International Expeditions did it last year, and they might just do it again this year. Last year, International Expeditions offered last-minute travelers a deal that was so sweet, no one could refuse. The company offered $1,000 off 10-day Galapagos Island cruises aboard IE’s 32-guest M/V Evolution. The cruise departure date was March 4, 2010 and prices started at $3,798 per person, with discount, double occupancy. Prices included accommodations, Galapagos tax and transit fees, all excursions, all onboard meals, transfers and tips to porters and waiters for included meals.
The Galapagos Expedition Cruise sails to nine islands including Genovesa Island, Fernandina Island, Santiago Island, and Isabela Island, to name a few. Daily snorkeling is on the menu as well as hiking through rainforests, deserts, and volcanic terrain, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center, art gallery and boutique tours in Puerto Ayora, the Islands’ largest human settlements, and wildlife tours presented by Galapagos naturalist guides.
The following is what guests can expect on day 5 and day 6 of the Galapagos Expedition Cruise:
Day 5 • Tuesday
Santiago (James) Island / Bartolomé Island
Santiago has several sites to visit at the western end of James Bay. Puerto Egas, with its black sand beaches, was the site of a small salt mining industry in the 1960s. A walk inland to the salt crater is an excellent opportunity to spot land birds such as finches, doves and hawks. A walk down the rugged shoreline will turn up marine species, including iguanas basking on the rocks and sea lions lazing in the tide pools. At the end of the trail there is a series of grottoes where fur seals and night herons rest on shady ledges. Just north of James Bay is Buccaneer Cove, a particularly scenic area of steep cliffs and dark beaches. In the afternoon we visit Bartolomé Island, which provides important clues as to how life began on the Galapagos. A few hardy plants have begun to colonize the lava rock. From atop Bartolomé’s volcanic cone there is a splendid panorama of lava flows, beaches, sea, neighboring islands and the jagged Pinnacle Rock. Our panga drivers will take “non-hikers” along the coast to see penguins and a superb volcanic landscape. There is also an opportunity to swim, snorkel and kayak here, possibly with penguins and sea lions for company. (B,L,D)
Day 6 • Wednesday
Genovesa (Tower) Island / Darwin Bay
Exploring outlying Genovesa feels like exploring a private wildlife sanctuary! Genovesa Island harbors one of the largest and most diverse bird populations in the Galapagos. From our pangas we see red-billed tropicbirds. In the morning, we climb Prince Philip’s Steps to an area with colonies of Nazca boobies and great frigatebirds, which have a very large wingspan and a slender, dramatic silhouette in flight. Breeding males inflate their strawberry-colored chest pouches to an enormous size. There are also red-footed boobies and the subtly-colored Galapagos dove, once endangered but now increasing in number. In the afternoon we visit Darwin Bay, home to the nocturnal swallow-tailed gull and the rare lava gull. A walk along the cliffs gives us fine views of the Pacific Ocean. While anchored at Genovesa, enjoy an opportunity to swim, kayak and snorkel in the calm caldera of this partially eroded volcano. (B,L,D)
Winter 2010-2011 Galapagos cruises are offered February 4 and 17, and March 16 and 23. Prices start at $4,798 per person, but a $250 discount is offered for advance booking and a $500 discount is offered for kids. However, keep checking the International Expeditions website for last minute deals at www.ietravel.com. Remember, if the cruise is not sold out several weeks or so before the departure date, you may have the opportunity to take advantage of another deep discount like 2010s $1,000 deal!