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—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 isn’t just the opportunity to experience wildlife at close range, or their wonderful tropical climate. It’s not just the fabulous snorkeling with colorful sea-life, or the al fresco dining under velvet star-splashed skies. The Galapagos Islands matter because it’s here that you experience Darwin’s discoveries up close and witness, in every creature and plant, the incredible story of natural diversity and how it helped to shake and shape scientific history.
It was Herman Melville who first called the Galapagos “Las Encantadas” (the Enchanted Isles), an apt moniker for a realm that remains otherworldly, even today. The islands are forged from black volcanic lava and are named after the giant tortoises that are among their most noted inhabitants. They’re like no place else on the planet. Tiny islands in the vast Pacific Ocean, they are home to a profuse array of wildlife.
Our nature lovers photo tour aboard the small luxury 16 passenger boat, La 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 completely relax as you enjoy their impeccable service and three deliciously healthy meals and abundant snacks daily, you will get closer to shore and visit the islands at the ideal times, all thanks to over 30 years of experience perfecting the island hopping itinerary experience.
Our exclusive photo tour here 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, or try world-class snorkeling at Kicker Rock.
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. Soon after breakfast or just before sunset our guide takes 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 “breaks” on the boat will allow precious teaching moments and one-on-one reviews with master photographer and passionate naturalist Ossian Lindholm.
From the people to the scenery to the wildlife, you will experience Las 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 mesmerized and enchanted by these Enchanting Islands.
Your Galapagos adventure naturally kicks off in Quito, Ecuador where we visit the equator museum and learn about this fascinating slice of the world and its impact on us. We then drive to our magical cloud forest jungle home—Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve and Lodge, a 700-hectare private reserve, a photographer and nature-lover’s dream come true. Here we are immersed in its mysteries, soak in its vast views and discover its rare and endemic birds, orchids and learn how to photograph hundreds of hummingbirds that zip around the lush grounds.
Throughout this very special adventure, your camera becomes the third eye you need to view and capture this rare destination up close and keep it forever in your heart. Every step of the way hands-on instruction, guidance will be provided by renowned South American wildlife photographer, Ossian Lindholm. He will ensure you have plenty of opportunities to get the perfect shot of a hummingbird, a blue-footed boobie or a barking seal. During our rest periods on the boat, you will have plenty of time to review your photos with Ossian who will provide useful feedback on how to edit and make your photographic vision come alive.
By combining this full spectrum travel experience with Ossian’s unsurpassed expertise— and following exceptional guides who are passionate about their country—you will not only capture great photos on this tour, but will also gain in your appreciation of the incredible diversity of Ecuador’s incredible natural world. 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 accommodation in boutique lodges and The Luxury Boat, La Beluga
- Meals as per the itinerary above
- 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)
- Galapagos entrance fee and taxes
- 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 will meet you at the airport and assist you With your luggage and transfer to the hotel near the airport. Welcome introductory dinner
DAY 2: The Equator and Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we drive towards Bellavista Cloud Forest. Along the way, we stop at the Equator Line also known as “The Middle of the World.” Here we take a tour of the Intiñan or “Path of the Sun” museum. The Intiñan museum explains the history behind the equatorial line and the ancient indigenous groups that occupied the area. We will also get the chance to learn and experiment how the force of gravity and astronomy work at zero latitude. For lunch, we stop at El Crater Restaurant in Pululagua then we will drive north towards Bellavista. The Cloud Forest is a special place, a marvel in its own right! The diversity of life is so great that universities use their research station as a base for studies. We’ll enjoy photo walks along its excellent network of easy to moderate trails. The forest has a vast array of orchids and 4 incredible waterfalls within the reserve. Our photo walks we put emphasis on the special natural history, birds and botany of the area. Rare birds are what make Bellavista special. Some of the most relevant species are the Tanager-Finch, Giant Antpitta, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and Toucan Barbet, among others. They are home to 8 to 14 species of hummingbirds at feeders, which are visible at incredibly close range throughout the day.
DAY 3: Quito
We’ll have a short walk before breakfast when birds are more active and photography opportunities are at its best. After breakfast, we’ll walk the trails of Bellavista in search of one of many waterfalls hidden in this forest, a magical place full of life. You’ll enjoy and capture the play of light on giant ferns and learn not only about different animals and plants but also about how the locals use them. We head back to the lodge for lunch, after which we’ll have another short walk to photograph hummingbirds and rare bird species. In the later afternoon we’ll drive back to Quito, to our hotel close to the airport to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for the Galapagos!
Day 4: Santa Cruz Island
We’ll 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. After lunch we’ll snorkel with sea lions, then take a walk on Dragon Hill to savor the afternoon light and learn about the lovely lagoon that is frequented by flamingos, iguanas and pintail ducks.
Day 5: Santa Fé Island
We wake up to a delicious breakfast on Santa Fé, one of the smaller and older islands located in the central part of the archipelago. In the morning we snorkel along the volcanic rocks. In the afternoon we have a photo walk along South Plaza Island, uplifted from the sea and home to Santa Fé land and sea iguanas, a pelican-nesting site, sea lion colony, and much more. Walking along the rocky cliff that looks out towards an open ocean, have your cameras ready, as we may see an orca whale (or two)!
Day 6: San Cristóbal Island
We’ll travel overnight to San Cristóbal, the easternmost island of the Galapagos and also one of the oldest. We wake up at sunrise at the spectacular Kicker Rock, the remains of a lava cone eroded by the sea. We snorkel through the small channel between them where we see sea turtles and small sharks. After a bountiful breakfast we visit Witch Hill, a volcanic cone that looks over a beautiful, white sandy beach with plenty of sea lions, pelicans, blue-footed boobies, waders and marine iguanas.
In the afternoon we navigate to the sleepy Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where we visit either El Junco or Cerro Tijereta depending on conditions, followed by a visit to the Giant Tortoise breeding center. El Junco is a freshwater lagoon with great views and ferns, miconias, pintails and gallinules. Cerro Tijereta has a frigate bird colony. Tonight we cruise to Española.
Day 7: Española Island
Española is the oldest of the southern islands and is the southernmost in the archipelago. Because of its remote location, a unique range of endemic species evolved here. Located on the northeast of the island, Gardner Bay has a long and beautiful, white sand beach framed by black volcanic rock teaming with bright red crabs, land sea iguanas and sea lions rolling along the shore. Snorkeling along the Islote Gardner and Islote Osborn inlets, we’ll see an abundance of tropical fish, reef sharks, and turtles.
In the afternoon we’ll walk a beautiful trail on Punta Suarez, where the scenery is dramatic and the wildlife plentiful and varied. Along the dramatic volcanic cliffs you’ll experience a blowhole where seawater is forced about 65 feet into the air. Here, Ossian will teach you how to capture birds in flight as the area is teeming with endemic wildlife and birds—brightly colored marine iguanas and lava lizards, swallow-tailed gulls, mockingbirds, Galapagos hawks, finches, Nazca boobies and the star of the island, the waved albatross, found only on Española. We get up close to watch them feed their young, do their famous mating dance, and fly magnificently overhead.
Day 8: Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz is the second largest island and the most populated of all the islands. We visit the Charles Darwin Station, a giant tortoise and land iguana breeding program and interpretation center. A short drive takes us to Los Gemelos (which means “twin craters”), located in the highlands of Santa Cruz. These fascinating craters were not caused by impact, but are actually sink holes that were created when the volcanic roof of magma chambers collapsed. Here, we find endemic scalesia forests, orchids, mosses, exotica lichens, short-eared owls, vermillion flycatchers and eight species of Darwin finches.
After lunch in the highlands, we’ll stroll along Puerto Ayora, a charming village with cafes and shops, before we return to the Beluga and enjoy another precious Galapagos sunset from our deck.
Day 9: Sombrero Chino
An overnight cruise takes us to Sombrero Chino, a small volcanic island just off the southeast tip of Santiago, the fourth largest in the archipelago located between Isabela and Santa Cruz Island. The name of the island, in the shape of a Chinese hat, describes its uniquely round shape. The sublime scenery created by the volcanic cone background against the crashing blue waves and bright white sand makes for the perfect photos.
Wildlife here includes sea lions, marine iguanas and the Galapagos penguin. After snorkeling coral reefs we visit Sullivan Bay, a stunning place of great geological interest that’s only accessible by small cruise boats, like the Beluga. We walk along a lava flow field and enjoy the fantastic shapes of lava bubbles that cover the ropy masses formed only 100 years ago.
Day 10: Genovesa Island
Genovesa Island is possibly one of the most interesting islands of the archipelago. The southwestern part of the island is an ocean-filled caldera ringed by the outer edges of a sizeable and mostly submerged volcano, creating a natural harbor called Darwin’s Bay. Dramatic steep cliffs dominate the island’s stunning landscape. It is also known as “Bird Island,” a name it lives up to in a spectacular way. Landing on the white coral sands of Darwin Bay, you will be surrounded by the bustling activity of thousands of frigate birds, red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin’s finches.
We’ll snorkel along the cliffs where hammerhead sharks and large turtles swim. In the afternoon we take a scenic dinghy ride along the rocky ledges to Prince Philip’s Steps, home to a Nazca booby colony and the unique short-eared owl. During the dinghy rides along the cliffs you’ll photograph fur seals and several species of seabirds.
Day 11: Caleta Tortuga — Adios!
We have a sublime sunrise visit to Turtle Cove, a red mangrove lagoon on Santa Cruz and a perfect example of how mangroves alter the marine environment to create a rich and unique habitat. This pristine cove is jumping with fish and wildlife, and in the early morning, the herons, egrets, pelicans and frigate birds put on a show as they dive and fight for fish. As our guides paddle our dinghies we see turtles, rays and white-tipped sharks just below the surface of the clear lagoon waters. 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.