Multi-Day Tour | Escorted, Group

Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience (10 days)

Natural Habitat Adventures

Quito, Ecuador To Playa Ochoa, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Itinerary

DAY LOCATION(S) HOTEL MEALS DESCRIPTION
Day 1
Quito, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Dinner

Quito, Ecuador / Otavalo

Upon arrival in Quito, our local representative meets you at the airport to accompany you on the scenic drive to the Otavalo region, just over an hour away in the Andean Highlands. In the highlands, we'll have a chance to sample the history, nature and culture of Ecuador’s mountain region. Depending on which departure you have selected, you'll stay either at Hacienda Zuleta, a colonial estate with a colorful past, or Sacha Ji, a sustainable luxury wellness resort. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner with one of our Expedition Leaders.
Day 2
Otavalo, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Exploring the Andean Highlands

Our adventure begins with an immersion in the Andean Highlands’ striking landscape and cultural heritage. Specific activities will depend on the departure you have chosen and the location of your Otavalo accommodations.

Day 3
Black Turtle Cove, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Quito / Baltra, Galapagos Islands / Sombrero Chino

Depart early this morning for the return drive to the Quito airport and our flight to the Galapagos islands. We land on Baltra where we meet our second Expedition Leader who will accompany us to the pier where our Galapagos adventure on the Ocean Spray begins. After getting settled into our cabins, we join our guides for an orientation about the ship and adventures that lie ahead. Following lunch, we set off for our first landing at Sombrero Chino. This small island is located just of the southeastern tip of Santiago and is named after its unique cone shape formed by volcanic activity many years ago. The islet is home to a colony of sea lions that live on the white coral sand beach. A short hike takes us to rare, well-preserved remnants of fragile volcanic rock. Snorkeling reveals some of the Galapagos' fascinating marine life—including a possibility that a resident penguin family will join us for a swim.

Day 4
Cabo Douglas, Isla Fernandina, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Isabela—Punta Vicente Roca / Fernandina—Punta Espinoza

We reach Isabela today, the largest of the Galapagos islands. Shaped like a sea horse, it was created when six volcanoes flowed together. Beginning with an exploration of Punta Vicente Roca, choose to snorkel (where we're practically guaranteed to swim with plenty of sea turtles) or take a panga ride along a shoreline brimming with wildlife. Chances are good that we’ll see Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, brown noddies and Galapagos fur seals. After lunch, we cross the Bolivar Channel as we head for Fernandina, the youngest of the islands. Keep your camera at the ready in case we spy whales and dolphins in the passage. Fernandina has one of the most dynamic pristine ecosystems on the planet. A volcanic eruption in 2009 sent a lava flow all the way to the sea. We land at Punta Espinoza, where the rippling hardened lava landscape provides a stark backdrop for a surprising variety of life that flourishes on the black rock: flightless cormorants nest on the rocks, Galapagos hawks soar overhead, sea lions sprawl on the beach, and huge colonies of marine iguanas bask in the sun. Bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs pepper the black rocks at water's edge, a vivid counterpoint to the turquoise sea. A snorkeling excursion offers a good chance to see sea turtles and submerged marine iguanas feeding on algae.

Day 5
Punta Albemarle, Isla Isabela, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Isabela—Tagus Cove / Urbina Bay

Back at Isabela, we spend the morning in Tagus Cove, where we may find penguins and pelicans along with graffiti dating to the 1800s, when pirates and whalers carved their ship names into the rock above a historic anchorage. Spend the morning in the water, kayaking or snorkeling. Then, choose between a hike among the volcanic tuff cones for a closer look at the island's geological history, with views of Darwin's Lagoon, or a panga ride, where we're sure to see blue-footed boobies perched on the cliff ledges, as well as brown pelicans, brown noddies, flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins. Landing this afternoon at Urbina Bay, we witness one of the best examples of geological uplift in the Galapagos, a phenomenon that occurs when molten rock beneath the surface suddenly shifts. In 1954 the shoreline was uplifted nearly 15 feet, exposing coral and stranding marine organisms above the water on what is now the shore. Urbina is home to nesting sea turtles and a colony of some of the islands’ largest land iguanas, iconic Galapagos tortoise, penguins, flightless cormorants and a variety of Darwin's finches. After a walk we can snorkel right from the beach, hoping to see grazing sea turtles and Galapagos penguins.
Day 6
Punta Albemarle, Isla Isabela, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Isabela—Elizabeth Bay / Punta Moreno

On the southern reaches of Isabela, we venture into Elizabeth Bay to explore a sprinkling of islets, a lagoon frequented by sea turtles and surrounding red and black mangroves filled with birdlife. On a panga ride we’ll search for resting and feeding sea turtles along with lava herons, Galapagos penguins, rays and flightless cormorants. In the afternoon, we head farther west to Punta Moreno, home to several endemic species known only to the area’s seemingly barren lava flows. The point is located between two volcanoes, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul, and we step ashore to walk atop the hardened lava. At first glance, the corrugated rock landscape appears lifeless. However, the smooth, ropy black surface is dotted with numerous coastal lagoons harboring a wide variety of birdlife. Commonly seen species include flamingos, paint-billed crakes, white-cheeked pintails, herons and cormorants. We’ll also see endemic Galapagos flora taking root on this young, barren lava flow, including giant opuntia cactus, Palo Santo trees, carob trees and lichens. The protected waters of Moreno Bay are surrounded by mangroves, creating perfect habitat for sea turtles, which we may spot from the pangas or as we snorkel.

Day 7
Santa Cruz Highlands, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Santa Cruz—Darwin Station / Natural Habitat's Tortoise Camp

On Santa Cruz this morning, we visit the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, which operates in tandem with Galapagos National Park, to learn about the efforts by scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve Galapagos as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the tortoise-rearing facility, see tiny babies bred to help increase the depleted tortoise population, a central part of the station's conservation mission. To date, the program has returned more than 10,000 tortoises to the Galapagos wild. Late this afternoon we ascend into the misty highlands of Santa Cruz to arrive at NHA's exclusive Tortoise Camp, where we’ll spend the night. Our private camp, which offers safari-style tents and treehouses with distant views of the ocean, is tucked among lush vegetation that attracts giant tortoises (most commonly seen from July through February). We'll have a chance to view these ancient, amiable creatures in their natural setting—and they often amble right into camp. Nearby, we can also explore a network of subterranean lava tubes and caverns. Please note: At times, the camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.
Day 8
Barrington Bay, Isla Santa Fé, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Santa Cruz Highlands / Santa Fe

We continue our exploration of Santa Cruz with a visit to a tortoise reserve in the highlands or more time spent at our own Tortoise Camp, depending on where we might find more of these ancient creatures. Returning to the Ocean Spray, we have lunch aboard, then sail for Santa Fe, home to a large population of sea lions, lava lizards, the unique Santa Fe land iguana and the Opuntia cactus. On a short hike through a cacti forest, look for the endemic land iguanas that wait patiently underneath for fruit to drop. Returning to our catamaran, we go deep-water snorkeling around a small islet, a natural aquarium with great reef diversity, followed by a paddle or panga ride along the island’s northern coast, where large cliffs and sea caves are used for nesting and roosting by many species of marine birds—as well as basking green sea turtles and sea lions.

Day 9
Barrington Bay, Isla Santa Fé, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

Española—Punta Suarez / Gardner Bay / Osborn Islet

Española is one of the most prolific wildlife sites in the Galapagos. Estimated to be about four million years old, Española is far enough away from the other islands that it is home to the most endemic species along with awesome landscapes created by millions of years of erosion. During the morning at Punta Suarez, we hike on the headlands in search of abundant birdlife, hoping to see Hood mockingbirds, blue-footed boobies, nesting swallow-tailed gulls and Galapagos hawks. Española is also the world's main nesting site for the huge waved albatross. Returning to the quiet bay where our catamaran awaits, lunch is served aboard as we sail to the white sand beach of Gardner Bay and tiny Osborn Inlet. Paddle or ride a panga along the island’s north shore to see a cliff formed by eroded cinder cones and layers of old basalt, prime habitat for giant cacti and many different bird species. Osborn Islet is just one of the many stunning little islands offshore that are ripe for underwater exploration. Ashore, an idyllic white sand beach awaits, where sea lions laze by the dozens and Pacific green sea turtles frequent the rocky part of the shoreline. Back on board, it's time for farewell cocktails and a final celebratory dinner.
Day 10
Playa Ochoa, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
None Breakfast

San Cristobal / Depart

Back on the island where Darwin first landed back in 1835 and where the Galapagos’ first permanent settlements were founded, we visit an interpretation center for a concluding overview of Galapagos history, ecosystems, geology and wildlife. Giant tortoises are also bred here and roam the grounds in a semi-natural habitat. At last it’s time to bid farewell to the islands and fly back to the mainland to meet departing flights, or continue onward for those extending their travels.

Tour Features

Experience(s)

  • Adventure
  • Cruises & Water Tours
  • Islands & Beaches
  • Sightseeing
  • Wildlife & Nature

Description

Our Exclusive Small-Group Nature Immersion Led by the Islands' Most Experienced Guides

Six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, surrounded by open ocean, a volcanic archipelago straddles the Equator. The Galapagos Islands, forged of black lava and named for the giant tortoises that are among its most noted inhabitants, are like no place else in the world. Home to a profuse array of unique wildlife, the islands offer an immersion in nature that feels primeval, where iguanas and penguins and blue-footed boobies share the beaches with us, unconcerned by our presence. Herman Melville called the Galapagos Las Islas Encantadas—the "Enchanted Isles"—an apt moniker for a realm that remains otherworldly, even today. Choose among three intimate yachts: our classic Letty, the luxury motor catamaran Ocean Spray or the sleek, high-end Xploration.

About Us

Natural Habitat Adventures has been a leader in responsible adventure travel & ecotourism since 1985. From our world-class polar bear tours in Churchill to our small-group Galapagos cruises, from Alaska grizzly bear adventures to African safaris, our professional guides reveal the world’s most extraordinary nature sites. As Conservation Travel Partner to World Wildlife Fund and the world's first 100% carbon neutral travel company, we offer eco-conscious expeditions from Antarctica to Zambia with a multitude of adventures in between!

Insider Tip

Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

Terms & Conditions

Please visit our website: http://www.nathab.com/traveler-resources/terms-and-conditions/



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Reviews and Recommendations for Natural Habitat Adventures

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HIghly recommended

By: wh


Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2013

Fabulous, fabulous trip to the Galapagos. Every detail perfect. Guides exceptional. A trip we will never forget.
Travel Advisor:  Barbara Fallon

Belize

By: Bobbie


Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2014

We had a wonderful trip to Belize with NatHab.  We stayed in gorgeous places and had the best guide anyone could hope to have. We would definitely go with NatHab again.  Everyone in our group of 10 had been on many trips with them.  This was our first, but definitely not our last.
Travel Advisor:  Michelle Bemis

Well run operation!

By: CTAH


Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2015

We were very impressed at how NatHab ran the trip. All details were covered and everything went like clockwork. Our guide, Brad, was very knowledgeable and helpful to all. He made sure everyone was well taken care of and all needs were met. We would definitely recommend NatHab!
Travel Advisor:  Debbie Kellogg

Incredible Trip & Organization

By: Torie


Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2016

Both hotels we stayed in were great. I have some allergy restrictions and all of the food provided was outstanding and they took such great care of me. My expedition leader was fantastic. He was so passionate about his job, he was friendly and funny and always went out of his way to make sure everyone was happy and safe. The most important part, the trip itself, was everything I wanted it to be. Even though it was much warmer than it was suppose to be, between the 3 days on the rover, we saw 35 bears. We even saw 3 different kinds of fox and some snowy owls. It was quite the magical experience, especially for a Floridian. The lectures after each day were also very nice. The trip was organized and fun and I'd recommend it to everyone.
Travel Advisor:  Doria Gomez

Tanzania safari

By: Franz


Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2017

Actually we worked with East African Safari Ventures which was fantastic!
Travel Advisor:  Janie Bullard

Natural Habitat Adventure

By: Carla


Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2017

This is my 2nd or 3rd trip with NatHab and there will be many more. Professional staff, kind, knowledgeable and always there to please everyone on the trip. A great group.
Travel Advisor:  Barbi Lazarow

Greenland

By: Tammy


Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2017

I can't even begin to explain how amazing this trip was. Our guides were so knowledgeable, caring and fun. I loved the staff too! It's incredible that a basecamp was set up in such a remote area. Words can't describe the experience. All I can say is, "wow"!
Travel Advisor:  Honey Mistry

NatHab is top-notch at a reasonable price.

By: Al S


Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2017

Excellent. This was my eighth NatHab tour, and i have enjoyed them all. they carefully represent the physical level required, describe the food and accommodations accurately, all the while finding the best wildlife viewing opportunities.
Travel Advisor:  Anne Johnson

Greenland

By: greenland


Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2017

Excellent! I felt very taken care of.
Travel Advisor:  Terri Netzel

Polar Bears, Churchill Manitoba.

By: Vicki & Malcolm


Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2017

Amazing, above and beyond what we'd dreamed of or expected. Tour Guide Teresa Whipple, driver Lindsay and Rover driver Michael....excellent staff for NatHab. They all are people persons, and full of knowledge, caring and great fun.
Travel Advisor:  Coleen Noble

Exceptional tour

By: rb


Reviewed on: 28 Dec 2017

The tour leader was conscientious, thorough, pleasant to deal with, and provided a great tour experience.
Travel Advisor:  Paula Kay Eastham

Secluded Botswana

By: Cathey


Reviewed on: 28 May 2018

We were very pleased with Natural Habitat Adventures ( Nat Hab). We were met at the airport in Johannesburg. From that time on we were always met and ushered through each country's system. Our accommodations met or exceeded our expectations. The meals were very good. Our expedition leader Francis was very knowledgeable about both birds and animals. He could track wild life from the vehicle while driving along, and then go off road to find it. He was friendly and helpful. Our tour coordinator Olivia was wonderful. Her cheerfulness, helpfulness and kindness were greatly enjoyed. We saw lots of animals including everything we expected to see. It was great trip.
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Hough