Adventure across volcanic islands for up-close encounters with epic wildlife found nowhere else on Earth
Reward yourself with the adventure of a lifetime in the islands born of fire, the Galapagos archipelago. Witness one of history’s greatest scientific discoveries by experiencing the extraordinary power of nature to adapt to its environment: evolution.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, this remote Archipelago of 18 islands and more than 100 small islets lies around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Its proximity to the equator, volcanic activity, and influence from three ocean currents (Humboldt, Panama, and Cromwell) created a distinctive set of environmental conditions that allowed for a unique land and marine ecosystems to develop over the course of four million years.
The Galapagos Islands were created as a result of centuries of volcanic eruptions caused by the gradual movement of the Nazca tectonic plate. Today, each island offers a different landscape, from mountainous terrains scattered with shield volcanoes and lava fields, arid zones covered with endemic cacti, to beautiful white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. The Galapagos Islands’ marine reserve is one of the largest and most biologically diverse in the world.
What sets the Galapagos truly apart is its remarkable levels of endemic wildlife and plant life, more than anywhere else in the world. Nearly 80 percent of land birds and mammals, over 90 percent of reptiles, more than 30 percent of plants and around 20 percent of marine life are native to the Galapagos Islands.
Over on land, Aqua Mare guests will embark on guided hiking adventures to some of the islands’ hotspots for spotting wildlife. There’ll be opportunities to spot land and marine iguanas — striking creatures which look like they were descendants of the mythical dragons. There’ll also be visits to see the remarkable Giant Tortoises which make for one of the highlights of an expedition to the Galapagos Islands.
Discover what a journey of a lifetime is like aboard the Aqua Mare
Wildlife Encounters in Galapagos
It’s not often that you’d find penguins frolicking under the equatorial sun. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are one of the only places in the world where that’s an everyday reality. Read up on these web-footed wonders, whom you’ll most likely run into when you sail on a Galapagos cruise aboard the Aqua Mare.
One of the most whimsical animals found in the Galapagos archipelago, blue-footed boobies are known for their distinctive blue feet. They’re clumsy animals who always make for an entertaining watch. Read on to discover five fun facts about these stunning birds.
Did you know that the Spanish word for tortoise is galápago? When Spanish sailors first explored the archipelago in the 1500s, the Galapagos Islands were home to as many as 250,000 giant tortoises. Find out more about these incredible creatures which you’ll see in person while traveling on a Galapagos cruise aboard Aqua Mare.
With their rare and unique wildlife, the Galapagos Islands invite you to entertain your most childlike curiosities. One glimpse of the endemic land iguanas and you’re left wondering if dragons really do exist. Read on to find out more about these remarkable animals which look like they belong in an epic fantasy.
Every day, guests will also embark on snorkeling excursions in the surrounding waters to see the region’s marine life. The waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands are home to a variety of sea creatures including species of sharks, rays, reef fish, and occasionally, even whales!
Finally, we’ll look to the skies for even more exciting sightings. The archipelago is inhabited by unique species of birds such as flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, and Darwin’s finches — named after the biologist, who used his experiences on the islands as the foundation for his theory of evolution.
As nature has not introduced danger and competition from outside their territory, many of these animals don’t have the natural instinct to flee from humans. It is fascinating to observe so many animals just an arm’s length away.
Every destination in the Galapagos archipelago has something unique to offer. Across both of Aqua Mare’s itinerary, we visit 16 islands in total. From inhabited islands such as Isabela and Santa Cruz to the remote beaches of Rabida and Mosquera, prepare yourself for an experience that checks off all the boxes. One evening, you could be roaming around the lively streets of Puerto Ayora – observing local life, which often includes sea lions dozing off on benches – and the very next day, you’ll find yourself on the remote shores of Floreana, exploring what feels like uncharted territory.
The Adventure of a Lifetime
As far as Galapagos tours go, the Aqua Mare offers an expedition unlike any other. Each day offers new adventures, led by our team of naturalist guides who are nothing short of Galapagos experts. This is the perfect chance, not only to see beautiful landscapes and wildlife, but to learn the intricate details behind how they came to be.
Take the opportunity to explore visitor sites such as the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise reserve, where you can find out more about the incredible conservation efforts that help ensure the wellbeing of the Galapagos Islands. Next, as you set sail, you’ll find yourself immersed in nature and feel as if you’re among the first people discovering uncharted territories.
On uninhabited islands such as Fernandina Island and Santiago Island, you’ll get to embark on shore excursions, discovering ancient lava flows and observing the endemic flora and fauna. In an intimate group – with a maximum of 16 guests on our cruise ship – you’ll enjoy a highly personalized experience which is curated to your desires.
The Aqua Mare crew is always on the lookout for exotic marine life such as whales and dolphins while sailing. Rest assured, they’ll do their very best to help you bring home memories which can’t be made anywhere else in the world. Every day, you’ll head out to excursions using military-grade tenders – small boats – and explore new surroundings, whether it’s the coralline sand beaches of Gardner Bay or the mangroves of Black Turtle Cove.
This Galapagos cruise not only promises adventure but luxury as well. Aqua Mare features the finest amenities including a panoramic lounge, jacuzzi, and beach club. The meals are curated by world-renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino – a way to enlighten your culinary senses to the tastes of South America. Each suite is designed and decorated with the utmost care. They are among the most spacious of any cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands and include an Owner’s Suite measuring 80sqm.
Discover the Galapagos Archipelago
Santa Cruz is the Galapagos Islands’ main tourism hub and second largest island located at the heart of the Archipelago. It hosts the most of the local population of the region in Puerto Ayora, a charming city where the region’s endemic flora and fauna thrive alongside the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Discover Santa Cruz Island on both of our Galapagos cruise itineraries.
Land and marine iguanas can be found all around the Galapagos Islands. However, along with those, South Plaza Island is also home to a rarer, third reptile species: hybrid iguanas. Be sure to keep a lookout when you visit while sailing on our East Galapagos cruise itinerary.
Despite its small size of just three square kilometers, or one square mile, Rabida Island has gained a strong reputation among fellow travelers as a must-visit destination due to its striking red sand beaches. Rabida also features eroded hillsides and dramatic volcanic landscapes which all bear the island’s signature deep-crimson coloring. Discover Rabida on our West Galapagos cruise itinerary.
Although it’s one of the smallest of the Galapagos Islands, Baltra Island is one of the most frequently visited. After all, it houses one of only two airports in the region. Located near the center of the archipelago, this is a transit destination for all guests boarding our Galapagos cruise to start their journey.
South-east of Santa Cruz lies one of the oldest of the Galapagos Islands, Sante Fe – also known as Barrington Island named after British Admiral Samuel Barrington. This small, arid, and relatively flat island is thought to be nearly four million years old.
Also known as Tower Island or Bird Island, Genovesa is a shield volcano located in the northeastern region of the Galapagos Islands. Home to a diverse array of wildlife including storm petrels, frigate birds, boobies, sharks, and fur seals, it’s a must-visit in the Galapagos archipelago for bird enthusiasts. Discover Genovesa on our East Galapagos cruise itinerary.
Just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santiago Island lies one of the Galapagos Islands’ most scenic and intriguing destinations — Bartolomé Island. This small volcanic island (just 1.2 square kilometers) was named after naval officer and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Discover Bartolome on our East Galapagos cruise itinerary.
As one of the older islands, Espanola Island is often regarded as one of the most interesting of the Galapagos Islands due to its high percentage of endemic fauna. Explorers visiting this island can expect up close encounters with the Espanola mockingbird, lava lizard, and marine iguana. There are also sea lions, giant tortoises, and the very rare waved albatrosses found here. Discover Espanola on our East Galapagos cruise itinerary.
Located on the western edge of the Galapagos National Park, Isabela Island is the youngest and largest island in the region. With an area of 4,586 square kilometers, it is also larger than all the other islands in the archipelago combined. Discover Isabela on our West Galapagos cruise itinerary.
While all of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago are special in their own way, we hold a special liking towards a select few. Here’s the Aqua Expeditions pick of top 5 islands to visit while sailing through Galapagos.
Fernandina Island is the Galapagos’ western most isle, located just a stone’s throw off the Isabela Island’s north west coastline. The island is home to the largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galapagos, as well as the flightless cormorant — a bird species that has evolved to swim rather than fly.
Santiago is known as a true gem for nature enthusiasts and features three main visitor sites. These include Sullivan Bay, an otherworldly landscape created by recent volcanic activity; James Bay, a historic salt mine with a beautiful black beach; and Sombrero Chino, a tiny lava islet surrounded by fantastic snorkeling sites.
What makes Floreana Island truly unique from the rest of the Galapagos Islands is its rich human history. In the early 20th century, Floreana became a destination for a group of eclectic individuals who sought a simpler way of life in this remote corner of the world.
Whether you choose to hike along the natural volcanic formations of Los Gemelos (Twin Craters), encounter the Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat, go snorkeling with penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas in Espinoza Point, witness the courtship dance of blue-footed boobies in North Seymour, or be greeted by groups of sea lions lounging in the rocks at Suarez Point, we guarantee an adventure you won’t soon forget.