“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Two bucket-list trips rolled into one epic vacation! Join us as we explore two of the most magnificent natural environments Ecuador, let alone the world, has to offer: the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands. We’ll traverse these incredible environs via foot, kayak, speed boat, canoe, and flipper, with a couple of nights near Ecuador’s capital city of Quito (pronounced KEE-toh). If you are a wildlife-lover, this is hands down our best trip to see an abundance of animals of all different kinds.
We begin our tour in the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago consisting of over 90 islands in the Pacific Ocean, and located approximately 1,000 kilometers off Ecuador’s west coast. They are considered one of the premier wildlife-viewing destinations in the world and were among the first group of sites added to the World Heritage List in 1978. Follow in the footsteps of a young Charles Darwin, whose observations of the different species living in the Galapagos, particularly the finches, later inspired his theory of evolution. Our days are fairly packed, creating amazing memories as we explore the islands’ isolated terrain where we travel from deserts to wetlands to beaches in a matter of minutes. Each individual ecosystem sheltering an enormous number of diverse plant and animal species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world! You’ll be able to see plenty of marine iguanas, white tip reef sharks, sea turtles, eagle rays, sea lions, a huge variety of birds, and more.
On the second half of our tour, we slow the pace down a bit when we visit the Amazon Rainforest, the largest rainforest on earth and home to 427 mammals (including monkeys, sloths, and giant otters), 1,300 birds (parrots, toucans, and harpy eagles), 378 reptiles (caimans and lizards), and a host of stunning flora. Surprisingly, you’ll notice very few mosquitos! You’ll have a chance to explore the lush and wonderfully bewildering rainforest from the inside (via daytime and nighttime hikes), from the outside (via canoe) and from above the canopy (via a 120-foot platform in the trees). We’ll be miles and miles from civilization, but you won’t realize it when you are in such luxurious accommodations.
Your final payment for the trip and internal airfare is due 90 days from the start of the trip, and at this point becomes non-refundable or transferable to another trip. Please strongly consider travel insurance!
Private Tour Info
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- Dates: December 5 - 14, 2023
- Cost Per Person: $6,350
- Single Supplement: $1,200
- Activities: Hiking, Snorkeling, & Kayaking
- Difficulty: All Ability Levels
- Guides: To Be Determined, And Local Guides
Other Info: Not included: two local round-trip flights (Quito to/from the Amazon and Quito to/from the Galápagos) which are estimated to total $800, and Galápagos entry fee of $100.
This trip has a maximum of 15.
- Snorkel and kayak through emerald waters, coming face to face with sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins and more
- Experience the unique flora and fauna of two distinct islands while learning first hand from our expert local guides
- Experience the Amazon rainforest by canoe and on foot, spotting different types of monkeys and insects, tasting native plants, and learning about dozens of species in this elaborate ecosystem
- Climb your way up to the rainforest canopy, with breathtaking views of untamed wilderness, rare birds and howling monkeys
DAY 1 > ARRIVAL
Welcome to Ecuador, the most diverse country on the planet, offering more unique wildlife viewing experiences than almost any other place on earth! You can arrive at any time today and we will provide you with a shuttle from the Quito airport to our nearby accommodations for the night. Since many flights arrive late at night, we have nothing planned today except an (optional) welcome dinner at the hotel.
DAY 2 > FLY TO GALAPAGOS + OVERNIGHT ON SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
Today we embark on our exploration of the remarkable Galápagos Islands! We’ll begin with a flight to Baltra Island, and upon landing will meet our guide and naturalist, who will stay with us during our five days on the island. From there, we will ferry across the small Ithabaca Channel south to Santa Cruz Island for our first adventure, stopping to view “Los Gemelos” (craters created when magma chambers collapsed) and hike through lava tunnels. We'll then head to lunch at a local restaurant set on a family farm where wild Galapagos giant tortoises roam free. You'll have a chance to roam the grounds to say hello to as many of these gentle giants as you please. Afterward, we will check into our hotel in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in Galapagos, and have dinner in this lively place – we highly recommend trying the local seafood!
DAY 3 > TORTUGA BAY + TRAVEL TO ISABELA ISLAND
This morning we’ll hike approximately 30 minutes on a paved walkway through cacti, palo santo trees, and matasarno trees. The sunny walk ends with a reward of a spectacular white sand beach stretching across the southern coast of Santa Cruz. Tortuga Bay beach is one of the most beautiful beaches you may have ever seen and is famous for its expansive and pristine white sand. As we make our way along the beach, we'll be joined by another iconic Galapagos animal - the marine iguana - as dozens of them wake up and make their way to the water for a refreshing swim. After reaching a secluded bay, we’ll give our feet some rest and hop into our kayaks to explore its crystal-clear waters. You may see colorful reef fish, white-tip sharks, eagle rays, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, herons, and the beach’s namesake, sea turtles. We’ll then have a two-hour ride to Isabela Island via a private high-speed motor boat, arriving in the town of Puerto Villamil and checking into our beachfront hotel. You will have time for a sunset walk along the beach before having dinner at our hotel.
DAY 4 > HIKE SIERRA NEGRA VOLCANO
Today we explore another one of the earth’s natural wonders – volcanoes! We’ll head to the entrance of the Sierra Negra volcano park to hike up to the rim of the second largest caldera in the world. Here we will have views of an otherworldly landscape as well as the beautiful blue sea that surrounds us. After enjoying a sack lunch under a shelter provided for shade, you have the option of carrying on to explore Volcan Chico, a landscape similar to that of the moon, or returning to base and town. This afternoon we will board a small boat to Tintoreras where you’ll get the chance to do your first of three snorkel trips. Clear aqua waters brimming with wildlife await us, and you may find yourself greeting a penguin or sea lion face to face! A brief walking tour across lava flows provides an up-close encounter with marine iguanas, resting white tip sharks and juvenile sea lions. Tonight is a free night for you to explore on your own and have dinner at one of the many restaurants or beach bars.
DAY 5 > SNORKELING + TORTOISES
This morning we rise early to walk to a tortoise breeding center. Our local guide teaches us about flora or fauna that happens to be in our path along the way. We will then take a walk to a lake that has the largest concentration of flamingos in the Galapagos before we board our next speed boat to a wonderful snorkeling spot (with a chance to see seahorses!) that many will list as the highlight of their trip: Los Tuneles. Lava flows dating back to the origin of the island (yes, even before the origin of the species) create giant natural aquariums that offer views of iconic Galapagos wildlife such as sea turtles, sharks, blue-footed boobies, and a myriad of fish species. Back in town this afternoon offers an optional snorkel trip at Concha Perla near the docks, where you might be enticed to play with the juvenile sea lions or try to keep up with the penguins native to the area. The bay’s calm, shallow, and clear waters are ideal for observing an incredible array of marine life and tropical fish. Happy hour at the sunset bar awaits us and we can toast and celebrate a well-spent time together before walking to a delicious fresh lobster dinner.
DAY 6 > RETURN TO QUITO
Today we say goodbye to the Galapagos and depart our hotel early in the morning, reversing our path to get back to the Baltra airport and fly back to Quito and another night at the convenient sanctuary of the Garden Hotel. This is essentially a travel day and you’ll have the chance to reorganize, dry out, and repack your gear, have a relaxing dinner at our hotel, and get a good night’s sleep in anticipation of tomorrow's early morning flight to the Amazon!
DAY 7 > WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE!
This morning we’ll head straight back to the airport for a short flight to Coca, the gateway to the Amazon. We will continue our journey via a two-hour trip down the Napo River (a tributary of the Amazon River) in a motorized canoe, then a 30-minute canoe ride on a small canal and across a lagoon to reach our secluded and luxurious headquarters for the next 3 days. Upon arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the grounds and become familiar with your surroundings before venturing into the jungle. We’ll be walking through among strangler fig trees, rubber trees, mahogany, and lots of bright beautiful heliconia plants – not to mention the array of creatures that may just walk, fly, crawl or swim our way. Perhaps we'll catch a "show" of squirrel or howler monkeys as the adolescents play in the trees before the troop settles down for the night. After our introductory walk into the largest rainforest on earth, we will relax while a gourmet meal using fresh local ingredients is prepared for us to enjoy, overlooking the Amazon jungle and listening to the incessant chatter of its inhabitants.
DAY 8 > MONKEYS, JUNGLE CANOPIES + HIKING
Breakfast will be served early today because there is so much to see and do! Today’s adventure begins with a birds-eye view of the jungle. After a short walk, we climb up the observation tower, giving us a vantage point usually seen only by those with wings. At 120 feet above the jungle floor, we have breathtaking views of the miles of wilderness and wildlife that surround us from the canopy level of the jungle. We’ll be able to see and hear many species of monkeys, birds, insects, plants, and flowers. After descending from the tower, you may choose to hike one of the numerous trails or take a canoe ride around the lagoon to look for monkeys. The beauty of our seclusion and the advantage of having a local naturalist as well as a native guide along with our Zephyr trip leader will ensure we make the best choice every time to see, hear and experience all that the Amazon has to offer.
DAY 9 > PARROTS + INDIGENOUS POPULATION
Packing our cameras and spirit of adventure, after another hearty breakfast we will take our motorized canoe to a place along the shores of the Napo River unlike any other: the parrot clay licks. Hundreds of vibrantly colored parrots gather and squawk near the clay licks in Yasuni National Park, a colorful and striking experience. From there, we will continue by boat to a nearby river community. A local host introduces us to the real way of life of the Amazon via their schoolchildren, agriculture, food, shelter, handicrafts and community. Their simple way of life is a treat to experience! We will head back to La Selva in the afternoon, in time for a siesta before another gourmet dinner, taking in the breathtaking sunset of another magical day in a place where humans are the rarest species.
DAY 10 > CANOE, BOAT, BUS, PLANE BACK TO QUITO + DEPARTURE
After breakfast and saying goodbye to our beautiful lodge and friendly hosts, we will go out the way we came in: by a human-powered canoe, then motorized canoe to Coca and then by air back to Quito. From there, you can catch a flight home in the late afternoon / evening or extend your stay in South America.Book this Tour
NIGHTS 1 & 6 >> SAN JOSE DE PUEMBO GARDEN HOTEL / SAN JOSE
A 10-minute ride from the Quito airport, this spacious hotel offers a great spa, a pool and beautiful gardens with one of the most important collections of trees of the Ecuadorian highlands: palm, pine, eucalyptus, kapok, sequoia, coffee, magnolia, nag, cholan, walnut, pink sauce - with some over 200 years old.
NIGHT 2 >> IKALA HOTEL / SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
Our small hotel in the cute main town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island is brand new and family-owned. We love the pool bar and the views of the water at breakfast! We can walk everywhere right from the hotel.
NIGHTS 3 - 5 >> IGUANA CROSSING / ISABELA ISLAND
Nestled between the beach and a wildlife area, our boutique eco-hotel offers a quiet end-of-the-road location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, comfortable rooms, and a peaceful setting.
NIGHTS 7 - 9 >> LA SELVA ECOLODGE & SPA / GARZACOHA
This 5-star accommodation is located on a lagoon in the remote Amazon rainforest and boasts spacious private lodges, luxurious beds, peaceful hammocks, and gourmet meals. The surrounding scenery is astoundingly beautiful and wildlife is all around us.
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Arrivals & Departures
We will meet you at the Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) airport on the first day of our tour and transport you to our hotel for the evening, the Garden Hotel of San Jose, 15 minutes from the airport. Since many flights from North America arrive late in the evening, we have no activities scheduled and our dinner tonight is optional. You can also choose to arrive a day early. The next morning, we will head back to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos.
On the last morning of the tour, we will be flying from Coca (in the Amazon) back to the Quito airport. You may book flights back home this evening (many flights back to North America depart late at night) or extend your stay in the area. We will provide further travel details upon booking.
- A Zephyr trip leader will accompany this trip along with local experts and naturalists.
- Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
- Except for one dinner we purposely leave "open" to explore on your own, all meals are included (only dinner on the first day and breakfast on the last day), as well as gratuity for these meals.
- All of your ground and sea transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
- All group activities are included as well as snorkel gear and kayak rentals.
- NOT INCLUDED: Travel to and from the destination, Galapagos entrance fee ($100 that needs to be paid in cash), two internal round-trip flights (one to Coca and one to the Galápagos) that we will purchase for you and include on your invoice, personal expenses, beverages, and gratuities to your guides.
Because we are so close to the Equator, the overall climate does not vary much from month to month. We will be traveling in several climates throughout this tour, but typical weather is as follows:
- Quito: Average high temps vary from 66 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Quito is at an altitude of over 9,000 feet, so the sun can feel more intense at the altitude! The months we visit (February – April + November – December) have an average of over four to six inches of rain per month, so always keep a raincoat handy!
- Amazon: In the Amazon rainforest, most days have some sunshine and some rain and climate does not vary much from month to month. Although temps are usually in the 70s and 80s during the day (and a bit lower at night), it can feel stiflingly hot due to the high humidity and you will likely feel most comfortable in loose-fitting lightweight clothing.
- Galapagos: The rainy season in the Galapagos is roughly January to May though this usually means showers in the afternoon and otherwise sunny skies. Temps don’t vary much from month to month and average highs are in the mid-80s each day.
The Amazon rainforest is home to an estimated 30 million species of insects, so yes, there are a lot of bugs and you will see them! But assuming you’re worried mostly about mosquitoes, you can put your mind at ease. Our travelers have told us they were surprised at how few annoying insects there were. But don’t be surprised to observe spiders, ants, and even tarantulas and scorpions (from a respectful distance) while hiking in the rainforest.
All necessary gear for kayaking and snorkeling will be provided on the trip. You are welcome to bring your own snorkel gear but since you would need to carry it with you throughout the trip, just your well-fitting mask/snorkel would be ideal, and we will provide flippers in the Galapagos.
Extending Your Vacation in Ecuador
If you would like to extend your stay in Ecuador, we highly recommend checking out Cuenca, Banos, and Otavalo.
This Adventure is rated For All Ability Levels. We will be hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling, but no special skills are required to enjoy this trip and everything is optional. Like on all of our tours, you can certainly opt out of any planned group activity if you would rather relax and spend the day at our hotel or chill out on the beach. Note this is NOT one of our most active trips!
Who Would Enjoy This Tour
This tour is perfect for anyone who loves getting off the beaten path to explore secluded and spectacular regions of our natural world, who is interested in observing wildlife in their natural habitats, and who like to mix up the types of activities they do while on vacation.
As we are traveling through the Quito area, either before or after the tour, please be mindful and aware of pickpockets. We would recommend leaving your valuables at home, especially when snorkeling as some fish are attracted to shiny objects.
Land-based vs Boat-based Galapagos Trips
Many Galapagos trips take place on boats. We prefer land-based trips for a few reasons. Staying in hotels allows you to access the beach, the pool, and the charming town near our hotel, connecting you to the local culture. Hotel rooms are much more spacious, allowing you to spread out a bit. Boat-based tours occasionally encounter high seas, which is never fun for anyone, particularly those who are prone to motion sickness. While we will use small boats to travel from place to place on our trips, we can generally work around any weather we encounter and limit our time on the water if conditions make this necessary.
Changes to Your Itinerary
While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.
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