Day 1: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Arrive in Guayaquil, a vibrant coastal city with a lively waterfront malecon along the Rio Guayas. Spend the night at the Hotel del Parque, an elegantly restored 19th-century boutique inn surrounded by tropical gardens, before flying to the islands tomorrow.
Day 2: Guayaquil / Baltra, Galapagos / Embark Ship
Fly this morning to the Galapagos island of Baltra and transfer to the pier to meet the National Geographic Islander. The expedition staff welcomes your family aboard, and once you're settled in, Islander sets sail straightaway for a week of adventure. Crossings between islands generally take place at night to maximize time for exploration during the day. Look forward to waking each morning to fresh vistas and daily discoveries that await just beyond your cabin window.
Days 3–8: Cruising the Galapagos Islands
Each day, a new island awaits for discovery, with flexibility a hallmark of Lindblad's expedition style. Below is a sampler of the islands our Family Galapagos expedition may visit. In each location, enjoy personal encounters with the fascinating animals of the Galapagos, which are perfectly comfortable with humans and won’t run away in fear. Choose among multiple modes of exploration each day: Take a guided hike with the ship's naturalists. Swim with tropical fish, sea turtles and penguins on daily snorkeling excursions—sometimes twice a day—that showcase the rich marine life of the Galapagos. Paddle a single or tandem kayak for water-level investigation of the scenic coastline. Step onto a stand-up paddleboard for meditative exploration of quiet bays. Hop onto a Zodiac to cruise along rocky shores dotted with blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and bright orange Sally lightfoot crabs—an ideal excursion for photography, illuminated with a naturalist’s narration.
Your itinerary will include a selection of these islands:
Dramatic lava formations define the raw landscape of this tiny island best known for the sharp shard that is Pinnacle Rock. A hike to its volcanic summit offers 360-degree views of the neighboring islands. In the waters around Pinnacle Rock, rich in marine life, we have the chance to snorkel with friendly sea lions, Galapagos penguins, rays and docile reef sharks.
Known for its spectacular volcanic formations, relatively recent lava flows and unique geological features, Santiago provides a close look at pahoehoe lava, 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. In the lava grottos, enjoy close encounters with Galapagos fur seals—one of the only places in the islands where we can see these endemic animals from land. In the countless tide pools, study sea urchins, octopus, sponges and sea stars. Birdlife abounds, with great blue herons, lava herons, oystercatchers, yellow-crowned night herons and seasonal shorebirds on display.
Call at Puerto Ayora, the largest town and headquarters of both the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, which operate in partnership. At Darwin Station, learn about the efforts of scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve the unique features of 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. Santa Cruz is also home to wild Galapagos tortoises, the islands' namesake, which dwell in the misty scalesia forests of the highlands.
Isabela, largest of the Galapagos islands, was created when six volcanoes flowed together. Today, its shape resembles a seahorse. In addition to kayaking and deep-water snorkeling, a small black sand beach offers excellent swimming, and varied choices for walks and hikes ashore reveal Isabela's intriguing features, including an iguana colony and a chance to cross the equator at Ecuador Volcano, the northernmost of Isabela’s six great shield volcanoes. Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins as we ply these waters rich in marine life, which were once the haunt of whalers and pirates.
The youngest and most active volcano in the Galapagos, Fernandina is one of the most pristine tropical islands left on Earth. Hike over relatively recent lava flows among hundreds of placid marine iguanas (the largest in the Galapagos), flightless cormorants, and bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs that speckle the black lava rocks. Galapagos hawks soar overhead while sea lions loll on the sun-baked lava.
One of the few Galapagos islands inhabited by humans, Floreana has a rich cultural history filled with intrigue, including tales of pirates who once hid out here. A post office established by British whalers in 1793 is still a means for travelers to leave mail in the barrel for personal delivery via visitors passing through. Snorkel among sea lions and schools of tropical fish in the clear waters off Champion Islet, where we may also find flamingos, pintail ducks and various shorebirds. Hike to a pristine white sand beach, a favorite nesting site for sea turtles.
Española is one of the most prolific wildlife sites in the Galapagos. Hike to Punta Suarez, the seasonal home of the world's only population of waved albatross. The island's endemic red-and-green marine iguanas are also found only here, Española is also home to Darwin’s finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos doves, Nazca boobies, and the famous blue-footed boobies. A huge colony of sea lions lazes on the beach at Gardner Bay, covering the long stretch of fine powdery white sand. Snorkeling in the bay is generally excellent, too.
Days 9 & 10: Galapagos / Guayaquil / Depart
Disembark our expedition ship and make the return flight to Guayaquil, where the late afternoon and evening are free for exploration before a flight home the next day.
Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate
This Galapagos expedition cruise features a packed itinerary, with early mornings and long days filled with varied activities including island walks, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. Trails are often rough and uneven, traversing sharp lava fields and loose rocks and gravel. It is sometimes necessary to walk over slippery rocks when making a Zodiac landing to come ashore. Guests must be able to walk a a minimum of two miles to participate in this trip, as well as walk up and down stairs and be able to get in and out of the motorized pangas (rigid inflatable rafts), which can be very unsteady in rough water. A few wet landings, where we disembark from the panga directly into shallow water and walk up onto the beach, are required. Snorkeling is a big component of this trip, with excursions offered nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. While no snorkeling experience is required, prior practice is recommended, and travelers should be comfortable swimming in moderate currents, near shore and in deep water. Our Expedition Leaders will also offer guidance for those in need of additional snorkeling instruction. Travelers are not required to participate in every activity.
Learn more about the seasonal variations of Galapagos weather and wildlife viewing.