Galapagos Wildlife Marine Life & Photography

This land-based Galapagos Wildlife, Marine Life & Photography journey will be hosted by Marine Biologist, Photographer & Shark expert Dr Simon Pierce; Aqua-Firma director Ralph Pannell, who has been working in conservation and travel in Ecuador for more than 20 years; and local guides trained by the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Scenic Highlights

We will take you to from the central islands of the Galapagos, to the far south eastern and oldest island in the archipelago, Española. Blow holes off the cliff coastline of Pinta Suarez form some of the most scenically beautiful parts of the Galapagos. As we wander slowly along steep coastal cliffs, the air will be filled by diving boobies, pelicans and Red Billed Tropicbirds, with their long trailing tail feathers. The Blue-footed Boobies bring their catch back to fluffy white fledglings we walk close to on the cliff-top plateau. We will also find nesting Waved Albatrosses here, at a time when almost the entire world population of these birds occupy the island. We often see these birds petting their life partners with cheek to cheek gentle tapping of their long beaks.

South Plaza is another particularly beautiful island we will visit, characterised by Opuntia, or prickly pear trees; and endemic sea purslane plants, which in August will be a lovely red colour. South Plaza also has some dramatic sea cliffs, filled with seabirds; whilst on its gentler slopes we can find plenty of land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls and all grey lava gulls.

Wildlife & Highlands

We will encounter different species of marine iguana as we move from island to island. Most are black, with rough skins to increase the surface area over which they can soak up warmth from the sun, rocks and bodies of other iguanas they cuddle up to for warmth. On Española, we should find some which are turn red and blue-green, bettering their colours in preparation for the mating season.

Giant Tortoises are a highlight of any journey to the Galapagos and we will observe these at close quarters on Santa Cruz island at sea level; and on San Cristobal at an altitude of 700 metres amongst its cool clouded highlands. This is a great place to see endangered Chatham Mockingbirds, found only on the island of San Cristobal.

Marine Life Highlights

For marine life, Kicker Rock (also known as Leon Dormido) is a real highlight of this trip. Every experience there is different, but chances are high to see Galapagos sharks, Green Turtles, Galapagos Sealions darting around you underwater like over excited puppies; walls covered in colourful anemones and corals; and pelicans roosting on rocks we can swim around. We sometimes see the incredible form of a Hammerhead Sharks here too, as well as graceful Spotted Eagle Rays which reach 2.5 metres from wing tip to wing tip.

We snorkel at Kicker Rock on day 5 of this journey, whilst on day 1 we take to shallow waters of Playa Mansa. Here we can hope for marine iguanas, reef sharks and Galapagos tortoises.

Galapagos sealions are approachable in many locations on this journey and in August we have good chances to see newborn calves suckling. There must be something very irritating about the process, because mothers often flip back and forth between caressing their calves with a delicate touch of a flipper, to raising their heads and barking at them.

Photography & Insights

We will have lots of opportunities for photography on this trip, with assistance on the go, evening workshops as requested; and any advice you need before you head to the islands. We will also provide some evening talks about wildlife, marine life and geology of these most special islands.

This trip has been timed to be easily combined with these other trips should you wish. Beforehand:

Galapagos Wildlife & Marine Life Yacht Safari
(5 days)  22nd - 26th Aug, 2021
hosted by Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell and accompanied by a naturalist guide trained by Charles Darwin Research Station & Galapagos National Park

Afterwards:

Amazon Wildlife & Conservation Adventure
1st - 4th Sept, 2021  £1,890 / US$2,290
led by local expert guides and Aqua-Firma's Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern

On a 3 days Choco-Andes Cloud Forest journey 4th - 6th Sept, Ralph will lead a trip to areas he used to work in for Rainforest Concern, helping to establish a corridor of rainforest all the way from the cloud forests of Mindo, to lowland and montane forests in Colombia.

Itinerary

Galapagos Wildlife Marine Life & Photography
(Land-Based)

26th Aug - Baltra (South Seymour) & Santa Cruz

If you are joining this trip from the airport, then you will be met and transferred across Baltra (South Seymour) island, cross the Itabaca Channel by small boat; and then drive across Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Ayora. We will combine with those completing our Galapagos Wildlife & Marine Life Yacht Safari and head to the headquarters of the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is the hub of indispensable conservation management of the Galapagos Archipelago, with a giant tortoise breeding programme, interpretation tools and natural habitat where we can see several species of Giant Tortoise.

We will take a pack lunch with us to Tortuga Bay. We will need to walk 45 minutes through cactus forests to where we find two white sand beaches: Playa Brava and Playa Mansa. Playa Mansa has some good snorkeling, both within the bay and alongside mangroves.  We can hope to see marine iguanas, reef sharks, Sally lightfoot crabs, pelicans and Giant Tortoises here.

We will spend the night in a hotel in Puerto Ayora - the Galapagos most populous town where we will find ample restaurant options, bars and cafes.

27th Aug - South Plaza

Today we will head out by small boat to South Plaza Island.

South Plaza is a beautiful island formed out of lava which bubbled up to the sea surface. It is relatively small but very diverse in its botany, full of birdlife and very good for spotting land iguanas. There are approximately 1,000 Galapagos sealions on the island and birdlife is plentiful. Cliffs on the western side are nesting sites for Blue-footed and Nazca boobies, whilst we can find Darwin's Finches amongst the rocks of the eastern side, alva guls and lovely swallow-tail gulls.

Overnight in Puerto Ayora.

28th Aug - AM Boat from Pto Ayora to San Cristobal

This morning, we will head by speed boat from Puerto Ayora to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal. This port town is smaller than Puerto Ayora, but the administrative capital of the Galapagos.

28th Aug - PM San Cristobal Highlands

We will check into our hotel here before heading 700 metres into the San Cristobal Highlands at El Junco Lagoon, so-called because of a plant which grows here. This is one of the few freshwater bodies of water in the Galapagos and Frigatebirds come here to wash salt from their feathers.

We will visit a Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre in the highlands here, where we can also find the Chatham Mockingbird which is endemic to this island.

Overnight in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno where again, we have a few choices of restaurants and cafes.

29th Aug - Española Island

Today we will head by small speed boat to the far south east of the Galapagos. Here we will step onto the oldest islands in the archipelago, Española. This began its life 8 million years ago as a tall volcano, but since then it has been pushed away from the epicentre of volcanic activity. Inactive, it has eroded away and is now a maximum 50 metres above sea level. Eventually, it will disappear into the ocean, but for thousands of year to come, she has will retain her established vegetation which provides home for large numbers of marine iguana, sealions, nesting blue-footed and Nazca boobies, lava lizards, Galapagos hawks … and uniquely from March to December, almost the entire global population of Waved Albatrosses.

Our visit will include the dramatic sea cliffs of Punta Suarez - the most diverse location for seabirds in the Galapagos; and Gardner Bay where we can snorkel with Green Turtles and hopefully some Galapagos sealions too.

Overnight in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

30th Aug - Kicker Rock

This morning, we will head out to one of the best marine sites in the Galapagos: Kicker Rock. Dramatic cliffs and small rocky islets provide nesting sites for Boobies and Pelicans. Beneath the waves, the rock continues steeply towards the ocean depths, with edges encrusted with colourful cool water corals and anemones.

Snorkeling here is wonderful, for the colourful rock walls, tropical fishes and encounters with larger marine life. Green turtles are a regular sight. Galapagos sea lions can surprise us, appearing out of nowhere, darting in amongst us. Galapagos sharks are most likely to appear as we swim through a giant crack between two halves of the rock. We might also see rays and even hammerhead sharks here too.

We will arrive back onshore in the afternoon. Those joining Dr Simon Pierce onboard our Shark Insights & Photography Dive trip will be taken out to their liveaboard yacht. Those who are not will head back to shore.

31st Aug - Sea Lions

This morning, Ralph will walk those remaining to a fantastic beach for wandering in amongst sea lions. If you don't yet have a prize-winning picture of sea lions, here we find them in every imaginable pose on rocks, adopting sleeping poses which only those with a thick layer of blubber could possibly find comfortable.

Those flying back to Quito today will be taken to the airport for an early afternoon flight.

Dates

Enquire / Book 26 - 30 Aug 2021 - from £ 2,190
from US$ 2,690

add £100 for *6th day (26 - 31 Aug)
(*not possible for those joining our Shark Insights & Photography Dive Liveaboard 30th Aug - 6th Sept, 2021)

Single room occupancy supplement:-
£350 (5 days)
add £45 for 6 days version

Prices include
All transfers by land and sea
Accommodation
Expert guided exploration as per itinerary
Evening talks
Breakfasts & lunches
Snorkeling equipment if needed

Not included
Flights to / from the Galapagos
Galapagos National Park fee (US$100*)
INGALA immigration fee ($20*)
Dinners
Tips

(*correct at the time of writing - payable locally - may be subject to change without notice)

  • Sally Lightfoot Crab
  • Underwater with a Marine Iguana - photograph by Dr Simon Pierce
  • Snorkeling with playful Galapagos Sea Lion - photo by Dr Simon Pierce
  • Giant Tortoise
  • Land Iguana (Photo: Dr Simon Pierce)
  • Sally Lightfoot Crabs picking a meal from a Marine Iguana
  • Sea Cliffs at Punta Suarez on Espanola Island

Trip Reviews from the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos

Española

South Plaza

San Cristobal

Baltra

Santa Cruz

Galapagos Island Guide

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