Day 1 – International Flight to Quito
Today you'll start your Ecuador adventure to make unforgettable memories with your group. Upon arrival in Quito, you will be greeted at the airport by your Tour Manager and begin your adventures.
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 or you will walk through various plazas and streets surrounding your hotel. If you have time for dinner you will have your first traditional Ecuadorian meal.
Day 2 – Quito - Amazon
After breakfast as a group, you will have your orientation meeting. You will then take a theatrical walking tour visiting the principle plazas of the old town and the Casa del Alabado Pre-Colombian Art Museum. You will learn about the history of the oldest cultures of Ecuador and you will also begin your scavenger hunt that will continue throughout your trip.
Along the way to the Amazon Region, you will stop for lunch and explore one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador, Pailón del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron), which lies in a region where the Andean highlands begin to give way to the amazing climate of the Amazon. Then you will continue to your small host community or ecological and animal rescue center where you will be spending the next few days. You will be met by your host families or by the ecological center´s personnel and get to know each other over dinner.
Note: There are two options for lodging in the Amazon Region: with host families in the local community, or in volunteer housing at the ecological center. The two places are located a 10 minute drive from each other.
Days 3-6 – Service Project and Host Community
For the next few days, you will work on a much-needed service project in the Amazon region. You will work between four and six hours per day, depending on the service project. For your service location, you will choose between two options: the local community or the animal rescue center at the ecological center.
Projects in the local community may include reforestation in and around the community, helping to improve the infrastructure of the local school, teaching basic English and/or providing environmental education to school children and other community members.
One of the ecological center’s main goals is to rescue wild animals that have been kept in captivity or trafficked illegally, and rehabilitate them in an effort to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Possible projects include infrastructure improvement such as re-fencing the enclosures that keep the animals safe, building water reservoirs, and building classrooms for local training in conservation. Additional projects related to the daily maintenance of the center such as feeding the animals and cleaning their living spaces, reforestation, and clearing trails and walkways for visitors to see the animals in a zoo-like setting are also a possibility.
You will also visit surrounding attractions during your time in the community or at the ecological center. Some of these activities might include:
● Helping families with traditional daily activities
● Visiting the local trapiche, the place where raw sugar cane is transformed in blocks of sugar and other sugar products
● Visiting a ethno botanical park, where you will learn about the traditional use of many plants and trees that belong to the jungle
● Hiking through the forest to a hidden waterfall
● Soccer games with local community
● Traditional games with the children
● Dance lessons with local community
During your days in the community you will receive clues and challenges to continue your scavenger hunt. For your final evening in the community, you will gather with your hosts for a celebratory farewell dinner.
Day 7 – Adventure in the Amazon - Papallacta
You will say good-bye to your new friends in the Amazon and head to the Papallacta thermal springs. These hot springs are located in the Andes mountain range and are naturally heated by an active volcano. Upon arrival, you will enjoy a traditional, local lunch and then you will have the afternoon and evening to relax at the hot springs. You will spend the night at a nearby lodge resting up for your trip to the Galápagos Islands tomorrow.
Day 8 – 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 guide will greet you and accompany you and your Program Leader on a boat across a small channel to Santa Cruz Island.
Once on Santa Cruz, you will board the 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 arrive to your lodging where a nice dinner will be waiting for you.
Day 9 – Isabela Island - Snorkeling and Island History
Today, you will pack your overnight bags for your trip to Isabela Island. The boat ride takes approximately two hours. Upon arrival, you will take a bicycle ride along the coast to the Wall of Tears. Here you will learn a bit of the island’s history as a penal colony and explore the site where prisoners were forced to build a wall of lava rocks. You will also be able to see a flamingo lake, and if you have time, you may visit the local giant tortoise breeding center.
After lunch at a local restaurant in the village, you will take smaller boats to explore Las Tintoreras, an area outside the village of Puerto Villamil. As you walk the shore you will keep your eyes peeled iguanas, birds and sea lions. Next, you will head back to your boat for snorkeling equipment and prepare for an exciting snorkeling adventure in the beautiful waters around Isabela. Here you may see sea turtles, sting rays, sea lions and of course many kinds of fish.
Finally, you will transfer to your lodging where you will have delicious dinner.
Day 10 – Isabela Island - Sierra Negra Volcano
After breakfast, you will take your bus to the trailhead of the Sierra Negra Volcano. From here you will start your full day trek along the amazing volcanic landscapes. You will hike for approximately five to six hours (with breaks for water and a box lunch) until you reach Chico Volcano. Throughout the hike you will learn about the history and geology of this and other islands. You will walk over old lava flows and enjoy some of the most amazing and unique landscapes in the world. You will see how several craters have been formed, and if you have time you may visit a sulfur mine. The Sierra Negra’s crater is considered to be the second largest in the world. The beauty of this site is also combined with great bird watching in the surrounding area. The birds that are seen most frequently in the area are finches, Galápagos mockingbirds, owls and the stunning red and black vermilion flycatchers known locally as pájaros brujos (Warlock Birds).
Day 11 – Santa Cruz Island - Local Reserve, tortoise ranch, and evening beach
Today you will wake up early in order to return to the main port to start your boat trip back to Puerto Ayora. Upon arrival, you will have breakfast and you will have some time to rest. Then you will visit a local reserve dedicated to conservation and environmental education. The reserve is owned by an NGO and works with the local community to educate them about organic agriculture and reforestation with native plants. Small scale organic agriculture and reforestation are promoted as alternatives to avoid large scale production that destroys native vegetation and impacts the island ecosystem in a negative way. You will have lunch at the reserve.
Then you will visit a private ranch where you will have the opportunity to see giant tortoises living in semi-wild conditions and walk through lava tunnels formed hundreds of years ago while learning about the geological origin of the Islands. In the afternoon you will return to Puerto Ayora in order to visit Tortuga Bay.
Day 12 – Galápagos Islands - Quito
You'll 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 the old town, also known as Quito Colonial, to visit a convent that will be opened exclusively for you. At the convent you will also have the chance to climb to a viewpoint from which you will have an amazing view of the historical center all lit up at night. Finally, you will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 13 – Equatorial Line and the Otavalo Indigenous Market
This morning, you will then make your way to Otavalo to explore the indigenous 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. You will spend the whole morning there and then you will head in direction to a local community that will be waiting for you with a traditional lunch. On your way back to Quito, you will stop for a visit at Quitsato, located on the equatorial line. Here you will have the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at one time, learn about how early indigenous communities took advantage of astronomy to organize their culture.
Upon arrival to Quito, you will have time to rest and re-pack your bags for your flight out in the morning.
You will have a special dinner at a quiteño family’s home to reminisce about the time you shared together in Ecuador and to conclude your scavenger hunt. This will be a theatrical dinner with a historical character providing reflection about the importance of communities in Andean cultures. You will return to your hotel to rest.
Day 14 – Departure
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.
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