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Kicker Rock, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorSouth Plaza, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorEspanola, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorWaved albatross, Espanola, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorSanta Fe, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorBartolome, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorGalapagos sea lions, San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorKicker Rock, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorMarine iguanas, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorGalapagos sea lion, Champion, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorM/V Nemo, Floreana, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorMarine iguanas, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorSea lions, Espanola, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorGalapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, EcuadorOtavalo, Ecuador
Learn More 10 Days / From $5,295 (800) 543-8917 for Availability Share

Galapagos Hiking & Kayaking Adventure

Our Exclusive Catamaran-Based Odyssey is the Most Unique & Exciting Way to See the Islands!
Please note: This is a Natural Habitat Expeditions trip, meaning it is more active and more physically demanding than our standard Natural Habitat Adventures nature journeys. Please see the section on Physical Requirements.

Day 1: Quito, Ecuador / Otavalo
Arrive in Quito, where our local representative meets you at the airport. Our Ecuador adventure begins with a two-hour drive to the market town of Otavalo, home to mostly indigenous residents of the Andean highlands. We'll spend the next two nights at Las Palmeras, a 150-year-old hacienda tucked into a lush mountain valley at the base of two volcanoes. Our accommodations are in cozy adobe cottages, each with a log fireplace to take the chill off the cool mountain nights. Within the compound's tile-topped earthen walls, towering palm trees rise above a perennial garden abloom with hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids and more, which attract hummingbirds, vermilion flycatchers and other colorful birds. We enjoy a welcome dinner this evening with one of our Expedition Leaders.

Day 2: Otavalo / Hiking in the Andes Highlands 
The countryside surrounding the town of Otavalo offers an ideal introduction for hiking in Ecuador. Mountain lakes glisten beneath wide blue skies, while two dramatic volcanoes dominate the skyline—15,190-foot Imbabura and 16,388-foot Cotacachi. With a picnic lunch to sustain us, we'll head off on some local trails to explore the landscape up close. Artisans from local villages in the Otavalo region produce the region's famed textiles, and we'll have a chance to visit a place or two where we can witness handicrafts in the making and learn about the residents' traditional lifestyles.

Day 3: Otavalo / Fly to the Galapagos / Board S/V Nemo II
We rise early to make the return transfer to the Quito airport, where we board our flight to the Galapagos this morning. Our second Expedition Leader meets us as we land on the island of Baltra, then transfer to the jetty to board to the S/V Nemo II. This first-class sailing catamaran will be our home base for the next week as we kayak among the islands. After settling in to our cabins and a fire drill, we'll have an orientation to our kayaks, with an introduction to technique and safety. Our Expedition Leader helps us get fitted to our kayaks, then leads us on our first opportunity to try paddling in the channel.

Back aboard the Nemo, we set off for the island of Santa Cruz, arriving at our landing point by late afternoon. Here, we'll leave our boat behind temporarily in order to ascend into the misty highlands, stopping to explore Los Gemelos—'The Twins'—two deep pit craters in the scalesia forest that hold a variety of birdlife. Soon, we'll arrive at NHA's exclusive Tortoise Camp, where we spend the night. Our private campsite, which offers accommodations in safari-style tents and treehouses with distant views of the ocean, is tucked among lush vegetation that attracts giant tortoises. 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 4: Santa Cruz Highlands / Darwin Station / Tortuga Bay
As we wander the environs of our camp this morning, we'll expect to see more wild tortoises. We continue to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz, where we'll visit the world-famous giant tortoise rearing center located near the headquarters of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, international scientists conduct research dedicated to conserving the unique habitats and species of the Galapagos. At the facility we'll visit the protection pens where hatchlings are bred to help increase the depleted tortoise populations, a central part of the missions for both the Research Station and the National Park. After lunch, a hike along a trail to secluded Tortuga Bay offers a chance for kayaking among mangrove lagoons where seeing sea turtles is common. You can also swim in the aquamarine water or just relax on the pristine white sand beach. Another alternative is free time on your own in town, where you'll find a nice selection of shops, cafes and seaside bars.

Day 5: Cerro Brujo / Kicker Rock / Isla Lobos
We begin our day exploring the area around Cerro Brujo, or 'Wizard Hill,' an ancient volcanic tuff cone on San Cristobal Island next to an expanse of powdery white sand that's home to a large colony of Galapagos sea lions as well as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, egrets and marine iguanas. Setting out before breakfast in the early light of morning, we paddle the shoreline along Cerro Brujo, observing the tunnels and caves eroded by the relentless action of the waves. After breakfast we have time for a hike along the beach to look for sea lions. Then we sail aboard Nemo II to Kicker Rock, a dramatic volcanic tuff cone that rises 300 feet above the ocean's surface. Here, depending on conditions, we'll snorkel in deep water to observe and swim with sea turtles, rays of various kinds, as well as reef sharks. By early afternoon we're bound for Isla Lobos, where we enjoy a delightful shallow water snorkel with the resident sea lion colony and look for feeding marine iguanas. We then have a short panga, or dinghy, ride along the shores observing a frigatebird colony prior to a walk inland for a short stroll just before sunset. At every turn, our discoveries are enhanced by the in-depth knowledge of our Expedition Leader, who is an expert naturalist on the flora and fauna of the Galapagos.

Day 6: Espanola
Espanola is one of the most prolific wildlife sites in the Galapagos. We hike to the headlands of Punta Suarez where birdlife abounds, with Hood mockingbirds, blue-footed boobies, nesting swallow-tailed gulls and Galapagos hawks. Espanola is also the world's main nesting site for the enormous waved albatross. In the afternoon we relocate to Gardner Bay. First we'll snorkel at one of the off-shore islets. Then after a snack, we walk or relax at an idyllic white sand beach where sea lions laze by the dozens and Pacific green sea turtles frequent the rocky part of the shoreline. We then set out for a sunset paddle along the north shore of the island, along a cliff formed by eroded cinder cones and layers of old basalt, observing giant cacti and many species of birds. Afterward, our catamaran awaits us in the quiet bay.

Day 7: Floreana
On Floreana, we hike through a Palo Santo forest to a brackish lagoon that's home to flamingos before breakfast. Then, we travel aboard Nemo II a short distance offshore to Champion islet, one of the best drift-snorkel spots in the Galapagos. As the current floats us past the steep walls of these underwater volcanic formations, we'll spy large schools of colorful fish as we're followed by playful young sea lions. Depending on the conditions, we'll take a panga ride around Champion islet before or after we snorkel so we can look for the very rare Charles mockingbird. Following in the footsteps of pirates, whalers, convicts and colonists, we explore Floreana's rich history of adventure. One relic of this colorful past is the 'Post Office Barrel,' established by British whalers in 1793, where travelers still leave mail for personal delivery by visitors passing through. After a short snorkel looking for sea turtles and a brief walk to a lava tube, we make a paddle around the mangrove shores of Post Office Bay, where large bull sea lions patrol the rocky territory and reddish marine iguanas bask near the tree cacti.

Day 8: Santa Fe / South Plaza
On Santa Fe, a long two-hour paddle along the northern coast reveals large cliffs and sea caves used by many species of marine birds for nesting and roosting, as well as basking green sea turtles and sea lions. After breakfast back on board, we do a short hike through a forest of prickly pear cacti, looking for the endemic land iguanas that wait patiently underneath for fruit to drop. Returning to our catamaran, we go snorkeling around a small islet, a natural aquarium with great reef diversity. By noon we'll be sailing for South Plaza, one of the smallest islands yet vibrant with diverse flora, land creatures and marine life. We ascend a trail among colorful plants to look for a completely different species of land iguana than we've seen previously, skirting scenic cliffs with dramatic views of the ocean. Overhead, red billed tropicbirds and Galapagos shearwaters fly in large numbers from nearby nests.

Day 9: Sombrero Chino / Bartolome
Sombrero Chino Island, our destination this morning, really does look like a Chinese hat! Our day begins with a two-hour paddle through the Bainbridge Rocks, shaped like a string of floating mushroom tops. We then snorkel in the channel, hoping the resident penguin family will join us. Sailing on to Bartolome, some of the best snorkeling in the Galapagos awaits around the base of this ancient submerged volcano, an underwater playground that's home to enormous schools of fish permanently under attack by Galapagos penguins. Sleeping white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays are also common sightings. We then make a dry landing to climb to the highest point of the island for 360-degree views, passing intriguing geological formations such as spatter cones, tuff cones and lava tubes. From the summit we enjoy a panorama of the surrounding islands and Pinnacle Rock, famously shown in the 2003 film Master and Commander. Afterward, we sail back to the northern tip of Santa Cruz where we will have a farewell cocktail and dinner.
Day 10: Santa Cruz / Quito / Depart
Returning to Santa Cruz, we explore the mangrove ecosystem of Black Turtle Cove. An early morning panga ride takes us inside a mangrove lagoon where spotted eagle and golden rays swim in schools, white-tipped reef sharks rest at the bottom, and sea turtles bask. Birds abound, too, and we'll likely see pelicans, herons and egrets feeding in the cove. Too soon, our time in the Enchanted Isles comes to a close – we say farewell to the Nemo II, her crew and our Expedition Leader this afternoon as we return to the Baltra airport for our return flight to Quito, where we meet departing flights or continue onward for those extending their travels to the Amazon rain forest or Machu Picchu.

Physical Rating: Moderate to Difficult


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