During World War II, Baltra served as a U.S. military base protecting the Panama Canal from enemy attack. Now the cactus-strewn landscapes of Baltra are home to the region’s main airport and where you will meet the ship. From the airport, it is just a short bus and zodiac ride to the ship.
A zodiac ride into Black Turtle Cove, one of the most beautiful sites in the Galapagos, takes you through a complex maze of tranquil saltwater inlets surrounded by mangroves. Once inside the cove, quietly explore the area looking for sea turtles, several species of rays, and sharks. It is also a nesting site for brown pelicans, egrets, and herons. Excursion options: zodiac.
During a volcanic eruption in the early 1900’s, this area of Santiago was covered with flowing lava. Today, the hardened fields of black rock create a geological wonderland. Take advantage of the cool of the early morning for a walk to view twisting hardened lava flows, collapsed craters, and lava ovens. Tall red scoria cones and pioneer plants also dot this unusual and very young landscape. Excursion options: Walk.
Bartolomé Island offers one of the region’s most photographed views, and is a spectacular geological setting. Its barren moon-like volcanic landscapes, spatter cones, and pinnacle rock make for a unique stop. It is also home to the endemic Galapagos penguin and provides an excellent opportunity for snorkeling. Excursion options: hike up some 368 stairs “To the Top” of the volcano, a zodiac ride, and an optional beach swim or snorkel.
Composed of five merged volcanoes, this is the largest island in the Galapagos and the most recently active, the latest eruption having occurred at Wolf Volcano in 2015. Here you will see large land iguanas, finches, and if lucky, a giant tortoise or two. In 1954, magma from one of the island’s volcanoes caused part of the bay to be uplifted some 6 meters, allowing you to walk through the remains of what was once a thriving underwater reef. Excursion options: Walk, hike, snorkel, swim.
Historically an anchorage for pirates and whalers, this site offers a breathtaking view of Isabela, its volcanoes, and a saltwater lagoon. Along the shore, seabirds, penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, and nesting flightless cormorants can often be found. Excursion options: zodiac, walk, snorkeling and kayak.
Fernandina is the youngest island in the Galapagos and, as Darwin wrote, it is “covered with immense deluges of black naked lava.” Along with its extraordinary black lava rocks, this point of land hosts the largest colony of marine iguanas in the Archipelago, along with sea lions and a nesting site for flightless cormorants. Excursion options: Walk, deep-water snorkel, hike.
The half-collapsed remains of an ancient volcano make for a spectacular setting at this site. Awe-inspiring cliffs, blue waters, and wildlife create a zodiac ride to remember as you search for sea turtles, penguins, fur seals, the flightless cormorant, marine iguanas, marine mammals, and the oddly shaped form of the elusive sunfish. Excursion options: zodiac, deep water snorkel.
With its black sand beach, coastal tide pools, and blue-water grottos, this stop offers a wonderful taste of the Galapagos and the opportunity to see shore birds, Galapagos Hawks, sea lions, marine iguanas, and Galapagos fur seals. Sea lions, colorful tropical fish, and sea turtles are often seen while snorkeling (conditions permitting). Excursion options: walk, swimming, snorkel.
A sea turtle nesting site, favored attractions in this area include the Palo Santo forest, beach, and the lovely landscape. The trail passes a small seasonal lagoon where flamingos and white-cheeked pintail ducks are sometimes seen. Continuing on, the trail loops through the arid zone, where some of the tallest Palo Santo trees of the entire archipelago are found. Look out for the Galapagos Hawk as well as Darwin’s finches. Excursion options: Walk.
Once a refuge for British buccaneers, pirate ships would anchor in this protected bay to make repairs and stock up on tortoise meat among other things. The steep cliffs, where hundreds of seabirds perch in front of the dark red sand beach, are a magnificent site. Excursion options: Kayak, snorkel, zodiac.
The main population center of the islands, Puerto Ayora is home to the National Park Service tortoise-breeding center and the Charles Darwin Research Station. You will have the opportunity to take a bus ride to the highlands to observe giant tortoises in the wild and walk through a lava tunnel. Optional time for shopping will be available. Excursion options: Tortoise-breeding Center/Charles Darwin Center, Highlands.
El Barranco, also known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, is a steep stairway that leads up through a seabird colony full of Nazca and Red-footed Boobies. Once at the plateau, the trail continues inland and passes more nesting booby colonies in the thin Palo Santo forest. Keep an eye out for Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, storm petrels, and a short-eared lava owl if you are lucky. Excursion options: Hike, zodiac, deep water snorkel.
Darwin Bay’s soft white sand is only the beginning of a spectacular excursion. A trail from the beach takes you into lush mangroves where red-footed boobies nest. Other local wildlife includes sea lions, swallow-tailed gulls, frigatebirds and more. Snorkeling is a must here, as the nutrient-rich water attracts all types of marine life including sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, and the occasional manta ray. Excursion options: Walk, swim, snorkel and kayak.
North Seymour is a small island just north of Baltra. It is home to the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galapagos. While keeping an eye out for male frigatebirds trying to impress potential mates with an inflated red neck pouch, you may see blue-footed boobies dancing in a timeless courtship ritual. Sea lions and large land iguanas also roam about this rocky terrain. Excursion options: Walk.
Baltra is home to the region’s main airport, and where you will fly out after a zodiac and bus ride to the airport.
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