Trip Type : Small Ship Cruise
Galapagos Birding and Photo Cruise tour

Galapagos Birding and Photo Cruise

Tropical Birding
4.9 . Excellent
98%
Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
17 days
From: $ 9,990 $ 588 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Explore galapagos islands which are a naturalist’s dream, and millions of photographs have been and fascinating finches endemic to the islands.
  • Visit the charles darwin research center, which has interesting exhibits on galapagos wildlife
  • Visit isabela island, urbina bay and have an opportunity to snorkeling and you can share the reef with galapagos penguins
  • Explore santiago island and visit buccaneer’s cove, which was used as pirate hideout in the 17th and 18th centuries
  • Enjoy while cruising to extraordinary islands and view the sea lions and other kind of wildlife

Short Description

This famous archipelago straddles the equator 600 miles (1000 km) off the coast of Ecuador, and it is home to 24 endemic bird species. It is not just the hope for a few lifers that draws birders here, but the chance to get up-close and personal with wild animals that are still unafraid of humans; you can feel as if you are a participant in nature rather than just a spectator. The stark volcanic scenery is beautiful in its own right and some visitors find themselves returning again and again.

With changes to park policies a few years ago, tourist vessels now must run fixed two-week itineraries.Modifications are difficult to arrange, expensive, and not guaranteed until a few weeks before departure. In 2016, we have decided to offer a two-week cruise on a small 12 passenger catamaran that visits all the best sites in the Galapagos. The longer, more relaxed itinerary works well for both photographers and birders. Except for Mangrove Finch, which is unlikely (but not impossible), there is a good chance to find all the other endemic bird species.

Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Trip Type Small Ship Cruise
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Quito
End City Quito
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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival.

Your flights arrive this evening in Quito. You’ll be met at the airpor and transferred to a hotel for the night.

Day 2: Quito to Galapagos.

We take a morning flight out of Quito for the 3 ½ hour flight to the Galapagos Islands, 1000 km west of mainland Ecuador. We arrive onto the little Island of Baltra where endemic birds will be waiting for us on the tarmac. Once we deal with entrance formalities, we will be taken to our boat the Nemo II, a comfortable and stable catamaran, which will be our home for the next two weeks.

After leaving Baltra, the first island we visit is North Seymour. Nesting Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds are easy to photograph here, and Blue-footed Boobies perform their fa famous dances. We’ll have our first chance to see the beautiful Swallow-tailed Gull and scarce Lava Gull along with a number of common Galapagos species like Small and Medium Ground-Finches, Brown Pelican, American Oystercatcher, and various shorebirds. North Seymour is a great place to start – it’s surprisingly good despite being near the airport, and you will be taking photos like mad! Pace yourself; there is plenty more to come. This area is also very good for Land Iguanas and Galapagos Sea Lions, which are always fun to watch.

Day 3: Santa Cruz highlands.

This morning we will take a short trip by bus to the higher elevations of Santa Cruz Island, searching for Galapagos Rail, Large Tree-Finch, and Giant Tortoise. The climate becomes more humid the higher we climb, and we’ll take a walk through the wet Scalesia forest, which is a very cool experience itself. Here we’ll be looking for the highland forest species such as Green Warbler-Finch, Woodpecker Finch, Small and Large Tree-Finches, and Vegetarian Finch.

In the afternoon, we’ll have a chance to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, which has interesting exhibits on Galapagos wildlife along with very tame Galapagos Mockingbirds and various finches. After dark, we’ll begin cruising to Isabela Island.

Day 4: Isabela.

We’ll start the morning at Punta Moreno, where the strange Flightless Cormorants will undoubtedly be the highlight, but the dramatic lava floes interspersed with hardy cacti provide for some very dramatic scenery. We’ll take a walk over this lunar landscape to some small lagoons that may have American Flamingo, White-cheeked Pintail, and Black-necked Stilt, along with other wading birds. This is a great spot for Galapagos Martin, and with luck we’ll see a few circling overhead.

In the afternoon we visit another site on Isabela Island, Urbina Bay. There will be some time for snorkeling, where you can share the reef with Galapagos Penguins and Marine Iguanas. A short trail might get us our first Galapagos Hawk along with other more common species like Galapagos Flycatcher and Galapagos Mockingbird. The biggest Land Iguanas are also found around here.

Day 5: Isabela and Fernandina.

Tagus Beach on Isabela offers a mix of interesting geology and birding. From the landing dock it is about a 30 minute hike along the trail up to the top of the cliff from where we can view Darwin Lake, an uplifted ultra-saline lake saltier than the sea. You can also see several volcanoes from this location, some of which are active. Galapagos Hawks can be seen here along with Red-billed Tropicbird, all the ground-finches, Galapagos Mockingbird, and we will make an extra effort to find the Woodpecker Finch. We may be lucky enough to find some Isabela Giant Tortoise. Penguins in this location also seem more habituated so we should be able to get close for some great shots.

Later in the day, we steam across the Bolivar Channel to Fernandina, a great area for seabirds and also occasionally whales. We should see Galapagos Petrel, Galapagos Shearwater, Wedge-rumped and Elliot’s Storm-Petrels, with a reasonable chance to see something rare and unexpected. In the afternoon, we visit Punta Espinoza; Marine Iguanas congregate here in large group, and sometimes even seem to block the way from the landing area. This is another good spot for Galapagos Hawk, and there have been recent records of Mangrove Finch here – distinguishing it from Woodpecker Finch is not always easy though. We should also see more Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins.

Day 6: Santiago.

Santiago Island is located between Isabela and Santa Cruz. We spend the morning at Puerto Egas, famous for its rocky shores interspersed with black sand beaches, and a great area to see Galapagos Fur Seal. Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch and Galapagos Hawk are sometimes seen here along with other more common birds like Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Mockingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Small Ground-Finch. Coastal birds include Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, American Oystercatcher, Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel, and Ruddy Turnstone. Most of the low arid zone birds are here, but it is the lava flows which makes this morning really fascinating. The afternoon we visit Buccaneer’s Cove, which was used as pirate hideout in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its famous for the concentration of sealife and It has nesting birds, sea turtles, Galapagos Sea Lios, and offers some amazing snorkeling.

Day 7: Rábida and Santiago.

Rábida Island, located off the coast of Santiago, is unique because of the red color of the rocks and sand. A short walk takes us to a coastal lagoon behind the beach, where there is a colony of American Flamingos along with other birds like Galapagos Mockingbird, Common Cactus-Finch, Blue-footed Booby, and Magnificent Frigatebird. The beach is often full of sea lions, and there are good snorkeling opportunities.

In the afternoon we return to Santiago, and walk across a recent lava flow at Sullivan Bay. The landscape here seems almost alien, and it really shows how plant colonization of these barren lands begins. The lava flow crystalized in the late 1800s. Molluga plants grow out of the fissures as they begin to colonize this barren terrain. This is also a good place to see Galapagos Penguin along with Lava Heron, Lava Gull, Wandering Tattler, and others.

Day 8: Genovesa.

This island is simply fantastic and is often the favorite island of visitors. We start at Price Phillip’s Steps, where large numbers of seabirds nest, including Great Frigatebird, Swallow-tailed Gull, Red-billed Tropicbird, and three species of booby: Nazca, Red-footed, and Blue-footed. This is a great place to see some of the harder finches like Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch and Large Cactus-Finch, as well as an endemic subspecies of Short-eared Owl. Genovesa also holds a subspecies of Large Ground-Finch that is longer-beaked than the other subspecies, and may deserve species status.

In the afternoon we visit Darwin Bay, where we again get very up close with nesting birds, this time the Red-footed Boobies who sit on nests and practice tossing sticks into the air. If you hand a stick to a perched bird, there is a good chance that they will throw it for you. There is also an interesting tidal pool here where the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons concentrate in large numbers. If we are lucky enough to be there with an outbound tide we will see the spectacle of them hunting like crazy in the shallow waters.

Day 9: Daphne & Bachas.

It is an honor to be able to visit Daphne Island; access is very limited, and it is one of the most important locations on the planet for the study of evolution. This island featured prominently in the must-read book Beak of the Finch, which described how the Darwin’s finches on the islands were intensely studied for four decades; it was shown that evolution can occur in isolated animal population in amazing short time periods.

In the afternoon we steam to the nearby beaches of Playa Bachas. Behind one of the beaches, there is a small brackish lagoon, where it is possible to see American Flamingos and other coastal birds, such as Black-necked Stilt and Whimbrel. Small and Medium Ground-Finches can be seen in the scrub behind the beach, and we’ll likely find our first Galapagos Mockingbirds and Yellow Warblers. This is also one of the more reliable sites on the tour for Galapagos Martin.

Day 10: Santa Cruz.

Today we take another crack at the highlands of Santa Cruz, concentrating on whichever highland species we are still missing. Some of the hardest and most sought-after endemics are most easily seen here, so having another shot to see or photograph them is well worth it. We may also visit an area for Giant Tortoise and Paint-billed Crake, or stop at Los Gemelos, which are twin sinkholes in the forest.

Day 11: San Cristobal.

San Cristobal has one endemic bird species, the San Cristobal Mockingbird. We’ll look for it around Cerro Brujo, where the white sand beaches look striking against the background of the darker lava flows. Later in the morning cruise around the towering rock formations of Kicker Rock, which can be good for shooting seabirds in flight.

In the afternoon, we’ll stop at the small Lobos Island, just off the coast of San Cristobal. Among the many sea lions, there are nice opportunities to photograph Great Frigatebird, Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, and others.

Day 12: Española.

The whole day will be spent on this wonderful island, the southern part during the morning and the fantastic northern beach of Gardner Bay in the afternoon. The morning takes us to one of the nicest visitor sites of the Galapagos, Punta Suarez. We will walk along rocky paths next to colonies of several marine birds. The highlight is for sure the wonderful Waved Albatross, which nests only here and on Isla de la Plata off the Ecuadorian coast. This island is also home to the super curious Española Mockingbird, a bird so tame that it will sometimes land on people. If we have not yet seen a Galapagos Hawk, we have great chances here. Gray Warbler-Finch is regular on the scrub near the beach and the Española subspecies of Large Cactus-Finch is normally close by. In the evening, we head to Floreana Island.

Day 13: Floreana.

Two key endemics occur here, and both are seriously endangered. Medium Tree-Finch is most easily seen in the highlands, and we will try to get permission to visit this site in the morning. Even if the park authorities don’t permit us to go here, we have a backup site at Punta Cormorant. The other endemic is the Floreana Mockingbird. It was wiped out of mainland Floreana by introduced predators, and is now found only on two tiny islets just off the coast. Landings are not permitted here, but we should be able to take a panga ride around the edge and see them moving in the scrub – a long lens would be needed in order to get any shots Floreana by introduced predators.

Day 14: Santa Fé and South Plazas.

Santa Fe is surprisingly flat and may well be the oldest island in the archipelago. While there may not be any new trip birds here, there will be plenty of good photo opportunities, and it is one of the best places to see the colorful Land Iguana. We’ll have snorkeling opportunities before heading off to South Plazas, where we spend the afternoon. Swallow-tailed Gulls nest on the cliffs along with Red-billed Tropicbirds and frigatebirds, and the Land Iguanas here are quite different from the ones on Santa Fe.

Day 15: Chinese Hat & Bartolomé.

This morning we visit Chinese Hat, a small, little visited island near Santiago which can only be visited by smaller vessels. This is an excellent spot to see geological features such as lava tubes and lava flows, and the landscape is covered by sea lion colonies, Marine Iguanas and confiding Galapagos Penguins. This a good spot for coastal species like Lava Heron, Lava Gull, Brown Noddy, and American Oystercatcher, and the snorkeling here can be great.

In the afternoon we visit Bartolomé, whose Pinnacle Rock is one of the most recognizable rock formations in the entire Galapagos. Among the usual penguins and sea lions, this is a great spot to see larger fish such as reef sharks and eagle rays.

Day 16: Black Turtle Cove and return to Quito.

Our last morning is spent in the mangroves of Black Turtle Cove, where we’ll cruise around in a panga enjoying final views of many birds than will seem like old friends now, including White-cheeked Pintail, Great Blue Heron, Lava Heron, Black-necked Stilt, Lava Gull, and Galapagos Flycatcher.

We return to Baltra where we board our flight back to Quito. We’ll spend our last night of the tour in a hotel close to the Quito Airport.

Day 17: Departure.

The tour ends this morning with a transfer to the airport.

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Price Per Day: $ 588 per day
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Stride Featured in

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104 Tropical Birding Travel Reviews & Ratings

98%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 94
Great 6
Average 3
Disappointing 0
Terrible 1
Value
4.9
Guide
4.9
Activities
4.9
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.9
Meals
4.9

Galapagos Birding and Photo Cruise

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Company Reviews

The best!! Thank you for your time with us at High Island!!

5.0
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Value5.0
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The best!! Thank you for your time with us at High Island!!

Made the trips enjoyable for everyone

5.0
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We've done two custom tours with Tropical Birding - one to Namibia, one to New Zealand. Both were excellent. They rose to the challenge of developing an itinerary for 3 people with varying degrees of interest in birding. The broad-based cultural and natural history knowledge of our guide made the trips enjoyable for everyone. They were attentive from planning through the actual trip. Great people and lots of fun!
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We to a tour and was very very happy.

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We to a tour and was very very happy. Yes, I would go with them again.

Explored some of the most amazing vistas and sweetest birds in the world

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Six phenomenal non-stop days of incredible birds and birding, fellowship and fun!
Started out super early each morning from our comfortable base at Tandayapa Lodge, and explored some of the most amazing vistas and sweetest birds in the world.
Our guide, Sam was incredibly knowledgeable and intimately familiar with not only all 300+ bird species and their songs, but also the diverse flora and other fauna present, which kept our group of naturalist folk constantly entertained and engaged.
Fabulous destination, and I would highly recommend!
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Tropical Birding tours and have enjoyed them all very much.

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I have been on three Tropical Birding tours and have enjoyed them all very much. Guide Ken Behrens stands out as one of the very best I have ever been with and I hope to do another tour with him.

Ethiopia with Ken Behrens was magic. Excellent guide, birds, beasts, food and superb company

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Ethiopia with Ken Behrens was magic. Excellent guide, birds, beasts, food and superb company

Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Standard Group

Maximum Number of People in Group: 11

11 with one Tropical Birding guide and one Galapagos NP naturalist guide

Additional Information:

Climate:

Warm and overcast, occasionally sunny and hot. Water temperature can be surprisingly cool during this season.

Difficulty:

Fairly easy. Most trails are flat, but a few are a bit steep. The terrain is rough and rocky. It is necessary to transfer from the yacht to shore with small boats called pangas to reach many landing sites, and some of the landings are “wet” landings, where you have to wade from the zodiac onto the beach.

Accommodation:

Cabins are small but comfortable and have A/C and private bath. Some of of the twin cabins have bunk beds. Single rooms cannot be guaranteed on the yacht without paying for an extra berth. If space is available at the time the tour runs, we will give out single rooms. If desired, we can book single rooms in the Quito hotel for additional charge.

 

Trip Extensions:

 

There are no extensions for this tour, but it can be usually be combined with other Ecuador birding tours, such as The Andes Introtour and Northwest Ecuador in serch of Choco Endemics. Discounts are usually available for taking more than one tour together. We can also arrange a custom extension, such as a visit to an Amazon lodge.


Trip ID#:

GalBirTro

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