Eco Tour

The Galápagos Islands & Ecuador

10 days / Land & Cruise Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Eco Tours
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About This Experience

Ecuador puts new meaning behind the saying, “good things come in small packages.” In terms of flora, fauna and opportunities for adrenaline-packed adventure (think zip lining through cloud forests and swimming alongside sea turtles), South America’s second smallest country runs the gamut. Journey to Quito for a taste of Ecuadorean culture and Incan legend. Then, island hop through the Galápagos, where you’ll move from mangrove swamps to lava flows to sunny shorelines, encountering scores of exotic creatures along the way.

Your Tour Includes

  • Round-trip airfare & transfers

  • 5 nights in handpicked hotels & 4 nights aboard the M/V Galápagos Legend

  • Breakfast daily, 4 lunches, 5 three-course dinners with beer or wine (on land)

  • Private deluxe motor coach

  • Guided sightseeing

  • Multilingual Tour Director

  • Select entrance fees

How's the weather?

  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Cusco, Peru
  • Aguas Calientes, Huanuco
  • Lima, Peru
Temperature Precipitation
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

Quito3 nights - hotel info

Day1

The sunsets, the volcanoes, the ceviche—start envisioning Ecuador

After your flight, arrive late this evening in Quito. A Go Ahead representative greets you as you clear customs, escorts you to your hotel and assists with check-in.

Day2

Stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern

Breakfast, Dinner

Equatorial Monument

Embark on a guided sightseeing tour of Quito, taking in views of the Tumbaco Valley before passing by the Legislative Palace, Independence Square and El Sagrario Church. Stop to view the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco en route to La Compañia, the city’s baroque church. After your tour, you’ll head out on an excursion to the Equatorial Monument, where you can stand with one foot on either side of the equator. Meet your fellow travelers at tonight’s welcome dinner.

Day3

Mingle with the locals, peruse the crafts, get a feel for Ecuador

Optional Excursion - Otavalo & Hacienda

Breakfast

Enjoy a free day in Quito or join your group for a full-day optional excursion to the traditional crafts market of Otavalo, stopping at some of the indigenous villages along the way.

Optional Excursions

Otavalo & Hacienda $95* pp

Travel through the colorful Guayllabamba and Cayambe valleys, stopping along the way to sample some of the region’s celebrated fruit and to enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding volcanoes and San Pablo Lake. Then, make your way through the Andes to Otavalo, a traditional market town known for its knitted and leather goods. After perusing the vibrant market and visiting a local musical instrument factory, settle in for a lunch at a historic colonial-era hacienda. Incredible views of lush gardens, winding trails and the property’s roaming llamas make an idyllic backdrop for your meal.

Galápagos Islands4 nights - hotel info

Day4

Set sail for Black Turtle Cove

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, fly to Baltra, where you’ll board your cruise. After getting settled in your cabin and enjoying lunch on board, cruise across the narrow channel separating Baltra from Santa Cruz Island. Then, cruise to Black Turtle Cove, where you should keep your eyes peeled for turtles, rays and sharks swimming among the mangroves.

Day5

Admire the red sand beaches of Rabida Island

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a wet landing on Santiago Island, spend the morning exploring the extensive lava flows and swimming and snorkeling in Sullivan Bay. Spot flamingos, sea turtles, seals and sea lions, as well as a wide range of coastal and migratory birds. Later, transfer to Rabida Island, where the volcanic geology creates an incredible landscape of unique, dark red-sand beaches. Take a dinghy ride along the cliffs to observe nesting seabirds and snorkel.

Day6

Swim with sea turtles and scout out blue-footed boobies

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Begin your exploration of Isabela Island, the largest in the Galápagos archipelago. This morning, set foot on the black sands around Urbina Bay, where you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel with the sea turtles that swim just off shore. Or, stay on land and pay a visit to the giant tortoises that live on the slopes of the nearby Alcedo Volcano. This afternoon, your naturalist guide leads a walking tour near Tagus Cove, where you’ll learn about the geological history of the Galápagos and see the blue-footed boobies that nest here. Your tour of Tagus Cove concludes with a dinghy ride and the option of deep sea snorkeling.

Day7

WALK ALONG THE IGUANA-LINED SHORES OF DARWIN’S YOUNGEST ISLAND

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

During this morning’s visit to Punta Espinosa, you’ll witness dramatic lava flows and the millennia-long processes that have formed these lands. Be on the lookout for the area’s marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and the fearless Galápagos hawk. This afternoon, a dinghy ride brings you to Vicente Roca Point and the Bolivar Channel. If you haven’t snorkeled yet, now’s the time: The cold waters of the Cromwell Current well up in the Bolivar Channel and attract dolphins and whales to this narrow strait.

Quito1 night - hotel info

Day8

All aboard the M/V Galápagos Legend to return to dry land

Breakfast

Journey to the Santa Cruz highlands, northwest of Puerto Ayora, to visit a giant tortoise nature reserve. Walk through the humid forest landscape to see these slow-moving reptiles. Later, return to Baltra and board your flight back to the mainland. Once in Quito, you’re free to spend the evening as you like.

Day9

Point your camera at Cotopaxi's dramatic volcanic landscapes

Optional Excursion - Volcanic Landscapes: Cotopaxi National Park

Breakfast

Explore Quito on your own today, or opt to join an excursion to Cotopaxi National Park to view its dramatic volcanic landscapes. Afterward, a Go Ahead representative escorts you to the airport for your overnight flight home. If you’re joining the tour extension to Peru, you’ll fly to Lima where you will spend the night.

Optional Excursions

Volcanic Landscapes: Cotopaxi National Park $95* pp

Take a light hike through Cotopaxi National Park, home to the autonymous snow-covered volcano, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Keep an eye out for the park’s many bird species and plant life as you make your way around the beautiful landscapes of the Andes. In the distance, you can see views of Limpiopungo Lake and various volcanoes. After your hike, enjoy lunch at Hacienda La Cienega. Please note: Layered clothing and comfortable shoes are recommended for this excursion.

Overnight Flight1 night

Day10

Pack up your Galápagos memories and fly away home

Arrive home.

Please note: Due to varying flight schedules, some travelers may depart on the morning of Day 10, arriving home later that evening.

Extend Your Stay

Add Peru & Machu Picchu $1,299*

Experience Peru in all its diversity. Wander the colonial cities that display the legacy of Spanish conquistadors, explore the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and visit the lost city of Machu Picchu.

Cuzco2 nights - hotel info

Day10

COLORFUL TAPESTRIES TO MOUNTAIN MAJESTY, SOAK UP THE ANDEAN CULTURE

Breakfast

Fly from Lima to Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital. After settling in to your hotel, the rest of the afternoon is yours to spend as you please.

Day11

Contrast Cuzco’s colonial architecture and Incan ruins

Breakfast, Dinner

Cuzco ruins, Cathedral of Santa Domingo

Join a local guide on today’s guided tour of Cuzco, which includes visits to the elegant Cathedral and Convent of Santo Domingo. Later, you’ll travel to three Incan archaeological sites near Cuzco, including Sacsayhuaman, Cuzco’s most impressive Incan ruins. In the evening, meet back up with your group for an included Peruvian dinner.

Aguas Calientes1 night - hotel info

Day12

Feel the spirit in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Breakfast, Lunch

Ollantaytambo ruins

En route to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, stop to peruse the colorful stalls of the wide-open Pisac Market, where you’ll find local fare and traditional crafts on display. Next, continue to the ancient Ollantaytambo ruins to explore the area’s still-standing Incan homes. Afterward, board a train to Aguas Calientes, gateway to Machu Picchu.

Cuzco1 night - hotel info

Day13

Climb the ancient temples and green slopes of Machu Picchu

Breakfast, Lunch

Machu Picchu

Uncover the lost city of Machu Picchu, one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on the entire South American continent. Step back into the days of the Incan empire as you tour the ruins of the ancient ceremonial center. Later, you’ll return to Cuzco for the night.

Lima1 night - hotel info

Day14

Descend into Peru’s captivating seaside capital

Breakfast, Dinner

Fly back to Lima, where you’ll have time to settle in to the capital city before an included dinner.

Day15

Explore the collection of colonial churches in Lima’s historic center

Breakfast

Cathedral of Lima, Monastery of San Francisco, Huaca Huallamarca

Set out on a guided tour highlighting both the modern and colonial quarters of Lima. The afternoon is free for exploring or resting in your dayroom before your overnight flight home.

Overnight Flight1 night

Day16

Settle back into life in the Northern Hemisphere

Arrive home.

Passport & Visa Requirements

In order to enter Ecuador (and Peru on the extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return home. No visa is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.

About your Galápagos Cruise

Your Galápagos cruise offers the latest in cruise comfort while also providing an intimate and environmentally safe look at the Galápagos Islands. The yacht features an outdoor pool, observation decks, solarium, library, bar and large restaurant. Choose from a wide variety of activities in your free time—everything from snorkeling to stargazing. Please note: Due to the ship’s itinerary, the order of days in Quito before and after the cruise could change.

Baggage Allowance

Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage. Please contact your airline or refer to its website for detailed information regarding your airline’s checked baggage policies. Bear in mind that your luggage will probably weigh more on your return trip due to souvenir shopping. We allow only one suitcase per person. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 inches (length + width + height). There may be times when you will have to handle your own bags, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage. Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on luggage.

Clothing and Packing Tips

For your Galápagos cruise, casual dress is appropriate; however, shorts and sandals aren’t allowed in the dining room during dinner. Waterproof shoes or sandals, a bathing suit, sunscreen and insect repellent are essential for your visit to the Galápagos. On land, you’ll want to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing suitable for exploring the sights and pack a sun hat, sunglasses, sturdy pair of walking shoes and rain gear. If you plan to visit an elegant restaurant, you’ll probably feel more comfortable with something more formal to wear. Also, remember that it’s preferable not to visit churches or other religious sites with bare legs and shoulders (and entrance may be denied on this basis).

Health

Travelers to Ecuador should be comfortable in high-altitude conditions. Elevation throughout the country varies widely. The altitude of Quito is close to 10,000 feet (Cuzco on extension is 11,000 feet). Travelers, especially those with heart or lung conditions, should consult with their personal healthcare providers before undertaking high-altitude travel.

Important Health Tips

In order for you to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following:

* Drink bottled water. Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing teeth. * Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they are cooked or washed in clean water and peeled. * Bring a small first-aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any prescription medications.

Cuisine

Food in Ecuador relies heavily on locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with regional seafood and game. You’re likely to find local dishes featuring potatoes, yucca root, bananas and plantains. Seafood, including bass, trout and catfish, is also prevalent and served grilled, fried or marinated as ceviche. Ecuador’s tropical fruit is delicious—specialties include melons, papayas, passion fruit and tamarinds.

Transportation

Round-trip flights arrive in and depart from Quito (or Lima on the extension). The tour also includes a flight to and from the Galápagos Islands and the four-night island cruise. The extension includes internal flights from Quito to Cuzco and from Cuzco to Lima. Most destinations on tour are walkable, including Quito, although local buses are available as well.

Electricity

Ecuador uses 110 volts, the same as in the U.S.

Time Zones

Ecuador falls on a similar time zone to Eastern Standard Time, except it does not observe daylight saving time. Ecuador has the same time as New York from October to April, and is one hour behind New York from April to October.

Currency

The U.S. dollar (USD) is the currency you’ll use in Ecuador. On land, you’ll find that ATMS are widely available. During your cruise, any onboard charges can be billed to your credit card. Please note that U.S. bank notes with denominations higher than $20 may not be accepted in some areas of Ecuador. If you’re joining the tour extension to Peru, you’ll also use the Peruvian sol. Better rates of exchange are usually available in Peru, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. We suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.

Tipping

On your cruise, tipping your waiter, busser and cabin steward is customary if you’re pleased with the service. Gratuities are generally given at the end of the voyage. We recommend $15 per traveler per day, to be divided among your waiter, busser and cabin steward. Separate tips are recommended for the naturalist guides. We recommend $8 per person per day. All cruise tipping can be handled by cash or by credit card. At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director.

"Excelente" Tour Director

Juan Carlos was the real excellent Tour Director! He managed a group of 44 like we were his own family. Took care of details.Gave us advise on the best to see and buy in every place. He even brought to our bus a precious girl from Otavalo (Meche) to show us how the proper indigenous dress is worn by single and married women in that wonderful region of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands were not exactly what I have expected . However the amount of native species we saw and the spectacular pictures we could take soon erased my first impression. The crew of the Galapagos Legend was really nice. Specially the waiter Christian and bar tender Jaime.I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Pelusa our boat "captain" (panga driver). So I really recommend this trip if you get Juan Carlos as your Tour Director. My pictures represent a Galápago tortoise and a land iguana at Urbina Bay, Isabela Island and marine iguanas at Espinosa Point, Fernandina Island.

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5 / 5

Traveled On: 2/24/2014

Number of Past Tours: 2

From: TX

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Best Trip Ever

The entire trip was excellent. Rodrigo,our tour director, did a tremendous job. Great sense of humor and very attentive to all the travelers. Very knowledgeable..The snorkeling in the Galapagos with sea lions, penguins, sea turtles and fish, fish, fish was world class. The accommodations, staff and food on the ship in the Galapagos were excellent. It was simply about the best organized trip we've ever taken, and the outdoor and water-related activities in the Galapagos were "once in a lifetime" type of experiences with animals that had no fear of humans.

5 / 5

Traveled On: 3/10/2014

Number of Past Tours: 2

From: NE

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Wonderful Tour!!!

This tour was amazing from seeing the different areas of Quito and then the breathtaking views of the Galapagos Islands. It was so neat to see the animals so up close. Juan Carlos really made the tour the best it could be. He knew so much history about the area and just took great care of making sure everyone had a great time. Great trip!!!!

5 / 5

Traveled On: 12/2/2013

Number of Past Tours: 3

From: NC

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Wide range of activities

Overall, this was a great tour with a good range of activities, from snorkeling with sea turtles and sea lions in the Galapagos to shopping in Lima. The main tour guide was perfect. In the midst of airport commotion, he was calm and organized, really helped reduce any travel stress. Great with questions, knowledgeable and warm. The local tour guide for Lima was wonderful, too - she approached things academically, and really got me thinking more about the situations that led to conflicts between the Incas and others, for instance. Very thought-provoking and warm. A keeper! The hotels were fine, with the one in Quito being truly exceptional. We also had a great combination of structured tours and free time. I need to mention the skilled bus drivers, too - some of the streets in Cusco were tiny and our driver managed to ferry us around without any mishaps. I would have left a path of carnage. Unbelievable talent in our drivers. The Galapagos tour was great. I had been concerned about being on a relatively large ship (The Galapagos Legend), but it was fine. Yummy food, friendly staff, comfortable rooms (we didn't upgrade - not in the room enough to use a balcony). The departures were well-organized, so there wasn't a lot of waiting around. All the guides were fantastic, knowledgeable, and respectful of the environment.

review photo

4 / 5

Traveled On: 11/18/2013

Number of Past Tours: 3

From: OH

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 4 / 5

Great Tour Guide

We had a fabulous time on our tour due in large part to our tour director, Juan. Every detail was planned and executed by Juan. We had a great tour group and made some fast friends. Quito was interesting but the Galapagos Islands were fantastic. The animals were so fascinating that we wanted to hug them. We also were fortunate to have an experienced naturalist who was outstanding in everyway. He really had a love of the animals of the islands. The crew of the Legend were friendly and handled the morning and afternoon tour excursions with efficiency. I would recommend this tour to anyone.

review photo

5 / 5

Traveled On: 12/2/2013

Number of Past Tours: 1

From: SC

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Another world!

We took this tour directly after the Ancient Peru and Machu Pichu tour. I would highly recommend doing these two tours back-to-back. It was absolutely seamless; Go Ahead made everything click. The Galapagos tour was fascinating; our tour guide Juan Carlos, a young man 28 years of age, made us feel so comfortable in his country of Ecuador; he obviously loves what he does. He rates right up there with Edwin on the Peru tour as the best guide ever! We saw things that were just magnificent. The crew on the Galapagos Legend are wonderful; I think that Johnny, our zodiac operator, is beyond description. How he handled that craft and what he showed us was unbelievable. The experience with the wildlife in the Galapagos is a once in a lifetime trip.

5 / 5

Traveled On: 11/18/2013

Number of Past Tours: 5

From: BC

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Worst organized trip ever?

To begin, please note that my wife and I are seasoned travelers, having visited Australia and New Zealand, much of Europe, Dubai, China, Japan, Singapore, Mexico and much of the Caribbean. Parts of this tour were wonderful - exactly what we could have hoped for. Although the Galapagos Legend is an older boat, our cabin was well appointed and apparently quieter than some. We slept well on what were comfortable beds. The GL's staff were excellent. We were fortunate to have Alejandros as our environmentalist guide. He was extremely knowledgeable, had a good sense of humour, and willing to engage in controversial discussions ,regarding global warming and environmental protection. Eduardo looked after us in the dining room and also did a fine job. After the first day, he knew how we liked our coffee, took our plates from the buffet to our places, and was attentive to any needs during the meal. We ran into a plumbing issue at approximately 3:00 AM one day and they did a fine job fixing the problem when he said they would. On the other hand, the trip itself, from Go Ahead Tours perspective was less successful. When we received our tickets, I noticed that my wife did not have a seat assigned from Toronto to Miami. I contacted AA and was informed that she was on standby, but for $25 I could get her a seat. Instead, I contact your office and asked them to fix the problem. They called back a day or so later, and said that she had indeed been on stand-by, but we now had seats - but not together. When GAT adjusted the schedule, and added the additional flights due to a booking error on your part, it was fortunate that our internal trip organizer noticed that there was no hotel booked to accommodate the changed itinerary. He contacted your office to find that this was the case and with thanks, GAT got us accommodation. The additional flight was unnecessary and apparently was done to cover errors by GAT. It caused significant unnecessary fatigue and illness for your customers. Upon arrival in Quito, it was discovered that one of our suitcases had not arrived ( as well as another tour member ) We were assured that they should be in on time for our departure - maybe. It was only after significant pressure onto tour director Juan Carlos by myself and the other affected traveller, that he contacted LAN and found that they would arrive in Quito on day 2. They did not arrive, but were were assured they would arrive that night. In the middle of the night I was awakened at 2:30 AM by LAN to ask whether they should keep our bags at the airport for pick-up the next morning as they had been advised by Juan Carlos that we were leaving at 5:30 in the morning. I told them to deliver the bags to the hotel as were not leaving for another day. Based on their assurances, as well as a note from the front desk, I decided to go on the paid excursion as I would not have to replace all my clothes and gear for the Galapagos visit. This included swim suit, sandles, shorts t-shirts etc etc. I had been made aware that there would be no other opportunity to buy anything before returning from the Galapagos. By the promised time for the bags to arrive, I asked JC to call the hotel. They had not arrived but he was not concerned. At that point, ( around noon - 1:00PM ) I made it clear to JC that the missing bags were his number one priority. He made calls and I was told incredible excuses - LAN offices didn't open until after 1:00PM, that calls to your office in the US went unanswered, and there wasn't much more he could do - but don't worry, everything would be fine. My wife and I decided that since our trip was effectively ruined without the things we needed, we would return home, We communicated this to JC and he then decided to send someone from GAT to pick up the bags. This was done without a problem. It should have been done without ruining my day. The excuses were feeble and the interest in resolving a problem was minimal. If I had not taken charge of the process, I am convinced we would not have received our bags. That said, most of the travelers, including ourselves, found Juan Carlos, charming and knowledgeable. There were too many flights, too much altitude change due to flight and itinerary changes, GAT was confused on too many issues, the luggage situation was extremely poorly handled, The tour guides in all areas that were ancillary to the trip were wonderful - they know their cities and areas of expertise and should be commended. Machu Pichu was a memorable day despite the train breakdown on the way back to Cusco. Flight seating should have more attention paid to it. It is ridiculous that spouses cannot get seats together on long flights - especially overnight ones. This is a GAT issue that it needs to take up with it's air carriers. The hotels were fine - clean and comfortable. The visits of Cusco, Lima, and Quito were well worth while. More time could be spent in Lima and less in the hinterland of Ecuador. ( My opinion only )

3 / 5

Traveled On: 11/18/2013

Number of Past Tours: 1

From: ON

Tour Director: 2 / 5

Tour Value: 3 / 5

An Inconsistent Trip

As with all tours, the tour director plays a major role in the joy and pleasure one gets from any trip abroad. Juan Carlos was very knowledgeable and passionate about his beloved Ecuador. He was interesting to listen to and had an engaging personality. However that being said, Juan Carlos also needs further instruction in order to learn how to take care of things when everything does not go according to plan. Upon our arrival in Quito we discovered that two people were without luggage. This should have been a relatively easy situation to resolve had Juan Carlos stepped up to the plate as the Go Ahead representative in Ecuador and one who spoke the language. Juan Carlos did nothing to help the situation until the day prior to leaving for the Galapagos when both families made it clear to him that if the luggage were not at the hotel when we returned for the day, four people would be leaving the tour and heading back home. He could not seem to understand that along with all their personal belongings there was also all their personal snorkeling equipment for their adventure at the Galapagos. Juan Carlos' lack of initiative and response caused much stress which could so easily have been avoided. The Galapagos was phenomenal and the staff on board the Galapagos Legend were attentive, knowledgeable and fun. Special mention must be made of both Alex, our naturalist guide and Edwardo, our waiter. However the entire staff on the Galapagos Legend were friendly, upbeat, knowledgeable and caring. All in all, our time in the Galapagos, snorkeling, land tours and on board the cruise ship was exceptional. Go Ahead Tours should look into their organizational issues. Changes to the original itinerary, resulting in additional flights,made this trip exhausting for everyone. Five flights over 9 days are simply too many. Spouses separated during these flights also caused great consternation, as often one spouse carried necessary items/medications in his/her carry on luggage. I would recommend this tour to a friend but with reservations.

3 / 5

Traveled On: 11/18/2013

Number of Past Tours: 1

From: ON

Tour Director: 2 / 5

Tour Value: 3 / 5

Good tour directors, however office staff needs some help.

See below

4 / 5

Traveled On: 10/21/2013

Number of Past Tours: 5

From: NJ

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 4 / 5

Awesome experience

The opportunity to snorkel with sea lions, penguins, and sea turtles was the most awesome experience ever. I am not a good swimmer but they provided floating devices that helped me with the comfort level, The guides assumed that everyone was experienced but one guide did provide some help (if you asked) and another traveler with lots of diving experience was very helpful. Overall, the Galapagos Legend provided nice rooms, great food and wonderful staff. The itinerary was varied and gave some time for resting between the 2 excursions each day. Getting on and off the pangas was sometimes challenging. Be aware you should be in good physical condition to participate in the activities. Transfers from Quito to the Galapagos went extremely smooth at the airport. Documents and check in were the smoothest I have experienced. If only Go Ahead could handle the airline plane schedules as well; we would have left as scheduled. Fab, tour director, came to our room the first night there to personally introduce himself and gave us his business card in case we needed anything. He also offered his services in case of emergency for the few days after the tour we were in the area . He was very helpful to our needs.

4 / 5

Traveled On: 10/21/2013

Number of Past Tours: 1

From: TX

Tour Director: 4 / 5

Tour Value: 4 / 5

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MAKE AN IMPACT

 

Get to know some of the conservation areas helping to preserve nature and wildlife in Ecuador.

 

Galápagos Islands

Galápagos, Ecuador

On the shores of the Galápagos Islands, you’ll find giant tortoises roaming, iguanas sunbathing and Sally Lightfoot crabs sidling along just as they have for centuries. Consisting of 13 main islands and three smaller islets, the “Insulae de los Galopegos” (Islands of the Tortoises) were formed around 8 million years ago, and have spent the majority of their existence in complete isolation. The archipelago is one of the only places on earth without an indigenous population, which is why its ecosystem remains one of the world’s most unique and untainted. The islands and their endemic wildlife gained much of their notoriety from their starring role in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in which he introduced his evolutionary theory. In 1959, 100 years after Darwin’s work was published, 97.5 percent of the archipelago’s land area was declared a national park. In the same year, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) was founded. In its early years, the CDF initiated the conservation programs now carried out by the National Park Service, such as reproduction, breeding and monitoring initiatives for the islands’ native and endangered species. Today, the national park is committed to educating visitors about the ecology of Ecuador’s only UNESCO World Heritage site by providing opportunities to explore 70 terrestrial sites and 75 marine sites with more than 320 naturalist guides qualified by the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park.

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK

Napo, Ecuador

Towering almost 20,000 feet above sea level, Cotopaxi Volcano is the centerpiece of this vast protected area. As one of Ecuador’s most active and destructive volcanoes, the magnificent peak has long been a source of wonder and fear, inspiring indigenous peoples to worship the volcano as a deity. The mighty mountain has been relatively quiet in the past century, but that does not make her perfect snow-covered cone any less impressive. The peak is often hidden by cloud cover, but every year, thousands of intrepid hikers climb through the clouds to reach the summit. In addition to Cotopaxi itself, the national park contains three other volcanoes, putting the park at the center of Ecuador’s so-called “Avenue of Volcanoes.” On their slopes, the humid mountain forest and rainy Andean tundra contain many species of flora and fauna that are unique to these altitudes, including Paramo grasses and mosses. In the past, these ecosystems have been impacted by human encroachment, especially due to burning and grazing. Fortunately, the establishment of the national park has slowed this destruction, at the same time allowing visitors to marvel at the striking landscapes and their illusive inhabitants.

Q&A