Darwin’s Islands

Darwin’s Islands is an unforgettable Art Safari painting holiday to the Galapagos Islands.  This barefoot painting expedition includes an 8-day cruise around the archipelago, including Isabela,... Read more

£6880 pp sharing excl. flights
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02 Jul - 15 Jul 2021

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Quito, Galapagos Islands

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Paint sea lions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, frigate birds and boobies

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Mary-Anne Bartlett

Sketch and paint the weird and wonderful creatures of this truly remarkable ecosystem, in some of the planet’s most important marine reserves. Enjoy guided sketching walks and incredible snorkelling expeditions with your art tutor.

Darwin’s Islands is an unforgettable Art Safari painting holiday to the Galapagos Islands.  This barefoot painting expedition includes an 8-day cruise around the archipelago, including Isabela, Santiago, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.  Expect to see volcanoes, giant tortoises, untouched coastlines, amazing sea life and extraordinary birds and reptiles on land. Sketching and painting here is all round fun as well as an exciting exploration in wildlife, history and geology.

Charles Darwin took this voyage aboard the HMS Beagle in 1831, and it shaped his theories of evolution through natural selection.  We see and sketch many of the species Darwin studied on these rugged and beautiful islands.  We also learn much about contemporary conservation and how the islanders live alongside fantastical creatures.

Our artistic adventure starts in Quito where we rest for one night in a lovely Spanish style hotel with humming birds flitting in the garden.  The next day we fly to Puerto Ayora to spend three nights on the Island of Santa Cruz, staying on the pretty waterfront with wonderful views.  From the hotel decking we can sketch iguana, turtles and sea lions as they bask or glide past in crystal-clear water.

During our days on land we ease into the sunny island rhythm of the Galapagos, sketching and painting local wildlife on the shores and at the Puerto Ayora fish market.  The small market is usually a hive of activity, ladies work at the counter cutting up huge fish surrounded by cool boxes and patiently queuing pelicans and sea lions waiting to be tossed scraps.  Men weigh piles of lobsters, and sky pirate frigate birds occasionally swoop in.

After exploring Santa Cruz with our paints and relaxing, we board our private charter luxury motor yacht the Coral II, shared with photographers and nature people from a company we work closely with in the UK.  The Coral II is a super comfortable boat, small enough to anchor close to shore in interesting places, and with spacious cabins for us all.

Our Captain and friendly crew of 10 look after us and make each day special, and two English-speaking naturalist guides accompany all our shore excursions.

Galapagos cruise itinerary at a glance:

Day 1     Baltra Island & Santa Cruz Island

Day 2     Isobela Island

Day 3     Santiago Island

Day 4     Santa Cruz Island

Day 5     Santa Cruz Island

Day 6     Mosquera Islet and North Seymour Island

Day 7     Santa Fe Island & South Plaza Island

Day 8    San Cristobal Island

(Please note, the itinerary is subject to change considering weather conditions or other circumstances.)

Mary-Anne will take you through field sketching techniques and exercises for island excursions.  Thanks to the strict conservation regulations Galapagos wildlife is not disturbed by human visitors, allowing us to study shapes, textures, colours and behaviour of wildlife at close quarters.  Colourful red and yellow land iguanas and frigate birds will exercise our colour pallets.

We visit the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz and explore North Seymour Island, painting blue-footed boobies, colonies of magnificent frigate birds, fork-tailed seagulls, marine iguanas and sea lions.  Beautiful scenery comes into focus as we approach our landfalls.  Coral formations, multi-coloured fish and turtles make for dazzling underwater scenery.  The crew will find safe places for swimming and snorkelling with playful Galapagos sealions, and glimmering shoals of parrot and butterfly fish, it is magical to watch turtles grazing on the ocean floor.  In 2018 we took ‘turtle boards’ to the Galapagos (1750 gsm board made especially by Two Rivers Paper); and sketched underwater with our snorkels.  Ask us for details for this tour!

At the end of our cruise, we say a reluctant farewell to the Coral II and return to the Ecuadorian mainland for a night in Quito before our flights home – or you might like to join Mary-Anne for a tour extension in the Cloud Forest a few hours from Quito.

On our last morning we can have a leisurely breakfast and spend time exploring the old quarters of Quito. In the Plaza Grande, the historic heart of the city, Ecuadorian elders gather to chat in the leafy shade and hawkers weave through the crowds with panama hats, colourful ice cream and trays of fruit.  There excellent museums to visit, as well as ornate churches and beautiful squares.  And if you have any space in your suitcase you may wish to do a little shopping – we found gorgeous alpaca woollen goodies last visit, not to mention Ecuadorian chocolate!

The Coral II

With sunbathing and shaded areas, our boat is ideal for painting onboard between our adventures on land.  There’s an observatory, a lounge with panoramic windows and comfy sofas, restaurant and bar serving delicious cocktails (ask the friendly barman for a ‘sea sour’!), a library and a jacuzzi which is lovely to relax in with a drink after snorkelling.

The Coral II has capacity for 18 guests in 9 cabins with portholes or windows, plenty of storage, air conditioning and private bathrooms with a hairdryer.

Shore excursions, and some snorkelling excursions are via RIB (rigid inflatable boat) tenders.  There’s a boarding platform at the stern of the yacht for easy access (or sunbed for the occasional sealion!).  Landings vary according to the tide/wind/waves and are a combination of wet (stepping into the water) and dry, the crew and our guides are brilliantly attentive and always assist us.

The Coral II carries snorkelling equipment for guests to use, with a selection of wetsuits, scuba gear and sea kayaks available to hire.

The boat’s chef and team in the galley produce delicious cuisine which is presented buffet style, with Ecuadorian and vegetarian options.  Some evenings we enjoy BBQ’s served on the moon deck at sunset.  A tea/coffee, naughty snack station and drinking water are available 24 hours a day.

The on-board Library is stocked with books about flora, fauna and Galapagos history.

After our supper every evening our nature guides discuss the following day with pre-supper briefings; to include wildlife and conservation, landing, terrain and hikes with short films to prepare us.

Would you like to spend longer in South America? 

Mary-Anne is taking some of the group up to the Rain Forest for three nights in a small eco lodge, hoping to find a mass of wildlife she has never seen before, including many humming birds.  Please ask us if you would like to join her.

Other suggestions for some extra nights could include, 3 nights/4 days at an Amazon Lodge (reached by 30-minute flight from Quito, and 2-hour motorized canoe trip).  The indigenous market at Otavalo is an interesting day trip from Quito with a private guide.  Another idea is to spend time in Peru and visit Machu Picchu.

Ask us for more details!


Day 1Arrive Quito
Days 2-4Fly to Puerto Ayora, Galapagos
Days 2-4Isla Santa Cruz
Days 5-118-day cruise aboard Coral II
Day 12Fly to Quito
Day 13Depart Quito
Ask for full itinerary
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From £6880 per person sharing excluding all flights.

Supplement for main and upper deck cabins: £150 per person.

Single guest in non-share accommodation on the boat on request.


The joining point for this Art Safari is Quito Airport.

Group flights are with KLM from London-Heathrow to Quito  via Amsterdam.  Please allow approx. £140 for an overnight in Amsterdam, which is not included.

We are happy to arrange your flights for you but offer you the option of sourcing them yourself.

All land transfers, accommodation, meals as stated on the itinerary, excursions, Galapagos Ingala card, art tuition and safari guiding.

International flights London/ Quito/ Galapagos/ Quito, Visas if required, Galapagos Entrance fee of USD120pp to be paid in cash on arrival, lunches for land-based days, first night and last supper in Quito, travel insurance, drinks and gratuities, items of personal nature.

Enquire now on 01394 382235 or info@artsafari.co.uk

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