Trip: A Galapagos Christmas

Allan Hoffman ACC CTC DS > Trips > A Galapagos Christmas
12/14/2011 To 12/26/2011
This is a special holiday departure of a popular Galapagos cruise. We'll explore the islands by day, while living aboard a comfortable yacht by night. Naturalist guides accompany our journey. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is an ecosystem among the most unique and prolific in the world: the Galapagos Islands. This magnificent chain of volcanic islands is famous for its inhabitants. The giant tortoise, penguin, flamingo and iguana are but a few of the exotic species that enjoy full protection on the Galapagos. It was in the Galapagos, in 1835, that Charles Darwin caught the first glimmer of his earth-shaking theory of evolution. We'll follow in his footsteps, with unparalleled opportunities for observation and photography. Highlights of the trip include snorkeling with sea lions and observing the giant Galapagos tortoises roam the landscape as freely as they did thousands of years ago. This cruise is a private sailing . Sample itinerary below (please note that trip itinerary is subject to change): Important Notice: We recommend that all passengers allow two nights in mainland Ecuador prior to their cruise to allow for potential flight delays and mis-connections. This is particularly important for passengers traveling during the holidays when flights tend to be overbooked and delayed caused by bad weather conditions. Galapagos Islands Holiday Cruise Itinerary: * Day 1 Dec 17 Saturday: Quito Your trip begins today in Quito, Ecuador. Transfer to your hotel, the beautiful Patio Andaluz in the colonial district of Quito. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Hotel accommodations included. * Day 2 Dec 18 Sunday: Arrive at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos Meet at the airport for an early morning flight to the Islands (via Guayaquil). Board your flight to the Galapagos either from Quito or Guayaquil. Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island, airport 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 (REI Adventures will collect this fee from you and pre pay it). Here, the boat crew is waiting to escort you to your anchored yacht. After the welcome briefing and safety drill we set sail for Playa Ochoa, where we have a chance to test our snorkeling equipment and at the same time swim with a small colony of sea lions. Behind the beach, there is a tidal lagoon where birds can be spotted including the rare Chatham mockingbird. At sunset, we cruise around Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido), a vertical tuff cone formation that abruptly juts up almost 500 feet out of the ocean. On the cliffs, we find blue-footed boobies, masked boobies and magnificent frigate birds. All meals included when aboard ship. * Day 3 Dec 19 Monday: Tower (Genovesa) Island—Prince Philip's Steps We spend the entire day on Tower (Genovesa), considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species. This morning, we have a dry landing at Prince Philip's Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca (formerly masked) boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, we find storm petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, we will see the elusive short-eared owl. After lunch, sea kayaks are available to paddle along the shoreline. Look for the beautiful red-billed tropic bird usually seen in a crevice. A snorkeling opportunity is offered along the inner rim of the volcanic crater. We land on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of great frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich inter tidal zone where we find a wide diversity of animal life. Swim from the beach with sea lions. * Day 4 Dec 20 Tuesday: Bachas Beach / North Seymour This morning, we visit Las Bachas, which is the Spanish translation for "barges". There is a long stretch of a soft white-sand beach and interior lagoons where we find the Greater Flamingo. There is also a wonderful chance to snorkel here from the beach. Remnants of the U.S. presence from World War II – a floating pier – is found here. This afternoon, we disembark on North Seymour, a small geological uplift. After a dry landing, we follow a trail that leads us to swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies and the endemic land iguanas. Visit the largest colony of magnificent frigate birds found in Galapagos. As we stroll along the beach, sea lions body surfing the northern swells. * Day 5 Dec 21 Wednesday: Tagus Cover, Isabela / Punta Espinoza, Fernandina This morning, we visit Tagus Cove, located on the western Island of Isabela. Six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest Island in Galapagos. On our walk, we discover a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. Graffiti dating back to the 1800's is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the Cove in pangas or sea kayaks to find Galapagos penguins, boobies, pelicans and other seabirds. After lunch, we cross the Bolivar Canal. Be on the look out for whales and dolphins riding the bow wave. We disembark at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, the youngest and most pristine Island found in Galapagos. Hundreds of marine iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, bask in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory. Flightless Cormorants build their nest on the point and Galapagos Hawks fly overhead. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. A snorkel here provides opportunities to see many sea turtles. * Day 6 Dec 21 Thursday: Puerto Egas, Santiago / Bartolome This morning, stroll along the shore at Puerto Egas, Santiago (James) looking for octopus, starfish and other sea life caught in the tide pools. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American oystercatchers and yellow-crowned night herons. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction. Before returning to the yacht, there is a snorkeling opportunity with loads of tropical fish. On Bartolome, it seems like we are walking on the moon. This young Island is inhospitable to most plants and animals. After a dry landing, climb 30 minutes up stairs leading to the summit of a once active volcano. Along the way, we pause to marvel at lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. From the top of the wooden stairs, we can gaze out across the island for a panoramic view of the island and "Pinnacle Rock", an eroded tuff cone. Down below, crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel with schools of tropical fish and Galapagos Penguins. On the other side of the Island, encounter sea turtles and white-tipped sharks. * Day 7 Dec 23 Friday: Darwin Station / Highlands, Santa Cruz Friday is feeding day at the tortoise corals at the Charles Darwin Research Station. We visit all three tortoise corals and the breeding center with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology. We also visit the Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can now see the pen of Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta Island subspecies. After lunch on board, we travel by bus to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. From June to January, we can find giant tortoises on a private farm in the highlands. We visit Los Gemelos, Spanish for "The Twins", a pair of large pit craters where we find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. We stop at "the tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. Stroll through the town of Puerto Ayora (population: 15,000) the largest town in the Galapagos. Buy souvenirs, mail postcards or kick back at an internet cafe in the social heart of the Islands. * Day 8 Dec 24 Saturday: Gardner Bay / Punta Suarez, Espanola (Hood) This morning, step onto Gardner Bay, Espanola (Hood). Walk along seemingly endless stretches of sandy beach where you'll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore and you may find a Galapagos Hawk, Darwin's Finches or Hood Mockingbird. Swim with sea lions from the beach. There's an excellent snorkeling site off Gardner Islet with a colorful diversity of sea life near Gardner Islet and Tortuga Rock with caves covered with invertebrates. This afternoon, we disembark at Punta Suarez, Espanola, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily green us as we land on their beach. Curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in "sky-pointing" to show off for potential mates. Nazca (formerly masked) boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls are the only nocturnal gulls in the world. Red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin's Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique specie of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous "blow hole". This is the scene most people envision when they decide to visit Galapagos and is a glorious finale to your Galapagos cruise. * Day 9 Dec 25 Sunday: San Cristobal Island—Interpretation Center - Departure This morning, we drop anchor in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal. We visit the Interpretation Center opened in 1999. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the Islands. Afterwards, we head straight to the airport for our flight back to the mainland. Arrive in Quito after 4:00 p.m. Transfer to your hotel, the Patio Andaluz, this evening. Dinner is on your own. * Day 10 Dec 26 Monday: Home Depart for home or continue your adventure in Ecuador. Perhaps further adventures await you in Otavalo or the Amazon basin with accommodations at a remote jungle lodge. Call us for further information about visiting the jungle before or after your trip to the Galapagos. Note on Itinerary Although we do our best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control. Single Travelers Due to this special sailing, single cabins will not be available. Price Includes Cruise, all meals while on board, an experienced Galapagos Island naturalist guide, two nights hotel in Quito, airport transfers and hotel taxes. REI will arrange for your round-trip flight to the Islands and your National Park fee. Not Included Airfare from U.S. to Ecuador and the Galapagos Island. Meals on the mainland; additional nights in Quito, excess baggage charges; airport departure tax from Quito; tips to local staff and items of a personal nature such alcoholic beverages, laundry fees and insurance of any kind. Rates Park fees and the price of fuel sometimes increase the cost of cruise arrangements significantly, and we reserve the right to alter our prices or introduce surcharges accordingly, even if payment has been received in full. Payment and Cancellation Policy REI Adventures standard payment and cancellation policies do not apply to Galapagos cruises. Due to the holiday week and charter agreement for this private REI sailing, the following payment and cancellation policy applies: A deposit of $1000 per person (double occupancy) and $1000 (single occupancy) is required for confirmation. $500 of that is non-refundable. A second deposit of $1000 per person is due June 18th, 2011. Final payment for the Galapagos Holiday Cruise is due at 120 days (Aug. 19th , 2011) before departure. When a trip cancellation is received 180-150 days from departure, the deposit, $1000, is non-refundable. When a trip cancellation is received 149-120 days prior to departure, all deposits costs are 100% non-refundable. Cancellations within 120 days, all trips costs are non-refundable. This policy is in accordance with the cruise company. Delays If any trip must be delayed due to bad weather, canceled or delayed transportation, sickness or any other situation for which REI Adventures cannot make provisions, all costs incurred during such delays must be borne by trip members. Again, we recommend that all passengers traveling to the Galapagos during the holidays allow two nights in mainland Ecuador prior to their cruise to allow for potential flight delays and misconnections. Cabin Descriptions DOLPHIN DECK Cabins 1,3 & 4 have two twin lower beds and picture windows (beds can be configured into doubles). Cabin 2 has one double bed and picture window. Price $4,525 per person. (cabins average 95 square feet) BOOBY DECK Cabins 5 & 6 have one double bed and picture windows. Price $4,150 per person. (cabins average 90 square feet) IGUANA DECK Cabins 7 & 8 have two twin lower beds and port lights. Cabins 9 & 10 have two twin lower beds and one upper berth with port lights and are best for triples. Price $3,775 per person. (cabins average 110 square feet) All cabins come with private bathrooms, hot showers and air conditioning, and during landings your quarters will be cleaned twice daily. Life aboard ship Life aboard a small boat requires some physical agility and a flexible and social nature. The crew is comprised of the captain, multilingual naturalist guide, chef, barman/waiter, mechanic and two to four sailors. All delicious meals are prepared and served by the crew on board. Juices, water, soft drinks are complementary. Beer and wine are available for purchase on board. Weather Although Ecuador lies on the equator, the country has a wide range of climates due to the varying altitudes. The city of Quito, located at 9,350', has an average temperature of 55 to 75 degrees. The cold Humboldt Current flowing from the Antarctic modifies the Galapagos Islands weather. Fall and winter months tend to be drier with cooler water temperatures. Summer months tend to have more chance of rain, but warmer water temperatures. Days year round are warm; shorts and a T-shirt are fine. Nights will often be cool aboard the ship. For extended snorkeling, a thin wet suit is recommended. Qualifications This trip is rated Easy Active [2]. This trip will be enjoyed by anyone who is in good health and leads an active life. Daily excursions from the boat to the islands will be made in pangas (dinghies). Trip members will hike from the landing point to specific areas for wildlife observation. Hiking time for most landings will be a couple of hours roundtrip with lots of time to stop to study, photograph and enjoy the flora and fauna. Some landings are dry but many are "wet", requiring cautious footing on slippery rocks. The boat staff will be on hand to assist. Extending your trip The Galapagos cruise can be combined with several opportunities to see more of Ecuador and possibly Peru. Many travelers enjoy a few extra days in Ecuador, visiting places like the famous market town Otavalo, Cotopaxi National Park or the Equatorial Monument. A real highlight is visiting Ecuador's Amazon Basin. It's a great place to see exotic birds and wildlife while spending the nights in a rustic but comfortable lodge. Feel free to contact REI Adventures for further information on timing, travel logistics and details about any of these great opportunities. General Information: This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).

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