Those on group flights arrive in Quito this evening.
Free time today to relax, recover from the flights and explore this fascinating city. Quito is the second highest capital in the world, standing at 2,850m on the western cordillera of the Andes, and one of the smaller and more attractive of the colonial capitals of South America. Because of the altitude, visitors to Quito are advised to take it easy at first.
We transfer to the airport this morning for a 40-minute flight from Quito to Coca. A short drive takes us to the dock where we board a large motorized canoe for a two-hour ride down-stream. At the entrance to the Napo Wildlife Centre reserve area, we transfer to smaller, paddled dugout canoes, so not to disturb the wildlife. This paddle can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on what is sighted en-route (a chance of spotting giant otters, while monkeys and countless bird species including toucans, parrots and macaws). Finally, we cross the spectacular Anangu Lake and arrive at the lodge to receive a welcome drink and briefing
Day 4 - 5
Two days at NWC. Choice and flexibility are the keys at the lodge. Rather than fixed programmes, the group and guide will design the most suitable programme to match their physical condition and personal interests. The following information, however, gives you an idea of what to expect at Napo Wildlife Centre. Very early starts are necessary to get the best wildlife viewing. The lodge has the most easily accessed and one of the best parrot clay licks in Ecuador. Being just an hour away, we can arrive at the lick before the parrot activity kicks off fully - around 7-8am. The lodge also has a 36m-canopy tower, which offers a fantastic insight into the various vertical layers of the jungle, and their inhabitants. The panoramic view from the top is magnificent, as is the bird viewing. Spider monkeys also frequent the higher canopy searching for fruit. Numerous trails from the lodge offer hikes amongst the primary rainforest and we will head out during the day to learn about the trees and the forest and the night in search of cayman and other nocturnal creatures. Naturally, exploring the lake and creeks by dugout canoe is a highlight and one of the best ways to see larger animals
We return to Quito the same way we came - paddled canoe down the creek, motorised canoe back up the river to Coca and then a quick drive to the airport for the flight to Quito.
We include a day in Quito to allow time for any delays coming back from the rainforest. An optional excursion to the cloud forest can be organised for this day at the start of the tour.
We return to Quito airport for the flight to the Galapagos and the island of Baltra, which usually flies via Guayaquil. Our luggage will be taken to the boat, whilst we will take a short ferry crossing to Santa Cruz Island where we drive to the highlands to look for wild tortoises. We follow this with a visit to the Charles Darwin Centre, where we can learn about the ecology of the islands and visit the centre's turtle hatchery. After this visit, we board the boat at Puerto Ayora, the island's main town. As we won't see our luggage after landing on Baltra until this evening, please make sure that you bring your camera, sun cream and appropriate clothing: comfortable footwear for some short walks (possibly amongst grass), light clothes, a hat/cap and a light waterproof in case of a shower or mist.
Our Galapagos Cruise alternates between two itineraries and so for the next seven days, your specific itinerary in the Galapagos depends on the departure date of the trip (please ask your sales consultant if unsure). Itinerary A: Walk on the tiny Plazas Islands to see a cactus forest, land iguanas and seabirds, then cruise to the white sand beaches of Santa Fe. Itinerary B: A short walk on the tiny island of Chinese Hat before snorkelling with sea lions (and penguins if lucky!); on to the dark red beach of Isla Rabida to walk amongst spatter cones, pelicans, Blue-footed and Nazca boobies.
Itinerary A: A day at San Cristobal Island: the white sand beach, Blue-footed boobys and old cone of Cerro Brujo, giant tortoise at Galapaguera and crystal clear waters around the striking spear of Kicker Rock. Itinerary B: We start three days exploring the largest island of Isabela with an exploration of the mangroves at Los Tintoreras and walk to the huge 5-mile wide caldera on Sierra Negra volcano. In the afternoon it's possible to visit the giant tortoise breeding centre on Isabela island.
Itinerary A: Swim with sea lions and marine iguanas at the paradisiacal beach at Gardener Bay on Espanola (Hood) Island. In the afternoon, walk amongst Nazca and Blue-footed boobys and nesting Waved Albatross (in season) next to pounding surf at Punta Suarez. Itinerary B: Cruising round Isabela's west side, we're likely to see whales and dolphins. We land at Punta Moreno's swirling fresh lava flows and also explore the islets of Elizabeth Bay with the largest colony of penguins in the Galapagos.
Itinerary A: At Floreana Island snorkel in the spectacular sunken crater of Devil's Crown amongst thousands of fish. We wil then visit the lagoon at Punta Cormorant (often with flamingos) and Post Office Bay, the mailbox used by 18th Century whalers. Itinerary B: In 1954 Urbina Bay was uplifted 4 metres and we walk here amongst exposed coral heads, wandering giant tortoises and huge land iguanas. We'll then make an afternoon visit to Tagus Cove and Darwin Lake, directly opposite recently active Fernandina Volcano.
Itinerary A: To Dragon Hill, a nesting site for land iguanas with a large lagoon; dramatic Sullivan Bay with a walk on a huge lava flow only 100 years old before swimming from the white-sand beach in crystal clear waters. Itinerary B: Land at Punta Espinosa on Fernandina in the midst of a huge colony of Marine iguanas; the sea life is very rich here and supports a large sea lion and fur seal colony. We then cross the straights and explore the cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela.
Itinerary A: Less-visited Genovesa (also called Tower) Island is home to an abundance of red-footed boobies, fur seals, storm petrels and Short-eared Owls. Here, we look for tropicbirds at Prince Philip Steps before snorkelling, whilst at Darwin Bay, Galapagos mockingbirds also await. Itinerary B: Excellent birding on Santiago (James) Island at Puerto Egas followed by an afternoon snorkel and a walk amongst incredible volcanic scenery up little Bartolome Island - cones, lava tubes and Pinnacle Rock.
Itinerary A: We explore the mangroves of Turtle Cove at dawn watching marine turtles rising for air; rays and herons fishing from the trees. Itinerary B: An early morning walk on North Seymour amidst Palo Santo trees and blue-footed booby colonies. Both itineraries: After a late breakfast we disembark for the journey back to Baltra to transfer to the airport and the flight back to the mainland. A short stop at Guayaquil is followed by what is often an exciting flight over the volcanoes of the Andes to Quito.
The trip ends today after breakfast. Those on group flights will transfer to the airport for their return flight to the UK.