Ecuador: Hotel-based Galapagos Islands
Multisport in Ecuador with Explorer's Corner LLC
- Easy Day Hikes, Mountain Biking, Snorkeling and Sea Kayaking
- 2 Nights Hotels in Quito, 7 Nights Seaside Hotels on the Islands
- 1 Day of Transport To and From Your Home
Take a grand tour of the Galapagos Islands, visiting all the best naturalist's sites in the Galapagos National Park, swimming and snorkeling with the sea life, and trekking or mountain biking in the highlands to explore the magnificent volcanic features of these Enchanted Islands. Every night, relax in a comfortable hotel, with the ocean outside your window, sandy beaches and blowing grass whispering in the night. Soak in a Jacuzzi, check the internet, or enjoy the sunset from the beach.
Most importantly, this is a full-on active adventure with trekking, wildlife viewing, snorkeling, swimming, sea kayaking, mountain biking and caving in the lava tubes that occur in the volcanic highlands. One day, experience the underwater habitat of some of the larger finned locals with some off shore snorkeling, another day, climb through the misty highlands and be rewarded by a sweeping view of the islands. A highlight of our week is the full day hike up the 4,890 foot Sierra Negra caldera, the third largest caldera in the world.
The adventure begins on the central Island of Santa Cruz–home to Charles Darwin Station and the National Park. Our visit there includes a day trip to one of the smaller islands–Bartolome, Santa Fe, North Seymour, or Plaza Sur–inside the Galapagos National Park, for some prime wildlife viewing and snorkeling. We'll be able to cruise in to look for penguins, sea lions, and iguanas on one of these famous shorelines.
After exploring Santa Cruz, we speedboat over to the lovely island of Floreana, famous for its colorful settlers and natural beauty. There are only two hotels on this tropical jewel, so in the evenings we will have it all to ourselves. The colonial history of the Galapagos begins here, on Floreana. Next, it is on to Isabela, in bygone days a pirate's paradise and the largest island in the archipelago. The magnificent mass of the Sierra Negra caldera, 6 miles long by 5 miles wide, looms in the south of this island, hiding the new volcano cone inside.
Our hotel partners have prepared a comfortable welcome for you on three islands: Isabela, Floreana, and Santa Cruz. You'll have the optimal settings for relaxation where you can enjoy oceanside drinks, soak in a Jacuzzi, dine watching the sunset over the sea or the nearby highlands, check the internet, get your laundry done or soak in the shower.
There is no destination in the world like the Galapagos Islands. This active adventure tour is perfect for small private groups of four or more, for families with children, or for people who want the trip of a lifetime without the small boat lifestyle.
- Expert leadership and support personnel
- All accommodations as noted
- Meals as noted (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
- Group airport transfers
- All gear and safety equipment
- Sightseeing as noted in the itinerary
- Ground transportation including boat rides and excursions
- International airfare (home/Quito r/t)
- Airfare to and from the Galapagos (Quito/Galapagos r/t-fare subject to change)
- Galapagos Park entrance fee $100 (subject to change)
- Galapagos immigration tax $10 (subject to change)
- Insurance of any kind: mandatory evacuation insurance, suggested cancellation insurance
- Excess baggage charges
- Airport taxes
- Medical immunizations
- Items of a personal nature (clothing, sodas, liquor, snacks, laundry, etc.)
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Transfer to hotel in Quito. Dinner on your own (it is likely you will be on a plane during dinner, arriving late at night). (No meals in transit). Hotel Rabida or similar
Day 2: Galápagos/Santa Cruz Highlands/Puerto Ayora
An early morning flight takes us to Baltra in the Galapagos—we will stop over in Guayaquil during our flight out to the Islands. Our naturalist guide will meet us upon arrival at the airport. A ten minute bus ride to Itibaca channel and then a ten minute ferry ride across the channel brings us to the central Island of Santa Cruz where we drive into the highlands. Our first destination is the Tortoise Reserve, where we will have chances to track and view these friendly and ancient creatures in their natural settings. This extends to the adjacent pasturelands, where farmers make some profits by allowing visitors into their farms in exchange for payment. Another nearby attraction is the highland’s lava tubes. Some of tubes offer easy access by the means of wooden stairways that descend to the mouth of their arched cave entrances. From there, one can make their way into the tubes underground along the cool, dimly lit naturally formed passages with their fascinating rock formations. The tubes make for a fairly easy and interesting hike. You should bring along non-slip footwear and some hikers prefer to use a flashlight. Along the way we’ll hike around Los Gemelos. Gemelos means twins in Spanish and these are twin craters with steep cliffs and a Lost World look and feel about them. From the misty green highlands we descend into the colorful coastal town of Puerto Ayora. Our hotel is cleverly designed to blend with its surroundings, set amongst mangroves and right beside a secluded inlet of Academy Bay. You can enjoy a drink on the deck looking out toward the bay the relax in the Jacuzzi or check your emails using the hotel’s wireless connection and then retire to the dining room for welcome drinks and dinner as you watch the sunset out across the bay. Passengers can stroll the little port town with burgeoning craft shops this evening. B,L,D. Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge
Day 3: Day Trip by Boat to one of the Galapagos National Park islands
After breakfast we take a boat trip into Galapagos National Park. Depending on scheduling and the wishes of the park administration, we will visit one of the following islands: Bartolome, famous for the pinnacle rock seen in Master and Commander, and for its penguins and sea lions, North Seymour, Las Plazas or Santa Fe. In the afternoon, following our trip to the islands, and depending on time, we plan a trip to the Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of the great restorative efforts taking place in the park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Program run by the research station, which began by rescuing the remaining fourteen tortoises on the island of Española in 1970. This program has restored the population of animals to over 1,000 today. You will see many of these creatures, with their sweet ET necks and faces; from hatchlings to juveniles to large, distinguished individuals like Lonesome George, the last of his particular race of tortoises. Charles Darwin Station is within a short walk of our hotel. If you still feel energetic you can stroll along the waterfront to experience the local color of Puerto Ayora, an island metropolis bubbling with restaurants, souvenir shops, and internet cafés. B,L,D. Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge
Day 4: Santa Cruz Island
Welcome to adventure central so far as the Galapagos is concerned. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galápagos and something of a hub for the archipelago. Puerto Ayora, located in the southeast of this large, round volcanic island is the economic center of the Islands. It has the largest population among the four inhabited islands (approx. 18,000), which economically relies mostly on tourism—including refurbishing and resupplying yachts—along with fishing and boat-building. Yet, much of the island remains protected within the Galapagos National Park, which makes its headquarters here in Puerto Ayora as does the Charles Darwin Research Station. This morning’s adventure is kayaking to Punta Estrada & Las Grietas (snorkeling) or Kayaking Playa de Los Alemanes and snorkeling Las Grietas. The area of Academy Bay offers some wonderful kayaking including Las Grietas, a set of narrow cracks in the rock where water flows toward the entrance of the Bay. We’ll have a chance to explore the mangroves and beaches by paddle and may even cut across the bay to for a visit to our hotel, the Red Mangrove. We are then met by boat to continue on to Tortuga Bay. After swimming from this white sandy beach we’ll take a hike to a marine Iguana nesting site. In the afternoon we’ll mountain bike around the highlands of Santa Cruz. Because the island is so centrally located we will have breathtaking views of the surrounding volcanic islands and the sea before descending back to the southern coast and Puerto Ayora. B, L, D. Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge
Day 5: Isla Floreana
A morning ride in a speedboat (about two hours) and we arrive at the lovely island of Floreana, with its colorful past and naturally beautiful present. We have the unique opportunity to not only visit, but stay on the island, one of the archipelago’s finest gems. This is a unique opportunity because there are only two hotels on the island, and ours is the newest. The first of the islands colonized by Europeans, Floreana has the most interesting and bizarre history of human inhabitants. We’ll see how the legacy of these extraordinary settlers ties in with the island’s rich natural history. Here, too, is the location of the famous Post Office Bay, where mariners could drop a letter in a barrel for delivery home, so long as they took one going in their direction. We’ll hike the central part of the island and explore the Peace Asylum, a visitor site that will better help us understand the human history of the “The Enchanted Islands”. We also plan to visit the Loboria, a sea lion colony. We set out this afternoon to enjoy some of the best snorkeling anywhere in the Galapagos. Possible sites we plan to visit include Enderby, Champions, and/or Devil’s Crown. B, L, D. Red Mangrove Floreana Lodge
Day 6: Isla Tortuga/Isabela
Today we set out by speedboat (about two hours) for Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos, stopping at Isla Tortuga along the way for some wildlife viewing. Isla Tortuga is an old, volcanic crater located just south of Isabela. It is one of the main nesting sites for Galapagos sea birds and we’ll be able to observe frigate birds, boobies, gulls, and others. Following our arrival by boat from Floreana we’ll settle into our hotel, the newest in the islands, and enjoy lunch beside the hotel’s white sandy beach overlooking the ocean. The commercial center on Isabela is Puerto Villamil, a tiny fishing village founded in 1897 by Don Antonio Gil. Today, the population is roughly 2,000 people. Set amidst miles of white sandy beaches, there is a feeling of standing on the edge of the earth here, with nothing but the sea beyond. This lovely spot is a forgotten gem in these islands. And there’s plenty of history here. Actual buried pirate’s treasure, stashed in the shadow of a tall coconut palm, was unearthed here some years ago, giving instant credibility to all the tried and true legends of treasures buried in the sand, hidden beneath palm trees. The big island of Isabela accounts for half of the total land mass of the Galápagos at 4,588 square kilometers. Though narrow in places, the island runs 132 km from north to south, or 82 miles. Isabella is formed from six shield volcanoes merged together. Here is the highest point in the Galápagos, Wolf Volcano at 1707 meters (5,547 feet), and there are calderas of up to 10 kilometers (7 miles) across. Sierra Negra Volcano looms to the north of Puerto Villamil and its 4,890 foot summit will be the literal high point of our Galapagos trip. In the afternoon, we hike to Wall of Tears, passing Poza de Los Diablos along the way to view flamingos and water birds. B,L,D. Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge
Day 7: Isabela Los Tuneles/Las Tintoreras/El Estero
This morning we’ll take a boat from Puerto Villamil for a ride to one of the most spectacular places for snorkeling in the Galapagos. The water is shallow, clear and calm here. But what sets it apart is a series of lava flows that have produced a number of arches and tunnels both under and above water, where you’ll find an assortment of species that have taken up residence in these magnificent formations. Because the entry into the site is shallow waves can be strong, for this reason it is not always feasible to enter this site. The best season to visit is between the months of January and May. Around midday we’ll head back to a small island a short distance from Puerto Villamil known as 'Las Tintoreras'. Here a colony of white tip sharks can often be seen resting in a lava canal. You can snorkel or swim in the unique habitat of these animals. Hundreds of marine iguanas can be observed here, as 'Las Tintoreras' is one of their main breeding sites. On the nearby sandy beaches, sea lions play and relax in the sun. This is one of Isabela's most beautiful visitor sites and represents the essence of why so many travelers visit the Galapagos. After all that snorkeling and swimming with sea lions and marine iguanas it is time to head back to our hotel to dry out. We end the day with an optional hike on the trail to El Estero to observe a mangrove habitat unique to Isabela, with the largest black mangrove trees found in the Galapagos. A sweet, potable, freshwater spring creates a river during low tide that flows into the sandy bay, forming a brackish water ecosystem where seabirds and other marine life abound. If you prefer, you can skip this drink and wait to enjoy beverages back at the hotel. In either spot, you’ll have views out over the ocean while the sun sets, or you can look north to the crest of Sierra Negra for what awaits you early tomorrow! B,L,D. Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge
Day 8: Isabela: Sierra Negra
Today is the one you’ve been waiting for, a serious full day hike to the top of one of the world’s largest calderas for some spectacular views of the islands and the ocean. We’ll travel to the highlands by bus, from the base of the volcano to the Park Service station, from there we begin our hike on fairly steep terrain to the rim of the volcano. Measuring 10 km across, the caldera is the third largest in the world after Ngorongoro in Africa and Caldera Las Cañadas in the Canarias. At the rim we have some spectacular views of the caldera, of the nearby islands like Floreana and Santa Cruz, and of the surrounding Pacific. We continue hiking to the sometimes active cone of Volcán Chico. This is a parasitic cone that protrudes from the northern side of the volcano. The most recent eruption with lava flows and fumaroles occurred in October 2005 and gave evidence of the birth and continued growth of the islands. On our way back to Puerto Villamil in the afternoon, we will visit one of the Park’s breeding stations for the endemic giant tortoise, and then stop again to investigate a hyper-saline lagoon frequented by flamingos and other waders and shore birds. B,L,D. Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge
Day 9: Quito
After breakfast, we say farewell to the islands and return to Quito, boat transfer back to Isla Santa Cruz and a transfer to Baltra, then on to the big city and an afternoon check-in to our hotel. In the late afternoon or early evening we enjoy a brief panoramic tour of Quito, followed by our farewell dinner. B,L,D. Hotel Rabida or similar
Day 10: Transfer for flights home
Onwards to your next destination. B
About The Operator:
Explorer's Corner LLC
About Explorers’ Corner
Explorers’ Corner is a high-end, specialty adventure company offering unique destinations and experiences, custom adventures and “old-world” one-to-one customer service. We stand firmly behind our slogan: Real Explorers Wanted - True Adventures Guaranteed!
Explorers’ Corner was founded in November of 2000 by Olaf Malver. After working in the travel industry for over 15 years, Olaf felt strongly that there was a market of travelers whose “true adventure and exploration” needs were not being met. At a time when the meaning of adventure is being watered down in travel, Explorers’ Corner is dedicated to fostering a community of curious and driven travelers that dare to make their travel dreams come true - only limited by their imaginations. We will provide the leaders and the safety and your participation will enhance the experience.
Explorers' Corner's passion has been to pioneer real adventures that provide an authentic experience rather than buffer you from what these places are all about. If, for example, you join us in an expedition to the Antarctic or to Greenland you’ll be expected to pitch in and do your part to make for a safe and successful journey for all. The reward is that you will have a true and direct experience, which you play an integral role in creating.
Real explorers are flexible and team players: for instance, if the weather changes to the worse then you might have to pitch your own tent, help the team haul your kayak out of the water, and lend a hand with the other camp chores. In a place like the Douro River of Portugal you might have to jump in and get your feet wet, not in the river, but stomping grapes to help the locals with the crush! An authentic experience means making the efforts to get up before the crack of dawn to be the only ones at a Galapagos landing site to watch a Pacific Green Sea Turtle returning to the ocean after a night of laying eggs.
True adventure is seeking out and safely experiencing the fullness of what the world has to offer on its own terms, not terms dictated to it. We say “real explorers wanted, true adventure guaranteed” because we mean it.
Making travel dreams a reality is a closely held philosophy at Explorers’ Corner. Therefore, creating and making custom adventures come true for our clients is a large part of Explorers’ Corner’s business. Explorers’ Corner will customize any one of our listed adventures to create a special event for families, groups of friends, or business associates. Guests can request special departure dates, custom activities, or extra accommodations as part of their group adventure. We will work with you to make your ideas come to fruition -- as long as they are seasonally appropriate and your group meets the minimum person requirement.
Explorers’ Corner can also custom design an adventure for our clients to any new place (on Earth, at least!) that only they have imagined exploring — again, providing the trip is seasonable and the minimum persons requirement is met. Bring us your dreams and our travel specialists will work to make your trip a reality. We love to travel, and we love to send travelers to any of the world’s most wonderful destinations.
Explorers’ Corner Founder
Dr. Olaf Malver—CEO, Chief Exploratory Officer. Olaf founded Explorers’ Corner, a boutique adventure travel company, 7 years ago. He, his guides, and his staff have since taken like-minded adventurous folks to far-flung corners of the world. In addition to running Explorers’ Corner, Olaf is a passionate eco-tourist activist working for the United Nations to help promote sustainable tourism in developing countries in the quest to save the world’s natural habitats.
Olaf is a true explorer who has sea kayaked, climbed mountains, dog sledded, and hiked in more than 100 countries spanning 35 years. He's led trailblazing expeditions to diverse locations such as South Georgia, Kamchatka, Antarctica, Pakistan, Nepal, Greenland, Indonesia, Vietnam, Panama, the Nicobar Islands, Zanzibar - and many other "frontier destinations”. Olaf claims many "firsts" in the world of high adventure, such as sea kayaking in Irian Jaya, Burma, North Vietnam, Panama, French Polynesia and British Guyana. He also led the first dog sled crossing across the Northern Brooks Range in Alaska and soloed around Zanzibar in a Hobie Cat. He is a lifetime fellow of the world famous Explorer’s Club, in recognition of his “true” explorations. Olaf is a living proof that the world of modern day exploration is still infinite and only limited by our lack of imagination and dreams! And Olaf is not alone. We have attracted some of the best adventure guides in the world.
Explorers’ Corner Guides
Our guides have more than 80 years of collective guiding experience and have been to over 150 countries, safely leading hundreds of travelers to unique destinations via kayaking, hiking, boating, and biking. They naturally carry with them the mission of Explorers’ Corner—to experience unique destinations and make travel dreams come true. Explorers’ Corner’s seasoned guides include Olaf Malver, Dave Mention, Mick O’Shea, Nancy Moore, Baldvin Kristjansson and many more.