Sea Lion Sojourn
Before boarding your catamaran in the Galapagos, you’ll first spend some time in the charming capital city of Quito. Kick-off your stay with a full-day tour. Start with a gorgeous overview of the city from Panecillo Hill and San Juan Mirador, before making your way down to the historic city center where there’s time to explore the many churches and colonial-era buildings. After lunch, it’s on to the Middle of the World monument where you can check out both sides of the equator at once, before wrapping up the tour soaking up the incredible landscapes of Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.
The next day heads out on a full-day tour of the impressive Mindo Cloud Forest. Boasting one of the planet's most concentrated biodiverse environments, you should keep your eyes peeled for a number of exotic bird species. After a wander through the Hummingbird Garden, it’s on to Mindo to soak up the beauty of this nature reserve. Once you arrive to choose from a range of activities including a chocolate factory visit, an orchid garden tour, ziplining or a bird-watching trip with an expert.
During your time in Quito, you'll stay at the historical La Casona de la Ronda, a colonial-style house built-in 1738.
North Seymour Island
It’s time to hit up the Galapagos! Start off on North Seymour, one of the most popular islets known for its epic concentration of birdlife. Take a gentle circular path through the archipelago’s most extensive colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. If you arrive at the beginning of the breeding season, you might see the adult male frigatebirds blow up their red pouches to huge ball-sized balloons, which as you can imagine is quite the sight!
You will cruise the Galapagos Islands onboard the Archipel II, a recently refurbished catamaran with only 8 cabins.
Before you approach Prince Philip’s Steps on Genovesa, you’ll take an inflatable dinghy ride along the eastern arm of the caldera to check out the 80ft high walls from sea level. You might even spot a fur seal resting on one of the ledges at the base. From here it’s time to hike the steep stairs up to the bush of Palo Santo shrubs on top – lookout for red-footed boobies nesting here. After taking in the impressive views, you’ll reach extensive storm petrel nesting places, where you might be lucky enough to spot a short-eared owl on the hunt.
In the afternoon it’s on to Darwin Bay, which boasts a diameter of more than 1 mile! Enjoy the coral sand beaches, barren lava formations, and tidal pools. As you wander around, you’ll learn how each species here has occupied its own ecological habitat without disturbing others.
Today you’re off to the volcano islet of Bartolome, considered one of the youngest islands. In fact, geologically speaking, it was just recently born out of the fire! While it might look lifeless on approach, it offers some of the wildest landscapes and best panoramic views of the entire archipelago. Start off with a trip to Pinnacle Bay where you can climb to a 375ft high viewpoint, before heading off to inspect nearby spatter cones, craters, and lightweight lava droplets that have been spewed out by fiery fountains. Take the Summit Trail to see how hardy vegetation like lava cactus thrives, despite the barren conditions.
Later on, head over to Sullivan Bay, the lava stream here looks akin to the moon and while its desolate landscape may look lifeless, it’s a hugely popular site with photographers. Plus, Pacific green turtles seasonally bury eggs in the tiny white sand beach and you might also spot crabs, blue herons or oystercatchers. The wily-eyed among you might also encounter a lava lizard, locusts or small snake-species.
Now is the time to spend a very insightful morning at the Charles Darwin Research Station, on Santa Cruz, where you’ll learn more about how the protection and conservation work of the islands is carried out. Visit the National Park information center and the Van Staelens Exhibition Hall to learn more or swing by the Breeding and Rearing Centre to see young tortoises. Afterward, you’ll fly on to Guayaquil. Your time in this coastal city will be spent exploring the top landmarks and attractions. During your tour, you’ll explore the Malecón, Las Peñas neighborhood, and the Historical Park. After exploring the city, you'll spend a night at the Oro Verde hotel, then the next day head to the airport to catch your flight home.