Sail the Galapagos Islands

About the Experience

In 1820, the 2-masted HMS Beagle 10-gun brig-sloop was launched on the River Thames near London. The 28-meter (90 foot) vessel’s second voyage (1831-36) was a circumnavigation of South America and then the globe–Charles Darwin was aboard as a naturalist. The ship was so crowded with crew that Darwin had to sleep in a hammock that was slung above the drafting table in the poop cabin!

Aboard the 3-masted Mary Anne, you will have a more pampered experience than Darwin!  She has 1,000 square meters of canvas sails and is the only schooner in the Galápagos. A silent sail, powered by wind offers the distinct charms of the past but with all the comforts of present-day. 

We hoist Mary Anne’s sails on every trip, and passengers can photograph this spectacle from the vantage point of the panga (zodiac boat). She is the only ship in the Galápagos Archipelago that can navigate by wind power alone and our expert crew will gladly welcome your help in the hoisting!

Sailing the Pacific and navigating around the biodiverse Galápagos  Islands is an unforgettable expedition for bird lovers, Darwin fans, sailors (greenhorns and sea dogs alike) and those who love extreme landscapes and experiences.

Feel the power of the equatorial wind and waves with like-minded women in this truly utopian destination.

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Sail the Galapagos Islands

About the Experience

In 1820, the 2-masted HMS Beagle 10-gun brig-sloop was launched on the River Thames near London. The 28-meter (90 foot) vessel’s second voyage (1831-36) was a circumnavigation of South America and then the globe–Charles Darwin was aboard as a naturalist. The ship was so crowded with crew that Darwin had to sleep in a hammock that was slung above the drafting table in the poop cabin!

Aboard the 3-masted Mary Anne, you will have a more pampered experience than Darwin!  She has 1,000 square meters of canvas sails and is the only schooner in the Galápagos. A silent sail, powered by wind offers the distinct charms of the past but with all the comforts of present-day. 

We hoist Mary Anne’s sails on every trip, and passengers can photograph this spectacle from the vantage point of the panga (zodiac boat). She is the only ship in the Galápagos Archipelago that can navigate by wind power alone and our expert crew will gladly welcome your help in the hoisting!

Sailing the Pacific and navigating around the biodiverse Galápagos  Islands is an unforgettable expedition for bird lovers, Darwin fans, sailors (greenhorns and sea dogs alike) and those who love extreme landscapes and experiences.

Feel the power of the equatorial wind and waves with like-minded women in this truly utopian destination.

DAY ONE: BLACK TURTLE COVE

After arriving at Baltra airport, we will be greeted by our awesome Wild Women naturalist guide and board the famed Mary Anne schooner for lunch.

In the afternoon, we will navigate a short distance to Black Turtle Cove, a large mangrove lagoon on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island. Pelicans, egrets and herons share real estate on the rocks and branches of the sheltered cove. Below, green sea turtles, spotted eagle and golden rays are often part of the welcoming committee. We’ll take a panga ride through the mangroves and instantly feel the incredible biodiversity of the islands. Yellow warblers, blue-footed boobies colour the cove but keep watch for life in all directions. Whitetip reef sharks and brown and white pufferfish can also be seen in the gin-clear waters.

Sea turtles mate here between December and March, taking sanctuary in the cove’s calm waters. Their nests are easily recognized as giant divots in the sand.

 

DAY TWO: GALAPÁGOS DISCOVERIES

In the morning, we’ll travel to Genovesa Island and have a wet landing on Darwin Bay. Expect to see yellow-crowned night herons, lava herons, red boobies and frigates cruising the airwaves. The swallow-tailed gull with its unmistakable red eye-ring and salmon pink legs is the only nocturnal gull in the world. They forage for fish and squid exclusively at night. Lava gulls, Galápagos storm petrels, Nazca boobies and tropicbirds with their kite-like white tail streamers are also documented here.

Darwin Bay is a coveted dive site and beach bums will appreciate it’s unique sandy coral beach fringed by prickly pear cacti, saltbush and mangroves. 

Later in the afternoon, we’ll explore the seabird colony of “El Barranco”. We’ll make a dry landing and climb Prince Phillip’s Steps (so named after the Duke of Edinburgh visited this isle in 1964) over the lava rock gully to the 25m (82 ft) eroded cliffs where frigatebirds and red-footed boobies nest in the trees. Nazca boobies are less particular and nest on the ground. The trail will take us to the inner part of the island that is peppered with cacti and the sweet perfume of the Palo Santo (Holy Stick) trees. If we are lucky, we’ll spot the endemic short-eared owl which preys on the storm-petrel population or the elusive fur sea lions.

 

DAY THREE: CHINESE HAT

In the morning, we’ll make a dry landing on lunar-like Bartolome (featured in the image above) to climb up the steep wooden steps to the panoramic summit of this spatter cone. The iconic Pinnacle Rock (once used as target practice by the US Army), neighbouring Santiago and several central islands in the distance make for guaranteed gorgeous photos. This windswept hardened lava landscape is dotted with a few tiquila plants (not that kind! Skip the lime and salt!) and the odd locust–that’s it!

Afterwards, we will visit the impossibly white sand beach that is favoured by sea turtles as a nesting site. Bartolome is also a reliable place to spot the darling 30cm-tall (12 inches) Galápagos penguin along the shores or bobbing beside the panga!

We’ll also make a dry landing on Chinese Hat or Sombrero Chino, on the coast of Santiago Island. This is an isle of juxtapositions: porcelain white coral beach, spatter cones and small lava tubes provide an irresistible backdrop for photographers honing in on playful sea lions and seemingly morose marine iguanas.

The red carpet weed of Chinese Hat is a brilliant, nearly neon contrast to the black lava rock. Lava herons and oystercatchers with carrot-orange bills poke along the shore while bull sea lions patrol, protecting their harem. The tidal pools are crystalline–look for sun stars and urchins! Candelabra cacti and the indigo sea create a knock-out view. Just add a spotted eagle ray taking flight over the surface of the water, flipping its angelic body to remove crustaceans with each propelled turn.

 

DAY FOUR: CERRO DRAGON

We’ll start the day with a wet landing on Rabida’s paprika-coloured beach to explore the island’s fascinating interior and saltwater lagoon, where bubblegum pink flamingos can be seen. Darwin’s finches, Galápagos mockingbirds, yellow warblers and white-cheeked pintails are common sights here too. Depending on the time of year, we may see brown pelicans nesting on saltbushes that fringe the beach. Further inland, the land iguana nesting sites are an impressive site. Look for sea stars of all sizes, creating an unexpected constellation on the cinnamon sand.

We’ll then head across to Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) on Santa Cruz’s northwest shore (dry landing) to visit another hypersaline lagoon (saltier than the ocean and Dutch licorice!), home to flamingoes and black‐necked stilts. There are only 400 flamingos found in the Galapagos–seeing them in their natural habitat is a pure treasure. There are eleven lagoons in the Galapagos where new and old nests have been found by park rangers and their increased presence is encouraging.

Feral dogs and goats were eradicated from Santa Cruz in 1990 and massive efforts were made to build a peninsula that would protect the land iguana populations. Almost all of the iguanas here are repatriated and are successfully reproducing.

The Dragon Hill trail cuts through three radically different environments–we’ll check out land iguana nests and be followed by mockingbirds full of song (or mockery?).

 

DAY FIVE: SANTA CRUZ HIGHLANDS

Today we will visit Santa Cruz Island’s famed hotspots. We’ll have a dry landing on Puerto Ayora’s dock and board a shuttle to the highlands. This humid area, in contrast to the coastal region, is verdant with lush vegetation–banana, mango, guava and Spanish cedar. We will visit one of the sanctuaries where it’s possible to have a close encounter with giant tortoises in their natural habitat. As these animals migrate from the coastal area to the highlands and back, the sanctuary we visit will be dependent on their movements. Wild tortoises can be seen along the roadway–they often create traffic jams with their slow-mo crossings! Have your camera at the ready for  the tortoise crossing caution signs! Keep watch for Darwin’s ground finches and possibly (no promises), the brilliant vermilion flycatcher as well.

We will return to the ship for lunch and then head back to Puerto Ayora to visit the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center at the Charles Darwin Research Station. The name of this breeding center is in  recognition of the 43-year service of tortoise keeper Fausto Llerena, who cared for Lonesome George. When George died in 2012, his body was shipped to New York to be taxidermied. Spending a few minutes in the climate-controlled environment of Lonesome George is a dynamic moment that won’t be forgotten.

At the Breeding Center we will see tortoises from the different islands–the semi-natural pens are divided according to the four different stages of development: eggs, neonates, juveniles and adults. The tortoises are held here until they can be reintroduced to their wild habitat around the age of five (or when they reach 20cm in length). Since 1970, over 2000 ‘galapaguitos’ (artificially incubated eggs from Pinzon, Santiago and Santa Cruz Islands) have been born, reared and returned to their native areas.

We’ll learn more about Darwin’s unswervable passion and marvel at the skeletons of  Bryde’s whale and blue-footed booby too. There are also revolving photo exhibits by children and university students.

After this visit, we’ll have some free time in the ‘city’ of Puerto Ayora. Be sure to check out the local fish market (it attracts buyers AND birds of all species! Pelicans, frigates, gulls!) and Santa Cruz Brewery, the first craft brewery in the Galapagos. Support local shop owners and artisans on your search for the perfect take-home reminder of the enchanted isles.

 

 

DAY SIX: SANTA FE ISLAND

In the morning, we’ll have a dry landing on one of the oldest docks of the archipelago on South Plaza off the east coast of Santa Cruz. Of the twin islands, only South Plaza is open to tourists–North Plaza’s rocky cliffs are reserved for scientific research only.

On South Plaza, green prickly pears, vibrant red Sesuvium (sea purslane) and Djion-yellow land iguanas populate the desert-like island (land iguanas LOVE the prickly pear fruit while marine iguanas will opt for dried high-calcium sea lion droppings if vegetation is scarce).  The sloping island was uplifted from the heaving ocean floor and the seaward cliffs attract squawking colonies of coastal birds. This isle is also a great place to observe the antics of adult and pup sea lions. Watch for the bull tending to his harem! Bachelor colonies tend to safely inhabit the southwest side of the island. 

We’ll look for the brown noddy, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds, frigates and lava gulls too.

After a wet landing on Santa Fe (Barrington Island), we will poke along the powder-white beach where sea lions like to hang out. We will be on high alert for the endemic species of land iguana which is larger and more yellow than land iguanas on other islands. The largest prickly pear cacti in the Galápagos, the Opuntia, is also found here. They can grow over 10m (32 feet!) tall.

 

DAY SEVEN: ESPANOLA ISLAND

This morning, we will head to Suarez Point, one of the most popular landing sites in Galápagos. Flora and fauna highlights include sea lions body-surfing on the large breakers like Laird Hamilton, breeding large marine iguanas (the males will adopt a reddish tinge or green hue to woo the gals during this time), carrot-orange beaked oystercatchers, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, Galápagos hawks, Galápagos doves, swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Birders, get your checklist ready for these two highly-coveted endemic species (only found on Española): the waved albatross (present only during breeding season: April to December) and the Española mockingbird. This mockingbird is carnivorous with a diet that includes sea turtle hatchlings, sea lion placenta, insects and marine iguana eggs. They will also siphon blood from blue-footed booby chicks as there is no freshwater source on the island. 

The albatross population (12,000) gathers her for comical 5-day long mating dances (can you say Kama Sutra?) that involve elaborate ‘beak-fencing’ displays to impress the ladies.

The endemic Española lava lizard deserves some limelight too! The trail ends at El Soplador, a blowhole that dramatically sprays water some 25m (75 feet) into the air from a deep volcanic fissure. Move over Ol’ Faithful!

We will spend the afternoon on mesmerizing Gardner Bay on the northwest side of this southernmost, remote island. We’ll have a wet landing on Española and absorb the marvels of the icing sugar beach and barking sea lions. Expect marine iguanas and mockingbirds! Close to Española, there is a coveted spot for snorkeling called Gardner Islet. Sea lions often opt to join in on the face-to-face fun. Snorkelers may see King angelfish, Creole fish, darting damsels, toothy parrotfish and whitetip reef sharks. We’ll take advantage of another snorkeling opportunity at Osborn islet too!

 

DAY EIGHT: DEPARTURE

This is our last day under the dizzying spell of the magical islands! After breakfast we will disembark in Puerto Ayora for transport to Baltra airport. We’ll make a stop to visit the Twin Craters en route. The Gemelos (‘twins’) are in fact not true craters, but magma domes that have collapsed, leaving two deep and wide holes located on the side of the road.

After this visit, we will make our way to the Baltra airport for the flight to mainland Ecuador. Don’t forget to take one last look at the prehistoric wild land iguanas and prickly pear cacti on your way to the tarmac! Darwin’s finches are usually found at the airport too–one last sweet reminder of all that you have seen!


BERTH SPECIFICS

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AMAZON RAINFOREST EXTENSION! (4 DAYS) 

Located in the heart of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is rich with extraordinary wildlife and vibrant local culture. Spanning nearly 2.5 million acres of Amazonian rainforest. Napo Wildlife Center is a gem to be cherished and the only lodge within the Yasuni park boundaries, an important biosphere reserve and the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador.

Napo Wildlife Center is one of the most successful projects of community tourism in Ecuador. The project has an excellent standard of accommodation and service, making your stay an unforgettable experience in the most biodiverse place on the planet! It is located in the territory of the Añangu Kichwa Community totally inside of the Yasuní National Park, here, hunting and fishing are forbidden in all the area of the community. This is one of the main reasons why you can see so much wildlife in its natural state!

 

 

DAY ONE: CANOE ALONG THE NAPO RIVER

Depart from Quito on your 30-minute flight to Coca over the eastern Andes mountain range. Land about mid-morning and go through airport procedures. Take a 5-minute transfer in local chiva (hired bus) or local taxi from the airport to Port La mision / Francisco de Orellana, which will drive us to embark onto a comfortably covered motorboat.

Here we start a canoe ride along the Napo river for about 2 hours. There will be a lunch box en route. Along the way birds like herons, kingfishers and others can be spotted. After arriving at NWC’s entry dock we disembark for a restroom break and then take a majestic and peaceful 1 to 2 hours dugout canoe ride surrounded by trees overhead, paddling along a narrow creek that connects to the lake where the lodge is located. There is a good possibility of seeing monkeys of various species, as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws. Late afternoon arrival to the NWC lodge with the overwhelming view of the Añangu lake, welcome drink and facilities.

 

 

 

DAY TWO: PARROT CLAY LICKS

Early wake up to reach the parrot clay licks, about 1 hour away from the lodge. Arrive just before parrot activity kicks off at the clay lick between 7:30 to 8:30 AM. A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen. The visit is weather-dependent but usually successful. Later, hike along the forest trail to visit the Kichwa Community of Añangu for sharing time with a family and an intro to their daily activities. Return to the creek and hike through a Terra Firme Forest for about 30 minutes until we arrive at the second parrot clay lick where, if the weather conditions permit, we’ll be able to find different species of parrots, parakeets and even macaws. Lunchbox served at the parrot clay lick observatory. Late afternoon arrival to the lodge.

 

 

 

DAY THREE: NAPO WILDLIFE CENTER

After an early breakfast, depart from the lodge to the finest experience at a canopy tower on the Napo. This 36m high canopy tower is a great way to experience life above the forest floor. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center (the first is attached to the dining hall and allows great views of the lake).

The tower is located about 30 minutes from the lodge deep within the terra firme forest. As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is actually built into the tree and experience a view formerly reserved only for birds. The metal tower itself was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers. Safety is the priority. The platform at the top of the tree was constructed by tree platform specialists as well.

From top to bottom, there is no finer canopy experience in Eastern Ecuador. Flocks of colourful tanagers weave through the canopy; blue and yellow Macaws fly past; a nearby Spider Monkeys searches for fruit; two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.

The canopy tower opens a whole new world to guests of the Napo Wildlife Center! Lunch served at the lodge. Afternoon visit to a terra firme trail, hike along primary forest to discover the forest interior, with possibilities of finding lizards, colourful manakins or the unique and endemic golden mantle tamarin monkeys. After the hike, explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with great possibilities of running into a giant otter family on the way…

 

 

 

DAY FOUR: NAPO RIVER SIGHTS

Early departure and last canoe excursion back to the Napo river. The creek may reveal new sights of giant otters, monk saki monkeys or many other rare birds. Arrive at docking area, use of restrooms and embark on motorized canoe back to Coca; approximately 2-hour boat ride. Check-in for Coca – Quito flight.