Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador. Sitting at an altitude of 2,850 metres, under the gaze of Volcan Pichincha, Quito is one of the most attractive cities in South America. Your adventure starts with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details ready. If you have time, take a walk down the famous Calle La Ronda, Quito's oldest street. La Ronda is a peek into the colonial past of the city. This awesome street offers the city's best in one place. You may even wish to explore further beyond the city and visit Otavalo, Cotopaxi, the Cloud Forest or the Equatorial Monument. You local representative will have further recommendations. Notes: This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this. Also note that due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking any diving excursions in the Galapagos.
Early in the morning you will be transferred to Quito airport for your flight to Isla San Cristobal in the Galapagos (approximately 3.5 hours). Departure time is between 8.20 am and 10.30 am, depending on the time of your flight. Your flight (approximately 3.5 hours in total) will stop in Guayaquil to pick up more passengers. Landing at around midday, meet your naturalist guide who will transfer you to your hotel. In the afternoon, head to the Interpretation Center to learn about the history of the islands and the challenges local conservationists face. Then you'll head to the Cerro Tijeratas (Frigatebird Hill) which is located 2 kilometres from the interpretation centre, southwest of Isla San Cristobal. It is a bit of a climb to the top, but your reward is an amazing view of the bay. From here you can see the 140-metre-tall Kicker Rock, its twin volcanic slabs looming large in the ocean. Soon after you will travel to La Loberia to enjoy some snorkelling, perhaps spotting sea lions and sea turtles as you swim around. Notes: The Galapagos National Institute has introduced a mandatory Transit Control Card which will cost you USD20. You will need to purchase this card upon arrival at the domestic airport on Day 2, prior to checking in to your Galapagos flight. Also, upon arrival to the archipelago you will need to go through immigration and pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee of USD100 in cash (preferably in small bills).
You second day in Isla San Cristobal begins with a short boat ride to Isla Lobos (approximately 1 hour or less). This island boasts the second-largest sea lion colony in the world, not to mention the tallest lighthouse on the entire continent. Along the way you can observe the abundant sea life that the Galapagos is renowned for. You might be lucky enough to spot nesting frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. On arrival you can head out into the water for some quality swimming and snorkelling time. You might find yourself in the midst of turtles, Manta rays and maybe the odd Galapagos shark (don't worry – they're harmless!). Then it's time to head back to base and relax.
Early in the morning you will take off to Floreana Island, travelling by private speed boat (approximately 2.5 hours). Go for a snorkel and then enjoy some lunch. You'll head ashore to a black-sand beach at the home of the Wittmer family, who were some of the island's first settlers. Floreana Island was the first Galapagos island to be settled, and today has less than 200 inhabitants. There is a colourful human history to be discovered here, full of intrigue and mystery, including whalers, wildfires and of course exotic wildlife. You will have the chance to read up on how life came to be on Floreana and how some lives mysteriously ended. Next, board your private speedboat once again and continue to Isla Santa Cruz, home to the largest town in the Galapagos Islands (approximately 1.5 hours).
Today after breakfast you will go to the Charles Darwin Research Station. This not-for-profit organisation has been operating since 1959. The station's visitor centre is an essential stop for anyone interested in the archipelago's natural and human history. It's great for learning about the local conservation of the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos. It also offers the chance for close-up encounters with giant tortoises, and you can see many newborn and young giant turtles too – they're here as part of the breeding program to reintroduce the creatures to their natural habitat. In the afternoon you will venture to the higher part of Santa Cruz to observe giant tortoises roaming around in the wild. These fascinating animals can weigh as much as 400 kilograms.
Today is a free day for you and your family to explore Isla Santa Cruz Island as you please. You can choose from a variety of optional activities, if you like. You might like to head out to Tortuga Bay beach, which is a fairly short walk away (approximately 45 minutes). The walk to the lovely Las Grietas gorge, past cactus fields and lava rock formations, is also a good choice. Alternatively, visit the buzzing local fish market, where cheeky pelicans try to get in on the daily catch. You might like to simply stay in Puerto Ayora, soak up the seaside ambience and make some of your own discoveries. The town itself is nice and small, perfect for exploring on foot.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Quito. You can expect to arrive at your hotel at around 3 or 4 pm. Enjoy an evening exploring Quito, or perhaps kick back and relax with your family and fellow travellers.
There are no activities planned for the last day of the trip and you can depart at any time. Hotel check out is normally at midday.