Come with us to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Galapagos Islands; a string of volcanic islands just a short flight off the coast of Ecuador. We will see a melting pot of marine species (sea lions literally sunbathing on the roads), unusual animals (gigantic slow-moving land tortoises), and interesting geological formations (active volcanoes). Even if you don't consider yourself a bird watcher, you will be amazed at the blue-footed boobies and the mischievous frigate birds.
Everyone must see these pristine, world-renowned islands at least once in their life. The awesome thing about heading to the Galapagos Islands with Pacific Discovery is that we get hands-on experience and truly add value to these fragile island ecosystems. We will do this by basing ourselves on San Cristobal, Isabela, and Santa Cruz islands, having fun in the sun, soaking up knowledge, and undertaking valuable conservation learning. Participate in marine debris clean-ups, restore native plant species, visit the Charles Darwin research center, delve into the effects of microplastics with marine conservation experts, and immerse in a spectacular wilderness environment.
✓ Want to see land iguanas, giant tortoises, and sea lions in their natural habitat
✓ Love spending time in nature snorkeling, mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking
✓ Enjoy island living and want to conserve island ecosystems
✓ Are interested in learning about microplastics and water pollution issues
✓ Want to receive a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to add to your resume
Definitely a life-changing experience! I really enjoyed learning about the country including its culture, food, lifestyle, etc. I also found that I grew as a person due to the experiences I had and the people I met. I would recommend a trip with Pacific Discovery to everyone, no matter what background or experience of traveling. The leaders provide a safe and comforting environment for everyone and give support throughout the entire trip. It made for the best, and most memorable summer I have ever had!"
- Amy, 2021 Student
Get the full Summer Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions, testimonials and a comparison chart!
**The US hub will be confirmed on student home locations and flight paths at the time of booking.
We travel as a group to Quito and spend a night in the capital of Ecuador before catching a short onward flight in the morning to the Galapagos archipelago. The Galapagos is made up of at least 14 islands, and 97% of the area is considered so special that the public has been banned from visiting! We will stay on three islands during our program, with the first being San Cristobal. We settle into our home base for the week and have an exciting briefing with our program instructors to get to know what’s happening in the coming days. A big focus at the beginning is getting to know each other and creating a positive and reflective group culture to support us all. It’s beautiful to walk around San Cristobal - there are sea lions out your front door and delicious local food to be found at the local markets. Have you tried Canchalagua Ceviche or Encebollado? We’ll get a chance to try it here as this far-flung island in the Pacific begins to feel like home.
We will take to the mountains for our first land-based conservation project working on a three-day Hacienda Tranquila Restoration Project. Our service learning here is based on restoring native and endemic (ie native to this place only) plant species. The native plants begin as seedlings in a greenhouse and then are transplanted to permanent locations. The mornings will be spent weeding and planting, and the afternoons will be spent learning about the restoration of habitats in the Galapagos Islands which consists of working with the local community, visiting ecologically important sites, teaching local children about the environment and ecological issues, hippotherapy (google it!), meeting and interacting with people of different backgrounds, and exploring the island and its unique wildlife. The evenings will be spent back at our home base and getting group dinners in the township of San Cristobal.
After completing our first project on the island, we take some time out to explore the area and go snorkeling in the magical waters that surround these islands. Is your spirit animal perhaps a sea lion? Find out when you go swimming with these brown-eyed, playful animals that are like the underwater versions of your pet dog. Or perhaps you feel an affinity with the marine iguanas that you’ll find suntanning on rocks while you walk with the group on sweeping coastal headlands.
Our next service-learning project starts as we take time to understand the marine conservation issues these islands face. We will start with a microplastic collection that immediately helps the local environment. While 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. Each day will have a different focus, from a recycling art workshop to a sustainable skills workshop on a farm.
Our work is rewarded with some incredible tours to nearby islands- we will take an unforgettable day trip on a charter boat out to Kicker Rock to snorkel with marine life. Kicker Rock is a remnant of a volcanic formation, rising almost 500 feet (you’ve got to see it) from the ocean. The erosion has given the rock its strange shape - which some see as a shoe - hence the name Kicker Rock. Others see it as a sleeping lion or ‘Leon Dormido’ in Spanish. While we snorkel around Kicker Rock we will try to spot the sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays, Galapagos sharks, tropical fish, and if we are lucky, even hammerhead sharks!
Halfway through the week, we catch a boat to our second island base, Isabela. This is the largest island in the Galapagos, and we’ve got lots in store to explore. We will be rolling up our sleeves and helping the national park staff clean the beaches in a marine debris project. On one of the afternoons, we will head out via mountain bikes to check out the local wetlands that are teeming with life. We will take the adventure to the next level with day hikes up to two of the Galapagos' volcanoes, Sierra Negra (one of the world’s most active volcanoes) and Chico. Out here you might see the mischievous frigate birds washing themselves in the freshwater volcano craters because they can’t get any salt on their feathers.
We will spend our final days on the remote and beautiful Isabela Island, camping out on a ranch and exploring our surroundings. This week sees us kayaking in beautiful secluded coves, watching the wildlife, and snorkeling again to make sure you don't miss out on any turtle-spotting opportunities!
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. This interactive learning facility is a great place to reflect on everything you’ve learned during your time on the Galapagos. We can't leave without stopping at a turtle ranch before starting the program wrap here in the Galapagos!
The program instructors will hold an end-of-trip wrap-up, and we will share the lessons we’ve learned and the tools and techniques we may take forward with us in life. We are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, get to know the Galapagos for three epic weeks and make a group of lifelong friends.
We will head to the airport together, farewell the instructors and travel home.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, do laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter nd/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
✓ 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
✓ Core Activities that encourage shared group reflection
✓ Certificate of Environmental Conservation with 20 hours of service
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 Level Camping: Be prepared to spend some time out in nature. You'll love the experience of camping, staring at the campfire, breathing in the fresh air, and stargazing the night away. We will spend our time on Isabela Island camping on a ranch.
Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a big 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.
Food: 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:
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!
We have been running successful Hawaii programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look.
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.