From: March 11 to March 25, 2018

Destination: Ecuador's Galapagos Islands and Amazon Jungle

  • Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Jungle

    Located right on the equator, Ecuador has incredibly rich and varied geography and natural history. The Amazon Jungle is known for its exceptional biodiversity and the peoples who have lived there for centuries. The Galapagos Islands are loved the world over for their rich and accessible wildlife and fantastic geology. On this journey we experience both. We'll spend four days in the jungle learning about the flora and fauna as we walk on different trails, led by our guide who knows the area intimately. We'll also learn about the customs of the people who live there. In the Galapagos we'll swim with sea lions, snorkel in clear waters teeming with brightly colored fish, hike to a volcanic crater, and walk within a few feet of blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and Giant Tortoises. Our unique itinerary takes you to three main islands as well as many coves and inlets that include a wealth of wildlife. Ecuador is widely regarded as the most diverse country in South America and this trip will take you to two of its most famous ecosystems. Maximum group size 13.

  • Sunday, March 11 
    Our trip starts in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ecuador's Capital City. At over 9,000 feet, Quito is the highest capital city in the world and it is likely you'll experience some symptoms of breathlessness as you walk around. We'll gather at 5 pm in the lobby for introductions and a trip orientation before going out for our first dinner together. Overnight Sierra Madre hotel or similar. D

    Monday, March 12
    Our adventure starts with an early morning transfer to the airport for our short 30 minute flight to Coca City. We'll be greeted by our hosts from Yarina Eco Lodge, an ecolodge situated on the Napo River in the Amazon RainForest. Started 10 years ago as a program to teach the importance of conserving wildlife and our environment with the local community and located in area of great diversity of micro-habitats, the lodge has steadily expanded its services and is part of one of best rescue centers of wildlife in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

    After an hour long ride in a motorized canoe, we arrive in time to settle in before lunch and an introductory briefing. Our exploration of the Amazon starts this afternoon with a walk on the Socali Path, a perfect introduction to learning about the different flora and fauna that we can find in different types of forest. We'll return in time for a little downtime before dinner and then be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle. Overnight Yarina Lodge. B, L, D

    Tuesday, March 13
    Today and each of the following days, we'll be offered a morning and afternoon activity, with return to the lodge for lunch. You might choose to do both, just one, or neither if you'd rather relax and soak up the ambience - the choice is completely yours. After breakfast we'll hike on the Capibara Path. Named after the small guinea pig like rodent that we are likely to see, the path traverses several swamps and we'll see palm trees that aren't possible to see any place else. After lunch and some downtime back at the lodge, in late afternoon our guides will teach us how to use a blowpipe (don't worry, we won't use it to shoot poisoned darts at each other). Following that we'll take a small canoe upriver to try our hand at pirhana fishing. Even if we're successful, however, they won't be on our menu when we return to the lodge for dinner. Overnight Yarina Lodge. B, L, D

    Wednesday, March 14
    We have two different hikes today that showcase different aspects of the jungle. After breakfast we don rubber boots for a canoe trip up river. On our way our guide will point out birds, butterflies, orchids, and amphibians. We then have a short hike on the trail 'Dos Ramas' as our guide teaches us about medicinal plants, birds, and animals. We return to the lodge for lunch before setting out on the Tucan trail. This trail takes us to one of the tallest birdwatching towers in the Ecuadorian jungle. At the top of the tower we'll be in the jungle canopy, where we can see birds that are hard to see from the jungle floor - really an amazing experience! We'll return to the lodge for dinner and some down time. Overnight Yarina Lodge. B, L, D

    Thursday, March 15
    We continue our jungle exploration today with learning more about the indigenous people of the Quichuas del Oriente community who have long inhabited the Amazon lowlands. We'll take the motor boat to visit one of the families who live there and, with our guide interpreting, learn about the traditions and dress of the tribe. After lunch back at the lodge we'll walk on the Guastos trail, learning more about how some plants, animals, and birds are traditionally used. This is our last night at the lodge and our regret at leaving the jungle, after all we've seen and done, is outweighed only by our excitement for the next leg of our adventure. Overnight Yarina Lodge. B, L, D

    Friday, March 16
    After a final delicious breakfast, packing up, and a short hike this morning, we'll return by canoe to Coca City for our return flight to Quito. We'll have some free time to explore the city and dinner is on your own, so you can choose whether to spend time relaxing before the next leg of our adventure or enjoying the city and people of Quite and fitting in as much as possible. Overnight Sierra Madre hotel or similar. B

    Saturday, March 17
    It's back to the airport early this morning for our flight to the Galapagos! Today will be a long travel day but it will be mitigated by our excitement about being in the Galapagos. We arrive in Baltra, formerly the location of an air base built by the US Navy during WW II, located just off Santa Cruz Island and one of the two main airports in the Galapagos. After paying our Galapagos National Park Entry fee ($100 each), we transfer to Itabaca Channel where our we board our waiting speed boat for a 2.5 hour trip to Isabela Island. This seahorse-shaped island is the largest in the archipelago at 80 miles in length. Despite its remarkable beauty, Isabela is not a stop on most Galapagos cruises, making it a less-visited site perfect for our adventures.

    Isabela was formed approximately one million years ago by the merger of six shield volcanoes: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra, and Wolf, all but one of which are still active. Two of the volcanoes, Wolf and Cerro Azul, stretch above the cloud cover and are therefore arid on their upper flanks. Because it is a relatively young island, Isabela's lava fields and surrounding soil do not have the varied vegetation zones of other islands. Despite this, the rich animal, bird, and marine life are beyond compare.

    Upon arrival on Puerto Villamil, the main town on Isabela, we check into San Vicente Hotel. On a walking tour we'll start learning about and get oriented to the area. Overnight San Vicente Hotel or similar. D

    Sunday, March 18
    We start our first full day on Isla Isabela with a leisurely walk to visit the marshlands or humedales, where elevated walkways take us over tidal lagoons that include four mangrove species and provide habitat for flamingos and numerous migratory birds. This mangrove-lined path leads to the Tortoise Breeding Center, an initiative of the National Park for the conservation of Isabela's tortoises. With almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own, we'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development.

    After an informative visit, we'll board small pangas for a trip to the small isolated islet of Tintoreras or Shark Alley. This island is a unique volcanic formation. On its west face a primitive species of lichen flourishes in the moisture brought by the prevailing wind. This is a popular iguana nesting site that's home to hundreds of marine iguanas. In the quiet lagoon there are also boobies and other birds. We'll snorkel in a calm inlet with colorful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom.

    In the late afternoon, we'll return to town in search of our own sandy resting spot and enjoy our first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.

    Monday, March 19
    After breakfast this morning we drive to the highlands of Isabela for an entirely new view and feel of the Galapagos (and likely our most challenging day of the trip). After a 4 5minute drive we reach the starting point of our hike up Sierra Negra, one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos. It last erupted on October 22, 2005 and deposited a new and dramatic layer of lava. The caldera of this volcano is the second largest in the world, with a diameter of approximately six and a half miles. On our hike, 4 - 9 miles depending on our energy and the weather, we can spot a variety of birds, including finches and flycatchers and if we're lucky, the Galapagos hawk. From the rim of the caldera we hike to Chico Volcano to see fumaroles and the unusual lava formations, a striking visual record of the geological history of these islands. From our highest vantage points, we'll enjoy views of Isabela's other volcanoes and nearby islands. Returning to the starting point of our hike and then driving back to town, we'll have time for a walk to the beach for a cool swim, or perhaps a stroll in town. B, L

    Tuesday, March 20
    We'll begin the day with a with a kayak excursion in a protected bay. While here, we'll search for the protected Galapagos penguin - the only penguin found close the equator. It's also the smallest and looks like a duck until you see it out of the water. Along the way, we'll also keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles, and blue-footed boobies.

    In the afternoon we head by boat to Isla Santa Cruz (about 2.5 hours), also called Indefatigable Island. The tourist capital of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is located in the center of the Galapagos Islands archipelago. It is also the center of human activity, since the National Park Headquarters, the Darwin Research Station, and the largest settlement in the Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, are all located on Academy Bay on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. We'll check in to the hotel and then go for a short walking tour of Puerto Ayora. Our hotel is close to the center of town and if you have been wanting to do some shopping, there are lots of choices here. Overnight Lobo de Mar hotel or similar. B, D

    Wednesday, March 21
    Santa Cruz is the only island having a road that crosses its interior (running from Puerto Ayora in the south to the Itabaca Channel crossing in the north), thus providing visitors a rare opportunity to see the interior and higher elevations of a Galapagos island. This morning we drive to the Santa Cruz highlands where we will see wild Galapagos Tortoises. These huge creatures weigh 200 to 500 pounds and are scattered all over the island. Walking on level paths gives us the chance to observe the giant tortoise roaming in its natural habitat. Returning to town, in the afternoon we'll walk to Tortuga Bay, a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot. Do you prefer swimming, sunbathing, or bodysurfing? Or all 3? It's totally up to you. B

    Thursday, March 22
    This morning we'll visit the Charles Darwin Station, formerly the home of Lonesome George, the famous of his subspecies on Pinta Island. We'll learn about the Foundation's successes in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise, and see the most representative animals of the islands. In the afternoon we'll take a speed boat to San Cristobal (about 2.5 hours), our last island on this journey. San Cristobal Island is the easternmost island in the archipelago chain. It is also one of the oldest and thus its volcanic peaks are greatly eroded and vegetation is more abundant than on the other islands. Upon arrival in the provincial capital and second-largest town in Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, we'll have some time to settle into our hotel, Casa de Nelly, before going on a walking tour to get oriented to the town. Overnight Casa de Nelly or similar B, D

    Friday, March 23
    This may be your favorite day, particularly if you like snorkeling. It begins with a short boat ride to Leon Dormido or Isla Lobos (aka kicker Rock), observing along the way the abundant marine life that Galapagos is renowned for. Porpoises often like to accompany boats and its not unlikely that we'll watch their antics as they rise the wake. We may also be able to spot nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies. But the highlight is the snorkeling! Leon Dormido, said to look like the sleeping lion that its Spanish name translates to, is comprised of two towering volcanic rocks that rise 500 feet out of the ocean. A mild current in the chasm between them attracts hammerhead and harmless Galapagos sharks, as well as manta rays and schools of vividly colored reef fish. This is seen as one of the best snorkeling spots in the whole Galapagos, and one of the best places on the planet to view marine life. The water is deep but clear and as we snorkel we'll keep an eye out below for sea turtles, manta rays, and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark, to name a few. We'll definitely see hundreds of fish and sea stars.

    Returning to Isla San Cristobal we'll have our final afternoon in the Galapagos free to do whatever we want. Perhaps you might go for a hike to Frigate Bird Hill for panoramic views of the Pacific Islands and some bird watching. Or you may find it hard to leave Mann Beach, with its delightful setting and the opportunities to swim with sea lions. Perhaps you just want to sit on a quiet beach and reflect on everything you've seen and done in the past 2 weeks. However you want to spend it, it will be just perfect. B, L

    Saturday, March 24
    This morning we'll visit the Interpretation Center where we'll learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve the unique Galapagos wildlife. It's a fitting way to spend our last time here and particularly meaningful after we've seen it all up front. And then it's time to head to the airport for our flight back to Quito and transfer to the hotel. We'll share a final farewell dinner tonight, saying goodbye to each other and to this amazing country. B, D

    Sunday, March 25
    This morning our adventure comes to an end. Our hotel on the last night is next to the airport and you can leave whenever you want.
  • $4095, $400 deposit. A single supplement (only necessary if you want to assure you have your own room) is available for an additional $650. You can find our cancellation policies here.

    Trip Includes

    • Local guides in the Amazon and the Galapagos and an AGC Trip Leader
    • Internal flights to Coca City and the Galapagos Islands
    • Double occupancy lodging in hotels (14 nights)
    • Meals as noted on the itinerary
    • All activities on the itinerary
    • Airport transfers on scheduled arriving and departing days
    • Gratuities for staff and day guides

    Not included: Travel to and from Quito, Galapagos National Park Entry Fee ($100), Galapagos Transit Card ($20), Isabela Port Fee ($5), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, travel insurance, optional activities not on the itinerary.

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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    It depends on both the trip and on your specific needs. With advance notice, we can accommodate most dietary restrictions or allergies on our domestic trips, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten intolerant. This is not always true on international trips, so please contact us in advance if you have specific dietary needs. We've found that if you are willing to bring some of your own snacks and a couple of items to supplement what is on the menu (peanut butter is always good!) and possibly have less variety than you are used to at home, then dietary needs usually are no obstacle. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, especially if you have Celiac disease, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Immerse yourself in the amazing biodiversity of Ecuador, from the Amazon to the Galapagos
  • Stay deep in the jungle, awaking to exotic bird calls
  • Swim and snorkel among sea lions and brightly colored fish
  • Hike to the rim of a volcano and see the effects of a 12 year old eruption

Is This The Right Trip for You?