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Galapagos & Rainforest Experience

10 Days FROM £ 5,189

Overview

 

Enjoy Ecuador's wildlife and natural wonders with this remarkable itinerary including the spectacular nature and wildlife of Mashpi Lodge, a luxury hideaway in a protected cloud forest reserve and biodiversity 'hotspot' that is globally recognized as one of the locations with the highest concentration of plant and animal species on the planet. It is thought that Mashpi Reserve is home to some 500 species of birds and 4,000 species of orchid. 

Continue with an unforgettable expedition-style cruise of the incredible Galapagos Islands aboard M/V Santa Cruz - snorkel with sea lions; watch giant tortoises lumbering through cactus forest and catch the courtship displays of blue-footed boobies and red-throated frigate birds. The unique wildlife and landscapes of the spectacular Galapagos will amaze you.

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Optional Activities :

Trip Code: ECTSGAE

Travel Style: Small Ship Cruise  

Location: Ecuador: Quito, Ecuadorian Rainforest & Galapagos

Ship: Santa Cruz II

Flights: Internal flights included in itinerary. Ask us to help book your flights to/from South America.

WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE?

  • This itinerary combines experiences in two of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world, the Galapagos Islands and Amazon Rainforest. 

  • Discover an immense plethora of wildlife including monkeys, hummingbird, toucans, squirrels, seals, iguanas and of course the legendary Galapagos tortoise. 

  • Explore Ecuador's capital Quito, one of Latin America's best preserved  historical centres and experience the elegance and luxury of the iconic Casa Gangotena Hotel.  

CRUISE ITINERARY

Welcome to Quito and Ecuador!. At the airport you will be greeted by a member of our organization, we will escort you all the way to your hotel, giving you a short briefing about Quito and the country in general with valuable information you need to know. Enjoy scenic colonial and artistic Quito, visit museums, monasteries and the golden altars of its many churches. Stand with a foot on each hemisphere on the Middle of the World memorial. The capital of Ecuador has a setting that few cities in the world can match. During the 13th century it was the prosperous center of the Kingdom of Quitus. It later became the northern capital of the Inca Empire. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Colonial architects built formidable temples, monasteries and mansions, creating an urban jewel designated by UNESCO/UN as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Quitos artistic creativity awaits the visitor in cosmopolitan galleries and boutiques filled with contemporary paintings, sculptures and exquisite traditional crafts.

Quito

Quito’s colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved of South America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will stroll at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. We will visit the temple of *La Compañía de Jesús and its awesome gilded interior. We will continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive façade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. The tour ends at a lookout point with a great view of Quito.

Scenic Tour of Quito

The adventure begins in Ecuador’s heritage capital, Quito, at our 8 AM pick-up time for guests staying in Quito’s main hotels.

Mashpi Lodge is located three hours by car from Quito (110 Km, 70 miles) in the evergreen wilds of the Andes’ western slope. The sudden shift in altitude (from 2800 msnm to 1000 msnm) will allow us to discover the spectacular natural diversity of the Andean landscape as we travel through the dry valley of Pomasqui towards the cordillera’s western flank, into lush, misty cloud forest, and finally reach Mashpi, a nature sanctuary located in the spectacular Chocó, one of the most celebrated bioregions in the world, known for its record-high endemism, rainfall and altitudinal range.

Around 12:30 PM, we are received at the Hummingbird Station. Mashpi boasts a total 32 hummingbird species identified to date, many of which inhabit different altitudinal ranges, with around 19 species considered common at our specially designed feeder station. Not only will we observe hummingbirds of all kinds, but also toucans, tanagers, squirrels, and more. The site is located at a natural viewpoint, which, on clear days, provides breathtaking views of the reserve's forested hills. This is a veritable photographer’s paradise, regardless of your level of experience.
After settling into our respective rooms, we are introduced to our naturalist guides who will briefly speak about the cloud forest and its conservation, the activities you will be offered during your stay, and helpful tips about what to wear and bring to the excursions. This will take place before lunch at our library (lasts around 30 minutes).

The trail is named after the Cucharillo Tree (Magnolia dixonii), which in Spanish means ‘little spoon’, an Ecuadorian endemic that is common at Mashpi, although otherwise threatened throughout the country. The trail requires some physical condition due to its steeper portions, but has been made less demanding thanks to recycled plastic crates that have been used to form steps and make paths firmer. At the end of the trail find a large waterfall and rocky riverbed with beautiful ponds and smaller waterfalls. The excursion takes about 2 hours to complete.

The forest transforms by sunset: the sounds and smells intensify and other senses are awakened. We will discover the evening croaking of nocturnal frogs and incessant buzz of insects. If we turn off our flashlights, we will be able to observe sparkling fireflies and feel bats zipping by. On the ground, we’ll discover the faint glow of bioluminescent fungi all around. And as we turn our flashlights on again, we’ll quickly notice the reflection of hundreds of tiny insects. As we continue on, owls and other nocturnal birds may call into the night, while the rustling of branches above us may mean that we’re in the presence of kinkajous (Potos flavus), an arboreal mammal relative to the raccoon, making their way through the trees in search of ripe fruit. The excursion begins at 7 PM and takes about 45 min to an hour. We then return to the

Quito - Mashpi

The forest always rewards the “early birds”, as the dawn light lures a variety of fascinating species in their search for food. A good place to find birds is actually right at the hotel’s terrace, with a cup of fresh coffee, tea or hot chocolate in hand, from where we can enjoy not only the beauty of the forest but also the many species that come to feed on insects and fruits at nearby trees. Our guides will help us spot what’s around, offering a peek inside their telescope for a close-and-personal view of the incredible bird richness Mashpi possesses. This activity begins at 6:30 AM and lasts about an hour. Enjoy breakfast at our hotel restaurant.

We depart around 8:30 AM to the Sky Bike and Observation Tower (a 15-minute walk from the hotel).

Looming above the treetops, Mashpi´s observation tower allows our guests to enjoy the protected forest in all its glory. At 30 meters (100 feet) above the ground, this is an ideal site for nature lovers, allowing us not only allows to appreciate the forest’s complex structure, but also the incredible species richness that thrives throughout the canopy (70% of the forest’s biodiversity is found here). We climb 162 steps to reach the top.

The aerial bicycle makes for an original and exciting way to explore the canopy up close. Designed for two people to use at once, one person pedals the bike along a cable stretched between two points, around 200 mt (655 feet) apart, crossing a gorge and river. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it's an activity that provides guests with yet another vantage point to experience Mashpi’s lush natural world.
To enjoy the ride, one must be at least one meter tall (3.2 feet) (children must be accompanied by an adult).

The bike ride takes no more than 20 minutes. Once completed, you can walk back to the lodge along one of our many trails. One of the trails takes us to San Vicente waterfall, a 45-minutes-to-an-hour steep hike that demands good physical condition. You can also hike the Oxibelis trail that takes us to a small waterfall before taking us back to the lodge. The combination of activities (sky bike, observation tower and hike) can take between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the trail.

At the lodge, a refreshing natural juice and fresh towels will be waiting for us; we then will enjoy a varied and delicious lunch at the hotel restaurant.

The best way to reach the Life Centre is actually through the forest, so we take what we’ve come to call the “Howler Monkey’s trail”. This path crosses primary forest dominated by many ancient trees, being the “copal” (Dacryodes cupularis) the most emblematic of them. We occasionally get to listen to rare birds, such as the Rufous-fronted Wood-quail (Odontophorus erythrops) or the Rufous-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma rufopileatum). Our guides are keen on noticing every sound that comes from the forest deep, hoping to reveal colorful birds or elusive howler monkeys, while our naturalist guide explains the habitat’s ecology; both share with us their extensive knowledge on forest plants and their medicinal uses.

Once at the Life Centre, we are offered a great view of the forest from the comfort of an expansive wooden deck, where wildlife abounds. We will identify the different birds and mammals that visit our fruit feeders. The centre is conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but also a place where guests can disconnect from the humdrum of today’s world. We will explore the life of butterflies, the many species found in the Mashpi area and their metamorphosis process from egg, larva and caterpillar, to chrys

Mashpi

This activity begins at 6:30 AM in the hotel lobby and takes advantage of the fact that many bird species come to the hotel to feed. After a cup of coffee, we walk down the road seeking out mixed-species feeding flocks: these usually feature different insectivorous bird species that move together while foraging. In a single flock, we may see over 20 different species, making these more-or-less common encounters an undeniable treat for bird aficionados. The activity takes one hour; we return to the lodge for breakfast.

Approximately at 8:30 AM we leave the hotel and head to Copal Waterfall. This beautiful 2-hour-long hike features a landscape of moss-covered trees, bromelias and orchids at every corner. The trail ends at a spectacular waterfall over 50 m high. We return to the hotel by noon for check out before heading back to Quito at approximately 1:30 PM.

Mashpi / Quito

Shared Transfer out from hotel to airport in Quito

Quito / Galapagos

We arrive by plane at Baltra Island and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II where we receive our welcome introductory briefing, boat drill and lunch.

The north shore of Santa Cruz hosts the fascinating landscapes of Dragon Hill. The first part of our walk passes a brackish-water lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks and flamingos, while further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as the chance to see Galapagos land iguanas.

Baltra Island / Santa Cruz

After breakfast, we explore the coast by panga, while our naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area, nesting place for a Galápagos highlight: flightless cormorants. Depending on weather conditions, we can snorkel along the cliffs of this area rich in marine life, seasonally-visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola).

Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)
The afternoon is dedicated to exploring the youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina, which, having no introduced mammals, boasts a very unique environment with a very high density of marine iguanas, who share their space with sea lions, Sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorants.

Punta Vicente Roca / Punta Espinoza

In the morning, we disembark (dry landing followed by a brief bus ride) for our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise Breeding Centre within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest, home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Following our visit, we board our transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.

We have several options available for the afternoon, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader. Options include beach walks, kayaks, walks along the tortoise reserve, etc. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, we return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Santa Cruz II.

Puerto Ayora / Charles Darwin Research Station

After breakfast, panga ride along the maze of channels on Floreana’s north shore can be enjoyed. We follow this visit by continuing to Baroness Cove with its breathtaking views of Floreana. We land at Post Office Bay to visit the historic barrel that has served as a post office in the archipelago for over two centuries and where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand-deliver to their destinations. This is followed by snorkelling along the beach and then we head back on board for lunch.

Following lunch, we take the pangas and glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet – an extinct shield volcano, regarded as one of the best snorkelling spots in the archipelago. From there, it’s onwards to Punta Cormorant. We’ll begin with a wet landing on the olivine-crystal beach followed by an easy walk to a brackish-water lagoon, where bird species such as greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. We continue our walk over to a white-sand beach, where sea turtles may emerge from the sea at night to nest.

Post Office Bay / Champion Islet

We disembark at Baltra Island in order to transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland.

Shared transfer from airport to hotel in Quito

Baltra Island / Quito

This is a suggested itinerary. All Tailor-Made journeys can be customised to suit. Add in additional highlights, spend more time in areas of particular interest to you, or extend your journey to visit other regions of Latin America or Antarctica.

DOWNLOAD ITINERARY PDF

ITINERARY ADD-ONS

  • Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the archaeological marvel that is Machu Picchu. Discover the traditional rural life of the lesser known Lares region. Experience the evolving role of the original Andean people as you move from unique lodge to lodge, experiencing daily hikes with panoramic views of waterfalls, snow peaks and turquoise lakes and discovering breathtaking sites of ancient Inca civilisation. Find out more.

  • You've seen incredible wildlife experiences, now why not experience the amazing wonders of two of South America’s most vibrant cities. A 9 Day Rio to Buenos Aires journey will be the perfect way to indulge in a mix of Latin American cultural experience and sights. From the awe-inspiring Christ the Redeemer, to the roaring cascades of Iguazu falls and the European avenues of Buenos Aires this is a spectacular way to experience this unique and dynamic corner of our world. Find out more

  • Explore the Chilean capital of Santiago, before heading to Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most spectacular parks in South America. Head to El Calafate on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and from here visit the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier. Find out more

Pricing & date

Galapagos & Rainforest Experience from £ 5,189
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Important Information

  • Accommodation with breakfast daily in Quito 
    All meals whilst at Mashpi Lodge & Galapagos Cruise 
    Private airport transfers 
    Internal flights 
    Tours as detailed in itinerary
    All shore excursions
    Guiding and lectures by Galapagos Naturalist Guide
    English-speaking expedition Team 
    Guided daily excursions whilst at Mashpi Lodge 
    Load of rubber boots at Mashpi Lodge
    Other meals where stated 

    EXCLUSIONS  
    International Airfares  
    Visa fees (if applicable)
    Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee (US$100 per person subject to change)
    Galapagos Transit Control Card (US$20 per person subject to change)
    Travel Insurance
    Beverages 
    Personal expenses 
    Gratuities for the crew, guides and drivers 
    Optional Activities whilst on-board Galapagos Cruise and at Mashpi Lodge

     

     

  • 2 (light adventure)
  • Available upon request. Contact us for more details.

  • Please remember that the exact route and programme may vary according to weather and ocean conditions and the wildlife encounted. 

    It's also subject to change without previous notice due mainly to readjustment of the National Park policies and regulations.

     

  • Departure date, season and availability. 

SPEAK TO A SPECIALIST

Your Destination Specialists will turn your South America adventure dream into a reality. With exceptional knowledge and first-hand experience, our Destinations Specialists will assist in every way possible to make your journey the most memorable it can be, matching not only the itinerary, but the accommodation and activities to suit your style of travel and budget.

Sustainability

Being environmentally accountable is a crucial part of our organisation. Chimu is currently striving towards using less paper, taking several initiatives to do so and tracking our progress along the way. Our goal: A paperless organisation. For this reason, all information given to you will be sent electronically. We encourage those who choose to travel with us to support our aspirations and actions and ask that you reconsider printing out documentation. To view these documents, you can download them to your iPad or portable computer before and during your trip.

Chimu is passionate and dedicated to sustainability measures and understands the crucial part sustainability plays within the tourism industry.

We use local guides and office staff to both maximise local employment opportunities and minimise carbon footprint. Local guides also ensure you benefit from the intimate knowledge, passion and culture of the country you’re visiting. Our guides are all highly qualified (most with university degrees) or equip with many years of experience and are paid above the standard wage. Whether it be our knowledgeable local guides, locally produced meals or the transport on tour, we do not use imported goods when local products are available. We aim to minimise our impact on the environment and give as much back as possible to the communities we work in.

Your itinerary will include a stay at Mashpi Lodge. Mashpi Lodge collaborates with the local community called the Choco of which several practice have been put in place to promote sustainable land management, environmental governance and conservation efforts allowing the consideration of Pichincha province to become a UNESCO certified site. While visiting the many national parks, heritage sites, museums and landmarks our travellers are encouraged to explore remain culturally aware and sensitive. We further encourage you to buy appropriate souvenirs and discourage the buying of anything wrongfully made or taken from the environment i.e. shells and endangered species products. Information on how you can be environmentally conscious, and travel responsibly will be made available in our Travellers Guides and provided during your travels by guides and staff.

For more information on our sustainability policies, including how we are striving towards being a paperless organisation, click HERE