Galapagos Photo Safari
April 25 - May 5, 2014. Limited to 18 guests.
$6495, $7195 or $7395 depending on cabin choice, and is all-inclusive*
Join Andy Williams and Guest Pro Photographer David Muench on this adventure of a lifetime, to one of the world's premier landscape and wildlife destinations, The Galapagos Islands. After acclimating in Guayaquil, Ecuador, we'll have 8 days and 7 nights aboard our own exclusive yacht, the M/Y Letty. We'll have two naturalist guides with us in addition to Andy and David, and we have access to areas that the big boats can't get to, and most importantly, as long as we follow the rules of the Galapagos National Park, we have the ability to go ashore on our own schedule, we won't miss the best light and sightings. If we're having a blast ashore, and we choose to stay late, no worries, our dinner will still be waiting for us! We'll walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who visited here in the 1830s on the HMS Beagle, and we'll try to channel his experiences as he formulated his theory of natural selection.
The Galapagos Islands are the wildlife photography holy grail. This means that you can literally walk right up to hundreds of blue-footed booby birds, red-footed booby birds, masked booby birds, albatrosses, penguins, land iguanas, marine iguanas, lava lizards, sea lions, fur seals, red-chested frigate birds, flamingos, finches, tropic birds, lava gulls, giant tortoises, and flightless cormorants. Oh and don't forget the massive amount of marine wildlife that can be explored with simple snorkel gear (always available on our yacht!).
We'll maximize our shooting time with the best photo ops - getting up early for sweet light and chasing it to sunset. We'll have the option each night for critiques, instruction and interpretive talks with our naturalists as well. Or, sit back and enjoy a book from the library, watch the dolphins swim, or gaze at the equatorial sky from the deck.
So, what does "all inclusive" mean? It means that from the time we meet until the time we disembark, except for a few minor expenses in Guyaquil (see "what's not included" below, you won't need to pay for anything. All photography instruction, critiques, breakfasts in Guayaquil, all meals on board our yacht, round trip transportation and transfer from hotel to Guayaquil Airport to Galapagos, park fees, Ecuadorian exit fees, and rooms are included in the fee. Once on board our yacht, you can stow that wallet, you won't need it!
Accommodations - at Sea
For this trip, we'll have a chartered yacht, custom-designed exclusively for cruising the Galapagos Islands. Accommodations aboard our yacht include ten double outside cabins located on three decks, each with air-conditioning, large private bathroom and fresh, hot and cold-water shower. Cabins are furnished with two twin lower beds or one double bed, roomy closet, drawers and overhead storage, plus separate climate controls and intercom system.
There are ample public areas: dining room, well-stocked bar, comfortable conference area, with television, DVD and air conditioning throughout. Large picture windows surround the upper two decks for panoramic viewing. Sun deck lounge chairs and observation areas invite you to catch the ocean breezes. Kayaks and snorkel gear are always available!
Three daily meals feature both international and Ecuadorian specialties and snacks are served following shore excursions. Our attentive 10-member crew including two experienced multilingual naturalist guides will make it a trip to remember.
Highly sophisticated navigational and mechanical equipment meet the highest safety standards found in the Galapagos. The yacht is self-contained and ecologically sound, equipped for noise-reduction and fuel-efficiency. A false keels provides maximum stability for comfortable cruising.
Accommodations - Ashore
We will have two nights prior to going to sea, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We'll be staying at the Oro Verde Hotel. Luxury double-occupancy rooms, where elegant service in a timeless European service is the norm. This is a full-service, downtown hotel and offers us a superb location in the Guayaquil commercial and financial district, within walking distance of popular tourist attractions, entertainment and shopping, and cultural and historical sites.
We'll stay here the nights of April 25th and 26th, as well as our last night, after returning from the Galapagos, on May 4th. Meals included are breakfasts - leaving you free to make your own plans for lunch both days and dinner as you visit this very cool Ecuadorian city!
Why the two nights in Guayaquil before the trip? We do this for two reasons: 1) to acclimate from where you are coming from in the world and 2) if you experience any air travel problems, you'll have that extra day to get there, and you won't miss the boat!
This itinerary is subject to National Park Approval and is subject to change due to conditions set by the National Park and weather.
SUNDAY APRIL 27: Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, SAN CRISTOBAL, our crew is waiting at the airport to escort you by bus to the dock and then by Zodiac to your yacht anchored in the bay. After the welcome briefing and safety drill, a delicious buffet lunch is served. We travel by bus to the highlands to visit Centro de Crianza Jacinto Gordillo aka La Galapaguera Cerro Colorado where the National Park has established a breeding program for the giant land tortoises that you will encounter in their natural habitat. Learn about their origin, evolution and threats by introduced animals at the information center for visitors. Along the trail, we find the San Cristobal (Chatham) mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island. Join your fellow yacht mates this evening for your first briefing followed by our Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner prepared by our well-trained chefs.
MONDAY APRIL 28: We spend the entire day on TOWER (Genovesa), considered to be one of the most spectacular Islands in Galapagos for bird species. We have a wet-landing on Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where Swallow-tailed and Lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of Great Frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. The trail leads through a rich inter tidal zone where we find a wide diversity of wildlife. After lunch, we have a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps. Red-footed boobies nest here in Palo Santo trees and Nazca Boobies nest near the trail. In an open lava field, we find Storm Petrels in large numbers. If you are lucky, we will see the elusive Short-eared owl. Chose to have a picnic lunch on deck or dine inside. Look for the beautiful Red-billed Tropic bird found in the crevices along the cliff by kayak or Zodiac. You can choose to swim or snorkel from the beach with sea lions in these northern warmer waters or for those with experience, we offer snorkeling in deeper water. Return to the yacht for briefing and dinner before we cross the equator.
TUESDAY APRIL 29: Today we visit Las Bachas, which is the Spanish translation for “barges”. There is a long stretch of a soft white sand beach and interior lagoons where we find the Greater Flamingo. There is also a wonderful chance to snorkel here from the beach. At Black Turtle Cove aka Caleta Tortuga Negra we have a zodiac ride through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. Here you can view pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks and golden cow-nosed rays. Located on the northern tip of Santa Cruz is Cerro Dragon aka Dragon Hill. Along the trail, we find Darwin Finches, Galapagos Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers, Audubon Shearwater and the endemic land iguanas, orange-yellow in color with large spines along their backs, were once part of the Darwin Station’s breeding program. We find pink flamingos feeding in the salt-water lagoon as well as other lagoon birds; stilts, pintail ducks, sandpipers and more. From the top of the hill, we enjoy a majestic view of the bay island covered in Opuntia cactus, Palo Santo and Cordia Lutea (muyuyu). After the briefing and dinner, we sail toward the western islands and cross the equator line for the second time.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 30: We have a semi-wet landing at Punta Espinoza, FERNANDINA, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galapagos with no introduced mammals. Recent lava flows formed by an active volcano stretch their way around the coast. Hundreds of Marine Iguanas, the largest colony in Galapagos, bask in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory. Flightless Cormorants build their nest on the point and Galapagos Hawks fly overhead. There is a chance to snorkel here with sea turtles. After lunch, we cross the Bolivar Chanel where we often spot whales and dolphins riding the bow wave. We disembark at Urbina Bay, ISABELA, where we find four miles of its coastal seabed, with marine life exposed due to a dramatic uplift in 1954 when the volcano erupted. The marine remnants of coral skeletons, some of them waist-high, are visited after a wet landing on the beach. Urbina is home to the very large and colorful Galapagos land iguanas, occasionally giant tortoises, Darwin Finches. Brown Pelicans and Flightless Cormorants also nest here. Giant Marine Iguanas are seen along the coast. You may encounter penguins while snorkeling here. At Punta Vicente Roca, a Zodiac ride offers an incredible view of the tuff walls, we can enter the wave-sculpted cave and find sea turtle who frequent this area. You may spot the dorsal fin of a Mola Mola, an odd looking giant sun fish. Return to the yacht for briefing and dinner.
THURSDAY MAY 1: We visit Elizabeth Bay, ISABELA by zodiac starting with a visit to a secluded cove, lined with large red mangrove trees. Here, turtles, rays, and shore birds can be seen. We motor to the rocky islets known as “Las Marielas”, where a colony of nesting Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and giant Marine Iguanas are found. Isabela was created when six volcanoes flowed together and formed the largest Island in Galapagos. We have a dry landing at Tagus Cove, located on the western Island of ISABELA and a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti dating back to the 1800's is written on the rocky cliffs. Explore the Coves by Zodiac or kayak to find Galapagos Penguins, Boobies, Pelicans and other seabirds. An uphill hike brings us to a salt-water lagoon, a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. An excellent snorkeling site is offered from the zodiac or take out a Kayak and explore the shoreline. After dinner, a sky full of stars beckons to go on deck and observe the galaxy while crossing the equator for the last time.
FRIDAY MAY 2: We stroll along the shoreline at Puerto Egas, SANTIAGO (James) looking for octopus, starfish and other sea life caught in the tide pools. At low tide, catch a glimpse of marine iguanas as they feed on exposed green algae. Watch for great blue herons, lava herons, American oystercatchers and yellow-crowned night herons. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter fur sea lions once on the verge of extinction. Before returning to the yacht, there is a snorkeling opportunity. After lunch, take a seat on deck to view the dramatic landscape and dolphins that are often spotted here. We disembark on RABIDA (Jervis), located near James Island. Rabida is considered the geographic center of Galapagos because this island sports the most diversified volcanic rocks. The dark red sand beach originated from the high content of iron in the volcanic stones. While strolling along the trail, you may find marine iguanas, mocking birds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin Finches leading to a salt water lagoon where Greater Flamingos migrate. After the walk, there is not-to-miss snorkeling option with a large colony of sea lions. We return to the yacht for the Captain’s Farwell cocktail party and dinner as well as a special slide show presentation by your guides.
SATURDAY MAY 3: We travel by bus to the highlands of SANTA CRUZ Island. The scenery gradually changes as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. Here, we visit the tortoise reserve at “Las Primicias” one of the private farms in the highlands where we encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat. We stop at "the tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. Look out for the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. After lunch, we will have our last briefing. Today we visit the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena aka Charles Darwin Research Station. See all three tortoise corals and the breeding center with new hatchlings and miniature tortoises not yet ready to be repatriated. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology. We stop at Van Straelen Hall where there are exhibits and a short video presentation. Visitors can see the tortoise and land
iguana corrals. Puerto Ayora is the social heart of the islands with the largest population of 24,000 inhabitants. This evening you have the option to return to your yacht for a buffet dinner or remain in town on your own account. Those who return to the yacht will be provided zodiacs to return to town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet café. Zodiacs will be provided for your return to the yachts.
SUNDAY MAY 4: We visit the Interpretation Center opened on San Cristobal Island in 1999 by bus. Here we gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the Islands. Afterwards, we spend some time in port before heading to the airport for our flight back to the mainland departing before noon time.MONDAY MAY 5: After breakfast at the Oro Verde, we'll say our good-byes and then you are free to head to the airport for flights home or elsewhere.
Important Note: All itineraries of all vessels in Galapagos are approved by the Galapagos National Park and are subject to change without notice.
Here are some of the Galapagos National Park Rules:
All itineraries must be pre-approved by the National Park and are subject to change without notice.
All vessels may do a maximum of 2 land visits per day - one in the AM and one in the PM.
Only vessels which have the proper permits are allowed to sail the waters of Galapagos.
Visitors are only allowed in the park under the supervision of a Galapagos National Park guide.
Guides are allowed to have a maximum of 16 passengers with them at on time.
Visitors must remain on the marked trail and with a guide at all times when visiting the islands.
Visitors are not allowed to touch the animals.
Visitors must not disturb, harass, feed, or interfere with the natural behavior of the animals.
Visitors are not allowed to collect or remove anything from the islands.
Food is not permitted on the islands.
Visitors are not allowed to smoke while on the islands.
The park opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. Everyone must be off the islands by nightfall.
Please clean your shoes before disembarking in the islands.
Please don't litter - ever.
Registration and Payment
OK, how and where do I make payment? First be sure to choose and know the cabin you want on the boat. And then you can register and pay your deposit here. A non-refundable deposit of $2500 is required to secure your space on this trip. The balance payment will be due not later than January 5, 2014. Payments are by check or bank transfer to Muench Workshops. If you wish to pay by credit card, there will be an additional fee.
Cancellation Policy: In the event you must cancel, Muench Workshops will refund any payments made only if we are able to fill your spot. If we are able to fill your spot, we will happily refund your deposit as well. If you cancel your trip after January 5, 2014, 100% of the trip fee is forfeited, which is another reason we recommend looking at cancellation insurance.
What's not included? Trip and Traveler's Insurance - recommended as we must enforce our cancellation policy. Some meals not included in the itinerary: lunches and dinners while we are staying in Guayaquil. Tips for the boat guides and crew - recommended/expected tip is $175 per person for the boat crew and guides - cash, please. Your airfare from home to Guayaquil and back. Your transfer from Guayaquil Airport to Hotel Oro Verde on Day 1 and also on Day 10 (We can arrange personal pickup at airport, but there is also a hotel shuttle which is safe, free, and excellent). Personal items purchased from the hotel or boat. Alcoholic beverages and other drinks purchased from the hotel or yacht bar. Payment for this trip is by personal check, if you wish to pay by credit card, we regret that we must add 2.75% to the trip fee.
Price Comparison: We know there are other options for you out there for Galapagos trips. When you compare, be sure to factor in these things: we're including the photographic instruction from two pros, all day and night; we've included two nights ahead and one night after the trip in Guayaquil; we've included meals, lodging, all park fees, government fees, RT transfers and Air from Guayaquil to Galapagos. Next, remember that we have our own chartered yacht - you won't be on a ginormous ship with 95 other passengers. Within park rules, we'll be able to go ashore when we want, and stay ashore as long as we like. We have the services of two naturalist guides in addition to two pro photographers, all for 18 guests - a great leader to guest ratio!