Saturday, May 8 - Morning - BALTRA, ECUADOR
Baltra Island, also known as South Seymour, is the gateway through which most people enter and depart the Galapagos Island. Upon arrival and once through immigration procedures, visitors are transferred directly to a nearby dock to join the ship by Zodiac. The runway was first constructed here during World War II when the island was used as a US Army Air Base. Located near the geographic center of the Galapagos, the island itself is small, flat and arid. Its dry environment hosts salt bushes, prickly pear cactus, and palo santo trees, all of which support land iguanas that can occasionally be seen crossing the runway.
Saturday, May 8 - Afternoon/Evening - DAPHNE MAJOR, ECUADOR
North of Santa Cruz Daphne Major is a small volcanic island, a sparsely vegetated tuff cone with an area of less than half a square kilometer. It is extremely difficult to land on and can only be visited by special permit. Most ships only cruise past it or might even circumnavigate the island. Devoid of larger trees, the rim of the volcano's cone rises to 120 meters. Cactus bushes, small trees, and herbs provide food for several finch species -and a ground-breaking study in evolutionary changes in finches. Apart from these small land birds, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies also nest on Daphne Major and can often be seen soaring.
Sunday, May 9 - Morning - DARWIN BAY (GENOVESA), ECUADOR
At Genovesa Island the ship tucks into Darwin Bay, an ancient volcanic crater now flooded by the sea. Zodiacs land on a picturesque sandy beach where Galapagos sea lions often rest on the fine, white sand. Explorations along the shore may reveal marine iguanas looking like prehistoric dinosaurs in miniature. By heading inland a short distance visitors could encounter seabirds of all shapes and sizes nesting in the vegetation. Scores of immature Red-footed Boobies perch on branches within an arm's reach of the path. In addition, watch for Great Frigatebirds and Yellow-crowned Night Herons along the walk. There is also fantastic snorkeling in the waters of Darwin Bay with the opportunity to see large schools of reef fish and brightly colored sea stars.
Sunday, May 9 - Afternoon/Evening - PRINCE PHILIP'S STEPS, ECUADOR
Genovesa is one of the northernmost islands of the archipelago. Genovesa's southern side of the shield volcano's crater collapsed and a protected bay known as Darwin Bay was formed. The island is often referred to as the "Bird Island" as the numbers and species of land and seabirds on Genovesa are quite extraordinary. There are two visitor sites, and Prince Philip's Steps give access to the flat plateau above the bay. Named after Prince Philip who visited the Galapagos on two occasions, the "steps" are mostly natural. The steep cliffs are home to Red-billed Tropicbirds, while Magnificent Frigatebirds, Nazca, and Red-footed Boobies prefer the top. The plateau above Prince Philip's Steps has a palo santo forest and an extensive lava field. This is an area where one of the Galapagos' top predators, the Short-eared Owl, is hunting storm petrels. The Short-eared Owls are extremely well camouflaged and are not always easy to spot in between the rocks.
Monday, May 10 - Morning - NORTH SEYMOUR, ECUADOR
The landing at North Seymour Island is onto black lava rock. After a short climb, visitors arrive on the island's flat plateau where a number of sea lions nurse pups and frigatebirds nest. The island is dry, and so the predominant tree is the prickly pear cactus favored by the yellow Conolophus land iguanas that live here in number. The undulating terrain is littered with red-brown volcanic boulders and large male Magnificent Frigatebirds can be seen inflating their vivid red gular sacs in hopes of impressing females flying overhead. At certain times of the year, pairs of Blue-footed Boobies dance here in a ritualized mating dance that reinforces their pair bond and shows off their vivid blue feet. The snorkeling here is well-known for schools of colorful creole wrasses and parrotfish.
Monday, May 10 - Afternoon/Evening - SULLIVAN BAY (SANTIAGO), ECUADOR
The lava fields of Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island will inevitably remind visitors of the surface of the moon. As brilliant red Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttle along the black volcanic shores, learn about the formation of the islands through geological forces from your guides. The lava flows here are just over one hundred years old and date back to 1897. The lava took on a rope-like appearance and geologists have adopted a Hawaiian word, pahoehoe, as the technical name for this kind of volcanic rock. After walking the exposed rocky terrain, it is a welcoming sensation to return to the sandy beach and get ready for a swim or a snorkel.
Tuesday, May 11 - Morning - RABIDA, ECUADOR
Rabida Island has received accolades for being one of the most exotic spots on earth and while it is small in size, the island is dramatic in scale. Rugged red cliffs rise from the sea and Zodiacs land onto a beach of dark red sand colored by iron ore. Ghost crabs and Galapagos sea lion pups often rest on the russet sands. Further inland, the rusty sand gives way to shrubby coastal vegetation dominated by prickly-pear cactus. Common Cactus Finches feed on the yellow flowers while Darwin finches and lava lizards skitter across the path in search of food. Looking down from a high point, explorers will see the Silver Silver Origin lying in a brilliant blue sea below skirted by yellow kayaks searching the cliffs of Rabida for swimming Galapagos sea lions and roosting Blue-footed Boobies. Snorkelers will find invertebrates including sea urchins and brilliant red sea stars, an abundance of reef fish, and perhaps even reef sharks in the deeper water.
Tuesday, May 11 - Afternoon/Evening - EL EDEN (SANT CRUZ), ECUADOR
Just off Santa Cruz, Eden Islet offers up a thick coastal mangrove forest growing on black volcanic boulders peppered with tall prickly pear cactus. Eden is a small, eroded tuff cone from an ancient volcano, and is an excellent example of the unique geology of the Galapagos. The shallow waters around the island are ideal for spotting Pacific green sea turtles, reef sharks, eagle rays, sea lions, marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Explore by Zodiac or kayak, and watch for Brown Pelicans flying and diving to scoop up their prey, while Blue-footed Boobies enter the water like torpedoes to spear small fish. Great Blue Herons also wade In the shallows, and reflected in the water can be the subject of a perfect photo.
Wednesday, May 12 - Morning - GALAPAGUERA CERRO COLORADO, SAN CRISTOBAL
The Galapaguera, i.e. tortoise (breeding) center, Cerro Colorado is located on San Cristobal's east side, yet to get there one has to land in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the largest settlement and port on San Cristobal's west since and also the capital of the Galapagos Islands. The center was started in 2003 and is one of two tortoise reserves on the island. The aim is to give information regarding the giant tortoises' origin and evolution and to protect the native population on San Cristobal's northeastern side by breeding and taking care of them at Cerro Colorado before releasing them into the wild once they have reached an age where they can fend for themselves. Approximately 16 hectares of land were fenced in to stop the tortoises from wandering off and visitors can walk along interpretive trails and see the feeding spots and the young tortoises in their holding pens based on their age. Apart from the giant tortoises, Chatham island Mockingbirds, Darwin finches, and lava lizards are found here.
Wednesday, May 12 - Afternoon/Evening - PUNTA PITT (SAN CRISTOBAL), ECUADOR
On the northern shore of San Cristobal Island is a peninsula known as Punta Pitt. The point is made up of two coalesced volcanoes and is much younger than the rest of the island. Some of the lava flows are only a few centuries old. From a sandy beach Zodiac landing leads a long walk following a twisting red gravel path that runs through black basalt lava rocks, and between craggy speakers. The vegetation along ht way is low and scrubby, and attractive blue-gray lichen grows on the rocks. Gaining elevation along the narrow trail will open up views of the Silver Origin sitting in a sapphire blue sea far below. If the long walk is not your cup of tea, beachcomb at the landing beach looking for sea urchin skeletons and limpet shells washed up by the tide.
Thursday, May 13 - Morning - GARDNER BAY, ECUADOR
Isla Champion is a small islet off Floreana Island's northeast coast. To cruise by it reveals a bare, rocky island without much allure, but to enter the infinitely blue waters around this small landmass is to discover a spectacular underwater realm. The visibility is generally impressive and thanks to this water clarity snorkelers often spot reef sharks patrolling the reef wall, cruising Pacific green turtles, and playful Galapagos sea lions. Encounters in the blue with thousands of small silver minnows, large tuna fish, or oceanic sunfish are not unheard of either.
Thursday, May 13 - Afternoon/Evening - PUNTA SUAREZ (ESPANOLA ISLAND), ECUADOR
Punta Suarez lies at the western point of Espanola, the oldest island in the Galapagos. Sheer cliffs provide superb thermals for seabirds and you may spot Swallow-tailed Gulls, Nazca Boobies, and Blue-footed Boobies on the breeze. The largest seabird to nest in the Galapagos Islands is the Waved Albatross. These ocean wanderers can be seen seasonally here from April through December, when pairs reunite on Espanola, going through an elaborate pair-bonding display. Mockingbirds, doves, and occasional Galapagos Hawks can also be seen on the point, along with sea lions and colorful marine iguanas.
Friday, May 14 - Morning - FAUSTO LLERENA BREEDING CENTER, PUERTO AYORA, ECUADOR
Silver Origin will anchor in front of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, where the prestigious Charles Darwin Research Station is located. The station also houses the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center for giant tortoises and land iguanas where guides interpret the center's captive breeding and reintroduction programs. In addition to these star species, throughout the station, there are huge prickly pear cactus trees being fed upon by the pretty Galapagos Cactus Finch. To round out the stay in Puerto Ayora, enjoy free time in town where local artists have created charming art galleries and corner cafes.
Friday, May 14 - Afternoon/Evening - SOUTH PLAZA, ECUADOR
South Plaza is one of the two Plazas Islands next to the easternmost tip of Santa Cruz. Only South Plaza can be visited as North Plaza is used for research. Roughly one kilometer in length and less than 200 meters wide, South Plaza is one of the smallest of the Galapagos Islands. Formed by geological uplift and tilted downward on the northern side, the southern cliffs have a height of up to 23 meters. At the landing site on the northern side, sea lions are often seen, but it is the flora and land iguanas that are special. The Galapagos carpet weed of the sea-purslanes family turns orange and red in the dry and cool season, contrasting with the grey and green of the prickly pear cacti standing in the landscape and the blue of the ocean. Land iguanas are often seen next to the prickly pear cacti, as the plant gives shade and the pads are eaten by the iguanas. Marine iguanas can also be found here - and as their territories overlap, even hybrids can be encountered in South Plaza. The cliffs are used for nesting by Swallow-tailed Gulls, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Audubon's Shearwaters, and Nazca Boobies.
Saturday, May 15 - SAN CRISTOBAL, ECUADOR
Like so many of the islands in the Galapagos, San Cristobal is formed by dormant volcanoes. It lies to the east of the archipelago and is one of the oldest islands in the group. Approximately 6,000 people live on the island, making their living from tourism, fishing, in government offices, or off the rich volcanic soils with some limited farming existing in the highlands. Puerto Bquerizo Moreno on the southwestern tip of the island is the capital city of the Galapagos Islands. A statue of Charles Darwin graces the harbor, marking one of the first places he likely stepped ashore in the 1830s.