Galapagos Trips on the Angelito

Yacht Angelito I
Yacht Angelito I

We get asked about particular trips all the time, and yesterday I was asked about Galapagos trips on the Angelito. Here are some thoughts on why choose the Angelito:

I think the Angelito is a really good Galapagos option — good value in a well-run trip with a good itinerary.

We don’t sell Tourist Class yachts as we don’t feel there is good value there, but Tourist Superior boats like the Angelito are clean, reliable, have private bathrooms and Air Conditioning in each cabin, and can offer great service and itineraries.  They can offer fantastic value, as you get everything you would on more expensive boats, with a little less comfort/luxury, but at a much lower price.

Th Angelito is considered Tourist Superior Class, although they claim to have first class service. It is a good boat that isn’t fancy, but it offers very personal service from a crew that has worked with the boat for a long time, and who treat guests like family. Some of the guides work exclusively for the Angelito and have been working there for a long time.   One of the owners is usually the captain. The Angelito is not as roomy or fancy as higher class boats, but it has a good itinerary, great naturalist guides, and offers very good service.  Going to a First Class or Luxury Class boat would cost a fair bit more and mostly what you would gain would be the size of your cabin and a larger boat, but not necessarily a better Galapagos experience (sites visited, naturalist, etc).

Double Cabin on the Angelito I
Double Cabin on the Angelito I

The Angelito has a good itinerary that allows you to see all of the species and the highlights and special features of the Galapagos.  In addition to the central islands that most trips visit, the Angelito also goes to Genovesa, which is  a great place to view bird species, such as the red footed booby, up close.  Genovesa is not on a lot of itineraries, and helps to make this trip special.  You will also visit Espanola, another of the special islands for its beauty and bird populations, and Bartolome for its amazing views and penguins.  You will see iguanas and sea lions everywhere, and can also see flamingo, land tortoises, sea turtles, rays, sharks, and numerous bird species.

I  feel there are four “special” islands in the Galapagos, and very few trips visit all of them: Genovesa, Espanola, Bartolome, Isabela/Fernandina.  The Angelito gets to three of the four, missing only Isabela/Fernandina, while also visiting all of the other great sites. We consider this a recommended itinerary, and it is a very comprehensive Galapagos experience.

Here is some additional information about the itinerary and islands visited:
– Baltra: Your Guide will be waiting for you, transfer to the Angelito
The island Baltra is the only island of all Galapagos, not included in its totality in the National Park Area. The Americans built the airport of Baltra in 1941-1948, using it as their air force base in the Pacific during the Second World War. The airport and harbour are now Ecuadorian military territory. Unfortunately, both of the military presences have left back their traces and have destroyed a lot.

The flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos takes about 90 minutes. Arriving on the airport, the visitors have first to pay the entrance fee of US$ 100 for the Nationalpark. Leaving the arrival hall, the National Park Guide of the “Yacht Angelito I” is waiting for you and accompanies the whole group to the harbour of Baltra, where your “Yacht Angelito I” is anchored. The cruise can begin!

At the end of the cruise, the passengers leave the Angelito again in the harbour of Baltra and your guide takes care of everything until you fly back to the continent.

– North Seymour : The visit of North Seymour is at about 14:30 for about 2 hours.
Flat uplifted island in the “rain shadow” of the island Santa Cruz and for this reason with dry vegetation of the Arid Zone.

Loop trail. Dry landing on a landing peer, depending of the swell often somewhat difficult.

The arrival on the rocky coast is full of surprises with the sea lions, swallow-tailed gulls, sally lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas.The trail leads you through the nesting area of the blue-footed boobies and frigatebird colonies.

– Chinese Hat: Breakfast at 7:00 and to the island at 07:45. After the walk, snorkeling
Only a 200-meter wide channel separates this small island from the big island Santiago. The shape of the island looks like a Chinese hat. The island is very attractive because of the landscape. The lava is very fragile with only little vegetation.
Wet landing on a small white coral beach with sea lions. The easy short trail leads along the coast with very fragile lava. There are a lot of small lava tubes and little but very attractive vegetation. Pillow lava can be found on the turning point of the trail. The snorkeling is excellent here.

– Bartolome, Sullivan Bay: at about 14:00 visit of Bartolome and then a short walk on the lavafield of Sullivan Bay
With the dinghy we go along the coast of Bartolomé to look for the Galapagos penguins. The penguin lives and nests in the lava tubes of the rocky coast, along where he is also fishing

Dry landing on a jetty. The summit trail goes first over sand and then leads to the top of Bartholomew on a wooden staircase. The view from the top across Bartholomew, Santiago with Sullivan Bay and the surrounding islands is wonderful. All the secondary cones, lava flows and lava tubes mimick a moon landscape. One of the classic views in the Galapagos!
Snorkelling around Pinnacle Rock, the famous landmark of Bartholomew.

-Prince Phillip’s Steps: Breakfast at 7:00 and visit of the island at 7:45 for about 2.5 hours. Snorkeling before lunch
Dry landing by the cliff. The Prince Philip’s Steps offer the only possibility to climb the steep basaltic cliff. The following easy trail leads first through a small nesting colony of masked boobies and crosses a low and dense forest of palo santo trees where the red-footed boobies have their nests. Arriving on the edge of the island there are thousands of the small petrels nesting in the crevices and tubes of the fragile lava. They are the favourite food of the short-eared owls. On both sides of the trail there is a big masked booby nesting colony.

– Darwin Bay: Visit of the island at about 15:00 for about 2.5 hours
Wet landing on a small white beach made of coral sand. The trail follows the shore vegetation of red mangrove and salt bush. The special prickly pear cactus grows on Genovesa often like a hanging cactus with only soft hairy spines. Under the shore vegetation are nesting the swallow-tailed gulls and in the bushes and trees there are the nests of the red-footed boobies and great frigatebirds. A few masked boobies are nesting on the ground. The trail leads along small tidepools up to the cliff with a spectacular view over the caldera. By low tide there are thousands of Galapagos fiddler crabs in the sandy ground.

– Puerto Egas: Breakfast at 6:00 and visit of the island at 6:45 for about 2.5 hours
Landmark of Puerto Egas are the tuff formations of the cliffs with the relief structures. Wet landing on a black beach. The walk with the intertidal life shows during the always changing tide levels an interesting special fauna. Often we can observe lava herons fishing in the isolated tidal pools.

On the whole walk we can see Galápagos sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas. Depending of the season, there are also a lot of migrant shore birds, living on these rich coasts during wintertime. On the turning point of the trail is the start of a Galápagos fur seal colony. The Galápagos fur seal has found in the crevices and caves of the rocky lava coast an ideal living space.

– Rabida: Visit at about 13:30 and snorkeling from the beach
Rabida looks red with the lava containing a lot of ferric oxide in the lava. Very special is the red sand of the beach with the saltbush vegetation and the silvery palo santo trees on the slopes. The batch of Rabida had before the last “El Niño) one of the biggest Galápagos sea lion colony. This colony has to recuperate again from the small remainder. There is a small lagoon behind the zone of saltbush vegetation with (depending of the season) flamingos and white-cheeked pintail duck.

– Charles Darwin Research Center
The visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station gives the opportunity to get to known the scientific work taking place in the National Park. Especially the captive raising programs for the different subspecies of the giant tortoises are very well documented.

It is also a good opportunity to watch the Galapagos tortoises up-close; the symbol of Galapagos. In the Van Straiten Exhibition Hall, there is great documentation about the Galapagos islands with photos and diagrams. The vegetation on this hike is exuberant green, and a lot of Darwin’s finches are easy to spot.

– Highlands of Santa Cruz
With “Los Gemelos” and a lava tube on the way back

Drive up to the highlands in a bus. In a short time one can see the transition between the different vegetation zones from the Arid zone to the Transition zone up to the Scalesia zone (and agricultural area), where the problems of introduced animals and plants are quite obvious. On the highest point of the road the National Park start again.

“Los Gemelos” (that means twins) are two big pit craters in the middle of a wonderful Scalesia forest. These endemic trees and the lush vegetation, with a lot of different ferns, mosses and liverworts, show a totally new picture of Galapagos. Darwin’s Finches and the vermilion flycatcher inhabit these “jungle”.

Española belongs to the oldest islands of Galapagos. Because of its geographic isolation, a great number of endemic species can be found in the island, making it very attractive. The Galapagos albatross for example come only to the island of Española for breeding during the months of April to December (with the exception of a few pairs on the island Plata near the coast of Ecuador).

– Punta Suarez: Breakfast at 7:00 and visit of the island at 7:45 for about 3 hours
Loop trail with an easy, dry landing on a jetty. The walk on a stony, rocky ground is long and quite difficult. The visitor can find even on the very beginning of the trail the colorful “Española marine iguana” and Galapagos sea lions. Everywhere the curious Española mockingbird approaches the visitors. The trail leads through the nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, masked boobies and waved albatross. The big Española lava lizards are to be found everywhere.

A resting spot close to a cliff gives the opportunity to watch all the different marine birds flying along the coast. An albatross during his “take off” from the cliff is an amazing event to witness.

There is an other stop by the blowhole where the seawater is pushed through a fissure in the cliff, 80 feet into the air, depending of the waves and tide level.

– Playa Gardner: First snorkeling at about 14:00 and then beach of Gardner Bay
Snorkelling in Gardner Bay and around a small island close by.

Wet landing on a wonderful, long, white beach made of coral sand. For this visit you don’t need shoes. Very good place to observe, in the saltbush vegetation, the finches and mockingbirds. You can also enjoy the beach close to the Galapagos sea lions.

Possibility to swim and snorkel from the beach.

– Santa Fe : Breakfast at 7:00 and visit of the island at 7:45 for about 1.5 hours. Then snorkeling
Wet landing with two possibilities of trails, depending on the time and visitor’s preferences.

1: Short trail: the trail leads from the sea lion colony on the beach through dry vegetation of the Arid Zone to a wonderful forested cliff with high prickly pear cactus and then back to a second beach.

2. Long trail: the trail is, at the beginning, a dry stony creek and you have a steep climb up onto a plateau (difficult trail). The ascension leads through the zone of Scalesia helleri. Up on the plateau there are high trees of palo santo and high prickly pear cactus trees. The view down to the bay is wonderful.

Only the very attentive visitors can detect up there the endemic land iguana of Santa Fe, because it is perfectly camouflaged in the same colours of the vegetation and their territories are quiet big.

– South Plaza: Visit of the island at 14:00 for about 2 hours
Easy loop trail with a dry landing on a jetty.

Small uplifted island with a cliff 25 meter high on the southern side of the island. The whole flat, rocky northern coast has a great colony of Galapagos sea lions.

On the East point is a bachelor sea lion colony. Very attractive are the beautiful prickly pear cactus trees and of course the big colony of land iguanas. Depending on the season, the sesuvium ground vegetation changes its color from intense green in the rainy season to orange and purple in the dry season.

– Black Turtle Cove: Visit by dinghie at 6:00 before breakfast. Breakfast at 7:00 and the passengers leave the Angelito at 8:00 to go to the airport for the flight back to the continent.
With the dinghy we go into the big protected mangrove cove. In the far away small corners we turn off the motor of the dinghy rowing then noiselessly to observe the marine turtles.

There are a lot of them in the cove during mating and nesting season (December to February), but even out of season there are always some turtles staying back in the mangrove cove to rest. Spotted eagle rays, golden rays, white-tipped reef sharks and young Galapagos sharks can often be spotted.

– Flight from Baltra to mainland Ecuador