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Wildlife Ecuador

Rainforests and Galapagos | View photos »

From the pulsing life of the Amazon to the misty cloudforest and beyond to the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, megadiverse Ecuador brings you closer to nature.

17 day trip described, guide price £7,890pp i

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Sample itinerary

Travel to South America

Fly to Ecuador's capital, Quito. Most flights are daytime meaning you will arrive this evening. It is a long way from the airport to the city. Because you fly to the Amazon early in the morning, stay in a comfortable lodge relatively nearby to save unnecessary time in a car. You are at height here so you may well feel the effects of altitude as well as your long journey. Please note that international flights for this holiday are quoted separately.

Travel by boat into the Amazon

Take a short morning flight into the Amazon basin. From the airstrip in town you will be collected to board the fast boat downriver. At a certain point you come off this boat to transfer to a dugout canoe which paddles you along a beautiful black water creek through the jungle. You are guided all the while so as you travel, you are being introduced to your surroundings.

Guided trips to explore the rainforest on foot

Wake up to the sounds of the rainforest. Whilst at the lodge, your days are filled with a variety of rainforest walks, canoe excursions, wildlife viewing from the canopy tower and interaction with the local community. A guide will be assigned to small groups of guests, usually 4 - 6 at a time and activities will be built around your interests. You might like to see the nearby clay lick, popular with parrots and macaws at dawn.

Walk to a parrot clay lick as the sun rises

Wake early to head out and visit a parrot clay lick, which is basically a river cliff where parrots and macaws congregate at dawn and dusk to literally lick the clay. In the afternoon you set off to an interpretation centre which gives you insights into the traditions, beliefs and way of life of your host community, the Añangu people.

Walk in the rainforest looking for wildlife

Rise early to see and hear the rainforest come to life as you walk into the terra-firma forest looking for white-faced Capuchin monkeys and three-toed sloth or even a tapir. At the end of the day as night falls, you'll see a whole new cast of animals emerge.

Travel out of the jungle and into the cloudforest

Travel back along the river for the drive back to the airport at Coca to catch your flight back to Quito. On arrival you are collected for the two hour drive up to the cloudforest. This is high level, cool rainforest which is famously rich in birdlife. Stay in a very sustainably conceived and run lodge in the heart of the Mindo cloudforest area. From the lodge you can watch birds come and go, including species as the Golden-headed Quetzal and Choco Toucan.

Enjoy the sounds and sights of the cloudforest

Whilst at the lodge it is up to you how you spend your time, perhaps hiking, or simply relaxing. The atmosphere is very laid back and the emphasis is on nature, relaxation and peace and quiet. A normal day would start early with a walk to watch the birds coming noisily to life as the sun rises over the cloudforest canopy. These are more active pursuits such as tubing, riding or biking available (at additional cost, payable locally).

Optional guided trips or go for a walk

You may like to get up very early this morning and drive out to a nearby lick to see the brightly coloured Andean Cock of the Rock (additional payable locally). The noisy song and dance the males perform for the females at dawn is an incredible experience. Or you might like to go tubing downriver for something more silly. This afternoon, your guide will collect you for the drive back to Quito to relax in your first class hotel.

Private guided day discovering Quito

Our guide comes to find you this morning and lead you through Ecuador’s capital and its surroundings. Quito is positioned on the flanks of the Pichincha Volcano, and is home to perhaps the best-preserved colonial centre in Latin America. Explore the historic centre to learn about the city’s colonial past, perhaps dropping into the Government Palace en route. Whatever your particular interests though, the day will evolve to suit you.

Fly to the Galapagos Islands and board your boat

The Galapagos are around 600 miles off mainland Ecuador so the flight takes a good couple of hours. Meet your guide who takes you to board your chosen boat. After lunch, set sail the short distance to North Plaza where you walk close to the fearless wildlife: Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and land iguanas. Note that here we describe a representative week in the islands rather than a specific boat's itinerary. Different boats follow different routes.

See giant tortoises in the Santa Cruz highlands

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station first thing today to learn about its amazing breeding, conservation and education programs. Given how long they live, breeding these tortoises is a lifetime's work! After lunch, drive to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to an area where giant tortoises live. Walk amongst these lumbering giants to get an appreciation of how enormous they are.

The seabirds and sealions of Espanola Island

Start today with a landing on ‘sea lion beach’, so called because, all along the sands are sea lions basking in the sun. Wander along the beach and enjoy watching them play in the surf, this is also your first chance to get into the water and have a swim alongside them. Return for lunch on board and an hour or so navigation to the next landing site on the west of the island which is famous for its wonderful marine birdlife.

Walk across Floreana, snorkel Devil's Crown

Cross Floreana Island by foot to enjoy the somewhat incongruous sight of flamingoes feeding in a lagoon before coming to a sandy beach where you can spot rays and sea turtles. Return to the boat mid-morning to go snorkelling at the distinctive Devil’s Crown crater offshore. This afternoon land at Post Office bay to hear how this informal sailors' postal system has worked for hundreds of years - it's still very effective!

Marine iguanas, penguins, blue-footed boobies

Isabela island is the largest of the Galapagos, there is amazing species diversity. Today you will explore on foot, by boat and swimming in the water. You might see sea lions in a mangrove tree or penguins swimming alongside sea turtles. Marine iguanas sharing a rock with a blue-footed booby. These are things that you can experience nowhere else in the world so enjoy it.

Walk among iguanas and swim with sea turtles

Start today with a walk on Isabela Island to see if you can see giant tortoises. You will almost certainly see land iguanas along the way. Return to the beach to swim or snorkel directly offshore possibly with rays, sea turtles and sharks.For those of you less inclined to swim, you can take time to simply relax and read a book on the beach. This afternoon discover the marine iguanas and flightless cormorants of Fernandina Island.

Fur seals, sharks and far reaching views

Walk along the coastline of Santiago Island to see Galapagos fur seal basking in pools along the shoreline. There is time for snorkelling at the end of the walk, through a reef which has some of the best and most varied marine life of the week. This afternoon, sail to the lava mound of Bartolomé. Here you climb 365 wooden steps to the top of the island - for the views.

Travel back to the mainland and then home

Get up early this morning to paddle through mangroves in the dawn light. Observe the delicate marine life in the sheltered cove before returning to the boat for breakfast. Disembark at around midday to fly back to the mainland – either to Guayaquil or back to Quito. Depending when your international flights leave, you may need to spend the night on the mainland. Please note: international flights not included.

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"Couldn't have been any better"

"Couldn't have been any better"

Thank you for all the help and input. The organization and execution couldn't have been any better. It was a vacation of a lifetime. Wendy M

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"The trip was amazing"

"The trip was amazing"

Overall, the trip was amazing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and Pura Aventura. Everything went like clockwork and I thank you all very much for all your help in organising such a memorable trip.

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"The whole experience was fantastic"

"The whole experience was fantastic"

The whole experience was fantastic, thank you for organising the programme. Although I travelled alone I made some lovely friends.

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About this trip


From the pulsing life of the Amazon to the misty cloudforest and beyond to the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, megadiverse Ecuador brings you closer to nature.

How adventurous?

1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5

Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Level of activity

This is primarily a wildlife holiday so the focus is not on activity as such. Having said that, you spend most of your time out and about in the great outdoors so an Amazon rainforest tour is not a sedentary trip by any means.

In the Amazon you will tend to go out very early in the morning and at dusk to see the best of the wildlife. This leaves the middle parts of the day to relax. When out and about you will most likely be tramping through mud and occasionally climbing up observation towers to see the thick rainforest canopy. Some excursions are by boat, physically the easiest way to navigate the Amazon. The lodges we use in this part of the Amazon are the best available which means very comfortable but not luxurious by any means.

In the cloudforest, you will tend to walk into the surrounding areas on bird watching excursions, nothing too demanding. You can rent mountain bikes here or even ride an inflatable down the river in order to be more active. The lodge here is built entirely along sustainable lines but is very comfortable indeed.

In the Galapagos, wildlife viewing is the main activity. There is some gentle walking though the islands are volcanic which means that you are often walking on quite sharp lava. If you enjoy swimming and snorkeling then you will find some incredible wildlife underwater too.

Levels of comfort vary greatly depending on the boat you choose, if indeed you choose to explore the Galapagos by boat (land based is also an option). There is a wide range of boat accommodation, from small cabins with bunk beds on tourist class sail-boats to balcony suites on premium catamarans. In general, Galapagos boats carry 20 passengers or fewer, which means that cabins tend to be small.

Given the amount of time spent out and about exploring the islands or up on deck looking for wildlife, cabin size is rarely a critical element of your Galapagos holiday.

This standard itinerary is based on a first-class sailboat for 16 passengers with 8 small cabins, mostly bunk bedded, each with en suite bathroom. The deck space is ample making her feel pleasantly airy and spacious in general.

In terms of weather, Ecuador is just about as varied as its landscapes. Quito is at high altitude so tends to have warm days but cool to cold nights. This is broadly similar to the nearby cloudforest. February is a very rainy month so not a good time to visit but other than that, you can take this trip at any time of year.

The Amazon tends to be hot and humid year round. In the Galapagos, temperatures and weather conditions are generally warm and pleasant year round. Water temperatures and conditions do vary with colder, choppier waters from June through October giving way to warmer and calmer seas for the rest of the year.

Level of culture

In the Amazon people expect the wildlife but generally forget the human aspect of the rainforest. The lodges we use are very closely integrated with the communities in which they are based, usually owned in large part by those people. Your guides are indigenous to the area and are therefore able to interpret and translate an environment impenetrable to the average outsider.

Up in the cloudforest, the lodge we use is built entirely of materials sourced from the surroundings. It could hardly be more integrated into its surroundings, both physical and community. The staff, cooks, guides are all dedicated to this precious cloudforest ecosystem.

By the time you get back to Quito, you will have seen some of Ecuador’s famous diversity. Your day with our guide in Quito should provide a welcome insight to the city and the country as a whole.

The Galapagos Islands are primarily about the wildlife, though the human history of the islands and the struggles of conservation create a fascinating context for the wildlife. Also, having a week in the company of Ecuadorian crew and an expert guide allows you time to also gain a wider understanding of your host country.


We have a detailed itinerary for this trip, as set out above. If you would like a copy, please get in touch and we can email it over to you.

Ultimately though, this is a tailor made trip so we would love to have time to talk to you in order to send the most appropriate proposal to you.

In the form set out above, the holiday price includes internal flights, high quality hotel and lodge accommodation, a week long Galapagos cruise on board Cachalote yacht as well as activities, excursions, transfers and entrances as per our detailed itinerary. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.

Flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best flight routings are to fly into Quito (airport code: UIO) and out of either Guayaquil (airport code: GYE) or Quito.


Departs on a date to suit you, March through January, exact departure will depend on Galapagos cruise schedule.

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The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.

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Request our 5-part Expert Guide to Ecuador & Galapagos

Enter your email address below and over the next 5 days we will send you our free Expert Guide to Ecuador & Galapagos:

  • Day 1 - Seven wildlife encounters we won't forget
  • Day 2 - Why the Galapagos has to be done right
  • Day 3 - Why you shouldn't overlook the mainland
  • Day 4 - Six lodges and hotels we just didn’t want to leave
  • Day 5 - Answers to some commonly asked questions about Ecuador

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Book Subscribe to The Pothole » Humming bird in the Ecuadorian cloudforest Activity in Plaza Grande in the colonial center of Quito Rocio on canoe waiting to lead night paddle from Eden Lodge Rocio showing Dragon's Blood tree in Yasuni, Ecuadorian Amazon Macaw at the clay lick in the Peruvian Amazon Male Purple-throated Woodstar Hummingbird in flight in Ecuador cloudforest At the El Monte Lodge in Ecuador's cloudforest The crimson rumped toucanet in the Mindo cloudforest A Cock of the Rock bird in the Manu cloud forest Sculpture of the virgin in Panecillo hill iguanablog Giant tortoises in the wild, Galapagos Espanola island with many sea lions sleeping on a beach Post Office Bay on Florana Island, Galapagos Penguin on the Mariela Islands off Isabela, Galapagos The beach of Puerto Vilamil on Isabela Island, Galapagos View of the pinnacle on Bartolome Galapagos ecuador-galapagos-fur-seals-floreana-island-c-jascivan-carvalho