Our one-month summer program in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands combines 3 separate service-learning projects with exciting adventure travel. Partnered with, and focused on local NGO organisations, this program aims to teach our students environmental sustainability and how it directly links to this part of the world. What small actions can create big changes? How do we make a difference? And what are the implications if we do nothing?
Working with local communities is what Pacific Discovery does, it’s how we plan, structure and implement our service projects. We’ll be hand in hand over the course of 29 days to give our students the knowledge and tools to better understand conservation initiatives and the impact we – as Global Citizens – can have in the world.
Named for the equator which the country straddles and about 1.5 times the size of Washington State, Ecuador has a population of 15 million and is one of the United Nations Environment Program mega-diverse countries in the world.
It is a safe and welcoming country to travel in – Ecuadorians have an easy-going manner, speak Spanish comparatively slowly (so great for beginner and learner Spanish speakers!), and are truly appreciative of visitors who take an interest in their language, culture and country.
Follow in Darwin’s footsteps with a nature-focused 3 weeks island-hopping through the Galapagos where you’ll learn about environmental sustainability and conservation and work alongside local NGO communities. Have incredible, up close, wildlife encounters. Raft in the Amazon Basin. Hike the local volcanos. Kayak the turquoise ocean waters and watch for turtles. Immerse yourself in Ecuadorian culture and gain insight into the lives of indigenous Andean and Amazon communities.
You’ll return from this summer program inspired by all you’ve experienced and learned…and most likely planning your return!
This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, and university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available on this program.
This program can be combined with Fall or Spring semester program options in other regions of the world (Nepal & Tibet, Southeast Asia, Central America, New Zealand & Australia) for an in-depth and enriching global gap year.
It’s time to say ‘Hola!’ to South America and the Galapagos Islands. On day one, you’ll be met by your awesome Program Instructors and transferred to our group’s private accommodation for an in-depth 3-day program orientation to focus on getting to know each other and create a positive and reflective group culture to support us all. We’ll spend our first few days taking a look around our new home base, learning about the rich culture of the area, and getting to know one another and our program goals for the next 30 days.
Isabela Island is the largest of the Galapagos Islands and it’s going to be our home for the next week, and what a location! Our first few days here will be spent exploring the island, snorkelling at the local and insanely beautiful areas surrounding it and checking our Isabela’s resident volcano.
These days will be nothing short of magical while we submerge ourselves in the local beauty of the landscape and the diverse wildlife that inhabits it.
Our first round of service projects sees us partnering with a local NGO that will direct and advise us on what the community and area needs at the time.
Opportunities like these are designed to fully awaken ourselves to the challenges that face these beautiful places, which end up being somewhat overlooked by our desire to skim the surface when we visit them.
We’ll learn about what is currently challenging this island, and we’ll get ourselves fully involved in the initiatives to help restore it to its magnificent origins.
Known in Spanish as El Muro de las Lágrimas, the Wall of Tears is one of the most important historic sites in the Galapagos Islands. We’ll grab our bikes and visit this scared space, a good reminder to seek to look beyond the surface beauty and for the history that created it.
We’ll continue with our physical theme by snorkelling Tintoreras and kayaking Tortuga Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles and all the fishes!
Santa Cruz is our second location for next service project. Partnered again with local NGO’s and empowered with the knowledge from our first project, the next 4 days will be spent harnessing the skills we already have and learning new ones.
Once again, we are at the disposal of the local community, and we could spend our days in the ocean clearing plastic, on the beach creating desirable nesting sites for wildlife or in the jungle, learning about flora and fauna and removing invasive species.
These next 2 days see us exploring a little more of Santa Cruz.
Directly translated, “grieta” means crevasse or crack. Las Grietas is an epic place for us to swim in the cool ocean water between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a “crack” or “crevasse”. Pretty neat huh?!
We’ll also visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a research facility that houses a huge collection of Galápagos plant life. Time to get those green fingers out and put that newfound knowledge to the test! Can you name any of the species of flora or fauna?
We’ll say ‘Adios’ to the Galapagos Islands as we travel over to Quito, and on to Tena.
Known as the “cinnamon capital" of Ecuador, Tena is surrounded by forested hills and is located at the edge of the Andes mountain range. It’s an epic spot for our overnight rafting mission that will see us spending 2 days on the Jatunyacu River, travelling over 40kms!
Our last service project sees us moving our homebase to the rainforest for 4 days. Here, we’ll be camping, eating and working with the local village and aligning ourselves with their mission to maintain and protect their home.
The jungle in this part of Ecuador is beautiful, diverse and home to incredible wildlife. Our days will be spent working - getting a little muddy! - and our evenings will be spent storytelling, reflecting, and learning about the community and what bands them together so wholeheartedly.
We’ll head back to Quito for the last few days of our program. Quito was built on the foundations of an ancient Inca city and is famous for its mix of European, Moorish and indigenous styles. Here, we’ll explore the city and soak up all the culture, history and landscape we can before we have to depart Ecuador.
Sadly, the time has come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 29 days have taken us on. Our lives are all somewhat chaotic right now, so we are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, learn about ourselves, but also prioritise time to experience and have gratitude for our own beautiful and historic culture and environment.
Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of moderate fitness with an enthusiasm for conservation, humanitarian work, new experiences and different cultures. It is an excellent option for students and graduates electing a gap semester or gap year experience and wanting to be exposed to and immersed in cultures different to their own.
You need to be open-minded, committed to, and prepared for some physical work during the volunteer components of the program. You do not need to be proficient in Spanish. This program is suitable for both beginner and experienced Spanish speakers. No prior travel, trekking or experience with activities is required.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will vary from welcoming homestays, lodges and camping with shared facilities, to hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and WiFi will be available frequently, except while at our service learning projects, hiking trips and community stays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. 100% of meals are included in the program cost. We recommend you budget the sum of $7-10 per day for snacks and drinks not included in the program cost (approximately $300 for the program).
Visa on arrival*; All in-country travel and transport (except flights); All accommodation; All meals; All activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary; One week of volunteering and community service; Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation, history, development and eco-tourism; Experienced Pacific Discovery Program Instructors and local guides; Online image library for your program.
*Note: A free 90-day visa for Ecuador is issued on arrival.