Call (800) 543-8917
Learn More 10 Days / From $5,695 (800) 543-8917 for Availability Share

Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience

Our Exclusive Small-Group Nature Immersion in the Company of the Islands' Best Guides!
Note: This special itinerary was prepared on an exclusive basis by Natural Habitat Adventures. Should you choose to travel on an independent departure, your itinerary will be slightly different.

Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Upon arrival in Quito, you are met at the airport by our local representative and transferred to the Hilton Colon, located in Quito’s central district. Dinner is on your own this evening, to enjoy one of Quito's many distinctive restaurants.

Day 2: Quito / Otavalo Market
Our trip begins with a tour of Ecuador's historic capital of Quito, founded by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century atop a destroyed Inca city. Quito has the best preserved, least altered historic center in Latin America, earning it status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our tour includes a host of impressive sites, from classic plazas to the Jesuit Church of La Compañía, with its gilded baroque interior. For those who prefer, an alternate tour to the Otavalo Indian Market in the Andean highlands is available. This 400-year-old site of regional commerce 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. These captivating excursions are included on our scheduled departures on the M/C Athala II.*  This evening, we gather for an orientation and welcome dinner, as we prepare to depart for the Galapagos in the morning.
*If you are not on a scheduled Athala II departure, please contact our office for additional information on available Quito activities, or to make day tour arrangements.
Day 3: Quito / Baltra, Galapagos Islands
Fly to the Galapagos this morning, landing on the island of Baltra where our Expedition Leader is waiting to greet us. We transfer to the dock and board our floating home for the next week, the elegant M/C Athala II. Once we get settled into our cabins, we have an introductory briefing and safety drill, then enjoy lunch aboard as our Galapagos adventure tour begins, voyaging through the fascinating archipelago that Herman Melville dubbed the “Enchanted Isles.” This afternoon we take our first panga ride, boarding motorized rafts for an excursion to Mosquera Island, a tiny islet that’s home to a huge population of sea lions as well as many shorebirds. Keep an eye out for dolphins and orcas, often seen in this area. Back on board we relax with a welcome cocktail before dinner.

Day 4: Santiago / Bartolome
Awake this morning to the orange light of sunrise glowing on the volcanic craters of Bartolome and Santiago islands. Our first excursion is a panga ride to Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago, known for its spectacular volcanic formations, relatively recent lava flows and unique geological scenery. The lava here is the pahoehoe type, which resembles smooth ropes. Few plants have been able to take root on the barren rock, and we admire the hardy pioneers that have, like the lava cactus. This afternoon we visit little Bartolome, where we snorkel with penguins around Pinnacle Rock. We’ll also climb to the highest point of this ancient volcano for 360-degree views, passing fascinating lava formations such as spatter cones, tuff cones and lava tubes. Those who don’t wish to hike can take a panga ride around the island, watching for rays and reef sharks just below the surface.

Day 5: Isabela
We reach Isabela today, the largest of the Galapagos islands. Landing 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 on what is now shore. Urbina is home to nesting sea turtles and a colony of some of the largest land iguanas in the islands, the iconic Galapagos tortoise, penguins, flightless cormorants and a variety of Darwin’s finches. This afternoon we explore Tagus Cove, 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. After an optional hike to the top of Darwin Volcano, choose either kayaking or a panga ride, where we’re sure to see blue-footed boobies perched on the cliff ledges, as well as brown pelicans, noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls. Later, we cruise through the Bolivar Channel en route to Fernandina, keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins.

Day 6: Fernandina
The youngest and most active volcano in the Galapagos, Fernandina is also one of the most pristine and dynamic ecosystems on the planet, last erupting in 2009 and sending a flow of lava all the way to the sea. We land at Punta Espinoza, where the rippling lava provides 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 color counterpoint to the turquoise sea. A snorkeling excursion offers a good chance to see sea turtles and submerged marine iguanas feeding on algae. After lunch on board, there’s a choice of a panga ride along Punta Vicente Roca or an opportunity to go deep-water snorkeling among a brilliant spectrum of tropical fish.

Day 7: Santiago / Santa Cruz / NHA Wild Tortoise Camp

At Puerto Egas on Santiago, we land on a black beach with eroded rock formations. The trail crosses the dry interior where the remains of a salt mining enterprise are still visible and continues along the coast. Tidepools are home to a variety of marine life, including sea urchins, octopus, sponges and sea stars. Birdlife abounds, with blue herons, lava herons, oystercatchers and yellow-crowned night herons. In the lava grottos we find a colony of Galapagos fur seals, one of the only places in the islands these endemic animals can be seen. After our walk there’s time to swim or snorkel off the beach with the resident sea lions. We may also see turtles, rays and reef sharks. Set sail this afternoon to the island of Santa Cruz, the highest in the chain. For those who choose to participate in our unique private camping opportunity, we disembark at the Itabaca Canal and drive into the highlands to NHA's exclusive Wild Tortoise Camp for a memorable overnight stay. Please note: At times, the camp may be closed due to poor weather conditions.

Day 8: Santa Cruz
Explore the misty highlands of Santa Cruz where the lush environs of the scalesia forest harbor numerous giant tortoises. After a morning spent discovering the tortoise's natural habitat, we return to the coast and the town of Puerto Ayora, where you may choose among three activity options: a visit to the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Station, a walk to the beach at Tortuga Bay for snorkeling, or free time in Puerto Ayora for shopping and exploring.

At the Darwin Research 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. Those opting to visit Tortuga Bay will take a 1.5-mile walk (about 30 minutes) to a large, pristine beach that is a sanctuary for the many iguanas, crabs and birds that dot the lava rocks. Swimming 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 free time in town to browse the shops and galleries before heading back to the boat to sail northward this evening.

Day 9: Genovesa
Genovesa, or Tower Island, is a collapsed shield volcano that attracts literally millions of seabirds that come here to breed and nest. Inside the flooded crater we are surrounded by red-footed boobies, lava gulls, storm petrels and yellow-crowned night herons that rend the air with a cacophony of squawks. Surrounded by vertical cliffs of the collapsed caldera, Darwin Bay is an ideal breeding site for the birds that congregate on Genovesa. Our first landing is at El Barranco, also known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, a steep path with stairs carved into the rock that leads to a plateau full of bird life within a Palo Santo forest. We walk among colonies of great frigatebirds and Nazca boobies to a lava field where storm petrels nest in underground lava tubes. We may also see Galapagos doves, mockingbirds and perhaps an endemic short-eared lava owl. Following our walk, there's an option to snorkel, kayak or take a panga ride. After lunch aboard we continue to Darwin Bay Beach,  following a trail into lush mangroves where red-footed boobies nest. Snorkeling is a must here as sharks, colorful reef fish, rays and sea turtles are common, and there are plenty of local sea lions to entertain us in the water. Back on board the Athala II, we share farewell cocktails and a last dinner together as the sun sets. 

Day 10: North Seymour / Disembark / Quito
An optional pre-dawn wake-up call rouses those who wish to enjoy one final landing at sunrise on North Seymour Island. Ashore, we find ourselves surrounded by sea lions, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigates and more, for a final rendezvous with the magical wildlife of the Galapagos. Returning to our boat, we enjoy breakfast on board as we cruise back to Baltra for our transfer to the airport. We depart mid-day, arriving at our Quito hotel in time for the late afternoon at leisure.

Day 11: Quito / Home
Today, your Galapagos adventure tour comes to a close with a transfer to the airport for flights home or for extensions to the Amazon rainforest or Machu Picchu.

Email Preferences

Update your email preferences by choosing which emails you receive from us.

Physical Requirements

Learn About the World of Nature Adventures!

Sign up for our eNewsletters – we'll keep you up to date on new trips, special offers & more!
Please send me a free 128-page catalog of the World's Greatest Nature Journeys

Thank You

Send To a Friend

Thank You

Please use the form below to send this page to a friend via email.

Send To

From (Your Info)

Yes, I’d like to receive Nat Hab’s nature travel eNews.

eNews Signup

Our weekly e-newsletter highlights exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography hints and more. Use the form below to submit your name and email address.

Thank You

Learn More from Our Experts

Interested in learning more about Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience? Here are two ways to connect with our Adventure Specialists:
Call Our Boulder Office at
{or} Send Us a Message
Required Required

Thank You