Renowned expedition teams & a National Geographic alliance
The quality of their veteran staff is the reason the Lindblad name is known and respected for top-quality expeditions. And, since 2004 when Sven Lindblad forged an unprecedented alliance with National Geographic, their guests have enjoyed an unparalleled opportunity: to travel with the finest expedition teams in the travel industry, plus National Geographic expedition explorers, photographers, writers, scientists, and other experts in diverse fields. There simply is no better team anywhere, and no other experience comparable to the quality of insight, engagement and sheer good times our expeditions offer.
Thanks to their alliance, we were able to take a National Geographic cruise on a fleet of ships to the planet’s most extraordinary places in the company of world-renowned scientists, naturalists, and researchers, and explore stunning natural environments alongside skilled specialists using state-of-the-art exploration tools.
Our itinerary & experience made the most of our time & curiosity
Each week of exploring was crafted to offer a panoramic experience of the archipelago. Within hours of traveling to the Galápagos Islands, we experience an abundance of wildlife. And each day delivered a new island to discover and explore. And while flexibility is a hallmark of the expedition style, the following is a representative sample of the islands we visited during our week on board.
- Bartolomé – This is an enchanting landscape where lava, mangroves and golden sand converge. Great walks and views abound, with a chance to snorkel with Galápagos penguins.
- Santiago – Santiago offers close encounters with Galápagos fur seals along with an opportunity to study the inhabitants of the island’s countless tide pools.
- Santa Cruz – Home to the Charles Darwin Research station; learn about the science done here and visit the neighboring captive breeding program for endangered species of Galápagos giant tortoises, run by their partners in conservation, the Galápagos National Park Service
- Isabela – A small black sand beach offers wonderful morning swimming. Enjoy a more challenging hike over the rugged shoreline and a shorter walk within an iguana colony. Kayaking and deep water snorkeling opportunities are on offer.
- Fernandina This is the youngest island in the Galápagos and one of the most pristine tropical islands left on earth. Look forward to hikes over relatively recent lava flows, and spot marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
- Floreana – Snorkel among sea lions in the clear waters off Champion Islet. We may also find flamingos, pintail ducks, and various shorebirds. Hike to a pristine white-sand beach, a favorite nesting site for sea turtles.
- Española – The exclusive home to waved albatross (seasonal) and particularly colorful marine iguanas, Española is also a paradise for Darwin’s finches, sea lions galore, and the famous blue-footed boobies. Snorkel and stroll along the island’s lovely beaches.
Ship Overview: Our moving basecamp for exploring the islands
Purpose-built in 2005 for expedition cruising in the waters of Tierra del Fuego, the National Geographic Endeavour II underwent a major refit for Galápagos service in 2016 with an all-new forward lounge, library, gym & spa along with new fixtures and furniture in cabins, new suites and other amenities throughout. Sophisticated and energy efficient lighting, air-conditioning, water-making and other technical features were also installed or replaced for year-round operation in equatorial waters. The ship, which previously carried 136 passengers, accommodates 96 guests in 52 thoughtfully appointed cabins. She is exceptionally nimble and maneuverable, with a shallow draft to get up close, great viewing from all public spaces, an expansive open-air observation deck, large windows in cabins and suites, and state-of-the-art tools for exploration. National Geographic Endeavour II replaced the much loved National Geographic Endeavour in December 2016.
Galápagos with the luxury of choice
Accommodating 96 guests in 52 cabins and suites, National Geographic Endeavour II caters to a sociable mix of families, friends, couples and solo travelers. The Galápagos cruise ship offers the choice of suites on two decks, double cabins with beds that can be configured as two twins or a queen, seven sets of connecting cabins for families and friends, triple cabins, and dedicated solo cabins, which are equal in size and amenities to the doubles. All have a large window or windows.
Her dining room easily accommodates our entire expedition community for a single seating, and unassigned table settings make for a gregarious experience for solo travelers and groups. The brand new forward lounge features a redesigned presentation space that offers all aboard chance to participate in evening Recaps or special guest events. Life aboard is casual in every respect. There is no need for formal clothing, although you are welcome to bring casually festive attire for the fun of it. And you’ll find shipboard services like laundry make packing and traveling more convenient.
Equipped for active exploration Endeavour II is equipped with cool tools for exploration that help you experience the full range of wildness on a Galápagos island trip.
PERU EXTENSION: optional add-on
Lima/Cusco/Sacred Valley of the Inca
In the morning we board our flight over the Andes to Cusco. Upon arrival, drive through the fabled and fertile Urubamba Valley to Moray—a visually stunning Inca site known for its agricultural terraces. After lunch and an opportunity to experience a local market, check-in at Sol y Luna for two nights. This serene Relais & Chateaux hotel entices with individual adobe casitas set in a verdant garden.
Sacred Valley of the Inca
We spent the day exploring the archaeological sites and culture of the Sacred Valley in the company of National Geographic expert Peter Frost, who has lived and worked in Peru for decades. He (or occasionally a colleague, if he is in the field) joins us for a talk at the hotel and continues with us to Ollantaytambo, where massive stone walls stand sentry over a thriving Inca community. Lunch is nearby at a working, family-owned hacienda. Here we are also treated to a show of Peruvian Paso horses, and National Geographic grantee Nilda Callañaupa, founder of El Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco, joins us to demonstrate Inca weaving traditions. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.
Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu
Marvel at the tropical Andean scenery and life along the river from panoramic windows on the train to Machu Picchu—the Inca royal retreat famously introduced to the world by Hiram Bingham in the April 1913 issue of National Geographic magazine. Set at less than 8,000 feet, the sanctuary is set in a tropical mountain forest with diverse birds and orchids. Check-in was at the historic 31-room Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, adjacent to the World Heritage site, with the leisure to explore over two days in the company of our hand-picked tour director and local guides. We linger after day-visitors are long gone. Lunch and dinner is at the Hotel’s private Tampu Restaurant.
Machu Picchu, where our options include an early hike to the Sun Gate, the ancient final checkpoint to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail. After lunch, return through the valley to Cusco, center of the Inca universe and a burgeoning Andean cultural capital. Check-in at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio for two nights in the ancient heart of Cusco. Like many colonial-era buildings, our hotel—founded as a monastery in 1592—stands atop a fountain in Inca-carved stone.
Explore the magnificently ornate 17th-century cathedral and Plaza de Armas, the sacred Inca Temple of the Sun and other treasures of Cusco this morning. Visit nearby Sacsayhuaman, where impressive terrace walls, some of the finest stonework we’ve seen yet, command views over the city. Relax, shop, or visit Cusco’s many churches and museums.
Return to vibrant, coastal Lima this morning, where on a tour we stroll the Plaza Mayor and delight in a private farewell lunch with a special musical presentation at Casa Aliaga—in the same family for 17 generations. After a visit to the extraordinary Larco Museum, dedicated to pre-Columbian art, check-in at Belmond Miraflores Park, set along a fashionable seaside promenade.
**Photos by Michael Nolan, David Vargas, Marco Ricca, and Stewart Cohen0