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Make friends with giant tortoises

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Hike into a volcanic crater

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Hang out with lazy seals

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Hike to stunning waterfalls

Ecuador 22

Ecuador, the Galápagos and the Amazon Adventure and Service


$6,995 + Airfare + $350 Intra Trip Flight


Jul 10 – Jul 31




Session 3

Who can go on this trip?

Students from around the world!

Finishing Grades:

9, 10, 11, 12

Places we visit:

Quito, Otavalo, Latacunga, Coca, Baños, Riobamba, Cotopaxi, Alausi, Cuenca, Guayaquil 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! On this program we will visit both the Galapagos and the Amazon, two natural wonders 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 first highlight of this adventure is our visit to 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 programs for children with disabilities that we can assist with.

And what journey to South America would really be complete without exploring the infamous Amazon Rainforest? Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime as we travel by canoe down a mighty river, marvel at giant waterfalls, hike a volcano and discover quaint and colorful towns along the way.

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
  • Navigate the Manduro River in a canoe as you explore the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Visit El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron), an impressive waterfall with a drop of 260 feet!
  • Visit Chimborazo Volcano and enjoy a beautiful hike to admire the flora and fauna of the paramo
  • Ride the Devil’s Nose Train on a breathtaking descent down the Nariz del Diablo Mountain
  • Take a walk along the streets of Cuenca, the most beautiful colonial city in the country
  • Discover the colourful city of Guayaquil

*Scuba diving is an optional activity


As the group flight takes off, our journey officially begins!


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.


The next stop on our journey is Cotopaxi National Park, where the awe-inspiring beauty of the Cotopaxi Volcano will leave you breathless. We will hike along the slopes of this colossal volcano to discover the park’s magnificent beauty while learning about the vital importance of its humble ecosystem and the species that dwell here, such as the Andean condor and the paramo wolf.

DAYS 12 – 16: El Coca and Baños

Explore the Ecuadorian Amazon as you navigate the Manduro River on a small canoe all the way to the Sapococha Lagoon. Wander the lagoon and enjoy a concert of birds, frogs, and monkeys while learning about different types of aquatic plants.

We will venture on several adventurous hikes through a variety of different jungle lands. Learn about the flora and fauna found in different types of forest and visit swamps and trees that you can’t find anywhere else in the world! Our Amazon experiences will also include learning how to use a blowpipe and piranha fishing!

Wander through the cloud forest, spot orchids and butterflies, and ride a cable car across the roaring river to reach one of the most well-known waterfalls in Ecuador – El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron). This impressive and powerful waterfall is 260 feet high and attracts photographers from around the world! Stand on the suspension bridge for the best view of the powerful waterfall cascading down into the river.

DAYS 17-18: Riobamba and Alausi

The next stop on our journey is Riobamba, a charming city with a strong French influence. We will be able to explore the quaint cobblestone streets and admire this town nestled in the mountains and surrounded by rolling hills and snow covered mountains. We will also be able to see the majestic Chimborazo Volcano and enjoy a great hike to admire the area’s unique flora and fauna.

Our next adventure will be a ride on the famous Devil’s Nose Train as we take a breathtaking descent down the Nariz del Diablo, a 45-degree gradient mountain. On this journey you will encounter stunning mountain scenery, including waterfalls, rivers, and gorges.

After the train we will visit the fortress of Ingapirca, a major pre-colonial Inca site which dates back to the 15th century. This is the most important religious and political monument left by the Incas and the many pre-Columbian cultures that once dwelled in this area and is a great example of how the Inca’s really lived.

DAYS 18 – 20: Cuenca

Cuenca is regarded by many as the most charismatic colonial city in the entire country with a European flavor. Its cobblestone streets, graceful wrought-iron balconies, and flowered squares will be sure to captivate you. Its unique marketplaces and handicrafts are living testimony to the region’s rich indigenous and artesian heritage. In the afternoon, we will visit a Panama hat museum and ceramic factory for the perfect opportunities to bring home some authentic gifts!

DAY 21: Guayaquil

We’ll get to know this colourful city known for its fast-pace and bold nature, much different to its highland counterpart, Quito. Visit the Parque Simón Bolivar, more commonly known as Parque de las Iguanas because of the ficus trees that are home to exotic flycatchers and arboreal Iguanas. Experience the splendid Palacio Municipal and the Gobernación de la Provincia building situated on the promenade on the shore of the Guayas River and gain insight into Guayaquil’s interesting past. As we stroll through the district of Las Peñas, we will pass quirky art galleries and hip cafés with beautiful views. Be sure to pay a visit to “Mercado Plaza del Sur,” a metallic structure designed by Gustave Eiffel himself!


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 Galapagos 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.


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!


  1. Taylor Klinefelter


    Thank you for your in depth emails, I really appreciate all the information, it helps a lot! You are all on the plane home as I write this and I have a lump in my throat of gratitude for the experience Max has had and for the people who cared for him. The communication piece will be his life work and as you said the more exposed he is and allows himself to open up he will feel more comfortable in himself and with others.

    Thank you so much for all that you do and care for these kids. My sincere thanks to the leaders for getting to know Max and spending some time with him. Please send them a big big thank you. They definitely made an impact as Max said they really really liked him. I couldn’t agree more – he definitely needs more of this positive energy around him so we can discuss another trip for next year. I am looking forward to seeing him get off the plane and hearing all his stories.

  2. Taylor Klinefelter


    First, I would like to thank all of the counselors for keeping the kids safe and showing them such a great time! It’s not easy as a parent to let your child go so far away with complete strangers…especially a child that’s never traveled alone before! But, you guys were awesome at putting my mind at ease with your daily updates. I’m truly impressed with how professional and organized you guys are.

    Michael had the time of his life on this trip and couldn’t say enough about the new friends he made and how amazing you guys were to him. We loved hearing all the stories he came home with about the awesome adventures he had! And it was great to have all the photos to go along with his stories. I was surprised to hear that one of his favorite things was going to the school and meeting the kids!

    He has come home a changed boy…he was already great but he now has a new zest for life. He seems more confident and independent and we are just so proud of him for taking this journey! Thank you all again for taking such good care of him and giving him the adventure of a lifetime!

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