GALÀPAGOS PHOTO TOUR - EAST
Table of Contents
To start the Galápagos Photo Tour of the eastern side of the islands, our representative will greet you upon your arrival in the airport in Quito, Ecuador. Your driver will escort you to your hotel for the night, a historic colonial-style seventeenth-century building, just outside Quito, the second-largest city in this beautiful country.
The hotel has beautiful gardens whose trees are centuries old. If you have any free time, take advantage of the gardens and look for the 33 species of birds that regularly visit.
Tonight, we will have a group dinner to get to know everyone, and talk about the exciting days to come in the Galápagos Islands.
For those arriving early, Quito has one of the best-preserved historic centers in the Americas, and is great to explore on foot.
Day 2 – Galápagos – Balta Island (A) and North Seymour Island (B)
We head out early this morning and fly from Quito to Baltra Island in the Galápagos Islands. As we fly over the Galápagos, you will notice evidence of the volcanic history of these amazing islands. Upon arrival in the Galápagos, we will be met at the airport by our naturalist guide, and transferred to our chartered yacht for the week. We will meet the crew, get comfortable on the yacht, and enjoy a nice lunch as we depart Baltra for North Seymour Island, our first destination.
This afternoon we experience one of the best locations for blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigates, and greater frigates. As we depart the yacht, we will board the zodiac (a.k.a. the panga) and complete a dry landing on the island of North Seymour.
North Seymour is a flat uplifted island in the rain shadow of Santa Cruz Island, thus creating a dry vegetative and arid zone. As we tour the island, we will hopefully see the nesting, mating displays, and young of these unique birds.
The blue-footed booby males prance, displaying their colorful feet, as the female coos, looking for the right male to nest with. The male then lifts his wings and tail, and arches his neck, displaying he is “the one” to his future mate. The males compete for the female’s attention until she picks one. Many blue-footed booby babies and eggs are in these colonies as the bird’s nest here year-round.
The frigate males inflate their red balloon-like pouch to display for the females. It can take 20 minutes for the male to fully inflate and deflate the pouch. There is lots of commotion with all the male frigates trying to find a mate. The female frigates tend to prefer the males with the larger display, so the males will fully inflate to display as large as possible. There are frigate nests everywhere, and fuzzy babies on the nests, being fed by their parents.
As we spend our afternoon strolling around the island, we will look for nice photogenic compositions of the species below.
In addition to the birds, the large and colorful land iguanas roam around eating the leaves and cactus. These amazing-looking creatures that resemble dragons can be found on the lava rock, amid the cactus, and on the sandy beaches.
Later in the afternoon, we continue our walk, and visit a Galápagos sea lion area. As the sea lions return to the rocky beach for the evening, pups and mothers are reunited. Hopefully, we will see mothers nursing their pups and sea lion pups playing with each other.
Behaviors we hope to see while on North Seymour Island:
- Blue-footed boobies sitting on eggs
- Blue-footed boobies feeding their young
- Blue-footed boobies doing mating displays\dances
- Blue-footed boobies mating
- Blue-footed boobies rubbing beaks protecting their nesting site
- Magnificent Frigates inflating pouch for mating display
- Magnificent Frigates stealing others food and nesting materials
- Magnificent Frigates feeding their young
- Land Iguanas eating cactus and other plants
- Galápagos Sea Lions playing and nursing their young
- Marine Iguanas sunning themselves
- Galápagos gulls mating \ sitting on nests
As we return to the yacht for the evening, we will have a nice dinner and lecture from our local Galápagos naturalist.
Day 3 – Chinese Hat Island (C) and Bartolome Island(D)
Sombrero Chino, or Chinese Hat, is a beautiful island with lava flows and white sandy beaches, bordering a 200-meter wide channel that separates it from the larger island of Santiago.
The island gets its name from the conical hat worn by many Asian rice farmers, which actually originates from Vietnam. The vibrant green/aqua waters that surround the island are full of wildlife.
This morning, we explore the island after a wet landing on a small white coral beach. As we take a leisurely walk on the coast among fragile lava and lava tubes, we hope to see the Galápagos penguin, the only penguin in the northern hemisphere. These playful and photogenic critters perch on the black lava rock and dive into the colorful water in search of fish.
We will also visit Galápagos sea lion colonies, and hope to photograph them playing and nursing their young. The young sea lions play together in “nurseries” while their mothers go out to fish.
Marine iguanas lounge around sunning themselves on the black lava rock, while pelicans and great blue herons feed on the abundant food in this area.
Make sure to bring your landscape lens, as the landscapes are just as impressive as the wildlife.
A few behaviors on Chinese Hat that we hope to see:
- Galápagos Sea Lion playing
- Baby Galápagos penguins posing
- Young Galápagos Sea Lions playing in the ‘nursery’
After a snack, we have the option to go snorkeling, and visit all the wildlife that lives below the water between Chinese Hat and Santiago. With support of a zodiac, we will enjoy a relaxing view of aqua-green waters and coral reefs.
As you enter the water, you will notice the thousands of fish that help support all the seabirds we have seen so far. The colorful tropical fish are not bothered by our presence. In addition to the fish, we hope to see the Galápagos penguin, Galápagos sea lion, and spotted eagle rays.
After a very busy morning, we head back to the boat for a short rest, and then lunch. After lunch, we will do a two-hour navigation to our next destination, Bartolome Island.
This afternoon we explore Bartolome Island, and climb to its scenic overlook, 114 meters high. We take the zodiacs to a dry landing and follow the boardwalk to many interesting stopping places. As we get to the top, we take in the wonderful views across Bartolome, toward Santiago, Sullivan Bay, and the surrounding islands.
Jutting out of the ground is Pinnacle Rock, a famous landmark of Bartolome, where the movie Master and Commander was filmed. We see swells breaking into volcanic ovens, accenting them with clean white foam. We also see lava cactus, known as the “queen of the night” for its flowers that bloom after dark, and other plants that thrive in this dry and harsh climate.
After descending from the peak of Bartolome, we will use the zodiacs to go in search of Galápagos penguins in the lava tubes of this rugged shore. We hope to see the Galápagos penguins preening, socializing with each other, and jumping in and out of the water as they search for food.
As we tour in the Zodiacs, keep looking on the lava rock for the penguins, along with blue-footed boobies, nazca boobies, and Galápagos green turtles.
As the sun gets low, we head back to the yacht and enjoy a chef-prepared dinner and another informative presentation about the Galápagos islands from our Galápagos naturalists.
Day 4 – Island Genovesa (E) Darwin Bay and Prince Philip’s StepsWhen we wake, we notice a completely different scene. We have arrived at the island of Genovesa after navigating most of the night. We anchor in an old volcano caldera at the center of the island — the perfect natural harbor.
After breakfast, we take a zodiac to Darwin Bay on the island of Genovesa, and make a wet landing to see many new species as we stroll around the trail. The island is ideal for photography, as the birds get very close and fly at low levels.
As we walk around the bay, look for nests, babies, and activity. At the beach, the sea lions are sunning themselves on the white coral beach as the green water breaks. It does not get much better than this!
Back to the boat for a quick snack, and off to snorkel by Prince Philip’s Steps. Today our optional snorkel is on an interior wall of the caldera, where wildlife is abundant. We hope to see Galápagos fur seals, Galápagos sea lions, colorful fish, rays, and reef sharks.
Wildlife Behaviors we hope to see while on Genovesa Island:
- Red-footed boobies nesting and mating displays
- Nazca boobies nesting and mating displays
- Greater Frigates nesting
- Greater Frigates inflating their red pouches
- Greater Frigates building nests
- Galápagos Fur Seals swimming and relaxing
- Galápagos Sea Lion pups playing and cuddling waiting for the return of their mother
- Galápagos Sea Lion male protecting his harem
- Mother Boobies feeding their babies
- Greater Frigates feeding their babies
- Galápagos Gulls with the newly born chicks
This afternoon we enter the area of Genovesa Island called Prince Philip’s Steps. These rock formations are named after Prince Philip of England, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who once visited the Galápagos Islands.
We take the zodiacs over to another side of the harbor/caldera and do a dry landing. Our plan is to climb up the steps cut out of the volcanic rock to scale the plateau’s steep basalt cliff. Once at the top, we are treated to the sight of nazca boobies, red footed-boobies, and great frigates everywhere. Boobies and their young show no fear, and sometimes come right up to us in curiosity.
As we take a slow hike, photographing on the way, we will look for different compositions of these unique birds. With the limited brush, we are able to get very low shots. As we approach a channel in the rock, we hope to see the endemic Galápagos short-eared owl.
As we wrap up our shoot, we will get back in the zodiacs and look for Galápagos fur seals, yellow-crowned night herons, nazca boobies, red footed-boobies, and blue-footed boobies on the cliffs and rocky shore. We will keep our eye out for seals basking in the light.
While walking around Genovesa Island and Prince Philip’s steps, we hope to witness some of these wildlife behaviors:
- Nazca Boobies feeding their young
- Red-footed boobies displaying
- Greater Frigates on nests
- Greater Frigates displaying and inflating their red neck pouches to win a mate
After another very full day, we head back to the yacht for a little relaxation, dinner, and more information about the Galápagos Islands.
Day 5 – Santiago Island – Puerto Egas (F) and Rabida Island (G)
We leave the boat early after breakfast to photograph the tidal zones on Santiago Island. We land on a black beach where the sand is crushed volcanic rock.
Exploring the tidal zones, keep your eyes out for the wildlife that enjoys this climate. We hope to see marine iguana enjoying the tide pools, as well as Galápagos herons and yellow-crowned night heron searching for food. The sally lightfoot crabs are plentiful here and extremely photogenic against the black lava rock.
As we near the end of our hike, we hope to see Galápagos fur seals hanging out in the grottos as the water surges in and out. The grottos are holes in the volcanic rock that the tide can flow through, creating blowholes at high tide, and showing how vibrantly green the water is in the Galápagos Islands.
Behaviors we typically see at Puertos Egas on Santiago Island:
- Galápagos Fur Seals swimming in the green grottos
- Night and Galápagos herons fishing
- Marine Iguanas sunning themselves in the tidal pools
- Sally Lightfoot Crabs scavenging the beach for food
- Galápagos flycatcher feeding
After lunch we take the zodiac over to Rabida Island, where the sand is a deep red color due to the ferric oxide in the lava. We look for sea lions and shore birds, then take a short hike back to a saltwater lagoon where we hope to find colorful greater flamingos and white-cheeked pintail ducks.
Behaviors on Rabida Island:
- Galápagos Sea Lions playing on the red sand beach
- Greater Flamingos feeding in lagoon
- Galápagos Mockingbirds feeding
- Pelicans feeding
- Galápagos Green sea turtles feeding
- Lava Lizards males doing “push-ups”
We then hop back into the zodiac and go around the corner of the island to do a little snorkeling with all the colorful fish.
Then we head back to the boat for snacks and a relaxing navigation to the Island of Santa Cruz.
Day 6 – Santa Cruz Island (H) Darwin Station and the Highlands
This morning, we head to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. We will learn about their work in the National Parks, and their programs for supporting subspecies of the giant tortoise. We also get to see giant tortoises being bred, in different stages of their life.
One of the highlights is learning about Lonesome George, a male Pinta Island tortoise. Lonesome George was estimated to be over one hundred years old, and was the last known individual of the species. His story is an important symbol of conservation, and shows the need for conserving biodiversity in the Galápagos Islands and the rest of the word.
The vegetation around the Charles Darwin Research Station is lush and green. Many Darwin’s finches are easy to locate as we walk around the facility.
We will then take a little time to visit the vibrant town of Puerto Ayora, enjoy some fresh coffee, and do a bit of shopping.
In the afternoon, we head into the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island in search of Galápagos tortoises. As we climb in elevation, you will notice the vegetation increases in size, providing an ideal habitat for the tortoises.
At the high point on the road, we will re-enter the National Park system. We will spend the afternoon walking the trails and taking photos of the amazing tortoises who roam the grassy meadows and highland ponds.
Day 7 – Española Island – Punta Suarez (I) and Playa Gardner (J)
Today we explore Española Island, one of the oldest islands in the Galápagos chain. Due to its geographic isolation, it has a significant number of endemic species, making it a highlight of the trip. The impressive Galápagos albatross comes to Española Island for its breeding season from April to December.
We explore Punta Suarez in the morning by making a dry landing and hiking the smooth loop trail. Keep an eye out for Galápagos sea lions and the colorful Española marine iguana as we hike the rocky terrain.
At Punta Suarez, the endemic Española mockingbird is very curious about visitors to the island, and is a great sight to see. We continue our walk through nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, nazca boobies, and the waved albatross. Large Española lava lizards are everywhere.We then come to a cliff where you can view all the different marine birds circling along the coast. If we are fortunate, we will get to watch an albatross taking off from the cliff.
As we continue our hike, we will stop by a blowhole on the coast where the seawater is being pushed up through a fissure in the cliff. Depending on the waves and tide, this water can reach 80 feet in the air.
Some of the highlights on Española Island
- Española marine iguana
- Galápagos sea lions
- Blue-footed boobies
- Nazca boobies
- Waved albatross
- Española mockingbird
- Española lava lizards
- Darwin Finches
In the afternoon we will explore Playa Gardner, making a wet landing on a long beach made of white coral sand. Leave your shoes on the yacht, and feel the beautiful sand between your toes.
We will observe Darwin’s finches and mockingbirds in the saltbush vegetation, and hope to capture close-up images of Galápagos sea lions.
After exploring, we have the opportunity to take a nice swim and snorkel right off the beach of Playa Gardner.
Day 8 – Santa Fé Island (K) – South Plaza Island (L)
In the morning, we explore Santa Fé Island, which is home to a large Galápagos sea lion colony. We take the zodiacs to a wet landing on the beach and hike a short trail through the dry vegetation of the Arid Zone. Soon, we will arrive at a forested cliff festooned with prickly pear cactus, then continue on to a second beach. Keep your eye out for the endemic land iguanas of Santa Fé, who like to camouflage themselves in the vegetation.
This afternoon, we explore the island of South Plaza. After a dry landing on the jetty, we will hike an easy loop trail, exploring the uplifted island and noting the high cliffs on the southern side. The rocky coast hosts a big colony of Galápagos sea lions, while the eastern point has another colony of sea lion bachelors.
As we continue our hike, keep your eyes out for the large population of land iguanas that are typically found near the beautiful prickly pear cactus trees.
Day 9 – Santa Cruz Island – Black Turtle Cove (M) – Baltra Island (N)
On the last day of the Galápagos Photo Tour, we head out early before breakfast to explore the protected mangroves of Black Turtle Cove. As we navigate with the zodiacs, we will turn off the motor to observe Galápagos marine turtles in their natural habitat.
Many turtles come to the mangrove cove to rest. Spotted eagle rays, golden rays, white-tipped reef sharks, and young Galápagos sharks can also be spotted at Black Turtle Cove.
After breakfast, we arrive at the harbor of Baltra where our adventure started, in time for our morning flight back to Quito. We say goodbye to the crew as we are taken back to the Baltra airport to begin our journey home.
The operator(s) and/or the captains of the yacht reserve the right to make changes to or cancel any part of the itinerary or programs without giving prior notice. Changes may be necessary due to unforeseen circumstances, such as new Galápagos National Park rules, public authority decisions, weather or natural disasters, force majeure, and/or any other extreme circumstances. These decisions will be made to avoid problems and protect the safety of the passengers. If we must make a change, we will offer the best possible alternatives or adjustments.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST ITINERARIES
We offer two different itineraries for the Galápagos Islands. There is so much diversity in the islands that each location is very different. Each trip has subtle differences we have detailed below.
Still can’t decide? Join us for both itineraries on our Two-Week Galápagos workshop, and enjoy two weeks in the Galápagos Islands at a discounted rate.
- 9 Days / 8 Nights’ Galápagos Photography Workshop
- 8 Days / 7 Nights’ accommodation aboard Galápagos yacht – Double occupancy (Single Occupancy available)
- 1 Night accommodation in Quito, Ecuador – Double occupancy (Single Occupancy available)
- Round-trip airfare from Quito to the Galápagos Islands
- Ground transportation to and from the Quito airport
- Ground transfers in the Galápagos Islands
- All shore excursions with an English-speaking Galápagos naturalist guide
- Snorkeling equipment: mask, tube, and fins from size 34 – 45 (Optional)
- Galápagos National Park entrance fee
- Ecuador Transit Control Card
- All meals are provided during the workshop. Expect to gain a couple of pounds on the trip
- Instruction in the field with your photographer guides (2 guides if 10 guests or more)
- Photography instruction on photo editing techniques
- A planning package that includes recommendations on the proper camera gear and clothing
- We take care of all the trip logistics once you arrive Quito. The only thing you should concentrate on is having a fantastic time and capturing stunning images of the Galápagos Islands.
Anytime before you embark on your journey, our trip leader Matt is happy to provide a free phone consultation. He can give you guidance on what equipment to bring, answer questions about the locale, and give general photography advice to make sure you are ready to capture your dream images.
- Air Transportation to Quito, Ecuador from your home base and back
- Alcoholic drinks/Bottled beverages
- Personal items
- Wet suits (Shorty wet suits in all sizes will be available to rent on board)
- Gratuities for yacht crew and local naturalist
- Travel/Cancellation/Emergency evacuation insurance
You should be in good physical health. You will be walking on trails with your camera gear for about 2 hours, typically 1-2 miles per destinatino. While most of the trails are smooth, some are on uneven terrain such as lava rock. You will need to be able to get in and out the zodiac boats, both on the yacht and in knee-deep water when we make wet landings. There are stairs/ladders on the boat which you will need to be able to go up and down comfortably.
If you are concerned about the physical demands of this trip, please contact us, and we will be glad to discuss options to accommodate your needs.
PHOTOGRAPHY SKILL LEVEL
Our Galápagos Photo Tour is open to all photographers, from beginners to professionals.
This is the perfect time to explore the Galápagos. The weather is ideal, neither too hot nor too cold. Low temperatures are typically around 72° Fahrenheit (22° Celsius), with highs of a pleasant 82° Fahrenheit (28° Celsius).
Expect very little rainfall — the islands average less than an inch for the month.
Matt Shetzer – Matt has been leading photographic workshops all over the world since 2011, and loves being outside and enjoying nature. To read more about Matt, click HERE.
While our primary goal is maximum field time, we will take advantage of non-optimal photography conditions to provide photo workshops, discussing the following subjects in detail:
- Achieving the best composition
- Proper exposure for the scene
- Focus techniques for that crisp image
- Getting the most out of the histogram
- Mastering the modes (when to shoot manual, aperture and shutter priorities)
- Taking images for HDR (High Dynamic Range)
- Image workup techniques with Photoshop and Lightroom. At each workshop, we demonstrate how to work up attendees’ images from scratch, displaying our nondestructive techniques to produce the highest quality image.
- Best Plugins to use
- Color Correction
- Layers and Masks (Masks are targeted adjustments)
- Noise reduction and sharpening techniques
- Lightroom and portfolio management
- Photography discussions – Review select images and discuss which images work and why to expand your skills and move to the next level
Over the course of the Galápagos Photo Tour, you will learn photographic techniques to hone your digital photography skills, learn how to achieve the perfect exposure, and take control of your camera to achieve the sharpest image quality.
CAMERA EQUIPMENT TO BRING
- A telephoto lens from 80 to 400mm
- A landscape lens from 24-70mm
- Camera Backpack
- Lots of memory cards. We typically shoot about 1,000 images a day. Bring more than you think you need.
Prior to the trip, you will receive a detailed planning package with recommendations for camera gear.
The Galápagos Islands provide a spectacular experience for everyone. Whether you enjoy photography or just have a love for nature, there is something for you in the Galápagos Islands.
Non-photographers are welcome on the tour, and are free to join us on all activities at a discount of $250.00.
Read what our fantastic guests are saying about our workshops. Client Comments
Images from some of our previous trips can be found in our GALLERIES
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip insurance from a third-party operator to protect your travel investment against medical emergencies, cancellations, travel delays, and emergency evacuations. All tour cancellations must be submitted in writing, and will result in loss of deposit and all fees paid.
WAITING LIST – IF A TRIP IS SOLD OUT
Over the last few years, all of our trips have sold out. We start to fill up about a year before the workshop, and keep the website updated with the current availability of space. If a workshop is full, you can add your name to the waitlist. If a spot becomes available, we will contact the guests on the waitlist immediately, in the order they signed up. We tend to have the most cancellations 90-180 days before a trip start, so being on the waitlist means you still have a good chance of getting on the trip. We require no deposit to get on the waitlist.
The cost for the tour is $7,995.00 USD based on double occupancy. We offer single accommodations for an additional $5,995.00 USD per person, which guarantees a single attendee a private cabin for the trip.
To reserve a spot on this tour, we require a $1,000.00 USD deposit per person, paid by credit card at the time of registration. 50% of the full amount of the workshop fee will be due three hundred (300) days prior to the start of the workshop. The remaining payment for the workshop will be due one hundred and eighty (180) days prior to the start of the workshop. Fees can be paid by check or bank transfer. All fees are non-refundable.
Once we have received the final trip payment, we will send the detailed trip planning documents to each guest, to help them plan for their best possible photography workshop.
If you are not traveling with someone, we will assign you a roommate depending on group makeup and gender.
Our workshops are filled on a first come, first serve basis. Workshop availability will be updated on this page.
If you have any additional questions or would like to speak to one of us, please contact us at 303-888-2710 and we would be happy to answer your questions.
GALÀPAGOS PHOTO TOUR - EAST
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