Galapagos Islands Wildlife Tour & Scuba Diving: Tortoises, Sea Lions & Seabirds

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Total Trip:

11 Days
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Countries Visited:

Galapagos / Ecuador
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Places Visited:

Quito, La Compania, Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, North Seymour Island, Manzanillo, Santa Fe Island, Bartolome Island, Mosquera Islet
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Galapagos beauty dances above and below the water. Hammerhead sharks swarm beside colorful reef walls while strange seabirds mate on volcanic cliffs. Eagle rays and sea turtles cruise through dive sites while giant tortoises and penguins waddle across the islands. Combining four days of diving with five days of island excursions, this Galapagos Islands wildlife tour with scuba diving blends the best of the two worlds, offering a truly eclectic and authentic immersion in the remarkable wildlife

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Day 1

Overnight in the Old City

Galapagos flights leave in the morning meaning an overnight in Quito is a necessity before landing in the Galapagos. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Get transferred to the city and your hotel is located within minutes of the planet's first ever World Heritage Site. Overcome any travel fatigue by relaxing on 16th-century squares and marveling at the golden interior of La Compania. An ambient street of al fresco terraces is found beneath soft lights while old palaces have been converted into courtyards of elegant dining options. With this Galapagos vacation tour, the first charming overnight is an excellent opportunity to remember another side of Ecuador.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Accommodation

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Day 2

Discovering the Strange Birds of North Seymour Island

Wander across North Seymour and you find a flurry of scarlet, magnificent frigates inflating their pouches in the search for a mate. Blue-footed boobies hop from foot to foot, their dance another strange appeal for females. Nazca boobies have already mated, and their fluffy white chicks stand flightless and endearing in their nests. North Seymour offers a stunning proximity to the mating and breeding of these three unusual birds. It's the perfect introduction to the inimitable world of the islands. After the domestic flight from Quito, you'll be picked up by yacht and enjoy lunch on board as you cruise towards the island. A walking trail takes you to the breeding site, and these birds can be seen mating just a few meters away. Following the walk, there's an excellent opportunity to snorkel and get a first glimpse of what's below the water, with sea lions regularly swimming with snorkelers.

From here you cruise to Santa Cruz Island and your hotel base for the next nine nights. Santa Cruz is ideally situated at the center of the archipelago, offering easy access to famous sites above and below the water. Your hotel stands on the coast, overlooking the dive-bombing antics of seabirds and surrounded by the gentle tweets of endemic Galapagos birds. An easy walk takes you to the beach, and sea kayaks can be used to paddle through the bay. Throughout the trip, all meals are included. Most will be served at the hotel's excellent restaurant, the sumptuous menu accompanied by dazzling panoramas of the archipelago. And there's a wonderful sense of privacy and exclusivity as you enjoy the broad grounds of the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

An Introduction to the Underwater World at Mosquera Islet

The first day of diving and there's a wonderful sense of anticipation. For Galapagos standards, Mosquera Islet is an easy dive site and a good chance to check your skills in the water for the week ahead. And it's swarming with a phenomenal variety of marine life. As you descend into small caves, you find groups of white-tip reef sharks clustering together, perfectly still on the bottom then darting off in multiple directions. Get closer and a series of nudibranchs shimmer around the periphery, their hypnotic colors drawing you in until a hammerhead swims past. Schools of grunts and other large fish are always spotted here as are the unusual Galapagos garden eels. Then there're manta rays and eagle rays as you float on the current. You'll enjoy two dives here, marveling at the contrast between diminutive sea life and gigantic sea creature. Both dives are from the boat at depths from 6 - 30 meters dependent on your qualification. Lunch is included, and you return to the hotel around mid-afternoon.

What's Included:

included

Activity

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Schools of Hammerheads Sharks as you Dive Gordon Rocks

Eagle rays glide past as you descend at Gordon Rocks, their elegant cruising contrasted with the strange features of cardinal fish and jacks. There are barracudas, wrasse, Galapagos sharks, marbled rays, and a stunning assortment of endemic fish. But that's not why you're diving Gordon Rocks. For all the diverse wonder beneath the surface, it's hammerhead sharks that are at the center of this diving experience. Schools circle the site, often 30 or 40 hammerheads swimming together. They're not distant silhouettes; these hammerheads are inquisitive, and you'll enjoy lots of close-up encounters with these iconic characters. It's a dive experience that's difficult to replicate anywhere else on the planet.

The first dive takes you cruising along the sandy bottom beside the reef with a strong current taking you across the underwater pinnacle. Then the second dive brings more intimate encounters with the hammerheads. While this is perhaps the most revered and popular dive site in the Galapagos, strict national park regulations ensure that it's never overcrowded, and other groups don't distract from the experience. Return to the hotel by a mix of boat and road for another languid afternoon and evening exploring the hotel's mystical surroundings.

What's Included:

included

Activity

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

The Giant Tortoises of Santa Cruz

Soar into the Santa Cruz Highlands and there's another giant-shelled creature to admire. Hundreds of giant tortoises slowly graze on a fertile landscape, blades of grass hanging from their curious mouths. Sometimes they hide, necks retreating inside shells as they sense danger. But approach these giants gently and there's something bewitching about watching them slowly march across the green. Mockingbirds and Darwin's finches tweet from elevated branches while some giant tortoises break the harmony with their slow, ponderous fights for a mate. One bites the other's shell, and the two compete at an indelibly slow pace. Return to the hotel for lunch and the afternoon is at your leisure. The small town of Puerto Ayora is within walking distance and an opportunity to see the urban side of the archipelago. Also just a short walk away is the Charles Darwin Research Station and its tortoise breeding station. Ten different species can be seen, each with a different shaped shell dependent on the island it called home.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Sea Lions and Iguanas on Santa Fe Island

Just like this itinerary, some famous Galapagos species split their time between land and water. Sea lions join you as you kayak in a calm bay beside Santa Fe Island, individuals sporadically poking out their heads beside your paddle. Disembark on the beach and there's a whole colony of them basking on the sand. Be careful not to get too close; a big bossy male rules over this beach and doesn't like anyone interrupting his females. A walking trail rolls across the island and within minutes you're engulfed by the island's two bizarre sites. Prickly pear cactuses rise from the rugged ground, and perched patiently below are endemic Santa Fe Iguanas, waiting for days on end for a piece of fruit to finally fall. Enjoy the spectacle and then a chance to snorkel in the bay with the sea lions, before returning to the yacht to Santa Cruz and the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Diving Daphne Minor and Daphne Major

You're back in the water this morning, a drift dive taking you along the remnants of a US World War II machinery and bombshells. Galapagos black coral is endemic to this site while large tuna and sea turtles regularly make an appearance. After this dive of Daphne Major, you cross to Daphne Minor, another volcanic pinnacle that's created a diverse marine world. Cruise along the underwater remains of lava flows to a turtle cleaning station that's also visited by hammerhead sharks and manta rays. The landscape meanders, from slopes and walls to a cave of moray eels hiding beneath rocks. It's an easy day of diving and two great sites that combine volcanic topography with the iconic finds of the Galapagos. Back at the hotel you have another relaxing afternoon, with a beautiful beach within easy walking distance. Just be careful to look out for iguanas on the trail.

What's Included:

included

Activity

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

A Remarkable Day Diving the Realm of Cousin Rocks

Completing the Galapagos diving is another of the world's most impressive sites. A reef wall drops into the abyss and out of the darkness comes a beguiling succession of silhouettes; reef sharks, hammerheads, sea lions returning from a dive, green sea turtles who've been feeding on the coral wall. Now giant mantas, a recognizable shape cruising the deep blue below. Sea turtles rise and feed above your head while sea lions play around with your bubbles. And in all this surrounding beauty it's easy to miss the tiny sea horses and strange octopi that float along the reef. Dive one is deep, taking you to 30 meters before gradually ascending across a rock-plate slopes. Then dive two is shallower but still wonderful for these iconic sightings. Note that this is an advanced dive site that requires excellent buoyancy control. This day's diving may be changed to another open-water site for those without advanced certification, and at least 30 logged dives.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast

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Day 9

White Beaches and Peculiar Birds at Divine Bay

Swells of volcanic reef blur into a painting of mangrove trees at Divine Bay. Herons perch in the trees while noddy terns nest in the burrows of the cliffs. Sea turtle graze with shells above the water, picking from a mangle of seaweed. And when you look down into lava crevices the distinctive white tips of reef sharks are spotted circling. Divine Bay epitomizes how the islands can be explored from multiple angles. Wander the cliffs and into the evergreen mangroves to view strange birds, including some blue-footed boobies. Kayak in the bay for encounters with pelagics rarely found so close to shore. Lounge on a beautiful beach and inspect the nesting sites of marine iguanas close to the sand. Then have a snorkel in the shallows, another chance to encounter the giants of the Galapagos underwater world. You'll return to the hotel for lunch and the afternoon is at your leisure.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 10

Penguins and Iconic Panoramas on Bartolome Island

Cruise alongside the cliffs of Bartolome Island and a tiny bird holds you enchanted. Galapagos penguins, a few dozen of them, waddle precariously along the cliffs. They're remarkably small, weighing just 2.5 kgs and almost comical as they try to avoid falling on black lava tubes. Put on the mask and jump into the water. One minute the penguins are there, but then they disappear in a flurry of black and white, off on their sporadic fishing missions. Come out of the water and a walking trail takes you to the summit of the island, with lava tunnels and tubes spidering out in all directions. Shades of red mingle on the surface, clear indicators of the island's volcanic uprising. Keep ascending and the panorama is astonishing, craters and cones separated by white beaches and deep red lava tunnels. Return to the hotel for a final evening of coastal views and seabirds, the antics of Galapagos favorites accompanying you through the last three-course dinner.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 11

Departure

Even when you're leaving the Galapagos, it's important to watch where you step. Just like the nesting birds and land iguanas on the hotel's walking routes, the route to the airport is often dotted with sea lions and marine iguanas. So go slowly, take some final unforgettable photographs, and bid farewell to the unusual slumbering characters. You'll be transferred to the north of Santa Cruz where a five-minute boat journey takes you to Baltra Island and the airport. The domestic flight lands in Quito around mid-afternoon where you have a couple of hours to wait before your international departure.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Spend four days diving the Galapagos, including two dives at the famous sites of Gordon Rocks and Cousin Rocks
  • Enjoy five-day excursions to some of the iconic land sites of the archipelago, like North Seymour and Bartolome Islands
  • Sunbathe beside sea lion colonies on remote white-sand beaches
  • Visit the nesting sites of unusual seabirds and admire their mating displays, like the inflated scarlet chests of the magnificent frigate
  • Wander through landscapes of lava flows and gaze into the depths of extinct volcanic craters
  • Discover a marine world that includes schools of hammerhead sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, sea turtles, barracuda, and many different eels
  • Admire endemic species both above and below the surface, like strange cardinal fish and weird marine iguanas
  • Base yourself in one of the archipelago's finest hotels just steps away from eclectic wildlife and a glorious beach
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Detailed Description

The Galapagos archipelago is scarcely believable, both above and below the water. Massive schools of hammerhead sharks circle above the strange colors of endemic fish. Blue-footed boobies dance to attract a mate, hopping from foot to foot to display their azure appendages. Manta rays and Galapagos sharks cruise across dive sites while prehistoric reptiles hang out on walking trails. Each island and dive site is unique, formed from its nutrient-rich volcanic soil and the convergence of three distinct ocean currents. Nothing is at it seems and is unlike anything you'll find anywhere else on the planet. Consider reading for yourself other travelers' breathtaking accounts in their Galapagos Islands tour reviews.

This encompassing Galapagos Islands wildlife tour with scuba diving mixes the very best of the archipelago's sites, combining four days of scuba diving with five days of land-based excursions. It's an itinerary for certified divers who wish to discover the complete Galapagos world, rather than merely the sites beneath the water. Because while sea turtles and giant tortoises make for wonderful memories, the archipelago's diversity means that seeing them both is far more emblematic. On the land-based excursions, there's also multiple opportunities to kayak and snorkel, helping bring the delights of sea lions and penguins to your marine exploration. With a luxury Santa Cruz hotel as your base, the whole of the Central Galapagos is explored. And you don't need to go far. Iconic seabirds, strange iguanas, boisterous sea lions, and glorious beaches are within a few steps of the hotel.

You'll make two dives at each of four iconic dive sites. Mosquera Islet offers an eclectic introduction to the marine world while Daphne Minor brings a haven of endemic species and unusual characters. At Cousin Rocks, you'll enjoy the juxtaposition of macro life in the coral covered rocks and giant creatures soaring the depths. Then Gordon Rocks provides the famed sightings of hammerhead schools and huge rays. But this is the Galapagos, so regular encounters with the big sharks and rays is a consistent part of the itinerary. Think of barracuda schools, giant sea turtles, tiger snake eels, eagle rays, sting rays, white-tipped reef sharks, moray eels, and the abundance of hammerheads as you dive the famous sites of the Central Galapagos.

Back on land, daily excursions by yacht and road explore the archipelago's idiosyncrasy. North Seymour is a remarkable breeding ground for boobies and two frigate species. Bartolome is all about walking on a Mars-like terrain and marveling at the relics of volcanic history. Giant tortoises cover the Santa Cruz highlands while endemic reptiles and sea lions greet you at the beach of Santa Fe Island. And just like the eclectic dive sites, strict national park regulations ensure that these sites are free of other tourists. Visits are scheduled so only one group at a time is exploring the site, meaning no diver bubbles interrupting your view and no extra footsteps spoiling the mating scenes of seabirds. Throughout the whole itinerary, you get an exclusive private viewing of the Galapagos world.

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Starting Price

$8245 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is  customizable for your   private travel.

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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip

The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a  custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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