Jewel of South America • From the Andes to the
Including the Galapagos
Discover the great beauty of highland Ecuador—the
jewel of South America—and the fascination of
the Galapagos Islands, on this 17-day expedition.
Join us as we explore outstanding reserves to see the
diverse plants and animals of Ecuador. Explore the western
and eastern forests of the Andes, an orchid reserve,
historical and UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the
world-renowned Galapagos Islands.
Discover the tropical forests at Maquipucuna Reserve,
at 4,000 feet in elevation, one of the biodiversity
hot spots in South America. Visit the paramo at 12,000
foot Papallacta Pass. Stay in a thatched lodge in the
Ecuadorian Amazon, with superb birdlife, bromeliads,
and tropical forest. Then fly to the Galapagos Islands
for eight days on board M/V Santa Cruz.
— the capital of Ecuador and a UNESCO World
Heritage Site with cobblestone streets, historic cathedrals,
white-washed, tile-roofed buildings, and fascinating
handicrafts. See the famous 30 meter Equatorial Monument
and Ethnographic Museum.
Pahuambo Orchid Reserve — a new reserve along
a steep sided stream with a moist habitat for orchids
and bromeliads. See and photograph many species of
orchids and ferns in this moist cool canyon. The visitor
center displays many orchids from western Ecuador.
Biological Reserve — on the western slope of
the Andes between 1200 and 2800 meters above sea level.
The reserve was purchased by the Nature Conservancy
in 1987 and is now owned and managed by Fundacion
Maquipucuna. The reserve is 80% primary forest, with
secondary forest going through stages of ecological
session: there is a small village. The reserve has
been acclaimed as one of the richest biodiversity
locations on earth by Conservation International.
River Valley — in the Upper Amazon Basin. Here,
we will explore the Amazon rainforest at a mid-elevation
level with a mixture of forest types including riverine
habitat, bamboo forest, with colorful orchids and
bromeliads. The bird diversity is outstanding and
small colorful frogs can be found both day and night.
Pass, Andean Cordillera. The pass is edged by the
unique habitat of the paramo, a mixture of hardy grass,
bromeliads, and stunted plants at about 12,000 feet.
The pass is often windswept with low clouds. Birds
range from the giant hummingbird to the Andean condor
with many species found only in this montane treeless
In the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS we will explore:
and Santiago Islands. See this lava landscape with
cinder cones, spatter cones, and lava fields dotted
with red volcanic bombs. Go ashore at Puerto Egas,
an area of volcanic cones, salt crater, and tide pools
brimming with sealife.
(Genovesa) Island — One of the smallest islands
in the archipelago, Tower is a bird island, with about
250,000 nesting red-footed boobies and thousands of
great frigatebirds. Walk among nesting red-footed
boobies with their elaborate nuptial displays, whistles
Cruz Island & the Charles Darwin Research Station
— learn about the long-term breeding program
for the Galapagos tortoise and visit the Santa Cruz
highlands to observe the distinctive Scalesia Zone
and the agricultural areas that supported early settlers
and today’s ecotourists. With 50 inches of rain
per year and heavy fog, the forest is 40 feet tall
with a dense understory of bushes and plants. Discover
species of plants and birds endemic to the highlands.
Bay and Punta Suarez, Hood (Espanola) Island. Snorkel
in the clear water with many colorful fish and invertebrates.
Visit the nesting sites of Nasca and blue-footed boobies.
These birds will be nesting just to the side of the
trail and offer unsurpassed photographic opportunities.
We will travel for eight days aboard M/V Santa Cruz,
one of the finest vessels in the Galapagos fleet.
Day 1 Home to Quito, Ecuador.
Depart home for Miami International Airport for our
flight to Quito, Ecuador. Arrive Quito, situated at
an elevation of 9,300 feet at the foot of Mt. Pichincha,
and transfer to Hotel Alamada Real or Hotel Quito.
Day 2 Papallacta Pass and Upper Amazon Basin.
Our expedition will begin as we depart Quito for the
unique habitat of the paramo at Papallacta Pass on the
north slope of Volcano Antisana. The Anitisana Reserve
together with Cotopaxi National Park and the Cayambe
Coca Ecological Reserve are the critical central parts
of the 560,000 hectare Condor Biosphere Reserve. We
will walk among terrestrial bromeliads (Puya) with flower
stalks 6 feet tall along with flowering asters, heaths,
and colorful lichen-covered boulders. We will look for
the two species of Cinclodes, giant conebills, Andean
snipes, and condors that are confined to this high elevation
habitat. Afternoon drive down the eastern slope of the
Andes to the Upper Amazon Basin. San Isidro Cabanas
(3 nights). B,L,D
Day 3 Upper Amazon Basin.
Awaken today to the sounds of the rainforest with many
species of birds only heard at dawn. Our first walk
will take us into a tall rainforest with understory
tree ferns, Monochaetum, and large leafed Piper. We
will look for the many vines of the forest like Marcgravia,
Centropogon and then stop to listen to the sounds of
a tropical rainforest. This afternoon we will explore
an often overlooked habitat, the bamboo forest. We will
look and listen for insects and birds that are specialists
in bamboo. In the early evening bats can sometimes be
seen eating the fruits of the Piper plants near the
lodge. Evening lecture/ discussion. B,L,D
Day 4 uacomayos River and Valley.
The Amazon rainforest has had millions of years of relatively
stable temperature and precipitation. This has allowed
time for forests to become exceedingly complex with
many different micro-habitats and niches. Where we find
tree branches that have fallen to the forest floor,
we will look for ferns, mosses, liverworts, bromeliads,
orchids, and a surprising number of Peperomia plants.
We’ll explore micro-habitats within walking distance
to see ferns, flowering plants, butterflies, amphibians,
and birds. Guyacomayos is the local name of the macaw,
the largest member of the parrot family. We will continue
our exploration of riparian forest habitats and look
for the many species of colorful tropical birds, butterflies,
and flowering plants. B,L,D
Day 5 Amazon to Lomo Pahuambo Orchid Reserve
After an early morning walk, we will drive over the
Andes to Lomo Pahuambo Orchid Reserve. The Reserve is
located in a narrow canyon with canopy trees overhead
and a waterfall at the upper reaches. Many species of
orchids are growing naturally and the Visitor Center
displays many others found on the western slope of the
Andes. Arrive at Maquipucuna and the Umachaca Lodge
(3 nights). B,L,D
Day 6 Maquipucuna Biological Reserve.
The reserve has three different life zones, humid premontane
forest, humid lower montane, and humid upper montane
ranging from 1200 meters to 2800 meters. Nearly 2,000
species of plants are found here, including over 200
species of ferns and about 250 species of bromeliads
and orchids. The prevalence of aroids at Maquipucuna
is especially notable, with 70 species. Look for Erythrina,
Hibiscus, Cecropia, strangler figs, and many species
of Heliconia. There is also a very high diversity of
birds, with more than 325 identified thus far, including
saltators, 15 species of tangers, flower-piercers, many
species of flycatchers, and Andean cock-of-the-rock.
The mountain and valleys are bathed in mists with species
diversity that rivals the best tropical lowland forests.
Leaf-cutter ants can be seen busily carrying their leaf
parasols across our trails and colorful butterflies
will be seen in the sunny gaps in the forest. We will
have a night walk to discover insects feeding while
predatory birds are sleeping. B,L,D
Day 7 Maquipucuna.
We will take a dawn walk to hear the sounds of birds
and insects at the start of the day. After breakfast
explore the trails or you may choose to sit quietly
by the grove of heliconia plants and see the hermit
hummingbirds that feed on nectar and then pollinate
these yellow flowers nearly hidden by bright red bracts.
After lunch, we will look for purple Meriania and the
red-tipped Columnea. Our local guides will assist with
the many species of canopy-growing Guzmania. Evening
lecture/ discussion. B,L,D
Day 8 Maquipucuna to Quito.
After an early morning walk, we’ll drive to Quito
and see the Equatorial Monument and Ethnographic Museum.
We will also explore the UNESCO World Heritage site
of old Quito. Walk through the central plaza, government
buildings, massive churches, and local markets. The
Museum displays the ethnic groups of Ecuador with life-like
displays of their villages, utensils, foods, and artwork.
Hotel Alameda Real or Hotel Quito. B
Day 9 Galapagos and San Cristobal Island.
After breakfast we will transfer to the Quito airport
for the flight to Guayaquil and on to the Galapagos
Islands, the 20th province of Ecuador. We will land
on the island of San Cristobal, the capital of the Galapagos
Islands. We will board the M/V Santa Cruz,
settle into cabins, have lunch, and begin our voyage
with a cruise around Kicker Rock. In the afternoon,
we will explore the shoreline near Cerro Brujo and snorkel.
This was the first location Charles Darwin visited in
September 1835. Captain’s Welcome Social followed
by dinner and a briefing on tomorrow’s activities.
Day 10 Bartolome and Santiago Islands.
Today we will visit the small island of Bartolome near
Santiago. Bartolome is a lava landscape with cinder
cones, spatter cones, and lava fields dotted with Chamaesyce
and Tiquilia. The scene gives one a very good idea of
the way the islands looked before the first plants established
themselves. Santiago is a central island with many species
of plants and animals. This afternoon we will go ashore
at Puerto Egas, an area of volcanic cones, salt crater,
and tide pools brimming with sealife. Walk inland and
be surrounded by Palo Santo trees that are used in Easter
celebrations for their aromatic quality. The region
was browsed by goats in the past. Now we can see the
new growth of Opuntia getting taller and developing
its trunk-line appearance. Watch playful fur seals swim
in the clear water, seemingly without a care in the
world. Take a walk inland and you will be walking in
the footsteps of Charles Darwin, who spent two weeks
collecting here. B,L,D
Day 11 Tower (Genovesa) Island.
Today we visit one of the smallest islands in the archipelago,
Tower. Tower is a bird island, with about 250,000 nesting
red-footed boobies and thousands of great frigatebirds.
The sky may be filled with red-footed boobies returning
with their crops full of fish only to be harassed by
frigatebirds, causing some to give up their catch to
the predators. The birds nest in Bursera trees and Cryptocarpus
bushes and the Jasminoceres cacti are picturesque standing
on a lava spine. Afternoon visit to North Seymour to
walk among nesting blue-footed boobies with their elaborate
nuptial displays, whistles and honks. The magnificent
frigatebirds will be nesting too if the ocean currents
have engulfed the islands in cool water from the Peruvian
Day 12 Charles Darwin Research Station and Santa
The Charles Darwin Research Station has a long term
breeding program for the Galapagos tortoise and has
successfully returned hundreds of animals to their respective
islands. You will hear of the problems with introduced
animals and the efforts of the Station and the National
Park Service to limit the adverse effects or eliminate
the feral animals. The Station is actively working with
local and mainland schools to educate the children about
the uniqueness of the islands. Lunch at the Hotel Delfin.
Then travel by bus to the Santa Cruz highlands to observe
the distinctive Scalesia Zone and the agricultural areas
that supported early settlers and today’s ecotourists.
This habitat has 50 inches of rain per year and is engulfed
with thick fog for many months annually. The forest
is 40 feet tall with a dense understory of bushes and
plants along the road. It will be cool, and you will
discover new species of plants endemic to the highlands.
Day 13 Tagus Cove and Punta Espinosa.
Overnight cruise north of the Equator and and south
again to reach Tagus Cove on the largest island of Isabela.
While cruising in small boats we will look for flightless
cormorants, Sally lightfoot crabs, and penguins. We
will then walk up a cinder cone described by Charles
Darwin in the Voyage of the Beagle. The short walk will
give another opportunity to see the many species that
so impressed Darwin: finches, lava lizards, Crotons,
Acacias, and Cordia. Midday cruise to Fernandina Island
and one of the most photogenic locations on the islands,
Punta Espinosa, a long lava spine jetting out into the
channel. Marine iguanas use the point to bask in the
equatorial rays after feeding under the sea on algae.
The beaches nestled in the black lava are the nesting
ground of the marine iguanas and special care must be
taken to avoid the nests. Evening of stargazing after
dinner, weather permitting. B,L,D
Day 14 Urbina Bay and Punta Moreno, Isabela
Before breakfast, cruise the scenic Bolivar Channel
looking for whales and dolphins. From this channel you
can see all of the active volcanos in the islands. Our
first stop will be Urbina Bay, a region uplifted about
20 feet in 1954. See coral heads bleached by the sun
with skeletons of marine invertebrates still in protected
crevices. We will walk inland looking for giant tortoises,
land iguanas, and finches. This afternoon walk on the
unweathered lava flows of Punta Moreno. The lagoon will
have three species of mangroves, ducks, and possibly
flamingos, too. B,L,D
Day 15 Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez, Hood (Espanola)
Gardner Bay is a long straight white beach and the frequent
resting location for sea lions and inquisitive mockingbirds.
Snorkeling is wonderful in the clear water with many
colorful fish and invertebrates. This afternoon we will
visit the nesting sites of Nasca and blue-footed boobies.
These birds will be nesting just to the side of the
trail and offer unsurpassed photographic opportunities.
You can sit quietly just a few feet from displaying
and nesting birds who seem undisturbed by your observations.
Boobies go through elaborate nuptial displays to develop
a pair bond to keep the pair together for the nesting
season and for life in some species. B,L,D
Day 16 San Cristobal to Quito.
The M/V Santa Cruz will arrive at the Puerto
Baquerizo Moreno dock on San Cristobal Island in the
morning. Transfer to the Interpretation Center. Late
morning transfer to the airport for our flight back
to the mainland. We’ll return to Quito and the
Hotel Alameda Real or Hotel Quito. Farewell dinner in
celebration of our journey. B,D
Day 17 Quito to Miami and Home.
After breakfast transfer to the airport for our flight
to Miami. Take connecting flights home. B
What to Expect:
This expedition is planned for the travel enthusiast
who would enjoy exploring the Galapagos Islands on board
the excellent cruise ship, M/V Santa Cruz.
The voyage will be an exceptional opportunity to explore
the Andean and Amazon zones, the Galapagos Islands,
and to learn about the evolution of plant life in tropical
forests. See and photograph the abundant wildlife of
the Galapagos, including blue-footed boobies, Galapagos
fur seals, and marine iguanas; Darwin’s finches,
flamingoes, and Sally lightfoot crabs. Travel is by
motorcoach, ship, scheduled flights, and skiff, with
daily outings on foot of one-half to one mile at a leisurely
pace suitable for observation and nature study. Rainforest
trails may be wet and muddy; some trail in Galapagos
are over rugged lava. There is also swimming and snorkeling.
Binoculars are suggested. Typically, it will be in the
70’s to 80’s in Galapagos, in the 50’s
to 60’s in highland Ecuador, and in the high 80’s
in the Amazon. We will travel to 12,000 feet in elevation.
If you have any questions, please consult your physician
before you register. (No smoking in vehicles, during
lectures, or meals, please. Also, per National Park
regulations, no smoking is allowed on land in the Galapagos