WONDERS OF ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Embark on an experience of a lifetime on an adventure to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, a place like nowhere else on earth!
Start your once-in-a-lifetime journey with two nights in Quito, the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then we fly to Baltra Island in the Galapagos and board a four night Galapagos cruise onboard the luxurious M/V Galapagos Legend.
There will be time to explore the islands, walk amongst volcanic formations and see the unique animals that have made the Galapagos Islands famous; the blue-footed booby, Galapagos tortoise and the land iguanas.
Quito - Galapagos Islands: Tagus Cove (Isabela Island) - Espinosa Point (Fernandina Island) - Vicente Roca Point (Isabela Island)
* Roundtrip airfare
• Plaza Premium airport lounge pass
• Domestic flights
• Quito: three nights 4-star hotel accommodation
• Cruise: four-night cruise onboard M/V Galapagos Legend in a junior suite, ocean view stateroom with meals (coffee, tea and snacks available 24 hours)
• Seven breakfasts, four lunches and four dinners
• Multilingual-speaking naturalist guides onboard the cruise
• All excursions as per the itinerary
• Snorkeling gear provided onboard the cruise
• Galapagos National Institute Migration Control card and entrance fee to Galapagos National Park
• Merit Travel tour host**
• All transfers, taxes and gratuities
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DAY 1 | Apr. 14, 2020 | Toronto - Quito
Today board your same-day flight from Toronto to Quito.
Upon arrival, we meet our representative and transfer to our hotel.
Overnight at Dann Carlton Hotel (2 nights)
DAY 2 | Apr. 15, 2020 | Quito (B)
Breakfast at the hotel. The city of Quito was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, in 1978. Today we will go on a city tour and enjoy the eclectic architecture ranging from the modern quarters to varied colonial facades on churches and private residences.
See the gothic Basilica of the Heart of Jesús, Independence Square developed during the past five centuries and flanked by the Presidential and the Archbishop’s palaces, dating back to the 17th and 19th centuries.
Walk along the streets to see the Metropolitan Cathedral with excellent samples of the Spanish renaissance. See the street of the seven crosses and pass by the Jesuit convent, once headquarters of the first university in the country.
Visit the Jesuit temple of the baroque art in the Americas "La Compañía de Jesús", and the jewel of the crown of the colonial architecture in Quito. Continue to the Plaza of San Francisco, with the temple and convent which displays a rich sample of artistic and cultural heritage.
From there we head approximately 18 km's north of downtown Quito to visit “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World) and the Monument to the Equator, situated at 0º latitude, 0 minutes, 0 seconds. We will also visit the museum of Ethnic groups of Ecuador before returning back to the hotel in the late afternoon.
DAY 3 | Apr. 16, 2020 | Quito - Galapagos (B, L, D)
Breakfast at the hotel then check out. Transfer to the airport for your flight from Quito to Baltra Island, Galapagos.
Arriving in the Galapagos, we will be met at the airport by the naturalist guides and transferred by coach to the pier to board the luxurious M/V Galapagos Legend.
We will then enjoy lunch onboard before starting our afternoon of cruising to the Mosquera Islet. Mosquera Islet is located between North Seymour and Baltra Island. This flat, sandy island has a large colony of sea lions. It is also an excellent site to observe shorebirds such as herons and lava gulls. There is no trail on the islet, so you can enjoy the open area. Most of the islet is covered with sand and barren lava rock wth little perennial herbs (sesuvium portulacastrum).
Overnight onboard M/V Galapagos Legend (4 nights)
DAY 4 | Apr. 17, 2020 | Galapagos (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we visit Egas Port (Santiago Island). Egas Port is a black volcanic sand beach, visited by Darwin in 1835. The first section of the trail is formed of volcanic ash (eroded tuff), and the other half is an uneven terrain of volcanic basaltic rock. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago shore is home to a variety of animals including the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron and marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally light-foot crabs. It is easy to see colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water volcanic rock pools.
In the afternoon we visit Rabida Island. Dark-red sand covers the unique beaches of this island, home to sea lions’ colonies. Rabida is considered the epicentre of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting brown pelicans are found from July through September plus nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches.
Here a dinghy ride along marine cliffs is done, to observe nesting seabirds. Snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active.
DAY 5 | Apr. 18, 2020 | Galapagos (B, L, D)
After breakfast we visit Urbina Bay (Isabela Island), made of mostly volcanic sand; depending on the season, it is possible to find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual flightless cormorant. After a short walk inland it's snorkeling time, a chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions, and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plants with multi-coloured flowers, attracting different insects, birds, and reptiles. One of the highlights of the island is the uplifted coral reef that resulted from seismic activity in 1954. When navigating from Urbina to Tagus Cove whale-watching is usual from May to December.
In the afternoon we visit Tagus Cove (Isabela Island). This is the Galapagos’ largest island where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that formed it. The trail leads to Darwin’s salt-water crater lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations.
We will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as the blue-footed booby, brown noddy, terns, flightless cormorant, and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos penguins which are only 35cm tall; the only penguin species in the world to live in the tropics.
The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south.
DAY 6 | Apr. 19, 2020 | Galapagos (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we visit Espinosa Point (Fernandina Island). From Espinosa Point, we will have a wide view of Isabela Island across the Bolivar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. Here, the largest, most primitive-looking marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and sally lightfoot crabs. Fernandina displays a wonderful opportunity to encounter flightless cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos penguins and the “King” of predators on the islands, the Galapagos hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of Fernandina terrain. Vegetation is scarce inland, with very few cacti and mangrove on the shoreline.
In the afternoon we visit Vicente Roca Point (Isabela Island), which offers great deep-water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth, the Bolivar Channel. Accessible by water, we take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds. The upwelling of cold water currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life, a perfect place for snorkeling.
DAY 7 | Apr. 20, 2020 | Galapagos - Quito (B)
After breakfast we visit the Highlands Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz Island). In the mountains of Galapagos admire different kind of birds, such as tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers, paint-billed crakes, yellow warblers, and cattle egrets (usually standing on the tortoises’ shells).
The journey to the reserve offers great opportunities to see the contrasts that the island offers in reference to the variety of ecosystems. The road goes from the coast through the agricultural zone and straight up to the dense humid forests. Often, Galapagos giant tortoises are also seen on the way, wandering through pastures in the paddocks. This spot is a birdwatchers’ haven, since almost every land bird present on the island lives or migrates here.
Later we disembark and transfer to Baltra airport for our flight to Quito.
Upon arrival in Quito, we are met and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at our own leisure.
Overnight at Dann Carlton Hotel (1 night)
DAY 8 | Apr. 21, 2020 | Quito - Toronto (B)
Breakfast at hotel and check out, then we depart for the airport for our flight home.
*CDN$ p.p. dbl. occ. Taxes included. Single supplement: $2,700. Airfare available from most Canadian airports, please enquire. **Minimum 10 passengers required for a Merit Travel tour host.
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