Ecuador and Galapagos small group holiday
Description of Ecuador and Galapagos small group holiday
This trip is a chance to see the Galapagos Islands and the culture and nature of mainland Ecuador. After the excitement of condors and volcanoes on mainland Ecuador there’s a chance to chill with iguanas, follow lumbering tortoises, and spot blue footed boobies in the unique Galapagos Islands. Unlike many Galapagos trips, which are on board boats, your tour will take place on land, mainly on Isla Isabela and Isla Santa Cruz, offering an unusual perspective of the islands. Your group will contain no more than 15 people, travelling by boat and bus, with a few optional hikes.
Start in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, with its UNESCO World Heritage centre, before heading into the lush high-altitude countryside of Cotopaxi National Park and on to Otavalo, a market town set among sacred mountains. In the large indigenous market at Otavalo, you’ll have a fantastic chance to engage with locals, and admire their beautiful handicrafts. Crossing the equator via the Quitsato Equator Monument, you’ll return to Quito and then head to the Galapagos Islands.
On the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos you may see giant tortoises. On Isabela you’ll have encounters with iguanas and volcanoes, and enjoy a spot of snorkelling. Depart for the smaller islands and you’ll see the famous birdlife: including beloved species like blue footed boobies and diminutive Galapagos penguins. At the end of the trip you’ll make a pilgrimage to the Charles Darwin Research Station – the research facility which started it all, where the wonders of the Galapagos Islands are preserved for future generations.
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PlanetThe Galapagos Islands have more endemic species than any other archipelago in the world, and in 1979 became became the first natural site to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1998 it was made a Marine Reserve, with some really positive conservation and educational work happening in the area. There are strict regulations governing the number of visitors to the islands, as well as the activities permitted. The hotels that we use take their responsibilities seriously - for example, the Casa Natura Lodge on Santa Cruz island collects rain water for their water supply, and many of the ingredients used for the breakfasts come directly from their garden instead of being shipped from the mainland. The Galapagos is suffering from the worldwide issue of plastic litter, which gathers along coastlines and puts wildlife at increased rish of ingestion or entanglement, so we also advise customers where to replenish and refill water, rather than reusing plastic bottles.
As part of our stay on the islands, we visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre in Puerto Villamil, which has the aim of replenishing the endangered Giant Tortoise population by breeding and then releasing the animals. The centre takes donations from visitors, which go back into their release projects - far from being a 'zoo', this centre, along with the two others that exist on the islands, is doing some important work for the survival of the species.
On the mainland, we get to explore many of the country's wild landscapes, including the Cotopaxi National Park. Money from the entrance fee goes back into preserving the park, which is a haven for birdlife and other animals like wild horses. As with all of our tours, our Tour Leaders are trained in our Responsible Tourism policy and brief guests to 'Leave no Trace - ensuring that customers take all rubbish with them and leave the wildlife undisturbed.
As a company we support Cool Earth. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions to tackle climate breakdown. CoolEarth work with indigenous communities empowering them to conserve their forest; keeping CO2 locked in.
PeopleOn most islands tourists must be accompanied by a local guide as part of their trip. Aside from this being an obligation from the Ecuadorian Tourism Authority, local guiding is something that we strongly believe in. All Galapagos guides have been trained in the flora and fauna, and conservation laws within the area. They are passionate about protecting their environment, and using one of these guides ensures that the Galapagos community benefits.
A land-based Galapagos trip is a good way to spend money on the islands, rather than with a cruise company that is often based on the mainland. Our Tour Leaders will advise on the best local restaurants and shops to visit in the evenings, while you'll be using various different boat providers for the journeys between the islands.
On the mainland, our journey around Ecuador is completely land-based, which allows us to explore some of the smaller towns and villages of the Andes, such as the village of Peguche, where we can explore their small local market - this village is known for its local families who make colourful weavings and traditional panpipes, usually selling their wares at the Otavalo Market, one of the largest indigenous markets in South America. We go to the source at the village itself, and allow our travellers the chance to buy souvenirs directly with the maker.
In addition to the above, we are continually looking for ways to improve and are proud to be ‘Responsible in everything we do’. Education is key and so all staff, Tour leaders and partnering suppliers are trained in responsible and sustainable tourism. At our UK Head Office, we continually strive towards a sustainable and planet-friendly working environment, including having solar panels installed and a company commitment to reducing our plastic usage. As well as this, we have valuable and longstanding partnerships with UK charities Toilet Twinning and Send a Cow, plus many smaller initiatives and projects around the world. We’re members of UK travel industry bodies Tourism Concern and AITO because we believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience, as well as learn from other operators.