The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America (and its islands)

GALAPAGOS – An awesome bird and wildlife adventure

Saturday 17th May – Tuesday 27th May 2025

Leaders: Mike Watson and a local naturalist guide

11 Days Group Size Limit 14


Birdquest’s Galapagos birding tours and overall simply amazing wildlife experiences are part of a series of Ecuador birding tours that we offer. Our Galapagos birding tour achieves comprehensive coverage of the islands and their many endemic birds and other fascinating creatures. Few Galapagos birding tours achieve this level of coverage.

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 fewer than 30 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 and some of the best wildlife photography opportunities on earth. Moreover, it is a starkly beautiful group of islands with some truly superb scenery.

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 1000 kilometres (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 inhospitality 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 upland 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 100 kilometres (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 natural history enthusiast. Our tour has been specially designed to be the ultimate in 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 appreciate it in our own way. It will give us the best chance of finding all of the islands’ accessible endemic birds and many of the endemic reptiles, including both Marine and Land Iguanas, and 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 pass by (and admire the local cetaceans and seabirds), 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 memorable experiences.

Our handsome, first-class motor yacht, the Nemo III, has 8 cabins available for either twin or single occupancy and comfortably takes up to 14 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 a 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 wildlife adventure, Nemo III can surely provide it. For full details and photographs of Nemo III, one of the best modern yachts available in the Galapagos, have a look at

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 both Genovesa (or Tower) and Española (or Hood), deservedly renowned as the very best of the Galapagos ‘enchanted islands’. Our chosen yacht has the necessary permissions to achieve the perfect itinerary for keen birders.

Birdquest has operated Galapagos birding and wildlife tours since 1989.

The Nature of Galapagos Bird & Wildlife Tours: Tours to Galapagos are very different from most birding tours, and it is important to understand this and accept how Galapagos birding and wildlife tours roll before signing up for one.

The way landings work in Galapagos is tightly controlled by the Galapagos National Park authorities in order to minimize the ’footfall’ of visitors. Only a limited number of boats and visitors are allowed to visit any given site on any given morning or afternoon. Landing periods run from 0600-1200 and 1200-1800, with no exceptions allowed, nor can the order of landings be altered or landing sites varied. So, even if we see the endemic birds in 20 minutes, there is zero possibility of moving on straight away to a new landing site, even if we wanted to!

Of course, almost all of our participants find Galapagos such an awesome experience, with its incredibly tame and trusting wildlife, that longer landings are welcomed, not considered a disadvantage. The only alternative, as it is not allowed to split up the group during a landing, would be for everyone to return to the boat early and wait on board until the time comes to move to the next pre-determined landing site. Clearly, that is not going to happen on our tours!

Also, participants on our tours realise Galapagos is a unique wildlife encounter opportunity and the great majority want to extensively photograph all these tame and often spectacular creatures that allow one to get right up to them, even while they display or otherwise exhibit fascinating behaviour. If you are not a photographer yourself, you will need to be tolerant of this. You can watch away to your heart’s content while others photograph and you can be sure that other participants photographing Galapagos wildlife is never going to result in any accessible Galapagos endemic bird being missed. Almost every accessible endemic is easy to see and on those very few occasions where they are not (for example, Galapagos Crake) the hunt for the endemic will have total priority.

Private targeted extensions in mainland Ecuador: If you have some target birds you would like to look for in mainland Ecuador, either before or after the Galapagos tour, our skilled local bird guides are ready to assist. Please contact us and give us a list of the species you would like to see. Such an extension could be for just a few days, a week or two or even longer, depending on what you want to see.

Accommodation & 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 bathrooms. The hotel in the Quito area is of good standard. The few roads in the islands are of variable quality. Road transport will be by small coach or minibus, or even ‘truck-bus’ on more remote islands.

Walking: The walking effort during our Galapagos birding and wildlife tour 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.

Wildlife Photography: Opportunities during our Galapagos birding and wildlife tour are simply outstanding (there are few if any places in this world that are better!). Landings on our tour are of longer duration than those made by most visitors (we start earlier and end later than they do), thus maximising opportunities for our group members. Early in the morning, we often have landing sites to ourselves.


  • Exploring the islands that put that revolutionary idea into Charles Darwin's head: life has evolved!
  • Boarding our catamaran at Baltra and setting sail 'into the blue'
  • The endless procession of boobies anmd frigatebirds at dawn at Genovesa (Tower)
  • Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels like a swarm of bats over theor colony in the lava flows, and watching then wriggling into crevices
  • Getting within touching distances of nesting Red-footed and Nazca Boobies
  • Our first Darwin's Finches, including Genovesa Ground Finch and Genovesa Catus Finch
  • Watching Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks patrol past as we snorkel!
  • Galapagos Petrels sailing by as we cruise along
  • Galapagos Martins and shy Galapagos Penguins at the coastal cliffs of Isabela and Flightless Coprmorants on nearby Fernandina
  • Tracking down Darwin's Flycatcher on the slopes of a volcano
  • Watching Floreana Mockingbirds on one of their last islet holdouts and snorkeling with playful Galapagos Sealions
  • The strange 'troglodyte dwellings' used by some of Floreana's first and most 'colourful' settlers, and the unassuming Medium Tree Finch nearby
  • Española (Hood), surely the best of the Galapagos!
  • Waved Albatrosses displaying or thundering down the 'runway' trying to get airborne!
  • Those heaps of very red-patterned Marine Iguanas, so unlike the other islands
  • Actually visiting somewhere inhabited after a week in the wilderness, while taking in the San Cristobal Mockingbird
  • The amazing, cleft-in-two Kicker Rock
  • Finding secretive little Galapagos Rails and huge, primordial Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz.
  • Staying in a hotel again – why isn't the floor moving!?
  • The fifty other highlights of these enchanted islands!


  • Day 1: Early evening tour start at Quito.
  • Day 2: Transfer to airport and morning flight to Baltra island. Board Nemo III.
  • Days 3-8: Exploring Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana, Española and San Cristobal islands.
  • Day 9: Return to Baltra and disembark. Transfer to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
  • Day 10: Santa Cruz, then return to Baltra. Flight to Quito. Transfer to hotel.
  • Day 11: Morning tour end at Quito.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff while ashore.

We also include these flights: Quito-Baltra (Galapagos)-Quito.

Galapagos national park fees of US$100 (subject to change) are payable by the individual passenger on arrival at, or in transit to, Galapagos and are not included in the tour price.

Gratuities onboard 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 passengers usually give gratuities totalling around US$200 at the end of the cruise.

Deposit: 30% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

Tour Invoice and Cancellation Charges: For this tour, as it involves a special yacht charter, the tour invoices are sent out five months before the tour start. The cancellation charge for cancellations made 6 months or less before the tour start date is 100% of the total tour price.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2025: confirmed £6660, $8550, €7780, AUD12910. Quito/Quito.

Single Supplement: 2025: £190, $250, €220, AUD370.

Reduced Rate Cabins: Cabins 7 and 8 are smaller than the other cabins. Cabin 7 has twin beds and Cabin 8 has a double bed. These cabins are accessed off Nemo’s dining area by sliding hatches rather than conventional hinged doors. They are also a bit noisier than the other cabins. These cabins are available for twin or double occupancy at a reduced rate of 80% of the standard twin/double-share tour price per person.

Single Occupancy: The single supplement quoted above only applies to the nights ashore in Quito and Santa Cruz.

If you would like guaranteed single occupancy of a cabin onboard the boat, there are two cabins available for single occupancy. Cabins 7 and 8. Please see details above. These cabins are available for single occupancy at an additional charge of 25% over and above the standard twin/double tour price. [Single occupancy of any other cabin can also be arranged but the additional charge will be 90% over and above the standard twin/double tour price.]

Please note that if you opt to share a cabin you will not have to pay the single occupancy cabin supplement even if you do not end up with a cabin-mate.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.


Galapagos: Day 1  Our Galapagos birding and wildlife tour begins in the early evening at Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where we will stay overnight. Airport transfers will be provided.

Galapagos: Day 2  This morning we will take a flight to the island of Baltra (which lies just off the northern coast of the much larger island of Santa Cruz (or Indefatigable: most islands in the Galapagos having both Spanish and English names). Here we will board Nemo III, our home for the next seven nights. During this period we shall cruise amongst the ‘Islas Encantadas’ or ‘Enchanted Islands’ as the Galapagos are known, for much of the time leaving the inhabited and greatly transformed larger islands behind and exploring the natural paradise that still survives on the smaller islands. Much of our travelling will be done at night to maximize time ashore, but even daylight hours at sea are not wasted as we can enjoy encounters with pelagic seabirds such as the critically endangered Galapagos Petrel, which breeds in just a few colonies in the highlands of the Galapagos, and cetaceans such as Bryde’s Whale and Common Bottle-nosed Dolphin.

This afternoon we will probably make our first landing at nearby Seymour (or North Seymour), a small island that epitomizes the abundance and fearlessness of the local wildlife. Within minutes of landing, we shall be stepping over and around nesting Blue-footed Boobies. Whilst we have to adhere to designated footpaths to minimize damage to the environment, the boobies know no such rules and are content to raise their comical looking chicks in the centre of the main thoroughfare. In low Cryptocarpus (saltbush), both Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds nest at eye-level and within arm’s reach. Here we should be able to enjoy watching and photographing the spectacle of the males waggling their grossly inflated red throat pouches and see the ungainly young on the tiny stick nests awaiting the next instalment of fish stolen by their parents from the hapless boobies. We should also come across some large and impressive Land Iguanas.

A long stretch of boulder beach is home to dozens of Galapagos Sealions, an immensely appealing and photogenic animal that we will encounter many times during our cruise and surely have some close encounters with. Here, if sea conditions are suitable, we can watch them body-surfing through crashing, sunlit rollers. We should also find some Galapagos Fur Seals trying to shelter from the sun. With a total Galapagos population close to that of the sealions, they are much more shy and less often encountered, possibly because of the slaughter of tens of thousands in the past for the fur trade.

Rubbing shoulders with the seals will be a small number of endemic Lava Gulls. This is possibly the rarest gull in the world, numbering just 300-400 pairs. The intertidal zone is also a good place for the endemic Lava Heron and Yellow-crowned Night Heron, both feeding on the abundant, brilliant red Sally Lightfoot Crabs.

Elliot’s Storm Petrel is a common inshore species in Galapagos, and we may well find a group pottering right around our yacht, but surprisingly its nesting locations in the islands have never been found. We are also likely to see the breeding-endemic Galapagos Shearwater (split from Audubon’s), which nests in the coastal cliffs. Other new birds today are likely to include Brown Pelican and the endemic Small Ground Finch.

This evening we will set sail for one of the most remote islands in Galapagos, and surely their ultimate seabird colony, Genovesa (or Tower).

Galapagos: Days 3-8  We shall spend this period cruising the Galapagos Islands. (The order in which the islands are visited may have to change, to comply with Galapagos National Park requirements.)

Genovesa (or Tower) is magnificent and remote, and every inch seems covered with birds. Many Galapagos cruises miss it out, yet it offers some unique creatures and experiences and is one of the two best islands in the entire Galapagos for photography.

During our exploration of Tower, we shall be sure to visit El Barranco, which is reached via Prince Philip’s Steps, named after the Duke of Edinburgh following his visit to Genovesa. Here Nazca Boobies nest in fair numbers (including right on the path we must follow), whilst Red-billed Tropicbirds prefer the narrower ledges along the cliffs which they share with exquisite Swallow-tailed Gulls, virtually a Galapagos breeding endemic (a few nest on tiny Malpelo island off Colombia) and possibly the most beautiful gull in the world. Another attraction here is the vast colony, numbered in tens of thousands of pairs, of Band-rumped (or Madeiran) and Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels. The latter species is unusual in being active at the colony by day, and the air is full of these tiny whirring seabirds weaving in and out on their way to and from their nest holes, and occasionally falling prey to the Galapagos form of the Short-eared Owl.

On landing at Darwin Bay, we step ashore on a white coral beach to find a mass of nesting Red-footed Boobies – one of the main reasons for our visit. This species, most of which are of the brown phase in the Galapagos, nests only on the outermost islands and is unusual for a booby in that it nests in low trees and shrubbery. Amongst these absurdly confiding birds, which we can approach and photograph at extremely close range, nest good numbers of Great Frigatebirds.

The prime landbird specialities here are the endemic Genovesa Ground Finch and the endemic Genovesa Cactus Finch, both confined to Genovesa. The Darwin’s finches are a complex and unique group (with all but one species endemic to the Galapagos archipelago), perfectly illustrating adaptive radiation. On Genovesa the Genovesa Ground Finch and Genovesa Cactus Finch share the limited resources with Large Ground Finch and Grey (or Dusky) Warbler-Finch. The Genovesa Cactus Finch has evolved a bill midway between the huge, parrot-like bill of the Large Ground Finch and the slim bill of the other two species.

There are no such identification problems with the ever-present Mangrove Warbler and the endemic Galapagos Dove, both of which are very tame and make attractive photographic subjects.

After we leave Genovesa we should encounter both Band-rumped Storm Petrels and Galapagos Shearwaters out at sea.

Along the spectacular west coast of Isabela (or Albemarle) a series of volcanic peaks tower up to 1707m (5601ft) above this largest of the Galapagos islands. At Punta Vicente Roca, at the northwestern tip of Isabela, nesting Brown Noddies are abundant on the impressive tuff (volcanic ash) cliffs, their smoky brown plumage well camouflaged against the rock, and endemic Galapagos Penguins hide in the recesses.

The coastal mangroves of Isabela hold almost all of the remaining population of the very localized and declining endemic Mangrove Finch (the population on Fernandina is thought to have become extinct, but reintroduction is being attempted). The park authorities nowadays only rarely allow visits to the best remaining sites for this species, to prevent disturbance to this critically-endangered bird, but we will request permission and we could get lucky!

We will likely visit one or more areas on the western coast of Isabela. At Tagus Cove, one can see a natural harbour with ancient graffiti from ships’ crews dating back to 1836. A walk here to a tuff cone will turn up various finches and other landbirds. There is even a fair chance of seeing the uncommon endemic Galapagos Martin.

Isabela is dominated by a chain of huge volcanos that rise to 1660m (5446ft) above sea-level. We will drive by ‘truck-bus’ (a truck converted to carry passengers) from Puerto Villamil up to the end of the road on the slopes of Volcán Sierra Negra (or Santo Tomás) and then walk up to the rim of the immense crater for spectacular views over this dramatic island. Reaching 1490m (4889ft), Sierra Negra is the second-highest of the five huge volcanic cones that dominate Isabela, and in particular, is a good spot for the rather elusive Galapagos Martin and the uncommon Vegetarian Finch. Other birds we are likely to encounter include endemics such as Galapagos Hawk, Large-billed Flycatcher, the rare and declining Darwin’s Flycatcher (formerly lumped in Vermilion Flycatcher), Galapagos Mockingbird, Medium and Small Ground Finches, Large Tree Finch, Woodpecker Finch and Green (or Olive) Warbler Finch, as well as Dark-billed Cuckoo. We will also have our first chance here for the delightful little endemic Galapagos Rail, which is sometimes quite unconcerned by its huge admirers, making a very close approach.

Fernandina (or Narborough) is one of the most recently active volcanic areas of the Galapagos and also one of the most magical islands. This afternoon we will land at Punta Espinosa. Areas of bare lava are just beginning to be colonized by the first intrepid plant species such as the Brachycereus cactus. Where the lava reaches the sea there are some of the most impressive and photogenic gatherings of Marine Iguanas in the Galapagos. Hundreds of them lie motionless, basking in the sunshine, with just the odd snort as they sneeze away excess salt through their nostrils. Some are scattered across the flat, rocky platform while others are packed together in an intertwined mass. In this area, we can also expect stunning, close-up encounters with endemic Flightless Cormorants. With the world population of less than 1000 individuals confined to this northwestern part of the Galapagos, it is one of the world’s rarest seabirds. The Galapagos Penguin, which occurs here in some numbers, is yet another Galapagos bird with a claim to fame, being the most northerly penguin in the world. The tidal pools often attract Green Turtles, while along the shoreline we may find shorebirds such as American Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Plover, Wandering Tattler and Ruddy Turnstone.

At Floreana (or Charles), the Floreana (or Charles) Mockingbird is now confined to the tiny offshore islets of Gardner and Champion, where this critically endangered species can be observed quite closely from a zodiac cruise early this morning (as landings are not permitted). Afterwards, we can enjoy some superb snorkelling.

At Punta Cormorant we can visit a mangrove-fringed lagoon where a number of impossibly pink American Flamingos and White-cheeked Pintails should be present, along with waders such as Least and Spotted Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilt.

Floreana has a fascinating and intriguing human history including numerous attempts by colourful characters to settle the island, mysterious disappearances and unsolved murders! During the afternoon we will go ashore at the settlement and travel by ‘truck-bus’ into the comparatively luxuriant highlands. Here we should encounter Medium Tree Finch, which is only found in the higher parts of this one island. We will also be able to see the primitive cave dwellings used by the first settlers on the island.

Española (or Hood) is the most southeasterly island of the archipelago. By this time, many of us will be assessing which has been our favourite island or most memorable experience – wait until Española before making any decisions!

At this low-lying island some 15 kilometres (9 miles) long and uninhabited, we shall be greeted at Gardner Bay by the customary palaver of honking sealions, but amongst them are the distinctively heavy-billed Española (or Hood) Mockingbirds, phenomenally inquisitive, running up to peck at loose shoe-laces and discarded rucksacks.

Our visit to Española will reach its climax at fabulous Punta Suarez. Here can be found the huge-billed Española Ground Finch (confined to this one island), the largest of the endemic lava lizards and some particularly fine examples of Marine Iguanas with a bright reddish hue to the sides of their bodies. The Galapagos Hawks here are remarkably tame as they have never been persecuted, unlike the situation on the inhabited islands.

A real highlight of our Galapagos birding & wildlife tour will be that most special of all the Galapagos seabirds, the Waved Albatross (which breeds only here and, in much smaller numbers, on Isla de la Plata off the coast of Ecuador). At this time of year, many of the adults will be incubating, but some will still be displaying as they greet each other when their partner returns from a feeding trip and they switch places. Watching them point their bills skywards while stretching out their long wings and making their strange wailing cries is an experience one never forgets. Ungainly on land, once these leviathans have waddled rapidly across the rocks and taken to the air they become transformed into huge but graceful creatures that ride the updrafts along the cliffs.

This fantastic island also has some spectacular mixed colonies of Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds and Swallow-tailed Gulls. Offshore, we can often get quite close to rafting albatrosses.

San Cristóbal (or Chatham) is the most easterly of the Galapagos islands. This morning we will be off Punta Pitt at sunrise. We will go ashore and head inland to look for the endangered endemic San Cristobal (or Chatham) Mockingbird, found only on this one island. We should also see a small colony of Red-footed Boobies, probably the first we will have encountered since our visit to Genovesa. If sea conditions permit, we will also make a zodiac cruise to Pitt Rock to enjoy the fantastic number of nesting seabirds.

We will then navigate down the west side of San Cristóbal to make a landing at Cerro Brujo where there is a dramatic, eroded volcanic tuff cone. This was one of the first places visited by Charles Darwin, as he explored the islands on the Beagle, and the beach and lagoon here hold Brown Pelicans and a variety of shorebirds, not to mention many Red Ghost Crabs. Finally, we will visit Kicker Rock (or Leon Dormicida, ‘Sleeping Lion’), just in time to admire and photograph this extraordinary and spectacular cleft pinnacle in the late afternoon light. Band-rumped Storm-Petrels and Bryde’s Whales are regularly seen in this area.

Galapagos: Day 9  This morning we return to Baltra, where we say goodbye to our boat and crew before taking the airport bus the short distance to the narrow channel that divides Baltra island from the much larger Santa Cruz Island, one of only three inhabited islands in the Galapagos. After a short ferry ride, we will board our private vehicle for the transfer to Puerto Ayora, where we will stay overnight in a comfortable hotel.

En route, we will explore the highlands of Santa Cruz. We will certainly want to visit Los Gemellos, where some enormous sinkholes in the limestone rocks are surrounded by beautiful forest that holds some exciting endemics, including Large-billed Flycatcher, Galapagos Mockingbird, Medium Ground Finch, Large and Small Tree Finches, Green (or Olive) Warbler-Finch and the famous Woodpecker Finch. We may also find Dark-billed Cuckoo.

We will also have the opportunity to search for Giant Tortoises. Formerly common and widespread on many islands in the Galapagos, they are now either extinct or scarce. Tens of thousands were taken up to the 19th century by passing mariners. Stored live in ships’ holds for months with no food and water, they provided a ready source of fresh food and were also used as ballast! We shall visit a reserve area set aside for these prehistoric, painfully slow and cumbersome relics. At a marshy pool, where the tortoises often come to cool off, we will also keep a lookout for Paint-billed Crake (a recent colonist from the mainland) and both Common and Purple Gallinules.

Another interesting bird on Santa Cruz is the endemic Galapagos form of the American Barn Owl, and we will have further chances here to encounter Galapagos Rail and Galapagos Martin. In addition, we are likely to come across Western Cattle Egret and Smooth-billed Ani.

Galapagos: Day 10  After some final exploration on Santa Cruz we will return to Baltra airport and take a flight to Quito for an overnight stay.

[Note on flights from the Galapagos. Flight timings change regularly and delays are commonplace. Do not make any plans to leave Quito today.]

Galapagos:  Day 11  Our Galapagos birding and wildlife tour ends this morning at Quito. Airport transfers will be provided.


by Pete Morris

View Report


by János Oláh

View Report


by János Oláh

View Report

Other island birding tours by Birdquest with extraordinarily approachable creatures include: