This page has some general information about Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Below that, you’ll find our day-by-day itinerary. (The 2009 trip itinerary is complete; the 2013 trip itinerary is a work in progress!) If you want to skip the background info, you can just jump to the 2009 “eastern” itinerary by clicking here. You can jump to the “western” itinerary of our 2013 trip here.
A brief introduction to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands
Before getting to the details of our trip, a brief summary of some facts about the area might be helpful. Ecuador is on the western coast of South America, just south of Colombia and neighbored on the east and south by Peru. Quito is about 165 miles from Guayaquil; the Galápagos Islands are in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 600 miles off the western coast of Ecuador. The maps here may help to orient you to the area. (Click on either to see a larger, actually legible version; use your browser’s “back” button to return to this page. Note that the distance shown to the Galápagos Islands is not to scale, nor are the islands drawn to scale.)
Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands have 2 seasons that are governed by the strong and cold Humboldt Current: the cool-dry season (July – December) and the warm-wet season (January – June). Coming up from the Antarctic and aided by strong southeast breezes, this nutrient-rich current predominates in the cool-dry season. It cools the seas and prompts the garúa mists in the highlands—nearly perpetual mists caused when the air warmed by the sun meets the cool moist air of the sea. In the warm-wet season, the winds drop and the warmer Panama Current from the north replaces the cold Humboldt Current; sea temperatures rise, the garúas dissipate, and more typical rain clouds form. Since this current has lower levels of nutrients, the waters are clearer, making for better viewing while snorkeling or diving. Interestingly, precipitation is actually more common during the cool-dry season; however, the continual garúa mists made it difficult for settlers to gather rainwater for drinking. As a result, it is referred to as the “dry” season.
Ecuador is in the Eastern time zone; the Galápagos Islands, the Central time zone. However, since they are right at the equator, the earth’s seasonal tilt doesn’t affect the area—they are never further from (shorter days) or nearer to (longer days) the sun. With the sun directly overhead every day of the year, it’s light from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the year. As a result, neither place uses Daylight Savings Time. So when the U.S. is on Daylight Savings Time, Ecuador’s time is equivalent to Central Daylight Time; the Galápagos, to Mountain Daylight Time.
Our first trip, in Sept., 2009, began in Quito, where we explored the area around our hotel (the northern part of Quito), took a day trip to Bella Vista Cloud Forest, and finally toured Quito’s old town area. We then flew to the Galápagos Islands, beginning and ending our adventure on the island of Baltra; we returned through Guayaquil, with a short tour of the city the last evening.
Quito, Day 1 (9/8/09)—Jardín Botánico de Quito and Fundación Guayasamín
Quito, Day 2 (9/09/09)—Bellavista Cloud Forest
Quito, Day 3, (9/10/09)—Tour of old town Quito
Off to the Galápagos! This map shows the route of the Tip Top II, starting at Baltra. This itinerary is often called the “eastern” itinerary.
(Click on the map for a larger version.)
Galápagos, Day 1 (9/11/09)—Heading to the Galápagos
Galápagos, Day 2 (9/12/09)—Rábida and Bartolomé
(red sand, penguins, and a volcano)
Galápagos, Day 3 (9/13/09)—Genovesa (Prince Philip’s Steps and Darwin Bay)
(boobies and frigates and gulls—Oh, my!)
Galápagos, Day 4 (9/14/09)—Santa Cruz highlands and Puerto Ayora
(tortoises and civilization)
Galápagos, Day 5 (9/15/09)—Plaza Sur (Plaza Isletas) and Santa Fé
(sea lions and land iguanas)
Galápagos, Day 6 (9/16/09)—Española (Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez)
(mockingbirds and albatrosses)
Galapagos, Day 7 (9/17/09)—Floreana (Post Office Bay and Punta Cormorán)
(post cards and flamingos)
Galápagos, Day 8 (9/18/09)—N. Seymour and the departure
(Magnificent Frigatebirds and good-byes)
Guayaquil (9/19/09)—heading home
One note about the photographs—unless otherwise noted, all were taken by my husband (with only a few exceptions where he was busy and I took some). Flashes are not permitted when taking photos on the islands. In fact, one of the most common comments we heard from our naturalist guide—especially in the early days, while folks were still a bit rusty about how to use their cameras—was a respectful, sotto voce (but nonetheless stern) “Kill the flash” if someone forgot. So I have digitally adjusted the brightness/contrast of some of the photos, to make them easier to see. Aside from occasional croppings, no other alterations have been made.
We made a return trip to the archipelago in May, 2013, on the “western” itinerary of the M/S Mary Anne. As I get them written, I’ll follow the same format as above for describing the outings of this trip. You can read and see photos of the Mary Anne here. The map below gives you an overview of the islands we visited, starting from Baltra and working clockwise.