Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin on this inspirational small-group adventure through the enchanted islands of the Galapagos. Splash with sea turtles and sea lions, walk among giant tortoises and iguanas, and spot blue-footed boobies and endemic wildlife found nowhere else on earth - all under the guidance of your MT Sobek naturalist guide. Hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking offer you astonishing opportunities to get close to the wildlife underwater and on land. After each action-filled day, return to the luxury of your private yacht to rest and re-energize. This classic route takes in the natural wonders of Isabela, Fernandina, and Santiago Islands. See below for a sample itinerary of your day-to-day activities.
Experience the dramatic volcanic landscapes of Isabela and Fernandina Island, home to endemic flightless cormorants
Anchor your deluxe yacht at nature's doorstep and take Zodiac cruises to remote coves and lagoons
Explore with the best naturalist guides, hand-selected for their experience, dedication, and expertise
Welcome to the historic city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. An MT Sobek representative will meet you outside customs at the airport and escort you to your hotel. After settling in at the hotel, the rest of the day is free unwind, take advantage of the pool's spa services or begin your exploration of this dynamic city. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before setting out on half-day guided tour of colonial Quito. The city's UNESCO-listed old town contains the best examples of Colonial Baroque architecture in South America! After lunch, you are free to explore more of the old town, return to the hotel, or shop for handicrafts made by local artisans.
Gather in the hotel at 6:30pm for a briefing with your fellow travelers and MT Sobek representative, who will discuss tomorrow's flight to the Galápagos Islands and the adventure ahead. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Rise for breakfast and an early transfer flight from Quito to Baltra Island in the Galápagos. After meeting your naturalist guide, take a short transfer from Baltra to Santa Cruz Island. Here a private vehicle awaits to take you to the lush highlands of Santa Cruz for a special opportunity to see giant tortoises in their wild and natural habitat. The Galapagos Islands are named after these magnificent, ancient creatures and the experience with them is magical. Next, transfer to Puerto Ayora for a stroll along the main street to the harbor, where you will board your private yacht. Enjoy a welcome dinner onboard.
Please note that Days 4 to 9 may slightly vary depending on your departure date. From your anchorage on the southern end of Isabela Island, board a Zodiac (a small, motorized inflatable boat) to explore Tintoreras - a group of volcanic islets. Follow a trail to observe marine iguanas, sea lions, and marine birds diving for fish. Return to the yacht and cruise to the western side of Isabela Island. Enjoy views of the island's pristine coastline, and keep lookout for dolphins and whales. After lunch, anchor at Punta Moreno for a walk across a pahoehoe lava flow, surrounded by giant shield volcanoes and a series of green lagoons - abundant with wildlife, including flamingos, blue-footed boobies, Darwin's finches, and flightless cormorants. If time allows, take your first snorkel this afternoon. Return to the boat for cocktail hour and dinner.
Start the day at Elizabeth Bay, where you will set off by Zodiac to explore tranquil coves and a red mangrove lagoon, home to green sea turtles, flightless cormorants, and Galápagos penguins! Get in the water for a snorkel and you may also spot rays and small sharks among tropical fish. After lunch, continue to Urbina Bay - famous for having uplifted 15 feet along 2 miles of coastline exposing corals and invertebrates in its strata. Follow your guide on the trail to look for Galápagos land iguanas, Galápagos hawks, finches, and giant tortoises (mostly seen between January and June.)
Awake at your anchorage near Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island - said to be the largest ecologically pristine island in the world and one of the highlights of the trip. This island is an active shield volcano which had an eruption as recently as 2018. Upon landing, take a walk on black lava fields in search of marine iguanas, colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs and Galápagos sea lions lounging in its lagoons. In the afternoon, anchor at Tagus Cove on Isabela and embark on a snorkeling excursion. This is a good place to look for Galapagos penguins underwater! Later, go ashore to inspect the inscriptions left by pirates and hike to nearby Darwin Lake, perched above sea level, but full of saltwater.
Wake for a wet landing on Santiago's soft, sandy Espumilla Beach. Walk the island's lagoon and beach in search of raptors and finches before suiting up for cliff-side kayaking and snorkeling. Perhaps the finest snorkel of the trip, you will be amazed by the array of colorful marine life, from angelfish and rays to sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks. After lunch, land on the dark, sandy volcanic beach of Puerto Egas. The trail follows the rocky coastline, where tide pools are home to sponges, hermit crabs, and fish including the world's only four-eyed blenny. Sea lions bask on the rocks, along with marine iguanas and shore birds. At the end of the trail, we'll visit the grottos for a chance to see a colony of Galápagos fur seals up close.
Rise to explore Santa Cruz Island's Cerro Dragón. Named after its large population of land iguanas, this area has one of the longest trails in the islands (2 miles). Spot flamingos in a salt-water lagoon before lunch and then head to Rábida. The volcanic "small red island" is located near the center of the archipelago, and its red-sand beach is home to sea lions and pups. Behind the beach is a brackish lagoon, home to migratory shorebirds, wading birds, and ducks. Two species of boobies nest along the cliffs. Snorkel with Galápagos penguins along the cliff face or swim with sea lion pups - another highlight of the trip!
Las Bachas is a beautiful, white-sand beach on the north side of Santa Cruz. Encounter sea lions on the beach, look for flamingos and great blue herons in the lagoon, and spot hatchlings' footprints leading from the nest to the water's edge (sea turtles nest here from December to April). After our last lunch onboard the yacht, disembark by Zodiac for a snorkeling excursion near North Seymour Island, known for its dense breeding colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. Keep an eye out for shorebirds, sea lions, marine iguanas, and huge land iguanas as you walk North Seymour's loop trail in the afternoon. Back on the boat tonight, enjoy a festive farewell cocktail hour and a group dinner with the captain.
After breakfast aboard the yacht, disembark and transfer to the Baltra airport for the return flight to Quito. An MT Sobek representative will greet you at Quito airport and provide assistance to your nearby hotel. You can use your hotel room as a dayroom with extended check-out and depart on a late evening flight home, or you can use your room as an overnight room and depart the next day. Lunch and dinner are on your own today. Use the complimentary shuttle to transfer to the airport in time for your outbound flight, or opt to stay on in Quito to join us for one of our extensions in Ecuador or Peru!
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MT Sobek was one of the first North American companies to bring visitors to the Galápagos Islands, with an inaugural charter for the Sierra Club in 1970.
Guests love our Galápagos adventures because we charter smaller, deluxe yachts for an exclusive experience with our own expert team of naturalist guides.
Our guides and crew work hard maximizing the amount of wildlife encounters both on land and sea, and guides will always be snorkeling with you.
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Island cruising by deluxe yacht with daily Zodiac excursions to explore hidden coves. Hike, snorkel, kayak, and swim among unique endemic wildlife.
Luxurious comfort aboard an 88-foot catamaran yacht with a full crew to cater to your every need and an upscale hotel in Quito.
Mild climate year-round. Dec-May has daytime temperatures 76-86°F and water temperatures of 70-75°F. Jun-Nov has daytime temperatures of 67-77°F and water temperatures of 65-72°F.
Arrive in Quito any time on Day 1. An MT Sobek representative will meet you and transfer you to the hotel. Most flights from the US arrive late at night.
With water temperatures from 67-74°F, most people prefer using a wetsuit. This way, you will enjoy snorkeling longer. Wetsuits rentals are available for $45-55 pp for the week. Your guide will assist you.
Western islands are newer geologically-speaking with active volcanoes and lava landscapes. Eastern islands also have volcanic origin but they are older and have more vegetation growth.
The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, with something to see and do every month. The warmer season is the best time for warmer, calmer seas and good underwater visibility. The water is choppiest in September. Late spring brings the mating season for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies!
Your experience in the islands will not change relative to the yacht you choose. Each of the yachts carry 16-guests and are deluxe motorized yachts with a dedicated crew. Each of the yachts are fully air-conditioned, come with the highest safety standards, and can boast excellent cuisine.
On a Western itinerary, you will have the chance to see flight cormorants on Isabela and Fernandina and you'll have more likely chances to see Galápagos penguins.
MT Sobek is a proud supporting travel partner of the Galapagos Conservancy. All of our highly-experienced naturalist guides are also active in conservation and work closely with the Galapagos National Park.
Yes, you can! Private charters are a great option for families and large groups. For more details, please call our Regional Galapagos Specialists at 1-888-831-7526.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"How could you ever beat the incredible flora and fauna of the Galápagos, with the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide possible...I loved everything about the trip!"
MT Sobek Guest, Galápagos Wildlife Adventure Cruise
"The entire trip was outstanding including the destination, the trip itinerary, MT Sobek's organization, the crew, and our guide. The Galápagos as a travel destination is truly majestic."
MT Sobek Guest, Galápagos Wildlife Adventure Cruise