Earn 40 hours of community service adventuring along the west coast of South America in the wild landscape of Ecuador. Travel deep into Ecuador’s Amazon jungle and Andean highlands, assist local communities, work with endangered species, raft the legendary Napo River, and soak in the Papallacta Hot Springs. Experience giant tortoises, white sand beaches, and the world-class snorkeling opportunities of the Galápagos Islands where the words ‘colorful’ and ‘exotic’ will take on whole new meanings. This three-week South American adventure has it all.
Our programs offer a wide variety of activity options. Explore the activities specific to this program below.
You and your group will travel together from Miami, FL to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Upon your evening landing, you will clear customs and travel the short distance to your hotel in the historic city center. The first day will be a travel day, so you’ll be ready to crawl into bed that night with anticipation of the morning’s next adventure!
The next morning, you’ll wake up early and embark on a day of Ecuadorian cultural immersion. You and your trip mates will take the morning to brush up on your Spanish skills with a language learning introduction. Then, you’ll enjoy an Ecuadorian cooking class before heading out for an afternoon day hike in the area. Surrounded by forested mountains and volcanoes at 9,350 feet above sea level, Quito is the second highest capital city in Latin America. Despite sitting only 15 miles south of the equator, Quito’s elevation gives it a wonderful spring-like climate year round.
You’ll take a day trip out of the city to experience the incredible biodiversity of the Mindo Cloud Forest and enjoy a fun-filled canopy tour of the area. Traversing through this marvelous ecosystem is sure to be a highlight of the trip. The tree-top adventure will conclude with a thrilling zip-line ride. The Mindo Cloud Forest is one of the finest birding areas in South America, so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you soar through the sky.
Over the next few days, you will leave the colonial city of Quito and head to the northern highlands of Imbabura. You’ll take a day to explore South America’s largest outdoor market in Otavalo and in the afternoon, hike to the Sacred Peguche waterfall, which is 50 feet tall!
The next day, you’ll travel towards Tena, your access point to the Amazon. En route, you will visit the Laguna Cuicocha Crater Lake by boat to see the endemic birds that nest in the area and the sulfur bubbles coming up from the depths of the lake. Finally, you’ll arrive at the Amazon Basin and soak in the Papallacta Hot Springs.
Over the next few days, you will be assisting the El Arca Zoo Project, outside of Cotundo. El Arca is not a zoo, but a rainforest animal rescue center. The center aims to rehabilitate as many animals as they can and release them back into the rainforest. You’ll see spider monkeys jumping from tree to tree and macaws flying around you. The animals have been rescued from a variety of circumstances, including illegal animal trading. As the Amazon has continued to be developed, wildlife has receded deeper and deeper into the wilderness – making El Arca an incredible site. Other animals you will work with include anacondas, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, parrots, capybara, caimans, toucans, and more. Your main project at the restoration center will be to help their team begin construction of Jaguar containment!
Following your first service project, it will be time to hit the water. Whitewater rafting the class III rapids of the Upper Napo River will let you enjoy the Amazonian rainforest without having to venture too far into remote jungle zones. The Upper Napo is one of the main tributaries feeding the Amazon River from the Andes mountains. Before you get into the boats, your guides will give you a comprehensive safety briefing and train each crew in the paddling techniques needed to navigate your way down the river. You will stay that night in Tena and spend a leisurely morning there before heading back to Quito. From there, you will take an early morning flight from Quito to the Galápagos Islands will take you to the port town of Baltra. You will immediately transfer to Isabela Island by boat.
A trip to the Galápagos Islands is a must-do experience for anyone traveling in this part of the world. Located in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles (1000 kilometers) off the west coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a cluster of more than sixty islands and islets. In 1959, in parallel with the founding of the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Ecuadorian Government declared the Galápagos Islands a protected area. On September 8th, 1978, UNESCO declared the islands a Natural Heritage Site.
Isabela Island is the largest island in the Galápagos and over the next two days, you will explore its beauty in a variety of ways. You will explore the Tintoreras to observe a large colony of marine iguanas, sea lions, and Galapagos penguins. You’ll snorkel among sea lions, rays and countless multicolored fish. Later that afternoon, you will mountain bike along the islands wetlands, a series of coastal lagoons and endemic mangrove swamps before visiting the Wall of Tears, a 20th century penal colony. The next day will be all about surfing!
The next two days will be spent on your next service project on Isabela Island. You will work in half days. The morning activity will be conservation work helping with a reforestation project, or helping with a beach clean. The afternoons will be spent on the Giant Tortoise project – helping to clean their habitat, and aid in whatever way the project needs help.
After this final service component of the trip, you and your group will kayak in the bay. While kayaking, you’ll keep your eyes peeled for Brown Pelicans soaring overhead and Blue-footed Boobies diving like torpedoes into the ocean at 60 miles per hour. You’ll maneuver your two-person kayak along the rocky coast, exploring small caves and bays that motorized vessels cannot access. You will continue northwest until you reach the turquoise-blue waters of Las Tijeretas Bay. After a paddle around Las Tijeretas, you will make your way back to the beach and relax.
Following your sea kayaking adventure, you will take a boat to Santa Cruz Island. You will get the chance to observe giant tortoises and endemic flora in the high lands, as well as lava tunnels. You’ll get to swim that afternoon in the cool ocean water at Las Grietas. Las Grietas translates to “crevasse” or “crack”. The site is between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a crack.
For your final day in the Galápagos, you will hike in the morning to Tortuga Bay, one of the most pristine beaches in the islands. That afternoon, you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about Darwin’s research and the importance of the islands today.
You will say farewell to the stunning Galápagos Islands and fly back to Quito. Your final evening will conclude with the traditional end-of-summer WA banquet at a local restaurant near your hotel. This final meal together will be a great opportunity to share favorite stories, award the infamous paper plate awards, and bring closure to a wonderful summer.
This was my fourth trip with Wilderness Adventures and they keep getting better! This trip was the perfect mix of service, adventure, and language. The animal and plant diversity was incredible, and overall Ecuador and the Galapagos proved to be an incredibly unique place to visit.
Paige, 2019 Ecuador Galapagos Student
Trip Price Includes
- Group gear
- Personal gear and clothing
- Airfare to and form the trip start and end