Ecuador Discovery – Galapagos, Volcanoes and Cloud Forest (February 16-25, 2017)

Bartolomé Island, Galapagos

Trip Highlights

  • Quito ~ The capital of Ecuador. Quito was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.
  • Cotopaxi ~ An active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 50 km (31 mi) south of Quito, Ecuador, South America. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft). It is one of the world’s highest volcanoes, but no longer holds the “highest” title outright, this title now going to the considerably higher Llullaillaco, which most recently erupted in 1877.
  • Mindo Cloud Forest ~ The most visited cloud forest in Ecuador and home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 species of bird, tens of thousands of insect species and 2,500 species of plants.
  • Galapagos Islands ~ Home to a world famous national park and marine reserve. The islands’ flora and fauna were a source of inspiration to Charles Darwin in the 19th century and are a living laboratory for evolution.

OTHER ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS ITINERARIES

Below are some of our sample itineraries, but note that we can customize the perfect Ecuador adventure that meets your needs.

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Itinerary


DAY 1 (Thurs, Feb 16): Arrival ~ Your guide will be waiting for you in order to take you to Rincon de Puembo. Your hotel this evening is only 20 minutes from the airport. Overnight at the Hostería Rincón de Puembo.

Cotopaxi Volcano Ecuador

DAY 2 (Fri, Feb 17): Cotopaxi Cotopaxi National Park with private guide. From here, weather permitting, you will be able to see the snow-capped summits of both Cotopaxi and Antisana volcanoes. Visit Cotopaxi Interpretation Center to learn about the history of its major eruptions as well as local flora and fauna. Later, you will go to Limpiopungo Lake and discover the area during a guided nature walk.   The duration of the hike will depend on everyone’s interests and ability. Overnight at Chilcabamba Lodge. (B,L,D)

DAY 3 (Sat, Feb 18): Galapagos (Baltra and Santa Cruz) ~ Transfer from hotel to airport in time for your Galapagos flight. Arrival to Baltra. Thetiny island of Baltra was a military base during the Second World War and has been the Galapagos’ principal airport for many years. The good news is that to protect the local environment, the airport has been rebuilt using the most advanced environmental techniques to reduce emissions and energy use. This is the first ecological airport in the world.

Our adventure begins right after our arrival. We will provide a special VIP lounge for changing and then will transfer you to the Channel to explore the beauty of the Galapagos Islands at their best while kayaking, stand up paddling and snorkeling. The unique turquoise colored waters are home to some of the most amazing wildlife in the Galapagos and will captivate your imagination and encourage you to become a true fan of this paradise.

Stunning wildlife can be seen throughout the paddle including sea lions, blue footed boobies, brown pelicans, lava herons, great blue herons, white-tipped reef sharks and more…we’ll see many of them as we kayak over the northern flank of Santa Cruz Island towards the Punta Carrion area.

galapagos-blue-footed-booby

We’ll glide through amazing red mangrove forests, lava rock cliffs and crystal clear water. Ocean kayaks (sit on top; single or double) with comfortable seats, paddles and life jackets are provided. A support boat escorts kayakers throughout the ride to ensure safety. The average paddle lasts between 1.5-2 hrs depending on wildlife viewing and skills of kayakers.

From Itabaca Channel, head to the Santa Cruz highlands and an exclusive tortoise reserve and tented camp is located, perched high on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Galapagos Magic Tented Camp will be your home for the next two nights. The sounds of nature will be your lullaby in the evenings. Feast your eyes on the scenic tapestry of mountains and forest surrounding the lodge and fantastic views of the ocean. On clear days, you can spot Floreana Island in the distance. Giant tortoises will be your companions at the lodge, and starlight will guide you to your room after a sumptuous dinner near the crackling fire.

This evening, there is time after dinner to explore the natural lava tubes on the reserve where you can enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine at Lava Lounge built inside a lava tube. This is a truly special and unique place to relax around the fire and share stories with your travel companions. Overnight at Galapagos Magic Tented Camp. (B,BL,D)

DAY 4 (Sun, Feb 19): Galapagos (Bartolome Island) ~ After breakfast, head back to Itabaca Channel to continue your National Park and Marine Reserve exploration. Your yacht, the Sea Finch, has operated since December 2010 from its base in Puerto Ayora. The Sea Finch carries a total of up to 16 guests, who can enjoy the air-conditioned dining lounge, as well as various outdoor sitting areas with beautiful views of the Islands. The Sea Finch, built in the United States, was chosen for its solid construction, comfort while navigating, and its fiberglass hull, which makes it a fast-cruising yacht. It has a total length of 18,00 meters and a beam of 5,06 meters.

Sally lightfoot crab, Galapagos, Ecuador

Travel to Bartolome Island, which offers one of the most dramatic views in the Galapagos Islands. A 600 m pathway takes visitors to the highest point of the island, where you will learn from your expert naturalist guide about the volcanic origins of the Galapagos. After the walk, enjoy a dingy ride along the coastline in search of the Galapagos penguin. This curious bird nests amongst fissured lava flows and ventures into the crystal-clear waters of Bartolome to fish.

A wet landing at the main beach of the island will give you the opportunity to enjoy the sandy beach where sea lions rest and a variety of wading birds feed. The area has tranquil waters, offering a great snorkeling experience where you can observe tropical fish, sea stars and perhaps even see penguins under water.

DAY 5 (Mon, Feb 20): Galapagos (Santa Cruz and Floreana) ~ Floreana Island is home to the Galapagos’ smallest human population, only 150 people, and is also the least developed and most natural of the four inhabited islands. Once a pirates’ lair, Floreana was the first inhabited island in the Galapagos and descendants of the original population still live here amid the mysterious tales and legends that surround their ancestors. On Floreana, enjoy guided walks to learn about the fascinating history of the local people and to observe some of Galapagos’ special wildlife (giant tortoises, frigatebirds, Darwin’s finches, sea lions, and petrels).

Leave Santa Cruz early in the morning for a 2-hr speed boat crossing to Floreana. Upon arrival, check in to the lodge overlooking the Galapagos’ most beautiful and secluded bay. After getting settled, there’s time to walk or paddle (kayaks or SUPs) to nearby Black Beach for some snorkeling.

Galapagos-sea-lion

Lunch is at a local restaurant that is part of a Floreana community tourism initiative.

In the afternoon, embark by kayak or SUP and cross the Bay in front of the lodge to explore La Loberia (a sea lion breeding ground) where you can enjoy more snorkeling and swimming in the warm, calm and bright water with sea turtles, sea lions, rays and lots of shimmering fishes. The bay is a 30-min walk from the lodge for those who’d rather travel by foot. Overnight at Lava Lodge. (B,L,D)

Galapagos tortoise, Ecuador

DAY 6 (Tues, Feb 21): Galapagos (Floreana Island) ~ After breakfast, leave to explore the Floreana Highlands on an open-air bus (chiva) – an unbeatable, historic, and comfortable way to see the island. On the way, your naturalist guide will point out wildlife and share colorful tales of some of Floreana’s first inhabitants, such as the Wittmers (whose descendants still live on the Island), the ‘Baroness,’ and the pirates that once visited here. You’ll also hear about the “Enigma of Floreana,” involving the mysterious deaths of several of the Island´s inhabitants, a riddle from the 1930’s that has never been solved and was featured in the film “The Galapagos Affair.”

After driving into the highlands, reach Asilo de la Paz (Peace Haven) where your hike begins. Walk up to this historic site, explore pirate caves, and visit the freshwater spring that provides water for the entire island. Along the way, expect to see giant tortoises lumbering around in the vegetation or even on the trail.

Leave Asilo de Paz by walking down through a rural area where local people grow produce for their own consumption. This is a fascinating example of how locals have survived in this remote place and over the years were able to develop an understanding of the local environment and now work to preserve their unique agricultural knowledge. On your way back to the coast, stop at a local farm, La Primavera, where you can watch the extraordinary behavior of frigatebirds who ‘dance’ as they wash their salty wings in the freshwater lake on the farm. With a little bit of luck, you may be able to see males puffing up their red pouches on their chests in an attempt to attract females.

From La Primavera farm, continue by chiva down towards Cerro Allieri, the best viewpoint in the islands and then to Las Palmas, where the Island’s first permanent inhabitant, the eccentric Dr. Ritter, lived and is buried.

Galapagos marine iguanaAfter lunch, you can choose to practice your kayak or SUP skills, go snorkeling in La Loberia, or simply relax and take in the beautiful Galapagos views from the lodge. Overnight at Lava Lodge. (B,L,D)

DAY 7 (Wed, Feb 22): Galapagos (Floreana and Baltra)/ Quito ~ Transfer back to Baltra by speedboat in time for your flight to Quito. Upon arrival to Quito, you’ll be met for your transfer to your hotel. Overnight at El Crater or similar. (B)

DAY 8 (Thurs, Feb 23): Quito/ Mindo ~ Morning departure to Mindo, recognized as a world class birding site by Bird Life International. Upon arrival, you’ll be welcomed by your hosts who will offer a short informal introduction to the lodge and its nearby garden. This is not simply a place to stay. The Lodge and its owners are dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural beauty of Mindo, one of the most biologically diverse and endangered cloud forests in the world. Besides world-class birding, enjoy hiking in lush cloud forests replete with orchids and bromeliads, river tubing, the spectacular butterflies of the ´Mariposarium´, as well as hikes to a primary forest reserve.

Birding in Ecuador's cloud forest

This afternoon, your local guide will take you on a 2-hour exploration alongside Rio Mindo and through the surrounding forest, where she will help you find exotic birds and explain about medicinal plants and their local uses. Overnight at El Monte. (B,L,D)                                                                                                                                          

DAY 9 (Fri, Feb 24): Mindo ~ Early start to visit a ´cock of the rock´ lek, a place where these marvelous birds congregate to feed.

After a full breakfast at the lodge, embark on a nature walk along the heights of the Cordillera San Lorenzo. Your guide will talk about local birds and animals encountered along the way. With some luck, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of spectacular birds such as the golden-headed quetzal, Choco toucan, and crimson-rumped toucanet among others. Overnight at El Monte. (B,L,D)

Ecuador hummingbird

DAY 10 (Sat, Feb 25): Mindo/ Departure ~ Half-day excursion to ‘Tony’s House´, a well-known spot where more than 24 species of hummingbirds have been recorded. The owner, Tony, an expert on birds, has placed a variety of hummingbird feeders around his house, as well as in the forest, to attract an amazing variety of local species. Transfer back to the international airport in time for your flight home. (B,L)

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DETAILS

Meals: B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner

Pricing from $5260* per person based on double occupancy. Single supplement: $300* (subject to availability).

Package includes accommodations, ground transportation, professional bilingual (English/Spanish-speaking) guide during all listed excursions, trip host – Karl Brummert (Executive Director of Audubon Society of Greater Denver), meals as listed, Galapagos flights, Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee, and immigration control transit card. A donation to support local conservation efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.

Exclusions: international airfare, passport/visa fees, travel insurance, taxis, optional activities, exit taxes, drinks, gratuities, wetsuit rental, and items of a personal nature.

*Pricing and availability are subject to change without notice until deposit received and Galapagos flights have been booked. A 3% discount will be applied to payments by check.

Important note: The guide and the boat captain reserve the right to change the itinerary of this Galapagos tour for safety or security reasons. Similarly, the itinerary can changed due to changes in the national park rules by the park administration.