2023 Bakersfield Galapagos Conservation Expedition

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2023 Bakersfield Galapagos Conservation Expedition!  We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting program 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 meant to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and we can't wait to start our enriching adventure!
Travel Dates: April 2, 2023 - April 11, 2023
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $3,290 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Confirmed Airfare: $728

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 and given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

April 2USA - QuitoFly from the USA to Quito and transfer to hotel in Tababela, a suburb of the Ecuador's capitol with a beautiful night view of this glittering metropolis. We'll rest up after our long journey -- you'll need your energy for the upcoming adventure through the islands!Hosteria Colibri Airport
April 3Quito - 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. We'll stop to enjoy the breathtaking views of Los Gemelos , or the "Twin Craters," as well as explore the island's underbelly in the lava tunnels, as we drive to Puerto Ayora. We'll stop for lunch at El Chato Ranch, where we will have our first of many delicious meals on the islands and see our first of glimpse of Giant Toroises in their natural habitat. Upon arrival to the port, we'll check into our hotel and have an orientation meeting to discuss the upcoming trip in detail. Dinner in town tonight.Eco Hostal Isla Azul
April 4Santa CruzIn the morning we will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we will learn directly from researchers about the island's unique wildlife and the threats it faces. We'll see land iguanas, lava lizards, and several species of giant tortoise. If we're lucky, we may get to see behind the scenes of this word famous research institute and admire special biological collections. In the afternoon we will have some time to cool off in the swimming holes at Las Grietas or on the beach at Playa Aleman , both a short water taxi ride from the port. Dinner this evening in Puerto Ayora.Eco Hostal Isla Azul
April 5Santa Cruz - Isabela IslandThis morning we'll take a speedboat over to Isabela Island, settle into our hotel, and have lunch in the seaside port town of Villamil. We'll explore the town on foot to see marine iguanas basking in the sun and sea lions frolicking in the waves (or napping on public benches!) and swim at a nearby beach to cool off. Once back at the hotel, we'll carve out time to journal, reflect and relax in our new surroundings.Hotel Loja Isabela
April 6IsabelaThis morning we'll rent mountain bikes and explore The Wall of Tears, a relic of the island's prison history, playa de amor- where marine iguanas breed- and a mirador for an amazing panoramic view of the island. Later on, we'll grab our gear and go snorkeling at Concha de Perla, a stunning lagoon where we'll have a chance to see marine iguanas in their preferred habitat, schools of fish, sting rays and much more!Hotel Loja Isabela
April 7IsabelaToday 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 head back to our accommodations to clean up and relax after a full day.Hotel Loja Isabela
April 8IsabelaToday we will have time to explore Isabella in small groups. Students may relax by the beach, rent some surfboards or buy souvenirs. Hotel Loja Isabela
April 9Isabela - Santa CruzToday we will kayak around Tintoreras, eventually gearing up again to snorkel again 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. In the afternoon, we'll make our way by boat back to Santa Cruz ahead of our flight back to the mainland tomorrow. Dinner in the port tonight.Eco Hostal Isla Azul
April 10Santa Cruz - QuitoWe'll make our return journey from the islands to the mountainous region of Ecuador. After settling into our hotel, we'll visit some of the most impressive sites in Quito before having a final dinner overlooking the city. In the evening, we will head back to the hotel to have our final reflection of the trip. Hotel San Francisco de Quito
April 11Quito - USAWe will have time a slow morning today to finish packing and preparing for our afternoon international flight. We will arrive home today. ¡Hasta luego!Your own bed, eventually!


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WTT coffee


In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.  We vet and inspect the accommodations to ensure they uphold the ethos of our programs, are great values for our travelers and nice places to rest after enriching days of travel.  

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Hostería Colibri Aeropuerto

Hostal Colibrí Aeropuerto is 3-star hotel  located a short drive from the international airport in Quito. This hotels offers private rooms and dorms, which will be occupied only by our students. Accommodations are clean, comfortable and cozy, and there’s a pool! Students will be divided into groups by gender.

Eco Hostal Isla Azul Galapagos

Our local friends at the Eco Hostal Isla Azul in Puerto Ayora provide the perfect accommodations for our travelers during their stay in Santa Cruz. Located only 400 meters from the ocean, Isla Azul’s location makes is perfect for groups looking to stay close to ferrys at Academy bay while still being near the restaurants and shops in town. Isla Azul also strives to strike the perfect balance between comfortable and modern amenities for its guests while maintaining its committed approach to respecting the environment, an ever-important mission that serves the delicate eco systems of the Galapagos Islands well. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender.

Hotel Loja Isabela

 Hotel Loja Isabela offers a charming natural environment with hammocks and is only 300 m from Puerto Villamil Beach. Hotel Loja offers comfortable rooms with private bathrooms with showers and free Wi-Fi and garden views can be enjoyed on Galápagos Islands. All rooms feature air conditioning with hot and cold water and private balconies. Loja is only 1 block from Puerto Villamil’s main street and 200 m from Galápagos National Park. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender.

Hotel San Francisco de Quito

Step back in time and enjoy the beautiful accommodations of the Hotel San Francisco de Quito. Located in the heart of the historic center of Quito, one of the most well preserved colonial districts in all of Latin America, this unique hotel combines comfort with centuries of colonial history to provide its guests with an unforgettable stay.

Group Flight

International Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure Airport & City Departure Date and Time  Arrival Airport & City Arrival Date and Time 
American Airlines
LAX – Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, United States
April 02, 2023 at 06:45 AM
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
April 02, 2023 at 02:38 PM
American Airlines
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
April 02, 2023 at 07:05 PM
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
April 02, 2023 at 10:21 PM
American Airlines
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
April 11, 2023 at 01:31 PM
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
April 11, 2023 at 06:48 PM
American Airlines
MIA – Miami International Airport, Miami, United States
April 11, 2023 at 09:00 PM
LAX – Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, United States
April 11, 2023 at 11:50 PM


Domestic Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure Airport & City Departure Date and Time  Arrival Airport & City Arrival Date and Time 
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
April 3, 2023 at 10:30AM
GPS – Seymour Airport, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
April 3, 2023 at 1:00PM
GPS – Seymour Airport, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
April 10, 2023 at 11:10AM
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
April 10, 2023 at 3:35PM


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 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. These projects can range from tracking wild giant tortoises, to biodiversity surveys, to working on a restorative ecology project for endemic plant species. Currently we are scheduled to assist with a restorative ecology project where we will be planting trees native to the islands in ranches and parks, but this is subject to change to whatever is needed from the options above upon arrival.

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 while the Galapagos’ weather is beautiful year round, we are traveling during the warmer season (January-May) so temperatures will be hot during the day. There will be chances of rain in the microclimate around the Sierra Rim during our hike day, so be prepared for wet hiking. Also, the weather on the mainland will be cooler and wetter than in the islands, so we are including items for all weather below.

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
Warmer jacket for cool nights (optional)
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
Work gloves
Hat with good sun protection

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)

Journal and pen
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
Deck of cards or other portable games
Student ID
Spanish/English Dictionary

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.

Juan Pablo “JP” Rabanales
Juan Pablo “JP” Rabanales
Global Country Operations Manager

Earlham College – B.A. International Studies, Minor in Economics

Born and raised with a big family in Guatemala, JP spent seven years living and studying in the US where he was exposed to highly diverse communities. JP worked as a Wilderness Leader guiding expeditions in the Southwest of the US. After spending two years in New Mexico studying the International Baccalaureate, he moved to Indiana where he spent the next four years at Earlham College. His passion for international affairs brought him to spend a semester in China, and several other Southeast Asian countries. During his time abroad, he spent his summers traveling and backpacking through 15+ different countries, and participating in several service projects. Today JP is based in Costa Rica where he works full time with the Walking Tree team.  Juan Pablo also enjoys hosting friends and travelers coming to visit. He’s always down for an exciting road-trip around the country, or even better, around Latin America. He is a long time art and design enthusiast, and a photography aficionado.

Sofía Quirós
Sofía Quirós
Program Leader

Universidad de Costa Rica – B.A. in Art History 

New York University – M.A. in Art Education  

Growing up in Costa Rica, Sofía developed an early passion for nature and the outdoors. She originally wanted to be a biologist but ended up going into the arts instead, specializing in Art Education in New York City where she lived and worked for over eight years. Having mostly worked in non-formal education settings like museums and community spaces, her work focuses on generating transformative learning experiences beyond subjects or settings.

She is passionate about critical pedagogy, community development, multicultural perspectives, and conservation efforts. She has traveled extensively (over 25 countries in 3 continents) believing that there’s nothing like traveling to expand your mindset and allow for growth and connection to new spaces, people, cultures and oneself. She currently lives in San José, Costa Rica, and among her favorite things to do are hiking, whale watching (when possible), eating delicious food, dancing and enjoying quality time with friends and family.

Group Roster

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

  • 1 Stephen McConnel
  • 2 Lonnie McConnel
  • 3 Jeran McConnel
  • 4 Kaylee Chavez
  • 5 Esmeralda Morales
  • 6 Emily Bell
  • 7 Grace Champagne
  • 8 Maxwell Snelling
  • 9 Malcolm Hess
  • 10 Jenner Hutson
  • 11 Kyle Dewey
  • 12 Nathaniel Oesch
  • 13 Anna Oesch
  • 14 Kamryn Walters
  • 15 Cade Nahama
  • 16 Elizabeth Rivera
  • 17 Hannah Hillis
  • 18 Eva Haverstock
  • 19 Liam McKnight
  • 20 Cade Nahama
  • 21 Lonnie McConnel
21 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.
  4. 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. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Threatening physical or emotional harm, or brandishing a weapon.
  4. Possessing, consuming, or distributing tobacco or nicotine, including vape pens.
  5. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  6. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew.
  7. 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.