An exclusive photo expedition that opens your mind to the globally important wildlife, vibrant culture, and stunning volcanic landscapes of the world’s most enchanting islands
Straddling the equator some 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador are Las Islas Encantadas, or the Enchanted Islands. Better known as the Galapagos Archipelago, these pristine and exotic islands are a nature lover’s paradise and one of the most unique and coveted photographic destinations in the world. What makes these isles so perfect for photography adventures are their unique wildlife and beautiful tropical scenery. The Galapagos Islands matter because it’s here that you experience Darwin’s discoveries up close and witness the incredible story of natural diversity and how it helped to shake and shape scientific history.
Our nature lovers’ photo tour aboard the luxury 16-passenger boat, the Beluga, is unique from other photo tours that travel on larger vessels. Cruising the islands on the Beluga with Travel Vision, you will enjoy the teachings of a full-time Galapagos naturalist and the one-on-one instruction by world-class nature photographer Ossian Lindholm. With the expert crew of the Beluga, the pioneers of Galapagos small boat travel, you will not only relax as you enjoy their impeccable service, you will also get closer to shore and visit the islands at the most ideal times, all thanks to over 30 years of experience perfecting the island hopping itinerary experience.
This exclusive tour offers you total immersion in this natural world, one that’s truly primeval. Here, lizards, penguins, and blue-footed boobies share the beach with us, unconcerned by our presence. You’ll capture amazing memories as you walk along bright, white sandy beaches framed by crystal-clear aqua waters.
And because our Galapagos adventure is based on a small boat (rather than in a hotel or large cruise boat), you’ll be able to delve more deeply into all that they have to offer. Our guide will take us in small boats to swim with sea lions, roaming inland verdant hills, or hiking to vantage points overlooking the famous marine iguanas. Our daily rest periods on the boat will allow precious teaching moments and one-on-one reviews with master photographer Ossian Lindholm.
Throughout this very special adventure, your camera becomes the third eye you need to view and capture this rare destination up close. Every step of the way, you’ll receive hands-on instruction and guidance from Ossian, who will ensure you have plenty of opportunities to get the perfect shot of a hummingbird, a blue-footed booby, or a barking seal. You’ll also have plenty of time to review your photos with him and he’ll provide useful feedback on how to edit and make your photographic vision come alive.
From the people to the scenery to the wildlife, you will experience Las Islas Encantadas from the most privileged points of view and return home a better photographer with the most precious photos you have ever taken. We can guarantee that you will be forever transformed and enchanted by these islands. So, get ready to capture paradise on the photographic adventure journey of a lifetime!
- Daily photography instruction and one-one-one coaching with Ossian Lindholm, one of Argentina’s most renowned nature photographers
- Galapagos naturalist guide in the Islands portion
- All accommodations in boutique lodges and the luxury boat La Beluga
- All meals
- Bottled water and snacks
- Tips for carriers and porters
- Educational tours and visits
- Transfer by boat from Isabela to Puerto Ayora
- Transfer by boat from Puerto Ayora to San Cristobal
- Airport transfers
- Internal flights (Guayaquil-Galapagos-Guayaquil)
- Internal flights (Baltra-Isabela)
- Roundtrip international flight to Quito
- Alcoholic beverages and other personal expenses
- Tips for tour leader, guides and staff
- International airport tax
- Be surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds and learn how to take their photo
- Spend two peaceful days in an exotic cloud forest with rare creatures and animals
- Swim with seals, turtles, exotic fish and an occasional friendly shark
- Walk pristine white sandy beaches
- Daily sunrises, sunsets and starry nights
- Be awestruck by fantastic volcanic landscapes
- Experience one of the world’s best conservation success story
- Learn from the island’s experts about Darwin’s laboratory of evolution
- Enjoy the finest professional crew aboard the small luxury boat, The Beluga
- Witness schools of dolphins surround our boat
- Be transfixed, transformed and forever inspired by the friendly creatures that welcome us to this magical place
Day by Day
DAY 1: Quito
Upon your late afternoon or early evening arrival in Quito, we meet you at the airport and assist you with your luggage and transfer you to your first hotel near the airport. Later in the evening, we have an introductory dinner.
DAY 2: Papallacta
Time to escape from Quito! Today we’ll want to rise early and get on our way, since we have a variety of habitats that we’ll want to explore. Our drive to Guango Lodge will initially lead us through the drier central valley where we will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native chaparral forests before rising up steeply to the high and (often) windswept paramo. Among the many bird possibilities, we will be particularly on the lookout for Andean Condor (sometimes hard), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Scrub & Blue-and-yellow Tanagers and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak. If there were a day to have your camera ready, this would be it – on clear days the scenery is spectacular, with superb views of the snow-capped Volcán Antisana, and seemingly endless high Andean mountain-scapes harboring a backdrop of textures that make for an unforgettable birding setting.
This area, known as the Papallacta Pass by birders, is rich in paramo birdlife, and with the proper weather, you can expect to see some of the following: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, some interesting seedeaters, and even Giant Conebill (with a bit of luck, up in the Polylepis woodlands). The Papallacta Pass is right on the continental divide, and once we finish up with our paramo birding, we’ll work our way down the east-slope – Amazonian drainage now – towards San Isidro Lodge. On the way we’ll pass through some beautiful high-elevation temperate forests where we will have a chance to stop and soak in this birdy zone; some of the possibilities include Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Viridian Metaltail, Red-crested Cotinga, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, just to name a very few. Our box lunch in the field will allow us to remain flexible with respect to how we plan our birding for the day.
Assuming the weather cooperates, we’ll probably want to try a short night walk – right between the cabins and the dining room – in search of the ‘mystery owl.’ This is a gorgeous owl that may one day prove to be a new species to science.
DAY 3: Hummingbirds at Guango Lodge
We plan to start the morning off with some birding right around the lodge, where we often find it hard to pull ourselves away—the birds just sometimes keep coming. Some of the regulars include Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Montane and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Inca Jay and Subtropical Cacique! After about an hour of this, we will want to visit the Antpitta feeders, where you will likely see White-bellied Antpitta only feet away, and maybe even the very rare Peruvian (!). The rest of the morning will be spent birding the ample trail system and/or forested roadside at Cabañas San Isidro. And after lunch we will drive to Guango Lodge.
We should arrive to Guango Lodge in the early afternoon for a first crack at the hummingbird feeders that will be dripping with species such as Tourmaline Sunangel, Sword-billed Hummingbird and White-bellied Woodstar. At dinner we will be officially welcomed by the lit fireplace and have our first taste of Ecuador’s best known hot toddy, a delicious drink – called “Canelazo” – made from water boiled with real cinnamon, fruit juice and a dash of cane alcohol, that is sure to help warm us up.
After a tasty dinner (and assuming the weather holds) we should try night birding to see if we can get an owl or two interested.
Day 4: Hummingbirds at Guango Lodge
This morning will be devoted to birding the trails and spectacular hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge. On the grounds here we frequently run into some of the best temperate forest flocks on any of our tours in Ecuador; in a matter of minutes it isn’t uncommon to see Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-banded Tyrannulet, Blue-backed Conebill, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, several species of mountain-tanager and even Plushcap. We will always have our eye out for other particularly local or aesthetic highlights, and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Mountain Avocetbill are among them. We will enjoy a hot, sit-down lunch, only feet away from the hummingbird feeders!
After lunch at the lodge, we can choose any of the trails that sprawl out from the lodge for a second crack at flocks and other activity. We will plan to do some birding on the drive back to Quito to clean-up some of the missed species we had searched for on the first day. Drop off in hotel near airport.
Day 5: Santa Cruz Island
We have an early flight to Baltra Airport on Santa Cruz Island, where our expert Galapagos guide awaits and transports us by dinghy to the Beluga, our home for eight days. We also visit the Charles Darwin Station, which has a giant tortoise and land iguana breeding program and interpretation center.
Day 6: Floreana Island
Floreana Island is best known for its colorful history of buccaneers, whalers, convicts, and early colonists.
Punta Cormorant has two contrasting beaches and a large inland lagoon where pink flamingoes can be seen.
This is a snorkeling site located just off Punta Cormorant. The site is a completely submerged volcano that has eroded to create the appearance of a jagged crown.
Post Office Bay
This is one of the few sites visited for its human history. Visit the wooden mail barrel where letters are dropped off and picked up and remains of the Norwegian fishing village.
Day 7: Isabela Island
Isabela Island is the largest of the Galapagos Islands, formed by five active volcanoes fused together. Wolf Volcano is the highest point in the entire Galapagos at one mile high!
Volcan Sierra Negra has a caldera with a diameter of 10km. View recent lava flows, moist highland vegetation, and parasitic cones.
Puerto Villamil is a charming small town on a white sand beach. Highlights include the Tortoise Breeding Station and the flamingo lagoon. Other visits (depending on conditions) are the Tintoreras or Los Humedales.
Day 8: Isabela Island
Punta Moreno is located in the central southwestern coast of Isabela Island. The site has spectacular views of volcanoes Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. Some highlights include impressive lava flows, desolate and pristine landscape, varied and unusual arid zone vegetation.
This spot is only accessible by dinghy. It’s possible to see penguins on the small islets in the bay. The end of the bay is long and narrow surrounded by three species of mangroves. Galapagos Sea Turtles and rays can usually be seen in the water.
Day 9: Isabela Island
Urbina Bay is located at the central-west coast of Isabela Island at the foothills of Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. Highlights include the colourful land iguanas, Galapagos Giant tortoises and the coral uplifting from 1954.
Tagus Cove is a natural harbor where centuries ago whalers and pirates left their ship’s names painted or carved on the rocks. A walk uphill to Darwin’s Crater saltwater lake will provide an excellent view.
Day 10: Fernandina Island
Fernandina Island is the youngest volcanic island and is still active.
Punta Espinoza is a place famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas and as the habitat of unique species like the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, among others.
Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island (Albemarle)
This site is visited by dinghy rides along the cliffs or the partially sunken cave at the water’s edge. Nasca boobies, blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline.
Day 11: Santiago Island & Bartolome Island
Santiago Island is located between Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands. This Island offers a wide variety of seabirds, marine iguanas and fur seals.
A walk along the rocky coast line that will you show you a view of some of Galapagos’ best tide pools. Some highlights include: Sugar loaf volcano, fur seals, oyster catchers, marine iguana colony, and old salt mine.
Bartolome Island (Bartholomew)
A hike will take you to the highest point on Bartolome for a spectacular view. Sea lions and penguins can be seen around Pinnacle Rock. There is a sandy beach with great swimming and snorkeling.
Day 12: North Seymour: Adios!
This flat piece of land originated after an uplifting event thousands of years ago. The island is home to endemic Palo Santo trees, colonies of blue-footed boobies, swallow tailed gulls, and magnificent frigate birds. The gentle breeze and serenade of birds in the golden morning light is a lovely way to say adios to one of the most magical places in the world. From Baltra, we have a return flight to Quito to make your international connections.
Creatures we hope to see
Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Sea Lions, Blue Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Flamingos, Galapagos Darwin’s Finches (several species), Galapagos Penguin, Greater Flamingo, Black necked Stilt, Galapagos Giant Tortoises (both in captivity and in their natural environment), White Tipped Reef Shark, Black Tipped Reef Shark, Galapagos Reef Shark, Spotted Eagle Ray, Sting Rays, several species of tropical fish.
It’s also possible to see several species of whales (Humpback, Pilot and Orca), Bottle- Nosed Dolphins, and Giant Rays.