Small Ship Cruises
Ecuador | Galapagos Islands | Adult Only
Fearless and free: the soul of the Galapagos
8 days / 7 nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
Discover Darwin’s natural laboratory on this exclusive, small-ship cruise around the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Our expert guides can’t wait to share the fascinating stories and endemic occurrences unique to this chain of islands. Your home for the week is a 20-passenger luxury yacht, replete with cozy lodgings, expansive viewing decks and plenty of hamlets to soak in the setting sun while sipping a glass of local wine or beer before indulging in a delicious meal prepared especially for you. Venture from island to island each day as you learn from our regionally-based naturalists the many facts and folklore behind the quirky flora and fauna animating the surrounding land and sea. Stretch your boat legs as you explore the spectacular volcanic terrain by foot and the rich coastal waters off-shore by snorkel. All the while, Austin’s signature touch of inspired, thoughtful service invites you to unwind and experience endless exceptional encounters with the curious, colorful wildlife and one of the world’s most well-preserved biological marine reserves. An adventure of a lifetime in the Galapagos Islands awaits!
Welcome to Darwin’s natural laboratory. Venture each day from your 20-passenger luxury yacht with a skilled naturalist to a new island and get up-close-and-personal with the stunning terrain and exotic creatures that make the Galapagos Islands their home. This eight-day, custom excursion guarantees to surprise, delight and enlighten the most curious of travelers, sending you home with an impressive collection of photos, knowledge and memories to last a lifetime.
- Come nose to nose with a 600-pound, 150-year-old tortoise
- Snorkel alongside warm-water penguins fishing off a rocky shore
- Play hide and seek with a doe-eyed sea lion pup off the nose of your kayak
- Marvel at the lava bombs, spatter cones, cinder cones and lava tubes on a hike to the top of an inactive volcano
- Watch as a blue-footed booby dances in courtship
- Explore wind and sea-swept volcanic rock, stepping carefully so as not to disturb the sunning iguanas
- Raise a glass over the rail of your 83-foot, 20-passenger luxury motor-yacht, perfectly suited to navigate the islands pristine water
Austin Adventures is proudly offering this trip in conjunction with our Ecuadorian partner Ecoventura. Each year, Ecoventura carries thousands of nature enthusiasts to the Galápagos Islands. As Ecoventura enters its third decade of operation, we reflect back to 1990 when boat builders outfitted their first two 20- passenger vessels, Eric and Flamingo. In 1994 they launched their third sister yacht, Letty. In 2001 they launched the MV Galapagos Sky, a custom-designed dive live-aboard. In 2016 Ecoventura introduced their premium class yacht, Origin, making her debut in January, 2016. In 2019, Ecoventura added yet another state-of-the-art luxury cruise vessel to its fleet in March 2019, the Theory. Clearly, Ecoventura holds a solid reputation for delivering personalized service, value and a high level of guest satisfaction. Ecoventura’s participation in the Smart Voyager environmental certification program ensures that all vessels, passengers and crewmembers commit to preserve the Galápagos National Park and to respect the fragile ecosystem that, worldwide, is recognized as a “living laboratory of evolution.” Offering unmatched comfort and safety, Ecoventura, delivers the enchantment of the Galápagos with a dedication to details that will make your journey fun, comfortable and truly rewarding.
A few more reasons why you've gotta go:
For a step back in time: Follow in Darwin's footsteps and experience first-hand where his Theory of Evolution all began.
The fearless wildlife: Without any natural predators, the raptors, reptiles and marine mammals of the Galapagos are clearly as interested in you as you are in them.
The giant tortoise: For a true definition of longevity, come face-to-face with the world's most enduring creature (whose average life span is 150-175 years!).
Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador UIO or GYE
Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador UIO or GYE
Quito or Guayaquil / Galapagos - San Cristobal Island
Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, you are met at the airport and transferred by bus and then Zodiac to the yacht anchored in the bay. After a welcome briefing and safety drill, a delicious buffet lunch is served on board. In the afternoon, travel to Cerro Colorado to visit Centro de Crianza Jacinto Gordillo (La Galapaguera) where the national park has established a breeding program for giant tortoises in their natural habitat. At the visitor center, learn about the origin and evolution of tortoises, as well as threats from introduced animals. Along the trail, watch for the San Cristobal mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island. Return to the vessel for a briefing followed by our Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner prepared by our chefs.
About the Origin & Theory by Ecoventura
Intimate and exclusive for just 20 guests and 13 crew, the identical luxury expedition yachts, Origin & Theory by Ecoventura, and were named after Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Origin of Species. The only Galapagos vessels to have joined the ranks of the esteemed Relais & Chateaux organization operate as five-star floating boutique hotels. Inspired by the Galapagos calming nature, the minimalist-chic interiors incorporate a sophisticated neutral palette of silver, ash and dusty grey tones. The ten deluxe staterooms offer spectacular views of the ocean and essential modern luxuries. Each meal is carefully prepared, with dinner a beautifully plated four-course menu with locally sourced Ecuadorian inspired cuisine. The spacious sun deck is fashioned with shaded day beds, chic lounges, an outdoor shower, a wet bar, and a hot tub.
Origin & Theory are the only yachts in Galapagos accepted into Relais & Chateaux and they operate as five-star floating boutique hotels. Compared to other vessels their size, they feature:
- A crew of 13 including two naturalist guides (lowest guide to passenger ratio)
- A Concierge (holds a Master’s degree in hotel management)
- Glass bottom boat and two Zodiacs
- Fitness Center
- Open bar policy
- Satellite Wi-Fi
- Afternoon tea
- Spacious sundeck with a Jacuzzi, outdoor shower and a restroom, lunch is served al fresco
- Gourmet style cuisine Healthy & sustainable gastronomy
Cabin amenities include a vanity and lighted mirror, sectional closet with drawers, a Flat screen TV with pre-loaded movies, universal docking station, USB, clock, safety deposit box, individual climate control and black out curtains, Nespresso machine and tea kettle. You’ll find bathrobes, slippers, bio-degradable soap and shampoo, and plush towels. A light laundry service is available (additional charge).
Prince Philip’s Steps / Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island
Spend the entire day on Genovesa (Tower) Island, one of the most spectacular places in Galapagos for bird species. Land at Prince Philip’s Steps, where red-footed boobies nest in palo santo trees, Nazca boobies nest near the trail, and storm petrels gather in large numbers in an open lava field. With luck, you may see the elusive short-eared owl. Return to the vessel for a BBQ lunch on the sun deck. Choose to explore the cliffs up close from a kayak or stand-up paddle board. Look for the red-billed tropic bird hiding in the crevices or snorkel in deeper water from the Zodiac. Land at Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of great frigate birds nest, the males inflating their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. Choose to relax on the beach or swim with sea lions in these northern warmer waters. Return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner. Out on deck, the sky is illuminated with stars.
Las Bachas / Cerro Dragon - Santa Cruz Island
Today we visit Las Bachas, (Spanish for barges) on the northern side of Santa Cruz. Explore the long stretch of a white sand beach and the interior lagoons populated by greater flamingo. Then take the opportunity for some wonderful snorkeling from the beach. Return to the yacht for lunch. This afternoon, step ashore on Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) for a majestic view of the bay and the island landscape covered in opuntia cactus, palo santo and muyuyo (Cordia letea). The trail also offers excellent opportunities to see Darwin’s finches, Galapagos flycatchers, yellow warblers, Audubon shearwater, as well as the endemic land iguanas, that were once part of the Station’s breeding program In the saltwater lagoon, pink flamingos feed alongside other birds such as stilts, pintail ducks and sandpipers. After the briefing and dinner, we sail toward the western islands and cross the equator for the second time.
Punta Vicente Roca / Urbina Bay - Isabela Island
This morning we visit Punta Vicente Roca on a Zodiac ride offering an incredible view of the tuff walls, where we can enter the wave-sculpted cave. There is an excellent chance to snorkel here and find penguins and sea turtles that frequent this area. During lunch, we sail through the Bolivar Channel. Take a seat on deck to view the dramatic scenery and watch for whales and dolphins riding the bow wave, and occasionally the Mola-Mola, an odd looking giant sun fish. Disembark at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island, where four miles of coastal seabed were exposed due to a dramatic uplift during a volcanic eruption in 1954. See the remnants of coral skeletons, some of them waist-high, and keep an eye out for the very large and colorful Galapagos land iguanas, as well as marine iguanas, Darwin’s finches, brown pelicans, flightless cormorants, and the occasional giant tortoise • Return to the vessel for briefing and dinner. A sky full of stars beckons to go on deck and observe the galaxy.
Punta Espinoza - Fernandina Island / Tagus Cove - Isabela Island
This morning’s stop is at Punta Espinoza on Fernandina, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galapagos, with no introduced animals. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory and hundreds of marine Iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, basking in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Out on the point, the Flightless Cormorants build their nests close to shore since they lost their ability to fly. There is a chance to snorkel here with large sea turtles that frequent this area before returning to the yacht for lunch. Go ashore on Tagus Cove, a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Sections of the rocky cliffs are covered with graffiti dating back to the 1800s. An uphill hike leads to a saltwater lagoon and a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations Take advantage of the secluded cove and explore the shoreline by kayak or stand up paddle board in search of Galapagos penguins, boobies, pelicans and other seabirds. Return to the yacht for briefing and dinner as we cross the Equator for the last time and get a visit from King Neptune!
Rabida Island / Puerto Egas / Black Turtle Cove – Santiago Island
This morning, disembark on Rabida (Jervis), a small island considered the geographic center of Galapagos because its volcanic rocks are the most diversified in the archipelago. Follow the trail to a saltwater lagoon where greater flamingos migrate, keeping an eye out for marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and Darwin’s finches. Afterwards, do not miss the opportunity to snorkel with a colony of sea lions and rays. Guests on the Theory & Letty visit Puerto Egas on Santiago (James) Island and stroll along the shoreline looking for octopus, starfish and other sea life caught in the tide pools. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American oystercatchers and yellow-crowned night herons. The walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction • Before returning to the yacht, there is a chance to snorkel from the beach. After lunch, take a seat on deck to view the dramatic landscape and dolphins that are often spotted here. Guests on the Origin have a Zodiac excursion at Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. View pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks and golden cow-nosed rays. We return to the vessel for the Captain’s Farewell cocktail party and dinner as well as a special presentation by your guides.
Puerto Ayora / Highlands / CCFL (Darwin Station) – Santa Cruz Island
Disembark at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, the social heart of the Galapagos, with a population of 24,000 humans. Travel by bus to the highlands, passing through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. Visit Rancho El Manzanillo, a privately-owned hacienda where giant tortoises roam in their natural habitat. Stop at the lava tunnels, so large you can walk through them, and visit Los Gemelos, (The Twins), a pair of large craters. Return to the yacht for lunch on board • Guests on the Origin & Theory have lunch at the Royal Palm Hotel in the highlands. This afternoon, visit the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena (formerly Charles Darwin Research Station). Visit the tortoise corals and the breeding center with hatchlings and miniature tortoises that will be repatriated when grown. Visit a new exhibit honoring Lonesome George, a worldwide icon of conservation as the last surviving tortoise from Pinta Island that tragically died of natural causes. We stop at a local chocolate shop to learn how high quality Arriba cacao is produced in Ecuador. Stroll through town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet café or museum to stimulate the local economy. Return to the yacht for dinner or, if you wish, remain ashore on your own at a local restaurant. Zodiac shuttles from the yachts to the main dock will be offered throughout the evening.
Galapagos / Guayaquil / Quito - San Cristobal Island
This morning we disembark and travel by bus to Cerro Tijeretas (Frigatebird Hill), where you find nesting colonies of both species of frigate birds (Great and Magnificent), as well lava lizards, medium ground finch and San Cristobal mockingbird. Walk along the trail to Punta Carola for scenic views. Guests on the Letty visit Isla Lobos. Afterwards, we spend time in port before heading to the airport for your flight back to the mainland.
* This trip is operated in partnership with Ecoventura. There are more itinerary options available – please call for complete details.
** Trip itineraries are subject to change without notice due to road, ocean, weather, trail, and other factors outside of our control, for the safety and enjoyment of our guests, as deemed necessary and appropriate by Austin Adventures and/or Ecoventura.
Arrival & Departure
Please arrive in Quito or Guayaquil no later than the evening prior to your cruise (we recommend arriving a minimum of two nights to allow for potential flight delays and misconnection). Flights to Galapagos for Ecoventura’s passengers are serviced by AVIANCA Airlines from Quito and Guayaquil. On the day of departure, please be at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil two hours prior to departure for check-in. Please look for the Ecoventura representative at the AVIANCA Airline ticket counter to collect your boarding pass, transit card (if prepaid) and get assistance with check in.
On your last day, head to the airport for a flight back to the mainland (departing San Cristobal at 12:30 pm, arriving in Guayaquil at 3:25 pm – flight schedule subject to change) • Transfer to your hotel in Guayaquil or continue the flight on to Quito (arriving at 5:00 pm) to connect with your departing flight to the U.S. If you would like assistance in arranging your pre or post cruise details, please contact your Austin Adventures trip consultant (800.575.1540).
- Hiking: 1 to 2 miles per hike, easy to moderate terrain.
- Sea Kayaking: No experience necessary.
- Snorkeling: Equipment provided, no experience necessary.
- Boating: Inflatable Zodiac touring with naturalist guide.
- Standup Paddleboarding: No experience necessary.
The rugged volcanic landscape of the Galápagos Islands offers truly exceptional encounters with wildlife. Venture out each day with a skilled naturalist on foot, in kayaks, and motorized panga (Zodiac) to witness an astounding variety of exotic creatures that have never learned to fear human contact. This is an active tour, quite different from most Galápagos adventures. Did you know that there are three species of boobies in the Galapagos Islands: Blue-footed, Red-footed, and Nazca boobies – all of which you might observe at Punta Pitt? Were you aware that some of Galapagos’ volcanoes are still active today with occasional eruptions and seismic activity? Why do you think the Galapagos Islands were designated as Whale and Shark Sanctuary in 1990? If you’re lucky when you’re snorkeling, you’ll catch a glimpse of a white-tipped Galápagos shark, known to spend most of its time resting in caves during the day, it comes out at night to feast on octopus, spiny lobsters, crab and many types of fish. A mangrove, a tree that has adapted to growing in the inhospitable tidal zone between the land and the sea, provides valuable nursery areas for juvenile fish and crustaceans. Come explore these magnificent islands with their amazing wildlife with the leaders in adventure travel!
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. All meals: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions are included as indicated by itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). House wine and beer at dinnertime are included in the trip price. Any extra alcohol is available for purchase on board.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in Trip Price
- Cabin accommodation on board.
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners, snacks and refreshments.
- Non-alcoholic beverages and filtered water throughout cruise / House wine and beer with dinner.
- Fully trained, bilingual, professional guides and knowledgeable local partners.
- Guided shore excursions.
- Use of snorkeling equipment, wet suits, sea kayaks and standup paddleboards.
- Transports between the airport and dock in Galapagos.
- Austin Adventures T-shirt & luggage tags.
- Pre-departure and packing information.
Not Included in Trip Price
- Gratuities to Austin Adventures / Ecoventura guides & crew.
- Transfer to Quito or Guayaquil airport from your pre-trip hotel.
- Airfare to Galapagos & airfare fuel surcharge.
- Galapagos Entrance Fee & Transit Card.
- Pre-and post-trip accommodations/packages and associated expenses.
- Air and land transportation to/from host cities.
- All types of personal insurance.
- Personal expenses & purchases on board / from boutique.
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Want to know how to fully experience the depth of beauty and culture in a place? Ask Carol Austin. A Montana native who treasures the land and people in her own backyard—be it Yellowstone, the Beartooths, or the family around her dinner table—Carol knows how to embrace any destination she explores, a feat at 40+ countries and counting. And with more than 20 years in the travel industry, she’s really good at helping guests plan—and fully enjoy—their adventure vacation, too. She co-founded Austin Adventures with her husband, Dan Austin.