NOTE: As of Jan 2, 2020, this trip is sold out. The company is taking a waiting list, so please call to be added to that, as cancellations often occur: 1-409-515-9110
You might want to pack an extra journal…
Join trip leaders John Muir Laws and Marley Alexander Peifer for a week among the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands lie 625m off the coast of Ecuador in South America. The wildlife of the islands is famously tame and wonderful. The sketching and journaling opportunities are like no place on earth. We travel onboard the Angelito, sailing from island to island, making landfall to explore, sketch and wonder. When we are not exploring the islands, you can sketch from the deck of the ship, develop your sketches and journal pages, relax on the boat, or participate in relevant natural history and sketching workshops (ecology, geology, drawing seabirds in flight and on land, Galapagos finches and how to draw them, how to sketch Marine Iguanas and Galapagos Tortoises, drawing water and waves, watercolor and pencil techniques, and more).
This will be an amazing trip. We will do everything we can to take care of you and ensure an incredible experience. As important as the itinerary is the people along on the expedition. We are looking for team of excited, playful, generous, and kind people. The most important thing is kindness. We will be in close quarters on a boat together in an unfamiliar land. Though we plan and prepare, some things will not go as planned, we are all human and we will have to work together to get along and make the trip work. If you know that you tend to be irritable, have difficulty accommodating others, need lots of alone time, or have difficulty adapting to changes, this may not be the trip for you. Given these considerations, please contact me to discuss how I can be of help to accommodate your special needs.
Call 1 (409) 515-9110 to hold a place on the waiting list. This trip is limited to 12 participants.
You want birds? You can’t handle the birds! The islands are home to a discrete set of endemic bird species (more than twenty by current taxonomy, but ever-increasing). Look out for the Galapagos Penguin, Galapagos Shearwater, Waved Albatross, Galapagos Rail, Lava Gull, Espanola, and Galapagos Mockingbirds, and a host of finches, including the tool-using Woodpecker Finch. Aside from these so-called specialties, there are other birds that arguably are as high on the list of priorities like seeing frigatebirds displaying spectacularly at close range, tropicbirds effortlessly hanging in the wind offshore, and Blue-footed Boobies dancing mere inches away onshore. Not a birder? How about enormous Giant Tortoises, unique aquatic Marine Iguanas, and the absurdly confiding Galapagos Sea-Lions. There will also be optional snorkeling during the cruise too, for those who wish to do so.
The cost of the trip includes all costs except dinner on the 20th, alcoholic beverages (if ordered), souvenirs, tips, airfare, and a $120 park entrance fee.
June 20, Day 1: Arrival in Quito
Most flights arrive in the evening. You will be met at the airport and transferred to a hotel in Quito for the night.
June 21, Day 2: Flight to the Galapagos
In the morning, we will take a flight from the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, to the island of Baltra in the Galapagos (exact details of this flight are not yet known, but will be passed on to you before the tour begins), the main entry point into the islands. After going through entry procedures, we will take a short bus ride (10 minutes or so), to the dock, where we will connect with our yacht, which will be our base for the next eight nights. We are likely to see our first endemics right by the airport, as Small and Medium Ground-Finches, and Galapagos Doves can often be seen around there. Once we reach the harbor of the bay on Baltra, where the yacht will be waiting for us, we may also see Lava Gull, Brown Noddy, or Elliot’s Storm-Petrel hanging around in the bay. As we get orientated on the ship, we’ll make a short trip to North Seymore Island.
This small island is not much to look at compared to the other spectacular scenery, but it is worth a visit for some targets. Because it is in the rain shadow of Santa Crus, it is a much drier island and has an extensive coastal desert zone, and with that comes the cactus eating land Iguanas. They are a wonder to explore with your journal. They spend a lot of their time waiting at the base of a prickly pear cactus, hoping for it to drop its fruit. Also, make careful sketches of the Magnificent Frigate birds here, so you can compare them with Greater Frigatebirds later. So people can get their sea legs, the first night is a short sailing night in the calm seas around eastern Santa Cruz and Santiago.
June 22, Day 3. Eastern side of Santiago
We’ll start the day at a small islet called Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat, named after its shape) where we may have the best chances for the famed Galápagos Penguin so far, in fact here you may have the chance to snorkel together with these playful birds and with some (harmless) White-ripped Reef-Sharks as well. Galápagos Hawk is also present here and if we did not see it already. You may want to make a diagram of the succession of vegetation colonizing a basalt flow. The lavas here are tholeiitic in nature, so turn your binoculars around and see the plagioclase feldspars from the pillow lava flows.
Bartolome is the best place for Galapagos Penguin, so this is the number one target for the afternoon. We will take the pangas around the coast searching for them. We will then spend time walking up through the moonscape of cinder cones and different basalt flow. The scenery is spectacular. Around the landing, we will have iguanas, seals, sea-lions, and abundant marine life that lend to the overall spectacle. This area also hosts the rarest gull in the world – Lava Gull, in addition to Lava Herons, which mimic their volcanic surrounds. In the afternoon we set sail for Genovesa, the most northeasterly of the islands. The beach visit is likely to see us come into contact with further endemics, with the tame Galapagos Flycatcher, friendly Galapagos Mockingbird, and up to three ground-finches all possible. While rare, Galapagos Martin is also possible, so we should keep an eye on the skies overhead too. However, the Galapagos is more than just a collection of endemic birds, we are also likely to experience some of the most approachable Yellow Warblers on the planet, and also offers some good shorebird habitat, where we could see our first Wandering Tattlers, Least Sandpipers, or Black-necked Stilts.
June 23, Day 4: Genovesa
Also known as “Bird Island”, Genovesa is literally packed with nesting birds. In the morning, you will make a wet landing at Darwin Bay, a horseshoe-shaped bay at the southern end of the island; in the afternoon another landing will be made at Prince Phillip’s Steps on the southeastern tip of the bay. Tens of thousands of birds nest on the island, which holds, among other things, the largest single colony of Red-footed Boobies in the world. Unlike their more famous cousins, the Blue-footed Booby, this species nests in trees dotted across Genovesa, which make for great eye-level views and sketching. Some of the other birds that you can expect to see, include Swallow-tailed Gull, Magnificent Frigatebird and Red-billed Tropicbird doing spectacular pair flights along the cliffs. The Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels come to land here during the day, which is rare among storm petrels. If we are lucky, we may find the local race of Short-eared Owl hunting storm petrels in the day in from of us. The island also offers the only shot at Genovesa Cactus-Finch for the cruise, a recently split species.
There may be other opportunities to snorkel here, which can yield close encounters with a myriad tropical fish, as well as turtles and harmless reef sharks. There will be a morning and afternoon session on the island, broken up with a break onboard the yacht for lunch. While all of the islands visited offer excellent sketching, painting, and journaling opportunities, After we have finished up on “Bird Island”, we shall set sail for two other islands far to the southwest of this one.
June 24, Day 5: Eastern Santiago and Rabida
We start the day at Puerto Ergas, on the stark western side of Santiago Island. This morning is spent looking at the intertidal pools where we concentrate on lava Herons, Marine Iguanas and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. We head over to La Rabida. Here we visit some hypersaline ponds on the backside of the beach. This area is great for flamingo and shorebirds, and we will also walk through the Palo Santo trees.
June 25, Day 6: Santa Cruz Island
We will have a visit to the Charles Darwin Station, which has a giant tortoise and land iguana breeding program and an interpretation center. We should also spend some time with the fish cleaning area to draw hungry pelicans.
We then visit the highlands of Santa Cruz where many target bird species are located. The drive and walk up into the highlands will be in marked contrast; here the habitat changes to wet, and verdant Scalesia forest. This is very different from the dry coastal Galapagos, studded with cacti. These higher elevations are home to an array of endemic species, and is particularly rich in Darwin’s Finches; we will especially be on the lookout for Large Tree-Finch, Woodpecker Finch, Vegetarian Finch, and Green Warbler-Finch. We will visit Rancho Primisias, where we will spend time with the enormous animal after which the islands were named, the Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise.
June 26, Day 7: Española Island
The whole day will be spent on this wonderful island, where the single largest colony of Waved Albatrosses is located. Nearly the entire population nests at this location with just a few pairs also nesting on another offshore island in Ecuador. Our trip is timed for the Albatross to have young, so there should be at least one parent sitting nearby, and other flying around the island. Galapagos Shearwater is common in the waters surrounding the island. This island is also home to the super-curious Española Mockingbird, a bird so tame that it will sometimes land right on people. If by this stage, we have not yet seen a Galapagos Hawk well, then we have great chances here too. Gray Warbler-Finch is also regular on the scrub near the beach and the newly minted Española Ground-Finch is normally found bounding around at close range nearby.
June 27, Day 8: Santa Fé and South Plazas
These two islands will provide some striking scenery together with fascinating wildlife. It is sometimes said that the Galapagos Islands could be referred to as the “Islands of Reptiles”, as many of the most striking residents are indeed reptilian. In the morning, our island visit to Santa Fe will involve a walk within a forest of giant Opuntia cacti. This is where one of the most local island residents can be found, the endemic Santa Fé Land Iguana. In the afternoon, we will get to complete the set with the other species of Land Iguana on South Plazas. Sandwiched in between there will be the opportunity for more snorkeling off Santa Fé, which boasts diverse underwater wildlife. The afternoon visit to South Plazas will also see us observe cliffs where breeding seabirds like Swallow-tailed Gulls and Red-billed Tropicbirds can be found.
June 28, Day 9: Black Turtle Cove to Quito
We start the morning in a mangrove-fringed cove. This morning is about water animals where we watch from our pangas as Golden and Spotted eagle rays swim by, as well as both White-tipped Reef and Galapagos Sharks. We will return to Baltra for our flights back to Quito, where we will have a farewell dinner in an airport hotel. Depending on your flight time, we can either leave on a late-night flight from Quito on day 9 or leave on a morning flight on day 10.
June 29, Day 10: Departure from Quito
Most flights leave Quito in the early morning, but for those wishing a day in Quito, they can check out of the hotel at 11 am, leave their gear and send the day in Quito Colonial (old Town) before taking a night flight back to the US.
Travel insurance: All participants must have fully comprehensive travel insurance. Make sure your coverage allows you to cancel for any reason including Covid-19. Here is a link to travel insurance plans recommended by Forbes. The policy should be valid from the date that the initial order is placed so as to provide cover for any cancellation prior to departure. During travel, the insurance needs to provide comprehensive medical, evacuation, and repatriation cover. If you would like a recommend a broker, please let me know. Some of the safari partners on the ground may well ask for your policy details during travel, so please make sure you at least know the insurance company, policy number, and the 24hr contact details. If you are unable to provide these then they reserve the right to refuse to take you on that portion of the trip and any alternative arrangements will be made at your expense.
To get an insurance plan that allows you to cancel for any reason, you will need to buy the insurance right after you make your first payment for the trip. These plans allow you to cancel without any conditions and usually reimburse up to 75% of unused, non-refundable, prepaid trip costs For instance, the Diver’s Alert Network Insurance has cancel for any reason as an optional upgrade on the Elite plan if purchased within 24 hours of initial deposit. Travelx Insurance also has a plan that can be purchased with the base plan within 15 days of initial payment or deposit. With Seven Corners RoundTrip Trip Cancelation Insurance, you have a 20-day window to apply.
Airfare: Air travel to Quito International Airport and back is not included.
Tips. Our Ecuadorian Guides and staff earn a significant part of their income through tips, so it is helpful that each satisfied customer provide a tip at the end of the trip.
Who should apply and group norms
This adventure is going to be fun, amazing, and will blow your mind. The trip is for folks who really want to explore the Galapagos at a sketcher’s pace within a community of like-minded naturalists. If you are not into nature journaling, this is not the trip for you. The trip is open to all skill levels, you just really need to love it. We will travel from island to island by boat. This means we need to cooperate with and accommodate everyone else onboard. A big part of the success and enjoyment of the trip will depend on how we work and play together. We want people who get along well with others and are flexible and kind, even when tired. Our guiding principles are respect and kindness, for each other, for our guides and crew, for staff and community people we meet, and for the places and animals, we will encounter.
Here are some great ideas to prepare for the expedition from the amazing Marley Peifer.