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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. Enjoy it all in the company of our local partners, based in two of our favourite eco-lodges and a small ship adventure in the Galapagos.
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Fly to Ecuador's capital, Quito. Most flights are daytime meaning you will arrive this evening. Because you fly to the Amazon early in the morning, stay in a comfortable and modern airport hotel to relax after your long flight and adjust to the altitude. Please note that international flights for this holiday are quoted separately.
It's a short and wonderfully scenic flight over the volcanic highlands and into the vast expanse of the Amazon Basin. Upon landing in Coca you'll be collected by your lodge and taken along the Napo River towards the Peruvian border, one of the world's foremost biodiversity hotspots. Our favourite lodge is 100% community-owned and further down the river than the well-known lodges, with a more relaxed and personal feel. A canoe ride and a short walk through the forest leads you to six cabins spread out around a large lake, home to caiman and river otters.
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, interaction with the local community and relaxing at the lodge. A guide will lead small groups of guests, usually 4 - 6 at a time and activities will be built around your interests wherever possible.
You will typically head out in the canoe, coffee at hand, before breakfast to look out for parrots, kingfishers, hoatzin, horned screamers and many more bird species in the lake and narrow waterways. Mid-morning walks in the rainforest introduce you to the incredible wonders of the Amazon - wandering palm and Devil's Blood trees to name but two. Dusk is a great time for more birdwatching and to look for river otters, followed by dinner and an intrepid night walk.
Today could be dedicated to more wildlife watching, perhaps ticking off some of the eleven species of monkey that are commonly seen around the lodge. You might like to meet members of the community to learn about their heritage and the crucial role the lodge plays in their lives today. Night walks are a thrilling way to see how the other half live as you uncover all manner of tree frogs, insects, spiders and even night monkeys by flashlight in the company of your guide.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the name of the tour suggests, if you like your wildlife, then you’re looking in the right place. But we’re not the first people to put this combination of Amazon, Mindo and Galapagos together of course. However, we are the only ones to put together the combination of a week-long Galapagos cruise with these two incredible eco-lodges. See the accommodation section below to read about what makes these such special places to stay. Broadly speaking, if you want something relaxed, personal and eminently comfortable to go along with your birdwatching, then you’ll be in good hands here.
In the Amazon and Mindo you will tend to go out very early in the morning and at dusk to see the best of the wildlife, as well as on night walks or canoe rides. This leaves the middle parts of the day to relax. 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.
What you have here is a sample itinerary of what your Ecuador and Galapagos itinerary might look like. Of course, it won’t be your itinerary until we make it personal to you. That might mean tinkering with the length, adding in specific activities based on your interests or extending your trip with time in the highlands. We also need to have a chat before we can confidently recommend a Galapagos cruise for you, or to consider if a land-based stay might suit you.
If you’re looking for something solely focused on the mainland, then do consider our Ecuador Uncovered trip. This effectively swaps out the Galapagos for time in the highlands around Otavalo and Cotopaxi.
Departs on a date to suit you, March through January, exact departure will depend on Galapagos cruise schedule. 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 all year. 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.
The price is per person based on two sharing and includes:
7-night Galapagos cruise with all meals and activities
First-class accommodation with breakfast and most lunches and dinners
Internal flights to and from the Galapagos and Amazon
Private airport transfers
Shared guided activities in the Amazon and Galapagos
Ecuador & Galapagos Holiday Guides with personal recommendations
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routing is into Quito (UIO) and out of Guayaquil (GYE) or Quito.
In the Amazon you stay at a small 100% community-owned lodge, a little further down the river than the usual suspects (Napo, Sacha & La Selva). We feel it offers a more personal and intimate experience, with more flexibility, a more relaxed atmosphere and a closer connection with the people who operate the lodge. This isn’t to say that you’re sacrificing comfort though; all cabins have mosquito nets, en-suite facilities with hot showers on demand, electricity and a fan and there are laundry services available on site. The food is top notch as well and can be adapted to your dietary requirements.
Your eco-lodge in Mindo is set apart from the town, tucked right in the cloudforest. You can watch hummingbirds battle for nectar in a fig tree with a cup of coffee in hand. A toucan might swoop onto a tree in front of you as you sit by the fire in the afternoon. It’s such a wonderful part of the experience, enhanced by the presence of owners Tom and Mariela, who do a great job of making you feel at home. The lodge was built with sustainable local materials and employs people from the village wherever possible.
In Quito we use our favourite small hotels, usually around 4*, with lots of character.
We offer a range of different boats in the Galapagos, indeed you might choose our land-based exploration of the islands, where you would stay in small lodges/hotels. To give you some sense of the range of boat accommodation, we can offer small cabins with comfortable bunk beds on tourist class sail-boats to balcony suites on premium catamarans. In general, our chosen Galapagos boats carry 20 passengers or fewer, which means that cabins tend to be small.
For more details, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
In the Galapagos we support the tireless work of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, the only UK organisation dedicated exclusively to protecting the archipelago. Their work includes habitat protection, species monitoring and the eradication of plastic pollution. Everyone who travels to the Galapagos with Pura Aventura is offered a six-month free membership, which you may extend post-trip should you wish to continue your support.
We firmly believe that thoughtful eco-tourism can help protect the places that we love to share. Nowhere is this sentiment more relevant than in Ecuador. In Mindo your lodge is in a private reserve which protects large areas of pristine low montane cloudforest, a habitat which sustains a huge abundance of birdlife. The lodge was built using local sustainable materials and has a policy of employing and contracting the services of people from the village, rather than bringing them in from Quito. In the Amazon, as well as protect large swathes of jungle in an area close to prominent oil fields, the lodge is 100% owned by the indigenous Kichwa community. The impact that eco-tourism has on its members has been profound and seeing this first-hand can be deeply moving.
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