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Wildlife of Ecuador: Amazon + Galapagos (on land)


EYC10Q
10 NIGHTS
FROM £3,195
International flights quoted separately
Combine the wildlife of the rainforests of the Ecuadorian Amazon with the Galapagos Islands, staying on Santa Cruz island, with day excursions to see the incredible marine life and birds that inhabit these islands (or cruise option if preferred). Without any fear of humans, close up viewing is assured. Galapagos flights, all transfers & marine fees included. Diving options available on request.
• 
Quito
• 
Centre of the World
• 
Otavalo Markets
• 
Amazon Rainforest
• 
Yasuni National Park
• 
Clay Licks
• 
Santa Cruz Island
• 
Giant Tortoises
• 
North Seymour Island
• 
Charles Darwin Centre
• 
Quito
• 
Centre of the World
• 
Otavalo Markets
• 
Amazon Rainforest
• 
Yasuni National Park
• 
Clay Licks
• 
Santa Cruz Island
• 
Giant Tortoises
• 
North Seymour Island
• 
Charles Darwin Centre
Day 1
You will be met at Quito Airport and transferred to your hotel in this historic Spanish colonial city that straddles the equator and is today a World Heritage Site.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city in the Andean Highlands, with its many museums, monasteries and churches with golden altars. The prosperous centre of the Kingdom of Quitus during the 13th century, and later the northern capital of the Inca Empire, it has a setting that few cities in the world can match.
Day 2
This morning we visit the equatorial monument that marks the Centre of the World at latitude 0º - about 16 miles (25 km) north of Quito. Here you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere and visit the Intiñan folk museum that showcases the different Native American groups living in Ecuador, their culture and traditions. There is also a colonial-style tourist village complete with main square, church, post office, bull ring and gift shops.
 
Afterwards enjoy a walking tour through the streets and main square of the historic Colonial Quarter, the largest and best preserved in South America. Take in its magnificent colonial architecture - including the Cathedral, President's Palace, Archbishop's Palace and the Municipal Building flanking Independence Plaza. You will see many mansions, monasteries and churches, and visit the Church & Convent of Santo Domingo. The city also has many cosmopolitan galleries and boutiques filled with contemporary paintings, sculptures and exquisite traditional crafts.
 
Please note: Quito walking tour is conducted at an altitude of 2,800 m and includes climbing stairs. As you will be visiting churches (except on Sundays, when this is not permitted), do not wear shorts or mini-skirts as these are not allowed.
Day 3
This morning transfer to Quito Airport for your light aircraft flight across the Andes to Coca (Puerto Francisco de Orellana) - the gateway to the Amazon.
 
You will be met at Coca Airport and transferred to the Napo River for your 2-hour motorised canoe ride deep into the Amazon Basin - the world's largest body of fresh water, with lunch box provided. Along the way you will see an active volcano and many birds, including herons and kingfishers.
 
At the Napo Wildlife Centre dock we disembark and transfer into a dug-out canoe, paddling peacefully for 1 to 2-hours along a narrow creek, with trees overhead. Here there should be excellent opportunities to spot monkeys, as well as large birds such as toucans, parrots and macaws. In the late afternoon we disembark and walk 30-minutes to our Amazon lodge, overlooking beautiful Añangu Lake.
 
After dinner, there is the option of a boat ride on the lake to search for a caiman (a type of small alligator).
 
Note: There are no Amazon transfers on a Sunday.
Day 4
Explore the birds and wildlife of the amazing Amazon Basin today - a 2,7-million sq.mile (6.7 million sq.km) conservation area that is the largest in the world, spreading across eight countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
 
We rise early and walk 1-hour to a Parrot Clay Lick, where most activity happens between 07.30 and 08.30. Up to 11 different species of parrots, parakeets and macaws may be seen feeding on the rich minerals in the soil, although their activity is weather dependant.
 
Later on we walk with our naturalist guide along the trails that wind through the rainforest and visit the Kichwa Añangu community to learn about their ancestral customs and every-day life.  We then continue to a second clay lick, with lunch box provided.
 
As you walk through these woods and waterfalls, you can marvel at the magnificent trees and the extraordinary variety of orchids, bromeliads, ferns, begonias, lichens and mosses that grow here. You may see caimans, turtles, woolly monkeys, tufted brown capuchin monkeys, a variety of frogs and many other reptiles and insects. You may also be fortunate enough to see some of the colourful birds of the rainforest such as the brilliant golden-headed quetzal, grey-breasted mountain toucan, blue-crowned motmot, umbrella bird, blue-banded toucanet, fruit-eating tanager, red-crested cotinga, banded-tail fruit-eater and a variety of flycatchers.  We return to our lodge in the late afternoon.
 
Note: Daily programme is subject to change, according to the weather and your interests. A headlamp is recommended in the Amazon.
Day 5
After an early breakfast, we walk 30-minutes to climb a 36 m Canopy Tower on the Napo River, with amazing views of the jungle. As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you will pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is built into the tree, to experience views normally reserved only for the birds. Flocks of colorful tanagers may pass right through the treetop canopy, blue-and yellow macaws fly past and spider monkeys searching for fruit. Two species of large toucans can be seen calling in the early mornings and afternoons and birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.
 
Return to the lodge for lunch and in the afternoon we hike along trails in the primary forests of Yasuni National Park looking for lizards, colorful manakins and endemic Golden Mantle Tamarin monkeys. We also explore the black water Añangu Lake by dugout canoe, travelling along streams that are home to different species of fish and mammals such as the giant otter.
 
Note: Daily programme is subject to change, according to the weather and your interests. A headlamp is recommended in the Amazon.
Day 6
As you depart from the lodge by canoe this morning, there is the final opportunity to search for giant otters, monk saki monkeys and birds along the Napo River.
 
Connect with your 2-hour motorised canoe to Coca and onward flight Quito, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel situated near the airport.
 
Note: There are no Amazon transfers on a Sunday.
Day 7
This morning transfer to Quito Airport for your flight to the spectacular Galapagos Islands.
 
You will be met at Baltra Airport and transferred to your hotel on Santa Cruz Island. This magnificent archipelago is situated on the equator in the Pacific Ocean some 560 miles (900 km) west of the Ecuador mainland. Its volcanic islands are famous for their vast number of endemic species, studied by Charles Darwin during his historic voyage on the Beagle, which contributed to his Theory of Evolution. In this astonishing marine reserve, the unique wildlife does not seem perturbed by human visitors - allowing for extremely close-up encounters.
 
We travel from the airport through the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where we visit the Manzanillo Tortoise Reserve to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat - a once in a lifetime experience. Manzanillo is on the migration path tortoises take every year as they move to higher moist locations during the dry season (June-September) before descend again to the warmer lowlands during the wet season. Year round tortoises can be seen grazing on the vegetation, or wallowing in muddy banks or in small red-coloured ponds. The area is teeming with life: chirping small-tree, large-tree and woodpecker finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers, as well as ducks, herons and gallinules make this an exciting morning visit. Make sure you wear outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear today.
 
We then drive across Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galápagos. Here we board a panga boat for the short ride to our hotel. Check in and enjoy the swimming and bar, as well as the magnificent white coral beach out front.
Day 8
Rise early today to be ready to depart from our hotel by 07.45. We cross Academy Bay by boat and board a bus in Puerto Ayora - travelling overland to the Itabaca Channel on the island’s north shore. Here we board our yacht and sail to either North Seymour or Bartolomé Island.
 
North Seymour Island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed accounts for its low flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, with swallow-tailed gulls sitting among the rocks and ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rains to burst into bloom.
 
This island is teaming with life. You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana; blue-footed boobys nest beside the trail and mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Further along the rocky shore, large flocks of pelicans mass for a dive-bomb feeding frenzy. The trail then turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird. These huge dark acrobats have 2m (6 ft) wingspans. The males, with puffed up scarlet throat sacks, perch in low bushes as they watch over their large chicks. This is a walking excursion, involving a dry landing on uneven rocky terrain.
 
Afterwards relax on Bachas Beach on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. This glorious white beach, with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea, is an important nesting site for the east Pacific green sea turtle. The lagoons are the feeding grounds for a variety of wading birds, ranging from stilts to flamingos. Here you can enjoy fantastic snorkelling and swimming, or simply relax and enjoy the white soft beach.
 
Bartolomé Island is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering spearheaded obelisk that rises from the ocean’s edge and is the best known landmark in the islands. Galápagos penguins —the only species of penguin found north of the equator — waddle precariously along narrow volcanic ledges at its base and sea lions snooze on the rocky platforms. Just below the surface, shoals of tropical fish dodge in and out of the rocks past urchins, sea stars and anemones. A perfect crescent-shaped white sandy beach lies just to the east of the pinnacle. Sea turtles use the beach as a nesting site and can sometimes be found wading in the shallow water near the shore, or resting in the sand to recover from the arduous task of digging nests, laying eggs and covering them over. We snorkel from this beach, following a wet landing.
 
Penguins dot the nearby rocks of the other landing site, less than a kilometer along the eastern shore. Here the submerged walls of a tiny volcanic crater give the impression of a fountain pool. A dry landing leads to a 600-metre (2,000-foot) pathway complete with stairs and boardwalk leading to Bartolomé’s summit. The route is not difficult and presents a museum of volcanology, left untouched after its last eruption with cones standing in various stages of erosion and lava tubes forming bobsled-like runs from the summit. At the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Santiago Island and James Bay to the west, and far below, Pinnacle Rock and our beach, where the crystal blue waters of the bay cradle our yacht. We return to our hotel travelling by road across the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
Day 9
We depart from our hotel at 09.00 today to explore Santa Cruz Island, including a visit to Tortuga Bay or Cerro Mesa and Garrapatero Cove.
 
Tortuga Bay is reached along a 2 km (1.3 mile) fairly flat and straight trail from Puerto Ayora. This is a great birding walk through an arid, deciduous forest. You don’t have to worry about a day-pack, as you only need to carry the very immediate essentials: hat, sunscreen, binoculars, camera and your water bottle. Anything else you may need for the rest of the day can be sent to the end of the trail by boat. When you reach Tortuga Bay, you will understand why this is often referred to as Ecuador’s most beautiful beach - with over one kilometre of snow-white sand and turquoise waters, with the never-ending sound of swells caressing the island.
 
Protected by a natural lava barrier, this large calm bay is surrounded by a gallery of mangroves that provide habitat for may different marine and terrestrial birds, as well as young sharks and rays, who spend their youth in the protective, mildly brackish conditions. These are also nesting grounds for the green sea turtle and you should see foraging marine iguanas. Our day boat will meet us at Playa Mansa, with a packed lunch. Activities here include swimming or sea kayaking in these calm clear waters.
 
We return to our hotel for lunch and to freshen up, before visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station in the afternoon. Accompanied by a guide, stroll through the grounds of the research station with its famous giant tortoise breeding programme that includes celebrities such as Diego (now the world’s most famous giant tortoise, following the death of Lonesome George in 2013). Land iguanas are also a highlight, with the opportunity to learn more about their conservation.
Day 10
This morning we visit the Twin Pit Craters, a great geological depressions of volcanic material formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground. Here you can see exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids.
 
Continue to Baltra Airport for your flight to Quito, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 11
Transfer to Quito Airport for your flight home.

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