Galapagos Island Conservation (STA exclusive 2013) - TSEVGT
Day 1 Quito
Arrive at any time in Quito. 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.
Days 2-8 Galapagos / Volunteer at Conservation Project (7B,6L,7D)
Fly to San Cristóbal and transfer to the conservation project. Participate in orientation and introductory meetings to prepare volunteers for the coming weeks. The aim of this Bilological Research Station is to conserve native highland forests by eradicating invasive plant species and to replace them with native trees and vegetation. The project works collaboratively with local landowners to develop agricultural alternatives for the production of vegetables and fruits to sell to local universities, restaurants and hotels. San Cristóbal is the oldest and one of the richest islands in the Galapagos. Here you can observe Galapagos Tortoises, iguanas, two species of sea lions and much more. Every day new exotic and invasive species are being introduced to the island, through importation. By helping with reforestation and replacing exotic invasive plants with native species you will be restoring the Galapagos to its natural state. The volunteer activities are organized on a weekly basis, which emphasize certain areas of interest. Tasks can change on a weekly basis and are dependent on weather and time of year. Below is an example of projects you may work on in a typical week as a volunteer: *Reforestation (collecting seeds, classifying seeds, nursery work, out planting within the reserve or nearby reserve, help maintain reforestation lines). *Personal project (develop your own project or support different conservation projects that are being developed at the station at the time). *Station maintenance (trail maintenance, sign elaboration for trails, basic construction activities, help clean fresh water supply, help in kitchen) *Organic agricultural activities (help maintain and secure food production for the station). *Hike throughout reserve and/or nearby related areas (learn about biodiversity themes, natural history, & ecology.). You'll be working up to 8 hours a day with regular breaks and a siesta time. Occasionally volunteers are expected to work half days on Saturdays, but for the rest of the weekends and evenings, these are your own. During your free time you can explore this amazing island, there's a lot to do on San Cristóbal - you can head to a waterfall, the beach, the freshwater lake, or check out the wildlife.
Day 9 San Cristóbal / Quito (B)
Fly back to Quito for a free evening on the town.
Day 10 Quito
Depart at any time. Add on extra weeks if desired, to a maximum of 3 months.