Aboard M/C Athala II, Northern Circuit

Explore the Galapagos aboard this newly-refurbished high-end catamaran
Overview

overview

Newly-refurbished in 2011, the luxury catamaran Athala was specifically designed and built to cruise the Galapagos Islands in style. This elegantly-designed ship provides comfort, superior speed, excellent stability, and it meets all the latest safety standards.

The Athala is unrivaled in offering the generous, comfortable accommodations and amenities of a larger ship while still preserving the relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie of a smaller vessel. You are sure to find the layout, furnishings, food, and crew all to be excellent.

All of Athala's cabins on board are deluxe, with well-appointed private bathrooms, air conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting. All have ocean views with large windows (not portholes). All cabins are 175 square feet or more, and the main deck cabins have the additional luxury of private balconies.

The huge sundeck is great for whale and dolphin watching or to simply relax and soak up the sun between island excursions. In the evenings, there is no better place for star gazing. The upper deck has a well-stocked bar, Jacuzzi hot tub, and a beautiful open teak deck area for relaxation, alfresco dining, and barbeques. The main deck houses the dining area and a separate comfortable lounge area complete with plasma TVs, laptops (no internet service), DVD player, stereo, and library.

Athala's crew of ten and her naturalist guide are all experts in their fields and are friendly, full time, experienced, and highly professional. Your naturalist guide is guaranteed to be bilingual (minimum fluent English and Spanish) and among the best and most knowledgeable in the Galapagos. You will not find a luxury boat with better people and service, more space, more comfort, and such a great itinerary at a better price.

Starting in 2012, two itineraries are offered to adhere to new touring regulations established by the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve to limit tourist visits for the islands' health and recovery.  Take your pick between this northern itinerary and its companion tour of southern islands, based on your preferences and your dates.  If you want the complete Galapagos experience and have the time, take both!

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Quito or Guayaquil
    Arrive in the busy waterfront city of Guayaquil

    Arrive in either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, where you will be met and transferred to your local hotel.*

    Quito is located in a huge valley of the Andes mountains at an altitude of 9,455 feet; it’s a great place to extend your stay to explore the city, the surrounding volcanic mountain range, or possibly an excursion to the fabled Otavalo market.

    Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city; with its low elevation and coastal location, it is an ideal point from which to fly to the Galapagos.  The city's 1.5-mile waterfront Malecon 2000 riverfront promenade is a lovely and enjoyable place to spend an afternoon.

    *Hotel/city tour package is not included in cruise rate.

    Meals
    None
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Quito or Guayaquil
    Wander the enchanting stairstep neighborhood of Las Penas

    Quito city tour: Stroll down cobblestone streets and through flowering plazas. Visit the old colonial center of Independence Square, the elegant cathedrals of San Francisco, La Compañía, and San Agustín, Quito’s oldest monastery. Drive through the residential section and past the Legislative Palace (Congress). Panecillo Hill overlooks the city and snow-capped mountains. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore or relax.

    Guayaquil city tour: Our first stop is Malecon 2000, an 80-million-dollar riverside complex built along a two-mile stretch of the Guayas River. The waterfront promenade features restaurants, cafes, shops, and museums with art exhibitions as well as free weekend jazz and classical music concerts. Drive through the colorful streets of one of Ecuador’s most important port cities. Visit the Public Market, the waterfront, the docks, and Simon Bolivar Park, which is famous for its tree iguanas. Also, admire the watchtower, La Rotonda, Old Santa Ana Fort, and Las Penas, a charming colonial section of town frequented by artists. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore or relax.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Baltra Island/Mosquera Island
    Get your first glimpse of the Galapagos on your descent

    The flight from Quito (via Guayaquil) to the Galapagos is approximately 2-1/2 hours long (or about 2 hours from Guayaquil). Upon arrival at Baltra airport, travelers pass through an airport inspection point to ensure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands and to pay the park entrance fee (pre-paid for you). Guides will meet you, collect your luggage, and escort you on the short bus ride to the harbor. Motorized rafts called Zodiacs, or pangas, will transport you to the yacht, and the crew will welcome you onboard.

    After a briefing and a light lunch, you'll set off on a Zodiac (panga) ride to tiny Mosquera Islet, home to a huge population of sea lions and many species of shorebirds. While at Mosquera, keep your eyes peeled as there are occasional reports of dolphins and orcas. Dificulty level: Easy.

    At the end of the day, return to the boat for your first daily briefing on the next day's activities, a welcome cocktail, and dinner.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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  • Day 4: Santiago/Sullivan Bay/Bartolome
    Trek on Bartolome's otherworldly young terrain

    Visit Sullivan Bay (dry landing) on Santiago Island, for some morning hiking and snorkeling. Sullivan Bay is known for its spectacular volcanic formations, relatively young pahoehoe lava flows, and unique geological scenery. Due to Sullivan's relatively recent volcanic activity, few plants have been able to take root here, much less be successful, so pay particular attention to the low-lying pioneer plant known locally as "mollugo," as well as the lava cactus.

    Return to the boat to set sail for Bartolome Island and lunch. In the early afternoon, make a wet landing on Bartolome, a small island with a two interesting visitor sites. At the first site, you can snorkel off the beach or in deep water around Pinnacle Rock, where Galapagos penguins are usually seen. Then, it's back on board for a quick change of clothes followed by a short panga ride to Bartolome's second site, a dry landing on another part of the island, for a climb to its highest point. On the way up, you will encounter different volcanic formations, including spatter and tuff cones, lava flows, and lava tubes. From the summit, you will have a wonderful view of Sullivan Bay. Bartolome's fauna and flora include sea lions, reef sharks, rays, colorful reef fish, and pioneer plants and lava cactus. Difficulty Level: Moderate, with a slow to moderately-paced walk up 375 low-grade stairs to the top of the volcano.

    For those not interested in hiking, there is the option of a panga ride.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Isabela/Punta Albemarle/Tagus Cove
    Look for whales, including orcas, in the deep waters off Isabela

    Punta Albemarle (either a wet or dry landing, depending on locale) is located on Isabela Island's remote northern tip. After a long period of being closed to visitors, it is now open again but only for a handful of cruise yachts, including ours. Punta Albemarle was used as a radar base by the U.S. during World War II. The waters in this region are very rich in nutrients, allowing us an excellent chance to see whales, nesting cormorants, and the largest marine iguanas in the entire archipelago. You may also enjoy kayaking or a panga ride while here. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Head back on board for lunch, then head to Tagus Cove (dry landing), used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers, and whalers. Here you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted in an ancient sort of graffiti on the high ridges (a practice now forbidden). You may choose to kayak, take a panga ride, or go on a hike up a trail up through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Volcan Darwin. At the top of the trail, you will enjoy an incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake.

    If you took the hike, you'll still have opportunities for kayaking or a panga ride afterward, both of which provide an opportunity to see a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on cliff ledges, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns, and swallow-tailed gulls. Afterward, we set sail for Fernandina Island, exploring channel between Isabela and Fernandina along the way, where we sometimes encounter dolphins and whales. Difficulty level: Easy to Difficult (panga ride is easy, hike up to lake can be strenuous for some).

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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  • Day 6: Fernandina/Punta Espinosa & Vicente Roca
    Visit young, pristine Fernandina, and see colonnizing plants, including lava cactus

    Fernandina Island (dry landing with hiking, snorkeling) is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the entire world and also one of the most dynamic. La Cumbre Volcano last erupted in April 2009, and also dominates the landscape, with lava fields stretching toward the ocean from its base. Punta Espinoza is a narrow piece of land where some of the most unique Galapagos species can be seen, including the flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, and the Galapagos hawk. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Following lunch on the boat, visit Punta Vicente Roca for its wonderful deep water snorkeling, where you can usually see turtles as well as all kinds of fish. For those who do not wish to snorkel, a panga ride allows excellent, close-up study of some of the Galapagos' spectacular geological rock formations. Nazca boobies, pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and Galapagos penguins are seen in the area. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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  • Day 7: Santiago/Puerto Egas/Espumilla Beach
    Capture shots of coastal birds on a panga ride

    Puerto Egas (wet landing) is located on the northwest side of Santiago Island. The landing is on a black beach with eroded rock formations in the background. The trail crosses the dry interior, where the remains of a salt mining enterprise can still be seen, and then continues along the coast, where tidal pools are home to a variety of invertebrate organisms, including sea urchins, octopus, and starfish. You will also see marine iguanas, finches, oyster catchers, and possibly the Galapagos hawk. The trail leads to the fur seal grottos, one of the only places in the islands where these unique and elusive animals (which are actually a type of sea lion) can be seen.

    After the walk, you will have time to swim or snorkel off the beach, where you will see sea lions, fish, and maybe some turtles, rays, and reef sharks. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    After lunch on board, head to Espumilla Beach (wet landing) the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay. The main attractions here are a Palo Santo forest, the lovely beach, and the overall landscape. The Palo Santo forest here has some of the tallest specimens of the species in the entire archipelago. Also keep an eye out for the Galapagos hawk as well as Darwin's finches. The beach is an important site for nesting marine turtles. Difficulty level: Easy.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Santa Cruz/Darwin Station/Highlands
    See tortoises at Charles Darwin Research Station

    After breakfast, head by panga to the town of Puerto Ayora where, after a dry landing at the city docks, you'll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you will gain insight into the massive efforts being made by scientists, guides, rangers, and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will see the famous Galapagos tortoises that are the islands' namesake.   Afterward, travel by bus to to the green highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will visit a tortoise reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Return to the ship in the early afternoon for lunch and various afternoon activities.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    M/C Athala (or similar)
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  • Day 9: Genovesa Island/Darwin Bay Beach
    Genovesa (Tower) Island is home to millions of birds, including this red-footed booby

    Genovesa, or Tower, Island is the northernmost island one can visit on a naturalist (non-diving) cruise. This island is extremely remote and home to literally millions of birds belonging to many different species, including the red-footed booby as well as frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, and even endemic owls.

    Our first stop, a dry landing at El Barranco, also known as Prince Phillip's Steps, is a steep path with stairs carved into the rock leading to a plateau full of bird life in a Palo Santo forest. You will see Nazca boobies, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds, and petrels. With some luck, you may spot a short-eared lava owl. Around mid-morning, consider some kayaking or a panga ride along the shore. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    After lunch on board, head to Darwin Bay Beach (wet landing), whose soft, coralline white sand is merely the beginning of a spectacular excursion. A trail from the beach takes you into lush mangroves where red-footed boobies nest. Other locals include sea lions, swallow-tail gulls, frigatebirds, and more. After the walk, you'll have some beach time. Snorkeling here is a must here as sharks, colorful reef fish, rays, and tortoises are common. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: North Seymour Island/Quito or Guayaquil
    Leave the M/C Athala, your home for the week, and head for the mainland

    An early-morning hike on North Seymour Island may very well be the perfect way to say goodbye to the Galapagos. Although the island is characterized by arid vegetation, fauna abounds and you will soon find yourself surrounded by sea lions, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigatebirds, and more. With some luck, you may even see land iguanas as well. Difficulty level: Moderate.

    Return to the ship for breakfast, then around mid-morning, head to the airport for your midday flight back to Quito or Guayaquil, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel with the rest of your day at leisure.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Show on a map
  • Day 11: Quito or Guayaquil/Onward
    Bid farewell to Ecuador

    You will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Show on a map
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Thursday weekly departures (cruise departs on Saturday). Call for dates.
Land Cost:
$4,950
- $5,400
Costs are for cruise only See above for full details
Single Supplement:
$2475
No single supplement if willing to share. Otherwise, single supplement 50% of the cabin cost.
Need to Know

Need to Know

About the Ship

The M/C Athala

For those looking for a Galapagos adventure cruise in style, the 16-passenger Athala II provides a cozy small yacht atmosphere, comfortable accommodations, personalized service, a dedicated cruise director, and more.

This Motor Catamaran was specifically designed and built to cruise the Islands providing comfort and excellent stability for those looking for a Galapagos adventure cruise in style.

Capacity: 16 passengers
Length: 98 feet / 30 mts
Draft: 4.6 feet / 1.40 mts
Gross tonnage: 320 tons
Cruising Speed: 12 knots
Crew: 10 + 1 naturalist bilingual guide

Cruise Costs:
Prices are per person, for 8-day Cruise only.
Please see below for additional costs.

2014 Rates*:

Upper deck cabin:  $5,200 per person, double occupancy
Main deck cabin with balcony: $5,400 per person, double occupancy
Single supplement is assessed as follows: 1.5 x the twin rate

*Note:
Children 7 years and older are welcome
Children under 12 sharing a cabin with an adult will receive a 25% discount on cruise (only 1 discount per cabin) except on Easter, Christmas and New Years cruises
Children booked in double cabin for a single use pay the adult rate

Additional costs:
$110 National Park entry fee & tourist card

$580 Quito/Galapagos/Quito airfare

Hotel packages: hotel 3 nights, transfers & city tour or hotel 2 nights and transfers; inquire for costs

International airfare estimate: $900-$1300

Fuel Surcharge may apply

2014 Fuel Surcharge is $200 per person

Duration:
11 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
3
Luxury motor catamaran, comfortable hotels
Group Size:
16
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
Luxury motor catamaran, comfortable hotels
Terms & Conditions: 

Galapagos Cruise

Please note that this trip operates under different payment and cancellation policies than those described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, English speaking guides, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation & check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), park or site entry fees, transit card, international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, fuel surcharges, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in JOURNEYS Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: For reservations requiring 1-2 cabins, a deposit of 30% of the cabin cost is due per person. Balance is due 90 days prior to departure. For reservations requiring 3 or more cabins, a deposit of 30% of the cabin cost is due per person. A second deposit of 30% of the cabin cost is due per person 180 days prior to departure and final payment for is due 90 days prior to departure. All payments are NON-REFUNDABLE. All payments are subject to cancellation if payments are not received by the due dates. Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. All payments may be made by Visa, Master Card, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted by fax, mail or via our website.  *HOLIDAY departures require an increased deposit of 40% from the regular terms and conditions.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Airfares: JOURNEYS can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Amazon Rainforest Lodge

Duration: 4 days

Explore the rainforest habitats accompanied by native guides while staying at a charming lodge, designed to offer comfort while preserving the environment and ambiance of the rainforest.

Otavalo Off the Beaten Path

Duration: 3 days

This in-depth exploration of the scenic area north of Quito, including a trip to the famous Otavalo market, as well as visits to some of the smaller towns known for a variety of crafts.

Machu Picchu

Duration: 6 days

This short trip to Machu Picchu can be easily combined with your trip to the Amazon, Ecuador, or the Galapagos. Many major South American cities have daily flights to and from Lima.

Quito Colonial City and the Equator

Duration: 1 days

Enjoy a day exploring the city of Quito before or after your Journeys trip.

Avenue of the Volcanoes

Duration: 3 days

In three days, you can visit some of the most important sites in Ecuador. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, and Tungurahua has been erupting since 2001. The route is full of cultural, ethnic, and architectural attractions, along wi... read more

Guayaquil City & Optional Tours

Duration: 1 days

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city, and with its low elevation and coastal location, it is an ideal point to fly to and from Galapagos. Options include a tour of the city and the Botanical Gardens or the new Historical Park.

Cloud Forest

Duration: 1 days

Escape to a cloud forest paradise. Bellavista is a perfect day trip to see the subtropical rainforest during your stay in Quito. Why spend a spare day in the city when you could be hiking in a forest reserve, or relaxing in a hammock admiring the hum... read more

Otavalo Market

Duration: 1 days

Otavalo market is the oldest, best-known, and most important Indian market in South America, and it takes place every Saturday.  This extension allows you to visit the market, traveling from Quito via Calderón and Cayambe, and passing by some of th... read more

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