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Family Ecuador and Galapagos: Amazonian tribe and wildlife encounters

13 days from £4952pp

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Family Ecuador and Galapagos: Amazonian tribe and wildlife encounters

13 days from £4952pp

Private Journey


Day 1

Arrive in Quito and transfer to hotel.
Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of Quito, the Andean capital of Ecuador. The active volcano Guagua Pichincha, to the east, glowers over the dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. Quito is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito.
This 2-3 hour walking excursion takes in the colonial highlights of Quito - the first city ever to be named a World Heritage Site. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed walls and rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city's numerous spectacularly decorated historic churches. Walk through the main plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral and some of the most important churches built around the 16th and 17th centuries including the monastery of San Francisco and Basilica del Voto Nacional, most famous for its quirky gargoyles.

Day 3

By air and river to the Amazon basin.

Now the adventure really begins.Take a short jet flight from Quito down to Coca in the depths of the Amazon jungle.

It's an exotic ride by motor canoe along the jungle-fringed Napo river to Sani Lodge from Coca. During the journey you may spot birds such as: herons and egrets. The boat trip is followed by a  short walk through flooded forest and a trip across Challuacocha lake by paddle canoe.

There is a short introductory walk in the rainforest on trails or a canoe ride with your first exciting opportunities to spot monkeys, Amazonian birds and black caimans. You have a close encounter with the exuberant rainforest flora with cedar trees, orchids, and bromeliads. Bakc at the lodge, you'll hear about Amazonia from one of the bilingual guides, while the adults among you can enjoy Ecuadorian beers, spirits and cocktails prepared by the bartender.

Sani Lodge

Day 4

Stay in a community-owned rainforest lodge.

Head out for a hike to learn about the plants, animals and people of the Amazon. Discover medicinal uses of the rainforest's many plant species, search for impossibly small species of frog and startlingly large insect species while keeping a watchful eye out for primates high in the forest canopy, all the while learning about Sani culture.

After a full morning, enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest then head to the lagoon system and set out on kayaks for an afternoon of paddling. A stop at Sani Lodge's observation tower is a highlight. So much wildlife has been observed in the area: over 565 species of birds including macaws, toucans, honeycreepers, tanagers, flycatchers and hummingbirds. You may have a close view of  howler, squirrel monkeys swinging through the trees Tarzan-fashion or sloths resting on the canopy. Later walk back to the kayaks for a  recreational paddle back to the lodge.

amazon wildlife

Day 5

Wildlife-spotting in Yasuni National Park and community visit.

Head back to the Napo river to board the boat and visit the parrot-clay lick at Yasuní National Park. Here you'll have  a view of hundreds of parrots jostling for space to land and seek nourishment from the clay. You may spot the dazzling plumage of yellow-crowned, orange-winged and blue-headed parrots. You then head off on a hike to the south of the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Here, your family  may be observant enough to spot golden-mantled tamarins, spider monkeys and blue and yellow macaws.

Afterwards, set off to the Sani Community Centre to learn about the life of this indigenous community, including their women's project and the community turtle breeding work. If you like, you can take part in a cooking class; spending time with the Sani women in the kitchen, followed by lunch enjoyed in the heart of the community. The cultural interaction and exploration continues with a hike back to the lodge on a community path. Here your family gets an insight into local life while the Napo river flows alongside, learning about the local architecture and watching simple farming activities.

In the evening there’s a night walk close to the lodge.  Look for wildlife such as bats, owls and insects – along with caiman alligator which reveal their presence by the bright red reflection of their eyes in the torchlight. One of the revelations of a visit to Sani Ecolodge is the night sky and the clarity of the stars on a clear night is breath-taking.

Sani Community, Ecuadorian Amazon

Day 6

Transfer to Ecuador's highlands.

After breakfast head back to the Napo river to board your river boat. Continue back to Coca for your flight to Quito.

When you arrive you'll be whisked off into the volcanic mountains and grassy plains north of the city en route to the picturesque region close to Otavalo, home to the country's most famous for its huge outdoor market, which dates back to pre-Inca times. Based at a warm and friendly American-owned lodge in the countryside, you can explore the countryside on gentle trails. There's a waterfall to gawp at, and a stroll around the rim of a volcanic crater, filled with a deep blue lake.  


Day 7

Visit Otavalo market and surrounding craft villages.
 Today you'll head to the vivacious Otavalo market, either on foot (a one hour hike) or by car. This is a wonderful place for people-watching as well as shopping for handicrafts and textiles. As well as the crafts market and stalls brimmed with exotic fruit, there is a food section to which the indians - dressed in their very distinctive traditional costume - come down from their tiny farms in the mountains to sell their farm produce and buy their weekly supplies.
In the afternoon you have a guided tour of a few of the villages which pepper the countryside. Pop in to artisan workshops where you can observe the techniques used to make the intricate textiles and crafts on sale in the town. Later visit the Raptor Rescue Centre to view up close birds of prey including the Andean condor, whose wing-span can reach three metres, and learn about its close association with Andean cultures. Or, if you would like to do something more active, you can venture out onto tranquil  lake San Pablo in a kayak to view Mount Imbabura and observe the goings-on in the local communities on its banks.
Otavalo and the Northern Highlands

Day 8

Bird-watching, horse riding and visit to the local community.

An optional early morning bird watching hike  - the sight and sounds of the birds at dawn is magical - will be followed by your departure from the lodge with a short walk to visit the local community.

There is there is an opportunity to ride on well cared for horses, some suitable for younger riders or those with little or no previous experience. Experience the local mountain trails as you weave through the landscape offering panoramic views of snow-dipped volcanoes and Otavalo.

Drive back to Quito through the crumbling dust-bleached landscape dotted with cacti and eucalyptus to the sage green mountains of the northern sierras. Spend the night in the city.

otavalo area indians

Day 9

Fly to the Galápagos Islands

It's back to the airport for your flight to Baltra in the Galápagos islands (2hrs).

1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, one of the world's most famous archipelagos, the Galápagos Islands lie in splendid isolation. They emerged 6 million years ago from a spate of volcanic activity and are home to animal and plant species not found anywhere else on earth. The Islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which formed the basis of his revolutionary book 'The Origin of Species'. They remain suspended in time, home to giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate-birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies as well as a wealth of rare flora.

Cruising is the most popular way of exploring the islands but the freedom and flexibility of a land-based adventure will suit most families very well. The fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of taking part in active adventures: hiking, kayaking and snorkelling.

You will explore several very different islands on foot, by kayak, swimming and snorkelling, and by small motor launch, accompanied by your English-speaking guide. Travel between the islands is by boat.  Discover the wildlife for which the islands are so famous: sea-lions, blue-footed boobies, albatrosses, Darwin's finches and more, all enjoying their natural habitat. You also get to meet some interesting local people and learn about life in the archipelago. Accommodation is not in traditional hotels, rather you stay in a unique wilderness permanent tented camp, and in wooden cabins situated on a gorgeous beach. All well away from other visitors.

Blue footed boobies

Day 10

Explore Santa Cruz and Bartolome islands, motor launch cruise.
Board a motor yacht, the Sea Finch, for your trip to Bartolome Island. The Sea Finch  offers outdoor seating areas and an air-conditioned dining lounge.
Uninhabited Bartolome Island is famous for the amazing post-card pretty view over wild volcanic hills and gold-sand crescent coves from its highest point, reached by a 600m wooden walkway. Along the way you will learn about the flora and fauna and the volcanic origins of the Galápagos. After descending,  take a dinghy ride along the coastline in search of the Galápagos penguin. These curious birds nest among fissured lava flows and dive into the crystal-clear waters surrounding Bartolome to fish. Somewhat awkward-looking on land, the penguins are a marvel of speed and elegance as they swim through the water to feed.

A wet landing on the island's deserted  beach lets you share sand with sea-lions rest and  wading birds.. The waters are calm, offering a great snorkelling experience where you might spot tropical fish, sea stars, and perhaps even penguins under water. Lunch is taken back on the yacht with views of Bartolome and Isla Santiago before you return to Santa Cruz. Along the way, you are likely to see rays, turtles and other marine life.
In the afternoon you may visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre to learn about the conservation efforts in the Galápagos National Park. You can view up close giant tortoises and other Galápagos wildlife. Later, head to the islands' busy capital Puerto Ayora perhaps in search of a cool drink at one of its lively restaurants or a browse through its many shops and boutiques. Return to the tranquil Santa Cruz highlands for another night at the tented camp.
Bartolome Island

Day 11

Travel to Floreana Island; kayaking and snorkelling.
After a final breakfast at the tent camp, depart early for Floreana Island. It's a two hour speedboat crossing. 
This peaceful island is home to the Galápagos' smallest human population. Because only 150 people call Floreana home, it is the least developed and most natural of the four inhabited islands. Descendants of the original population still live here. Once a pirates' lair, the island's history is full of mystery and legends about its first inhabitants.
During your stay, you will be hiking, learning about local history and observing some of the Galápagos' unique wildlife.  You may see giant tortoises, frigate birds, sea-lions, Darwin's finches, petrels and marine iguanas.Upon arrival on Floreana, take an open-air 'chiva bus' to Floreana Lava Lodge, which overlooks one of the Galápagos' most beautiful and secluded bays.  Later you can walk or paddle (kayak or stand up paddleboard) to nearby Black Beach for some snorkelling. Your time in the water will whet your appetite:  walk to a restaurant in the nearby village for lunch.
In the afternoon, paddle by kayak or stand-up paddle board across the bay to explore La Loberia, a sea-lion breeding ground. Once there, you can snorkel and swim in the calm, bright water alongside sea turtles, sea lions, rays and an abundance of tropical fish.
Giant tortoises

Day 12

Explore Floreana highlands.
Explore the Floreana highlands on an exhilarating ride on the open-air bus (chiva).A naturalist guide will share the colourful history of some of Floreana's first inhabitants, including the pirates who once dropped anchor here. You'll hike to pirate caves and visit the freshwater spring which provides water for the entire island.

As you cross the hillside, you can expect to see giant tortoises lumbering around in the vegetation or even on the trail. Walk back down through a rural area of subsistence farming. On your way back to the coast, make a stop at a farm to watch the extraordinary behaviour of the frigate birds who 'dance' as they wash their salty wings in the fresh water lake on the farm. With a little bit of luck, you may be able to see males puffing up the red pouches on their chests in an attempt to attract females.
Back at Lava Lodge you'll have a barbecue lunch, featuring family recipes. In your free afternoon you might practice your kayak or SUP skills, go snorkelling in La Loberia or simply relax and take in the beautiful Galápagos views from the lodge. 
frigate birds

Day 13

Return to Baltra and fly to Guayaquil connect with international flight.

Travel back to Baltra Island and the airport to Guayaquil, tropical port on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, and transfer to the airport for your international flight home.

13 days from £4952pp

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What our experts say

The morning spent on ‘jungle survival skills’ was a real highlight – my normally jaded 16 year old son loved learning how to use a blowpipe and practice his spear throwing technique! Learning about the local community's way of life – and the impact that oil exploration can have on indigenous communities – made a lasting impression.


Sarah Bradley


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