Arrive at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. A Gap Adventures representative will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7 pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). Located 2850m (9348 ft) above sea level, the Ecuadorian capital of Quito enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate, despite the fact that it is only 22 km (14 miles) south of the Equator. Nestled in a valley flanked by mountains, on a clear day several snow-capped volcanoes are visible from the city centre. Add to its beautiful location a rich history and well-preserved colonial district, and you begin to understand Quito’s appeal to thousands of tourists every year. In 1978 UNESCO declared Quito a World Heritage site, and any new development in Quito's old town is now strictly controlled. Life in Quito tends to be peaceful, though the drivers are fond of using their car horns! There are approximately 2,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, but the pace is relaxed and the residents hospitable. Quito is separated into two basic sections, the old and the new cities. The old city is full of historical buildings and churches. One of the more noteworthy is the Catedral de Quito, located on the Plaza de la Independencia. Built between 1550 and 1562, it was one of the first neoclassical works in Quito. La Compañía de Jésus Church is considered one of the most beautiful in the Americas. The decorations in the Compañía contain approximately one and one-half tons of gold, and construction of the church took 170 years (1605-1775). The small, rounded hill dominating the old town is El Panecillo or 'the Little Bread Loaf,' a major Quito landmark. From here there are marvellous panoramic views of the entire city and surrounding volcanoes. You can easily take a trolley (streetcar) or a cab between the Old Town and New Town. Quito’s large foreign population and steady stream of travellers have given it a varied and vibrant nightlife, and salsotecas and other dance clubs abound. For a real Ecuadorian experience though, be sure and drop by a peña if you can; these are great places for meeting locals and dancing, as well as enjoying local cooking. Just a couple of hours south of Quito is Parque National Cotopaxi, home to Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 m/19342 ft). the beautiful cone-shaped, snow covered volcano is Ecuador’s second highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world. This is a great spot for a days hiking (up to the refuge on the glacier’s edge) or mountain biking (downhill all the way). True enthusiasts attempt the climb to the summit (overnight excursion). Allow yourself an extra day or two in Quito, before or after your trip, if you want to conquer Cotopaxi.
Fly to San Cristóbal and transfer to the conservation project. Meet the project coordinator who will accompany you to the Hacienda and give you an orientation presentation to learn and familiarize yourself. During your time here we will have the opportunity to interact directly with local families, participating in environmental education workshops that promote conservation and local farming. At certain times of the year, you may have the opportunity to participate and help organize field trips for the children of the community to visit the Hacienda, as well as work alongside of them in the greenhouse and in the gardens. Option to snorkel, kayak, bike or take a day trip to another island. The community work at the Hacienda is based around helping the 15 farming families that live in the area. This includes visiting their farms and helping them maintain them and keeping the invasive plant species from taking over the native plants. Volunteers often become close with the families and get to know them well during these activities. Many times the families will give the volunteers extra produce from the farms. Activities that you may be involved in can very greatly dependent on time of year, season and what is necessary at the time of your visit, here are some examples of projects you may be able to assist with: •Volunteers with interest in environmental preservation can work to reverse the negative effects of invasive or introduced species, restoring the native and endemic forests. Volunteers work in a controlled plot of land to eliminate introduced/invasive plant species and to restore native and endemic species, growing the plants first in a greenhouse and then transplanting them to their permanent locations. •You can work with the local highlander families in the areas of livestock and horse care, milking and milk delivery, wild blackberry control, fence maintenance, seedling and plant care, tree planting. The volunteering schedule is roughly: Monday to Friday, 8:30-12:00pm and 2:30-5:00 p.m. There is also time built into this program for a free day to enjoy the Galapagos, with optional activities available like snorkelling, kayaking, biking or even a day trip to another island. The Hacienda is a 50 hectare working dairy ranch and ecotourism project in the highlands of Isla San Cristobal, where there is still native vegetation. One of the objectives of this new station will be to develop the technology to reconstruct native habitats in the highlands, and to serve as a center for similar projects in the Galapagos chain. The remaining native highland forests on the populated islands are quite limited due to farming activities in general, and the introduction of useful, but very invasive, species from the mainland. Rare for the Galapagos, the focus of their work is on the human population and environment of the islands, as opposed to just the wildlife. With this in mind, the Hacienda aims to carry out sustainable projects that improve the quality of life of the islands’ inhabitants.
Fly back to Quito and enjoy a free evening in the city.
Depart at any time. Add on extra weeks if desired, to a maximum of 3 months.