In the Steps of Pirates and Darwin - Evolution
Connect on an emotional level with the animals and people of this extraordinary destination on this spacious, attractive, carbon-neutral, 32-passenger ship.
Galapagos: Drink It In
The Galapagos Islands live up to our dreams of a sheltered place far removed from usual concerns. The islands and surrounding waters are quite literally teaming with exotic and curious creatures that have never learned to fear humans. This translates into a series of daily peak experiences including snorkeling with playful sea lions, tracking giant tortoises in the wild and trading stares with unconcerned iguanas. Our live-aboard yacht navigates to the next destination at night while you sleep so you wake up refreshed with each day’s island adventure right out your doorstep. The Golden Age of Travel opened the far corners of the globe to journeys characterized by a new style and grace. This golden age lives on today aboard the Evolution, where the destination is designed to be experienced as a grand voyage through one of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders, the Galapagos archipelago.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- -A special size at 32 passengers, this ship offers much larger cabins than smaller yachts yet still a small group for landings and meals.
-One of the true pioneering operators and first woman-owned business in the Galapagos offering trips since 1986.
-Emulating grand voyages of the early 20th Century, the Evolution offers a thoughtful and unique experience in the Galapagos
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Baltra & Daphne Island
Arrive at Baltra airport and transfer to the Evolution. Set sail for Daphne Minor, a tuff cone (giant pile of compressed volcanic ash shaped like a cone), that offers a front row seat to witness bustling colonies of blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, magnificent frigate birds and more. You’ll also have the opportunity to observe short-eared owls and red-billed tropicbirds. This island hosted husband-wife biology team, Peter and Rosemary Grant who conducted a 20 year field study into the behavior and life cycles of finches as relates to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. As the sun sets on your first day in the Enchanted Archipelago, you’ll toast to the voyage ahead with a welcome cocktail.
Day 2: Isabela Island & Fernandina Island
Located at the ‘mouth’ of the head of the sea horse, which forms the northern part of the Isabela is Punta Vicente Roca. Here the remnants of an ancient volcano forms two turquoise coves with a bay well protected from the ocean swells. The spot is a popular anchorage from which to take panga rides along the cliff where a partially sunken cave beckons explorers. Masked and blue-footed boobies sit perched along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline. Keep your eyes open in this best place in the islands for spotting whales.
Fernandina is the youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos. It sits across the Bolivar Channel opposite Isabela. Our destination is Punta Espinoza, a narrow spit of land where red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while blue and lava herons forage through the mangrove roots. The landing is a dry one, set in a quiet inlet beneath the branches of a small mangrove forest. A short walk through the vegetation leads to a large colony of marine iguanas—a schoolyard of Godzilla’s children—resting atop one another in friendly heaps along the rocky shoreline, spitting water to clear their bodies of salt.
Day 3: Isabela Island
Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago, accounting for half of the total landmass of the Galapagos at 4,588 square kilometers. It is also home to the highest point in the Galapagos, Wolf Volcano at 1,707 meters (5,547 feet), and calderas of up to 20 kilometers (12½ miles) across. Urbina Bay is directly west of Isabela’s Volcano Alcedo, where we will make an easy, wet landing (a hop into a few inches of water) onto a gently sloping beach. Visitors can walk amongst the boulder sized dried coral heads, mollusks and other organisms that once formed the ocean floor. A highlight of this excursion is the giant land iguanas, whose vivid and gaudy yellow skin suggests that dinosaurs may have been very colorful indeed.
Next, we head north along the western coast of Isabela Island, to Tagus Cove, named for a British warship that moored here in 1814. From our landing, a wooden stairway rises to the trail entrance for a view of Darwin Lake; a perfectly round saltwater crater, barely separated from the ocean but above sea level! From the air one can see that both Tagus Cove and Darwin Lake are formed from one, partially flooded, tuff cone on the eastern edge of giant Darwin volcano. Because the cove opens to the rich waters of the Bolivar Channel this is one of the best snorkeling sites in the island. You can find marine iguanas grazing algae along with numerous sea turtles gliding and munching their way along.You also have a good chance of snorkeling with underwater feathered friends including Galapagos penguins and rare flightless cormorants.
Day 4: Santiago Island - Bartholome and Sullivan Bay
Bartolomé is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering spearheaded obelisk that rises from the ocean’s edge and is the best known landmark in the Galapagos. Galapagos penguins—the only species of penguin found north of the equator—walk precariously along narrow volcanic ledges at its base. This dry landing—no wet feet!—is the entrance to a 600-meter (2000-foot) pathway complete with stairs and boardwalks leading to Bartolome’s summit.The route is not difficult and presents an open textbook of the islands’ volcanic origins; a site left untouched after its last eruption, where small cones stand in various stages of erosion and lava tubes form bobsled-like runs down from the summit. At the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Santiago Island and Sullivan Bay to the west, and far below, Pinnacle Rock, where the crystal turquoise waters of the bay cradle your yacht.
Our next landing site is a short distance away to the southeast, Sullivan Bay. Back in 1897 the island fired up its own internal kiln giving birth to a field of pahoehoe (“rope-like” in Hawaiian) lava reaching out into the channel toward Bartolome. The results gleam in the sun like a gigantic, obsidian sculpture. It stirs the imagination to envision the once-molten lava lighting up the earth, flowing into the sea and sending plumes of superheated steam skyrocketing into the air as pockets of gas in the flow exploded when the lava.The flow gave birth to new land as it engulfed vegetation, leaving some plants forever etched into the earth.
Today the flow stands as a great walkway gallery of abstract shapes resembling braids, curtains and swirling fans. Brightly colored painted locusts and lava lizards punctuate the black volcanic canvas, as does the occasional finger of lava cactus and spreading carpetweed. We hike south into the flow taking time to admire the Earth’s craftwork as we proceed.
Day 5: Santa Cruz and Rabida Island
At the north end of Santa Cruz Island is Las Bachas, comprised of two sandy white-coral beaches that are major egg-laying sites for sea turtles. We go ashore on the white sandy beach and are greeted by patrolling blue-footed boobies. A brief walk inland takes us to a lagoon where pink flamingos are often found along with great blue herons, common stilts, brown noddys, white-cheek pintail ducks and migratory birds.
At the geologic center of the archipelago, Jervis presents an island of a different color with its deep red sandy beach and equally red towering cliffs. Even the starfish are red. The flanks of a sloping volcanic cinder-cone rise sharply from the coast and looking up one can see where the vegetation transitions from the arid zone to the wetter Scaleisia zone. A hedgerow of green saltbush frames the beach between the clear teal waters of the Pacific making for one of the more colorful islands. A noisy colony of sea lions inhabits these scarlet shores.
A short trail inland offers observations of land birds including Galapagos dove, cactus finch and the large ground-finch. Hidden behind the narrow strip of green saltbush is a briny lagoon frequented by flamingos. These large pink birds feed for up to 12 hours a day on the pink shrimp larvae and water boatman bugs that give them their color. Beneath the ocean surface Rabida offers excellent snorkeling along the shore of the little peninsula. Giant schools of stripped salemas have been seen to carpet the deeper sections, attracting Galapagos sharks. Large schools of yellowtail surgeonfish thread through passages between the rocks. Look for chances to swim with sea lions and penguins and keep your eyes open for marine iguanas grazing the underwater greenery.
Day 6: Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz, our next stop, is the second largest island in the Galapagos and something of a hub for the archipelago. Puerto Ayora, located in the south of this large, round volcanic island is the seaside economic center of the Galapagos, focused on fishing and tourism.This morning we visit Puerto Ayora, home to both the Galapagos National Park Service Headquarters and Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of the great restorative efforts taking place in the park, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program run by the research station, which began by rescuing the remaining 14 tortoises on the island of Española in 1970. This is where famed tortoise, Lonesome George, lived out his last days as the last of his particular race of tortoise.
A highlight of any trip to the archipelago is a visit to the Santa Cruz Highlands. Our afternoon destination is the Wild Tortoise Reserve where we will have chances to track and view these friendly ancient creatures in their natural setting. When viewing the tortoise in their natural setting you are literally scratching the surface because there is another world awaiting you beneath the highlands. Lava tubes are formed when the outer surface of a lava flow cools, insulating the interior lava, which continues to flow on leaving a hollow tube as the result. The tubes become covered with earth over time and the result is a perfectly formed underground tunnel courtesy of Mother Nature which you'll get to explore.
The terrestrial world of the tortoise and underworld of the lava tubes meet at Los Gemelos (the twins). These two large sinkhole craters were formed by collapsed lava tubes. Los Gemelos are surrounded by a Scalesia forest. Scalesia is endemic to Galapagos and many endemic and native species call the forest home.
Day 7: Espanola Island
Hood is the southernmost island of the archipelago, and is one of the most popular due to the breathtaking variation and sheer number of fauna that greet visitors along with well known Gardner Bay. Sea lions surf the waves beyond the breakwater landing, and tiny pups are known to greet your toes upon arrival. A few steps inland is a colorful variety of marine iguana in the Galapagos. They bear distinctive red and black markings, some with a flash of turquoise running down their spine. They nap in communal piles or cling to the rocks for warmth.
The trail then takes us beside the western edge of the island where masked boobies (also known as Nazca boobies) nest along the cliff’s edge. The trail continues to the high cliff edge of the southern shore; below, a shelf of black lava reaches out into the surf where a blowhole shoots a periodic geyser of salt water into the air. Further east along the cliff is the Albatross Airport where waved albatross line up to launch their great winged bodies from the cliffs, soaring out over the dramatic shoreline of crashing waves and driven spray. These are the largest birds you will see in the Galapagos with wingspans up to 2.25 m or 7.4 ft. They are the only species of albatross exclusive to the tropics. Lucky visitors can watch courtship ‘fencing’ done with great yellow beaks.
Day 8: San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal was the first island Darwin visited when he arrived in 1835. He reported encountering a pair of giant tortoises feeding on cactus during that outing. Today the airport of this easternmost island in the chain is increasingly used as the arrival point for flights into and out of the Galapagos. In 1998 the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center opened for the benefit of islanders and travelers
alike, presenting a comprehensive exhibit of the islands’ natural history, human interaction, ecosystems, flora and fauna. This is our last stop in the islands and it is also the place where cultural activities take place, including theatre, exhibitions and workshops.
From the Interpretation Center, a short trail arrives at Frigate Bird Hill, where both “magnificent-frigates” and “great-frigates” can be seen in the same colony—ideal for learning to distinguish the two bird species. The interpretation center will be our final stop today before departing the islands. Along with your tour of the visitor center museum there will be time to stroll the quaint tiny port town, with time to shop for last minute souvenirs. We say farewell to the Galapagos as you begin your journey home.
Please Note: On Galapagos ItinerariesTo lessen the environmental impact on visitor sites, The Galapagos National Park has decided that vessels permitted to operate within the park cannot revisit the same site within 14 days. As a result our yachts now repeat the same itinerary every two weeks (instead of every week). We split our two week long itineraries in half with the result that we now operate two different 8 days / 7 nights voyages from Saturday to Saturday. We therefore alternate itineraries every other week. Both itineraries are excellent and guests visiting the islands will be pleased with either choice. While there are always tradeoffs of what one can and cannot see during a weeklong trip through the Galapagos, you can now see almost everything by doing back to back itineraries aboard the Evolution. (Please see "Footsteps Back In Time - Evolution" for the alternate 8-day itinerary.)
This ship is attractive, spacious and a great size yet what makes this option wonderful is the special care this operator offers for animals and people alike.
Joy Martinello, Founder
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