SOLD OUT- new dates added: March 14 – 21, 2023
Feel the thrill of encountering the flora and fauna that famously inspired Darwin—and in his footsteps, generations of nature lovers. Undiscovered by Europeans until the 16th century, the Galapagos Islands hold a central position in modern scientific and evolutionary history. In a place where human presence is relatively minimal, take the opportunity to observe and photograph these remarkable species up close—either sitting quietly to watch blue-footed boobies or snorkeling with inquisitive and playful sea lions.
See details and reserve online: https://orbridge.com/grp_departures/overview/partner_university_of_texas_texas_exes_the_galapagos_islands_western_2023_overflow
En Route from U.S. / Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
After an evening arrival in Quito, transfer to your award-winning hotel for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito
Head out for a full-day, guided tour of historic Old Town. A local expert will take you through the Quito neighborhood called San Roque, where you’ll visit with local artisans, including shopkeepers, hat makers, and sweet confectioners. Explore the San Francisco Market—one of the oldest in the capital. There, learn about unique Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables, as well as local culinary traditions.
Continue your journey to the cobbled street of La Ronda, featuring balconies festooned with colorful flags. Stop by a chocolatier to learn how cacao beans are processed, and taste the finest chocolates of Ecuador!
Next, head north toward the political heart of the city. Following a brief narrative, stroll to the Jesuit Church of la Compañía to admire its stunning gold-leaf interior. A lunch of Ecuadorian specialties, featuring Cocina Mestiza—a perfect blend of international flavors and locally sourced ingredients—will be served at the beautiful Theatrum Restaurant.
In the afternoon, head to the Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum, within a restored 17th-century colonial mansion, to view its collection of pre-Columbian art. This evening, meet your traveling companions for a welcome reception and prepare for your upcoming adventure.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito (B,L,R)
Quito / Flight to Baltra / Santa Cruz: Highlands / Puerto Ayora – Embarkation
Arrive by plane to Baltra Airport and transfer to the Itabaca Channel to ferry across to Santa Cruz Island. After a short, scenic drive across Santa Cruz Island, arrive in the Highlands to enjoy lunch.
Later, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to gain an understanding of the extensive conservation efforts that have gone into maintaining and improving the environment and biodiversity in this remarkable archipelago. See the Galapagos giant tortoise up close on paths leading through arid-zone vegetation, and learn about the various stages of tortoise care and development including a visit to the baby tortoise house.
Take a late afternoon stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora before embarking on Isabela II.
Join the captain this evening for a cocktail and briefing on the exciting activities to come.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Santiago: Puerto Egas/Chinese Hat Islet
This morning offers a wonderful opportunity to see land and seabirds. Following a wet landing onto the black, sandy beach, take a trail leads to close-up encounters with recently reintroduced land iguanas amid a landscape full of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. At low tide, marine iguanas can be spotted grazing upon the algae beds and colonies of fur seals seen on Santiago Island at Puerto Egas. Enjoy snorkeling and swimming at this active location.
Santiago also has several satellite islands, including Bartolomé and Chinese Hat. The Chinese Hat Islet, formed only fairly recently, features a 1,312-foot long wildlife trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped, white sandy beach. The cove is ideal for swimming and snorkeling among white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Prince Phillip’s Steps/Darwin Bay
After breakfast, embark on a panga ride along the cliffs of Genovesa Island (also known as Bird Island) before visiting Prince Philip’s Steps, a steep but short climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the terrain is flat, which allows for a mesmerizing, mile-long walk to the other side of this small island. Along the way, watch for large colonies of Nazca boobies, great frigatebirds, and storm petrels, as well as the elusive short-eared owl. Those not wishing to hike on shore can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). Snorkeling and kayaking activities are available here, too.
Following lunch, arrive at the beach on Darwin Bay for an easy stroll that involves observing hundreds of birds, mainly frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Santa Fe/ Santa Cruz: Punta Carrion
This morning, visit an idyllic sandy-white beach populated by colonies of sea lions. Galapagos hawks are often easily observed, perched atop salt bushes. The Santa Fe land iguana may also be spotted during our exploration. Enjoy a leisurely walk, followed by time to snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier. Or, take a glass-bottom boat ride.
In the afternoon, cruise to the north coast of Santa Cruz Island to the eastern mouth of the Itabaca Channel. Board pangas to explore this rocky coastline’s interesting formations, plant life, and wildlife. There will be additional time to swim and snorkel with hopes to spot playful sea lions, dozens of reef fish (including puffers, surgeonfish, angelfish, groupers, hogfish, hawkfish, and parrotfish) and white-tipped reef sharks.
This evening, join fellow guests and crew for a festive farewell toast followed by dinner.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Baltra – Disembarkation / Flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador
Bid a fond adiós to the Isabela II crew this morning prior to departing Baltra for Guayaquil, where you will spend your final night
Overnight: Wyndham Guayaquil (B,L)
Guayaquil / Depart for U.S.
After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times will take a complimentary transfer to the airport for flights home. Guests continuing on the post-tour will enjoy leisure time in Guayaquil before flying to Lima, Peru, for an evening arrival. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner, R = Reception
(Itinerary subject to change.)
Guests should be sure-footed on stairs and able to walk at least one mile on rocky, volcanic, and uneven ground, as some nature hikes will be on irregular and steep terrain. Guests should also be comfortable managing beach landings and boarding small vessels, both from shore and the deck of the Isabela II. Also keep in mind that you will experience varying altitudes, to which you may not be accustomed.
Maximum elevation: 9,350 feet in Quito, Ecuador
- During a full day tour of Quito, marvel at the gold leaf interior of the Jesuit Church of la Compañía—a fine example of the mix of European influences and indigenous art called the Baroque school of Quito; enjoy a lunch of Ecuadorian specialties; and view a unique collection of pre-Columbian art.
- Observe with remarkable proximity the diversity of endemic species such as the Nazca and blue-footed boobies; giant tortoises; marine and land iguanas; the flightless Galapagos cormorant; and the famous Darwin’s finches.
- Discover the myriad of aquatic wildlife in the clear waters of the world’s second-largest marine reserve.
- Snorkel with sea lions, colorful tropical fish, and sea turtles—or observe them through a glass-bottom boat.
- Explore secluded inlets and stroll sweeping white sand beaches such as Punta Espinoza, where flightless cormorants nest nearby and sea lions, Galapagos penguins, and turtles can be seen frolicking in a fine display of multi-species tolerance in the nearby lagoon.
- Visit dramatic and historic places, including the Charles Darwin Research Station—the iconic site of Galapagos National Park research and conservation efforts—most notable for its captive breeding program for the Galapagos Giant Tortoise; and Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island, one of the ﬁrst sites visited by Charles Darwin featuring a “lunar landscape” of lava ﬁelds.
- What’s included: 2 nights at the 5-star Casa Gangotena hotel in Quito prior to embarkation; 4 nights aboard the Isabela II, with exploration by panga or glass-bottom boat, naturalist-led hikes and excursions, and evening lectures; 1 night at Wyndham Guayaquil after disembarkation; a welcome reception in Quito, 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 4 dinners (served with house wine), including a farewell dinner; all excursions and presentations; complimentary use of kayaks, paddleboards, shorty wetsuits, and snorkeling equipment; Galapagos National Park entrance fee and transit card; internal airfare (from Quito to the islands on day 3, and return to Guayaquil on day 7); gratuities to local guides, hotel porters, and drivers in Quito, the Galapagos Islands, and Guayaquil; and airport transfers for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times.