This Day Tour is offered on Wednesdays* and Fridays.*
*Please note: This blog will examine the Wednesdays schedule of this Day Tour. Approximate travel times and schedules stay roughly the same for both days, the only difference being that Wednesday schedules return directly to Puerto Ayora (arrival time approx. 4:20 p.m.) while Friday schedules return to Itabaca Channel, followed by a bus transfer to Puerto Ayora (arrival time approx. 4:00 p.m.).
There are many different ways one can go about visiting the Galapagos Islands, and two of the biggest ways are aboard a Galapagos cruise that sails on designated itineraries or a land-based approach that allows you to stay a hotel on the islands and create your own agenda. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is one such example of the latter option, offering an excellent choice for those who prefer to stay on land for the majority their time in the Galapagos while still being able to craft their day as they see fit.
Our hotel is all about giving our guests access to adventurous and fulfilling activities that allow them to make the most of their time in this once-in-a-lifetime destination. One such activity that we are proud to offer is the Daily Tour aboard our Sea Lion Yacht, which takes our guests to exciting, nearby islands that are part of the Galapagos National Park. In this blog, we invite you to along for one such journey as we examine what a Sea Lion Yacht Day Tour of South Plaza Island is like.
First stop: Punta Carrión!
Rise and shine for an exciting day of exploration! Breakfast will be ready at 6:30 a.m., providing you with ample time to enjoy a delicious breakfastbuffet before departing from the hotel. After you’ve eaten, grab all your essentials (camera, hat, sunscreen, etc.) and get ready to head out from the hotel at approximately 8:15 a.m.! It’s around that time we’ll begin heading to the town of Puerto Ayora, which is where we’ll hop aboard a transfer bus that will take us on a 45-minute journey up and over the island of Santa Cruz to the Itabaca Channel. Once at the Channel, we will board the Sea Lion Yacht.
From the Itabaca Channel we’ll begin heading to our first stop along the way (Punta Carrion), with a sailing time of approximately 15 minutes. Once we arrive at Punta Carrion at around 10:10 a.m., we’ll put on our snorkeling gear and jump in the water to begin our snorkeling activity that will last a little under an hour. Punta Carrion is a small bay that allows you to see a variety of fish, rays, and possibly even whitetip reef sharks!
South Plaza Island Awaits!
Following that, we’ll get back on board the Sea Lion Yacht and continue on our way to South Plaza, arriving at approximately 12:05 p.m. Once at South Plaza, we’ll disembark from the Sea Lion Yacht and take a small dinghy (panga) boat to the edge of South Plaza, where we’ll performa Dry Landing to disembark from the panga. Once we’re on South Plaza Island, we’ll begin our walking excursion.
South Plaza is the southern half of two small crescent-shaped islands, both of which lie just a few hundred meters off the eastern coast of Santa Cruz Island. The northern island (aptly named North Plaza) is used for scientific purposes only. South Plaza is one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, but don’t let size fool you – when it comes to flora and fauna, it is one of the richest islands in the archipelago. South Plaza is 426 feet (130 meters) long and is the result of an uplift of the oceanic floor, giving it a slanted tabletop quality.
Our walking excursion here makes for a colorful sight, too! The turquoise waters of the channel between both islands contrast brilliantly with the black lava rocks that frame their shorelines, these of which have been carpeted with green seaweed and are often peppered with fluorescent-orange Sally Lightfoot crabs. Further up the shore on South Plaza, a carpet of scarlet-colored sesuvium succulents serve as the groundcover for a grove of verdant, prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-gray land iguanas sit and crawl around under these cacti, waiting ever so patiently for their pears to drop and feast on them.
The trail we’ll take gradually heads up the slope of the island, leading us to the cliffs that overlook the ocean to the south, where swallow-tailed gulls nest. Red-billed tropicbirds, Nazca, and blue-footed boobies are also often found here, lazily gliding along the wind currents. This overlook also serves as a great place to occasionally spot large marine life, such as manta rays.
As we walk along the trail that runs parallel to the edge of the cliffs, we’ll gradually begin to hear the sound of the surf as it rushes into and pounds an inlet over on the western corner of the island. It is at this inlet that we’ll come upon a colony of bachelor sea lions that have made this place their home. Fun fact: the unique, reflective sheen found on many of the rocks throughout South Plaza are the result of sea lions having rubbed against them over the course of time, polishing them with the oils of their fur.
At South Plaza, you’ll most likely be able to check off up to 6 of our BIG15 list of iconic species in the Galapagos.
At the end of the walking excursion, we’ll head back to the Sea Lion Yacht at around 2:00 p.m., where we’ll get to enjoy lunch as we admire the island we just visited from afar. At 2:40 p.m., we’ll begin heading back to the Puerto Ayora docks, a journey that will take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes and see us arriving there at around 4:20 p.m. Once there, we’ll head back to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Hours spent at South Plaza: approx. 12:00 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.
Mondays:* Las Bachas, followed by North Seymour |Sundays*: North Seymour, followed by Las Bachas*
*Please note: This blog will examine theSunday schedule of this Day Tour. Approximate travel times and schedules stay roughly the same for both days, albeit with the order switched.
The Galapagos Islands can be visited in many ways, be it aboard an amazing Galapagos cruise that follows well-thought-out itineraries or through a land-based option. The latter option, such as the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, is the perfect choice for those prone to sea-sickness or who wish to have the freedom to manage their time as they see fit.
Our hotel makes it a point to provide our guests with access to activities that truly make this destination a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. A perfect example of this is found in the Daily Tour Options we offer aboard our Sea Lion Yacht, which takes our guests on day tours to fantastic, nearby islands. In this blog, we invite you to come along for the journey as we examine what a Day Tour of North Seymour and Las Bachas Beach is like.
First Stop: North Seymour Island
Rise and shine for an exciting day of exploration! At 6:30 a.m., a delicious breakfastbuffet will be ready for you to enjoy. After you’ve eaten, grab your camera, hat, and sunscreen and be prepared to head out from the hotel at approximately 7:45 a.m.! From the hotel, we’ll head to the town of Puerto Ayora, where we’ll hop aboard a transfer bus that will then take us on a relaxing 45-minute journey up and over the island of Santa Cruz to the Itabaca Channel, where we will board the Sea Lion Yacht.
From the Itabaca Channel to North Seymour, our sailing time is approximately 45 minutes. We will arrive at the small yet gorgeous island of North Seymour at around 10:00 a.m., where we will hop aboard our panga (dinghy) to perform a Dry Landing and disembark.
As we begin our hiking excursion of the island, you will immediately notice that there is a difference between North Seymour and its neighboring big sister – Santa Cruz. The second one displays an uneven terrain, rolling hills, and highlands that are home to a very different kind of vegetation compared to that which grows by the coast. On the other hand, North Seymour resembles a relatively flat slab of terrain! It’s actually the result of underwater uplift rather than volcanic activity. That’s right – North Seymour was actually once ocean floor! There is no known reason for how or why this formation came to be, but it nevertheless became the perfectly flat setting for wildlife that it is today.
This island is packed with wildlife that surrounds visitors as they walk along the island’s trails. Prepare to be greeted by the lounging Galapagos sea lions and some of the most iconic Galapagos birds as they display their feathers and colors. In fact, North Seymour is home to some of the archipelago’s largest colonies of frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies! So birdwatchers, get ready for some serious bird action! If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon blue-footed boobies in the middle of their amusing courtship display.
Harmoniously living in the same space, you will also be able to observe the endemic land iguana, as well as its aquatic relative – the only marine iguana in the world. You’ll also likely encounter the masked cousin of the blue-footed booby – the majestic Nazca booby.
At North Seymour, you’ll most likely be able to check off up to 7 out of 15 of our BIG15 list of iconic species in the Galapagos.
Hours spent at North Seymour: approx. 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Next Stop: Las Bachas Beach
At around 12:00 p.m., we’ll set sail and head over to Las Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island. This journey will take approximately 45 minutes. Once we arrive at Las Bachas Beach, we’ll perform a Wet Landing and disembark.
After WWII, US military barges were beached and abandoned here. Locals referred to the beach as the barges beach, a name that gradually morphed into “las bachas” in Spanish. Today it is an important nesting area for the eastern Pacific green sea turtle. Located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, it is a glorious white beach, with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts all the way to flamingos.
Fantastic snorkeling, swimming, and/or simply enjoying the soft, white sand beach are some of the activities you can enjoy here.
Lunch will be ready and served at around 2:10 p.m., at which point we kindly invite guests to come back aboard the Sea Lion Yacht to enjoy their meal.
Hours spent at Las Bachas Beach: approx. 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Once we’ve wrapped up our experience here, we’ll set sail and head back to the Itabaca Channel, a journey which will take approximately 30 minutes. Once we’ve arrived at the channel, we’ll disembark and hop on the bus that will take us (a 45-minute journey) back to Puerto Ayora, from where we’ll head back to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this wonderful Day Tour!
Keep in mind: Galapagos Day Tours are subject to change due to weather conditions, logistical reasons, guests’ safety and/or Galapagos National Park Regulations.
Ready to stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and experience everything it has to offer? Get in touch with one of our Destination Experts, today!
The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located on the southern end of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago. However, in spite of being on one of the few, populated islands in the archipelago, the hotel manages to serve as a true oasis of tranquility, surrounded entirely by nature and with direct access to the beach.
No matter what you’re hoping to get out of your Galapagos vacation – be it relaxation, land or sea exploration (or a combination of all three of these!) – the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel offers flexible programs that allow you, our cherished guest, to experience a fantastic piece of the archipelago at your own pace and taste.
What are my options for getting to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel?
If you’re a traveler hoping to focus entirely on simply enjoying your vacation and having everything taken care of, then our Finch Bay programs (the arrival process of which is detailed further down below) will provide you with full assistance from the moment you exit the airport in the Galapagos all the way to your arrival at our hotel, and onwards. All you need to worry about when you book our Finch Bay programs is making sure youenjoy the natural beauty of the Galapagos from the moment you get here! Scroll down below and have a look at how each of our programs work in terms of assisting you with your transfer from Baltra Airport to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
If you’re a traveler that prefers to take care of the details of your tripon your own, and you’re staying at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, this blog will also present you with a useful and convenient guide about how to get to our hotel on your own! We’ll actually start with that first.
How do I get to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on my own?
To get to our hotel, the first thing you need to know is what airport you need to fly into. If you’re going to stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, and you’re looking to buy your airline tickets on your own, you need to fly to…
Seymour Airport (GPS) on Baltra Island
The Arrival Process
Once you’ve arrived and gotten off the plane in the Galapagos, you’ll head through immigration services, where you’ll need to pay for your Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee as well as the fee for the airport shuttle service (named Lobito). After acquiring your park entrance and shuttle bus tickets, you’ll proceed to the baggage claim area, where you’ll retrieve your checked baggage.
The Transfer Process
Note:If you booked your night(s) at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel independently of any of our programs, but still wish to have our transfer services included, please feel free to either tell us upon making your reservation or contact us directly by clicking here. Once we confirm this airport transfer service, you can rest assured that our representative will be waiting for you right outside the airport when you arrive.
Once you’ve gone through the arrival process, simply exit the airport and hop on the shuttle bus that will take you down to the Itabaca Channel pier. Given this is a shared and public service, it’s possible you will have to wait until the next bus is available.
Once you’ve hopped on the shuttle bus, you’ll get to enjoy abrief, 10-minute ride across the mesmerizing, arid landscapes of Baltra Island until you arrive at the Itabaca Channel pier. Once at the pier, you’ll board a ferry that will take you to the other side of the Channel, dropping you off on Santa Cruz Island. This ferry ride lasts approximately 15-minutes.
Once you arrive at the Santa Cruz Island pier, you’ll have the choice of either hopping aboard a public bus or hiring a taxi (the latter of which are pick-up trucks in the Galapagos!) that will assist you in taking you to Puerto Ayora, which is situated on the opposite, southern end of Santa Cruz Island. Should you opt for a taxi, it’s important that you tell the taxi driver that you wish to go to the “Muelle de Puerto Ayora.”
The journey to Puerto Ayora from this side of the island takes approximately 60-minutes, affording you fascinating views of the landscapes and highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Lush farmlands and Palo Santo forests are just a few of things you’ll get to enjoy on your way to Puerto Ayora.
As we begin heading down from the highlands of Santa Cruz, you’ll notice a dramatic change in the surrounding scenery, as it becomes more urban in nature – and that’s because you’re finally arriving to Puerto Ayora! The bus or taxi will drop you off at the Puerto Ayora pier (Muelle Municipal de Puerto Ayora), where you’ll begin the final leg of your journey to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Once at the pier in Puerto Ayora, you’ll need to board a water taxi that will take you to the hotel pier on the opposite side of the small inlet. Note: The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel has its very own water taxi that can take you to the hotel pier for free. In order to make use of it, you’ll need to call the reception desk at our hotel so that they can send it over to pick you up. You’ll also receive baggage assistance upon arriving at the hotel pier when you request the Finch Bay’s water taxi.
After you disembark from the water taxi at the hotel pier, you’ll enjoy a short walk (2,000 ft/600 m) along a pedestrian-only pathway that will take you through mangrove-areas and small, brackish lagoons before reaching the beachfront area and entering the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel grounds.
Welcome to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
If you require immediate assistance, please reach us at the following numbers:
Santa Cruz Island is the perfect home base for exploring some of the most beautiful and unique islands in the Galapagos. Whether it’s aboard an Expedition vessel or from a hotel, the island of Santa Fe is a precious gem that lovers of flora and fauna will absolutely love. If you opt for a land-based option and plan on staying at a hotel in the Galapagos, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to soak in the relaxed island life while creating your own, personal agenda for what you want to see and do. Staying at a place like the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – one of the only hotels on Santa Cruz Island with direct access to the beach – is definitely an excellent option.
At the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, there are options for each and every taste, offering packages that will make any stay in the Galapagos a unique experience. Looking for relaxation? Adventure? Exploration? Exquisite food? Intimacy? Or simply enjoyment of the island life? The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel caters to all of these interests! If your schedule allows for it and if you’re looking to experience new and fantastic things that go beyond the island of Santa Cruz, you can hop aboard the Sea Lion Yacht without ever having to go too far from your home base!
Open your eyes and admire everything that sits right outside your window as a new day begins in the Galapagos! A delicious breakfast will be served and ready for you to enjoy at 6:30 a.m.
After breakfast, the adventure begins! At 7:45 a.m., we’ll depart from the hotel and head over to the Puerto Ayora docks, from which we’ll board the Sea Lion Yacht. Don’t forget that, before heading out from the hotel, you can ask for seasickness pills and walking sticks for the journey ahead, both of these free of charge.
Once we’ve boarded the yacht, we’ll sail for two hours until we reach the beautiful island of Santa Fe. During this majestic journey, you’ll get to soak in the views and the gentle breeze from the ocean from the second floor of the yacht or soak in the sun from the comfort of the loungers we have on the bow. You can enjoy this journey as you see fit!
Studies suggest that the island of Santa Fe is, in fact, one of the oldest in the entire archipelago. Given the island is the result of uplift from the ocean floor, you can actually see lava formations (that were previously underwater) sitting on its surface. These rock formations have been dated to be around 4 million years old! It’s relatively flat surface (9.3 mi2 / 24 km2) is home to two endemic species: the Santa Fe land iguana and the Santa Fe rice rat.
Additionally, you’ll also get to admire the largest species of opuntia cactus as well as Galapagos hawks (the largest predator in the archipelago), blue-footed boobies, Galapagos sea lions, frigatebirds (great and magnificent) and the marine iguana.
After performing a Wet Landing and disembarking on the beautiful, white sand beach of Sante Fe, we’ll immediately come upon numerous sea lion harems, which invite us to head out on an exciting walk throughout the island in search of the other residents that live here. Once we’ve taken our walk, you’ll enjoy a refreshing dip over atLa Encañada – a wonderful visitor site on Santa Fe Island. You’ll also get the chance to go snorkeling using the equipment we provide aboard the Sea Lion Yacht!
Afterwards, a delicious lunch will be waiting for you aboard the Yacht. Following a brief period of relaxation, we’ll set sail back to Santa Cruz Island.
Keep in mind: Galapagos Day Tours are subject to change due to weather conditions, logistical reasons, guests’ safety and/or Galapagos National Park Regulations.
Are you ready to stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and experience everything we have to offer? Get in touch with one of our Destination Experts, today!
With so much to see and do on Santa Cruz Island, it’s no wonder the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotels offers a grand variety of Galapagos programs and guided tours. However, our guests often find themselves wondering what they can do on their own around the hotel. In this blog, we list the top activities we recommend doing on your own from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, ordered by their proximity (closest – furthest) to the hotel itself!
Step outside the beachfront gate of the Finch Bay and head down the path that leads to the right, and you’ll soon stumble upon Las Grietas (“The Crevasses”) after a short 15-20 minute hike. To call Las Grietas a simple swimming hole would be a disservice to its natural beauty, as it consists of three rectangular pools glimmering with emerald waters that are flanked by towering lava cliffs. A plunge in its cool waters on a hot day is a fun and refreshing activity to partake in, and it’s practically right around the corner from the Finch Bay, too! So don’t miss out on checking it out!
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is a step into one of the world’s richest aquatic realms. From impressive schools of colorful fish to docile white-tip reef sharks, the waters of this paradise – which happen to form a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – are the perfect place to interact with a wide gamut of species without having to witness them through cages or glass walls. This is why snorkeling is, quite simply, an absolute mustin the Galapagos Islands! And one of the best things about a land-based option is you don’t need to go far to enjoy this natural, underwater spectacle. In fact, there are beautiful beaches right on Santa Cruz Island that allow you to partake in this activity! Don’t forget to request your snorkeling gear at the front desk of Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel before heading out! This gear is provided completely free of charge! Wetsuits are available for rent.
Just a few steps away from the Finch bay Galapagos Hotel (in fact, the only hotel with direct access to a beach in all of Puerto Ayora), you’ll find the crystalline waters that sit alongside Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach). This gorgeous bit of beach, protected from the strong currents and waves thanks to mangroves and reefs, is ideal for enjoying the richness of the ocean while relaxing in a peaceful and calm environment. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to swim with white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, and a ton of colorful fish.
Tortuga Bay has consistently ranked among the world’s top beaches over the course of recent years, and it’s no wonder why: this wide stretch of open, immaculate beach (that conveniently sits right on the edge of Puerto Ayora) is, simply put, spectacular. Guests that choose to head here will get to enjoy a pleasant stroll through a giant cacti forest before being rewarded with a magnificent view of this jaw-dropping slice of coast. If you opt to head down the entire stretch of Tortuga Bay, you’ll be treated to a second and smaller secluded beach at the end that’s surrounded by mangroves and, occasionally, curious marine iguanas. Snorkeling here is highly recommended!
The warm sand and turquoise waters at Garrapatero Beach welcome you to one of the best places to relax on Santa Cruz Island. Once you arrive at the entrance to the beach (which is located some 30 minutes away by car) you’ll enjoy a short, 15-minute walk that will reveal all of the mesmerizing, natural beauty of Garrapatero. If you get there early in the morning, you’ll get to enjoy the first rays of sunshine and admire marine iguanas soaking in the warmth on top of volcanic rock before they slide in for a refreshing dip in the crystalline waters of this fantastic place. Feel free to follow suit! Just always remember to wear sunscreen before doing so!
Playa La Estacion (The Station Beach)
If you pass the Charles Darwin Research Station (more on that below), it won’t be long before you come upon Playa La Estacion – a quaint yet relaxing piece of coastline that has nice and soft sand. Be aware, however, that it also has its fair share of rocky patches, especially along the shoreline and in the water, so be sure to wear proper footwear! A nice little feature of this the shore here is that it’s sheltered from the waves thanks to a line of lava rocks that stretch out into the ocean. This natural geological formation provides calm waters for snorkeling and swimming alongside the occasional marine iguana, sea turtle, and/or baby sea lion, if you’re extra lucky!
One of the biggest attractions of escaping from the big cities is, without a doubt, getting the chance to enjoy clear skies and a starry night. The Galapagos Islands, of which only 3% is inhabited, barely presents any light pollution at all for those people looking to enjoy the night sky and its family of stars. When you stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, you’ll have first-row tickets to enjoy this magical festival of lights that shines overhead. All you have to do is walk right out front to Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach), put a towel down of the sand, and look up and let your eyes marvel at everything they see.
Stroll down the Malecon (boardwalk)
Feeling the urge to get a taste of the island life? Puerto Ayora’s boardwalk (referred to as the malecon in Spanish) offers our guests a pleasant way to stroll through town and admire: a.) the laidback restaurants, bars, and stores on one side, and b.) the serene Galapagos waters on the other side. To get to the boardwalk from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, all you need to do is take the hotel’s own water taxi back to the municipal dock and start walking down Charles Darwin Avenue. As you head down the boardwalk, you’ll often encounter several of the native residents (read: sea lions) taking a snooze or ambling around along the docks, shores, or over at the…
If you want to observe a little bit of the local culture more closely, there’s no better place to do it than at the Santa Cruz Fish Market. Following a stroll down the boardwalk, and right before hitting the Charles Darwin Research Station, you’ll come upon this eclectic spectacle. The Santa Cruz Fish Market is a great window into the way human inhabitants of Galapagos coexist with their animal neighbors and allows you to watch as sea lions and pelicans prop themselves up against the stalls of the fish vendors, eagerly awaiting a delicious meal between the naps they take.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
In addition to the inhabitants of the archipelago and the Galapagos National Park Service, the Charles Darwin Research Station is one of the biggest stakeholders when it comes to the protection and conservation of the islands. The Station is also involved in ongoing research project throughout the archipelago, these of which usually consists of monitoring species populations and visitor impact at several visitor sites. Their headquarters sit right at the far edge of town, which you’ll arrive at after walking along the entire length of the boardwalk. Once at the Station, you are free to walk around the different paths and trails that will let you admire much of the endemic fauna in Galapagos, as well as the numerous baby and adult Galapagos Giant Tortoises that are currently being raised in captivity.
Visit Laguna Las Ninfas (Nymphs Lagoon)
Another marvelous aspect of the Galapagos Islands is the sheer amount of distinct natural environments you can find throughout the archipelago! Within a matter of minutes, the scenery before your eyes can turn from arid and desert-like into an impressive and lush green. On the way to Tortuga Bay, and incredibly close to Puerto Ayora, you’ll get to find this peaceful patch of water that’s home to one of the richest ecosystems in all Galapagos: mangroves. The Nymphs Lagoon allows you to enjoy a relaxing, approximately 60-minute walk along the mesmerizing clusters of mangroves that surround this perfect mirror lagoon of turquoise water. It’s important to keep in mind that this lagoon is not for swimming in; however, you’ll easily get to enjoy the refreshing breeze.
Visit the local museums and galleries
While Puerto Ayora isn’t particularly renowned for being a museum and artistic hotspot, it does manage to offer some pleasant surprises in the form of the MAPRAE Museum and a handful of art galleries. The former offers visitors the chance to get to know a little bit more about the indigenous cultures and history over on the Ecuadorian mainland. The latter may catch your eye with their artisanal wares and amusing art pieces — none of which are made from Galapagos elements, as per the Galapagos National Park Rules!
We fly from the mainland of Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. Nothing is more exciting than flying over 1,000 km (620 mi) of pure ocean and then gradually approaching the first islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Our first view will be of the attractive coast of San Cristobal Island and, just a few minutes later, we’ll be landing on Baltra Island – home to the islands’ most popular airport. After registering with the local authorities, we’ll collect our luggage and proceed to meet the staff of Scalesia Lodge for directions to board the local inter-island flight.
While other visitors await their airport shuttles and cruise transfers, we’ll get ready for a treat that very few people in Galapagos (less than 1,000 per year!) ever get to experience: a small aircraft flight from Baltra Island to the colossal Isabela Island. From the moment we take off, the volcanic beauty of Galapagos will quickly put on a show for us as, en route, our eyes get to check out the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island with its shoreline full of white-sand beaches, its arid zone with palo santo trees, and even some volcanic cones that already covered in vegetation due to just how old the island is. We then fly over the expanse of water that separates Santa Cruz Island from Isabela Island, checking out Pinzon Island and Nameless Islet along the way. The immenseness of Isabela Island will then begin to materialize slowly over the horizon, like a giant black antediluvian creature.
We then begin to fly over its dark shoreline, which is heavily dotted with mangroves, tidal pools and then an immediately lack of vegetation. The big black shadow that emerges in front of us will then reveal itself to be the massive Sierra Negra Volcano – the second largest volcanic crater in the world. Slowly, the airport runway appears, and in minutes we have arrived to the most untamed area of the islands: the Wild West. Scalesia Lodge expedition staff meet us here and quickly take us for a short drive just to get familiar with Puerto Villamil, the main island town, before our drive up to the highlands on a very well-paved road. In less than 20 minutes, we arrive at Scalesia Lodge. Check-in takes place right away, giving us time to explore our luxury tent, and lunch is then served while we enjoy the green vistas of the landscapes that surround this area.
By mid-afternoon, we are ready to explore and visit Sucre’s Cave, which is located not all that far from the lodge itself. The cave is a former lava tube which proves to be a great introduction to the geology of the islands. Here, we’ll also get to enjoy a short walk that gives us an excellent sense of what the typical island vegetation is like as well as the endemic plants it is home to. We now head for the lowlands and stop at the local rearing center for giant tortoises. The rearing center serves as an exciting place for us to see one of the most iconic reptiles of the islands as they’re taken care of in semi-captive conditions. Visitors can even spot young ones which will be repatriated soon. The giant tortoises here at endemic to the island of Isabela: it is the only tortoise in the entire archipelago that has a rather flat top carapace.
From here we’ll begin our walk to the brackish water ponds of Poza Baltazar, where we’ll have the chance to improve our understanding of this island’s desert vegetation and view some unique lagoon bird species, such as: stilts, ducks, and flamingos. As we get closer to town, we’ll gradually begin to hear the sound of ocean waves and suddenly be greeted by the stunning white beach of Puerto Villamil. It is as this wonderful beach that we’ll have a chance to kick off our shoes, and let the waters of Galapagos soothe our feet. Enjoy a drink over at one of the local beach bars and celebrate a glorious sunset before heading back to Scalesia Lodge for dinner. And this is all just the beginning! Overnight at Scalesia Lodge.
Day 2 (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Today, we’ll get an early start. The reason being? We are about to explore the Sierra Negra Volcano, the second largest caldera in the whole world and one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos (its most recent eruption took place in 2005). The crater alone is considered one of the largest of any island volcano in the world, with a whopping diameter of 10 km (6 mi)! Volcan Chico is the youngest volcano sitting on the flanks of Sierra Negra, over towards its northern rim. The walk along the crater provides spectacular views of the barren volcanic floor, where the older and more recent volcanic flows contrast in different shades of black basalt.
A snack lunch is provided on this excursion and we will find the perfect spot (with an excellent view of the crater!) to sit down and enjoy our meals.
The hike, in total, lasts around 6-7 hours, meaning the early start guarantees that we’ll have cooler temperatures to walk around in. It also has the added benefit of opening up the entire afternoon to experience other great options and excursions on the island. Walking along the rim of the volcano involves very little uphill climbing. In fact, the entirety of the hike is rather flat, with the exception of some gradual ups and downs. Our Naturalist Guide will be sure to stop at a couple of locations for some interpretation, regrouping, and rest. Sierra Negra Volcano is the place to appreciate the splendor of the western volcanoes as well as the endemic vegetation of this area (which serves as evidence of its evolutionary isolation). Afterward, we’ll head back to the lodge for lunch, a good rest, and then have an afternoon of open-ended activities over at Puerto Villamil.
This is the moment to hang out at the beach by yourself or replenish your energy amidst the cooler highlands at Scalesia Lodge. If you opt for the beach outing, you’ll can rest assured that you’ll catch a great sunset that will reveal the grandeur of Isabela Island. Overnight at Scalesia Lodge.
Day 3 (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
It’s hard to believe we have been here for over two days already! On our third day, it’s time to explore more of the shoreline habitat where plenty of surprises await over at Las Tintoreras – a group of islets, located a short distance away from Puerto Villamil. Reachable only by boat, the site includes a short walk alongside a maze of narrow lava crevices, broken “AA” lava flows, tiny sandy beaches and stunning coves that are framed by mangroves. Its wildlife ranges from giant marine iguanas basking under the sun, perched boobies and pelicans, stalking herons, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, turtles and whitetip reef sharks (locally known as tintoreras). It is here that we’ll get our chance to snorkel along one of the islets and rocks nearby in order to understand the beauty of the underwater realm of the islands. Note: Snorkeling gear is provided; wetsuits are available for rent. After this excursion, we’ll head back to Scalesia Lodge for lunch and a well-deserved siesta.
Watch a group of white-tip reef sharks at tintoreras as they rest and swim
Check out this Galapagos penguin calling out for its mate!
The afternoon calls for something fun, and while you are more than welcome to hang out on your own at the beach, we certainly recommend you take the outing that explores El Muro de las Lágrimas (The Wall of Tears). Our driver will take us along the beach and take a detour into the arid zone that offers an exploration of this site that’s saturated with melancholic history. It just so happens that an Ecuadorian penal colony existed on Isabela Island between 1946 and 1959, and manually building this wall out of volcanic rock was one of the punishments that prisoners received. There are a couple of viewpoints nearby that let you see the volcanic coast of Isabela Island. Once here, we’ll get on our mountain bikes and slowly make our way back a gradual downhill descent. We’ll make several stops to look at interesting hidden beaches, wetlands, coastlines, and mini lava tubes. Consider yourself lucky if a wild giant tortoise appears next to the road!
We’ll finish at the beach and celebrate our Isabela adventure with cocktails before driving back up to Scalesia Lodge for dinner and overnight.
NOTE: Bike rentals have an extra charge (helmets are included).
Day 4 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
We are now ready to fly over beautiful Isabela Island in order to reach Baltra Island. Upon arrival, the Finch Bay’s Naturalist Guides will meet guests and accompany them directly to the Sea Lion Yacht. A basic introduction to our onboard activities is provided and we are then ready to explore! A dry landing welcomes us to North Seymour Island. This particular island was uplifted from the ocean floor by past volcanic events, and its origins as a seabed provide its characteristic low, flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high are what form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit among the ledges and rocks.
This island is teeming with life! So much that you might have to move out of the way for a passing sea lion or marine iguana! You’ll find blue-footed booby nests sitting right beside the trail, where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. This is a walking excursion and involves uneven and rocky terrain. Lunch is served onboard the Sea Lion Yacht.
After the visit, the yacht sails to the Itabaca channel, allowing us to catch a faster bus that will allow us to reach the southern shore of Santa Cruz Island where the Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located. Once there, you’ll check in and we are now ready to enjoy this beachfront property (the only one on Santa Cruz Island!).
Dinner and overnight at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 5 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
After breakfast, our guests will depart from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and begin their journey up into the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island. From there, a short drive across the farming area will lead us to El Manzanillo – an area that sits right along the natural path that tortoises take every year as they migrate up to higher, more humid regions of the island, particular during the garúa season (June-September); or when they descend to the warmer lowlands during the wet season. Year-round, tortoises can be seen grazing throughout the surrounding vegetation or wallowing in muddy banks or in a small red-colored pond (impressively tinted by red-tinted, surface pondweeds).
Lunch will be served in the cooler highlands, with stunning views of Santa Cruz Island.
After lunch, we visit a small farm where coffee, sugar cane and cocoa beans are organically and sustainably grown, harvested and prepared. While here, we’ll get the chance to taste these products and learn about the artisanal in which these island spirits are distilled and produced! We then return to the hotel to enjoy its pool or beach, or pursue other suggested activities.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 6 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
Santa Fe Island offers one of the more beautiful and sheltered coves in the archipelago. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets that form an ideal place to drop anchor. A wet landing on a white-sand beach brings us into contact with one of the many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right to be the “Beach Master,” while smaller males masquerade as females and make stealthy mating moves. Galapagos hawks are often easily approached and found perched atop saltbushes.
The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name with their tree-sized trunks! Our goal here is to spot one of the largest species of land iguana, which is native and exclusive to the island of Santa Fe. Their colors range from beige to chocolate-brown with dragon-like spines. In many ways, these iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs.
An indigenous species of rice rat also inhabits the thickets here, and lucky hikers might even manage to spot harmless Galapagos snakes. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than a swim in the calm waters of the bay, which are a great time to go snorkeling with the diverse marine life. Afterward, lunch will be served aboard the Sea Lion Yacht. Sail back to Puerto Ayora.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 7 (Breakfast/-/-)
Divine Bay: this is where the magic of Galapagos resides, and it’s found just a short distance away from bustling Academy Bay and the Puerto Ayora! Named after one of the archipelago’s first settlers, this cove is protected from the swells by natural volcanic reefs on one side, by a gallery of mangrove trees on the other and, over on the third side, by cliffs created eons ago by the uplift of the lava plateau. The whole place provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife. Guests can choose to explore this lovely cove by boat or, if you are feeling more adventurous, hop on top of one of our tandem kayaks and paddle there directly from the hotel’s beachfront. This morning’s visit will include snorkeling along a calm, but active, area of the cove. This is next to a wooden dock we use to explore Punta Estrada. A dry landing and a short walk (0.5 km / 0.31 mi) will lead us to the south shore of the island, to a small beach called Playa de los Perros (“Dog Beach”). This is a great place to see intertidal organisms and learn about marine iguanas in their nesting sites. Also, there’s a nearby natural terrace from where young whitetip reef sharks can be observed from above as they swim about the lava crevices.
After this morning’s visit, we’ll return to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. The afternoon activity on this day includes a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant-tortoise breeding program, with time to enjoy the town, or the hotel’s facilities.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 8 (Breakfast/-/-)
After breakfast, we’ll leave the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and, on the way to Baltra, stop at the Twin Pit Craters that are tremendous geological depressions of volcanic material that have slowly been sinking deeper into the Earth, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids can be seen along the surroundings. After this, we’ll transfer to the airport in Baltra to catch the flight back to the continent.
What’s it like inside the MAPRAE Museum in Galapagos? How does the exhibit work, exactly?
Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are given an iPad that comes pre-installed with an application that allows visitors to access and experience the augmented reality feature of the museum. Visitors only need to carry and point their iPad at one of the over 50 pieces that are displayed to begin the experience, at which point they will receive historical and cultural information regarding the three-dimensional image they are viewing on their device.
Not only does this serve as an excellent and interactive opportunity for locals and foreigners alike to learn a little bit about the anthropological history of Ecuador, but it also provides a way for visitors with a limited time (that won’t be stopping in Quito or Guayaquil for extended periods) to get a quick but decent dose of Ecuadorian history.
While other museums in Galapagos might provide visitors with an adequate level of insight into the archipelago’s human history, MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora allows them to go way back into the cultural and anthropological roots of mainland Ecuador. In many ways the MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora is a way of bringing the continental history of Ecuador over into the remoteness of the Galapagos, provided the steady flow of international tourists with an excellent, albeit small way, of getting some history.
And while most visitors come to the Galapagos obviously for its highly unique flora and fauna, visiting the MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora within the fascinating natural context of Santa Cruz Island is a great way to combine both natural history and human history. Who knows? It might even allow us to get a more integral perception of our connection and dependence on nature, perhaps fostering a greater sense of duty and responsibility towards this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if you’ve only come to Galapagos to experience the natural aspect, a visit to MAPRAE Museum in Puereto Ayora is a great way of complementing your trip with the anthropological aspect of the natural world at large. Visitors will be sure to see the unmistakable effect that nature has had on our ancestor’s ways of thinking and their everyday activities.
Nature, when untouched, has the ability to immediately capture our attention with little to no effort. Everything that goes on in the loving and caring hands of Mother Nature has a way of capturing our human curiosity and imagination so easily. For many, it’s a world that’s worth continuously spying in on with both a lens and a narrative. There are those talented few that, with the right vision and commitment, manage to take nature to the next level and showcase it in all its might. From micro to macro, the power of nature documentaries is something that moves us to this day, inspiring us to appreciate and protect our world as much as we can.
The Oscar-winning Director Luc Jacquet is one of those who have been able to take nature to the big screen for the world to learn about and admire up close. You might recall his Oscar-winning feature, “The March of the Penguins” – a documentary that managed to transport many audiences from around the globe to the remote, frigid world of Antarctica and follow the amazing Emperor Penguins’ path. For his next project, Jacquet has taken up an ambition that is based around the Galapagos, evolution, and the story of life.
Check out the short but sweet interview we had with him below!
Galapagos Today: A Symbol for Conservation & Evolution
The Galapagos Islands became scientifically relevant when Charles Darwin arrived at the archipelago back in 1825. Upon landing on the islands, Darwin studied some of its most iconic species (many of which form a part of our BIG15 list of iconic species), allowing him to “fill in the blanks” of what would later become his most crucial and groundbreaking work – his the theory of natural evolution. Creatures that inhabited the Galapagos, being so isolated from the rest of the world, we’re able to live and evolve, almost completely uninterrupted by human activity (a situation that changed quickly with the presence of pirates and whalers on the islands). By observing the shells of the Galapagos giant tortoises and the beaks of the finches, and how they differed from each other and from island to island, Darwin realized evolution was the result of the survival of the fittest. This served testament to how life adapts in order to survive in almost any circumstance.
Nowadays, after years of work by the Galapagos National Park, NGO’s, the Ecuadorian government and the local communities, the Galapagos have finally begun to recover from invasive species, managing to bring back endemic and native species that came close to being on the brink of extinction. Sadly, some were not able to repopulate, such as the famous Lonesome George. To avoid that from happening, it’s up to everyone who inhabits the archipelago and visits it, to contribute in any possible way.
The Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage, represent a world where nature and men coexist harmoniously. One from which there is still much to learn. An example of respect, sustainability, and life as it should be if we let it be.
Jacquet and his team were out scouting the further reaches of the archipelago for potential sites to shoot their upcoming documentary feature, as well. To reach the more isolated islands of Galapagos, Jacquet and company sailed aboard our beloved Yacht La Pinta. You can check out his interview pertaining to that experience below:
When it comes to a place as enchanted as the Galapagos, it almost seems commonsensical to regard any form of accommodation on these barren and otherworldly freckles of earth – in the near middle of the Pacific Ocean, to say the least! – as nothing short of “unique.” But when it comes to a brand as prestigious as National Geographic, you immediately know that their standard/criteria for their definition of “unique” is a whole different level. For many of our guests, the question often remains: how do you even become a member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World (ULW)?
How are hotels given their Unique Lodge Status by NatGeo?
To ensure that NatGeo standards are met, Unique Lodges of the World are carefully handpicked after an extensive and thorough vetting process/site audit that goes from examining the macro to the micro. A NatGeo Sustainable Tourism Expert is in charge of spending time at each lodge, evaluating the operations and meeting with everyone on staff (from hotel manager to kitchen staff) to become fully acquainted and do a in-depth evaluation of the lodge.
What exactly is a Unique Lodge of the World, by National Geographic Standards?
The whole concept of ULW was created to invite guests and traveler’s to experience some of the planet’s most extraordinary places. ULW come with the NatGeo seal of approval that guarantees guests will get to have an intimate and exceptional experience, fostering a connection between guests and their destination in a highly meaningful way. Properties are handpicked based the following criteria:
We serve as a forum for collaboration and conservation between islanders and organizations. We host meetings between the Galapagos National Park Service and Charles Darwin Research Station, to name a few. Additionally, we’ve also run numerous, successful education-oriented initiatives with local schools and students.
We are immersed in one of the most pristine wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and we’re one of the only beachfront hotels on Santa Cruz Island.
Professionally-trained guides, world-class service and staff alongside a Le Cordon Bleu-trained gastronomic director. Did we miss anything?
The Galapagos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason. In honor of this and the sacred ground we exist on, we’ve created a complete set of inspiring activities to help our guests get acquainted with the islands.
The NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World Difference
Staying at a NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World is a guarantee that your trip will help protect our delicate and only planet. Staying at a Unique Lodge of the World means you’re both supporting local communitiesandthe environment while experiencing a place in the world that is truly unlike anything else and where magic awaits right at your doorstep. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel invites you to become a part of it all!
Dr. Stephen Maturin: “Marine iguanas can’t swim, they’re land animals.”
Boy: “Well these ones can.”
Dr. Stephen Maturin: “My God, two new species in as many minutes…”
~Master & Commander~
Galapagos marine iguanas – they’re dark, bold and look like miniature Godzillas that crawl around on their bellies. They’re also seen practically everywhere throughout the Galapagos archipelago. But what is it that makes them such a unique creature in their own right, exactly? Find out in this blog, where we detail just what it is exactly that makes marine iguanas a must-see and a part of our BIG15 group of iconic species in Galapagos.
Scientific Name: Amblyrhynchus cristatus Type: Reptile Family: Iguanidae Order: Squamata Diet: Herbivore (occasional carnivore) Avg. Lifespan: 5-15 years. Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years. Avg. Length: 60 – 150 cm (23 – 59 in) Avg. Weight: .45 – 1.3 kg (1 – 3 lb)
What are Galapagos marine iguanas famous for?
Galapagos marine iguanas are believed to have diverged from their land-based cousins around 5.7 million years ago. The adaptations they have grown since diverging are what makes them so remarkable.
Galapagos marine iguanas are famed for being theonly marine lizard in the whole world. In addition to this, their eating habits while underwater are another remarkable feature of theirs, as these aquatic iguanas feast extensively on the algae that grows atop submerged rocks.
A distinct physical characteristic of these is found in their:
Color: As black as charcoal and the lava rock they walk across and amass over. Their dark scales also absorb much of the sun’s heat for their cold-blooded bodies and also have the remarkable ability to change colors during mating season.
Claws: Longer, more muscular claws have allowed them to easily cling tenaciously to algae-covered rocks.
Tail: They have laterally flattened tails to help them swim and steer their bodies when in the water.
Snout: Flatter snouts with protruding teeth that are tricuspid, allowing them to get these sharp shears next to the rocks and tear away the tenacious algae that sticks to them with relative ease.
As a result of their subaquatic behavior, Galapagos marine iguanas have evolved to have a desalination gland that’s located right behind their nose. This is used to expel the salt from their bodies in an unmistakable manner – often making look as if they’re sneezing or even hissing at you.
“Shrink only in case of emergency” Adaptability
Unlike the feathered creatures that soar overhead in Galapagos, marine iguanas can’t simply fly away from their harsh environment should they be confronted with tough times (in terms of nutrients and food). For Galapagos marine iguanas, it’s a matter of adapt or die. As a result, these incredible reptiles can actually shrink their bodies so as to be less dependent on larger quantities of food. It’s a fascinating characteristic that allows them to improve their survival odds and pass their genes on to the next generation.
Galapagos marine iguanas are located on the main islands of Galapagos Guests will often see them hanging out along the multitude of shorelines in Galapagos. Some of these main islands can even be accessed aboard our Sea Lion Yacht.
Interested in experiencing this mesmerizing and fascinating iconic species during your trip to Galapagos? Look no further than the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel to see them hanging out around the numerous beaches in Puerto Ayora, including our beachfront slice of paradise – Playa de Los Alemanes!