Buffet breakfast daily (B), 7 lunches (L), and 6 three-course dinners (D); Local Host service in each city; sightseeing with a Local Guide and transportation as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary (except intra-vacation flights, which are additional; inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE).
Day #1 Arrive Quito, Ecuador. Arrive in Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day #2 Quito–Mashpi Lodge. Travel to the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve with over 3,200 acres teeming with wildlife. Upon arrival at the all-inclusive MASHPI LODGE, stop at the HUMMINGBIRD VIEWPOINT to learn about these flying machines while enjoying a welcome drink. Your stay at this luxurious eco-lodge includes gourmet Ecuadorian meals, non-alcoholic drinks, and all activities and guided tours. Begin exploring the lodge’s amenities this afternoon. Take a ride on the AERIAL TRAM, which glides through the forest canopy allowing observation of the plant and wildlife. The more adventurous may opt to ride the AERIAL BICYCLE suspended in the rainforest canopy, crossing a river gorge, and offering unique views of the surrounding natural world. Tonight, take a guided NIGHT WALK to discover nocturnal creatures and their behaviors. (B,L,D)
Day #3 Mashpi Lodge. For those who want to enjoy the beauty and magic of dawn in the forest, head out before breakfast on a guided NATURE WALK when wildlife is at its most active. Later, guided NATURE WALKS through the reserve’s many trails introduce you to the plants, insects, and animals that abound in this region. You may also choose to spend time on the OBSERVATION TOWER to get a bird’s-eye view of the area. Visit the LIFE CENTER to learn about indigenous butterflies, reptiles, and medicinal plants. Activities abound here and all are included! (B,L,D)
Day #4 Mashpi Lodge–Quito. This morning, relax at the hotel or return to the forest for more exploration—the choice is yours. En route to Quito, stop at the archaeological site of TULIPE for a guided tour before continuing to Quito. (B,L)
Day #5 Quito. Your included city TOUR showcases the rich legacy left by the Incas and, later, the Spaniards. See Independence Square dominated by its formidable Cathedral, San Francisco Plaza Church, and the BASILICA with its marvelous stained-glass windows. (B)
Day #6 Quito–Baltra (Embarkation)–Galápagos Cruising: Santa Cruz Island. Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos. Upon arrival, transfer to Santa Cruz Island, where you will embark the Santa Cruz and enjoy five days of cruising among various Galápagos Islands. Visit Las Bachas on SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, where abandoned WWII military barges can be found. Today, it is an important nesting area for the East Pacific Green Sea Turtle. You will also see brackish lagoons just steps away from the sea and the white-sand beach, a feeding ground for various wading birds—from stilts to flamingos. This evening, a lecture led by your onboard Naturalist will prepare you for tomorrow’s adventure. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Cruising: Santiago Island. After breakfast, join your Naturalist for a short panga ride to Espumilla beach on SANTIAGO ISLAND. In the nearby mangrove forest, watch where you step, as this is common nesting area for sea turtles. Also keep an eye out for Galápagos finches, marine iguanas, and sea lions, as well as flamingos and pintail ducks in the nearby lagoons. This afternoon, land at Puerto Egas, known for its black-sand beach and landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds as well as a colony of fur sea lions and marine iguanas. You have the chance to snorkel or swim from the beach, or ride on the glass-bottom boat. (B,L,D)
Day #8 Cruising: Rábida & Bartolomé Islands. Disembark at RÁBIDA ISLAND on a red-colored beach, formed from the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Here, your Naturalist points out large colonies of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin’s finches. This is a wonderful place to snorkel from the beach, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. At BARTOLOMÉ ISLAND, hike to the summit for a stunning view of two beautiful bays and fascinating formations of lava flows and spatter cones, including iconic Pinnacle Rock. You will also have the chance to snorkel and possibly see Galápagos penguins in tropical waters and even some sharks! (B,L,D)
Day #9 Cruising: Genovesa Island. Upon arrival at GENOVESA ISLAND, your visit to Prince Philip’s Steps begins with a scenic panga ride along the cliffs to see the large number of shore and seabirds nesting in the cliffs’ ledges. Disembark at the base of Prince Philip’s Steps and climb up the stairs to a trail where birdlife abounds. A walk with your Naturalist reveals large colonies of masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, storm petrels, and even short-eared owls. In the afternoon, disembark at Darwin Bay to observe thousands of birds—mainly, frigatebirds, redfooted and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches, and mockingbirds. Return to the beach for swimming and snorkeling in this beautiful natural harbor. (B,L,D)
Day #10 Cruising: San Cristobal (Disembarkation)–Quito. After breakfast, depart for Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where Charles Darwin first set foot in the Galápagos back in 1835. This island is home to seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigatebirds, and various shore birds. Also watch for the Chatham mockingbird and Chatham lava lizard—both species are endemic to this island and seen nowhere else in the Galápagos. Head to the airport for your return flight to Quito. (B)
Day #11 Quito. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)