Arrive in Quito airport, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free, for you to relax after your flight or explore, as you wish.
This morning you have a guided city tour. Quito is a city of two halves - old and new - with each having its attractions. Quito is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and so modern building is now strictly controlled. The afternoon is at leisure. It's a great place to go shopping, either in the markets or perhaps some of the shops selling Ecuadorian crafts and art in the new town too.
Quito to the Galapagos
How exciting! It's the day you head for the Galapagos! You are taken to the airport for the roughly four hour flight to Baltra. On arrival you are transferred to your home for the next eight days, Beluga. This comfortable motor yacht is one of our favourites, with accommodation for up to 16 passengers and plenty of indoor and outdoor space in which to relax between island visits. This afternoon you visit the highlands of Santa Cruz for a chance to see the iconic giant tortoises in their natural environment. After this you tour the Charles Darwin Centre, where you can learn about the islands natural history and spend time at the breeding centre where you can watch hatchlings and juvenile giant tortoises. You return to Beluga to freshen up before dinner.
Punta Cormorant and Post Office Bay
Floreana, about five hours cruising time from Santa Cruz, has over the centuries been a favourite haunt of pirates and whalers, who found shelter in its bays. Landing at Punta Cormorant you follow a trail which leads to a salt water lagoon where you can expect to see flamingos and a range of marine birds. Time permitting you can enjoy a swim or snorkel at Devil's Crown, a partially submerged volcanic cone widely regarded as one of the best snorkelling locations in the islands. Lunch is back on board Beluga, and, rested, you then head to Post Office Bay, where in days of yore a barrel acted as a unofficial postal point. The traditional continues to this day and you can play your part, either leaving a postcard to be collected in the future, or picking up one you can deliver when back at home.
Tintoreas and Sierra Negra Volcano
Today you visit Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos Islands. You make landfall at Puerto Villamil, the only town on the island, and spend time at the nearby tortoise breeding centre nearby for more insights into these fascinating creatures. Later you travel to Las Tintoreras, an islet where, at low tide, you can expect to see reef sharks swimming alongside small fish and sea lions. Later in the day you see the magnificent Sierra Negra volcano, whose caldera is some 10 kilometres wide. There's time to explore on foot and get some stunning photographs before you return to Beluga.
Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay
Extend your time on Isabel with a visit to Punta Moreno on the west. There are tidal rock pools here plus small lagoons and mangroves and wildlife abounds. Accompany your guide as you see out penguins and seabirds including flamingos, blue herons and brown pelicans. Return to Beluga for lunch, and later in the day you land at Elizabeth Bay, where you should spot blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants and penguins. The coast here is backed by dense mangrove forests and there are many islets in the bay. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, turtles and marine iguanas.
Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove
Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove are your destinations today as you continue to explore Isabela. Urbina Bay is geologically fascinating, displaying an uplifted area of land. It is also home to tortoises, penguins, flightless cormorants and brown pelicans. One trail here leads along the coast and the other heads inland, for varied scenery and views. Following lunch you visit Tagus Cove, a natural harbour once prized by pirates, some of whom carved their names in the rocks. Birds abound, and you can hope to observe yellow warblers, Galapagos hawks, finches and flycatchers. Back at the shore there are good chances to see whales and dolphins.
Fernandina and Isabela
Today you arrive at Fernandina Island, west of Isabela. Punta Espinosa is the sole visitor site on this, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. It has fascinating lava fields which, coupled with the six volcanos in neighbouring Isabela, serve to remind you of the volcanic heritage of the archipelago. . Among the wildlife frequently seen here are penguins, flightless cormorants and a huge colony of marine iguanas. In the afternoon you visit Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela, another great place to view birdlife, with both blue-footed and Nazca boobies present.
Santiago and Bartolome
Today you visit Santiago, the second of the islands visited by Charles Darwin. At Puerto Egas there's a walking trail along the coast leading to grottoes. This is a great place to watch fur seals, which like the rocky coastline and its plentiful shade. Set back from the coast there's a seasonal saline lagoon in a small volcanic cone, where flamingos can often be spotted. Later in the day you land on Bartolome, to follow the trail to the highest point on the island. At the top you get a superb view back over Bartolome with its ash cones, down to the coast and the tall shard of Pinnacle Rock. It's little surprise that this is one of the most photographed sites in the islands. Head back down to the coast, and return to Beluga in time for dinner.
Back to the mainland
Your last port of call on the cruise is the small island of North Seymour. Despite is size it is home to the largest colony of frigatebirds in the islands, a real treat to behold. You should also spot swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, land iguanas and sea lions: a fitting conclusion to your cruise. You disembark from Beluga later and travel to Baltra airport for your flight to the mainland.