Trip Number: 13595A
Staff: Kate Froman
- Explore one of the world’s premier wildlife destinations
- Stay at inhabited islands and interact with Galapagos residents
- Visit Colonial Quito (a World Heritage site) and Guayaquil
- All meals, lodging, and on-trip transportation, including in-country
- All admissions, entry fees, and gratuities
- Galapagos-certified naturalist guide in the islands
Photo: Ellen Stein
"The natural history of these islands is eminently curious," wrote
Charles Darwin of the Galápagos.
The Galapagos ("the Enchanted Isles") is a world-class destination!
This extremely diverse ecosystem, from lush rainforests, to deserts, to volcanic
lava flows, provides a haven for wildlife of all kinds. In fact, this treasure
chest has a full 50 percent of their species found nowhere else on earth. And
the magic is: they are approachable by humans. Animals do not run off and birds
do not fly away, due to their isolation from natural predators. Especially unusual
is the three-foot-long vegetarian marine iguana, the only known sea-feeding
lizard on earth. The Galapagos tortoise grows to six feet in length, weighs
up to 600 pounds, and lives up to 150 years! The archipelago also boasts colorful
Sally Lightfoot Crabs, sea lions, land iguanas, and lava lizards. A prolific
bird population includes frigate birds, penguins, boobies, tropic birds, mocking
birds, doves, albatross, hawks, gulls, cormorants, herons, warblers, flamingos
and the world-famous Darwin finches.
Darwin, of course, was the archipelago's most famous visitor. He had sufficient
material to support more than a quarter century of research. When he published
the classic "The Origin of Species" it shook the foundations of biological
thought and led to profound changes in man's philosophy of nature. We will visit
the Darwin Research Center on the island of Santa Cruz, where we will be staying
a few days. Darwin wasn’t the only one to find inspiration in the Galapagos.
During the whaling era, Herman Melville made landfall here, and he perpetuated
the sailor’s nickname: "The Enchanted Isles." The swirling fogs
that surround the islands at certain times of the year give rise to the legend
that these were floating islands.
We will be visiting both inhabited and uninhabited islands in the Galapagos.
By taking "fast boats" between islands, we will have a chance to spot
sea life, such as sea birds, dolphins, sea turtles, rays, sea lions -- maybe
even a whale. We will even have the opportunity to snorkel to get a close look
at the marine life. Fast boats are power boats, seating 18-20 people with a
covering to protect passengers from the sun and splashes from the water. On
land, we will observe the sere landscape with its fascinating geologic features,
walk through a lava tunnel, stroll in tropical cloud forests, visit an active
volcano, view the world’s second largest caldera, do some hiking and birding,
or snorkel and loll around at the beach. Our days will be filled with activity,
but you'll also have the freedom to just relax. An English-speaking, certified
Galapagos naturalist will accompany us and help us understand the amazing relationships
between plants, animals, people, and their environment.
English-speaking naturalist guides will also accompany us on our visits to
Quito (a World Heritage site) and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and
sea port. Guayaquil was named by the United Nations a few years ago as the most
improved city in the world. After a tour of colonial Quito, we will visit "Mitad
del Mundo" -- The Middle of the World -- and stand on the equator! Attending
Hacchigua (cultural dances) and visiting the world’s largest open-air
market at Otovalo will provide us an all-inclusive Ecuadorian experience.
Please note: This trip starts and ends in different cities.
Photo: Ellen Stein
Day 1: Arrive at Guayaquil, Ecuador’s major seaport.
Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to the hotel to relax and get
a good night’s sleep. As most flights arrive late in the day, we will
not meet as a group this evening.
Day 2: At breakfast we will get acquainted and have a short
orientation meeting. Then we will begin our adventure with a tour of Guayaquil
and a visit to a cocoa plantation. After a stroll on the Malecon River Walk,
we will enjoy our welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 3: Today we are off to the Galapagos Islands! We arrive
at Baltra airport and will meet our naturalist guide. We will take the ferry
to Santa Cruz Island, then a short bus ride to the Highlands for lunch. At Rancho
Primicias we will look for giant tortoises in the wild. We will arrive at our
hotel in the late afternoon.
Day 4: We will board the Espanola yacht for an all-day trip
to Santa Fe Island where we will have our first snorkel experience in the teeming,
Day 5: In the morning we will visit the Charles Darwin Research
Station with its collection of giant tortoises from all the islands. We will
learn what scientists from around the world, together with the Galapagos National
Park and the Marine Reserve, are doing to keep "The Enchanted Isles"
pristine and ecologically viable. In the afternoon we will transfer on a speed
boat from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Villamil on Isabella Island.
We will visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Research Station to see giant turtles and the
lagoon where flamingos strut and marine iguanas pose.
Day 6: We will visit two of Isabella’s six volcanoes.
At Volcan Sierra Negra we will view the world’s second largest caldera.
On Volcan Chico we will feel the volcanic activity as we observe fumaroles.
After hiking and a picnic lunch we will return to our ocean front hotel to swim,
snorkel or relax at the beach.
Day 7: We will explore the tunnels at Cabo Rosa. We will snorkel
here to observe the diverse marine life. This is a good spot to look for the
flightless cormorant, sea lions, sea turtles, and penguins!
Photo: Ellen Stein
Day 8: We will transfer from Isabella Island to Santa Cruz
Island in the morning, then spend the afternoon at Tortuga Bay Beach, where
we can relax and enjoy one of the most stunning expanses of white beach in the
Galapagos -- home to prehistoric-looking marine iguanas, blue footed boobies
Day 9: We will spend the day on Floreana Island, where we
will see the pirate caves, visit a tortoise reserve, and have our last snorkel
Day 10: After breakfast we must say farewell to our islands
and transfer to Baltra airport and fly to Quito. It will be a busy afternoon
checking into our hotel, having an early dinner and going to an evening performance
of the Jaccigua Ballet. This is an exuberant, colorful, and moving presentation
of Ecuadorian folk dances with lovely costumes and live music.
Day 11: Today we will have a tour of colonial Quito, the capital
of Ecuador and a World Heritage site. Then, at "Mitad del Mundo" we
will stand on the equator and visit the Ethnographic Museum. Dinner will be
at a local restaurant in Quito.
Day 12: We will travel the Pan American Highway to the world’s
largest open-air market at Otovalo. In addition to having the opportunity to
purchase local and hand-crafted goods at incredibly low prices, it will be a
cultural experience because the people of Otovalo dress in their native dress
and men do not cut their hair. The market is extremely colorful and photogenic!
In the evening, we will have a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Typically,
local musicians serenade us.
Day 13: We bid goodbye to this wonderfully diverse country
and its people, at least for now. Transportation to the Quito airport is provided.
Soon, we will to return to the "real world" and our normal lives --
much richer than when we arrived.
Occasionally, changes may occur in the trip -- either in advance or during
the trip. Please be aware that we will make every attempt to stay within this
itinerary. However, if weather, equipment, Galapagos National Park Services
or any other condition, circumstance or situation causes a change, please be
flexible and respect the decision of the leader. The safety of the group is
our number one concern. While wildlife on the Galapagos Islands is tremendous,
we cannot guarantee that you will see all species listed as examples.
You need to arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador on or before day one. Our trip ends
in Quito, Ecuador. Many airlines fly to both cities and allow "open jaw"
excursions into one city and out of another. Contact the leader before making
your final arrangements. The flight to and from the Galapagos Islands is included
in the trip price. Tickets for this flight will be issued to you at the airport
when you leave for the islands. Your passport must be valid for at least seven
months from the date of your entry into Ecuador. If you don't have a passport,
apply for one as soon as possible.
Accommodations and Food
Although this is not a luxury trip, we will stay in charming, locally owned
modern hotels. Rooms are double-occupancy with private bath; if you come alone
we'll arrange for a roommate of the same sex. We travel by comfortable busses
and fast boats. The food will be delicious -- a mix of local and continental
dishes, with a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians are welcome.
All meals and lodgings are provided. Breakfast on day 2 will be the first meal
of the trip. Breakfast on day 13 will be the last meal included in the trip
price. If you chose to have any meals at different restaurants, that cost will
not be covered.
Photo: Ellen Stein
This is a moderate trip and can be undertaken by anyone in good health and
If you have health or walking concerns, here is more information that will assist
you in evaluating this trip. The expression "OSHA hasn't been here"
applies. As you know, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates
safety standards in America. There is no OSHA in Ecuador. Even a walk in a progressive,
busy city like Quito can be an adventure in itself. The Quito streets are uneven
and hilly. You will find sidewalks with unmarked holes, exposed wires and pipes
that often will trip residents as well as visitors. Steep stairs may not have
hand rails. This is not unusual in foreign countries.
For the Galapagos Islands, it is common to find the trails uneven, hilly, and
rocky. Some are on loose lava. Even visits to the Charles Darwin Research Station
will require walking on dirt trails and boardwalk.
You must have the ability and agility to handle transporting your own luggage
to and from buses, airports, and boats. Hopefully, this is incentive to pack
light! You will need to maneuver sufficiently to board boats, ranging from smaller
shuttle boats and water taxis to larger boats. We will go to shore in pangas
(rubber boats) and land where there are no docks. We get out of the pangas in
a few inches of water and walk to the beach.
You must be reasonably steady and sure-footed enough to negotiate the various
transitions and walks this trip uses to experience this unique environment.
Walks can range from a few miles to 5-6 miles on uneven terrain and rocky surfaces.
While we will stop often to view wildlife, you will need to have a walking pace
that's steady enough to keep up with the group.
Although we will be traveling just at the beginning of the dry season, rain
can fall at any time and will not restrict our movements or our enjoyment of
the Islands. It is always a good idea to carry rain gear and an umbrella. It
will not be cold except in Quito. Quito is one of those places (because it is
at high elevation, but near the equator), where if you walk in the sun it is
warm, but in the shade it is cool. At night, it can be cool and you will need
a sweater or jacket. The average land temperature on the islands will be about
70-80 degrees. Quito, at 9,400 feet of elevation, will have cooler temperatures,
and light showers are normal. The sea water temperature remains a fairly constant
The minimum age for this trip is 12.
Equipment and Clothing
No special equipment is needed. However, binoculars and a camera are highly
recommended. We do have opportunities for snorkeling, and rental gear (mask,
fins, wet suit & snorkel) is available for approximately $50, payable in
cash only. To assure the best fit, you should consider bringing your own mask.
A wet suit will help with comfort and warmth while snorkeling. General, casual
clothing for warm-weather hiking and boating between the islands is the recommended
dress. Your leader will provide a comprehensive packing list well in advance
of the trip.
The leader will carry a first-aid kit for emergency use. You should provide
your own personal first-aid kit for minor needs such as bandages, moleskin,
insect repellent, sunscreen, etc. You should consult your physician for recommended
- Moore, Yui DeRoy, Galapagos Islands Lost in Time. Penguin Books.
- Brower, K., Galapagos: The Flow of Wildness. Sierra Club/Ballantine
- Darwin, Charles, The Voyage of the Beagle. Doubleday Books.
- Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
- Harris, M., Field Guide to the Birds of Galapagos. Taplinger Books.
- Schichor, Michael, Michael's Guide to Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela.
Inbal Travel Ltd.
- Rachowiecki, Rob, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: A Travel Survival
Kit. Lonely Planet Books.
- Jackson, Michael H., Galapagos: A Natural History Guide. This is
the best general guide to the history, geology, and plant and animal life
of the islands.
- Melville, Herman. The Piazza Tales. Darwin wasn't the only one
to find inspiration in the Galápagos. During the whaling era, Herman
Melville made landfall here, and he perpetuated the sailor's nickname: Los
Encantadas or "the Enchanted Islands." Melville delivers a metaphor-rich,
almost hallucinatory account of the archipelago's history, filled with misstatements,
speculation, and poetry.
The Sierra Club is an environmental organization concerned about conservation
and sustainability, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers,
aided by a salaried staff, with grassroots involvement. On this trip, we'll
have the opportunity to see the effects of real conservation in a country committed
to protecting, rather than exploiting, its natural resources. We will learn
about Ecuadorian conservation issues, and how those issues are related to environmental
concerns in our own neighborhood, region, and nation.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Kate has led three trips to the Galapagos and has shared the water with sea lions, penguins, and sea turtles. When on land she hikes and skis and leads trips in Bhutan and Nepal. At home she is converting her garden to native plants. In her spare time she knits, makes quilts and reads tales of adventure. And she makes great pesto.
If you have questions, or just want to chat about the Galapagos, please feel free to contact her.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips