Galapagos / Ecuador
Quito, Mindo, Galapagos Islands, San Cristobal Island, Genovesa Island, Las Bachas, Cerro Dragon, Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Punta Vicente Roca, Urbina...
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Intimate encounters, prolific wildlife, endemic subjects, and surreal landscapes... the Galapagos Islands excel in creating an evocative haven for wildlife photographers. On this eight-day photography tour to Galapagos and Ecuador, you explore the sublime sites that lie both above and below the water. The remarkable wildlife congregations are devoid of other tourists and there's no need to rush. Zicasso's tours...
Quito - Resting and Relaxing in an Ancient Colonial City
A relaxing first day, as you and your photography equipment are picked up from Quito International Airport and transferred to a boutique spa hotel close to the city. Llamas roam the grounds and provide your first wildlife photos while the distant peaks of snowy volcanoes stand effervescent in the distance. Your guide will greet you as you enjoy a traditional welcome dinner before a relaxing evening at the hotel.
Quito - Hummingbirds in the Cloud Forest
The world's fastest wings make a challenging yet highly rewarding first day of wildlife photography. Over 40 different hummingbird species flutter around the Mindo cloud forests and the lush grounds of your lodge. It's a photo that requires patience and experimentation. But like most days on this itinerary, you're not just waiting for one single chance to capture your subject. Hundreds of these hummingbirds fly around the lodge and you could even photograph one from your private balcony. An additional challenge comes on a two-hour hike through the cloud forest. Rare tropical birds occupy the high branches and shocks of exoticism accompany the easy walk. Again, conditions are challenging within the trees but there's plenty of time to play around with the camera settings. Many people are a little rusty on the first full day of a photography vacation; it's probably been a while since you could dedicate proper time to your photos. Mindo's mesmerizing subjects provide the chance to reacquaint and reenergize your skills before the Galapagos cruise starts tomorrow.
Galapagos Islands - Iconic Introductions to Galapagos Wildlife
Fly from Quito to San Cristobal where you're transferred to the luxury yacht that will be home for the next eight days. There's 360-degree vistas from the upper observation deck and luxury suites for the 16 passengers. By traveling in a small group you get near-exclusive access to world-famous wildlife sites, so there won't be any waiting for other people to depart the frame. After lunch and an orientation with the guide, you spend the afternoon at Punta Carola, a site that symbolizes the iconic appeal of the Galapagos. An easy hike leads to majestic frigatebirds, many of them with chests painted a distinctive red. Get closer. Snap. Now get even closer. You're within five meters of their mating displays, close enough to focus in on emotive details and the subtle interactions between pairs. Seabirds soar overhead, and there are some great panoramas of Kicker Rock and the Pacific as you continue the walk. A gaggle of sea lions complete the iconicity as you return to the yacht.
Galapagos Islands - The Spectacular Nesting Grounds of Genovesa
Zoom out and the panorama doesn't seem real. Thousands of red-footed boobies hop beside thousands of great frigatebirds, with the whitened wings of swallow-tailed gulls and herons providing the contrast. Genovesa is home to over a million birds, and the majority of them are completely nonchalant about human presence. So walk closer and zoom into the intricate details; seabirds beak kissing, red feet guarding white eggs, storm petrels nesting in lava tubes. Now explore the rarer sights, like the endemic short-eared owl or a Nazca booby chick pushing its sibling from the nest. An eight-day itinerary allows you to explore the fringes of the archipelago: Genovesa Island is the epitome of the splendors you encounter when you travel this far.
Return to the yacht for lunch and a few hours quiet time. Relax, snooze, look for whales from the observation deck, and share the morning's photos with other photographers. Then there are two marine activities for the afternoon. A waterproof camera casing is strongly recommended for this trip as there are daily opportunities to snorkel amongst a vibrant marine world of rare pelagic creatures. This is one of the only places in the world you can see marine giants without scuba diving; think white-tip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, green sea turtles, and hundreds of exotic fish. After a kayak along Genovese's cliffs, you land at a coral beach for some outstanding snorkeling.
Galapagos Islands - Intimate Photos of Land Iguanas and Marine Worlds
Marine iguanas wander across the white sand at Las Bachas, heading towards the shallows in search of food. These endemic creatures drink the seawater, then sneeze out the salt in a flurry of white. Behind the beach, there's more unusual creatures, like the American flamingo and grunting sea lions. You're on the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island, heading into a haven for land iguanas. Hundreds of them are found on the trail, resting among the cacti and occasionally darting out their tongues. Subtle colors roam around their scaly skin, another distinctive feature as you take their photo. Keep walking and their nesting sites can provide a very rare photo opportunity. Snorkeling is also excellent here, and you'll cruise along reefs that hide all manner of small and unusual marine life. The day's excursions to Las Bachas and Cerro Dragon are punctuated by a few hours relaxing on the boat through the afternoon. As always, all meals are included, and the stars can be hypnotic after nightfall.
Galapagos Islands - Endemic Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins
Cruise West, into the youngest of the Galapagos Islands and a day with two of its interesting species. Blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies nest on towering cliffs while sea turtles gracefully cruise through the ocean. With volcanic cones as the backdrop, these make for enchanting first pictures of the day. As you continue the dingy ride, intriguing characters waddle along the black cliffs. Galapagos penguins, barely half a meter tall and just five pounds in weight. Some are diving, others are fishing, and a flurry of black and white is resting on the cliffs. These are the only penguins in the world that are seen in the northern hemisphere and this is the only place on the planet to see them in large numbers.
Now a second endemic species, this time one that requires a fast shutter speed and excellent anticipation. Flightless cormorants jump from cliffs, creating cascades of spray as they dive-bomb into the marine deep. They've evolved to lose their flight in exchange for a denser body that can travel three times deeper than their cousins. A snorkeling excursion is another chance to capture both these surreal species, along with the green sea turtles that cruise to their cleaning station. Urbina Bay is also home to the islands' largest land iguanas, another timeless shot on this day of highlights.
Galapagos Islands - Surprising Variety Amongst Evocative Volcanic Landscapes
Staying in the western Galapagos, you have a second day to photograph the endemic wildlife that flourishes on Fernandina and Isabela. Hawks soar overhead, marine iguanas bask in the morning sun, while flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins continue their comical displays from the cliffs. Get closer to the rocks and the vivid red of Sally Lightfoot crabs provides a contrast to pelicans and the rippling lava of Punta Espinoza. As if disappointed by the lack of attention, a colony of sea lions starts shouting and hooting. These characters are often in the mood to play, either somersaulting besides snorkelers or waddling over to anyone on land. With the yacht docked in an important migratory channel, this is also the best day on the itinerary for spotting whales and dolphins.
Galapagos Islands - Red Sand, Sea Lions, and Outstanding Underwater Photos
Colors clash and ethereal tones make for a challenging day of photography on Rabida Island. The red volcanic sand has infinite hues, all the result of lava eruptions from the spatter cones that pockmark the island. Marine iguanas and sea lions rest amongst this maroon, coming out in the midday sun to provide the iconic contrast to your photos. Head along a trail behind the lagoon and you can find all nine species of Darwin's finches. These epitomize Darwin's theory, and you'll have to zoom in to capture their distinctive beaks. The afternoon is dedicated to snorkeling and two broad reefs that fringe the red island. Both offer sublime chances to photograph manta rays and the archipelago's different sharks.
Galapagos Islands - Photographing Wild Giant Tortoises
A final full day in the Galapagos and the focus is on one famous character that hasn't yet graced the itinerary. Giant tortoises cover the lush highlands of Santa Cruz and like all Galapagos sites, you can approach to near-touching distance. Step gently and the tortoises poke out their necks inquisitively. But pound along the grass and the vibrations cause heads to hide beneath iconic shells. Huge males provide shots of the largest of the world's giant tortoises, some of them weighing 550 lbs. The baby tortoises supply an adorable contrast. After lunch in the Highlands, there's a choice of afternoon activities. You could hike to Tortuga Bay and photograph the seabirds and iguanas that cover lava rocks. Or opt for some free time in Puerto Ayora, where harbor-front scenes accompany shopping for souvenirs.
Otavalo - Colorful Market Scenes
Fly out of the Galapagos and the journey continues with two very relaxed days in the Andean highlands. Snow-capped peaks are the backdrop and villages tumble down the steep slopes, further famous photos to take away from this trip. After the flight from San Cristobal, you'll be picked up and transferred to Otavalo and an atmospheric afternoon at Ecuador's most famous market. Locals from dozens of surrounding villages sell their artisanal wares here, bathing the colonial town in kaleidoscopic color. Their creased faces and unique jewelry make for excellent portraits while the market's labyrinth of fruit stalls and colorful wool provide intriguing snapshots. This is the longest operating commercial site in South America, and it's full of great photo opportunities.
For these final nights, you're staying in a 400-year old hacienda that has majestic views onto the Andes. This has been the opulent weekend getaway for Quito's elite for many centuries, and there's a sense of reliving an ancient opulence. Serenity is imbued throughout, meaning there's a quiet place to scroll through the camera roll and pick out your favorite photos from the trip. It's also an opportunity to savor another side of Ecuador, one that switches the raw wildness of the Galapagos for the subtle charms of the highlands. Antique furniture fills the rooms while photogenic wooden beams roam through much of the hacienda. There's even the odd llama wandering around on the slopes below. Dinner is served in the hacienda's courtyard and throughout your stay.
Otavalo - The Villages of the Andean Highlands
Rustic villages are scattered around Otavalo, each of them with a famous specialty. Admire weavers using 200-year old machines as they intricately create blankets. Wander through villages of customized leather, hear the tones of traditional musicians, and explore the wood carving tradition of another village. Each historic destination is centered around a quaint square, complete with church and town hall. Artisans are tucked into colorful townhouses, and there's a real sense of stepping back in time. The morning is dedicated to these urban photos before you take a short hike that rewards with astonishing views of Otavalo's surrounding volcanoes. Bring the wide-angle lens as you'll have uninterrupted panoramas of the Andean slopes.
Otavalo - Departure
A tranquil morning as you rest at the hacienda and put together the photographic memories of your trip. Fresh coffee fumes arrive from the courtyard while the llamas occasionally stop and stare as they graze their way past. In the early afternoon, you'll be transferred back to Quito and the international airport for your return flight.
- Spend eight days exploring all regions of the Galapagos archipelago on a custom photography cruise
- Savor intimate moments with the islands' iconic wildlife and photograph everything from seabird mating displays to camouflaged rays
- Snorkel in small groups to enjoy near-exclusive access to the Galapagos's vibrant marine world, where sharks, rays, and sea turtles swim before your camera
- Explore the cloud forest of Mindo and photo one of nature's most challenging yet rewarding subjects: hummingbirds
- Experiment with the settings as you explore some of the planet's most intriguing landscapes, like red beaches filled with sea lions and evocative lava cones
- Enjoy incredible access to rare and endemic species like the giant tortoise, marine iguana, and flightless cormorant
- Complete the tour with two nights in the Andean highlands, where colorful markets, indigenous people, and historic haciendas round off the photography experience
- Share experiences and knowledge with other wildlife photographers and hone your skills at some extremely unique destinations
Wildlife photography tours should always offer new and interesting subjects, intimate encounters, plus surreal landscapes that challenge and reward your skills. The Galapagos Islands excel on all these promises, taking you into a realm of prolific wildlife and mystical backdrops. On these isolated volcanic pinnacles, you're close enough to hear the delicate interaction between mating seabirds. You're close enough to reach out and touch giant endemic reptiles. And you're close enough to take your time and truly savor the photographic challenge. There's no waiting for tourists to depart the frame as this custom photography tour to Galapagos and Ecuador takes you in a small group to the iconic locations on the islands. At each wildlife site, you have near-exclusive access to its prolific wildlife, whether that's a mass seabird breeding ground or magical marine realm.
Your tailored itinerary is centered around an eight-day yacht cruise through the Galapagos Islands. This length of time enables you to visit the fringes of the archipelago and its rarest sights, like the red-footed boobies of Genovesa as well as the penguins and flightless cormorants of Fernandina. Panoramas of the islands come from the upper sundeck while the well-appointed ensuite cabins ensure you're fresh for each early-morning of wildlife photography. Snorkeling excursions are a huge part of the Galapagos experience, and you'll be in the water every day, capturing pelagic creatures like rays and reef sharks. Dolphins and whales are also regularly encountered so always have the camera to hand. Over the eight days, you tick off all the iconic Galapagos creatures, culminating with thousands of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island.
The Galapagos provides a fresh alternative to other popular wildlife photography destinations. There's no guessing about what you will see. Guides already know exactly where these rare species will be found. There's also no need to fumble and rush your first glimpse of an animal; while the range of most species is small, they inhabit the Galapagos in their tens of thousands. Patience isn't as compulsory as many other wildlife destinations. And neither is a gargantuan zoom lens. You're guaranteed to get within just a few meters of almost all the archipelago's famous characters. Our Galapagos Islands tour companies and agents ensure that you get the closest and most exclusive peek at the endemic wildlife.
On either side of the luxury cruise, there are two very different subjects to photograph. Spend a day with hummingbirds in the Mindo cloud forest, attempting to capture the rapid wings of a dozen different species. Then complete the trip in the Andes, where colorful markets and quiet traditional villages fill another camera roll. A historic hacienda offers pristine views of the mountains and a gentle two-night base for scrolling through and selecting the best photos from this 12-day trip.
$8,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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