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Family Galapagos Adventure

Choose Between Two Exciting Options for Family-Focused Fun in the Islands!
M/Y Letty Itinerary
Please note: This itinerary was prepared on an exclusive basis by Natural Habitat Adventures. Should you choose to travel on an independent departure, your itinerary may be slightly different.

Day 1: Quito, Ecuador / Otavalo
Upon arrival in Quito, your family is met at the airport by our local representative and transferred to the mountain town of Otavalo, approximately a 2-hour drive into the Andean Highlands. We spend the next two nights at the Hacienda Pinsaqui, a colonial inn built in 1790 that hosted many famous guests during its 19th-century heyday. Today, this former textile enterprise is a one of Ecuador's loveliest inns and retains the same historic ambience. Stately white gates, swishing palms, lush gardens and cobblestone courtyards mark the entrance to the gracious hacienda, which looks out onto the peaks of several nearby volcanoes. Dinner is on your own this evening in the hacienda dining room.

Day 2: Otavalo Market / Andean Villages
Our Ecuador family adventure kicks off with a visit to the famous Otavalo Indian Market. This 400-year-old site of regional commerce in the Andean highlands is the largest and longest continuously operating market in South America, a lively collage of intense colors, sounds and aromas. Famed for its textiles, the sprawling bazaar sells everything from freshly picked bananas to armadillo-shell guitars, with scenes to intrigue and entertain all ages. Later this afternoon, we'll visit a local village or two for a further experience of traditional Andean culture. This evening we gather for an orientation and welcome dinner as we prepare to depart for the Galapagos early tomorrow morning.

Day 3: Otavalo / Quito / San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
It's time to head to the islands! Rise early for breakfast and the return drive to the Quito airport for our flight, landing at San Cristobal where our Galapagos cruise begins. Here we'll meet our Expedition Leaders, who accompany us to the pier to board our ship. The M/Y Letty is our home for the next week, providing comfortable cabins and 360° views from the topside observation deck. After getting settled into our cabins, our guides provide an orientation to the ship and the adventures that lie ahead. Following lunch aboard and an initial safety drill, we set off for our first landing at Punta Carola and an easy hike to the top of Frigatebird Hill. We're rewarded with spectacular views of the coast, Kicker Rock, and the rooftops of the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Sea birds soar overhead, and we may see the namesake frigatebirds with their distinctive red chests. Soon it's time to head back to the ship for dinner, and as we cruise off into the sunset, already we can see why Herman Melville called these the "Enchanted Isles."

Day 4: Genovesa
Genovesa Island, also called Tower, is a collapsed shield volcano whose flooded caldera attracts vast numbers of pelagic seabirds that come here to breed and nest. Inside the submerged crater we are surrounded by thousands of great frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, Galapagos storm petrels and yellow-crowned night herons that rend the air with a cacophony of squawks. We anchor at Darwin Bay, formed thousands of years ago after the collapse of the volcano's roof to form a huge caldera. Surrounded by vertical cliffs, the bay is an ideal breeding site for the more than two million land and sea birds that congregate on Genovesa. Following the trail up Prince Philip's Steps, we walk among colonies of great frigatebirds and red-footed and Nazca boobies to a lava field where storm petrels nest in underground chambers and lava tubes. Late this afternoon we land at a coral beach for our first chance to swim and snorkel with sea lions, which are often as curious about us as we are about them! Snorkeling is easy to learn, even for beginners, and our Expedition Leaders are by our side to help.

Day 5: Bachas Beach / Cerro Dragon
This morning we land at Las Bachas, a beautiful white sand beach on Santa Cruz. Snorkeling in the azure water reveals a kaleidoscope of fish, while the powdered coral sand is a favorite nesting site for green sea turtles, and pink flamingos often dot the saltwater lagoons. We continue this afternoon to Cerro Dragon ("Dragon Hill"), one of the best places in the islands to see gentle, large land iguanas. Scientists have been working diligently to protect Santa Cruz's native land iguana population from invasive species, and it's not uncommon for travelers and researchers to cross paths on trails among the cacti and Palo Santo forest in the area. Great views are available from atop the small hill, where visitors may also see a variety of birds.

Day 6: Isabela
Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos islands, created where six volcanoes flowed together. This morning we explore Punta Vicente Roca, a small promontory on the island's northern side with two coves that lie on either side of the eroded remains of a tuff cone made of volcanic ash. We'll cruise around the point by panga (motorized raft), observing large numbers of blue-footed and Nazca boobies that nest on the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants are seen along the shoreline. Then we'll snorkel in one of the protected coves, laced with water-filled subterranean passages. Marine life is abundant, and we're sure to see green sea turtles swimming gracefully beneath the surface. At Urbina Bay this afternoon, we step ashore on a white sand beach to 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, exposing 1.6 square miles of shoreline. The coastline was driven three-quarters of a mile farther out to sea, exposing coral and stranding marine organisms on what is now shore. Urbina is also home to a colony of some of the largest land iguanas in the islands and the iconic Galapagos tortoise.

Day 7: Fernandina / Isabela
Just opposite Isabela, Fernandina is the youngest and most active volcano in the Galapagos. The rippling pahoehoe lava at Punta Espinoza is a stark backdrop for the surprising variety of life that flourishes here: 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. This afternoon we cruise across the Bolivar Channel back to Isabela, keep watch for whales and dolphins. Landing at Tagus Cove, we explore by panga, finding penguins, pelicans and graffiti dating to the 1800s when the names of ships were carved into the rock above a historic anchorage for pirates and whalers. Another snorkeling opportunity awaits, perhaps with a chance to frolic again with young sea lions.

Day 8: Rabida / Santa Cruz / NHA's Wild Tortoise Camp
Rabida is one of the most volcanically varied islands in the chain. The beaches here are deep maroon and the rock multicolored, products of lava eruptions from the multitude of spatter cones that pock the island. Marine iguanas and sea lions are often seen resting in the shade of caves, and Rabida’s saltwater lagoon is home to abundant birdlife, including pink flamingos. A short trail leads to the lagoon where we may see boobies, brown pelicans nesting in the bushes, and nine species of Darwin’s finches. Excellent snorkeling opportunities also await over the reefs that fringe the island.

This afternoon, one of the most exciting features of our itinerary is just ahead: a unique opportunity for camping in the remote highlands of Santa Cruz, high above the Pacific Ocean. Those who wish to participate in our optional camping night will disembark and transfer by van to NHA's exclusive Wild Tortoise Camp, where accommodations are available in clever treehouse cottages or raised safari-style tent cabins. Our private camp is tucked among lush vegetation that attracts giant tortoises, and we're likely to see several wandering near camp. Lava tubes also lace the ground here, and we may get to venture into one of the caverns. We rejoin our boat again in the morning for the day's activities. Please note: At times, the camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.

Day 9: Santa Cruz / Darwin Station or Tortuga Bay
Our exploration of Santa Cruz begins with a visit to an organic coffee farm, where we'll meet the owners, learn about the growing process, and sample some of the finished product. Next we visit a tortoise reserve at El Manzanillo, where we'll have a chance for close-up encounters with the numerous wild giant tortoises that freely roam these lush environs year-round. This afternoon we return to the coast and the town of Puerto Ayora, where you may choose between two activities: a visit to the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Station with free time in town, or a walk to a pristine beach at Tortuga Bay for swimming, snorkeling and relaxing.

At Darwin Station, which operates in tandem with Galapagos National Park, learn about the efforts of scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Galapagos. 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, more than 5,000 tortoises have been returned to the wild in Galapagos through the program. After visiting the station, there's still some time to walk around town. Those opting to visit Tortuga Bay will make an easy 3-mile walk (about an hour and 15 minutes one way, plus return) to a large, pristine beach that is a sanctuary for the many iguanas, crabs and birds that dot the lava rocks. Snorkeling is permitted in a separate cove nearby where it is common to view schools of white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles and colorful fish. Or, for those who wish, enjoy a full afternoon of free time in town to browse the shops and galleries before heading back to the boat to sail northward this evening.

Day 10: San Cristobal / Quito
This morning we return to San Cristobal, one of the oldest islands in the archipelago, and drop anchor at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the province of Galapagos. Here we'll disembark the Letty, then visit the National Park Interpretation Center for a concluding overview of the natural and human history of the islands. At last it's time to bid farewell to the "Enchanted Isles" and fly back to Quito. On arrival we transfer to our nearby hotel, Rincon de Puembo, where we'll enjoy a farewell dinner. This historic hacienda accommodation is conveniently located just 15 minutes from the new airport.

Day 11: Quito / Home
Our Family Galapagos Adventure concludes this morning with a transfer to the airport for flights home or for extensions to the Amazon rain forest or Machu Picchu.

+ Interested in adding a few days to your trip? Click here to view our Extension Options.


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