2023 May 27 to June 2
Prices listed are per person:
Shared Classic Cabin: $6898
Shared Owner’s Cabin-1 bed: $7248 – Sold Out
Private Standard Cabin: $9888
Private Classic Cabin: $10,298
Private Owner’s Cabin-1 bed: $10,598 – Sold Out
“This is a place where humans are one with nature. The Sea Lions come to play and the birds take little notice as the cameras click to capture images of their young. So exciting and beautiful. A place to remember forever.” – Jane R., Key West, FL
“Watching the animals up close was like being IN a nature show instead of just watching it.” — Michael Gumowitz, Scarsdale, NY
“It was great fun to travel to such a unique destination with other fun-loving, interesting gay men.” — Larry Eswin, Ballwin, MO
“It was the vacation of a lifetime, like a time travel adventure to a lost world” — Michael Broussard, Oakton, VA
“The most incredible chance to observe wildlife in a perfect setting.”— Mike Mullins, Laguna Beach, CA
Begin your journey with two nights in Ecuador’s mountain capital of Quito
Relax on an upscale modern ship for four nights and enjoy the peace and quiet of these remote islands.
See exotic birds and wildlife in their native setting.
Visit the breeding grounds and sanctuary for giant green sea turtles.
Swim with sea lions and view an amazing bounty of fish and sea life.
Hike along tidal lagoons, mangroves, and bright, clean beaches.
Experience Darwin’s inspiration in a lovely and pristine setting.
Ask about the availability of cabin types and also about land extensions around Quito and the mountains of Ecuador, such as to the exquisite new Mashpi Lodge.
Sail on our deluxe ship among the islands
Enjoy this once in a lifetime trek with a friendly group of gay men, lesbians, family, and friends. (Please note that this is not a charter, so our group will be among other passengers on our comfortable ship.)
For a more active adventure, see our Gay Galapagos Land Tour
Wander among unique animals on a Gay Galapagos tour
Nowhere else in the world can you see and experience such an abundance and variety of wildlife as in the Galapagos Islands. A naturalist’s dream, the Galapagos Islands lie on the Equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador and the South American coastline. Formed as a result of intense volcanic activity, they consist of 61 islands and islets, with 13 main islands. Existing in virtual isolation for millions of years, they are home to many species found nowhere else on Earth. More than 1,900 of its more than 5,000 species are endemic.
Charles Darwin observed the potential scientific bonanza of the islands’ flora and fauna in 1835 and was inspired to write his famous thesis, “On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection.” Aside from a few roving pirates and buccaneers, the islands remained untouched by man for centuries.
During the Galapagos tour, our naturalist guide will fill us in on the extraordinary variety of plants and wildlife as we will visit and explore various islands. A bird watcher’s paradise, there are 29 species of land bird found here and 22 of them are endemic to the islands. On this adventure, you will see the world’s smallest penguins, the bright red-chested frigate birds, the flightless cormorants, boobies, hawks, owls, and lava gulls.
In the sea, you’ll experience the wonder of watching giant sea turtles swimming to their homes, and sea lions playfully splashing as you snorkel along looking at multitudes of colorful fish. All this from the comfort of a modern and well-appointed ship. (Please note that this is not a charter, so our group will be among other passengers on our comfortable ship.)
Day 1: Welcome to Ecuador!
Today we arrive in Quito to begin our adventure. Since most flights arrive in the late evening, there are no official activities scheduled on arrival day.
Day 2: Quito, Ecuador
After a good night’s sleep, we will spend today exploring Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, enjoying the Middle of the World and Intinan Museum along with the historic center plazas. We will have our Welcome Lunch today, while on our city tour. Enjoy a free evening tonight.
Day 3: All aboard for the Wildlife Express!
After a morning flight from Quito via Guayaquil to Baltra Airport in the islands, we begin our exploration of the Northern Islands of the Galapagos. Our exact routing will depend on the Galapagos National Park Service, but the following is an example of the islands we may visit. Each day our naturalist guides will lead us ashore on one island in the morning and another in the afternoon to view the variety of plant life and marine and land animals, including flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, penguins, marine iguanas, and giant tortoises.
Arrival on Baltra Island
After our late morning landing at Baltra Island, we will go to the pier to board our ship. Once onboard, we will have an orientation to our cruise, the boat drill, and lunch.
Las Bachas (Santa Cruz Island)
After lunch, we will head to Puerto Ayora, to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the wonderful Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. Afterward, we will stroll the main street before heading back to our ship. Once back on the ship we will meet up for our welcome cocktail, hear about our plan for the next day’s touring, and have our first dinner onboard our ship.
Day 4: Bartolome Island and Santiago (Sullivan Bay) Island
This morning we will sail to the tiny Bartholomew (Bartolomé) Island. We will embark on our dinghies (inflatable boats for going ashore on islands with no pier) for an optional 375-foot climb on a wooden staircase to the summit, to enjoy a panoramic view of the landmark Pinnacle Rock. A tiny colony of Galapagos penguins resides at the foot of the rock. Ride the dinghy around this colossal-sized rock and enjoy the wildlife.
After lunch, we will head to Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago. Located here is a white coral sand beach that is ideal for enjoying some time swimming and snorkeling, perhaps with penguins. As we set sail, look for the dolphins that live in this area, and which sometimes enjoy swimming alongside the boats.
Day 5: Dragon Hill (Santa Cruz Island) Salt Mine – James Bay (Santiago Island)
This morning we will enjoy a walk and enjoy the fascinating landscapes of Dragon Hill. We will head past a brackish-water lagoon, frequented by ducks, American Flamingos, and shorebirds. As we make our way inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and western islands of the archipelago. Afterward, enjoy some snorkeling from the shore.
Next up is James Bay, as we follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. He spent about 6 days exploring this island in 1835. Mockingbirds, lava lizards, yellow warblers doves, hawks, and finches are just a handful of the species he encountered. We will head uphill for an amazing panoramic view. The salt from this lagoon was mined in the 20th century, but luckily the business didn’t take off.
Day 6: Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island) / Fernandina Island
We head to shore by dinghy today, to seek out colonies of Galapagos fur seals, Nazca boobies, penguins, and much more. Depending on the conditions of the ocean, we’ll be able to snorkel along the cliffs, hopefully in the company of green sea turtles. Back on board, we navigate along the Bolivar Channel, where nutrient-rich upwellings provide fertile fishing grounds for cetaceans.
We will end our journey on a high note by visiting the island of Fernandina, the youngest island of the archipelago, and arguably one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet. Punta Espinoza boasts a fantastic combination of apparently barren landscapes and abundant wildlife, all dominated by the lofty volcano at the heart of the island. Highlights to spot include hawks, penguins, vast numbers of marine iguanas, and the famous flightless cormorant, with its beguiling blue eyes.
Day 7: Farewell to the Islands
Today we make our way back to Baltra Island to the airport, for our flight back to Quito, with a stop in Guayaquil.
We will arrive in Quito in the late afternoon. We will reserve a hotel room in Quito tonight for anyone joining the Mashpi Extension or flying home the next day. However, if your flight home departs around midnight, you can stay at the airport or get a “day room” at a nearby hotel, and depart tonight.
(Please note that this is not a charter, so our group will be among other passengers on our comfortable ship.)
As of Feb. 2018, all guests traveling to Ecuador must be able to show proof of public or private insurance.
Price includes: All accommodations in double occupancy for four nights on our ship, with a private bath, and for two nights in a deluxe Quito hotel before the cruise; Cruise price shown is a Classic Cabin, with one Master Suite Cabin available for an additional charge (all categories subject to availability at time of booking); Breakfast each day and one dinner in Quito, plus all meals onboard our ship; All transportation from Quito to ship and back to Quito (or Guayaquil if more convenient for onward flight connections); Transfers between flights and hotel in Quito; Services of local guides, three naturalists on the ship, and the services of a knowledgeable HE Travel tour host (with a minimum number of participants); Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100) and Migration Control Card ($20); All hotel service charges, government taxes, porterage, and meal gratuities when dining together. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Not included: Transportation to and from Quito; 2 lunches and 1 dinner; Airport departure fees (though this will be included in air ticket fees); Gratuities to naturalists, ship crew, guides, and host; Personal items including alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls.
Mashpi Lodge Extension
Price includes: One night in Quito, and two nights at Mashpi Lodge; round-trip transportation between Quito and the Lodge (about 2.5 hours each way); all meals at the Lodge and non-alcoholic beverages; guided touring each day; use of rain ponchos, rubber boots, and binoculars; and visit Tulipe archaeological site.
Not included: Lunch on the last day if you have a later flight out of Quito; Airport departure fees (though this will be included in air ticket fees); Private guide if preferred; Spa services; Gratuities to naturalists and guides; Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls.
$3100 per person in a shared room
$4400 for a single room
We strongly recommend the purchase of Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance to protect your vacation investment in case of unforeseen circumstances such as flight delay, illness, or injury. Click Here to learn more about our Insurance partner.
Stay Longer and visit Mashpi Lodge, Andes Highlands – June 2 to 5, 2023
After your immersion in the carefully preserved natural environment of the Galapagos, please consider joining our extension to the incredible new Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest in the Andes highlands outside Quito. This lodge opened in 2012 and quickly won awards for its unique architecture and commitment to blending everything as seamlessly as possible into the natural environment of the Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve.
HE Travel President Phil Sheldon spent time with Metropolitan Touring owner Roque Sevilla and his wife when they were first envisioning this masterpiece. He was impressed by their commitment to not only respect nature, but also to work alongside residents of the local community to ensure that this project would benefit them as well. For example, as much of the food as possible is purchased from the nearby village of Mashpi. This brings an amazing assortment of unique vegetables and fruits to the table for Mashpi Lodge guests.
Day 7: An evening in Quito
Our Galapagos tour ends after we return to Quito on the last evening. For those staying on, we’ll spend tonight in Quito and begin our journey to the Andean Highlands the next day.
Day 8: Journey to Mashpi Lodge
A stay at Mashpi Lodge starts with a morning drive from Quito to the Lodge. Along with way make a stop at the recently-opened Tulipe archaeological site. This was the ceremonial grounds for the Yumbo people who lived in the region between about 800 AD and 1660 AD. They were known for their keen observation of the heavens from their high-mountain location right on the equator. Being near a major pass of the Andes, they also prospered as merchants on the trade routes between the Pacific coast indigenous communities, and those of the Amazon basin.
This 2.5-hour drive takes you to the edge of the Reserve, where you stop at the Hummingbird Viewpoint and change to an electric cart for the final 4 miles to the Lodge. (To give an idea of the variety of birds here, 22 species of hummingbirds alone have been found in the reserve, along with such fascinating species like the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and Club-Winged Manakin). In the afternoon, the Naturalist Guides will give you an overview of the Reserve and your activity options. All meals at the Lodge are included in the extension price, including night walks after dinner, accompanied by one of the Naturalist Guides.
Day 9: Bird-Lover’s Paradise
The day’s activities start with a guided hike before breakfast when you can be out with the myriad species of birds and other animals as they actively (and noisily!) start their day. You will see why this region is considered one of the richest birding habitats in the world.
The Naturalist Guides offer a variety of activities throughout the day including hikes through the dense jungle or a chance to cool off under a cascading waterfall. Rubber boots, rain ponchos, and binoculars are provided during your stay. There is even an aerial bicycle to let you glide through the jungle, leaving literally no footprint.
On the outbound journey, there will be a mile-long gondola ride that allows hikes deeper in the rainforest, far from any roads. The 6-passenger gondolas ride high above the trees, allowing an overview of the vast forest canopy, and on the return journey, the cables are much lower so that visitors can get a more intimate view of the rich profusion of plants and animals that thrive below the tree canopy.
When you return to the Lodge, you can relax on the terrace, or in your room, each of which features north-facing floor-to-ceiling windows. One window can be opened, so if you wish you can wake up to the profusion of birds calling to each other at dawn.
Day 10: Tulipe Archaeological Site
Take one more nature hike this morning, then in the late morning, start your return drive to Quito. If you have a later flight; you can request lunch at the lodge and take a later transfer into Quito. (Subject to an additional charge)
Our tour extension ends with a drop-off at Quito Airport in time for evening flights. An optional overnight stay near Quito Airport can be added if you are taking a flight the next day.
OR Stay Longer and Visit Machu Picchu in Peru!
Stay at the only hotel right at the Machu Picchu ruins in the renowned Sanctuary Lodge. Contemplate the towering Andean peaks (Incan gods) at sunrise over Machu Picchu, dine at a private hacienda overlooking the Sacred Valley, shop Pisac’s colorful market, and be carried away by native music on this gay Machu Picchu & Peru tour. Conclude at the Hotel Monasterio, an amazing former monastery.
When you travel “Back-to-Back” on two or more of our tours, you are eligible for a discount! Contact Us for pricing if you are interested in reserving Machu Picchu Luxury Tour plus Galapagos Cruise.
- What if I am traveling alone?
- Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
- What is the physical activity level of this tour?
Physical Activity Level
Many of the twice-daily shore excursions require wading through shallow water as there are often not piers for the boats to tie off on. Walking on the islands is often across rugged terrain without smooth paths. Snorkeling is available on many days but is optional.
- Where does the tour start and end?
- This tour starts in Quito, Ecuador and ends after a flight back from the Galapagos Islands at the Quito or Guayaquil Airport to allow for the most convenient flight connections.
- Additional Questions
- For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174