With our range of handpicked itineraries, when you cruise the Galápagos Islands aboard our newly-refitted expedition ship MS Santa Cruz II, you’ll discover first-hand the unique nature of this Eden-like archipelago. Accompanied by an expert Expedition Team, you’ll see iconic Galápagos wildlife and have a life changing experience along the way.
Inspiration behind a classic
Our journey to these astonishing volcanic islands follows in Darwin’s footsteps, bringing guests closer to the animals and sights that inspired him.
Unique wildlife and ecology
From the famous giant tortoises, to the scaly marine iguanas, you’ll see why Galápagos is such a special destination for nature lovers
A crucible of evolution
Learn all about evolution in the islands thanks to a knowledgeable onboard Expedition Team that will inform and educate guests by way of onboard lectures and guided nature walks
Educational, informal, and enjoyable Expedition
Guests will learn all about the unique and fragile ecology of the Galápagos Islands and why its protection is important
Top 4 Galápagos Islands
1. A unique expedition cruise
Step aboard our comfortable expedition ship MS Santa Cruise II and discover the astonishing Galápagos Islands. With small groups and more wildlife guides, you’ll get closer to the animals and landscapes that inspired Darwin to develop his classic theory of evolution.
Sometimes called a ‘living laboratory’, these remote isles give us an insight into the processes of life on Earth. We’ll seek out endemic wildlife such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas and the Waved Albatross, and your onboard Expedition Team will help you learn their fascinating natural history.
2. Wildlife watching and photography
Marvel at the remarkable wildlife of the Galápagos Islands on an expedition cruise. From the giant tortoises lumbering around across rocky landscapes to the marine iguanas grazing underwater – our onboard nature photographer will share tips and help you get those perfect shots.
The ecology of each island makes them unique in many ways, and because humans only recently arrived on the scene much of the wildlife remains tame. You’ll see iconic species such as Galápagos sea lions, Blue-footed Boobies and the distinctive marine iguanas at a close but respectable distance.
3. Extensive Science Programme
Hidden away in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the volcanic Galápagos archipelago formed millions of years ago and was first colonised by animals and plants from the mainland. When you explore these remarkable islands on an expedition cruise, you’ll be witnessing a living crucible of evolution.
Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, you’ll make your own discoveries as you explore the islands with our knowledgeable and passionate nature guides. With many talks and lectures, guided shore landings and hands-on Citizen Science projects, you’ll discover the secrets of the Galápagos Islands.
4. A ship designed for sustainability
With our focus on sustainability and low-impact cruising, you’ll learn about the fragile ecology of the Galápagos Islands and why conservation is so important. Aboard your small 90-capacity ship you’ll get closer to nature and be guaranteed exclusive wildlife watching opportunities with qualified guides.
The comfortable and stylish expedition ship MS Santa Cruz II has undergone a multi-million-dollar refurb, and features well-appointed cabins and suites, fitness facilities and hot tubs, a Science Corner and library, outstanding dining – with many new plant-based dishes – and a great range of expedition equipment.
The Galápagos Islands offer almost limitless opportunities for discovery and adventure. Guests will learn all about the animals and ecology of the archipelago, and find out why conservation efforts are so important. The onboard Expedition Team know the Galápagos better than anyone else, having worked here for many years. Our ship, Santa Cruz II, will take your clients to some off-the-beaten track destinations where they can try sea kayaking, SUP boarding, reef snorkelling and more.
*Please note that some of these are optional activities at an additional cost.
Adventures around the Galápagos Islands
Explore the vast archipelago of diverse volcanic islands as we take you on a guided voyage around one of the planet’s most beautiful and biodiverse destinations. From rocky and arid islands dominated by cacti and iguanas,to the lush tropical highlands of Santa Cruz where giant tortoises amble, you’ll experience a range of habitats and climatic conditions.
Our onboard Expedition Team are friendly Galápagos experts with many years of experience in these islands. They’ll join you on shore landings and nature walks, sharing their knowledge of natural history and explaining conservation efforts. With most wildlife is unafraid of humans, you’ll be getting far closer to much of it than you might be used to. Of course, we’ll always maintain a respectable distance to avoid inadvertently disturbing the animals
Landings with expedition boats
Our small expedition boats allow you to land on beaches and terrain that would otherwise be too rugged for larger vessels to get close to. They’re great for wildlife watching, so we’ll be on the lookout for marine creatures as we head to and from the ship. Try the glass-bottomed boat and observe marine life and reefs from above – it’s like snorkelling without getting in the water!
Exploring the various islands on foot turns an experience into an adventure. You’ll be heading ashore a lot and walking on trails that lead through a range of distinct ecosystems. Depending on the itinerary, you could be walking amidst the silvery Palo Santo trees with their delicate incense scent on North Seymour, watching giant tortoises lumber through the undergrowth on Santa Cruz, or walking to the sea lion colony on Santa Fe.
What could be better than drifting over a colourful reef and seeing the amazing marine life illuminated in the crystal-clear water? We have all the snorkelling gear you’ll need and our expert Expedition Team will bring you to some pretty amazing places where you might see placid turtles, colourful fish, diving marine iguanas and curious sea lions performing underwater acrobatics. If you want to wear a wetsuit, we have some available for hire.
Kayaking and SUP boarding
Some places are ideally suited to exploration aboard a kayak. We have a number of sea kayaks onboard for such a purpose, and they’re perfect for paddling the waters around Santa Fe, Española and Santa Cruz. Alternatively, why not try out SUP boarding – our expedition ship also carries a number of boards for your enjoyment.
Conservation and research centres
The Galápagos Islands are the focus for global conservation and research efforts. We’ll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where over 200 scientists and volunteers are engaged in projects to boost biodiversity. You’ll see baby tortoises being reared in incubation pens, as well as other inspiring conservation success stories. Another project, on San Cristobal, is set in a forest that doubles as a tortoise reserve – here you’ll see these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
Your expedition cruise in the Galápagos Islands will be – let’s face it – one continuous wildlife watching experience. Because animals here evolved without many predators they have no fear of humans, meaning you can get closer to photograph them lazing around on the beaches and volcanic rocks – or in the case of giant tortoises, ambling peacefully along. But we’ll also be on the lookout for faster-moving things, such as dolphins, reef sharks and Galápagos hawks.
Lectures and talks
The Expedition Team will be delivering lectures on a range of topics, such as geology, marine biology, history, photography, and ornithology. This will be in the ship’s onboard Science Center, out on deck, ashore during a landing, or when cruising in small boats.
Arguably, no other place on Earth can compete with the Galápagos Islands in terms of unique wildlife experiences. Not only are there many endemic species, but they have evolved without mammalian predators and are unafraid of humans. Each island harbours a variety of animals, and the surrounding seas heave with life
Iguanas – terrestrial and marine
These spiky-looking reptiles can be seen on several islands in the Galápagos. Predominantly vegetarian, the terrestrial iguanas which first arrived here have evolved into several different subspecies, including marine iguanas which can dive underwater and graze on the seabed. Land iguanas mostly eat cacti and other succulents and play in important role in dispersing seeds, but are somewhat omnivorous and will eat carrion.
Galápagos giant tortoises
Probably the most iconic Galápagos animal, endangered giant tortoises can weight 470 lb. and are thought to live over 100 years. Although they were heavily hunted by pirates and whalers, recent conservation efforts have succeeded in boosting their numbers. Each subspecies of Galápagos giant tortoise has a uniquely shaped shell, allowing these slow-moving herbivores to most efficiently push through the different types of vegetation found on each island.
With a wingspan of over 8 ft., the Galápagos Albatross breeds almost exclusively on Española. Close to 35,000 breeding pairs exist here but they are considered critically endangered due to having only one main breeding site. The birds need steady winds to give them lift, but these die down in January so chicks must be mature enough to fly by then or else remain stranded during the hottest season.
The Galapagos Islands is an all-year-round destination. The equatorial climate makes Galapagos monthly weather steady. There are subtle differences in seasons. The “warm” season occurs December through May and is the best time of year for snorkeling. The “cool” season occurs June through November. This is the best season to view dolphins, whales and other large marine animals. Visiting during the crossover between warm and cool seasons in May & November can result in the best of both worlds.