From tree tops to the ocean floor, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are home to some fascinating creatures – some found nowhere else in the world. Start your wildlife adventure in the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, not far from Latitude 0. Perched 900m above sea level, the rainforest is alive with over 400 species of birds – including 36 endemics, as well as monkeys, peccaries and puma. Meander along the pathways in the early morning, watching and listening as the birds and mammals come alive with the rising sun. Next, sail through the iconic Galapagos archipelago on Santa Cruz II and visit the sea lions lazing along the beaches of Santa Fe, the grand giant tortoises of Santa Cruz, the magnificent albatross of Española and the soaring frigatebirds and flapping blue-footed boobies of San Cristobal.
Day 1 Depart the UK for your overnight flight to Bogota and connection onto Quito.
Day 2 Arrive Quito in the morning and transfer to the heart of this dramatic city set in a valley overlooked by Pichincha volcano. Located in the historic centre, sumptuous Casa Gangotena overlooks the cobbled Plaza San Francisco. A Neo-Classical converted mansion, the elegant rooms are furnished with Art Nouveau pieces with a contemporary feel. Choose your view from the historic square, the bright inner courtyard or the iconic El Panecillo hillside.
Day 3 Colonial Quito, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest and best preserved in South America. Stroll around the cobbled streets with your local guide, taking in the grandeur of the Independence Plaza including the Presidential Palace. A beautiful example of French Renaissance and Spanish Baroque architectural styles, the palace dates back to late 16th century. Admire La Compañía de Jesús and perfect gilded interior. Due north of Quito, lies the Middle of the World Monument marking latitude 0º straddling both hemispheres.
Day 4 Winding roads lead to lower altitudes and the diverse cloud forest ecosystem. Mashpi Lodge is a luxurious, magical retreat hidden in 1200-hectare private reserve. A naturalist will provide an introductory talk showcasing the lodge and the Masphi experience. A guided walk along the Napa trail showcases the importance of forest conservation in the Chocó region. Meander along the paths, admiring the beauty of the region, taking in the sights and sounds of birds like the multi-hued toucans and choco toucans.
Day 5 Discover more about the life in the cloud forest tree tops in the morning when the birds are most active, foraging for food in the trees. As dawn breaks, sun filters through the canopy and is the perfect moment for up close observation. A truly original way to experience the upper canopy is by taking the lodges suspended sky bike. Absorb the colours and sounds of natural environment as you ride the two person bike covers a distance of 200m crossing a river gorge. From the 30m high observation tower spot toucans, woodpeckers, tanagers and parrots as well as birds of prey.
Day 6 Experience the morning call of the birds and spot butterflies as nature comes alive in front of your eyes. Take in the lush green undergrowth – mosses, giant ferns amidst the swirling mist of clouds. As you hike for 2 hours to Copal waterfall with a drop of 50 metres. Cool down and refresh in the pure gushing water. Leaving the reserve and the contemporary hideaway of Mashpi Lodge, recall the sounds of nature as you return to the modern sounds of the city.
Day 7 Depart mainland Ecuador for the magical Galapagos Islands located over 600 miles from the mainland in the Pacific Ocean. First discovered in 1835 by Charles Darwin, the islands remain an awe inspiring destination. On board Santa Cruz II every detail is taken care as you cruise in style and comfort, learning about the diverse wildlife from your experienced naturalist guide. Choose from three different itineraries exploring different areas, including an option for the Eastern Islands starting in San Cristobal. Please ask for details.
Day 8 Ease into island life with two excursions for complete immersion to the dramatic scenery and wildlife. At Santa Fe Island, the idyllic sandy-white beach is dotted with sea lions lazing in the sun. Look out for the endemic land iguana, unique to this particular island and walk amid the giant prickly pear cactus. The channel at South Plaza Island, with it shimmering turquoise water is home to frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters.
Day 9 Sail to the main island of Santa Cruz and Puerto Ayora to spend time at the Charles Darwin Research Station, the headquarters scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Home to the giant tortoise Breeding Centre this is where the late ‘Lonesome George’ lived. Options are available for the afternoon including hiking, mountain biking or kayaking in Tortuga Bay. Get up close to the wildlife on both land and in the sea.
Day 10 Española Island has one of the most beautiful white coral beaches in the archipelago at Gardner Bay. This idyllic setting is home to sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. Relax on the beach and observe the wildlife or venture into the ocean for some great snorkelling. Walk to the viewpoint for a spectacular view of the Galápagos famous "blow-hole" whilst looking out for waved albatrosses (April- January), Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tail gulls.
Day 11 Transfer from your cruise to the Finch Bay Eco Hotel in a wonderful secluded location next to the beach. The main town of Puerto Ayora is visible across the bay, scattered with local fishing boats. Relax by the hotel's swimming pool or take an optional excursion to further immerse yourself in the wonderful biodiversity of this unique location. Dine at the hotel's restaurant offering Galapagos inspired cuisine featuring locally grown produce.
Day 12 Finch Bay offers a host of activities from exploration, relaxation and adventure. Explore the nearby islands of North Seymour, Bartolome, South Plaza & Santa Fe on the hotel's Sea Lion yacht or venture in the water to snorkel with turtles. Relax at the pool or in your hammock with a good book, visit the nearby town of Puerto Ayora with it's small cafes, restaurants and vibrant nightlife. For adventure there is nearby hiking, biking, kayaking, scuba diving and surfing. As the sun dips below the horizon, lighting up the sky reflect on the wonderful memories from your magical trip in the Galapagos Islands.
Day 13 Transfer to Baltra for your flight to the coastal city of Guayaquil . Relax in the warmth of the Ecuadorian lowlands at the impressive Wyndham hotel. As the sun sets venture to the attractive promenade, known as the Malecon 2000. Watch as locals and visitors enjoy the fresh river breeze and admire the views. Wander north to the old district of Las Penas , part of colonial Guayaquil with brightly painted wooden houses and narrow cobbled streets. Indulge in some coastal cuisine, such as the local seafood.
Day 14 Depart Guayaquil for your return flight to the UK.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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