175 years ago, Charles Darwin landed in the Galapagos archipelago and, attracted by the bizarre fauna, began five weeks of collecting and observing. What resulted changed science forever.
We present an extraordinary exploration of the fabulous wildlife in the unspoilt Galapagos archipelago and the stunning Cloud Forest in Ecuador, the cradle where animals and plants are unveiled as new species each year. The optional trip extension to the astonishing Yasunì deepens our understanding of the Amazon Rainforest, the quintessence of biodiversity.
- Land and marine iguanas, the many Giant tortoises found on different islands
- Penguins right on the equator and flightless cormorants. The bizarre evolution of diving birds
- Bobbies, Albatrosses and Frigatebirds: the extraordinary avifauna of the Galapagos
- The “lesson” on Darwin’s finches adaptation
- Sea lions, whales and the stunning marine fauna of the archipelago
- The Cloud Forest, the “Olinguito” and the montane fauna. The spectacled bear, the mountain lion and the mountain tapir. Birdwatching like you’ve never experienced before
- Optional trip extension to the Amazon rainforest of Yasunì, the most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth. The Waoranì people and the tribes in voluntary isolation
Although located on the Equator, the islands have a varying climate depending on different factors. The weather of the Galápagos Islands is influenced by three main ocean currents (especially the cold, nutrient-rich Humboldt Current from Antarctica and Chile), by altitude and by the occurrence of “El Niño”, resulting in two primary seasons, the wet season and the garúa, or dry season (from July to December). The littoral zone is a narrow stretch of arid lowland near the shore, with average an temperature of 21°C, while from 450 m elevation average temperature drops to 17°C and the highlands are almost always cloud covered during the garúa season. At higher altitude temperature averages 14°C. Temperatures in the Sierra do not vary greatly on a seasonal basis; the hottest month averages 16 °C and the coolest month, 13 °C in the upper elevations. Diurnal temperatures, however, vary dramatically, from cold mornings to hot afternoons. Climate in the Sierra is divided into levels based on altitude. The tropical level—400 to 1,800 meters—has temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 °C and heavy precipitation. The subtropical level—1,800 to 2,500 meters—has temperatures from 15 to 20 °C and moderate precipitation. The temperate level—2,500 to 3,200 meters—has a year-round temperature in the range of 10 to 15 °C and an annual rainfall of 1,000 millimeters. The temperate level experiences rainstorms, hailstorms, and fog. Above 4,650 meters is the frozen level, where peaks are constantly capped with snow and ice, and temperatures range from below 0 to 3 °C. Precipitation frequently is in the form of snow, fog, and rain. The Eastern lowlands in the Oriente experience abundant rainfall, especially in the Andean piedmont. Temperatures average 25 °C in the western parts of this region. The jungle-covered plains of the Eastern lowlands register high levels of rainfall and temperatures surpassing 28 °C.
The Galápagos are located 970 km west of the Ecuadorian coast (between 1°40′ N e 1°36′ S), belonging to Ecuador. The group consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets, consisting of 7,665,14 km2 of land spread over 45,000 km2 of ocean. In 1959, the centenary year of Charles Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species, the Ecuadorian government declared 97% of the archipelago’s land area a national park, excepting areas already colonised. In 1986, the 70,000 km2 of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve.
The Cloud Forest is located between 500 and 2500m above sea level, on the foothills of the northern sector of the Andes consisting in two parallel cordilleras that runs through Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador (Cordillera Occidental e Cordillera Oriental).
Yasuni National Park stretches in Pastaza and Orellana provinces, in the part of the Amazon rainforest comprised between the Napo and Curaray river, about 250 km south of Quito. The national park lies within the Napo moist forests ecoregion and is primarily rain forest, and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989 as one of the most biodiverse ecoregion on Earth. It is within the claimed ancestral territory of the Huaorani indigenous people. Yasuni is home to two uncontacted indigenous tribes, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane.
Galapagos: the Galapagos archipelago is located at a point where major ocean currents come together, mingling nutrient rich cool waters from the south, warm currents from the north, and a deep cold current from the west. This convergence of ocean currents has combined flora and fauna from contrasting environments, and given rise to unique marine species. The Galapagos Islands are located about 970 km west of Ecuador, and never had any contact with the South American continent. Such isolation and the bizarre environmental conditions were the main driver for the occurrence of a remarkable wildlife found nowhere else in the world as a consequence of evolution, and the degree to which they have remained relatively intact, retaining nearly all their original biodiversity. Here biodiversity is higher with more unique species than in similar places, with a totally different plant and animal assemblages compared to the mainland relatives. Fauna is mainly composed of birds, reptiles and mammals, with no amphibians. This archipelago is worldwide considered to be a fragile living laboratory of evolution, where any human or natural–induced perturbations may provoke ecological disasters. In the past, as animals never experienced man as a predator, they showed no fear of humans, and never developed behavioural defense mechanisms, favouring the extinction for many of them.
Tandayapa Cloud Forest: Cloud forests, correctly termed pre-montane/subtropical rain forests, cloak the steep slopes of the Andes from about 900 meters to about 2500 meters. They are forests of high biodiversity, with a profusion of little-studied wildlife and plants. Since the forest is located on the equator, flowers are in bloom year round, such as bromeliads and orchids, as well as the fascinating families of Gesneriaceae and Melastomataceae, and a great diversity of epiphytes. The area boasts over 330 recorded species of birds and represents a top destination for birders, with a multitude of hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, the quetzal, etc. Mammals include the endangered Spectacled Bear, as well as the puma, Andean coati and tayra, different Xenarthra and of course the newly discovered Olinguito.
Yasunì: Yasuni National Park is arguably the most biologically diverse spot on Earth. The 9,820 km2 of the Park harbours 100.000 species of insects (about the same species of North America), 150 species of amphibians (world record), 121 species of reptiles, 382 species of fish, 598 species of birds (one third of the entire Amazon Basin!), about 200 species of mammals and 4000 vascular plants. The rate of endemism is very high, featuring 43 species of vertebrates and 220-720 species of plants. One species of bat, the Lophostoma yasuni, is endemic to the Park.
* two different and partly overlapping itineraries are possible. Both allow the observations of the most representative target species, with few important exceptions. We will choose together the more appropriate one.
The trip will be led and accompanied by one Biosfera Itinerari expert biologist guide who will be responsible of logistics, activities and tour guidance.
- Full board accomodation on the yacht during the cruise at the Galapagos
- All land excursions and permits
- Snacks after land excursions
- Transit card
- Flight Quito-Galapagos (return)
- Guidance from a Biosfera Itinerari Biologist
- All land transfers
- Accomodation while on Quito, Hotel
- Full board accomodation in lodge in the Tandayapa forest
- All guided treks in Tandayapa
- A comprehensive travel insurance
- Full board accommodation in lodge
- Guided naturalistic activities: birding, herping, mammals observations, exploration of the Amazon rainforest, night excursion with spotlighting, etc.
- Guidance from a Biosfera Itinerari Biologist
- All flights (except Quito-Galapagos (return) and optional Quito-Coca (return) and airport taxes
- Cost of Procedure Management (30 euro)
- Cancelling insurance (facultative)
- Taxes for accessing to the Galapagos National Park (120 usd)
- Additional drinks
- Optional renting of snorkeling equipment
- Eventual stay at Coca or Quito in case of flight coincidence failure
- Voluntary activities and service tips, and in general everything not mentioned in section “The price includes”
Disclaimer 1: Please note this is an indicative and standard itinerary. Dates, activities and the succession and length of each part of the itinerary may change each year, and can be rearranged with the participants. Upon request by the participants, we will send the definitive and detailed programme to be evaluated at least some weeks prior to the confirmation deadline.
Disclaimer 2: We will generally honor the posted prices, but these are subject to change at any time due to action or decisions made by local authorities. In such situations, and in the hope that will not happen, we will send all the ministries official communications to all participants, free from ambiguity and in total transparency. We reserve the right to correct the final price to the fullest extent permitted by law.