Luxury Small Group Journeys: The finest small-group travel experience
Cruise for six nights aboard a spacious expedition vessel to the Galapacos, where you stroll pristine beaches among giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies, and snorkel and kayak with sea lions and fish.
DAY 1: Arrive Guayaquil, Ecuador
Arrive in Guayaquil, the commercial center of Ecuador, where you are met and transferred to your hotel.
Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil
DAY 2: Guayaquil | Chocolate Tasting & Organic Lunch
This morning, drive into the rural countryside for a visit to Hacienda La Danesa, a traditional dairy and cacao farm with a rich heritage and history. Learn about growing and harvesting cocoa for famed Ecuadorian chocolate during a hands-on plantation visit that includes tasting artisan chocolate, before enjoying an organic farm lunch. Return to Guayaquil for a brief city tour. Tonight, enjoy a delightful welcome dinner.
Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil | Meals: B L D
DAY 3: The Galápagos | On Board ‘La Pinta’
Fly to Baltra in the remote Galápagos Islands. You are met by your naturalist guide and escorted to ‘La Pinta,’ your home for a six-night cruise through the Galapagos’ Western Islands. Nimble enough to access the Galápagos Islands, yet large and stable enough for safety, ‘La Pinta’ is built for adventure, offering spacious cabins and a comfortable atmosphere. The vessel is ecologically sound as well, and comes equipped with pangas (rubber rafts), a glass-bottom boat, and sea kayaks that allow for independent exploration. After lunch, attend an introductory briefing and a fitting for your wetsuit and snorkeling gear.
‘La Pinta’ | Meals: B L D
DAYS 4-8: The Galápagos | Spectacularly Diverse Wildlife
Lying 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a haven for some of the world’s most varied wildlife. It was this diversity that first led naturalist Charles Darwin to propose that species evolved in response to their environment. Darwin’s work also helped to alert the world to the need — urgent even in his own day — to preserve these islands from degradation by humans. Today, tourism to the Galápagos is closely managed, protecting the wildlife while allowing you to experience the environment much as Darwin did. Because weather, water and wildlife conditions are subject to constant change, your cruise itinerary is not fixed, but two daily excursions are planned to the main sites and islands.
This cruise itinerary explores the true origins of the archipelago, and includes landmarks such as Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, the intriguing red beach of Rabida Island, the Champion Inlet of Floreana Island, and the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Each cruise day begins with a hearty breakfast, before boarding a sturdy pangafor the morning shore excursion. As soon as your feet touch terra firma, expect to spot flora and fauna (differing species, depending on the island), take photos and confer with your naturalist guide.You may see sun-bathing sea lions; skittering Sally Lightfoot crabs; tangles of marine and land iguanas; penguins, flamingos, finches, terns and blue-footed boobies; even a century-old tortoise diligently trudging over the sand. Return to ‘La Pinta’ for a refreshing lunch, perhaps taken al fresco on deck, followed by time at leisure to nap or socialize. Keep your binoculars handy for possible sightings of dolphins or seabirds. In the afternoon, return to the pangas for the second excursion of the day, perhaps with an opportunity to swim, kayak or snorkel. You may well come face to face with a water-dwelling inhabitant, such as a curious sea turtle stopping by to inspect those visiting its equatorial home. Back on board ‘La Pinta,’ enjoy time to shower and relax before gathering in the dining room for another wonderful meal.
Each evening, your time is your own: Attend a lecture presented by one of your affable guides, who recaps the day and gives a sneak peek at tomorrow’s itinerary; explore the mysteries of the night sky with a fascinating astronomy lecture on deck; peruse the ship’s library for further insight into a species you encountered; or gather for cocktails in the lounge to cap a day of extraordinary discoveries. Drift asleep in your air-conditioned cabin to the rise and fall of gentle ocean swells.
‘La Pinta’ | Meals: B L D
DAYS 9–10: Guayaquil | Farewell Dinner & Departure
Disembark today and fly back to Guayaquil. Enjoy time to relax before gathering for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. The next morning, transfer to the airport to board a flight home, or to Lima, Peru, to begin the post-tour extension.
Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil | Meals: B D (Day 9); Meals: B (Day 10)
NOTE: ‘La Pinta’ is an adventure vessel, and while it is ideal for small-group exploration in the Galápagos, it is not a luxury ship. The ship and its shore excursions are shared with other passengers.