2019 Middle School Galapagos Islands Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2019 Middle School Galapagos Islands Conservation Expedition! We have created two webpages dedicated to this once in a lifetime experience so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The first page, Pre-Enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights, and pertinent info, that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page is intended to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and get excited!
Travel Dates: March 17, 2019 - March 23, 2019
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.


We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

March 17Florida - Quito, EcuadorTravel from Florida to Quito, Ecuador. Upon arrival, we will head to our hotel in Quito this evening and have a brief orientation meeting before our morning departure to the islands. Hosteria Airport Garden
March 18Quito - Galapagos (Santa Cruz Island)Today we fly 600 miles over the Pacific Ocean to reach the Galapagos Islands. After landing in Baltra, we will take a ferry across the Itabaca Channel and experience a variety of ecosystems as we drive to the highlands of Santar Cruz Island where giant tortoises roam in the mist. In the afternoon, we will go sea kayaking in nearby grottoes in search of sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, and more! At night, we'll retreat to our tents and fall asleep under the stars.Cerro Mesa Camp
March 19Santa CruzToday, we drive down to Puerto Ayora and visit to the famous Darwin Research Station. Upon arrival, we'll dive into our volunteer work with local authorities. We'll receive an expert lecture, then get into the field to lend a hand on a research project or conservation effort. Projects can range from tracking wild giant tortoises, to biodiversity surveys, to working on a restorative ecology project for endemic plant species. More details on your project will be laid out in the weeks prior to your departure.Hotel Palmeras
March 20Santa Cruz - Isabela IslandWe'll take a "speedboat" over to Isabela Island. Today is our most challenging adventure yet. We'll hike up to the rim of Sierra Negra, the second largest caldera in the world and an active volcano. We'll see firsthand the geological processes that shaped these islands, and spot wildlife on the way. We'll retreat to a locally-run camp in the highlands where we'll meet a man who raises and cares for giant tortoises.Campo Duro
March 21IsabelaAfter an early breakfast we go on a 45 minute boat ride to a world famous site where we will snorkel through lava tunnels and amongst a stunning array of marine life. Our local guide will explain the significance of the Galapagos as an oasis for marine species, and we'll see the evidence firsthand. It's not uncommon to see blue-footed boobies, green sea turtles, and sharks as we glide over beds of anemones and corals.La Gran Tortuga Hotel
March 22Isabela - Santa Cruz - QuitoToday we'll make our return from the islands to Quito. Upon arrival in the capital, we will have dinner in the historic center and celebrate our great adventure.Hosteria Airport Garden
March 23Quito - FlordidaToday we will wake early and begin our return to Tampa Bay. Your own bed!

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In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Hosteria Airport Garden

Hosteria Airport Garden is 3-star hotel  located a short drive from the international airport in Quito. Accommodations are clean, comfortable and modern, and there’s a pool!

Hotel Palm Garden Galapagos

The Hotel Palm Garden Galapagos offers clean, comfortable and spacious rooms for guests. Each room can house 2-3 students per room. Some of the amenities include a pool on site, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, hot water and group sitting areas around the property. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

Campo Duro

Campo Duro is a camping area near the Sierra Negra Volcano. This camp site offers a unique take on adventure and accommodations. Tents and bathrooms are separated by gender.  Campo Duro practices ecological tourism with solar panels to heat their water.



La Gran Tortuga Hotel

La Gran Tortuga Hotel is located on Isabella Island and is a small, locally run hotel on the island. This three star hotel prides itself on operating in an eco-friendly manner and hosts conservationists who travel from around the world to visit the island. Students will be roomed based on their genders and separated from adults. Wifi is available and breakfast will be provided in the hotel.

Reserva Cerro Mesa Galapagos

Located on Santa Cruz Island, Reserva Cerro Mesa provides students a unique chance to camp on the edge of a now extinct volcanic crater. Students will sleep in tents with sleeping bags and pads which are grouped together. Adults and students will be “tented” separately. Bathrooms and electricity are available within walking distance of the campsite.

Group Flight


Airline: Copa Airlines
Flight: CM394
Date: March 17, 2019
Departs: Tampa (TPA) at 2:57 PM
Arrives:  Panama (PTY) at 5:33 PM

Airline: Copa Airlines
Flight: CM152
Date: March 17, 2019
Departs: Panama (PTY) at 6:51 PM
Arrives: Quito (UIO) at 8:58 PM


Airline: Avianca
Flight: AV1688
Date: March 18th, 2019
Departs: Quito (UIO) at 10:40am
Arrives: Galapagos (GPS) at 11:45am

Airline: Avianca
Flight: AV1689
Date: March 22nd, 2019
Departs: Galapagos (GPS) at 3:42pm
Arrives: Quito (UIO) at 6:47pm


Airline: Copa Airlines
Flight: CM210
Date: March 23, 2019
Departs: Quito (UIO) at 6:12 AM
Arrives: Panama (PTY) at 8:14 AM

Airline: Copa Airlines
Flight: CM393
Date: March 23, 2019
Departs: Panama (PTY) at 9:12 AM
Arrives: Tampa (TPA) at 1:32 PM

Once your flight has been confirmed, the itinerary will appear here.

Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.

Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, and travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.

Air travel can be unpredictable.  Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a  quick and effective resolution.

Host Community and Project Details

Our programming work in the Galapagos is designed and implemented with a dedication to providing meaningful experiences through adventure and sustainable tourism. Excursions visit distinct and often sensitive ecosystems where we’ll hear from experts about the precarious balance that sustains the Galapagos, as well as the plethora of unique flora and fauna that inhabit the islands. Throughout the program, participants will hear firsthand from local scientists and researchers about the important work being done to preserve these incredibly delicate conditions while also adventuring around the islands by boat, kayak and snorkel. On many itineraries, this framing of issues is complemented with hands-on conservation work, primarily in the Pajaro Brujo Field Station.  Past projects have included tracking wild giant tortoises, biodiversity surveys, and helping to restore endemic plant species.

Packing List

Packing List for Galapagos Island Trip

  • Carry-on suitcase with wheels OR a LARGE backpack (luggage tag on it)
  • Smaller backpack for day trips with water bottle holder (luggage tag on it)
  • Passport/Money Pouch belt to wear under your clothes
  • Underwear (7 pairs)
  • Socks
  • T-shirts (4 quick dry)
  • Walking Tree T-shirt (wear it the day we travel from Florida to Ecuador)
  • Long-Sleeve Shirt (1)
  • Sweatshirt or windbreaker (1)
  • Comfortable athletic shorts that are breathable & light for hiking, working, etc. (4)
  • Nice outfit for farewell dinner (shirt with collar & pants – boys & skirt/dress – girls)
  • Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (1) (jeans or khaki)
  • Durable athletic/hiking shoes or closed toed hiking sandals
  • Work Gloves (labeled in permanent marker with your name)
  • Hat to protect from sun
  • Sun Protection (TRAVEL SIZE) (place in plastic bag so it doesn’t spill onto your things)
  • Swimsuit (1 – 2) Comfortable for snorkeling
  • Towel (micro fiber Quick-Dry perfect for sports and travel)
  • Mosquito repellent bracelet (7-day protection)
  • Mosquito repellent (travel size) (Place in plastic bag so it doesn’t spill.)
  • Band Aids, Neosporin (travel-size), anti-diarrhea meds, prescription meds (make sure any prescription meds are labeled)
  • Hand Sanitizer/Wet-Wipes (travel size)
  • Durable water bottle with a personal water bottle with a personal filtration system *Keep in mind that drinking water will always be provided. But, you will be responsible for filling up your water bottle & carrying it in your small backpack.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain pancho/umbrella
  • Flash light with batteries inside and battery replacements
  • Journal with pen/pencil
  • Disposable waterproof camera (labeled with your name)
  • Alarm Clock
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc.) travel-size
  • US Dollars (about $100 – $150 depending on amount of desired souvenirs and/or snacks) *The US dollar is the official currency of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
  • Deck of Cards or Travel Size Game (optional)

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Gabriel Duncan
Gabriel Duncan
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO

Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government

While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.

Cristina Quiros
Cristina Quiros
Program Leader

American University – BA International Studies
SOAS, University of London – MSc Development Studies

Cristina was born and raised in Costa Rica, blessed by growing up in the tropical sun where family outings to the beach, mountains, volcanoes and national parks were the norm. As a product of her environment, nature and family have always been a fundamental part of her life. Ever since she can remember she has been drawn to the social sector. Due to an overwhelming desire to contribute, and a genuine belief in the possibility of a just, sustainable world that allows for prosperity through collaboration. A growing interest in learning more about international politics and human rights landed her in Washington DC back in 2006 where she pursued her BA. After college and a frustrating office job she decided to travel and volunteer in South America for six months on her own; a trip that highlighted her lifetime need for adventure, service and travel. She then lived in St Thomas, USVI for a year as a nanny. Upon her return to Costa Rica she worked as a consultant for several organizations, including three years at Habitat for Humanity International where she worked on several housing and urban reform projects in
Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil. She then managed the communications office at EARTH University, an institution dedicated to fostering agents of social change. In 2016, Cristina became a Chevening Scholar, earning a full scholarship to pursue her masters in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London. Currently, Cristina is back in Costa Rica reunited with her best friend, her dog Pantufla.

Raquel Monteros Araujo
Raquel Monteros Araujo
Ecuador Country Director, Program Leader

Catholic University of Ecuador – B.A. Applied Linguistics to Teaching 

I was born in Loja (also known as the cultural capital of Ecuador). At a very young age I discovered my love for languages and different cultures. I decided to travel to Russia right after I finished high school, an experience that changed my life in many different ways. When I came back from Russia I decided to study Linguistics in Quito (Ecuador’s capital). Most of my subjects were taught in English, meanwhile I also had to learn German and Kichwa (an indigenous language from Ecuador). After university, I worked as an English and Spanish teacher for five years. I had the chance to work for two Ecuadorian companies that were recognized in other countries for the quality of their products. I had the chance to work for a non-governmental organization in the Amazon region of Ecuador, an experience that made me aware of the difficult circumstances people from this part of the world had to face. These people were my biggest motivation while working there, especially women from indigenous communities. I strongly believe women empowerment is something we need to keep on working all around the world. My love for service made me found my own yoga school in Loja where I have the chance to teach others values like compassion, veracity, strength, self-esteem and self-respect. I strongly believe that we can make a change if we start becoming aware of the light within ourselves. So as you can see I have many passions, languages, yoga, traveling and I think I didn’t mention……… cooking! I will be ready to welcome you in this small paradise called Ecuador!

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

  • 1 Abbigail Kohler
  • 2 Amanda Badalamenti
  • 3 Angela Knizek - Group Organizer
  • 4 Bill Simpson
  • 5 Cameron Siler-Nixon
  • 6 Carolina Severino
  • 7 Connore Siler-Nixon
  • 8 Dina Badalamenti
  • 9 Jeremy Ehrenpreis
  • 10 Jerry Knizek
  • 11 Kieran Morgan
  • 12 Langston Burkes
  • 13 Luis Buitrago
  • 14 Mateo Buitrago
  • 15 Matthew Gawienczuk
  • 16 Monica Urrea
  • 17 Niklas Luecht
  • 18 Paul Kohler
  • 19 Samuel Buitrago
  • 20 Zachary Knizek
20 Travelers

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.


GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.


  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.


  1. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  2. Possessing weapons.
  3. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  4. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  5. Being out after curfew.
  6. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Ecuador website to get the most updated information on additional health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. We also encourage you to consult your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.


While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.