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|Galapagos Islands for Birders
|Arrival into Quito: Days 1 & 2:
Please plan to arrive in Quito on October 30. We are providing 2
extra nights for arrival into Quito as part of the tour package. If you
are flying from an area of the country with snow problems, we highly
recommend you fly in a day early. Considering other airline
changes (due to mechanical failure or other issues), we recommend
everyone flys into Quito, two days before we leave to the
Galapagos. You are welcome to fly in only one day in advance, but
if you miss the Galapagos boat then there can be no refunds.
Whatever your flight plans, you will be met by a driver with a sign
with your name on it. They will take you to a comfortable four star
hotel in Quito.
If you end up with an extra day in Quito, we will be happy to organize
group or individual activities around birding or cultural sites
November Days 3 to 9. Exploring the Galapagos.
You will have the opportunity to spend eight (and one half) full days
exploring the “The Enchanted Isles.” Our travels have been
carefully planned to include the most important birding areas as well
as an enjoyable cross section of other natural history and the varied
landscapes of the Galapagos. As with any voyage, however, it may
be necessary to deviate from our planned itinerary as circumstances
in the islands may dictate. Our goal, regardless, will be to visit as
many key islands as possible in order to see as many different bird
species as we can, with the following being included within our
Day 3: To the Galapagos and North Seymour.
Weʼll catch a morning flight from Quito to the island of Baltra in the
Galapagos this morning. Flights invariably stopover in Guayaquil
before continuing to the Galapagos.
Our adventure begins this afternoon after boarding the ship and
getting our orientation; we shall start the visit to some nearby
islands, likely North Seymour.
The visitor trail on North Seymour is approximately (2 km) in length
crossing the inland of the island and exploring the rocky coast.
Along the way the trail passes colonies of Blue-footed Boobies and
Magnificent Frigatebirds. Most importantly, we begin our search for
Galapagos endemics, and we hope to find Small Ground-Finch,
Large Ground-Finch, Medium Ground-Finch and Common Cactus
This first excursion should with perhaps four endemics underfoot will
set the tone for an effective birding and natural history trip.
Night on board the ship as we head towards Genovesa.
Day 4: Genovesa
We will start early and take our launch to Genovesa. We will get to
Genovesa Island early and spend 6 to 8 hours here to assure we
can observe all bird species and wildlife. Genovesa Island is a
shield volcano in the Galápagos Islands in the eastern Pacific
Ocean. The island occupies about 14 square kilometres (5 sq mi),
and its maximum elevation is 64 m (210 ft). The horse-shoe
shaped island has a volcanic caldera whose wall has collapsed,
forming the Great Darwin Bay, surrounded by cliffs. Lake Arcturus,
filled with salt water, lies in the centre, and sediment within this
crater lake is less than 6,000 years old. Although no historical
eruptions are known from Genovesa, there are very young lava
flows on the flanks of the volcano.
This island is known as Bird Island, because of the large and varied
bird colonies which nest here.
• There are an abundance of Frigatebirds (both Magnificent
and Great), and it is the best place to see Red-footed Boobies,
Masked Boobies, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Wedge-rumped Storm
Petrels, and Red-billed Tropicbirds.
• We will also watch the “Galapagos” Short-eared Owls hunt the
• We will spend some time searching for Sharp-beaked Ground-
Finch and Large Cactus Finch.
Prince Philip’s Steps is an extraordinary steep path that leads
through a seabird colony full of life, up to cliffs that are nearly 80
feet high. At the top, the trail continues inland, passing more seabird
colonies in a thin palo santo forest. Leaving the forest, you can
overview a rocky plain.
We will also visit a sandy beach allowing yet more close views of
seabirds and finches.
We will also enjoy watching the smallest Marine Iguana in the
archipelago, which lives here.
After the end of the day, we will get onboard our yacht and have
dinner. Overnight, the boat will sail to Isabella Islands.
Days 5 & 6: Isabela Island: Punta Moreno, Volcan Sierra
Negra and More
Isabela will also be our best (and maybe only) opportunity to find the
endemic Mangrove Finch. This species will likely prove our most
challenging to find during the trip, and this will take a special attempt
on the west side of the island on our first morning here.
Then in the afternoon, we will go to Punta Moreno. The two most
exciting species at Punta Moreno for most bird watchers includes
Galapagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorants. Both are endemic
to the Galapagos. The Galapagos Penguin is the most northern of
all the worldʼs penguin, while the Flightless Cormorant is one of the
worldʼs rarest seabirds (with a population of just 750 pairs). Other
seabirds of note include the endemic Lava Gull and the widespread
Brown Noddy. This area also hosts Galapagos Martin and American
Our cruise south along the Bolivar Channel passes between Isabela
and Fernandina Island to the west. Fernandina Island has the most
recent volcanic activity and its beautiful and ragged black lava
shoreline hosts impressive gatherings of basking Marine Iguanas.
During the cruise , sightings of the endangered Galapagos Petrel
and perhaps Wandering Albatross are possible and will keep us
avidly searching the skys.
On the second day of the Isabella visit, we will try another area of
the island and spend the day birding inland in the highlands (Volcan
Sierra Negra). Here we hope to find Vermillion Flycatcher (the
Galapapos species may be split from its cousin in the rest of the
Americas) and Galapagos Martin (one of the best sites for this
species). We will also look for Dark-billed Cuckoo, Galapagos
Mockingbird, Green Warbler Finch, Woodpecker Finch, Small Tree
Finch and Medium Ground Finch.
We then spend the evening of October 29 back on the boat,
cruising to Florena.
Day 7: Floreana - Post Office Bay - Punta Cormorant &
Our destination is the island of Floreana, where we go ashore at
Punta Cormorant. Here, the sand is made up of fine olivine crystals,
a glassy volcanic mineral, giving the beach its olive-green color. It is
the best place to see Galapagos Sea Lions. We will visit several
areas here in the morning.
• First thing, we head towards Asilo de la Paz. Here we hope to
find Galapagos Flycatcher and is the one accessible location on the
tour for the Medium Tree Finch.
• Today is also our best opportunity to see American Flamingos
and other water birds wading in the lagoons, including White-
cheeked Pintails and Black-necked Stilts.
• We may have time for a few other stops. However, in the
afternoon, we do want some time for Champion and Post Office Bay.
Floreana is also home to Post Office Bay, where 18th Century
whalers used a barrel as an unofficial mail drop. This custom
continues to this day with visitors to the Galapagos! We may have
time for a round trip visit from the boat here.
We will take a short stop at Champion and take 15 to 30 minutes to
find the endemic Floreana (Charles) Mockingbird and more here.
We should also see Swallow-tailed Gulls, Nazca Boobies or Brown
Noddies, as we sail around this area.
The boat will sail to Espanola this evening, as the trip participants
Day 8: Española: Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez
Lying up current and up wind from the other islands, this island is
more isolated in terms of faunal movements between islands, and
several of the marine animals there have developed distinct forms.
The Marine Iguanas, for instance, are more slender and colorful
than on the other islands, while the Galapagos Tortoises here have
the most prominent saddlebacks. The Lava Lizard and the
mockingbird are the largest in the islands, and the large-billed race
of the Large Cactus Finch also occurs.
We will visit the white sands of Gardner Bay , where we will be
greeted by the Espanola ( Hood ) Mockingbird and close views of
Sea Lions and several species of Finches will be enjoyed .
Later we will land at Punta Suarez where we will be able to visit large
seabird cliff colonies which will be the true highlight of our visit to
Espanola. Both Nazca (recently split from Masked) and Blue-footed
boobies reside here as well as Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Swallow-
But the real treasure is the vast nesting colony of Waved
Albatrosses; nearly the entire population of this species (around
12,000 pairs) nests on Española, and weʼll have time to linger with
and photograph these endearing birds. Red-billed Tropicbird, the
confiding Galapagos Hawk, Swallow-tailed Gull, Galapagos Dove,
Small Ground-Finch, and Warbler Finch can also be seen along with
Galapagos Sea Lions.
This evening, our yacht will take us towards San Cristobal.
Day 9: San Crisotbal
The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal is the capital
and administrative center of the Galapagos Islands. We will want to
get through town and into the hills above to reach the site to find
San Cristobal Mockingbird.
After finding the Mockingbird, we may want to spend some time
visiting the good interpretation center back in town. The center
focuses primarily on the history and geography of the archipelago,
from its volcanic origins to the present-day ecosystem.
We may start early toward the cruise toward Santa Cruz. This is our
best chance at Galapagos Petrals and several other pelagics.
The boat will sail to Santa Cruz that evening as the trip participants
Day 10: Santa Cruz
Early in the morning, we will be at Puerto Ayora, the main town in the
Galapagos, on the island of Santa Cruz. From here we will drive into
the central highlands, making occasional stops in the ʻtransition
zoneʼ on the way up before reaching the higher ʻhumid zone.ʼ As
several of the species more characteristic of arid habitats start to
disappear, so Vegetarian Tree-Finches and Small Tree-Finches
become more common. This area is characterized by Miconia, an
evergreen shrub that is covered with epiphytes.
This lush habitat also supports ferns and sedges, and weʼll spend a
good part of our morning here walking trails in search of the humid
zoneʼs specialties, including the endemic Galapagos Rail (not easy!)
and Paint-billed Crake, a species widespread although never
common in South America.
The highlands of Santa Cruz are also the best place to view
Galapagos Martin ( difficult ), Large Tree-Finch, and the famous
Woodpecker Finch, one of the few tool-using birds in the world.
Galapagos Petrels nest in burrows in the highlands, but weʼll
probably only observe them at sea since they are nocturnal on the
With luck, we just might encounter one of the noble Galapagos
Tortoises, one of the oldest living creatures on earth. If we have
time after the search for the Galapagos Rail weʼll visit the Charles
Darwin Research Station, an easy walk from our accommodation in
Puerto Ayora . The work there to increase the populations of giant
tortoises will allow us to see a few of the distinct races that are kept
here for breeding purposes. The town of Puerto Ayora will also be
our best opportunity to visit any local shops.
Tonight, we will spend the evening on Santa Cruz Island at a nice
Day 11: Departure from Galapagos via Baltra Island
In the morning, we will transfer (by bus and then by ferry boat) to
Baltra and to the airport. Here we will catch a flight back to Quito.
Night in Quito.
Day 12: Departure for home.
Most international flights depart Quito early in the morning, arriving
in the sufficient time for connections to your home city.
Changes Tour Itinerary by National Park Services: Over the last
several years, there has been recurring talk of restricting Galapagos
guidelines and itineraries, with unofficial national park talk of limiting
cruise lengths as well as the possibility of declaring some of the key
islands—where we count on seeing a couple of the endemics—off-
limits. To date, major changes have not been implemented. Many
recent trips were unaffected, and we all hope for the same outcome
in 2012. But we cannot be certain, as rules—and island/park
politics—can change unexpectedly once a tour has been booked,
influencing its exact itinerary. Other than possibly affecting our
access to an endemic bird or two—and we hope this wonʼt happen
and that things will continue as they have for the last few years—the
Galapagos tour weʼve always enjoyed is not likely to be much
altered, and it will continue to be a spectacular and overwhelming
experience that visits most of the archipelagoʼs best corners.
Please donʼt hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.