Travel aboard the
For those seeking to explore the Galápagos in true style, the 18-guest Grace is a classic historic yacht with a distinguished past from World War II service in the British Navy to private ownership by royalty. This 8-day cruise explores the south-central islands including Bartolomé, Española, Santa Cruz, as well as a couple lesser known islets. With three decks, the Grace provides a rejuvenating environment with sundeck, a sizable Jacuzzi at the bow of the ship, full entertainment center and onboard boutique. Relax in the comfort of elegant, spacious cabins. At sunset, gather in the sky lounge bar for happy hour and prepare for an exquisite fine dining experience.
Arrive / San Cristobal Island
Catch your flight from Quito to San Cristobal Island, the first island Darwin visited when he arrived in 1835. Your guide will greet you and take you to the dock, where you will climb aboard a panga to make the short crossing to the Grace. Meanwhile, the crew will transfer the rest of your luggage to your cabin.
On board, settle into your new home for the week as the engines fire up and set off for Isla Lobos. Toast your first day in the Enchanted Archipelago with a handcrafted cocktail made from local fruits and liqueurs. Revel in the vision of Leon Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock, a spectacular sleeping lion-shaped rock that rises 152 meters (500 feet) out of the Pacific at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Arriving at Isla Lobos, otherwise known as Sea Lion Island, it’s a tiny basalt island just off San Cristobal that’s home to a noisy population of frolicking and barking sea lions. Snorkel right alongside them in the turquoise waters. Sea lions are ever curious and playful with people. Walk the trails along white sands catching sight of blue-footed boobies and other spectacular birds.
Top off the evening with a dip in the jacuzzi followed by happy hour atop the sky lounge. Then, meet in the main salon for a presentation by your guide on the next day’s activities before sitting down to a specially prepared dinner.
Wake up for your first morning in the Galápagos at Punta Suarez on Española Island, the southernmost island of the archipelago. This island is one of the most popular areas due to the breathtaking varieties of flowers and plants that cover the terrain. Watch sea lions surf the waves beyond the breakwater as you arrive onshore. Find colorful marine iguanas napping in communal piles or clinging to rocks. Follow a trail that takes you to the western edge where masked and Nazca boobies, lava herons, and swallow-tailed gulls, with their red ringed eyes, nest along the cliff’s edge. Up ahead, see a large gathering of Galápagos doves, cactus finch, and mockingbirds.
From the top of the cliff, witness the periodic geyster of salt water created by a shelf of black lava that reaches out into the surf. Also on these cliffs is the “Albatross Airport,” where waved albatross line up to get a running start and fly off the ledge, soaring over the crashing waves below. These are the largest birds you will see in the Galápagos and the only species of albatross exclusive to the tropics.
Head over to nearby Gardner Bay’s powdery white sand is the perfect entrance for a swim or snorkeling amongst schools of large tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish, and bump-head parrot fish. Sleepy white-tipped reef sharks often nap on the bottom while young sea lions snack and play. Gardner Bay and Islet also offer inviting waters for kayakers.
Start the morning at Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, an island with a colorful history: pirates, whalers, convicts, and a small band of peculiar colonists—a self-proclaimed Baroness among them—who chose a Robinson Crusoe existence that ended in mystery. In 1793, British whalers set up a barrel as the island’s post office to send letters home on passing ships. The tradition continues today. Drop a postcard into the barrel, take a postcard from the barrel, and deliver it.
Farther inland, walk inside a lava tube that descends deep into the earth. Swim in a subterranean grotto beneath the tide where sea turtles and tropical fish await.
Afterward, you’ll visit Punta Cormorant. This area features two highly distinct beaches. One is made of volcanic olivine crystals that gives it a greenish tint, while the other, known as Flour Beach, is sheer white in the sun. Flour Beach was made by the erosion of coral skeletons. Between the two beaches is a lagoon frequented by flamingos, pintails, stilts, and other wading birds.
Next, we’ll visit the tiny Champion Islet, considered one of the top snorkeling sites. See yellowtail grunts, amberjacks, schools of king angel, sea turtles, Galápagos penguins, and dolphins. Humpback whales also frequent the bay off Flour Beach.
Santa Cruz Island
This morning, visit Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Home to both the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, this is the hub of the restorative efforts taking place in the park. See the Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program, which began in 1970. This program has restored the number of tortoises there from 14 to over 1,000.
Then explore the Wild Tortoise Reserve in the Santa Cruz highlands where the dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush forests with moss and lichen. See these ancient creatures in their natural setting. Beneath the ground are lava tubes that, over time, have created underground tunnels. A wooden stairway descends to one of these underground passages where you will have the chance to walk from one end to the other along a well-lit path.
Also in this area are The Twins, Los Gemelos, two large sinkhole craters formed by collapsed lava tubes. Los Gemelos are surrounded by a Scalesia forest, home to many of Darwin’s famous finches along with the elusive and dazzling vermillion flycatcher.
Return to Puerto Ayora for some time to shop. This little port town features restaurants, souvenir shops, and internet cafés to duck into and pick up some gifts for home.
Santa Cruz Island / Sombrero Chino Island
At the north end of Santa Cruz Island is Las Bachas, comprised of two sandy white beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs. Las Bachas got its name from the two barges left abandoned here after WWII. On shore you’ll be greeted by patrolling blue-footed boobies before you walk inland to find a lagoon filled with pink flamingos, great blue herons, common stilts, brown noddies, and white-cheeked pintails. You’ll get to snorkel and swim in these waters, which are typically warmer than other areas of the Galápagos.
After lunch you’ll visit one of the coveted islands many tourists never get to see. Tiny Sombrero Chino Island, or Chinese Hat Island, is too small for most large vessels to stop at, but the Grace is perfectly suited for islands such as this one. The island is named for its resemblance to the traditional Chinese Coolie’s hat.
Land at the crescent-shaped cove where black lava rocks rest on white sands. A sea lion colony resides here, while fiery-colored Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas lounge atop the rocks. Find American oystercatchers in the tide pools. You can hike a short trail into the island’s volcanic interior to explore rock formations, including pahoehoe lava that resembles black rope. Snorkel with the sea lions, as Galápagos penguins dart past.
At the heart of the Galápagos is Rabida Island, with its deep red sandy beaches and equally red towering cliffs. Even the starfish are crimson. A colony of sea lions inhabits these scarlet shores. This is also the best place to get close to nesting brown pelicans. Take a short walk inland to see the Galápagos dove, cactus finch, the large ground finch, and flamingos in a lagoon. At the top of the rocky peninsula, hike through groves of prickly pear cactus as it opens up to a sweeping view of the red sea cliffs beyond.
Kayak along Rabida’s eastern peninsula beneath the island’s red cliffs. This is the perfect place to spot sea turtles sometimes swimming right beside you, as well as blue-footed and masked boobies. Snorkel above giant schools of striped salemas, Galápagos sharks, and yellowtail surgeon fish. Occasionally, orcas swim right off the shore.
Climb back aboard the Grace to soak in the hot tub before lunch as we set sail for Santiago Island. We’ll drop anchor in Sullivan Bay near the landmark Pinnacle Rock.
From the ship you can see the island’s lava fields gleaming in the sun like a gigantic, obsidian sculpture, covered in the rope-like pahoehoe lava that reaches into the sea. On land you’ll find brightly colored painted locusts, lava lizards, and lava cactus punctuated against the black volcanic canvas.
You’ll have the chance to hike and admire the Earth’s craftwork before taking a panga ride along the black rocky coast in search of Galápagos penguins. You are also free to snorkel and swim. Squadrons of spotted eagle rays pass through the channel, as well as sea turtles.
This evening watch the sun set over the lava fields of Sullivan Bay as the long rays of the setting sun light up tower-like Pinnacle Rock.
Bartolomé Island / North Seymour Island
Step onto Bartolomé Island as you climb a 600-meter (2000-foot) pathway, complete with stairs and boardwalks, leading to Bartolomé’s summit. Small volcanic cones stand in various stages of erosion. Lava tubes form bobsled-like runs down the hills. At the top take in the spectacular views of Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay, and Pinnacle Rock.
Then we’ll move on to North Seymour Island, a relatively flat island, that is teeming with life. Swallow-tailed gulls perch on ledges. Inside a forest of silver Palo Santo trees blue-footed boobies nest. Hike through trails along the beach witnessing flocks of brown pelicans and frigate birds, and dozens of bright yellow land iguanas.
Snorkel over a wide variety of rays, from marble rays, to golden eagle rays, even manta rays. White-tipped reef sharks sleep on the bottom while schools of king angelfish and yellowtailed surgeonfish swarm the rocky shoreline passing the occasional parrot or damselfish. Large schools of tightly packed blue and gold snappers, grunts, and jacks also traverse these waters, as does the occasional hammerhead.
Tonight will be an especially relaxing evening. Soak in the Jacuzzi as you spend the night restfully anchored in the bay. Watch the twin mountain islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor as the sun sets behind them.
Santa Cruz Island / Baltra Island / Flight Home
This last morning brings you to Black Turtle Cove just off the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island. Rich with four species of mangroves that stretch nearly a mile inland, you’ll traverse the quiet waters in a dinghy, while sea turtle, and spotted eagle and golden rays swim nearby. Brown pelicans, blue and lava herons, all come to feed in the cove which has been declared a “Turtle Sanctuary.”
Return to Baltra Island where the crew will deliver your luggage from your cabin to the airport. You’ll disembark the vessel for the short panga ride to shore where the bus will pick you up for the 5-minute drive to the airport. Your guide will make sure you are checked in on the proper flight home.
NOTE: The above itinerary reflects the intended program, however, should be read as a guide only. The actual itinerary will depend on weather conditions, wildlife encounters, and any unforeseen circumstances beyond the operator’s control.