Day 1 – International flight to Quito
You will depart as a group and fly to Quito, Ecuador where your Tour Manager will welcome you. From the airport you will head to the historical center of Quito and settle into your hotel.
Optional: If you arrive with daylight to spare, you will visit the Panecillo Hill for a spectacular 360 degree view of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. Tonight you will have dinner at a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant, or take-out if you have a late arrival.
Note: If the group has a morning or early afternoon arrival to Quito, additional costs for meals, activities, transportation, etc. will be added to the cost of the program.
Day 2 – Equator Monument and Otavalo
After breakfast as a group, you will have an orientation meeting where you will talk about the journey ahead, safety, guidelines for cultural immersion as well as the educational objectives of the trip.
For your first adventure you will head to the equator! You will visit a huge solar clock at a place called Quitsato, home to an equator monument. You will also visit the Quitsato museum where you will learn about how early indigenous communities took advantage of astronomy to organize their culture. After the equator visit you will head to Otavalo, where the largest indigenous market in South America is located. Once in Otavalo you will have time to explore the market. You will find typical indigenous handcrafts such as hammocks, bags, ponchos and necklaces amongst other more modern souvenirs such as t-shirts and paintings. If time allows, you will visit the beautiful Cuicocha Lake before enjoying a traditional meal in the town of Cotacahi. Later, you will visit the leather market to do some more shopping and then head back to Quito in time for dinner. You will end the evening back at your hotel with time to reflect on the day’s activities.
Day 3 – Travel to the Galápagos Islands
In the morning you will take the bus to the airport as your journey to the Galápagos Islands begins. The flight takes approximately three hours (with a short layover), and upon arrival to Baltra Island, your local Galapagos Guide will greet you and accompany you on a boat across a small channel to Santa Cruz Island.
Note: Your mainland Program Leader will travel with you to the Galápagos Islands, and be with you throughout your time on the islands.
Once on Santa Cruz, you will board a bus that will take you to the small city of Puerto Ayora where you will be staying for the next few days. On the way, you will stop to see Los Gemelos, famous twin volcanic craters.
Upon arrival in Puerto Ayora, you will enjoy lunch and visit the Charles Darwin Center. Here you will learn about the Darwin Center’s work on the islands, and you will have the opportunity to visit the giant tortoise breeding center as well as some Galápagos land iguanas. Next, you will settle into your family run lodging, where you will have a warm welcome dinner. After dinner you will meet for reflection, and to discuss the exciting days ahead.
Days 4 - 5 – Santa Cruz Island Service Project
Over the next two days you will work on a much-needed service project on the island of Santa Cruz. On the first day you will meet in the morning to be briefed on the project. Possible environmental service projects may include organic agriculture, reforestation with endemic species and/or the removal of invasive species. Other projects may include teaching basic English to elementary school children or improvement of school infrastructure such as painting or the construction of playgrounds. All projects directly benefit the local community and are accompanied by comprehensive discussions about the importance and impact of your work and the local reality on the islands as it relates to these projects.
During your service days you will work four to five hours. In the afternoons, you will take breaks to visit nearby attractions such as a wild giant tortoise ranch, lava tunnels, coffee plantations and small beautiful beaches.
In the evenings, time permitting, you will join local community activities. Some of the activities may include sports with the community such as soccer or basketball, salsa dance and cooking lessons or simply walking around downtown. You will meet for your reflection at your lodging at a designated time during the day.
Day 6 – Santa Cruz Island Bahía Area and Tortuga Bay Beach
Today you will focus on the origin of the Galápagos Islands and the ecological reasons for local marine and land biodiversity.
This morning take a short boat trip to explore Camaño Islet, one of the best spots for snorkeling around Santa Cruz! The boat will also take you to a site where you will see large cracks in a rocky outcropping where sharks come to rest. Your visit will continue to Dog Beach, well known for its huge marine iguana population during certain months of the year. You will also visit the sea lion beach, a favorite place for the local sea lions to come mingle.
You will return to Puerto Ayora for lunch. In the afternoon you will explore Tortuga Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on the islands with white coral sand. Here you hope to see sea turtles (from which the beach got its name), sea lions, iguanas, blue-footed boobies and an amazing cactus forest.
Finally, you will return to your lodging to rest and have dinner. At night you will meet for your reflection before going to bed.
Day 7 – North Seymour Island
Today you will focus on general theories of the adaptation of species, as well as the impact of tourism on the local wildlife.
This morning you venture by boat to North Seymour Island. The trip will take approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. You will take an easy hike across the island while you watch frigate birds and blue-footed booby nests. You will also see finches, pelicans, tropical birds, an iguana colony and a sea lion colony. After a hearty box lunch, you will board your boat again heading to Bachas Beach to finish the day with some great snorkeling.
You will return to your lodging to rest and have dinner. At night, you will meet for your reflection time before going to bed.
After breakfast you will head to the airport on Baltra Island. Today you depart from the Galápagos Islands and return to Quito. You will enjoy a hearty box lunch before boarding your plane. Upon arrival you will visit a convent in old town that will be opened exclusively for us. At the convent you will opportunity to climb to a viewpoint from which you will have an amazing view of the historical center lit up at night. Finally, you will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 9 – Hike in the Cloud Forest
After an early breakfast, you will head to the northwestern part of the Andes, which is considered the transition region to the coast. Here you will explore the cloud forest area, considered a hotspot for biodiversity in the Ecuador. Here you will have visit a private reserve and hike through the cloud forest. You will also learn how agriculture and reforestation with native species are possible in this region.
After lunch at the private reserve, you may go visit the Tulipe pre-historic site. This archaeological site is culturally rich and mysterious, formed by several pools in different shapes that were filled with water for astronomical and ritual uses.
This afternoon you will head back to Quito for your final dinner celebration on a hill overlooking the city of Quito. During dinner you will reminisce about the time and memories you shared together in Ecuador. After dinner you will return to your hotel and meet for your last reflection wrapping up your experience. Finally, you will rest and prepare for your international flight home tomorrow.
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.