Tuesday to Tuesday
Day 1 – Arrival & Las Bachas
AM: On arrival at Baltra Airport all visitors pay their entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park and get their hand luggage. You will then be met by the Samba's naturalist guide, who will assist you with your luggage collection and accompany you on a short bus ride to the harbor to board the M/Y Samba.
PM: After a light lunch the Samba will navigate for 25 minutes to Las Bachas, organic white sand beaches located on the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island. They are the most important nesting site for the green Pacific sea turtles of the Galapagos. Named Las Bachas after the American military occupation on Baltra during the Second World War, the place is a peaceful a beautiful introduction to the Enchanted Islands. On the shore is easy to encounter marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, blue-footed boobies and, in a nearby lagoon, we often find flamingos, black necked stilts and other shore birds. Visitors are welcome to swim or snorkel near the beach.
Day 2 – Genovesa
AM: After 6 to 7 hours of navigation from Santa Cruz you will wake up to the beautiful cacophony of one of the largest tropical sea bird colonies on the planet. The cliff-tops are decorated with frigate birds, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallow tailed gulls, tropic birds and many other pelagic animals. Following a wet landing at Darwin Bay, you will encounter red-footed boobies displaying for potential mates as they collect nesting material and great frigate birds inflating their bright red gulag sacks, hoping to attract a female. Darwin's finches, Galapagos doves and mocking birds stroll the ground to find seeds and insects. The red mangroves, cactus and saltbushes contrast with the blue sky and the dark basaltic walls.
PM: Following lunch, you will do a dry landing to climb Prince Philip's Steps. The steep ascent takes you 100 feet above sea level, where you will find the elegant silhouette of a red-billed tropic bird and the aerobatic Galapagos shearwate. From here we will follow a lava rock trail through the endemic dwarf incense tree forest and the Palo Santo forest, dormant most of the year, but which fragences the air in the rainy season with a refreshing aroma. As you exit the latent trees you will enjoy the sight of thousands of storm petrels flying erratically beyond the lava flows. This is the perfect scenario to see one of the few island predators - the short-eared owl. Snorkeling on Genovesa offers close encounters with a wide variety of tropical fish.
Day 3 – Marchena & Playa Negra
AM: We will travel back south after sailing to Genovesa. The Samba is the only boat that heads west-northwest and was granted the chance to use Marchena's magical shorelines to snorkel, dinghy ride and kayak by The Galapagos National Park Service. Punta Mejía is one of the best sites in the archipelago to snorkel; the calm and clear deep blue water of the north west coast, and the dark hostile topography of the location give the sensation of witnessing the beginning of our planet and its underwater world. Apart from great fish diversity, we often see rays, reef sharks and sea turtles.
PM: Navigating southwest for 45 minutes to Playa Negra is always an exciting experience. More than once in the past we have seen bottle nosed dolphins, other cetaceans or feeding frenzies. After an early afternoon snorkel around recently formed lava grotto, where marine iguanas feed, we will start a 5 to 6 hour sail to the west. As we get further away from the island, the sea floor changes dramatically and we enter deep water, an oceanic drop-off. The Cromwell current, which arrives from the west, brings richness to the surface and generates a large upwelling. As a result, we have the chance to seek out whales and dolphins here.
Day 4 – Isabela
AM: Human history has left its footprint on this small corner of the Galapagos. Punta Albemarle, the farthest north point of Isabela, was once an important US radar station to prevent any Japanesse attempt to destroy the Panama Channel. Today, the recent lava flows are the nesting ground of the only flightless cormorant in the world and the basking terrain of the largest marine iguanas of the Galapagos. Because not many boats visit this site, the cormorants, that are very shy birds, display as they build their bulky nest with seaweed, with total indifference to human presence. As the morning advances, the iguanas dive into the sea to feed on green and red algae.
PM: Punta Vicente Roca offers an overwhelming diversity of geological formations. Located only a few miles south of latitude 0 , the area is an outstanding example of how the Islands were formed and how the forces of change have transformed the landscape and shaped the wildlife. Vicente Roca is the home of tuff cones and lava dikes. We will look at the dramatic structures from our dinghies, from where we can also enjoy watching Galapagos penguins, brown noddies, blue-footed boobies and other marine life. When the waters are calm enough, the snorkel is fascinating. The walls of the tuff cones are full of colourful invertebrates and rich algae blooming, give us a great chance of witnessing numerous sea turtles feeding.
Day 5 – Fernandina & Isabela
AM: Fernandina is the youngest island of the archipelago. The whole Island is covered with hostile worthless lava, however, at Punta Espinoza the shoreline is teeming with life. Reptiles, birds and mammals all coexist in a living museum; groups of marine iguanas, playful sea lions, tireless flightless cormorants, dwarf penguins, busy Sally Lightfoot crabs and more. Don't forget to look around, because the Galapagos Hawk is always on the hunt. The site is a true cradle of evolution. Snorkeling with turtles, iguanas, cormorants and colourful fish is the best way to refresh after the lava walk.
PM: Located in the center of Isabela, Alcedo Volcano is remainder of how volatile this Islands are. On the west shoreline of Alcedo lays Urbina Bay. The landmass of the inlet was uplifted in 1954; more than ¾ of a mile of shoreline was created, and many coral reef extensions where exposed to air, as the upheaval rose the seabed. The brand-new landscape became a perfect nesting terrain of the most beautiful land iguana - the largest in the Galapagos. Impressive yellow, orange and brown iguanas roam the lowlands looking for flowers, fruits, leafs and shoots of their favourite plants. Also, when the rains arrive, it is possible to see giant tortoises sharing the land with the other primitive looking reptile. Urbina is miniature reminder of a Jurassic time.
Day 6 – Isabela
AM: Isabela Island constitutes almost half of the entire land surface of the archipelago. It is nearly 100 miles long and offers a remarkable diversity of habitats. Shaped like a seahorse and with volcanoes over 5,000 feet high, it is also the birthplace of vast mangrove extensions. Elizabeth Bay is the only place of earth where old tropical mangrove forests and penguins coexist. The ecosystem is also the home of spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and a is nursery for fish and marine invertebrates. With the outboards off and using only our oars for speed, we will enjoy this serene array of life.
PM: When you land on Punta Moreno, you understand why the Spanish Bishop that discovered the Islands said: "it was as if God had decided to rain stones". When he first set foot on a lava field he struggled to find fresh water and, in desperation, was reduced to chew on cactus pats to quench its thirst. More than three centuries later a young Naturalist saw beyond the lava. Charles Darwin was amazed by the colonization of plants and presence of life in this harsh terrain. He thought this process could easily compare to the origin of life in our planet. The pioneer cactus growing over the country of lava is contrasted with stunning oasis and where lava tunnel roofs have collapsed, brackish water accumulates to give life to greater flamingos, moorhens, black-necked stilts and Galapagos Martins.
Day 7 – Floreana
AM: After breakfast we land on Puerto Velasco Ibarra to ride on a chiva (endemic transportation), to visit the highlands of Floreana. On the way to the humid zone, we stop to climb Cerro Alieri. A good number of steps will leads us to a breathtaking view of a landscape decorated with liquens and epiphytes. The mysteries of this Island are hidden in the pirate caves. At Asilo de Paz we will learn of the fascinating story of the Wittmers, Doctor Ritter and Dora, and the famous Baroness and her three lovers.
PM: In the afternoon we land to visit La Lobería (sea lion roockery) and swim or snorkel of the beach. It is a refreshing end to a wonderful day.
Day 8 – Santa Cruz & Departure
AM: Before you go to the airport, we will stop at the Highlands of Santa Cruz. At 1,800 feet, the greenery offers the opportunity to admire the remnant of a Galapagos mature forest. The Daisy trees of the genus Scalesia decorate a couple of extraordinary geological formations. Known as "Los Gemelos", these collapsed craters and their surroundings are the home ti many Darwin finches, mocking birds, vermillion flycatchers and a wonderful diversity of indigenous plants. Departing visitors going to Baltra Airport and those who are staying on the Samba for a second week will all go together in a bus to Los Gemelos. Departing guests visit the craters and continue afterwards with your guide to Baltra airport, for your flight back to the mainland.