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GALAPAGOS

An awesome bird and wildlife adventure

Birdquest's Galapagos birding and wildlife tour is one of a series of Ecuador birdwatching trips that we offer. Our Galapagos tour achieves comprehensive coverage of the islands and their many endemic birds and other fascinating creatures. Few Galapagos birding tours achieve this coverage.

Saturday 26th May — Tuesday 5th June 2018
(11 days)


Leaders: Mike Watson and a local naturalist guide

Group Size Limit: 15

Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations

Lava Herons and Sally Lightfoot Crab, two of the many endemic species found along the stark volcanic shores of the 'Enchanted Islands' (Andy Swash)

Lava Herons and Sally Lightfoot Crab, two of the many endemic species found along the stark volcanic shores of the 'Enchanted Islands' (Andy Swash)

The Galapagos archipelago is special for the naturalist in many ways. It has one of the highest rates of endemism of any island group in the world and harbours many unique creatures, including several forms of giant tortoise, the strange Marine Iguana and no less than 29 endemic species of birds, plus a series of near-endemics and breeding endemics. It is largely unspoilt by development, its ecology has not been extensively disrupted or even destroyed by harmful introductions of alien species and it is renowned for the total fearlessness of its wildlife, allowing extremely close yet harmless approach. Moreover, it is a starkly beautiful group of islands.

The islands are also justly famous as the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution through natural selection and the inspiration for his book The Origin of Species, formulated after his visit over 170 years ago. This world in microcosm is situated on the Equator some 1000km (600 miles) out into the Pacific Ocean off Ecuador. Here Darwin found a raw, active volcanic world that was geologically young and had never been joined to the continents. He found it inhabited by a strange, almost random, selection of plants, reptiles, birds and mammals – all of which had apparently reached the islands by chance and were in the process of ‘coming to terms’ with their new-found environment, slowly evolving into new species that would be adapted to an often harsh and demanding habitat.

Thanks to the isolation of the archipelago, its general inhospitability to man and the generations of zoologists who followed Darwin and made the world aware of the unique phenomenon that is the Galapagos, many of the islands can still be seen in a fairly similar condition to that which Darwin viewed them in 1835. Although depredations by whalers, sealers, settlers and passing mariners took their toll of wildlife in the past, the Ecuadorian government declared most of the 8000 square kilometres (nearly 3100 square miles) of the archipelago, which consists of over 50 islands, a national park in 1959. It is now carefully protected as one of the most precious of the world’s natural showpieces.

On some of the flatter islands, recent lava flows, some smooth and rope-like, others jagged and clinker-like, still await their first covering of vegetation, while older flows nearby are already thick with cacti, spiky shrubbery and white-barked Palo Santo trees adapted to the arid climate. The volcanic peaks rise to over 1700m (5578ft) and the scant soils support a thicker, lusher vegetation that benefits from a more humid climate. Along the coasts, beautiful white, black and red sand beaches contrast with mangrove-fringed lagoons and tall cliffs of volcanic cinders. Isabela, one of the more recently formed islands, is the largest in the archipelago at over 100km (60 miles) long, and at the other extreme are tiny eroded islets, remnants of old volcanic cones, that now support large and spectacular seabird colonies. This variety of terrestrial habitats combined with surrounding cold oceanic currents with their abundant marine life makes for a rich pattern of wildlife. The isolation of the Galapagos has of course stimulated the evolution of endemic plants and animals – many confined to single islands within the archipelago. This will make every day of the tour a unique experience in itself, as we sail from island to island finding new sights and new species at each.

A visit to the Galapagos provides an unforgettable, absolutely fantastic wildlife experience for every type of birder and natural history enthusiast. Our tour has been specially designed to be the ultimate in birding and wildlife tours to the Galapagos, aiming to provide an in-depth appreciation of the islands (as part of a dedicated natural history group) in a way not possible on the large cruise ships, which take up to 100 or more passengers (many with little interest in wildlife), whose much shorter periods ashore inevitably make for a rushed and incomplete experience.

We shall be travelling on a very comfortable motor yacht, allowing us to visit areas only accessible to smaller boats (and get there without spending too much time over it). The itinerary has been carefully worked out to ensure that we have plenty of time at each place we go ashore to see the wildlife and to appreciate it in our own way. It will give us an excellent chance of finding all of the islands’ accessible endemic birds and we shall also come face to face with the famous Giant Tortoises that gave their name to the archipelago (galápagos means ‘riding saddle’ in Spanish and is probably a reference to the shell shape of some of the endemic forms).

During our voyage through this magical archipelago we plan to visit Seymour (or North Seymour), Genovesa (or Tower), Isabela (or Albemarle), Fernandina (or Narborough), Floreana (or Charles), Española (or Hood), Santa Cruz (or Indefatigable) and San Cristóbal (or Chatham). Cruising amongst the islands is an intensely exciting experience, yet at the same time wonderfully relaxing, with time between landfalls to watch this strange world (and some fine seabirds!) pass by, and whilst at anchor, get into the water and snorkel amongst beautiful tropical fish and ever-curious sealions. Of all the wildlife journeys we make on this marvellous but threatened planet of ours, we rate our Galapagos voyages amongst the most amazing and most memorable experiences.

For anyone with a keen interest in birds, it is vital to select a yacht which has an authorized itinerary that includes all the key islands, and in particular Genovesa (or Tower), deservedly renowned as the very best of the Galapagos ‘enchanted islands’ and the only accessible place in Galapagos for the endemic Sharp-beaked Finch and for Red-footed Booby, never mind the finest seabird spectacle in the entire archipelago!

Our handsome first-class motor catamaran (twin-hulled yacht), the Nemo III, has the necessary permissions to achieve the perfect 7-night itinerary for keen birders. For full details and photographs of Nemo III, one of the best modern yachts for birders available in the Galapagos, have a look at http://nemogalapagoscruises.com

Nemo III has 8 cabins available for either twin or single occupancy and takes a maximum of 16 passengers. Five cabins have two single berths and three have a double berth for couples. The pleasant cabins are air-conditioned, have ample storage space, a private bathroom with hot shower, and 110v AC electrical outlets (with USA-type sockets). On-board instrumentation includes satellite navigation, radar, sonar, single sideband radio and cellular phone. Being a catamaran, Nemo III is a very stable boat (so there is minimal chance of seasickness unless you are unusually prone, or there is atypical weather for this time of year!) and is spacious overall, with a large outdoor viewing/lounging area, and a spacious inside dining and lounge/bar area. The boat carries a crew of seven plus a university-level naturalist-guide. If you want a very special Galapagos birding and wildlife adventure, Nemo III can surely provide it.

Birdquest has operated tours to Galapagos since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: For our cruise in the Galapagos we shall be based on Nemo III, our first class motor catamaran (a twin-hulled yacht) with twin or double berth cabins (available for either twin or single occupancy) with private bathroom. The hotel near Quito airport is of good standard. The few roads in the islands are of variable quality, as are those in the Quito region. Road transport will be by small coach or minibus (and ‘truck-bus’ on Floreana).

Walking: The walking effort in the islands is mostly easy, but some nature trails on the islands are over rougher terrain where a little agility, or a stick, are required.

Climate: From sea-level to moderate altitudes in Galapagos it is predominantly warm or hot all year. Sunny and overcast conditions tend to alternate (but rain is only likely at these elevations between January and April, when the humidity is rather high). Conditions in the highlands are similar but cooler and there can be rain showers at any time of year (with frequent rainfall between January and April). From May to December, low cloud often shrouds the highlands, but the lowlands are usually sunny.

Bird & Wildlife Photography: Opportunities are simply outstanding (there are few if any better!). Landings on our tour are of long duration and most participants like to take time to enjoy the amazing photographic opportunities this extraordinary place offers.

Can be taken together with: A TASTE OF ECUADOR

Tour Price: £5190, €6130, $6800 Quito/Quito.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities while ashore.

Also includes these flights: Quito-Baltra (Galapagos)-Quito.

Galapagos national park fees/Galapagos entry taxes of US$110 (subject to change) are payable like a ‘visa on arrival’ by the individual passenger at passport control in the Galapagos and are not included in the tour price.

Gratuities on board the yacht for the naturalist-guide and crew are not included in the tour price. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we are told that most passengers give gratuities of between US$160-200 for such an 8 days cruise.

Single Cabin Supplement: If you would like guaranteed single occupancy of a cabin on board the boat the additional charge is 80% of the main tour cost. Please note that if you opt to share you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement even if you do not end up with a cabin-mate.

Single Room Supplement in Quito and Santa Cruz: £150, €177, $197. Please note that if you are sharing a cabin on board ship but there is no room-mate available at Quito and Santa Cruz, then you will have to pay the supplement for a single room ashore.

Deposit: 25% of the tour price (including any single supplement).

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Blue-footed Boobies display right in front of visitors and are completely fearless of man, just like almost all Galapagos creatures, a humbling experience for most visitors  (Mark Beaman)

Blue-footed Boobies display right in front of visitors and are completely fearless of man, just like almost all Galapagos creatures, a humbling experience for most visitors (Mark Beaman)

An extraordinary lack of fear of humans is characteristic of the Galapagos and helps to make it one of the most extraordinary and rewarding bird and wildlife journeys on our planet. This Galapagos Hawk was photographed with a standard camera lens!  (Mark Beaman)

An extraordinary lack of fear of humans is characteristic of the Galapagos and helps to make it one of the most extraordinary and rewarding bird and wildlife journeys on our planet. This Galapagos Hawk was photographed with a standard camera lens! (Mark Beaman)

Marine Iguanas are as unwary as the birds, sunning themselves in the middle of the nature trails on Fernandina  (Mark Beaman)

Marine Iguanas are as unwary as the birds, sunning themselves in the middle of the nature trails on Fernandina (Mark Beaman)

Talk about prehistoric-looking creatures...  (Mark Beaman)

Talk about prehistoric-looking creatures... (Mark Beaman)

The most famous birds of Galapagos are the drably-coloured but extraordinarily diverse Darwin's finches, the group that more than any other led the great scientist to formulate his Theory of Evolution. Large Ground-Finch is the biggest-beaked of them all  (Mark Beaman)

The most famous birds of Galapagos are the drably-coloured but extraordinarily diverse Darwin's finches, the group that more than any other led the great scientist to formulate his Theory of Evolution. Large Ground-Finch is the biggest-beaked of them all (Mark Beaman)

Seabirds are one of the glories of Galapagos and the huge Waved Albatross is the king of the islands  (Mark Beaman)

Seabirds are one of the glories of Galapagos and the huge Waved Albatross is the king of the islands (Mark Beaman)

Watching the albatrosses display on Española (or Hood) is utterly fascinating  (Mark Beaman)

Watching the albatrosses display on Española (or Hood) is utterly fascinating (Mark Beaman)

Nazca Boobies watch as the strange Homo sapiens wander through their territory  (Mark Beaman)

Nazca Boobies watch as the strange Homo sapiens wander through their territory (Mark Beaman)

The Swallow-tailed Gull is one of the more beautiful and unusual members of the Laridae  (Mark Beaman)

The Swallow-tailed Gull is one of the more beautiful and unusual members of the Laridae (Mark Beaman)

And they are even more striking in flight  (Mark Beaman)

And they are even more striking in flight (Mark Beaman)

Magnificent Frigatebirds allopreen in between frenetic displays by the males during which they inflate their bright red gular pouches  (Mark Beaman)

Magnificent Frigatebirds allopreen in between frenetic displays by the males during which they inflate their bright red gular pouches (Mark Beaman)

The Flightless Cormorant is surely one of the more unusual Galapagos birds  (Mark Beaman)

The Flightless Cormorant is surely one of the more unusual Galapagos birds (Mark Beaman)

The Galapagos is one of the last places on our planet where Giant Tortoises survive  (Mark Beaman)

The Galapagos is one of the last places on our planet where Giant Tortoises survive (Mark Beaman)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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