Take a journey to the enchanting cloudforests of the Andes and the unique Galapagos Islands to see some of the best wildlife that Ecuador has to offer.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in Latin America, but it packs quite a punch as it is home to some the continent’s most outstanding wildlife locations. The Ecuadorian cloudforest and the Galapagos Islands fit well together as these contrasting landscapes are home to a number of specialised endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world. From frolicking Galapagos sealions and dolphins, to frantic hummingbirds, there is more than enough wildlife to enjoy on this jam-packed itinerary.
The itinerary shown below is based on travelling on board La Pinta, however we can also offer this trip on the Mary Anne. Please contact us for more information.
Day1: Fly to Quito
Leave the UK and fly to Quito via Madrid. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. located right in the heart of Quito’s old colonial centre, for a two night stay.
In the morning your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby to start your tour of Quito. The old town of Ecuador’s capital has some of the best preserved colonial architecture in the whole of South America and particular highlights include the gilded interior of the La Compañía de Jesús Church and the Monastery of San Francisco. Continue to the equatorial monument just north of the city where you can stand with a leg in each of the world’s hemispheres.
Day3: Transfer to Mashpi
Following an early start, begin your road transfer to Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve. There will be a detour to the Pululahua Crater, which is a scar in the landscape left by a previously active volcano. Another stop will be made at Tulipe to learn more about the local Yumbo people and their way of life. You arrive at Mashpi Lodge in time for lunch before heading into the reserve for an afternoon excursion.
The day begins at dawn, which is when the forest comes alive with the birds being particularly active at this time of day. Excursions are organised to see this frenetic bird activity and the views are amazing in the early morning light. Continue to explore the surrounding area for the rest of the morning after breakfast. The afternoon is free to spend as you wish amongst the trees of this pristine cloudforest.
Day5: Return to Quito
An early breakfast is followed by a morning excursion in Mashpi. After an early lunch you start your return journey back to Quito winding your way through the Andes.
Accommodation: Casa Gangotena, 1-night
Days6-11: Fly to Galapagos and board La Pinta Yacht
Transfer to Quito airport in the morning to catch your flight over to the Galapagos Islands. After landing at Baltra airport, you head to the dock to board the La Pinta, one of the islands’ prestigious yachts. This is the start of an eight-day cruise around the Galapagos Islands that will take in the rugged coves, sandy beaches and emerald waters of this enchanting volcanic archipelago in order to see some of the remarkable endemic species.
The cruise will make its way between the islands stopping at many of the spectacular landing spots on Isabela, Santa Cruz, Fernandina and Floreana, as well as other memorable locations. The wildlife in the Galapagos is incredibly nonchalant when humans are around to the point where most of them will walk right by you only a few inches away. You will also have the chance to snorkel during the cruise, which is a fabulous experience in itself. Once you put your head into the water, you will be astounded by the amount of life that lives beneath the waves. Swimming with playful sealions and close encounters with turtles are just a couple of the wildlife highlights.
Day12: Return to Quito and depart
After breakfast on board La Pinta, you travel back to the airport to fly back to the mainland. Once in Quito, you transfer to the international terminal to catch your connecting international flights back to the UK
Day13: Arrive UK
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 13 daysfrom £8,995 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 12 daysfrom £7,995 pp
When to go: Jan-Dec: The Galapagos Islands are a fantastic year-round wildlife destination
This private reserve is part of a bio-region that stretches along the Pacific slope of the Andes from Panama to Peru. Its rich ecosystem is home to 500 bird species, butterflies, amphibians and orchids which thrive in the moist conditions. An aerial tram offers a unique vantage point in the rainforest canopy.
Submarine volcanic activity caused this remarkable archipelago to rise from the seabed. Millions of years of isolation then allowed species to evolve through natural selection, creating a unique biological identity. There are no predators, so the animals know no fear – allowing close encounters.
Ideal for viewing: blue-footed booby, Galapagos penguin, land iguana, marine iguana, giant tortoise
Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Birdwatching
Ecuador’s capital stands at an altitude of 2,850 kilometres on the slopes of the active volcano of Pichincha. Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city, the old town is very atmospheric, and several day tours are available, including the Mitad del Mundo monument on the equator.
Where: Pichincha Province
Excellent for: City stopover, History & culture
The volcanic slopes of the largest island in the archipelago are home to some 6,000 Galapagos tortoises. On the west coast the coldwater currents produces an abundance of marine life and it is possible to snorkel with sealions. An uplifted coral reef provides brackish lagoons which are home to a variety of seabirds.
Where: Western Islands
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, South American fur seal, white-cheeked pintail, Galapagos hawk, land iguana
Excellent for: Penguin watching
Studded with volcanic cones, Floreana is one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos – its volcano has long been extinct. It has a luxuriant vegetation, and nutrient rich soil, with diverse native and introduced flora. The submerged crater of Devil’s Crown is one of the best snorkelling sites in the Galapagos.
Where: Southern islands
Ideal for viewing: red-tailed tropicbird, South American sealion, Sally Lightfoot crab, green turtle, lava lizard
Fernandina is an active volcano with rugged slopes and unusual lava formations, which create some surreal landscapes. Its constant change of volcanic state and lack of plant life mean it is probably the least visited island.It is home to a huge population of marine iguanas, and penguins are commonly spotted.
Where: Western islands
Ideal for viewing: flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, land iguana, marine iguana, Sally Lightfoot crab
Excellent for: Penguin watching
Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. The island’s rocky coastline and mangrove-lined inlets are good for marine life. The lush greenery of the highlands offers a welcome contrast, with its huge craters, lava tunnels and giant tortoises roaming freely.
Where: Central Islands
Ideal for viewing: giant tortoise, green turtle, marine iguana, vermilion flycatcher, Galapagos rail
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Casa Gangotena is an elegant historic mansion overlooking plaza San Francisco in the heart of Quito. Luxurious yet small, this heritage colonial hotel blends sophistication, fine architecture, contemporary design and modern facilities. It offers 31 rooms, each completely unique in size and style.
The ultra modern Mashpi Rainforest Lodge uses the latest sustainable techniques and materials, and is designed to blend with its surroundings. The rooms, arranged over three floors, all have huge picture windows, allowing you to wake up to captivating views of the stunning cloud forest.
This itinerary is available on the following
For the ultimate treat, this deluxe class motor cruiser is the ideal choice. Its 24 spacious cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows can hold 48 passengers; triple and interconnecting cabins are available for families. La Pinta carries a glass-bottomed boat and sea kayaks, and the crew includes four naturalist guides.