Galapagos Sea Turtles & Tortoises
The Galapagos Islands are a biological paradise. Here, animals both marine and terrestrial, have adapted to the unique climate. Over a week on the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabela, we will work on a green turtle nesting beach, see giant tortoises both in the wild and as part of a conservation program, plus penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, white tip reef sharks, rays, and much more. This will be an exploratory trip led by our president Brad Nahill and will benefit local turtle conservation efforts and communities. Proceeds from this trip will help save at least 1,000 hatchlings per person.
February 15-23, 2020
February 2021 (specific dates TBD)
2020 Price: $3,495 per person, double occupancy. $300 deposit to register.
Includes: Most meals (as detailed in the itinerary below), lodging, all activities, bilingual guide, all tips, and a donation to turtle conservation.
Excludes: Airfare to Ecuador & the Galapagos, personal items, and medical insurance.
Minimum recommended age is 12 years old.
Group size is limited to 16 people maximum and a minimum of 10 people are needed to confirm the trip.
CONTACT US TO:
Register by mail
Ask a question
Call 800-215-0378 for questions or to register by phone
WHY TRAVEL WITH US?
All profits support conservation efforts
Work directly with local researchers
DAY 1: ARRIVE TO GUAYAQUIL
Fly into Guayaquil International Airport (GYE) and transfer to the hotel, where the group will meet. Those who arrive in time for dinner will head out on the town. Get a good night’s sleep, as we will head out early to fly to the islands. No meals are included this day.
DAY 2: TRANSFER TO SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
We will depart early for the airport to fly to the island of Baltra (1 hour flight). From there, we will transfer to the town of Puerto Ayora, where we will meet our bilingual naturalist guide for a welcome lunch. While there, we will visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station, which for decades has led conservation and restoration efforts on the island. We will spend the night at a mid-level hotel in Puerto Ayora and have dinner at a local restaurant. Meals: BLD.
DAY 3: SANTA CRUZ HIGHLANDS AND TRANSFER
Heading up into the highlands of Santa Cruz you will enter into the agricultural sector. Just beyond the small town of Bellavista you will enter into one of a locally owned ranch. Wandering around these farmlands, we will take a guided walk to see the famous massive giant tortoises. After a snack of local fruit, we head up the road to a 300 meter long lava tunnel. While we recommend long pants and a flashlight, the tunnel is large enough and artificially lit so that you would be fine without one.
After departing the farm property we will head further upland to stop at a set of twin sinkholes known as “Los Gemelos” (the twins). Located on either side of the road, there are short interpretive trails which give you a unique opportunity to appreciate the endemic scalesia forest while looking out for birds like the Galapagos rock dove, the vermillion fly-catcher, tree finches and others. After our tour, we will transfer to the island of Isabela, where we have an orientation. The group will stay in a local mid-level hotel, double occupancy. Dinner and all meals will be together, family-style.
Starting this evening, the group will divide up into small groups of 2 and 3 to do evening and morning sea turtle nesting beach patrols. Evening patrols will look for nesting turtles, collecting data when found. Meals: BLD.
DAY 4: WALL OF TEARS, WETLANDS, & TORTOISES
The Wall of Tears is a historic ruin surrounded by dry, desert-like vegetation. On the trip back, walk down any/all of the numerous trails to various sites of interest, including the Estero (estuary); the lava tunnel and the ponds. On the trip back, we will walk down the numerous trails to the Estero (estuary), the lava tunnel, and the ponds.
Humedales Ramsar Wetland Site: We will explore this extensive area to appreciate the unique flora and fauna. Walking along the salt marsh trail towards the giant tortoise breeding center we will pass mangrove-lined lagoons where migratory (black-necked stilts, gallinules, whimbrels) and resident (flamingos, white-cheek pintail ducks) birds feed and socialize throughout the day. When entering the arid zone, look out across the scattering of lava rocks and cacti to spot lava lizards running about. After lunch, we will visit a tortoise breeding and education center, run in partnership with Galapagos National Park. This center is helping to breed these amazing reptiles to restore local populations and educate travelers. Meals: BLD.
DAY 5: HIGHLAND VISIT, CAVE EXPLORATION, & TURTLE RESEARCH
We will travel into the agricultural sector of Isabela to see an area rarely visited by tourists, a small subset of the population that makes its living off the agricultural sector in the highlands of this island. Visit several farms and learn about these families’ experiences working hard to produce relatively little. You will have the chance to learn about what kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown successfully here as well as in what seasons they are harvested. See how they make local, organic coffee; taste the differences in their fruits and vegetables from those we have at home; hear their stories of building up their farms literally by hand. The group will be conducting morning and evening activities on the turtle nesting beach, broken up into small groups and rotating each day.
DAY 6: TINTORERAS & CALERA
Today we take a short, ten minute boat ride from Puerto Villamil to visit Tintoreras, a rocky outcropping that is home to sea lions, iguanas, and penguins on land, and green turtles and white tipped reef sharks in the water (which are not aggressive or dangerous). We begin with a short hike over the lava rocks, stopping to take pictures of the sea lion populations that have colonized the two sandy beaches. Obey signs to keep off the Lobo breeding areas, as the populations are extremely susceptible to human interference.
There is also a colony of marine iguanas breeding and nesting on these beaches which you might be able to observe. Back on the boat, you will also have a chance to visit the point of this rocky outcropping where a small colony of Galapagos penguins reside. While snorkeling we will spend time swimming with the penguins, sea lions, and possibly white tip reef sharks. Green sea turtles who feed in the nearby seagrass beds are also often seen at this spot.
After that, we take a short boat ride to La Calera. This spot is best at low tide to see the marine iguanas feeding and crossing along the channel. Here you can also find a group of green sea turtles resting along the sandy bottoms. This calm crystal clear channel is home to many fish species and even some resident shrimp. Later, we return to our hotel for dinner and a relaxing night. Morning and nightly turtle work continues. Meals: BLD.
DAY 7: TUNELES & TURTLE RESEARCH
Originally an advantageous and fruitful site for fishing, the Tuneles is now protected and preserved by the fishermen who have converted it for tourism use. An amazing and exciting site to visit, this spot has above water and underwater lava bridges, tunnels, and arches. You will be able to disembark to explore some of these formations up-close. Take time to wander around and look for the turtles and sharks which can be regularly seen passing through. During the ride to and from the site, look for turtles and manta rays which will be actively mating near shore. In the water, you can dive through underwater tunnels or swim beneath the extensive, sharp lava bridges. Outside of the site, you can swim with penguins, see rays, fish and possibly turtles and sharks; all the while being closely observed by blue footed boobies gathered on the rocks. Morning and evening turtle beach activities continue. Meals: BLD.
DAY 8: RETURN TO GUAYAQUIL
This morning, the group will take a charter boat back to the Baltra Airport to fly to Guayaquil. We will likely arrive to the city late morning, so you can either catch an evening flight home or stay the night and have free time to explore the city including the malecon along the Rio Guayas (Guayas River), which has museums, parks, shops, restaurants, and more. No meals are included today.
DAY 9: RETURN HOME OR EXTEND YOUR STAY
Is This Trip Right For Me?
This will be an active trip that requires good physical fitness. Both the city of Guayaquil and the Galalpagos are safe destinations, receiving more than 200,000 visitors per year. We will be staying at mid-level hotels in safe neighborhoods in both places. Be prepared for a lot of time in and on the water, snorkeling with wild animals including white tipped reef sharks, a docile shark that is not aggressive or dangerous.