Ecuador and the Galápagos Service and Adventure
$3,895 + Airfare + $350 Intra Trip Flight
Jul 10 – Jul 20
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from around the world!
9, 10, 11, 12
|Places we visit:||
Quito, Latacunga and the Galápagos Islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands)
|Optional group flight there:||
Miami To Quito
|Optional group flight back:||
Quito To Miami
Home to majestic volcanos, gorgeous islands, and incredible wildlife, Ecuador is an adventure enthusiast’s dream! Discover the rich history and stunning scenery that put this tiny country straddling the equator at the top of every traveler’s list!
Visit the “Middle of the World” for some unique experiences that can only be done at latitude 0, explore charming Quito and discover why it’s one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and hike down to a lake inside of a volcano!
The highlight of this adventure will be visiting the magical Galápagos Islands. This volcanic island archipelago is home to world famous wildlife viewing and is not to be missed! Discover tortoises, sea lions, eagle rays, penguins, and more, all in their natural habitat. There really is no other place in the world like it!
During our time in the Galápagos we will participate in a variety of service projects all dedicated to helping the local community. We will spend time with the students at the local elementary and high schools and volunteer with a farm dedicated to environmentally friendly farming that supplies food for the community. The farm also has a unique hippotherapy program for children with disabilities that we can assist with.
On this program you will:
- Earn 20 hours of service working with the local community
- Volunteer with local students and a sustainable farm
- Explore the charming Quito, a UNESCO world heritage site
- Visit a beautiful lake inside a volcano
- Walk on lava surfaces and hike into a volcanic crater
- Be in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time!
- Snorkel or scuba dive* with sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, penguins, manta rays, and a variety of tropical fish
- See different species of Galápagos tortoise at the Charles Darwin Station
- Keep your eyes peeled for Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds
- Watch playful sea lions up close as they swim in the water and bask on the shore
- Observe different types of vegetation zones, including the arid zone, coastal zone, and transition zone
- Enjoy delicious, local cuisine at an authentic hacienda
*Scuba diving is an optional activity
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM MIAMI
As the group flight takes off, our journey officially begins!
DAY 2: QUITO – LA MITAD DEL MUNDO
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Quito will charm you with its stunning scenery, well preserved colonial district, and welcoming residents. Nestled between the Andean Mountain peaks, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in South America! We will explore this city and discover its intricate architecture, vibrant plazas, and colorful markets.
One of the most unique aspects of Quito is that it is home to “Mitad del Mundo,” the Middle of the World, where you can be both in the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time! After straddling both hemispheres, we will visit the Intiñan Museum, where you will learn more about the indigenous culture of Ecuador and be able to participate in some unique experiments that can only be done at latitude 0°.
DAY 3: Quilotoa Volcanic Crater
We’ll enjoy a delicious Andean breakfast before continuing our journey to one of Ecuador’s most fascinating natural sites – Quilotoa. Quilotoa was once a majestic volcano, but 800 years ago, it suffered a catastrophic eruption that tore the peak of the volcano off and left only the caldera. Over time, it filled with water, and today it has become a spectacular lake. On the way to the crater, we will be able to see the indigenous populations of Zumbahua and Tigua in their small picturesque villages.
Once we arrive at the crater’s rim we will have a spectacular view of the lake from the edge of the volcano before hiking down to the shore of the lake. On the lakeshore, you’ll be amazed by the spectacular view of the surrounding crater as we enjoy a traditional Andean lunch and marvel at the fact that we are enjoying a picnic in a volcanic crater!
DAYS 4 – 7: Galápagos – Discovering the Islands
The next destination on our journey is the magical Galápagos Islands! We will spend time on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands and discover what makes the Galápagos such a coveted travel destination.
On Santa Cruz Island we’ll take the trail to the gorgeous Tortuga Bay where we will sunbathe, swim, and even spot marine iguanas along the shore. We’ll also visit the Charles Darwin Station on the island. This famous center is a wealth of information on habitats and local conservation, and home to the Tortoise Breeding Center, where it is possible to view tortoises of varied sizes and shapes.
The second island we will visit is San Cristóbal, where we will visit the Galapaguera, a Tortoise breeding center and home to the largest species of giant tortoise in the world. We’ll also explore the misty Junco Lagoon, a freshwater lake located in the middle of a volcanic caldera. You’ll spot seabirds bathing here in the freshwater to wash the salt from their feathers.
While on the islands, we will have plenty of beach time to relax on the white sandy beaches and swim in the crystal clear water. We’ll snorkel with some fascinating marine life, including sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, penguins, manta rays, and different species of tropical fish. Those who are looking for a little more adventure will also have the option to scuba dive! One of the beaches we visit is home to a large number of lazy sea lions basking on the sand, so you will be able to observe these beautiful creatures up close!
DAYS 8 – 10: Galápagos – Community Service
After enjoying everything the Galápagos have to offer, there is no better way to complete our journey than by giving back to these beautiful islands that have given us so many incredible memories! We will volunteer with several different projects all dedicated to helping the local community at a local school and at a sustainable farm.
We will work with both the elementary and high school students and play games with them, help them practice their English, and learn about what life is like for them on the islands. We will also help out with any light maintenance projects the school may need.
We will also visit a sustainable farm dedicated to preserving the environment and providing food for the local community. We will help out with several projects on the farm, including recycling, preparing food in a traditional mud oven, and even helping with their hippotherapy program for children with disabilities.
Our projects will allow us to form a deeper connection with the community and to better understand the island’s unique culture. After completing our service we will come full circle and head back to Quito for one final night together in the city where we began our adventure.
DAY 11: GROUP FLIGHT BACK TO THE USA
We will say goodbye to our new friends but promise to keep in touch! The memories and friendships we made in Ecuador will last a lifetime!
What kind of teen typically participates in this program?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.
What are the requirements to join?
This program is only for students who are currently in 9th through 12th grade and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels and hostels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
On this program we will stay in several different types of accommodation, including hotels, lodges and slightly more rustic accommodations (such as a lodge located in the jungle).
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a program.
Do most travelers go by themselves?
Yes, in fact over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new BFFs on another TFT program the next summer!
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to explore one of the most visited countries in Latin America. The the Galápagos is a highlight for most students, having the opportunity to see such diverse wildlife up close is a once in a lifetime experience!
What is unique about this program?
Students will have the unique opportunity to work closely with the local community at its schools and on a farm. This provides travelers with a unique cultural connection that most tourists are not able to have.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, chaperones and guides, program related activities, program related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not Included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than filtered water at meals, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this program’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the program starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on programs that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.
WHO LEADS THE PROGRAM?
The Trip Director for every program is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.
It is the job of the counselors to keep the program fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Programs may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.
In addition to the TFT staff from outside South Africa, there will also be a local full-time TFT guide with the group for the entirety of the program.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week-long training session prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.
What is the average group size?
Group size is important! A smaller group size provides unique opportunities that a large group cannot accommodate. Think of your favorite local restaurant; could it easily accommodate a group of 50 teens? Probably not! Our group sizes average between 14 to 21 students, which means that we are able to comfortably use local transport, enjoy local restaurants, and have a more authentic experience overall! A smaller group size also eliminates the likelihood of cliques, meaning that our groups all tend to bond as a cohesive unit. We guarantee that you’ll have enough people to meet some new best friends, but not so many that you feel like “just a number” or lost in a crowd.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Most of our Latin America programs are designed specifically so that participants can combine them with other trips. If you are connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the trip and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
Expect to eat corn, potatoes and other tubers, quinoa, rice, meats (beef, pork, fish and chicken) veggies and many other foods flavored with unique Ecuadorian seasonings! Vegetarians will have no issues eating well on the trip. Also, unlike in Europe where a light breakfast of coffee and toast is the norm, Ecuadorians eat big, savory breakfasts—and so will we!
We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group almost always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. We do offer some free time to do some shopping, for example, in defined areas that we are very familiar with. If participants are ever shopping by themselves within these defined areas they go in groups and for no more than an hour. Additionally a lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need to bring anything special for the community service portion of the program?
Participants will need to bring a pair of work gloves as well as some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and a pair of close-toed shoes that can get paint on them. All tools and materials will be provided to participants on site.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/. After you register, we will provide you with a list of vaccinations you should consider discussing with your child’s family doctor.
What kind of Visa do you need for this program?
Any US citizen that enters Ecuador is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the local language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!