Galapagos June 2013
May 31st - June 10th, 2013. Limited to 18 guests.
THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT
Join Andy and Marc 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/V Letty. We'll have two naturalist guides with us in addition to Andy and Marc, 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 boobie birds, red-footed boobie birds, masked boobie 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 workshop fee. Once on board our yacht, you can stow that wallet, you won't need it!
Accommodations - at Sea
For this workshop, 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 May 31 and June 1, as well as our last night, after returning from the Galapagos, on June 9th. 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.
FRIDAY MAY 31: Fly from your home to Guyaquil, Ecuador. Stay at Hotel Oro Verde in Guyaquil. Dutch-treat Lunch and Dinner on your own, or with the group.
SATURDAY JUNE 1: Breakfast at Hotel Oro Verde (included), followed by general tourist activities and acclimating. Lunch on your own, to allow for maximum flexibility. We'll all dine together this night (dutch-treat). Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde.
SUNDAY JUNE 2: Breakfast at Hotel Oro Verde (included), then we'll zip over to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos. Upon arrival to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, SAN CRISTOBAL, our crew is waiting at the airport to escort you by bus to the main deck 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 Cerro Tijeretas or “Frigatebird Hill” is situated just outside town near to “La Predial” a fishing community present from 1952 to 1960. It is one of two sites where you can spot nesting colonies of both species of Friagebirds (Great and Magnificent). The trail leads to Playa Mann where there are vistas of beautiful scenery. We return to the yacht and depart 3PM to cruise around Leon Dormido aka Kicker Rock, a vertical tuff cone formation that rises abruptly almost 500 feet out of the ocean. On the cliffs, we spot Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and Magnificent Frigate birds. Join your fellow yacht mates this evening for your island briefing followed by our Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner prepared by our well-trained chefs.
MONDAY JUNE 3: We arrive to Cerro Brujo, a breathtaking white coral beach, considered one of the most spectacular in Galapagos and perfect for a peaceful walk with expansive views and good bird watching. We have an opportunity to snorkel or kayak from the beach or swim with sea lions as well as a Zodiac ride. During lunch, we cruise toward the northeastern tip of SAN CRISTOBAL to Punta Pitt, a tuff formation that serves as a nesting site for many sea birds including all three types of boobies: Blue footed, Nazca and Red-footed boobies, both Frigate species, swallow-tailed gulls, Storm petrels and a colony of sea lions. Punta Pitt is considered to be a first class site for birds and on par with Genovesa (Tower) Island. We return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner.
TUESDAY JUNE 4: We disembark at Punta Suarez, ESPANOLA (Hood), where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily green us as we land on their beach. Curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to December, the waved albatross, found only on Espanola, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in “sky-pointing” to show off for potential mates. Nazca boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls are the only nocturnal gulls in the world and fish at night. Red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique specie of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colorful sally light-foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous "blow hole". After lunch we have a wet landing on Gardner Bay, ESPANOLA (Hood), walk along seemingly endless stretch of this white sandy beach where you’ll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore or take a long walk. You may find a Galapagos Hawk, Darwin’s Finches or Hood Mockingbird. Swim with sea lions right from the beach, explore the bay and islets by kayak or just relax on the beach. There’s an excellent snorkeling site off Gardner Islet with a colorful diversity of sea life near Tortuga Rock. Explore caves by Zodiac covered with invertebrates. We return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 5: Step ashore at Punta Cormorant, FLOREANA (Charles), one of the few populated islands in the Galapagos. Floreana presents a rich human history with mystery and intrigue. Set foot on a green-sand beach alive with the sounds of sea lions. Follow a trail to a brackish lagoon, home of the pintail ducks, common stilts, and the Greater Flamingos, the pinkest in the world. Wind your way past a rich variety of plants including Morning Glory, Cut Leaf Daisies, Palo Verdes and Scalesia leading to a beach with power soft sand. Sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes and rays swim in the shallow water. After the walk, we have an opportunity to snorkel at Devil’s Crown or Champion, a shallow sunken crater colonized by a brilliant array of colorful fish and corral. Chose to have a picnic lunch on deck or dine inside. After lunch, we visit Post office Bay, not the most scenic, but one of the most famous sites in Galapagos. Here is where a post barrel was erected and put into use in the late 18th Century by English whaling vessels. You are invited to leave a post card and to pick up any mail from your home area. We return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner.
THURSDAY JUNE 6: 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. We visit Los Gemelos, Spanish for “The Twins”, a pair of large pit craters where we find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. After lunch, we visit the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena (aka the 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 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. 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 in at an internet café. Zodiacs will be provided for your return to your yacht.
FRIDAY JUNE 7: We disembark at BARTOLOME, where it seems like we are walking on the moon. This young Island is inhospitable to most plants and animals. After a dry landing, climb 30 minutes up stairs leading to the summit of a once active volcano. Along the way, we pause to marvel at lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. From the top of the wooden stairs, we can gaze out across the island for a panoramic view of the island and "Pinnacle Rock", an eroded tuff cone. Crystal clear water is an invitation to snorkel from the beach with schools of tropical fish and Galapagos Penguins or take a Zodiac ride. After lunch, we visit Las Bachas, (Spanish 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. Located off the Southern tip of Santiago is Sombrero Chino aka Chinese Hat that owes its name to its shape. After a wet beach landing with sea lion colonies, the trail gives way to a primeval landscape of volcanic rubble including cracked lava formations and lava tubes. We find marine iguanas and pairs of oystercatchers. You can choose to snorkel at a site that is frequented by Galapagos penguins. There is a briefing followed by dinner while we anchor in a calm protected area.
SATURDAY JUNE 8: Today we visit SOUTH PLAZA, a small geological uplift with tall cliffs offering spectacular views. After a dry landing, the trail leads us through Prickly Pear or Opuntia and Sesuvium. Here we can find the Galapagos Land Iguana feeding on the cactus leaves. Toward the end of the hill, we encounter a colony of bachelor sea lions. The dominant bulls are in various stages of recovery from battles lost over prime beach territory. We also find Swallow tailed gulls, Shearwaters and Red-billed tropicbirds who build their nests along the cliffs. After lunch, we have a dry landing at North Seymour, a small geological uplift. We follow a trail that leads us to Swallow-tailed gulls, Blue-footed boobies and the endemic Land iguanas. Visit the largest colony of Magnificent Frigate birds found in Galapagos. As we stroll along the beach, we find Marine Iguanas and sea lions body surf the northern swells. 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.
SUNDAY JUNE 9: 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 time in port before heading to the airport for our flight back to the mainland departing before noon time on Aerogal. We will spend Sunday afternoon and evening at the Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil. We'll all meet for a farewell dutch-treat dinner.
MONDAY JUNE 10: 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 workshop. The balance payment will be due 105 days before departure, which is February 15, 2013.
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 February 1, 2013, 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: two lunches and three 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, or cab is cheap, there is also a hotel shuttle). Laundry (yes, it's available on board). Personal items purchased from the hotel or boat. Alcoholic beverages and other drinks purchased from the hotel or yacht bar.
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!