Bring your family on this incredible adventure to experience the Galápagos Islands. Home to the rare exotic birds, plants and wildlife that inspired Darwin, this “living laboratory of evolution” and UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to offer the excitement of original discovery to explorers of all ages.
Barbara Horlbeck, M.A., is a passionate arts and culture professional with extensive global experience. She a lecturer, a writer, an independent researcher, and an adjunct instructor of art history and has traveled in more than 35 countries, including five continents and the North Pole. In her lectures and discussions with the National Trust programs, Barbara engages with participants to enrich their experience and deepen their understanding of the region and its important historical context.
A team of multilingual onboard Ecuadorian expert naturalists will share their in-depth insight and knowledge about the Galápagos’ distinctive ecosystem during daily excursions and natural history lectures. The ship provides a glass-bottom boat to observe marine life, Zodiacs for island landings and excursions, complimentary snorkeling equipment and a nighttime stargazing program.
Depart the U.S./Guayaquil, Ecuador
Thursday, July 25
Arrive in Guayaquil, once a favored haven for 17th- and 18th‑century English and Dutch buccaneers, and check into the Hilton Colón Hotel.
Friday, July 26
Fly to the small island of Baltra and embark the Santa Cruz II in time for lunch. Attend an orientation for all explorers by the ship’s English‑speaking Ecuadorian naturalists as you cruise toward Mosquera Islet. Young Explorers will learn about the exciting week ahead, filled with adventure, many activities and the natural wonders found only in the Galápagos. In small groups, make a wet landing by Zodiac and wade to shore along a shallow reef as your naturalist guide takes you to the edge of sea lion colonies. Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board the ship this evening. (b,l,r,d)
San Cristóbal Island
Saturday, July 27
In the midst of an abundant deciduous forest on San Cristóbal Island, watch giant tortoises up-close in their natural habitat during a visit to the conservation and breeding center. Keep an eye out for dozens of bird species and two endemic species, the San Cristóbal mockingbird and the lava lizard! This afternoon, explore Punta Pitt and hear sea lions’ welcoming barks as you venture to the only site in the Galápagos Islands where the three species of boobies nest in one area—the blue‑footed, red‑footed and Nazca.
Look for two species of frigatebirds, swallow‑tailed gulls and storm petrels as you enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the San Cristóbal shoreline. (b,l,d)
Santa Fé Island/South Plaza Island
Sunday, July 28
Prehistoric‑looking land iguanas, colonies of sea lions, pristine white beaches and tree-like prickly pear cacti make Santa Fé Island an essential stop. Enjoy glass‑bottom boat rides, snorkeling, kayaking or swimming in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon. On South Plaza Island, watch yellow and gray land iguanas waiting to feast on sweet pear fruit dropping from the cactus grove among a landscape of crimson succulents. Join your naturalist guides for an evening of stargazing (weather permitting) and hear
how mariners historically used the stars to navigate and chart their course. (b,l,d)
Santa Cruz Island
Monday, July 29
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about their mission for giant tortoise conservation. Continue to Santa Cruz’s cool, lush highlands for lunch amid mist‑covered forests. This afternoon, choose from a variety of family activities. Swim in the clear blue waters of secluded Garapatero Beach, a nesting
area for green turtles and home to lava gulls, pintails, tattlers and whimbrels. Hike or mountain bike through the island’s wilderness trails or walk the sparkling white sandy beaches and search for Sally Lightfoot crabs. Watch brown pelicans diving for fish or explore the lush highlands, home of the giant tortoises. (b,l,d)
Tuesday, July 30
Visit Punta Suarez on Española Island for a nature walk guided by expert naturalists. Observe waved albatrosses as they use the cliffs as launching pads to take flight. Watch the geyser‑like spray of the famous
Punta Suarez blowhole and see the island’s red and green marine iguanas up-close. Cruise to Gardner Bay while scanning the skies and shorelines for mockingbirds, yellow warblers and varieties of Darwin’s finches. In Osborn Islet’s turquoise waters, snorkel, kayak or swim and keep an eye out for schools of
tropical fish, seahorses, sea turtles, sea lions, coral hawkfish and other marine life. (b,l,d)
Eden Islet/North Seymour Island
Wednesday, July 31
Visit Eden Islet off the coast of Santa Cruz Island to look for more incredible Galápagos wildlife. From a Zodiac, watch as blue‑footed boobies dive into the lagoon, frigatebirds flit about and reef sharks glide
smoothly along the ocean floor. Enjoy a walk through the natural wonders of North Seymour Island, with family time to observe blue‑footed boobies, frigatebirds, marine iguanas, sea lions and swallow‑tailed gulls. Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening. (b,l,r,d)
Thursday, August 1
Disembark in Baltra and fly to Guayaquil. Enjoy a day room in the Hilton Colón Hotel. Depart late this evening for the U.S., or continue on the Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley Post‑Program Option. (b)
Friday, August 2
Arrive in the U.S.
Colonial Quito Pre-Program Option
Begin your family adventure in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the Equator, enjoy the rare experience of standing with one foot in each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum, admire panoramic views from El Panecillo and in the Old Town, enjoy the contrast of open‑air markets steps away from skyscrapers. Stroll along La Ronda for a glimpse into its Spanish heritage and enjoy Ecuadorian chocolate at Chez Tiff.
Accommodations are for three nights in the Five-Star JW Marriott Hotel Quito.
Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley Post-Program Option
Enjoy this extraordinary opportunity for your family to experience Machu Picchu, the majestic “lost city of
the Incas;” the lush Sacred Valley; and the colonial and Inca traditions of Cuzco. Perched on a mountain range in the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu was obscured from humankind for 400 years until Yale Professor Hiram Bingham literally stumbled upon it in 1911. A century of extensive research and study has not revealed its secrets; nevertheless, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been carefully excavated and preserved. Explorers will delight in the archaeological sites of the beautiful Sacred Valley, where ancient engineering marvels, such as the fortress of Ollantaytambo, stand in testimony to the powerful influence of the Inca Empire. Here, village craftsmen employ age‑old techniques to weave intricate tapestries and sculpt colorful pottery. In the historic Inca capital of Cuzco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, marvel at the
Inca stone fortress of Sacsayhuamán and grand Baroque- and Renaissance‑style architecture that
provides a fascinating mix of pre-Columbian and colonial influences.
Day 1 Guayaquil, Ecuador/Fly to Lima, Peru
Day 2 Lima/Cuzco/Sacred Valley
Day 3 Sacred Valley/Scenic train ride to Machu Picchu
Day 4 Machu Picchu/Transfer to Cuzco
Day 5 Cuzco
Day 6 Cuzco/Lima
Day 7 Lima/Return to the U.S.
The Pre and Post-Program Options are at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.