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2021 GSSM Galapagos Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2021 GSSM Galapagos Conservation Expedition!  To learn the basics of this once in a lifetime opportunity, you'll begin by using the Pre-Enrollment page, the purpose of which is to share exciting highlights and important info that participants will want to know before signing up. If you enroll, you'll begin using the Post-Enrollment webpage, which offers a much greater level of detail.  Please be sure to review the information thoroughly and get excited for the Galapagos!! 
Travel Dates: January 7, 2021 - January 14, 2021
Dates tentative until flights are secured
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $3,790 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Estimated Airfare: $850
Deadline(s): Enrollment deadline forthcoming

What to Expect

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

Itinerary

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. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
January 7USA - Quito, EcuadorTravel from South Carolina 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
January 8Quito - 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 Santa Cruz Island where giant tortoises roam in the mist. We will walk inside lava tunnels and learn how this amazing archipielago was formed. Hotel Palmeras
January 9Santa CruzToday, we visit to the famous Darwin Research Station. At mid day we will have our first of many delicious meals on the island. Mid-afternoon we enjoy our first amazing snorkel in search of sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, and more under the sea!Hotel Palmeras
January 10Santa Cruz - Isabela IslandWe'll take a speedboat over to Isabela Island. We'll enjoy one of the best sea kayak and snorkels of the world at islote Tintoreras. Surrounded by amazing lava formation enjoying the playfull sea lions and pinguins.Hotel Tintorera
January 11Isabela 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. Hotel Tintorera
January 12IsabelaEarly morning we will go for the best snorkel at Los Tuneles de Lava. It is 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. Mid- afternoon we will visit the Galapagos Tortoise breeding center to learn more about conservation efforts of the Galpapagos National Park. Hotel Tintorera
January 13Isabela - Santa Cruz - QuitoAfter an early breakfast we will return to Santa Cruz Island on a speedboat to take our flight back to Quito. This afternoon we'll visit the Museo Fray Pedro Gocial and later we'll ride a cable car up Pichincha Volcano for a final panoramic view of Quito. We'll end the day with a final celebratory dinner!Hosteria Airport Garden
January 14Quito - USAFly home. Your own bed, eventually!

Need to Raise Money? We Have you Covered.

Our travelers are provided with funding opportunities that are easy to implement and fun to take part in. Our flagship fundraiser involves selling fair trade, organic, carbon-neutral coffee from a women’s collective in Peru. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so get started now by clicking the link below!

START FUNDRAISING  

WTT coffee

Accommodations

In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for travelers, 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, safe and wifi-enabled. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Hotel Las Palmeras

Hotel Las Palmeras offer clean, comfortable and spacious rooms for guests. Each room can house 2-3 students per room. Some of the amenities include 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.

Group Flight

Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here.

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

A NOTE ON FLIGHTS
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.

WTT is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to find out about baggage fees and options. It is also important to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.

UN-ACCOMPANIED MINORS
Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm if this is required on your flight.

Host Community and Project Details

Our conservation work in the Galapagos is designed and implemented by EcoSport Adventures, an organization dedicated to providing meaningful experiences through adventure and sustainable tourism. Our excursions visit distinct, and often sensitive, ecosystems.  Here we learn how to reduce our impact and gain an understanding for the natural resources of Ecuador and the world.  Throughout the program our travelers will have an opportunity to hear firsthand from local scientists and researchers about the important work being done in the area. This is complemented with hands-on field work, primarily in the Pajaro Brujo Field Station. These projects can range from tracking wild giant tortoises, to biodiversity surveys, to working on a restorative ecology project for endemic plant species. Additionally, the Pajaro Brujo Field Station provides accommodations that allow our travelers to live out the conservation mission by spending the night in an eco-friendly campsite.

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.

Please note that seasons in South America are opposite ours in the United States so we will be traveling during South America’s late fall. With that said, late fall and early winter are the driest parts of the year and often the most pleasant times to visit. Most of our program will be spent at high altitudes where daytime temperatures can reach the 70’s and it can freeze at night. Layering is the best way to prepare for variable conditions.

CLOTHES:
Underwear
Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks – some wool socks for cold nights as well)
T-shirts (some quick dry)
Long sleeve shirts
Sweater/sweatshirts
Warmer jacket for cool nights
Warm hat
Rain jacket
Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
Nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer and guys a polo or button up shirt with jeans for such occasions)
Durable athletic/hiking shoes, appropriate for hiking
Sandals (optional)
Work gloves
Hat with good sun protection
Swimsuit

TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Mosquito repellent
Band Aids and Neosporin, anti-diarrhea meds, basic first aid
Hand Sanitizer
Medication in properly marked original container (better to pack this in your carry on luggage)

MISCELLANEOUS:
Sunglasses
Journal and pen
Book/s
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Converter (Ecuador runs 220v, 60Hz AC electricity. Only necessary if electronic device doesn’t have built in converter)
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $100-$200, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle with a personal water filtration system (optional- Walking Tree will always provide drinking water)
1 quick-dry towel
Soap for washing your own clothes while in the host community
Flashlight/headlamp
Batteries
Deck of cards or other portable games
Host family gift
Student ID
Spanish/English Dictionary

HOMESTAY GIFTS

Travelers often contact us regarding what an appropriate gift might be for their student’s host family. Host families are often curious about where our students come from and their families in the U.S. As such, we recommend a simple gift that describes, represents or depicts your home. Well-received gifts in the past have included calendars or picture/coffee table books from your city or state, a framed picture of your family, paraphernalia from a local sports team, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, or something produced or grown in your hometown, like chocolate, local candy, t-shirts, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to worry about this… Anything, no matter its value, will be well received!

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 where we remain available to the group for additional help whenever necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program. Meet your support team!

Constanza Montero Aguirre
Constanza Montero Aguirre
Ecuador Country Director


Universidad de las Americas, Ecuador – Architecture and minor in Arts

Constanza was born in Ecuador, and from an early age she recognized that nature is the best classroom to acquire knowledge and wisdom for the intellectual and cognitive development of human beings.  Her passion is working closely in human development, to embrace the sense of place and sustainability for future generations. She acquired personal and professional experience in problem solving, critical thinking, coaching and sustainability by working on projects in Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, México, Hong Kong and Romania.

She is the co-founder of Kenu Education, an experiential learning school based in Quito, Ecuador.  Kenu is dedicated to helping individuals develop a bond with the environment, encourage human growth and social awareness. Kenu programs provide an integral understanding of culture, community and mentoring on academics. The experience develops life and leadership skills, teamwork abilities, compassion, service and stewardship. Our aim is to impact on sustainability for the wellbeing of future generations. Constanza has traveled 25+ countries on 3 continents and is fluent in English. She is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to Walking Tree by coordinating programs in Ecuador!

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Group Roster

See below for a list of travelers enrolled on the program.

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, and can check back any time via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page or the link included in the email.

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. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  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.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
  3. Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
  5. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
  6. Breaking group rules

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

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Ecuador website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with 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.

Beyond these recommendations, 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.

Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience has taught us that travel can come with risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider protecting their trip and travel investment by purchasing a travel protection plan with a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) provision.

To make this process as easy as possible, we have partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by taking a few minutes to get a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date. Please note that CFAR is not available to residents of New York.

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