hear their stories on Santa Cruz; on Isabela, known for both its active volcanoes and wildlife on a grand scale, we will hike the highlands, swim with the string rays, picnic among marine iguanas, and stay in a lodge by the sea.”

The tour spends three nights in Quito; one night on Santa Cruz with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Darwin Station and a private dinner; and three nights on Isabela Island visiting the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, hiking to Sierra Negra Volcano and Volcan Chico, boating the white-tip shark canal and Tintoreas Island, hiking a wetlands trail, and picnicking with the local women in an island village. The final night is spent back in Quito. The price is $4,650 pp dbl, including local air roundtrip from Quito to and around the islands.

Adventure Life takes clients on a 9-day Hiking Galapagos tour, perfect for the traveler who prefers his or her tours active. After a first night in Quito, travelers fly to San Cristobal to explore Frigate Hill, nesting ground for hundreds of frigate birds, Isla Lobos and Leon Dormido, where the waters teem with rays, sea turtles and sharks. The San Cristobal Interpretation Center is the place to learn about the volcanic formation of the Galapagos archipelago, and La Galapaguera is a new facility for protecting and breeding native tortoises. Clients travel from there by boat for three hours to Santa Cruz, for hiking among the tortoises in the highlands and swimming in Tortuga Bay during a 2-night stay.

They then continue by boat to Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, staying two nights and visiting the tortoise breeding station and hiking along the coastline in search of penguins, sea lions and all kinds of sea birds. Activities also include a 6-mile hike to the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano, a 6×5 mile-wide caldera, and to puffing Chico Volcano on the northeast side of the caldera. On day eight, travelers return to Quito, via Santa Cruz. For groups of four or more persons, the land cost is $2,475 pp dbl, $2,775 for each of three persons, and $3,775 for two persons traveling together.

A new trip from Natural Habitat Adventures begins with a 2-night stay in Quito at the Hilton Colon, with a visit to the Otavalo market before flying to Santa Cruz Island for a 2-night stay in the highlands at the luxurious Royal Palm. Day trips from here include time with the tortoises in the wild, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and shopping in Puerto Ayora, and a private yacht excursion into the national park to swim with the sea lions and penguins and observe blue-footed booby nests. Visitors then travel by boat to Floreana Island for a night, where snorkelers will share the waters with colorful corals, tropical fish, sea lions, sea turtles and large schools of spotted eagles and golden rays. En-route to the next stop—two nights on Isabela—the boat stops at Tortuga Island, a volcanic crater and a main nesting site for sea birds. On Isabela, activities focus on the marine life at Los Tintoreas, the lava tunnels at Los Tuneles, and snorkeling at Concha de Perla. On the 10th day, travelers return to Santa Cruz by small aircraft and continue to Quito for a final night’s stay. The tour cost is $4,995 pp dbl.