Andes & Amazon: Ecosystems & Conservation

  • Explore Ecuador’s Andes & Amazon
  • Visit Pichincha Volcano
  • Assist Yellow Spotted Turtles in the Amazon
  • Andean Reforestation Project


Explore the diverse ecosystems of Ecuador while diving headfirst into today’s conservation movement. From the steamy jungles of the Amazon rainforest to the arid peaks of the Andean highlands, delve into the inner workings of these unique ecosystems, with an eye for how humans can best co-exist within them. Meet with community leaders, local naturalists and conservationists who have devoted their lives to these treasured regions and roll up your sleeves for some field-based learning.

Head to the Amazon where you weigh and tag yellow spotted turtles as part of a wildlife rehabilitation effort, then transplant seedlings on a reforestation project in the Andes. Hike and paddle your way through nature preserves in Napo, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, and Baños, and discuss biodiversity and restoration on the slope of Pichincha Volcano. This program provides an immersive experience in some of the continent’s most iconic and vital ecosystems, engaging students to cherish and to actively protect the Andes and the Amazon, while examining these critical issues through the lens of global conservation efforts.

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Andes & Amazon: Ecosystems & Conservation
8N/9D From:
  • Day 1 Arrive Quito, Ecuador

    Fly to Ecuador

    Surrounded by forested mountains and volcanoes at 9,350 feet above sea level, Quito is the second highest capital city in Latin America. Despite the fact that it’s only 15 miles south of the equator, Quito’s elevation gives it a wonderful spring-like climate year-round.  Upon evening arrival into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you will be met by your Andean Discovery Program Leader and transferred to your hotel to relax after the long flights.

  • Day 2 Visit a Nature Reserve

    Explore the nature of the Andes

    This morning you will have an overview of Ecuador’s stunning ecology as you visit a local botanical garden, featuring native Andean plants from many of the country’s ecological regions. As you walk through the gardens, your Program Leader will give you an introduction to Ecuador’s geography and its unparalleled biodiversity. Discuss local conservation efforts and challenges facing endangered species. Visit several areas within the garden, including the arboretum of Andean woodland species, orchidarium, humid mountain forests and dry habitat species. This visit provides wonderful context for your upcoming conservation projects and journey through the Andes and Amazon.

    After lunch, you’ll head to the hills to visit a high altitude nature reserve located on the western slope of Pichincha Volcano. The reserve is home to forests of Polylepis, a bush that is endemic to middle and high elevation regions of the tropical Andes. This area is habitat for some of the largest and most beautiful hummingbirds in Ecuador, such as the Great Sapphirewing, the Sword-billed Hummingbird, and the critically endangered (CR), endemic Black-breasted Puffleg.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 3 Upper Amazon Basin

    Travel to the Amazon

    Today you will experience multiple microclimates and ecosystems, as you journey over the Eastern Andes from the alpine grasslands to the tropical jungles of the Amazon. Ascend over 13,000 feet above sea into the Páramo, a fragile, neo-tropical ecosystem that is home to the Andean fox, the spectacled bear, and close to 5,000 native plants. Stop for a soak in hot springs, which are heated by the surrounding volcanoes, before continuing the descent into the Amazon. The dramatic rise in temperature and lush ecosystem is proof of your arrival into the tropical lowlands. A short canoe ride will take you to the Amazon eco-lodge and home for the next three nights.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 4 Yellow Spotted Turtle Project

    Restore the habitat of the Yellow Spotted Turtle

    Once a thriving species along the banks of the Cururay River in the upper Amazon basin of Ecuador, the Yellow Spotted Turtle is now classified as endangered. During the next two days you will work hand in hand with a local Kichwa community to restore the natural habitat and reverse Yellow Spotted Turtle depopulation.

    During the project this moring, activities may include weighing, tagging, and introducing Yellow Spotted Turtles to their natural habitat, working alongside Kichwa community members to plant fortifying Giant Bamboo and Yutzo trees along the riverbanks, and hauling sand to build nesting beaches for the turtles.

    This afternoon take a hike through the surrounding jungle and learn about medicinal plants and ancient remedies that have been used for thousands of years.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 5 Continue the Yellow Spotted Turtle Project

    Depending on the current needs of the project, this morning you may restore ideal turtle reproductive conditions through reforestation, monitor and study current turtle populations, and repopulate the Cururay River with Yellow Spotted Turtles from a locally operated turtle hatchery in a neighboring area of the Amazon.

    This afternoon take a canoe ride upriver to an Amazon animal rescue and rehabilitation center. Learn about illegal trafficking of exotic animals and the government’s efforts to combat it. Observe species that are being prepared for reintroduction into their habitat.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 6 Tena & Baños

    Float down the Upper Napo River and travel to Baños

    This morning you will be engulfed in the complex ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest as you raft down the Upper Napo River where 16th century Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro once traveled in search of the fabled city of El Dorado. The Upper Napo river known locally as Río Jatunyacu, is one of the main tributaries feeding the Amazon River. Keep your eyes out for river turtles and other local species as you the Class 2 and 3 rapids carry you 15 miles down river. Stop for a box lunch and short jungle walk before continuing downriver. This afternoon, travel through the foothills of the Andes on your way to the cloud forest town of Baños, which is surrounded by the towering walls of the Rio Pastaza Canyon. Stop at the thundering Pailon del Diablo waterfall, which can be observed from a suspension bridge. Afternoon arrival in Baños and optional Salsa Dance Class to get your tropical rhythm in step (dance class additional cost).

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 7 Chimborazo National Park

    Visit a local Kichwa community

    This morning travel to the province of Chimborazo, home to Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo, which stands at 20,697 feet above sea level. Visit a local Kichwa community and have a traditional Andean lunch. This afternoon explore Chimborazo National Park and learn about the endangered Vicuña species, the smallest of the South American camelids. Keep your eyes out for animals roaming the alpine plains such as llamas, rabbits, and deer. Examine the factors that make Chimborazo the closest point to the sun on the Earth’s surface, even closer than Mount Everest.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 8 Cotopaxi National Park

    Take part in the Andean Reforestation Project

    This morning work alongside local community members to plant endemic and native trees and bushes.

    After lunch travel north along the Avenue of the Volcanoes. You’re your eyes out for Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, standing at 19,349 feet above sea level. Renowned for its almost perfectly conical shape and glacier-clad peak, Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador, and one of few equatorial glaciers left in the world. Late afternoon arrival in Quito and farewell dinner celebration.

    Meals: (B, L, D)

  • Day 9 Quito & Depart

    This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your international flight to the U.S.

    Meals: (B)

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