galapagos islands tour; galapagos natural history; frigatebird

Magnificent frigatebirds have brilliant courtship displays

No matter when you visit the Galápagos, there are always fantastic wildlife displays.

Photo by Brian McGilloway

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Ultimate Galapagos

The Quintessential 15-day Cruise in Darwin’s Islands

Ultimate Galapagos route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $8995  
Length: 17 days
Arrive: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Depart: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Lodging: 15 days/14 nights aboard Mary Anne, 2 hotel nights in Guayaquil
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch, 2 dinners
Activity: Small Boat & Yacht Cruising, Snorkeling, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level: Daily hikes, snorkeling, optional sea kayaking


  • The most comprehensive adventure in the islands
  • Cruise in comfort aboard a 16-passenger sailing yacht with a superb naturalist guide
  • Active journey, with daily hiking, snorkeling, and sea kayaking

Perfection from beginning to end. Sailing aboard the yacht was a delight. I’ve been traveling with WT exclusively since 1981. Need I say more?Cynthia S.—Portland OR

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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

There’s so much to see and do on these famed islands, and a world of wonder in the underwater universe around them, that we’ve created the “ultimate” Galápagos adventure: a 15-day cruise exploring all the major islands of the archipelago. This magnificent itinerary carves a route through both the Western Islands, the youngest part of the Galápagos, dramatic with lava flows and still-active volcanoes, and the Eastern Islands, greener and older, offering a marvelous array of endemic species. Remote Tower Island, with its red-footed boobies and fantastic snorkeling, is on this journey, as is Floreana, with its fascinating human history, and Española, home to a huge concentration of incredible wildlife. Along the way, our intimate group size (maximum 16) makes possible a wonderfully active journey—two natural history walks each day, glorious snorkeling, and optional sea kayaking.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Guayaquil / Galápagos Cruise / Tower

From Guayaquil, fly to Baltra and board our yacht. We travel through mangroves where herons roost and green sea turtles swim, and to remote Tower (Genovesa), a birdwatcher’s paradise where great frigatebirds, elegant swallow-tailed gulls, and storm petrels nest along the edges of the island’s cliffs.

Days 4-7
Bartolomé / Santiago / Santa Fé / Rabida / South Plaza

Our hikes bring us to the top of Bartolomé for breathtaking views, across 100-year-old lava flows, and among surreal land iguanas. Snorkeling with Galápagos penguins is a special treat.

Days 8-9
Española / Santa Cruz

A spectacular walk at Española offers us seagoing marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and Galápagos sea lions. On Santa Cruz, we visit the giant tortoises at Darwin Research Station, and later hike in the highlands in search of them in the wild.

Days 10-13
Floreana / Isabela / Fernandina

The snorkeling is fantastic at Devil’s Crown, an underwater volcanic cone abundant with schools of fish, sea turtles, and sea lions. We also visit Floreana’s Post Office Bay and explore pahoehoe lava flows and an old pirate hideaway on Isabela. Flightless cormorants and Galápagos penguins are highlights at Fernandina’s Punta Espinosa.

Days 14-17
Isabela / Santiago / North Seymour

Back on Isabela, we snorkel with sea turtles at Punta Vicente Roca, one of the best snorkeling sites of the archipelago, then head to Santiago for encounters with Galápagos flycatchers, Darwin’s finches, and fur seals swimming under lava arches. We fly to Guayaquil for overnight and depart on Day 17.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1+. Trips that are rated 1 are non-camping trips with optional walks and little elevation gain or loss. The + indicates that this trip is a bit more strenuous than other trips of this level. We feel this trip is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active and enjoys regular moderate walks and hikes, but we ask you to consider the following factors before choosing this trip: 

Shore Excursions
To get ashore each day you will be transfer from the Mary Anne onto our Zodiac (the small boat that brings you ashore) and stepping out of the Zodiac to go ashore. Passengers are required to wear life jackets when traveling in the Zodiac. Getting on the Zodiac involves walking down a gang-plank set of stairs and stepping onto the Zodiac while both the yacht and Zodiac are moving with the roll of the seas. A crew member on the Zodiac will reach for your hand to help steady you during this maneuver, but it nonetheless can often feel tricky depending on the amount ocean swell.

Shore landings are either “dry” (where there are rocks or wooden piers to step onto when you disembark from the Zodiac) or “wet” (which involves stepping out of the Zodiac into a foot or so of surf and wading to shore). Getting out of the Zodiac for a dry landing is occasionally tricky even though a crew member will be there to assist, especially on days when the seas are active and the rocks you step onto may be slippery. For a wet landing, you may be stepping into shallow surf, possibly up to your knees or higher if you disembark just as a wave comes in, so it is important that you have the agility for this. Of course, our boat staff will be on hand to assist with landings.

Hikes/walks on the Galapagos Islands are not long (up to 3 miles), but they often involve uneven ground, either on dry lava, which can be quite sharp if you fall, on rocky trails with uneven boulders, or on sandy beaches. 

Trip members on any Galápagos trip should be able to swim and ideally have previous snorkeling experience. The itinerary includes snorkeling excursions on most days and they are a major attraction for any visit to the islands. Please consult both our office and your Trip Leader aboard the boat if you have any concerns about swimming and snorkeling.

Most of our snorkeling is in water that is between 10 to 40 feet deep, but if conditions allow, we may offer open-ocean snorkeling near a remote off-shore reef. These open-ocean snorkels are not suitable for first-time snorkelers or weak swimmers.

Your Trip Leader accompanies the group on all snorkeling excursions and the Zodiac will attempt to stay close, should anyone wish to get out of the water. We do not, however, have staff members available to individually assist snorkelers and it is incumbent on each swimmer to keep track of his or her own whereabouts. Currents in Galápagos can be strong at some sites. You should only choose to swim and snorkel in those spots where you are completely comfortable. If you are not a strong swimmer or have little experience snorkeling, you might prefer to bring your own personal flotation device (PFD) rather than rely on the cumbersome on-board life jackets.

To get in the water, you will slide off the side of the Zodiac and into the water. Getting back in the Zodiac will require climbing up a small metal ladder attached to the side of the Zodiac. The seaman in charge of the Zodiac will help, but it is impossible for him to just pull you out of the water—you have to be prepared to do most of the work under your own power.

While normally a good variety of snorkeling equipment is available on the Mary Anne, if you are a particularly serious snorkeler, we highly recommend bringing your own snorkel, mask, and possibly even fins to assure a proper fit. A proper fit of your mask is critical for keeping water out and allowing you good vision underwater. There is no scuba diving available on our Galápagos trips. Our boats are not set up for scuba diving but there are places in Puerto Ayora where diving is available if you would like to extend your trip. Depending on your personal tolerance for cold, you may not need a wetsuit. However, everyone’s tolerance level is different and most prefer to use a wetsuit. Complimentary shorty wetsuits are available on board for your use. If you easily get cold, you may prefer a full-length wetsuit (you will need to bring your own from home). Many people wear a t-shirt while snorkeling to protect their arms and backs from sunburn. The backs of the legs are also prone to sunburn, so some people might want to swim in lightweight tights or leggings, or purchase “skins” (lycra bodysuits sold at dive shops).

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

May 2-18, 2014  Silvia Vargas
May 16-Jun 1, 2014  Fausto Arellano
Jun 13-29, 2014  Fausto Arellano
Jun 27-Jul 13, 2014  Silvia Vargas
Jul 11-27, 2014  Bitinia Espinoza
Dec 19, 2014-Jan 4, 2015  Bitinia Espinoza
Jan 9-25, 2015
Feb 20-Mar 8, 2015
Mar 6-22, 2015
Mar 20-Apr 5, 2015

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
Aboard the Mary Anne
$8995 (6-16 members)

Hotel single supplement: $225
No single supplement charge aboard the Mary Anne for single cabins only, call for details

Internal airfare: $515 (subject to change)
Galapagos park fee: $100 per person
Holiday surcharge (Dec): $500
Discounts for children: call for details, some
   exclusions apply
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Otavalo and Hacienda Zuleta Extension
   from: $925
Amazon Rainforest Extension: Napo Wildlife Center
   from: $1395
Cusco and Machu Picchu Extension
   from: $2595

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations at the hotel in Guayaquil and aboard the yacht
  • All meals included except 1 lunch, 2 dinners
  • airport transfers as indicated

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, internal flights, Galapagos park fee, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, airport departure taxes, optional gratuities (tipping your Trip leader and yacht crew is customary, but at your discretion), additional hotel nights (due to airline schedule changes or other factors), pre-trip expenses such as medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, passports and visas, or other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, and so on).

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: $500
150 days prior to departure: 50%
90 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $500 per person
61-120 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
60 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Hilton Colon Guayaquil

Hilton Colon Guayaquil

Day 1 (1 night),
Day 16 (1 night), Guayaquil, Ecuador

With a convenient location just 15 minutes from Guayquil's international airport, the Hilton Colon Guayquil offers spacious and comfortable rooms, a ...
Click here for full description and more photos

<em>Mary Anne</em>

Mary Anne

Days 3 to 16 (14 nights), Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

In legendary square-rigger tradition, the Mary Anne offers the truly romantic ambiance of a tall sailing ship combined with the comforts ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Fausto Arellano

Departure Dates: May 16-June 1, 2014, June 13-29, 2014

Fausto Arellano has been a naturalist guide and divemaster in the Galapagos for over 25 years. He took his first trip to the islands in 1982 as a graduation present from high school. Captivated by the beauty of the Galapagos, he discovered his study path, graduating from Argentine Catholic ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Bitinia Espinoza

Departure Dates: July 11-27, 2014, December 19, 2014-January 4, 2015

Bitinia Espinoza has been guiding groups to the Galapagos and throughout Ecuador since 1991. She graduated from the University of Guayaquil with studies in natural history. Her travels on the lecture circuit on behalf of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station have ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Silvia Vargas

Departure Dates: May 2-18, 2014, June 27-July 13, 2014

Silvia Vargas has loved the Galapagos Islands since she visited them while a high school student in her hometown of Guayaquil, Ecuador. She majored in languages at the university in Guayaquil and later lived in England and Germany. Eventually, her love of nature led her to live in the Galapagos ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


Amazon Rainforest Extension: Napo Wildlife Center

Into the Emerald Forest

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
6 days  -  Level 2

Otavalo and Hacienda Zuleta Extension

Traditional Cultures and Snow-Capped Volcanoes

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 2


Cusco and Machu Picchu Extension

Exploring the Realm of the Incas

Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, Walking
6 days  -  Level 2

Client Comments

Perfection from beginning to end. Sailing aboard the yacht was a delight. I’ve been traveling with WT exclusively since 1981. Need I say more? Cynthia S., Portland OR I have taken two trips with WT to Galapagos and I can honestly say that they were the best experience of my life. The pageant of life there, its creativity, energy and beauty, is overwhelming. Mark T., San Anselmo, CA Being aboard the yacht was a thrill, and eating on deck with the beauty of the islands in view was beyond spectacular. Our adventures with Wilderness Travel have made us believers—you do your job with excellence and pride. Kay M., Morrison, CO We were catered to every moment of the trip. The time on the ship was very well planned and organized—plenty of activities and yet time to relax. Every encounter was friendly and professional. Cheryle W., Waukegan, IL. Our Trip Leader made the Galapagos Islands an even more magical place. Sigrid M., Napa, CA Well done, Wilderness Travel! This was my first WT trip and I was impressed by virtually every aspect of the main trip and the three extensions I added. Christopher Q., San Francisco, CA
This trip exceeded my expectations and fulfilled a desire to see the Galapagos that I have had since childhood. I am still feeling the 'glow' of the experience. Kay B., Princeton, WV This adventure exceeded all my expectations. Baila D., Port Townsend, WA This was a trip I have dreamed about for years. It certainly met my expectations and then some! Nena T., Saint Helena, CA Fabulous trip. I would definitely travel with Wilderness again. Great crew, trip leader, and all around sites and activities. My first trip with Wilderness and I hope for many more. Barbara L., Calistoga, CA This is the best Galapagos itinerary of any tour company with so many islands visited and such a comprehensive wildlife experience. There aren't enough superlatives to express the depth of this fantastic experience. Ruth M., San Francisco, CA A most fantastic trip—we saw everything we had hoped to, and loved every minute of the experience! Jeanne C., Napa, CA