The M/V Santa Cruz is a 237-foot ship with a capacity of 90 passengers. She carries a crew of 52, including 6 naturalist guides and a medical officer. Facilities include dining/bar/lounge area, boutique/gift shop, Internet access, reading room/natural history library, glass-bottom Boston Whaler, snorkeling equipment and wet suits.
From Baltra, a quick jump by ship brings us to Mosquera Islet where we check out the sea lions before sailing towards San Cristobal. A stop at the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Breeding Centre will open our eyes to the beauty of the Galapagos giant tortoise and to the important scientific work that continues to be performed on the islands. In the afternoon, we travel to the most eastern tip of the archipelago, Punta Pitt, the only stop on this journey where we can see red-footed boobies.
From here, it’s on to the central islands, starting with Santa Fe, with its beautiful tranquil bay, before continuing to the wild cliffs of South Plaza with their lofty cacti, land iguanas and stunning marine birds. The following day we visit the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Española Island, voted the #1 island by guides and expedition leaders, awaits us with its remarkable visitor site of Punta Suarez, home to hundreds of marine iguanas, sea lions, marine birds, and even albatross (between April and December) – a truly stunning site! In the afternoon, we enjoy the water in Gardner Bay.
The following morning we will wake up at Eden Islet and finish the day at North Seymour, famous for its land iguanas and sea lions as well as bird colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and Nazca boobies. We finish at Baltra after a moving and memorable experience.
We arrive by plane at Baltra Island and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II where we receive our welcome introductory briefing and lunch.
After lunch and your introductory briefing on board, Santa Cruz II will relocate only four nautical miles from Baltra, next to Mosquera Islet, a small volcanic uplift between Baltra and North Seymour. The island is a long and narrow sand bank surrounded by lava reefs. Our groups will approach the island from its western shore, a long shallow reef, the perfect rookery for young sea lions. After a wet landing, our guides will lead you past the sea lion colonies, where you will learn more about the fragile marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Galapagos. The walk is easy as it is restricted to a few hundred metres of flat sandy dunes. This will also be a great opportunity for an introduction to snorkeling.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island)
After breakfast, we disembark (dry landing) at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the island’s capital, and drive 40 minutes to the island’s southern shore. At Cerro Colorado, we visit the breeding centre for highly endangered giant tortoises in the midst of a fantastic deciduous forest, home to dozens of bird species, including the San Cristobal mockingbird, and the San Cristobal lava lizard, both island endemics.
Punta Pitt (San Cristobal Island)
In the afternoon, we disembark (wet landing) on the eastern tip of the island at Punta Pitt, an eroded tuff cone, whose trail provides spectacular views of the shoreline. This is the only site in the Galapagos where the three species of boobies can be found together. We can walk or enjoy a panga ride along the coast. Opportunity for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking.
Santa Fe Island
After breakfast, we take the dinghy over to this idyllic sandy-white beach populated by many sea lions (wet landing). The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the morning walk amid the giant prickly pear cactus. Snorkeling and swimming from the panga rounds off our rewarding experience, or if guests prefer, the glass bottom boat is available for non-snorkelers. Opportunity for kayaking.
South Plaza Island
Following lunch and a rest, we disembark (dry landing) in this channel, whose turquoise waters contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. Beyond, a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-grey land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop. Along the coastline one finds sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters glide, playing with the thermals.
Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
In the morning, we disembark (dry landing) for our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise Breeding Centre within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Following our visit, we board our transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.
Santa Cruz Island
We have several options available for the afternoon, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, we return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Santa Cruz II.
Punta Suarez (Española Island)
(Dry landing) – An exciting walk awaits at this site, where we enjoy its unique sea bird colonies, including Galapagos albatross (April-December), Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls as well as a view of the Galapagos’ famous “blow-hole”. Also, look out for red-green-black marine iguanas. Back on board for lunch.
Gardner Bay – Osborn Islet (Española Island)
(Wet landing) In the afternoon, the picture-postcard white coral beach of Gardner Bay and the nearby islet of Osborn provides a beautiful setting for observing sea lions, mockingbirds, and finches as we relax. We can expect great snorkelling in this area. Opportunity for swimming and kayaking as well.
Eden Islet (Santa Cruz Island)
After breakfast, a panga ride takes us to Eden Islet, a small islet located off the coast of Santa Cruz, where we can observe blue-footed boobies diving into the water, reef sharks and frigates. There’s a chance to snorkel and, if weather condition permits, ride in the glass-bottom boat and kayak.
North Seymour Island
North Seymour was lifted from the ocean floor by a volcanic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stands just above the landing (dry landing), usually without leaves, waiting for the rains to burst into bloom. This is a great introductory site to the islands and their wildlife, full of bird colonies of blue footed boobies, two species of frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas.
On our last day, we disembark at Baltra Island and transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the continent.
Our itinerary together begins at Baltra where we will board the ship and sail towards Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island for an interesting hike through palo santo forests full of Galapagos’ famed land iguanas.
Overnight, we sail round the seahorse-shaped Isabela Island to two great visitor sites: Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island with the fascinating geology of collapsed Ecuador volcano, and then wild and pure Punta Espinoza on Fernandina, one of the most pristine islands in the world, with one of the islands’ densest colonies of marine iguanas and opportunities to see flightless cormorants.
From there, we sail back round to Santa Cruz to visit the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Station where scientists are involved with research and conservation efforts, the most well-known of which involves a captive breeding program for giant tortoises, and then spend the afternoon enjoying a range of active options. The following day finds us on Floreana Island, exploring its human history and stunning wildlife at both Post Office Bay and Punta Cormorant.
The next day we say goodbye to the islands after an amazing journey! The entire crew aboard the Santa Cruz will do our utmost to ensure that your Galapagos experience is truly, deeply moving and memorable.
We arrive by plane at Baltra Island and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II where we receive our welcome introductory briefing, boat drill and lunch.
Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) (Santa Cruz Island)
The north shore of Santa Cruz hosts the fascinating landscapes of Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill). The first part of our walk passes a brackish-water lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks and American flamingos, while further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as the chance of observing land iguanas.
Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)
After breakfast, we explore the coast by panga, while our naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area, a nesting place for several Galapagos highlights: flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, fur seals, boobies, etc. Depending on weather conditions, we can snorkel along the cliffs of this area rich in marine life, seasonally-visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola).
Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)
The afternoon is dedicated to exploring the youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina, which, having no introduced mammals, boasts a very unique environment with a very high density of marine iguanas, who share their space with sea lions, Sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorants.
Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
In the morning, we disembark (dry landing followed by a brief bus ride) for our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise Breeding Centre within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest, home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Following our visit, we board our transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.
Santa Cruz Island
We have several options available for the afternoon, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader. Options include beach walks, kayaks, walks along the tortoise reserve, etc. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, we return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Santa Cruz II.
Baroness Tower – Post Office Bay (Floreana Island)
After breakfast, panga ride along the maze of channels on Floreana’s north shore can be enjoyed. We follow this visit by continuing to Baroness Cove with its breathtaking views of Floreana. We land at Post Office Bay to visit the historic barrel that has served as a post office in the archipelago for over two centuries and where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand-deliver to their destinations. Snorkelling off the beach. We then head back on board for lunch.
Champion Islet – Punta Cormorant (Floreana Island)
Following lunch and a siesta, we take the pangas and glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet, an extinct shield volcano, regarded as one of the best snorkelling spots in the archipelago. From there, it’s on to Punta Cormorant, beginning with a wet landing on the olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish-water lagoon where bird species such as American flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. We continue our walk over to a white-sand beach, where sea turtles emerge from the sea at night to nest (from December to May).
We disembark at Baltra Island in order to transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland.
Our itinerary together begins at Baltra airport, from where we’ll sail to the glorious white beach of Las Bachas with a pair of brackish water lagoons only a few steps from the sea. These lagoons serve as feeding grounds for various wading birds, including stilts, pintail ducks and flamingos.
As we continue our voyage, we explore two fascinating visitor sites on Santiago Island: Buccaneer Cove, home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms, and Puerto Egas, with its great walk-along pools full of life and good snorkelling and swimming possibilities.
The next day we visit the red-sand beach of Rabida Island, a lovely trail around some cliffs and a popular spot for aquatic activities, with some of the best snorkeling in Galapagos! In the afternoon, we round out the day with a stop at Bartolome Island, which offers a volcanic viewpoint with room for hiking, swimming, and exploring the beach and the coast.
This is our only chance to see Galapagos penguins. What a full and rich day! From here we sail northeast, crossing the equatorial line, to the sunken crater of Genovesa Island, home to thousands of marine birds. It feels like a world a million miles from our own. We finish with an incredible encounter with nature in which we respectfully sharing a wild habitat with giant Galapagos tortoises at a private reserve up in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island and then make our way to the airport at Baltra.
We land at Baltra Island by plane in the morning and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II, where we receive a welcome introductory briefing, boat drill and lunch.
Las Bachas (Santa Cruz Island)
This beautiful visitor site is located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, a glorious white beach with a couple of brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. You may enjoy swimming and or snorkelling at this beach too. Welcome cocktail, expedition plan for Tuesday and dinner.
Buccaneer Cove (Santiago Island)
After breakfast, we explore the coastline along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove, learning about the area’s distant and recent history. The cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. Enjoy fantastic natural formations such as the “Elephant Rock”, “The Bishop” and an impressive natural cave. Opportunity for snorkelling, and a ride on the panga or glass-bottom boat.
Puerto Egas (Santiago Island)
Once we disembark at the beach, we can enjoy a swim or snorkel amid a rocky shoreline, usually in the company of marine turtles. From here, we head off to our walk, a great opportunity to see land and marine birds amid landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and we can also observe a colony of fur-sea lions. After the visit, we had some time for swimming and snorkelling.
Rabida Island (Jervis)
Some groups will go for a fascinating panga ride along the shores while others will disembark on Rabida Island’s red-coloured beach, caused by the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Our walk brings us close to a colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. Very close to the beach, a salt pond occasionally hosts American flamingos. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. During navigation to our next island, we can sometimes spot dolphins!
Today’s afternoon activities begin with a wet landing on the golden beach of this famous island, dominated by the imposing Pinnacle Rock. There’s great snorkelling and swimming from the beach plus the chance to ride the glass bottom boat. After returning to the ship, we split into two group: the first lands for a hike to the summit of this diminutive island that boasts fantastic views of the archipelago. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase, resting platforms and handrails – the view from the top is worth the effort! The second takes to the pangas to explore the rugged and volcanic shoreline. The groups then swap so that each one experiences the full beauty of this island.
Prince Philip Steps (Genovesa Island)
The morning starts with a steep climb (only 90 feet) up some stairs to reach a flat rocky plateau. Along our walk, we can observe large colonies of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, great frigate birds and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). Kayaking is optional.
Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)
In the afternoon, we land at this beautiful beach to enjoy some swimming and/or snorkelling. Following our dip, we take an easy stroll to observe hundreds of birds, mainly frigate birds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Opportunity for snorkelling, kayaking and swimming.
Tortoise Reserve – Baltra airport
We start our last morning at the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. After breakfast, your luggage will be taken to the airport, while you visit the Tortoise Reserve. A dry landing at a passenger’s wharf and a bus ride to the loftier region of the island will provide the last highlight of the cruise: giant tortoises in the wild. The windward slopes of the island are home to two species of giant tortoises. These lush highlands include dense forests of Galapagos daisies, orchids and bromeliads, and several endemic land birds. After this visit we will transfer directly to Baltra airport. Farewell to Galapagos.
The cabins on the Santa Cruz II were designed with a Swedish touch and the most modern cruise styles. After a busy day of engaging exploring and learning, these offer a tasteful and comfortable area where visitors can unwind and appreciate the views from the sizeable windows, which illuminate the rooms. We have 43 Explorer Cabins: on the Horizon (23), Expedition (17) and Panorama Decks (3).
On the Panorama Deck, the Santa Cruz II has three Darwin Suites that measure 30 m2 or 325 sq. ft. Each has double picture windows, sumptuous comfort and luxurious facilities for more discerning guests. These may also be interconnected with an Explorer Cabin, to provide an additional 15 m2 or 163 sq. ft. of space.
Darwin Suites Floor Plan
Explorer Cabin Floor Plan
On the Sky Deck, guests can relax and enjoy the sun at the solarium/ sun deck or exercise in the fitness room outfitted with treadmills.
On the Panorama Deck, guests can relish the equatorial outdoors on the aft terrace, which doubles as an area for enjoying a BBQ snack. The large bar/lounge offers a relaxing area to unwind amid the Santa Cruz’s legendary convivial atmosphere. On the same deck, guests are also welcome to visit the modern bridge, featuring state-of-the-art electronic navigation equipment, run by our highly experienced captains.
On the Expedition Deck, our guides will welcome you to an ample reading room and natural history library, with up-to-date technology for presentations on the geology, biology, and history of Darwin’s fa – bled “Laboratory of Evolution”. Facing the prow, it’s a fantastic, calm place to view the beauty of the archipelago in a climate-controlled environment. An open multi-purpose room on the deck’s starboard side is available for children’s programmes and other events. The aft features twin hot tubs.
On the Horizon Deck, besides Explorer cabins, you will find the gift shop, reception area and the infirmary, where a medical doctor is on call 24/7 (consultations are free of charge).
The Beagle Restaurant is located to the aft on the Ocean Deck.