This summer program in the Galapagos Islands will take your breath away! It is impossible not to be in awe of this incredible country. It has so much diversity for its size, which makes it truly amazing to explore – fascinating indigenous cultures, volcanoes, stunning wildlife, beaches and astounding marine environments.
You get to follow in Darwin’s footsteps with nature-focused island-hopping through the Galapagos where you’ll learn about environmental sustainability, conservation and work alongside local scientists and national park rangers. Have incredible, up-close wildlife encounters with sea lions and iguanas, hike the local volcanoes, kayak the turquoise ocean waters and keep your eyes open for turtles. You’ll return from this summer program inspired by all you’ve experienced and learned…and most likely planning your return!
✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world
✓ Are interested in learning about microplastics and water pollution issues
✓ Love activities like snorkeling, mountain biking, hiking and kayaking
✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and reforestation
✓ Would love to spot native wildlife like iguanas, sea lions and tortoises
The Galapagos program was hands-down the most incredible thing I've ever experienced. When trying to pick a program, I read many reviews. They all seemed too good to be true ("life changing" "time of my life" "made lifelong friends"). I was skeptical to say the least, but I was so wrong. I live in Hawaii and have travelled a bit, but nothing compared to what I saw, learned, and experienced on this program. From day one, everyone was hanging out in each other's rooms and getting along wonderfully. You'll be amazed at how close you become with your group in such little time. Your group members will be incredible, but so will the people you get the privilege of helping. It was so humbling and rewarding.”"
- Tobi Watanabe
It’s time to say ‘Hola!’ to South America and the Galapagos Islands. You’ll be met by your awesome program instructors and transferred to our group’s private accommodation for an in-depth orientation to focus on getting to know each other and creating 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.
After orientation we will travel to the highlands where we get stuck into our first project. This project focuses on reforestation and we will help get rid of invasive plants. We will stay here for a couple of days and really start understanding the processes that go hand in hand with this project.
After completing our first project on the island, we take some time out to explore the area, go snorkeling in the magical waters that surround these islands. After all, Galapagos is known for its incredible marine life! 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 next volunteer project starts as we take time to understand the problems faced by these islands. We will start with a microplastic collection which immediately helps the local environment. During these days cleaning up beaches we are joined by local scientists who will help us identify which plastics we are collecting and what effect they have on the environment and marine life.
We will have a much better understanding of pollution here in the Galapagos after the microplastic collection project and can reward ourselves with an incredible tour out to Kicker Rock. One of the best spots for snorkeling, Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido is an amazing rock formation near San Cristobal Island. This amazing landmark, Kicker Rock is a remnant of a vertical tuff cone formation, rising almost 153 meters (500 feet) from the ocean. The erosion has given the rock its characteristic shape, which some see as a shoe, hence the name Kicker Rock. Others see it as a sleeping sea lion or Leon Dormido in Spanish.
While we snorkel around Kicker Rock we can spot sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays, Galapagos sharks, tropical fish and if luck is on our side we can even see hammerhead sharks. Besides enjoying the underwater view, we can usually see frigatebirds on the cliffs as well as sea lions along the shore.
After an awesome day out, we are heading to Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos, and helping the national park staff clean the beaches there. While here we will have time to explore and take in all that this magnificent island has to offer. On one of the afternoons, we will head out on mountain bikes to the wetlands on the island.
The last week will see us taking adventure to the next level. We start with treks up to two of the Galapagos' volcanoes, Sierra Negra and Chico. Sierra Negra has erupted six times since 1948 and rises to an altitude of 1124 meters. Next, we go kayaking in beautiful secluded coves, watching the wildlife and snorkeling again to make sure you don't miss out on turtle spotting!
We transfer to Santa Cruz halfway through the week and head to the best swimming spot in all of the Galapagos, the Grietas. Three crystal clear pools in an idyllic setting make this a highlight of the program! After a day exploring here, we jump back on the kayaks and spend some time on the water again before heading to the Charles Darwin research center, 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 can't leave without stopping at a turtle ranch before starting the program wrap here in the Galapagos! Sadly, the time has come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last month has brought. 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 prioritize time to experience and have gratitude for our own beautiful and historic culture and environment.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
✓ All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights
✓ All accommodation
✓ All meals
✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary
✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves
Medium Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this summer program! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.
Low Camping Level: You will spend your nights on this Summer Program in comfortable lodges and guesthouses.
Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.
Our accommodation will vary from comfortable lodges with shared facilities, to hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available frequently, except while at our volunteering projects, trekking 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. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.
Meals are a mixture of eating out at restaurants and food preparation shared by students. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand
To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.
They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.
Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.
We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.