2019 June 22 to June 28 – Open
Existing in virtual isolation for millions of years, the Galapagos Islands are home to many species found nowhere else on Earth. Join this gay Galapagos tour and experience this abundance and variety of equatorial wildlife closely, as we walk, hike, snorkel, swim and imagine Darwin’s dream.
For a more active adventure, see our Gay Galapagos Land 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.
Our naturalist guide will fill us in on the extraordinary variety of plants and wildlife as we will visit and explore various islands. A birdwatchers paradise, there are 29 species of land bird found here and 22 of them are endemic to the islands. 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.
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.
After a good night’s sleep, we explore Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, high in the Andes, seeing the colonial architecture of the historic district, and the Equatorial Monument along the Equator. In the evening, we’ll have our Welcome Dinner and orientation for our Galapagos adventure.
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.
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.
After lunch, we go to Las Bachas, on nearby Santa Cruz Island. This stretch of white sand beach that is broken up only by brackish lagoons that provide rich feeding areas flamingos, stilts, and other wading birds. While ashore we will follow coastal and inland paths to see bird colonies, marine iguanas, and sea lions. 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.
This morning we sail along the rugged coastline of Santiago (James) Island. A highlight is Buccaneer Cove, where British pirates would hide under the high cliffs and the sea caves, and replenish their supplies of turtle meat and other delicacies. Along with hearing of the human history of the cove, we’ll see a variety of sea lions, marine birds, and other species. We will also pause to disembark for snorkeling or a ride on a panga (small boat).
This morning we will sail along the south coast of Santiago Island, to Rábida Island, known for its red beach, created by a very high iron content in the volcanic soil. Our group will alternate between a panga ride along around the island and walking along the beach to see several species of finches (made famous by Darwin), mockingbirds, iguanas and sea lions. There is also a salt pond where flamingos nest for a part of each year. This unique spot is a great place for snorkeling, but those who prefer to stay out of the water can enjoy a ride on a glass-bottom boat.
Later in the day, we sail further around Santiago Island to the tiny Bartholomew (Bartolomé) Island. We 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 relax on the sandy beach and enjoy some time to swim and snorkel, perhaps with penguins. A glass-bottom boat will also be available to further enhance our experience. As we set sail, look for the dolphins that live in this area, and which sometimes enjoy swimming alongside the boats.
We will make an overnight sailing to one of the northernmost of the island, Genovesa (Tower) Island, which is a collapsed volcano whose flooded caldera makes a wonderful boiler-shaped deep protected harbor. We will anchor at the foot of steep crater walls in Darwin Bay, then make a steep 90-foot climb up from the beach on the Prince Philip Steps. We will find ourselves among the free-roaming pelagic seabirds that pause here to nest and breed during their journeys across the ocean. You may see red-footed boobies, frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels that love to float in the air currents caused by the uneven landscape of this volcanic island. (For those who prefer to stay at sea level, panga rides will be offered to get up close and personal with the beautiful shoreline of Darwin Bay.)
Our day starts with our final breakfast on the ship, after which we have a chance to go ashore to witness the promising breeding program for the endangered giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado.
From there we drive to the airport on San Cristóbal for our return flight 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.
As of Feb. 2018, all guests traveling to Ecuador must be able to show proof of public or private insurance.
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 blend 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 to 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.
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.
A stay at Mashpi Lodge starts with a morning drive from Quito past the Equator Monument and over a pass to the Pacific Ocean side of the Andes. A 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 as 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.
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 the 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.
Take one more nature hike this morning, then in the late morning, start your return drive to Quito.
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.
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.
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.
Price includes: All accommodations in double occupancy for four nights on our ship, with 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 on board 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 a professional tour director (subject to minimum participation); 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, and guides; Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls.
2019 Optional Tour Choices:
$300 Owner’s Cabin Upgrade (Per Person in a shared cabin – just 1 cabin of this type available) – SOLD OUT
$2990 Single Supplement in an upper small Single Standard Cabin (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private cabin and bathroom – just 1 cabin of this type is available)
$3300 Single Supplement in an upper double/twin Classic Cabin (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private cabin and bathroom – very limited availability)
$3600 Single Supplement in the Owners Cabin (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a deluxe private cabin and bathroom – just 1 cabin of this type is available) – SOLD OUT
Mashpi Lodge Extension 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 to Tulipe archaeological site.
$1900 per person in a shared room
$2900 for a single room
“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
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.
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.
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.
For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174