Natural Selection – Amazon & Galapagos Tour
This Ecuador tour is for nature-lovers with an insatiable appetite for discovery. In the stark volcanic landscapes of the incredible Galapagos Islands, through inland cloud forests, and verdant Amazon Rainforest, an array of fascinating creatures, large and small, make their home. On this tour you’ll spend eight days delving into the secrets of the Galapagos from the comfort of a first-class yacht, as well as soaking in hot-springs and disappearing deep into the Amazon Rainforest to a remote and beautiful nature reserve where you’ll stay in a world-class ecolodge.
- Explore the cobbled streets of Quito’s UNESCO protected colonial centre
- Discover fascinating and unique bird and animal species on the Galapagos Islands
- Stay on a first class yacht and cruise the volcanic islands of the Galapagos archipelago
- Go on a journey to the centre of the world at Mitad del Mundo, the Equator monument
- Soak in the beautiful natural hot-springs of Papallacta’s cloud forests
- Journey deep into the Amazon Rainforest and stay in a community owned and managed ecolodge
- Canoe and hike through the jungle and discover its vibrant wildlife and communities
This is a private tour (small-group during Galapagos cruise) and you will be accompanied by an English-speaking local guide during all excursions, and throughout your time in the Amazon. The price displayed is per person based on two people sharing. All tours can be tailor-made to suit your interests and requirements.
This price is valid for the high season (May 1st to June 15th, September, October and the first week of December). If you are travelling during the low season (rest of the year), the price is between 10 and 15% cheaper. We work with several other cruises, all of them with good environmental credentials, and with different trip lengths (from 5 to 15 days) and different comfort levels, so please go ahead and send us an enquiry and we will find the best option for you. The itinerary below is just an example, we will find the perfect dates, itinerary and level of comfort for you. Also ask about the last minute deals for Galapagos cruises and island hopping.
If you are a lover of chocolate, don’t miss out on the 6 day Cocoa Tasting tour! And for those wanting to undertake the challenge of a lifetime, we also offer climbing tours to both Cayambe and Chimborazo volcanoes. For more information on the 3 and 4 day volcano tours, visit the destinations page, and you can also read about Guardian travel writer, Kevin Rushby’s, attempt at reaching both summits.
Ecuador is a diminutive, but diverse country, with a wealth of natural habitats to discover. On this trip you’ll explore two in particular that couldn’t be more different – the arid volcanic landscapes of the Galapagos Islands where the hot sun beats down all year-round; and the lush and humid expanse of the tropical Amazon Rainforest.
The Galapagos Islands are famous for being instrumental in the development of Darwin’s theories of evolution, including natural selection. At about 1000km from the mainland, these remote volcanic islands remained cut off from the rest of the world and the animals there were left to evolve without any influence from incoming species. Numerous unique mammals, reptiles and birds have developed in this harsh environment making it a living laboratory for the evolution of species. The delicate ecological balance of the Galapagos Islands reveals both the beauty and cruelty of the natural world like no other place on the planet. These islands are Ecuador’s most visited destination, and with good reason.
During your visit the Islands you will stay on one of the top yachts in the Galapagos. This fleet operate in both an ecologically and socially responsible manner and strict rules are in place to protect this precious place. On an eight day cruise you’ll visit incredible parts of the Archipelago seeing birds and animals such as blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, penguins, giant turtles, iguanas and fur seals.
After this amazing journey you’ll head back to Quito to relax for a few days and explore some urban wonders. Quito’s labyrinth of cobbled streets and colourful plazas was named the very first UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978 and its well-preserved colonial buildings are a delight to explore. The city has a dramatic setting amidst the mountains and volcanoes of the cool Andean Highlands, and is a focal point for art, culture and tradition. In the streets you’ll see artisans practicing trades and crafts of old, keeping alive the spirit of their ancestors. You’ll also visit the nearby equator monument and spend a full-day soaking in the beautiful thermal hot-springs in the cloud forest of Papallacta.
From the highlands you’ll travel to Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest. With over 500 species of birds and as many as 400 species of plants in a single hectare, this really is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. You’ll spend four days in this pristine environment, at the edge of the Yasuni National Park, in a one-of-a-kind ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, conservation, and community projects. The lodge is owned and operated by members of a local community, and through their extensive knowledge of Amazon wildlife and habitats, you’ll get to know the secrets of the animals and plants that live here.
Day 1: Quito (-/-/-)
Upon arrival in Ecuador you’ll be welcomed at Quito airport by our guide and transferred to your comfortable hotel in the capital. Depending on your arrival time, you may have time to explore the city, visiting one of the many museums or taking a walk around the old town. Alternatively you can just relax at your hotel and head out later for dinner at one of the many excellent nearby restaurants.
Day 2: Quito to the Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
You are off to the Galapagos! After breakfast you will be picked up at your hotel for your flight to the Enchanted Isles. Upon arrival at Baltra airport, your guide will be waiting for you and the rest of your group to drive you into the Santa Cruz highlands, where the Galapagos’ famous giant tortoises can be seen in the wild. You will also visit the Charles Darwin Station, a research facility and national park information centre. The Charles Darwin Station has a fascinating giant tortoise and land iguana breeding program, as well as an interpretation centre to explore. Tonight you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep in a private cabin on board your 1st Class yacht.
Day 3: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
Visit Sombrero Chino, a small volcanic island just southeast of the tip of Santiago island. The shape of the island has given it the name. Fauna here includes the sea lions, marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins. Later continue to the small island of Rabida with a beautiful dark red coral sand beach. Visits to a lagoon with flamingoes, sea lion bachelor colony, pelican nesting site and time for snorkelling are included.
Day 4: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
Explore Isabela Island, the largest of the Galapagos Islands formed by five active volcanoes fusing together. Wolf Volcano is the highest point in the entire Galapagos at 1707m. First you will visit Puerto Villamil, a charming small town on a white sandy beach. The town is home to a Tortoise Breeding Station and a lovely flamingo lagoon. In the afternoon, you will hike to the Sierra Negra Volcano, which has the second largest crater on earth with a diameter of a staggering 10km. You’ll be able to view recent lava flows, lush highland vegetation and some interesting rock formations.
Day 5: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
Visit Punta Moreno, on the south-western coast of Isabela Island. This site has spectacular views of the Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul volcanoes. You’ll also see impressive lava flows and distinctive arid-zone vegetation and landscapes. Later, cruise over to Elizabeth Bay where you’ll transfer to a dinghy. This smaller boat allows you to get much closer to the coastline and see the penguins on the many small islets. The end of the bay is long and narrow and surrounded by three different species of mangroves where you’ll see Galapagos Sea Turtles and rays swimming in the calm waters.
Day 6: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
Explore Urbina Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island in the foothills of the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. Here you’ll see colourful land iguanas and giant tortoise. This afternoon you’ll visit Tagus Cove, a natural harbour where centuries ago whalers and pirates painted or carved their ships’ names on the rocks. From there we’ll take a walk uphill to Darwin's Crater, a saltwater lake, from where you’ll enjoy excellent views over the ocean and islands.
Day 7: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
After breakfast you’ll visit Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, the youngest volcanic island of the Galapagos and one that is still active. Punta Espinoza is famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas. It is also the habitat of other unique species, such as the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos hawk and the Galapagos snake. In the afternoon, you will go back to Isabela Island to visit Punta Vicente Roca. This site is again best visited by taking a dinghy ride along the cliffs and over to the partially sunken cave at the water’s edge. All sorts of colourful birds inhabit the shoreline, including Nasca boobies, blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants.
Day 8: The Galapagos Islands (B/L/D)
Cruise over to Santiago Island located between Isabela and Santa Cruz. A great variety of seabirds live here, as well as marine iguanas and fur seals. You will take a stroll along the rocky coastline at Puerto Egas, enjoying views of tide pools and Sugar Loaf Volcano, as well as visiting an old salt mine. You will then go on to Bartolome Island to enjoy spectacular views from its summit, before visiting the sea lions and penguins around Pinnacle Rock. You will also have time to relax on a beautiful white sandy beach this afternoon, where you can swim and snorkel in the sunlit waters.
Day 9: The Galapagos Islands to Quito (B/-/-)
Visit the small Seymour Island, a flat landmass formed by shifting plates thousands of years ago. The island is home to endemic Palo Santo trees, colonies of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and the magnificent frigate birds. You will then be dropped off back at Baltra Airport for your flight to Quito where you’ll be met by your driver and driven to your comfortable hotel in the city.
Day 10: Quito (B/L/-)
After breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel and taken on a guided tour of Quito visiting the city’s main sights. You will then head out of town to visit Mitad del Mundo (the equator monument). There are several museums there for you to visit where you can find out all about Ecuador´s history, nature and indigenous people. You can also visit the Inti Ñan museum, where through some odd experiments (e.g. balancing eggs on nails) you will learn what´s so special about the Equator. After exploring and enjoying a delicious lunch in a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant you’ll have the rest of the day to relax back in Quito.
Day 11: Quito to Papallacta Hot Springs (B/-/-)
After breakfast, your guide will pick you up for your private transfer to the beautiful hot springs of Papallacta. You’ll spend the whole day at the hot springs and you’ll also be staying there tonight. You are free to use both the hotel’s hot spring pools and the public pool complex all day, and you’ll also enjoy discounts on spa treatments. As well as this you can choose to take a short hike into the beautiful surrounding cloud forests, or arrange a longer hike if you prefer.
Day 12: Papallacta to the Amazon (-/L/D)
After early breakfast, pick up for your transfer to Quito airport and a 30-min flight to Coca. Upon arrival your guide from the Sani Ecolodge will welcome you. From there you’ll travel by motorized canoe into the rainforest, heading down the Napo River (approx 2 hours). Then there’s a short walk to your luxury ecolodge deep in this pristine jungle area on the border of Yasuni National Park. This is a World Biosphere Reserve, home to one of the most bio-diverse habitats on the planet. Once settled in, your local guide will give an introductory talk about the Amazon region followed by a hike around the nearby swamp trails. After dinner, if you wish, you can take a night excursion in search of Cayman.
Day 13: The Amazon Yasuni Reserve (B/L/D)
During your stay at the lodge your guide will be taking you on various expeditions into the rainforest, as well as to a local Kichwa village. The activities described in the itinerary are examples of typical activities at the lodge, but they can be modified according to your interests. After breakfast you will board a canoe for an early trip across the lagoon, enjoying the morning activities of various birds and monkeys, followed by a 3-4 hour hike into the Amazon Rainforest. Lunch will be followed by a piranha fishing trip before returning to the lodge for dinner and then a night hike.
Day 14: The Amazon Yasuni Reserve (B/L/D)
Enjoy another canoe trip to an observation tower. From the tower you will be able to observe the fascinating activity of the rainforest canopy, as well as beautiful views across the tree-tops. Later you’ll take a 3-4hour wildlife hike, before enjoying a delicious lunch at the lodge. After lunch, it’s time to meet the local Kichwa community and have an introduction to their traditions and way of life. This evening you’ll enjoy your last dinner at the lodge and watch the sun set over the lagoon. Tonight you can go on your last night hike or just sit and enjoy the serenity of the lodge and the lagoon.
Day 15: The Amazon to Quito (B/-/-)
It’s time to say goodbye to both the rainforest and Ecuador. After an early breakfast you will travel by canoe back up the river to Coca for your flight to Quito. From here you can fly home or continue your journey to Peru or Colombia!
- Trip duration: 15 days
- Countries visited: Ecuador
- Level of difficulty: Low
- Accommodation: 3 nights in a hotel in Quito, 7 nights on a first class yacht in the Galapagos, 3 nights in a first class ecolodge in the Amazon rainforest, 1 night at the Papallacta hot springs resort
- Transport: Internal flights, private car, yacht cruise
- Meals included: 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 10 dinners
- Additional information:
You will be greeted at the airport on arrival by a local guide who will take you to your hotel and will be able to answer any questions, make any additional arrangements and generally ensure everything goes smoothly.
No minimum number of passengers is required and you will not be travelling with a group of people you do not know. Prices quoted are per person and based on at least 2 people travelling. You should expect a cheaper price for a bigger group.
Your passport details are required at the time of booking. For detailed information on visa requirements and health formalities, visit the FCO Travel Advice website (for UK citizens) and US Travel Advice website (for US citizens). You will need a Yellow Fever vaccination for travel to the Amazon.
Information on money changing in each destination, as well as what it is customary to tip for various services, will be provided.
This Ecuador tour, like most of the adventures through Latin America, has a low level of physical difficulty and participants can choose to do as much or as little as they like.
What to bring: Travel insurance, passport, binoculars, alarm clock, walking shoes, water bottle, daypack, sun protection, insect repellent, sun glasses and hat, swimwear, flip-flops, torch with extra batteries (headlamp), wind and waterproof jacket, a thermal shirt for layering, fleece, gloves, light synthetic/fast drying shirts and pants (for the Amazon), plastic ziplock bags, plastic bags for your luggage in case of rain.
- Best time to travel: All year round
- Extra budget recommended: Around £300 /$350 pp to cover meals and all other expenses not included in the itinerary.
- What is included: Welcome reception at the airport. Transfers (some may be shared) and internal flights. Overland transport. Accommodation. Entrance fees to sites of interest, museums and national parks mentioned in the itinerary (Note: NOT INCLUDING the Galapagos islands - $110 USD). Guided activities and excursions with English speaking guides (some private, some as part of a small group). Meals as stated in the itinerary (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner). Contributions to the social projects visited. Donation to help in preserving the Amazon rainforest through agro-forestry and education.
- What is not included: Flights from your country of origin. Travel insurance. Alcoholic drinks. Additional meals or snacks. Travel within and around each town. Visa fees (if any). Tips. Souvenirs. Galapagos entrance fee and migration document ($110 USD).
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