Day 1: Arrive Quito
Welcome to Ecuador. After claiming your luggage, you are met by your Big Five Ecuador representative and transferred to your hotel. Situated in a newly restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, the three-story Casa Gangotena includes 31 rooms, a showcase of eye-catching style, contemporary design, antiques, fine furnishings, modern technologies and comforts. Beautifully and eclectically appointed, the hotel invites its guests to explore and to relax, whether in the dining room, glassed-in patio, the garden of native flowers, wood-paneled library, or on the panoramic third-floor terrace. Casa Gangotena Hotel – Plaza view room
Please note that small aircrafts are used to fly to Kapawi. The amount of weight that can be transported is limited. It is important that you limit your luggage to a basic minimum. Luggage should not exceed 25 pounds (11.3 kg) per person, total. Luggage must be in soft sided bags. No hard suitcases please, as they are difficult to load on the small airplanes.
Day 2: Quito / Antisana
This morning, you will meet your guide and drive south to the Antisana Ecological Reserve, where you will enjoy a hike to see the famous Andean condors. Enjoy a picnic in the reserve. For centuries the magnificent landscapes around Antisana Volcano were only within reach of scientists, geographers and intrepid explorers. Now, a good paved road takes you into this pristine moorland (paramo), full of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. The Antisana is a Condor Sanctuary, providing refuge for one of the largest concentrations of Andean Condors left in Ecuador, as well as many other rare and endangered highland bird species such as black-faced ibis, cinereous conebills, Andean gulls, brown speckled teal, Andean lapwings, many carunculated caracaras, Andean doves and the rare siskin. The Antisana Ecological Reserve's 296,400 acres include the snow-covered Antisana Volcano, rising to 5758m/18,886 ft. This is one of the most rigorously protected natural areas in Ecuador. The Antisana’s massive glaciers feed water to the lakes and rivers of the reserve, which sustain the abundant wildlife of the region, and also provide much of Quito’s drinking water. Although condors can be found throughout the Andes cordillera from Tierra del Fuego to southern Colombia, their habitat is shrinking. The bird is the national symbol of Ecuador. Conservation efforts in Ecuador are now underway to save one of the last populations of the world's largest flying bird. What began as a minor movement in local communities is now supported by national non-governmental organizations with international technical and financial assistance. The magnificent condor boasts a wingspan of over 3 meters/10 feet, and has a bare grayish red head with a white ring on its neck. Its feathers are shiny black with white tips. They can easily be seen on a huge wall of cliffs across a narrow canyon on the way up to Antisana or soaring up near the highest peaks. Andean dwellers believed that the condor was a messenger to the gods, which flew into the upper world to carry prayers to the gods. Wear warm clothing and don’t forget your binoculars! Afterwards, you drive to the hacienda San Agustin del Callo. Built on the site of an Inca palace, it is one of the two most important archaeological Inca sites in Ecuador. It is also the nothernmost point from Cuzco where you find the Imperial-style construction of the Incas. This working farm offers an unrivalled glimpse into Ecuador's rich and colorful past. Since the 15th century, San Agustin de Callo has served as Inca fortress, Augustinian convent and temporary home for the French Geodesic Mission whose scientific results helped to determine the true shape of the planet. Famous visitors include Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa who were appointed by the King of Spain to host the Geodesic Mission in 1736, the scientific enterprise organized and led by Charles-Marie de la Condamine. Alexander von Humboldt, German scientist and renowned naturalist and explorer, and the illustrious English mountain climber Edward Whymper have also stopped here. San Agustin del Callo (B,L,D)
Day 3: Antisana / Baños
This morning, enjoy a visit to a market, where on market days all the local people come down from the mountains to sell their crops. Learn about the different products that grow in the area and the crafts they make. Continue south, along valleys and mountains covered by multicolored fields to the Salasaca Community, one of the most important indigenous groups in this area. They have preserved their dress and traditions, based on agriculture and tapestry weaving. The symbols and designs they use are passed down from generation to generation over the past 500 years. They are very well organized for the development of their community. From here, descend towards the town of Patate and continue through magnificent landscapes offering bird-eye views of the region, and are a gateway to the Llanganates National Park. For hundreds of years the Llanganatis have attracted treasure hunters. Legends claim that the treasures of the last Inca King, Atahualpa, were hidden here after he was captured by the Spanish conquerors. Continue to Baños (Baths) where you will enjoy spectacular views of Baños and surroundings. The town is located at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, the source of the thermal springs that give it its name. Baños, a very popular destination in Ecuador, is known as the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. Lunch at a restaurant of the area. Luna Run Tun (B,L,D)
Day 4: Baños / Shell / Kapawi Ecological Reserve
This morning you will be transferred to meet the Kapawi group on their way to Shell, down the majestic Pastaza River Canyon, dotted with waterfalls. The meeting point in Shell is Aerotsentsak, the Achuar air-service hanger. Here you will board the aircraft for your flight into the rainforest. Please note that depending upon weather conditions in Kapawi and at Shell, flights can be delayed, so your flexibility and patience will be important. Following a one-hour flight over untouched rainforest, you will arrive in Achuar territory and be welcomed by your Kapawi guides. They will escort you on the final leg of your journey, a 30-minute canoe ride into the beauty and tranquility of this remote part of the world. You will travel up the broad expanse of the Pastaza River, then into the smaller Capahuari River and moments later you will arrive at your destination, the Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve. During this journey, you can appreciate some of the Amazon’s natural wonders, for example, some species of birds, butterflies and dolphins. Once at the Lodge, you will be welcomed by the staff who will help you to settle into the Kapawi experience. An introductory talk will be given by your resident manager. Kapawi is located in the most remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin. The lodge was created in accordance with the Achuar concept of architecture without a single metal nail. Environmentally friendly methods such as solar energy, biodegradable soaps, and trash recycling systems are also being utilized. Isolation from the rest of the world doesn't mean a lack of comfort, at least not in Kapawi. All cabanas feature private bathroom, sun-heated showers, and electricity is provided by a photovoltaic system. Located on the shore of the Kapawi Lake, every room has a wide terrace where you can observe the daily roster of visitors - ducks, hummingbirds, egrets and parrots; and listen to the music of the myriad of frogs at night. Meals feature international Ecuadorian food with emphasis on local products, including a wide variety of exotic fruits. The well-stocked library is open all day long. A small boutique has essential items as well as handicrafts and souvenirs. Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve (B,L,D)
Day 5 & 6: Kapawi Ecological Reserve (Amazon Jungle Basin)
It has been said that an Achuar is a living encyclopedia, who can recognize every one of the 500 species of birds found in Kapawi. The same person can distinguish every tree and explain the medicinal or practical uses of each. At Kapawi, you and yiour guide can design the most suitable program to meet your interests and physical condition.
Easy: Programs that include short hikes in the rain forest (up to 3 hours) on well defined trails, visits to the Achuar communities as well as trips in canoes.
Moderate: Programs that include medium-distance hikes (up to 5 hours), sometimes crossing flooded areas.
Difficult: Demanding hikes of many hours or days in poorly defined and often flooded trails. Porters will carry food and supplies. Exploration journeys to virgin areas are occasionally offered. Trips down inaccessible rivers are done on inflatable rafts. Excellent physical condition is required!
Most of the itineraries will include visits to the Achuar communities, hikes in the rain forest, canoeing in rivers and lakes as well as bird watching. Kapawi, has practiced cultural and environmental sensitivity and set its standards very high. Sustainable tourism is taken seriously here. Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve (B,L,D - daily)
Day 7: Kapawi / Quito
This morning you will depart for the airstrip and your return to Shell and to Quito. You will arrive back to your hotel in the evening. Casa Gangotena – Plaza view room (B,L)
Day 8: Quito / Galapagos
Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Baltra Island. Upon arrival you meet your naturalist guide who will accompany you for lunch and a complete tour of the highlands. You will visit Los Gemelos, collapsed twin craters that were formed by a series of eruptions when the island was still active. This area is one of the few where the Scalesia forest is almost intact. Tortoises wander around, finches and vermilion fly catchers can also be seen. You experience total darkness in the lava tunnels, and learn about the formation of these fascinating islands. Relax at Galapagos Safari Camp and enjoy the sunset, a drink and dinner. The camp is a 55-hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island bordering the national park, 30 minutes from the sea. The farm is rich in bird life with finches, warblers, mockingbirds, Galapagos doves, egrets and owls, and tortoises also make frequent visits. The farm has many local species of trees, such as scalesia, guayabillo and palo santo, which are rapidly regaining a foothold after years of cattle farming. The camp has 8 luxury safari tents perched on a hill, providing comfort and privacy in the wilderness. All tents have a balcony with views of the park and the ocean, and are spacious, attractively decorated, and each has a private bathroom, with hot shower and toilet. Guests can gather by the fireplace in the main room to view the sunsets, taste our chef's creative dishes that cater for the international palate in the panoramic dining room, and enjoy the tranquility of the infinity pool with fabulous ocean scenery. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 9: The Galapagos Islands
Today you explore North Seymour Island aboard the NAREL on a shared basis. The boat has capacity of 16 passengers. The island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit perched in ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rain to bring them into bloom. This island is teaming with life! You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana. Blue-footed booby nests sit beside the trail where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Further along, the rocky shore displays white sand, and large flocks of pelicans mass for a dive-bomb feeding frenzy. The trail turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of magnificent frigate birds. These huge, dark acrobats of the sky have two-meter wingspans; and males in season sport puffed up scarlet throat sacks. They sit precariously perched in low bushes, watching over their equally large and ungainly chicks. In the afternoon you may visit Las Bachas (depending to conditions), a sandy white-coral beach that is a major egg-laying site for sea turtles. On the shore, there are many marine iguanas and in the lagoon, flamingos are commonly seen. This beach is also a good place for swimming and snorkeling. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 10: The Galapagos Islands
Your yatch, Narel, takes you to Bartolome. Navigation lasts approximately 2.5 hours each way. The beach landing is wet. It is wise to bring insect repellent. A short ten-minute walk across a sand dune takes you to the southern beach, where harmless black-tipped reef sharks and rays are often seen in the warm, shallow water. Snorkeling is banned here to protect the marine life. Ghost crabs creep over the sand and scatter as you approach. Look up at the sky and you may see a juvenile Galapagos hawk hovering overhead. The summit trail begins with a dry landing, though sea-lions make the purpose-built dock more exciting. The trail is a dusty walk through volcanic ash. The only vegetation is the “pioneer plants”, grey Tiquilia and greenish Chamaesyce. These are vital in binding the ash that fans down from the hill. The park wardens have built wooden steps up the hill to prevent further erosion by humans. The reddish spatter cones were minor eruptions of highly viscous material that cooled rapidly. The summit is such a cone. It seems higher than 114m as you climb the steps. The eastern side has many small lava tubes. The hike is better before 10:00 or after 4:00, when the light is softer. If you look carefully you can make out sunken craters in the sea below. In the distance you can see most of the central islands, the peaks of Isabela to the west, and on a clear day Marchena and Pinta to the north. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 11: The Galapagos Islands
Today you will be driven to the Eastern part of the island to enjoy the morning in the beautiful and pristine Garrapatero beach. The contrast of mangroves, black lava, white sand, pioneer cacti and turquoise water are a spectacle to the eye, particularly with the buzzing coastal bird life and the small lagoon near the beach, which often hosts pink flamingos and bahama ducks. You may opt to kayak here. You will have lunch at a local restaurant in Bellavista or a picnic if you prefer. Then you can discover the area by foot or mountain bike stopping at a coffee farm for a cup of home-grown coffee. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 12: Galapagos / Quito
Today you will be transferred back to Baltra airport to take the flight back to the mainland, where upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Casa Gangotena – Plaza view room (B)
Day 13: Quito / Depart
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight out. (B)
Departure Dates: Jan 1 to Dec 15, 2013
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Starting from $6,552