2021 GSSM Galapagos Conservation Expedition
January 7, 2021 -
January 14, 2021
Dates tentative until flights are secured
Airfare not included in program tuition
|Deadline(s):||Enrollment deadline forthcoming|
Review all materials
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.
|January 7||USA - Quito, Ecuador||Travel 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 8||Quito - 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 9||Santa Cruz||Today, 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 10||Santa Cruz - Isabela Island||We'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 11||Isabela||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 12||Isabela||Early 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 13||Isabela - Santa Cruz - Quito||After 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 14||Quito - USA||Fly home.||Your own bed, eventually!|
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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.
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.
Once your flight has been secured 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, but 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.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION
Air travel is unpredictable, especially in a pandemic. 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.
What follows is a sample packing list but you know yourself better than we do so please adjust accordingly. 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 daily outings, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with. We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.
Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination.
CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :
- Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
- T-shirts (some quick dry)
- Long sleeve shirts
- Sweater/sweatshirt (for Quito)
- Light rain jacket
- Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants
- Comfortable/hiking/everyday shorts
- Durable athletic/walking shoes, appropriate for lots of walking.
- Sandals, both flip flops and tevas/chocos (optional)
- Hat/s with good sun protection
TOILETRIES (in addition to the basic toiletries):
- Two rapid COVID tests. Program Leaders will carry additional tests and will also administer the one to be verified by a medical professional within 24hrs of return to the US.
- Face masks
- Reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen
- Deet-free mosquito repellent
- Band Aids and Neosporin, other 1st aid
- Anti-itch cream
- Hand Sanitizer
- Medications (any prescription meds should travel in the original bottle with patient’s name)
- Passport and one photocopy
- Student ID
- Journal and pen
- Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $100-$200, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
- Durable water bottle (Walking Tree provides all drinking water)
- Quick-dry towel
- Soap for washing your own clothes (optional)
- Deck of cards or other portable games
- Spanish/English Dictionary
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.
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!
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.
Below is a list of the 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, 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.
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.
To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.
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.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
- 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
- Failure to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
- Possessing weapons.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
- Getting a piercing or tattoo.
- Being out after curfew.
- 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.