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Galápagos Photography Tour Adventure Cruise by Land & Sea

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Nazca booby © Greg Downing

Retrace Darwin’s footsteps on a once-in-a-lifetime 15 day Galápagos photography tour. Capture endemic wildlife with the best photo guides while sailing the archipelago on an incredible luxury yacht. No other Galápagos photography tour offers this valuable flexibility.

The beauty of our itinerary is not only in the details, but also in the pace. Since we have so much exposure and see so many sites, we have ample time to get to know our subjects and seize all the photographic potential of each location.

The Beagle ship

Exceptional Expertise Aboard a Luxury Galápagos Yacht

Two veteran wildlife specialists, one a photographer and one a naturalist guide, have organized a unique and all-encompassing 15 day itinerary in the Galápagos Islands specifically for nature and wildlife photography. Guided and instructed with the expertise of Greg Downing and Jan Post, the emphasis of this journey is on maximum exposure to the sites coinciding with the best light the day has to offer for photography—all at an easy pace!

Galapagos penguin © Greg Downing

Discover Endemic Species You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on the Planet

The Galápagos Islands offer unprecedented opportunities for close-up wildlife photos both on land and at sea, and our guides and crew will be there to take you to the best locations in the best light of the day. You won’t find a better deal around for a 2-week photographic cruise to the archipelago!

American oystercatcher closeup © Greg Downing

Itinerary for the Ultimate Galápagos Photography Tour

The Best Locations for Wildlife Photographers

Designed specifically for nature photography, this is one of the best tours to the Galápagos Islands for capturing wildlife. Our itinerary covers most of the archipelago, north, south, east, west, and all major sites including Genovesa, San Cristóbal, Española, Santa Fe, South Plaza, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Baltra, Seymour, Santiago, Bartolomé, Sombrero Chino, Isabela, and Fernandina.

Galapagos Islands sunset © Greg Downing

Monday, April 30, 2018

PM: Quito - Hostería Rincón de Puembo

Arrive in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, via your flight from home any time in the evening. There will be a meet and greet this evening while also discussing the schedule for the following morning as we prepare for our exciting adventure to the Galápagos Islands.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

AM: Baltra Island - Airport

Upon arrival we will take a shuttle to the boat, taking us 30 minutes at most. After lunch on board and some time to settle into our cabins, you are invited to join Jan for an introduction talk on the Galápagos and how to make most of your adventure here. Greg will discuss the photographic aspects of the trip and logistics of managing gear, landings, and photographic opportunities.

PM: Bachas - Santa Cruz Island

This stretched beach gives a great opportunity to shoot fishing seabirds like boobies and brown pelicans, but also shore and wading birds such as greater flamingoes, pintail ducks, common stilts, and others. We will stay at the beach until sunset to take advantage of the best light.

Blue-footed booby on rock © Greg Downing

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

AM: Prince Philip’s Steps - Genovesa Island

Genovesa is known for its bird colonies of frigate birds, red footed boobies, nazca boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls. Further, we can spot several rare finches, Galápagos doves, and mocking birds. We will set out early in the morning before breakfast to catch the first light. After a short stay at a boobie colony, the trail leads to an escarpment where we’ll focus on frigates, short-eared owls, and storm petrels. After finding a good location with favorable light we will set up and stay for about 2 hours.

After having breakfast back on board we can have a swim, snorkel, or kayak.

PM: Darwin Bay Beach - Genovesa Island

This beach is an excellent spot for air fights between frigates and other sea birds, and since the beach is so full of activity we will spend about 3 hours here until sunset.

Nazca booby portrait © Greg Downing

Thursday, May 3, 2018

AM: James Bay - Santiago Island

The trail at Puerto Egas is known for its beach with very dramatic lava formations where sea lions, fur seals, and marine iguanas roost after feeding. We can also spot several different shore birds like plovers, tattlers, oyster catchers, herons, and turnstones. We will head out early in the morning to see the sunrise on the beach and stay for about 2.5 hours. After our walk we will have breakfast and set sail to Isabela Island.

PM: Cruising/Sail

Since the northern coast of Isabela is known as an upwelling area, we will spend the entire afternoon cruising while looking for wildlife such as cetaceans, sea birds, sunfish, and manta rays. The large shield volcanoes making out the shore of Isabela will provide an impressive background.

Fur seals, Galapagos © Greg Downing

Dinghies by cliffside

Friday, May 4, 2018

AM: Punta Vicente Roca - Isabela Island

Once again we start early in the morning but this time we stay in the dinghies to focus on the wildlife sitting on the cliffs that make for beautiful dramatic photography at this site. We can see penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, blue-footed and nazca boobies, and brown noddies. While in the water we have the chance to spot sea lions, sunfish, and rays.

After our early morning boat ride we have breakfast followed by an opportunity to snorkel. The snorkeling at this site is world-class and can provide unique underwater images of sunfish, penguins, and cormorants just to name a few. After our snorkel we sail out to our next stop, and again this tack is known for many cetacean encounters, so we will be on the constant look out.

PM: Punta Espinoza - Fernandina Island

This is an iconic place among the visitor sites in Galápagos. We will head out right after lunch to spend maximum time at this site that consists of small beaches, lava formations, and tidal pools. Known for its many marine iguanas, sea turtles, sea lions, and shore birds, this site always delivers some surprises such as a catch, a kill, a fight, or a couple courting at three feet distance. We will stay until sunset before having dinner on board. This area of the Galápagos is also known for its clear skies, so opportunities for stargazing is the best here.

Giant tortoise portrait © Greg Downing

Saturday, May 5, 2018

AM: Tagus Cove - Isabela Island

We head out early morning on kayaks but those who prefer the dinghy can take their cameras and shoot wildlife on the cliffs. Tagus Cove is a very quiet and protected anchorage, great for spotting penguins and flightless cormorants. We will enjoy a delicious breakfast back on board. After breakfast we have a short excursion (1.5 hours) to a viewpoint higher up the hill. Afterwards, we will go for a snorkel, or for those who prefer to shoot from the dinghy, a shore ride. This site can give you great underwater images of penguins, cormorants, sea turtles, and sea horses, to name a few.

PM: Urbina Bay - Isabela Island

This is one of the largest trails that our Galápagos photography tour offers. Those who like to stretch their legs will enjoy the long trail along the beach, into the dry forest, while spotting land iguanas, giant tortoises, and shore birds. This site is also frequented by Galápagos hawks. We will stay until sunset for a total time of 3 hours.

Land iguana © Greg Downing

Sunday, May 6, 2018

AM: Elizabeth Bay - Isabela Island

This morning we head out on the dinghies into a small estuary abundant with mangroves. Here we can spot rays, penguins, sharks, and turtles as well as shore birds. We will eat breakfast at 9:00 back on board while setting sail to the south.

PM: Punta Moreno - Isabela Island

After a short stop to take in the vast lava fields and some of the largest marine iguanas, we sail towards the southwestern tip of Isabela, known for its impressive cliffs and abundance of cetaceans. We will spend all afternoon trying to spot whales and dolphins, ending in the protected bay of Puerto Villamil for the night.

Galapagos dolphins © Greg Downing

Monday, May 7, 2018

AM: Sierra Negra - Galapaguera-Isabela Island

This morning after breakfast on board, we take a truck into the hills of southern Isabela, where we will hike to the rim of Sierra Negra, one of the largest active shield volcanoes in the world. Expect mud and drizzle, but also sweeping views of the caldera above the low hanging clouds. Once we are back (2.5 hours) we pass through a tortoise rearing center (30 minutes), to see the unique tortoises of Cerro Azul. After this stop we will have a tasty lunch on board, setting sail to Santa Cruz Island.

PM: Puerto Villamil - Navigation

This sail to Santa Cruz is ideal to do some recovery, editing, and resting until we arrive at around 6:00 in the evening at Puerto Ayora, where it is possible to go to shore at night. We will have dinner on board.

Giant tortoise grass and trees © Greg Downing

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

AM and PM: Los Gemelos / Baltra Island

After breakfast on board we head into the hills of Santa Cruz island for birding at Los Gemelos, a cloud forest on the crest of Santa Cruz, to continue our excursion to El Chato Tortoise Reserve, looking for giants in this moist habitat. The trail leads along bogs with shore birds, where we can spot forest-dwelling finches and mocking birds.

We will take a break to have lunch back on board our yacht. After lunch we will visit the national park captive breeding program and the Charles Darwin Foundation. Afterwards, guests are able to walk through the town for souvenirs and to use the internet café to touch base back home before heading out again for the second half of our Galápagos adventure tour.

Galapagos mockingbird in sand © Greg Downing

Galapagos Islands map

CENTRE SOUTHERN ISLANDS

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

AM: Puerto Velasco Ibarra - Floreana Island

In the morning after breakfast we will take a small truck into the hills of Floreana. We will then head to a trail to see medium ground finches and other forest dwellers. The morning will be spent at two sites to maximize our exposure for this rarest tree finch. Afterwards we’ll enjoy a great lunch back on board.

PM: Punta Cormorant - Floreana Island

After lunch we will bring our boat around the north shore to have an opportunity for snorkeling. Those who like to shoot wildlife from the dinghy can come along. This site can deliver excellent underwater footage of sea lions and whitetip reef sharks since it has on average good visibility and light. Later in the afternoon we will take a small hike at Punta Cormorant, where the focus is on two small beaches; a turtle nesting site and a saltwater lagoon where greater flamingoes are frequently spotted. We will stay here until sunset. Dinner will be back on board.

Sea lion in water © Greg Downing

Thursday, May 10, 2018

AM: Punta Suarez - Española Island

Española Island is another iconic place where we’ll spend all day, maximizing our exposure time at the sea lion and sea bird colonies. In the morning most of our attention will be to the waved albatrosses, which are unique to this island. We will visit a satellite colony where we set up our spot to see albatrosses landing, taking off, soaring along the cliff, and hopefully courting. We will begin this morning with breakfast and then spend about 3.5 hours on land, mostly at the albatross colony.

PM: Gardner Bay - Española Island

After lunch we move the boat to a site about 5 miles east where we can use a kayak or take a snorkel for an hour. Afterwards we will head to a powdery coralline beach to focus on sea lions, Española mocking birds, and other shore birds. This beach is also a great location to spot some rare finches unique to Española. We stay here until sunset.

Albatross portrait © Greg Downing

Friday, May 11, 2018

AM: Punta Pitt - San Cristóbal Island

This trail leads into the rocky hills of northtern San Cristóbal, where vegetation is very sparse. Here we will look for red-footed boobies, lava lizards, and mockingbirds while the scenery will remind many of any other place but the Galápagos. Once back on board we can have a swim before we set sail to the south. Lunch on board.

PM: Isla Lobos - San Cristóbal Island

This small islet is very close to the main island forming a small channel. In this channel we can have a dinghy ride looking for wildlife on shore, and a snorkel along the rocky shore where a busy sea lion colony will entertain us. We will enjoy our dinner back on board.

Galapagos lizard © Greg Downing

Saturday, May 12, 2018

AM: Santa Fe Island

Before breakfast those who like can take out a kayak. After breakfast we head out for a hike to see giant cacti, finches, Santa Fe’s unique land iguanas, and hopefully its endemic snakes. We will spend 2.5 hours on a trail not longer than 1 mile. After coming back on board we then head to the north, sailing to Santa Cruz island.

PM: South Plaza Island

Just off the east coast of Santa Cruz lies South Plaza, a unique small rock with abundant wildlife. This afternoon we will spend a long time on a cliff face, where we can see many different sea birds soaring at close range. We also spend time with land iguanas and their unique relationship with the cacti, but the cliff is our main focus. For safety reasons we will leave before sunset because the captain needs good visibility leaving our anchorage. Dinner on board.

Galapagos bird in flight © Greg Downing

Sunday, May 13, 2018

AM: North Seymour Island

After breakfast we hike a rocky trail to see close ups of frigates, boobies, and land iguanas. While at the shore we can see migratory and resident shore birds. We’ll spend 3 hours at this site. Lunch on board.

PM: Bartolomé Island

Upon our arrival to Bartolomé Island we head out for a snorkel; those who want to join taking photos from the dinghy are welcome too. After coming back on board for a shower and dry clothes, we continue scanning the shore from a dinghy to see shorebirds and penguins, yet the panoramas are also very impressive at this site. Our dinghy ride is followed by a land excursion (1.5 hours) that leads us to the highest point (600′) giving a sweeping view of the bay and surrounding islets and islands. Dinner back on board.

Red-footed booby in flight © Greg Downing

Monday, May 14, 2018

AM: Sombrero Chino

This small islet lies just off the coast of Santiago and known for its odd shape. We start early with a hike (2 hours) on the islet, looking for Galápagos hawks, lava lizards, and sea lions. Breakfast is served back on board while we set sail to Cerro Dragon, which is about 11 miles east. This sail is a great opportunity to spot Galápagos petrels. Lunch at arrival.

PM: Cerro Dragón - Santa Cruz Island

We start the afternoon with a snorkel (1.5 hours), then head out for an excursion crossing a salt water lagoon towards an old tuff cone where land iguanas like to dig their burrows. The excursion will take us 2 hours. After our visit we sail up north for a quiet anchorage while we get ready for the farewell cocktail.

Galapagos Islands sea © Greg Downing

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

AM: Black Turtle Cove/Baltra Island - Airport

Before we head for the airport we have one last visit into the mangrove estuary on the north shore of Santa Cruz. This visit we stay in the dinghy, while slowly exploring the mangroves for rays, shark pups, turtles, and herons. After our boat ride we get ready to head to the airport for our flights back to Quito.

PM: Late flights home from Quito or overnight at Hostería Rincón de Puembo

All transfers and hotel stay are included. Some flights to the United States are late in the evening and some the next morning.

Red-rock crab, Galapagos © Greg Downing

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

AM: Breakfast at Hostería Rincón de Puembo

Airport transfers after breakfast for your flight home.

The Beagle

The Beagle Galápagos Sailing Yacht

One of the highlights of this trip is the ship itself and the ability to actually sail in the archipelago on a magnificent sailing yacht. No other Galápagos photography tour offers this! A magnificent 105′ twin screw steel-hulled brigantine with teak decks and beautifully designed interiors, The Beagle is a classic among sailing yachts in the Galápagos and is one of the most spacious with the friendliest staff.

The Beagle was built by Cubow Ltd. in Woolwich, England and is the only true sailing ship in the archipelago. She’s been a charter vessel in the Galápagos Islands for over a decade and has been substantially refurbished and continually upgraded under her current ownership. Major renovations in 2013–2014 included newly renovated bathrooms and interiors as well as installation of new masts and sails.

Highlights

  • Genuine sailboat built in the UK with marine steel. Unlike other boats in Galápagos that have been fitted with masts and called “sailboats,” The Beagle is the real deal.
  • Named after HMS The Beagle, the boat Charles Darwin traveled on his famous voyage.
  • Exceptional itinerary covers most of the archipelago, north, south, east and west, and all the major visiting sites.
  • Ample outside deck space to sit, stretch, photograph, or just relax.
  • Great dining area outdoors yet sheltered for weather and sunshine makes the best setting for meals.
  • Newly renovated and substantially more spacious than many boats in the islands. Each cabin is equipped with a full double bed and a second single bunk and private full bath.
  • Al fresco meals, snacks, and cocktails served every day.
  • Exceptional crew is always helpful and friendly.
  • Your Galápagos Islands cruise wouldn’t be complete without snorkeling opportunities every day, with some at sites not permitted to other tour boats (Kicker Rock, Punta Espinoza).
  • Fully equipped with pangas and sea kayaks.

© TheBeagle.com.ec

History and Ownership

The Beagle is named for the HMS Beagle, on which Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands during the historic voyage that led to his ground breaking theory of evolution, inspired to a great extent by his observations in this extraordinary archipelago.

The Beagle is owned and operated by Augusto Cruz and his sons since her purchase in 2002. This is their third charter yacht in the Galápagos. Beginning in 1981, they operated the Pirata and later The Beagle III, affording them decades of an exceptional level of experience.

Augusto was born on the island of Floreana in the south of the Galápagos archipelago and has worked on boats in the islands since 1977. He therefore has an entire lifetime of knowledge and a profound appreciation for this unique and fascinating archipelago, and guests on The Beagle are immediately aware of the benefits this affords. His sons both received higher education abroad but have otherwise spent their entire lives in the islands as well. Sebastian Cruz, his eldest son, recently completed a PhD (Konstanz University, Germany) in Ecology, specializing on the movements of Galápagos seabirds. He now regularly helps Augusto with management of The Beagle.

Smart Voyager™ Certified

Conservation and Community Responsibility

Due to our deep commitment to the preservation of these Enchanted Isles and to their increasing population, we abide by all national park regulations and recommendations for tour operators. The Beagle has been awarded the Smart Voyager certificate, which is granted to tourist operations that adhere fully to sound conservation practices. We strive to use locally produced goods and services; beef, chicken, and fish served aboard are all 100% local. We contribute annually to Cascajo, a local school on Santa Cruz Island and to various other community projects.

Floor Plan and Specifications

The Beagle yacht floor plan

  • Length: 105′ brigantine
  • Beam: 22′
  • Accommodations: 6 double cabins and 1 smaller double with private bathrooms & A/C
  • Propulsion: Twin John Deere 235 HP (2004)
  • Generator Output: 1 Koller 33 KW generator-220/110 V, 1 koller 23 kw generator-220/110 V, 2-12/24 V Battery packs
  • Navigation and Safety Equipment: 2 Furuno GPS Navigator Systems, 2 magnetic compasses, 1 EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), 1 Boston Whaler dinghy, 1 inflatable Caribe dinghy, 2 double kayaks, 1 Elliot 20-person liferaft, 1 Shanghai 20-person liferaft, 1 cellular telephone (Movistar), 1 satellite telephone (Iridium), 2 Furuno radars (36 N/M), 1 Water Maker desalination plant, 1 70-band HF DSC radio (ICOM), 1 70-band VHF DCC radio (ICOM), 1 Hummingbird VHF radio, 2 portable VHF radios (ICOM), 2 bidirectional ACR radios, 1 vessel positioner (Hunter), 1 ZART ACR radar responder, 1 Furuno Navtex receiver (climate status), 1 Furuno echo-sounding fathometer (500m)
  • Crew: Captain, helmsman, steward, cook, engineer, and naturalist guide
  • Cruising Speed: 9 knots
  • Range: 3,000 miles
  • Watermaker: 35 gallons per hour

Leaders

Greg Downing

For more than 15 years Greg has been leading nature and wildlife photography tours around the globe, including the Galápagos on ships such as the Reina Silvia and Polaris, the largest ship in the archipelago. His vast photographic expertise and attentive teaching style compliments Jan’s extensive knowledge of the islands. Greg will be there every step of the way to help with photographic questions and will meticulously attend to every detail of our trip alongside Jan.

Jan Post

For more than a decade Jan (pronounced “yan”) has been working as a naturalist in Ecuador, mainly in the Galápagos Islands where he lives with his wife and daughter. He leads natural history trips, scuba dive trips, and now photo excursions with Greg Downing through NatureScapes. His experience in all these disciplines and having worked alongside Greg, guarantees that he knows the special needs of photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Includes

  • Air transportation to and from the Galápagos Islands from Quito, Ecuador
  • All transfers to and from airport and hotels
  • 2 nights at Hostería Rincón de Puembo (at the beginning and end of our tour)
  • 14 nights and 15 days aboard The Beagle (double occupancy)
  • All meals and soft drinks while on the ship and breakfasts at Hostería Rincón de Puembo
  • Galápagos National Park entrance fee ($100)
  • Galápagos naturalist on board with more than a decade of experience on the islands (one of the best in the archipelago for a Galápagos photography tour!)

Does Not Include

  • International airfare between Quito and home
  • Trip cancellation and medical evacuation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Alcoholic beverages and any items of a personal nature
  • Airport departure tax ($25)
  • Tips for staff such as our naturalist guide and ship crew (around $20 per day is suggested)

If you would like to register for this workshop please fill out our registration form. A non-refundable deposit (listed above) is required to reserve your spot. Please refer to our workshop information section for our cancellation and refund policies.

Workshop Information
  • Dates: April 30 - May 16, 2018 (4 openings)
  • Cost: $10,995
  • Deposit: $2,000
  • Participants: 12
Leaders

Jan Post

Jan Post

Jan was born in 1972 in Hoorn, a small town near the west coast of the Netherlands. Growing up in that part in of Holland means sailing, surfing, or cycling, which are still some of Jan’s favorite activities today. During his studies in Amsterdam and having trouble to find the right study, he discovered a passion for gastronomy and worked as a chef in various high-end restaurants. The call of nature took him eventually to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea while crewing private sailing yachts as a chef and mate. Continue reading »

Greg Downing

Greg Downing

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and seminars. Instructing photographers of all experience levels Greg has earned a reputation for his gracious and generous teaching style.

Greg’s images are known for their unique style, exacting composition and strict attention to detail. Continue reading »

Testimonials
This was my first photography workshop, so I was not sure what to expect. In all, it was an outstanding experience. The group was congenial, the leader outgoing and a good teacher, and we were fortunate to have a great nature guide as well.
Ian C.
Galápagos Adventure - Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never forget. Thank you for hosting this wonderful adventure!
William W.
Galápagos Adventure - Galápagos Islands, Ecuador