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The Galapagos Islands

Straddling both sides of the Equator, the Galapagos are a group of isolated volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, located some 620 miles from the South American mainland. Providing an unforgettable cruise destination for nature-lovers, the islands and their surrounding waters form a national park as well as a biological marine reserve. Once studied by Charles Darwin for their large number of rare and indigenous species, his observations from the Galapagos facilitated his theory of evolution by natural selection.

A once-in-a-lifetime voyage to this mysterious unspoilt corner of the world will open up a land that is rarely seen; discover 1,900 unique species coupled with breath-taking nature as your luxury cruise ship sails from island to island, each stop revealing new surprises. From prehistoric land iguanas nestling on Dragon Hill to flamingos wading in saline lagoons, every experience on your Galapagos cruise is an unforgettable one. What's more, your cruise is completely all-inclusive - Celebrity provide virtually everything you need including snorkelling equipment, meals, drinks and shore excursions.

Whichever of the two itineraries you choose, you will soon become one with nature as you explore the abundant wildlife such as sea turtles, iguanas, blue-footed boobies and sea lions, along with many other native species, many found nowhere else in the world.

On Fernandina and Isabela Islands, you'll discover Galapagos penguins. On Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands, there's a chance to see the famous giant tortoises that can live to be one hundred years or older and can weigh up to 550 pounds - The Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz island operates a breeding programme to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures.

Visitors to the islands are able to scuba or snorkel in the clear waters, with the possibility to see down to a depth of 80 feet or more. These water contain amongst others, manta ray, sea lions and flounder.

Outer Loop Locations

outer loop itinerary map

Outer Loop Itinerary

Punta Suarez, Espanola Island

Punta Suarez is one out of two landing locations found on Espanola Island, also known as Hood Island after the British admiral Viscount Samuel Hood, although there is no evidence that he ever visited the island.

Punta Suarez has been around for over four million years, which makes it one of the archipelago's oldest islands. It is a very popular tourist destination, due to its natural beauty, dry climate, and abundance of some of the most unique animal and plant species, such as the waved albatross and Espanola mockingbird that are endemic to the island. It is also a good spot for underwater exploration.

Espanola mocking bird
The Espanola mocking bird can be extremely tame

Gardner Bay, Espanola Island

Gardner Bay is the other landing spot on Espanola Island, boasting a wide sandy beach populated by lazing sea lions scattered along the water's edge. You can get up close and friendly for those memorable camera shots. Visitors can also swim or snorkel along the rocks in the shallow water near the beach. Green Sea Turtles may be found gliding through the water or hauling themselves onto the beach for a rest or for nesting (between January and March). Further out from the beach, Snorkelers can marvel at schools of large colourful tropical fish, including Yellow-tailed Surgeon fish, King Angelfish, and Bump-head Parrotfish.

Yellow Tailed Surgeon Fish
Yellow Tailed Surgeon Fish are plentiful offshore

Cormorant Point Bay, Floreana Island

The island offers two contrasting beaches: the first is a green (!) sand beach, made green by the presence of olivine crystals, and the second is Flour Beach, made of fine, pulverized coral.

The main highlight here is the flamingo lagoon, where visitors can watch Galapagos Flamingos wade through brackish water, sifting through the mud for shrimp. Pintail ducks, stilts, Large-billed Flycatchers, several species of finch, and many other shorebirds can also be seen here. You can also take a short walk over a hill to Flour Beach where Green Sea Turtles nest and several species of rays glide through the shallow shoreline waters. Cormorant Point has a greater diversity of plants than most other areas, including some endemic to the Point and surrounding areas.

Post Office Bay, Floreana Island

A group of whalers placed a wooden barrel here in 1793 and called it a post office. Travelling seamen would leave addressed letters in the barrel and hope that the next seamen to come along might be headed in the direction of their letters' destinations. Today, visitors leave their own postcards and sift through the current pile of cards - if they find one that they can hand-deliver, they take it with them. This area was also the site of a failed colonisation effort by Norwegians in 1926.

Punta Moreno, Isabela Island

Although at first glance, this part of Isabela Island appears a lifeless landscape, further exploration reveals jagged black lava rock which has formed craters and crystal tide pools. Surrounded by mangroves, - these natural pools have been colonised by a variety of species including Bahama pintail ducks, waders, stilts, blue-winged teal, flamingos, and moorhens.

Great blue herons and flightless cormorants also frequent the areas, while pelicans nest in the mangrove forest. Very large marine iguanas are spread around the rocks, and white tipped reef sharks may be found in a pool along the shore. Three different types of cacti have also found a home at Punta Moreno, popping up out of the lava like jack-in-the-boxes springing towards the equatorial sun.

Black lava rock on Isabela Island
Black lava rock on Isabela Island

Urvina Bay, Isabela Island

In 1954, the crew of a passing ship noticed a strange new white beach at Urvina Bay. On closer investigation, they found an entire stretch of shoreline - coral, fish, and all - had been suddenly lifted six meters above sea level by volcanic pressure underneath. It had happened so recently that fish were still flapping in puddles of seawater. Now Urvina is a popular visitor landing site, with the strange sight of large coral skeletons sitting on dry land, evidence of the aforementioned seismic shift.

A long path leads away from the beach and into the dry regions of the island. From the path it is clear to see that sixty years ago, this area was underwater. Some of the largest and most colourful land iguanas, giant tortoises and cormorants live here, as well as Galapagos penguins, blue footed boobies, Darwin's finches and yellow warblers, hopping around on lantana flowers and palo santo trees.

Coral and lava form a dramatic landscape at Urvina Bay
Coral and lava form a dramatic landscape at Urvina Bay

Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island

Punta Espinoza, also known as Punta Espinosa, is the only landing site for gaining access to Fernandina Island, which is the third largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. Punta Espinoza is a stretch of lava and sandy beach that can be found on the island's north eastern coast. This name was chosen as a description of the sand and lava field that stretches into the ocean. Fernandina Island, which Punta Espinoza is part of, is considered to be the youngest and most active volcano in the archipelago, since its last eruption took place in 2009.

Expect to see pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions and flightless cormorants as well as fearsome looking but docile iguanas - thousands of them!

The delightfully named Sally Lightfoot Crab
The delightfully named Sally Lightfoot Crab

Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island

Besides being one of the most picturesque spots in the Galapagos, Punta Vicente Roca, at the northern tip of Isabela Island, is also an ideal place for snorkelling. Recognised as one of the richest marine havens on Earth (Bolivar Channel), look out for the primitive and unaggressive bullhead shark, known locally as the Port Jackson shark, green sea turtles, red-lipped batfish, frogfishes, Pacific seahorses, the endemic Camotillo, as well as schools of barracuda and brown-stripped snappers. Sponges, corals, and other marine invertebrates are also abundant in the area.

The surrounding cliffs support the endemic Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos fur seals, Blue-footed Boobies, and super-large marine iguanas.

A blue-Footed Boobie
A blue-Footed Boobie

South Plaza, Santa Cruz Island

One of the smallest and, depending on the season, most colourful islands, South Plaza Island is the southern partner of two small crescent-shaped islands that lie just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. Despite its small size of only 130 metres wide, it is home to a large number of species and it is particularly known for its extraordinary flora. Beautiful Opuntia cactuses (prickly pears) give the height, whilst on the ground you find sesuvium, a succulent which will be bright green in the rainy season slowly changing to orange in the dry season (roughly July to January).

The island is populated with hundreds of California Sea Lions, forming one of the largest colonies in the archipelago. You will also spot red-billed tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, shearwaters, Nazca and blue-footed boobies. There is also a large colony of the smaller sized land iguanas. Their population is approximately three hundred individuals. They feed on all kinds of vegetation, but during the dry season, they survive on the fruits and flowers of the prickly pear cactus. It is normal for these land iguanas to go without water for up to three months. Due to their proximity with marine iguanas, this is the only place on Earth where we will find the Galapagos hybrid iguana.

Expect to be greeted by friendly sea lions on you arrival
Expect to be greeted by friendly sea lions on you arrival

Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island

Named after the indigenous land iguanas who call this place home, Dragon Hill has survived the destruction of its most famous animal inhabitants. The island was plagued by the introduction of cats, dogs, and goats by the small resident population. Domestic cats would eat baby land iguanas and eggs, whilst packs of stray dogs would frequently attack fully grown iguanas. As a result, the number of iguanas drastically fell and an effort to protect the rare species began in the 1970s. Feral cats and stray dogs were rounded up to prevent them causing further damage and gradually the iguana population has recovered and returned to the original numbers.

The visitor trail is one of the longest in the Galapagos, snaking its way through a desert-like landscape, as it passes through forests of cacti and fragrant Palo Santo trees. The trail passes through salt-water lagoons where if you are lucky (and quiet), you may catch a glimpse of a flamingo. What you are sure to see are "dragons" - land iguanas are everywhere, including on the trail itself! Keep a lookout for black-necked stilts, white-cheeked pintails. Mockingbirds and Darwin's finches. The hill itself is an impressive sight, a rugged spire that dominates the landscape around it. The trail goes to the summit, from which you'll be rewarded with a great view.

iguana
You looking at me?

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

The small town of Puerto Ayora is the most populous town in the Galápagos Islands and is the hub of tourism and human activity within the archpelago. With a population of around 15,000 inhabitants, the town boasts bars, boutiques and a number of restaurants offering international cuisine.

A popular place to visit is the Charles Darwin Research Station, Darwin's 'living laboratory' a focal point for scientific research that has welcomed scientists from all over the world. Research conducted at this centre has led to ground breaking discoveries and provided detailed knowledge on the flora and fauna of the islands, which is then used for various preservation and breeding programs. There is also has an interesting visitors centre that invites guests to learn about the climate, geography and evolution of the Galapagos Islands, as well as the current conservation programs that are underway.

The establishment is also well known for its tortoise breeding programme, which has been remarkably successful over the years and saved a number of tortoise populations from near extinction. Visitors are welcome to tour the site, where they can observe the giant tortoises at any age, from just a couple of weeks to over one hundred years old.

giant tortoise
giant tortoise

Inner Loop Locations

inner loop itinerary map

Inner Loop Itinerary

Puerto Egas, Santiago Island

Puerto Egas is situated on Santiago Island, presently uninhabited, but the victim of several mid-20th century attempts at colonisation, as well as various ill-fated salt-mining projects. However, problems began as far back as the 1800s and early 1900s, when goats, pigs and donkeys were first introduced to the island. Each species wreaked havoc on both the flora and the fauna; goats caused massive plant erosion, donkeys destroyed much of the island's cacti, whilst pigs dug up both giant tortoise and sea turtle nests, destroying both eggs and hatchlings.

Thankfully, a concerted effort by conservationists within the last decade, known as Project Isabela, has resulted in rapid recovery of much of the vegetation and many of the native species.

However, the presence of introduced plants and black rats continue to cause problems within the natural ecosystem. Current conservation efforts continue to work to control the further spread of these introduced plants, in particular, Rubus niveus, a type of raspberry known locally as "mora". This species currently covers 28 ha, but without control actions, it could spread over the entire humid zone of Santiago resulting in ecological disaster.

Thanks to its beach, from where is possible to swim or snorkel, Puerto Egas is a very good place to observe shorebirds looking for food during low tides and a short trail takes you to a rocky landscape shared by fur seals and young sea lions.

Look out also for land and sea turtles, crabs, dolphins and sharks as well as the occasional flamingo.

American Oyster Catcher
American Oyster Catcher

Rabida Island, Galapagos

Located just three miles to the south of Santiago Island, Rábida Island is one of the most volcanically varied islands in the archipelago. Originally named after the 18th-century British admiral John Jervis, the island's official Ecuadorian name is Isla Rábida.

The landing point on Rabida is a surprisingly maroon coloured beach, the colouring due to the high iron content. This colouring is repeated throughout the islands lava rocks.

Relatively small compared to some of the other islands, Rabida is arid, with a steep and rocky coastline which provides visitors with unlimited wildlife opportunities.

This includes seeing brown pelicans nesting in the salt brush in an area just behind the beach, whilst nearby caves are often used as lounging areas and sunshades by wildlife such as sea lions and marine iguanas. Other birds, such as the blue-footed and Nazca boobies, can often be seen on the cliffs above where the pelicans nest.

A short twenty minute walk inland is a good place to observe land birds such as finches, Galapagos doves, yellow warblers, and mockingbirds, as well as the occasional snake. The vegetation consists mainly of Opuntia cacti, Palo Santo trees, and scrubby bushes. You will pass a small salt water lagoon along the trail where you may spot Bahama pintail ducks and black-necked stilts. The lagoon is also a feeding and breeding area for flamingos. These large pink or reddish birds live in shallow saltwater lagoons and feed 7-12 hrs each day, primarily on the pink shrimp larva and water boatmen that give them their colour.

A walk up the rugged red cliffs to a cliff overhang will give those interested in the geography of the island a better view of the cove below, the lagoon and the surrounding scarlet cliffs before heading back to the beach.

Rabida Island

Elizabeth Bay,

Elizabeth Bay and Caleta Tagus - Tagus Cove (below), are both situated on Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos and greater in size than all the other islands combined. Originally formed by the joining of six young volcanoes, the island remains one of the most volcanically active places in the world, with an eruption taking place as recent as 2008. The majority of Isabela residents make their living by fishing, farming and tourism.

The island's rich fauna is beyond compare. It is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands combined, with a separate species on each volcano. Unique to the island are the red and black mangroves which act as a rest and feeding area for sea turtles.

It is these very mangroves that surround Elizabeth Bay and whilst landing in this area is not permitted, zodiacs can explore the small rocky islands just outside the bay. Here you will encounter large colonies of Galapagos penguins who thrive in the cooler waters of the west coast of Isabela. The area is also home to the largest specimen of marine iguanas due to the abundant supply of algae, their primary food. With an abundance of marine life and clear water, keep an eye out for spotted eagle rays, golden rays, white tipped sharks and green turtles.

Experience Isabela's dramatic scenery
Experience Isabela's dramatic scenery

Caleta Tagus, Isabela Island

Tagus Cove, named after the British naval vessel that moored here in 1814, was used historically as an anchorage for pirates and whalers. It is a beautiful, well protected cove, sheltered by the shoulders of two volcanic craters and has been used as an anchorage for over 300 years.

The protected waters surrounding the cove are home to sea turtles, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and the diminutive Galapagos penguins. Beneath the sheltered cliffs, expect to see blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, pelicans and noddy terns making their nests. After landing by Zodiac, you can hike through the forest of Palo Santo trees to access the upper reaches of a volcanic cone.

Watch for several species of Darwin finches and curious mockingbirds as you ascend. From the track's high point the panoramic view is spectacular. In the foreground shimmer the blue-green of Darwin's Lake and the calm waters of Tagus Cove, while in the distance stretch vast expanses of ocean dotted with the volcanic shapes of the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Penguin
The Galapagos Penguin

Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island

This truly fascinating volcanic site was named after Bartholomew James Sullivan, the first lieutenant on HMS Beagle, the ship that brought Charles Darwin to the Galapagos.

On disembarkation, you follow a 1.5 kilometre trail over the solidified black lava flow, its surface still covered with lava bubbles and the imprints of tree-branches, a testament to its young age in geological terms.

The area has two small beaches where turtles come for nesting and where you can swim or snorkel from, which is particularly recommended. In terms of wildlife, don't expect to see much other than the odd lava lizard.

The twisted shapes of the recent (1897) lava flow
The twisted shapes of the recent (1897) lava flow

Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Bartolome, one of the youngest islands, resembles a Martian landscape with few life forms inhabiting the island other than lava lizards, the odd snake and some cactus plants. The landscape is dotted with large boulders after volcanic eruptions sent them soaring hundreds of metres into the sky. This is a new site to be opened to the public with access only via a raised platform to preserve the landscape. The top of the walkway, high up on the hill, offers panoramic views out to the ocean.

The best view in the Galapagos from the top of Bartolome Island
The best view in the Galapagos from the top of Bartolome Island

Las Bachas, Santa Cruz Island

Located on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, this beautiful bay boasts a kilometre long pristine white-sand beach which is a nesting site for Pacific Green turtles. Its name "Las Bachas" derives from the mispronounced term "barges" -actually floating docks, which the American forces had left behind after World War II. The remains of two of these docks can still be seen on the beach in the form of steel spires poking from beneath the sand.

Behind the beach, a hidden lagoon often serves as a feeding spot for wonderful pink flamingos, as well as presenting a continuous show of blue-footed boobies dive-bombing in search of fish. Numerous other migratory birds visit the lagoon during the course of the year including blue herons, white-cheeked ducks and small waders.

The graceful Flamingo
The graceful Flamingo

North Seymour Island, Galapagos

An ornithologists dream, North Seymour Island is a rare chance to observe seabird colonies up close and personal, witnessing their most intimate courtship, breeding and nesting behaviour.

The island itself was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile.

Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit perched on ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing at North Seymour Island, usually without leaves, waiting for the rain to bring them into bloom. Prickly pear cacti are also very common on the edges of cliffs and shores.

From the landing spot, a trail turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird. These huge, dark acrobats have five foot wingspans, and males, with inflated scarlet gular pouches, sit precariously in low bushes to watch over their equally large chicks. From the trail, you can also observe blue-footed boobies, large colonies of land and marine iguanas as well as sea lions.

The colourful Frigate Bird
The colourful Frigate Bird

Puerto Baquerizo, San Cristobal Island

Enjoying her status as capital of Galapagos Province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, to give it its full name, boasts an airport, banks, hotels, restaurants, and a hospital. It does however, retain all the elements of a small and relaxed town. Named after Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno, the first Ecuadorian president to visit the Galapagos Islands in 1916, the town is the oldest permanent settlement in the Galapagos and was once the largest town in the archipelago. There are now approximately 8,000 permanent residents including the Governor of the Galapagos Islands.

Due to its age, the island also has an interesting human history, heightened by its rather unusual start as a penal colony. Visitors are welcome to explore the town's past at the natural history museum and also at the town church, which displays beautiful painted murals.

Another place recommended to visit is the Galapagos National Park Exhibition Centre, an excellent place to learn more about the geological and human history of the Galapagos Archipelago, as well as conservation issues and the natural history of the islands. The centre holds regular talks, lectures and concerts in its open-air theatre.

Puerto Baquerizo

Punta Pitt, San Cristobal Island

Punta Pitt, located at the extreme eastern end of San Cristobal Island, can only be reached by taking a 1400 metre (4,953 feet) long trail. This rewarding hike, which takes around 2 hours, will lead you to the only visitor site of the archipelago where it is possible to see three species of boobies and two species of frigates nesting in the same area. The reason is totally due to the geographic location - there is a plentiful amount of food, so there is no competition between the birds.

The blue-footed boobies nest inside (rarely on the cliffs), the red-footed boobies nest on bushes and masked boobies nest on the cliffs. An additional attraction is the presence of sea lions.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

The small town of Puerto Ayora is in fact the most populous town in the Gal´pagos Islands and is the hub of tourism and human activity within the archpelago. With a population of around 15,000 inhabitants, the town boasts bars, boutiques and a number of restaurants offering international cuisine.

A popular place to visit is the Charles Darwin Research Station, Darwin's 'living laboratory.' a focal point for scientific research that has welcomed scientists from all over the world. Research conducted at this centre has led to ground breaking discoveries and provided detailed knowledge on the flora and fauna of the islands, which is then used for various preservation and breeding programs. There is also has an interesting visitors centre that invites guests to learn about the climate, geography and evolution of the Galapagos Islands, as well as the current conservation programs that are underway.

The establishment is also well known for its tortoise breeding programme, which has been remarkably successful over the years and saved a number of tortoise populations from near extinction. Visitors are welcome to tour the site, where they can observe the giant tortoises at any age, from just a couple of weeks to over one hundred years old.

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Sailings 2019 / 2020

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31 May £9045 details
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28 June £8275 details
12 July £8205 details
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23 August £8045 details
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18 October £8045 details
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29 November £7815 details
13 December £7965 details
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10 January £8672 details
24 January £8832 details
7 February £8832 details
21 February £8832 details
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