Unbelievable two week tour starting off with the very best of the Galapagos including giant tortoises, tropicbirds, nesting frigatebirds, boobies, penguins, crabs, iguanas and snorkelling with playful sea lions and turtles on board our luxury private cruise ship. Next, a canoe trip into the Amazon to the renowned Sacha Lodge to photograph monkeys, toucans, macaw parrots, frogs, caimans and more. We then finish with two exclusive lodges overlooking the primary cloud-forest of the Andes, buzzing with dozens of hummingbird species and other wildlife. Improve your photography with professional help and the best local naturalist guides on this unforgettable experience!
Cost: $12,495 USD per guest (max 12), twin share, 2 weeks.
Includes all meals, accommodation, domestic flights, transfers & tips. Hosts: Jonathan Ives & Kate Carragher
Galapagos Islands, Amazon Jungle & San Jorge Hummingbird Tour Highlights:
- The giants of the Galapagos - the ancient tortoises - migrating up to the highlands to breed.
- 5 nights onboard our super-luxury, private cruise ship, the Galapagos Odyssey, complete with Jacuzzi and decks of sunbeds.
- 3 nights in the luxurious Sacha lodge, nestled in the Amazon rainforest.
- Canoe trips into the world-famous Amazon Basin - photographing monkeys, caimans and parrots (even macaws) coming down to a clay-lick!
- Snorkeling with playful sea lions and huge sea turtles.
- Walk among huge, courting Albatross, colourful marine iguanas and boobies on Española Island
- Photograph dozens of species of hummingbirds in flight around your lodge in the Andes Cloud Forest.
- Night walks in the Amazon rainforest to photograph frogs, tarantulas and giant insects.
- Walking above the Amazon rainforest canopy looking for toucans, sloths and more, on a towering sky-bridge.
- Photographing blue-footed boobies and nesting frigatebirds, puffing out their brilliant red throat pouches.
- Photographing Hummingbirds at San Jorge’s Cloud Forest & upper tropical rainforest private reserves
Day 1 - Arrival in Quito
Our Galapagos, Amazon and Hummingbird tour starts in the evening when we meet at the Le Parc Hotel in Quito for welcome drinks (on us) and a quick photography crash course. We’ll eat together at the hotel restaurant, enjoying some fine Ecuadorian cuisine before retiring in preparation for tomorrow’s Galapagos adventure to begin. Don’t forget to set your camera batteries on charge and format your memory cards!
Day 2 - Quito to San Cristóbal:
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, we’ll be transferred to Quito airport in Ecuador where we’ll board our flight to Galapagos - landing at San Cristobal - the point of entry into the amazing Galapagos Archipelago! We’ll be welcomed on board our luxurious motor vessel for the week, the ‘Galapagos Odyssey’, for a delicious lunch and once we have made ourselves at home, we’ll head out to Junco Lake on San Cristobal. Here we’ll spot Darwin’s finches and other endemic fauna like the San Cristobal Mockingbird and Yellow Warblers as we wander a wooded trail, and hopefully have the opportunity to photograph frigate birds as they drink from the lake on the wing! We’ll help you set up a ‘Bird Mode’ on your custom settings so you can capture these magnificent birds in flight. With full memory cards we’ll head back to our luxury ship for welcome drinks and an amazing dinner before our captain motors through the night so we awake at our next location!
Day 3 - Española Island:
Today we’ll explore Española Island, considered one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Hopping into our zodiaks, we’ll disembark at Punta Suarez, a rocky part of the island known for being one of the most impressive and varied colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos. With marine iguanas sneezing out salt, and baby sealions playing on the sand, there is so much to photograph! Making our way along the tracks, we will photograph the masked and blue-footed boobies, Galapagos doves, red-billed tropicbirds, mocking birds, swallowed-tailed gulls and most important, the critically endangered waved albatross as they greet their life partners with incredible courtship displays. This island also has its own species of animals such as the Española mockingbird, which has a longer and more curved beak than the one of the central islands and the Española lava lizard. High cliffs rise from the sea giving us spectacular views of soaring sea birds in flight, and the impressive blow hole.
Welcomed back on board with freshly cooked snacks by our on board chef, we’ll have some time to download our shots before another amazing three course lunch on board. Our snorkel this afternoon is from the zodiak, in a cove where we can swim and play with sealions! Make sure you bring your GoPro or underwater camera! After a warming hot chocolate back on board, we’ll head to Gardener Bay, a beautiful white beach where we can get up close and personal with even more sealions as they play on the clean white sand.
Day 4 - Floreana Island:
Our day begins with an early buffet breakie before hopping in the zodiaks and landing on shore at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island, an island formed by volcanic eruption. This location is known for its Flamingo Lagoon, one of the largest and best in the Galapagos Islands. The lagoon is also home to various species of shorebirds such as stilts, white-checked pintail ducks and a variety of migratory birds. Keep an eye out for blue footed boobies too! The ‘Green Beach’ is also extraordinary, coloured by its large percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, a contrast from ‘Flour Sand Beach’ which is made up of coral fragments. After snacks back on board, we’ll suit up for another snorkel, this time around a small volcanic island before warming back up in our hot tub on the top deck and then drying off for another gourmet lunch. This afternoon we’ll explore the highlands of Floreana, spotting the medium tree finch and photographing the black beach before another amazing snorkelling experience, this time up close and personal with graceful sea turtles at Post Office Bay. As the sun starts to set, we’ll hop back in the zodiaks and try to spot the Galapagos penguin as it returns home for the evening. We’ll then do the same, relaxing with drinks and a 3 course dinner on board Galapagos Odyssey’s expansive outdoor entertaining area.
Day 5 - Santa Fe:
Onwards to Santa Fe, a mostly flat island due to its formation by uplift rather than volcanic eruption and possibly the oldest island in the Archipelago. It’s also home to a number of endemic species including the Galapagos Hawk and the two species of land iguana found in the Galapagos. We’ll disembark on the island and get the chance to photograph one of the many sea lion colonies present and the land iguanas, before hopping into kayaks to play with sea lions just off the beach. After another incredible 3 course lunch we’ll explore Plazas, located to the east of Santa Cruz Island and forming part of the two-island group known as Islas Plazas.
Despite its small size, Plazas is home to some of the most outstanding species of the region. The many land iguanas here are smaller than their relatives found elsewhere and several hybrids can also be found - a cross between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana. Frigate birds, Brown Pelicans, Tropicbirds and Shearwaters nest in the cliffs and always provide great photo opportunities as they soar along the cliffs.
Day 6 - North Seymour:
Today we get the chance to discover the magic of two amazing islands – North Seymour Island and Santa Cruz Island. North Seymour is another uplifted island, which is again flatter than the volcanic islands around, and is known for its large nesting populations of Frigatebirds. The magnificent Frigatebird is known as the ‘pirate of the skies’ because of its famous technique of harassing other birds returning from a day’s fishing until they drop their catch in mid-air, whereupon the frigatebird skilfully swoops in and grabs the free meal before it even hits the water! Some will be flying right close to us putting on aerobic displays (which will be a photographic challenge!), and others will be collecting sticks for their nests. The real beauty of these birds is captured when the males puff out their brilliant red throat pouches to impress potential mates. They’ll be nesting there right in front of us, rattling their bills, and posing for the perfect shot! The island is also home to nesting Blue-footed boobies, so watch where you walk - they are likely standing right next to you! Before lunch we’ll suit up for one final snorkel along the cliff that plunges deep into the water, spotting turtles and (if we’re lucky) maybe even reef sharks! Later this afternoon we’ll venture inland to a national park famous for its giant tortoises, photographing them in the warm afternoon lighting before exploring lava tunnels and two incredible sink holes. We’ll celebrate with a final gournet dinner tonight, toasting what has been an amazing time in the Galapagos islands!
Day 7 - Galapagos - Quito:
After one last buffet breakfast, we have the opportunity to hop ashore one final time to photograph inquisitive sealions, marine iguanas, Galapagos doves and whatever else we can spot on the small island known as Mosquera before we farewell ‘Galapagos Odyssey’ and its amazing crew, our home away from home for the past 5 nights.
Once back at Baltra Airport it’s time for a change of address! We’ll begin our journey back to the mainland to experience the second half of the tour! Our 2-hour flight will land in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where our private bus will transport us to our charming accommodation at the San Jorge Eco-Lodge. Here we will try and capture our first hummingbird in flight photos as they flitter around, buzzing from feeder to feeder. Try not to get too carried away with the amazing birdlife, as this is only a rest-stop - tomorrow we’ll be heading to the incredible Amazon Basin! Dinner will be served at the lodge’s Ecuadorian restaurant, ‘El Cucayco’, overlooking the Quito valley.
Day 8 - Amazon:
After a 30 min flight over the Andes Mountains to Coca, we’ll be landing in the world-famous Amazon Basin - the place of legends and a location on every photographer’s (and adventurer’s) bucket-list. The lodge staff will meet us at the airport, and after a quick bite to eat in Coca, we’ll climb aboard our private motorised canoe to ride 2 hours through the mighty Amazon to the world-renowned Sacha Eco-Lodge. Keep your cameras handy as it’s possible to spot any number of bird species including terns, plovers, blackbirds, swallows, martins and herons once we’ve stopped. After a 30 min walk through the rainforest to Lake Pilchicocha (keep an eye out for monkeys and birds on the way), more staff will meet us and paddle us across to Sacha Lodge. This afternoon our guides will take us on a private canoe tour around the lake, spotting an amazing variety of colourful birds, before we make our way to the restaurant and watch the sunset over the water, pinching ourselves when we realise that tomorrow we’ll be exploring the Amazon rainforest!
Day 9 - Amazon:
You’ll come to realise that most of the activity in the Amazon happens early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Between the hours of 11am and 3pm is known as “dead time” where animal activity and sightings dwindle as do our comfort levels in the hot and humid climate. Consequently, we’ll begin our days here early to make the most of them! After an early buffet breakfast we’ll be heading for the 36m high and 275m long suspended ‘Canopy walkway’ for spectacular views of the rainforest and to spot the many different bird species. When the day heats up we’ll return to the lodge for a refreshing dip in the lake, or a relaxing nap in your personal hammock on your private balcony. The afternoon will see us head out on a silent canoe ride through the flooded Amazonia forest, where we’ll have a good chance of seeing squirrel, capuchin and howler monkeys - all the while keeping our eyes peeled for the shy and elusive river otter and the very well camouflaged three-toed sloth! After our canoe ride we’ll arrive at Sacha’s 135-foot wooden tower built around an ancient Kapok tree which we can climb and watch the sunset with an amazing view of the volcano, Mount Sumaco, and off to the distant snow covered peaks of the Andes! Leaving the tower after sunset, we’ll hop back in our canoes and slip silently back through the flooded forest at night, surrounded by the sounds of frogs, bats and other night-life - an unforgettable experience in itself - arriving back at the lodge in time for dinner. After dinner we’ll hop back into the canoes for a night paddle around the lake, spotting caiman with our head torches. Keep an eye out for that characteristic eyeshine!
Day 11 - Amazon - Quito:
You guessed it, another early departure this morning as we head back to our canoes for the two-hour ride back to the airport for our flight back to Quito. Once arrived, we’ll board our private transfer to another San Jorge Eco-Lodge, this time the De Tandayapa Hummingbird Sanctuary, for the next part of the tour (and our personal favourite) - Hummingbirds in the cloud forests of the Andes! Arriving late in the afternoon, we’ll enjoy welcome drinks and authentic Ecuadorian quisine before charging our cameras in preparation for hummingbirds in the morning!
Day 10: Amazon
Another early start today for a full-day trip. A short canoe trip down the Napo River takes us to a Parrot lick - an exposed clay riverbank where brightly coloured parrots of several different species gather in the early morning. In ideal conditions (dry & sunny) hundreds of parrots will perch and eat the exposed clay in a spectacular show of sound and colour. Once done there, we'll head inland for a short walk to an inland clay lick where the huge Macaw parrots like to visit! We'll head back to the lodge in time for our last dinner in the Amazon rainforest.
Day 12 - Hummingbirds:
The San Jorge De Tandayapa Hummingbird Sanctuary is a 150-acre property on the edge of the pristine cloud forest in the foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range. This property boasts the world record for the most hummingbird species recorded in one year (43 species!)! There are a number of well-kept walking trails that snake along the side of the Tandayapa Valley through the ancient forest, and we’ll be guided by local naturalists to help us spot and identify the different bird species as well as other flora and fauna. For the less adventurous in the group, you’re welcome to stay at the open-air Hummingbird Restaurant that is surrounded by super active hummingbird and tanager feeders. This spot provides superb photography opportunities to catch the hummingbirds hovering at the feeders (just out of shot), or sitting on a branch with their iridescent feathers reflecting in the sunshine and we’ll all fill some memory cards here for sure! It’s just magical and you won’t want to leave, I assure you. Leave we must though, as it just gets better. After lunch at the restaurant, we drive onwards to the San Jorge de Milpe Orchid & Bird Reserve in the Upper Tropical Rainforest, where we’ll be basing ourselves for the next two nights. After arriving late in the afternoon some of you may want to relax and unwind in your spacious bamboo suite, with two hammocks on the balcony commanding magnificent views over the pristine rainforest Milpe is known for. For those of you who can’t get enough of photographing the beautifully bright birds, you can make your way to the main dining area - a three-story bamboo complex with a classy restaurant on the first floor, bar on the second and a 50ft observation deck above the treetops on the third. From here you’ll be able to set yourself up and photograph a huge variety of birds that might include parakeets, toucans, woodpeckers, barbets & tanegers. After dinner tonight we’ll be taken on a guided night walk to see if we can spot the Crested or Mottled Owl, and hopefully some of the amazing nocturnal mammals that frequent the area like the Tayra.
Day 13 - Hummingbirds:
San Jorge de Milpe Reserve has over 450 species of birds, as well as wild orchids, butterflies, moths, plants, reptiles and mammals - the photographic opportunities here are endless. So you’ll be so pleased to know we’ve planned to stay a full day here. After breakfast and photographing hummingbirds hovering around flowers and feeders for the perfect shot, we’ll be taken on a walk through the rainforest. Don’t forget your macro and wide-angle lens for this walk! The rainforest is simply stunning, sprouting lush green ferns, mosses, intricately patterned orchids and towering old trees. Depending how many things we photograph on the way, we may even make it to one of the 11 waterfalls on the reserve. While our chances are probably negligible, the guide has had an amazing experience with a black panther (black puma) here, so always keep looking. We’ll have lunch overlooking an incredible valley vista before another afternoon walk through the forest. Keep an eye out for elusive toucans! Again, for the less adventurous in the group there’s always plenty of activity at the bird feeders in the restaurant where you’ll be welcome all day, or feel free to wander the local jungle paths yourself.
Day 14 - Hummingbirds:
Ok guys, you deserve a bit of a break, so we’ll let you sleep in for a leisurely start. Enjoy the tranquillity of the rainforest this morning, sit by the bird feeders outside the restaurant one last time, or revisit one of the walks we did yesterday. We won’t be leaving Milpe until after lunch so you can be as active or as sloth-like as you wish! We’ll be transiting back to the San Jorge Eco-Lodge and Botanical Reserve in the outskirts of Quito tonight where we’ll have one last celebratory dinner to celebrate all the remarkable things we have seen, from giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, the amazing Amazon jungle and just this morning, Hummingbirds in the cloud forest of the Andes. It’s been an absolutely amazing program, and I bet you’ll have to keep looking back at the photos again and again to prove to yourself that it was real!
Day 15 - Quito:
That’s it folks! After a final breakfast this morning, today we’ll be offering transfers to Quito Airport, from where you can jet back to the reality of your busy lives back home, attend to that flood of emails building up in our inbox and get ready to return to work. Make sure to print some of your best shots for your wall so you can remember, forever, two of the most exciting weeks of your life!!!
Link to website:
Chris Bray Photography offers photography tours around the world and have just developed an eco-lodge on Christmas Island, Australia. Nestled in the jungle in the Christmas Island National Park, surrounded by wildlife and overlooking the ever-changing ocean, Swell Lodge is a single, glass-fronted, solar-powered, luxury eco-chalet offering all-inclusive stays with daily guided activities and even a private chef. Swell Lodge is like nothing else on Earth, and with currently only one eco-chalet on this whole wild coastline, it's the world's most exclusive eco-lodge and the ultimate escape.