Ecuador / Galapagos
Fundacion Jatun Sacha hosts the first half of this course in its La Hesperia Biological Station 2.5 hours from Quito, Ecuador. Participants will hike in the forests, visit waterfalls, capture and release butterflies in a Lepidoptera biodiversity study, and learn about coffee, cacao and sugar cane farming. A highlight of this portion of the course will be an overnight stay in a native Chiluilpe community which belongs to the Tsachila ethinic group (or Colorado Indians). Upon return to Quito their will be a tour of the old city and shopping in the market.
The last five days of this course will be spent at Jatun Sacha's station on San Cristabol Island in the Galapagos. The flight and $100 entry fee into the Galapagos are included in the course costs. The island is populated by a plentitude of friendly wildlife that you can walk right up to. These include: Giant tortoise, blue footed boobies, sea lions, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, frigate birds and Darwin's finches. Boat rides along the rugged coastlines, visits to isolated sandy beach coves, a hike to the volcanic crater lake and snorkeling are some of the featured activities.
Tropical Cloud Forest and Galapagos Course
Day 1: Arrival in Quito. Jatun Sacha guides will be waiting at the exit to transport you to hotel Alston on avenue Juan Leon Mora.
Day 2: Early morning will have time to change money and shop for boots in Quito. Mid morning will travel to the La Hesperia Biological Station (2,5 hour trip from Quito), plus a 1 hour walk uphill to station house. The luggage will be transported by car. Time to settle into accommodations. After lunch an introductory tour will be given about the organic farm, the reserve, and facilities; and a 1 hour hike in forest.
Day 3: 7:30 AM milking of cows. After breakfast will take a hike to lookout point and large kapok tree. Lunch. Introduction to harvesting and processing of coffee, cacao (chocolate) and sugar cane in groups. Dinner. Class on agrobiodiversity and sustainable agriculture.
Day 4: After breakfast will take a all-day hike. Return to station in late afternoon.
Day 5: After breakfast travel to the Chilhuilpe community for overnight stay. Experience their cultural and native ways of living.
Day 6: After breakfast return to La Hesperia. Lunch at a local family home. Hike to waterfalls and optional swimming. Dinner at reserve.
Day 7: Return to Quito with a stop at Pasochoa (U-formed crater with native vegetation) or at Bombolí, with a lunch stop at Café de La Vaca. Continue onto Quito.
Day 8: Flight to Galápagos - San Cristabal Island. Meet FJS staff at airport and proceed to Loberia (sea lion beach) to observe marine iguanas and sea lions. Depart beach for the field station located in the highlands. Settle in, station orientation and short hike to waterfall-pool. After dinner discussion of evolution-endemism and extinction-invasive species.
Day 9: Morning visit to Galapagos National Park Tortoise research site to view and photograph giant Galapagos tortoise (the subspecies here is one of 10 surviving subspecies and numbers only about 225 individuals - San Cristabal is thought to be the first island colonized by the ancestors of the tortoises). Proceed on to high elevation lookout and down to China Beach for swim and lunch. Afternoon visit to volcanic crater lake at the top of the island (from here hike down to station or drive on to visit Tarzan´s treehouse and Soledad mirador). Evening discussion on geology, island formation, ocean currents, prevailing winds (rain shadows)
Day 10: In the morning travel down to the small, sleepy, charming port village of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for snorkel orientation on the calm and sandy Man Beach. Proceed to lookout points along the interpretive trail for dramatic cliff views, then go for a snorkel in Tijeretas cove. Lunch in town followed by visit to National Park Interpretive Center. Free time to explore town and return to station. Evening discussion on fascinating human history of the Galapagos.
Day 11: Climate zone hike in the morning down from the station through varying habitats to high ocean cliffs and river outlet where endemic seabirds will be observed. Return to station for lunch. Rest time and visit to the waterfall-pool for a swim to be followed by a hike up from the station to the Miconia zone. Evening campfire and music.
Day 12: Travel to town. Check into hotel and drop off luggage. Proceed for all day snorkel and whitesand beach combing along leeward side of island via chartered boats. Day will include visit to Ochoa Beach and Isla Lobos where concentrated populations of sea lions, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, frigate birds and sealife occur. (for $25 per person the trip can be extended to distant Sleeping Lion Island, a large isolated rock jutting out of the ocean where snorkeling and diving conditions are especially good. Fish life is even more abundant here and large schools of hammerhead sharks are common). Farewell dinner in town.
Day 13: Early check in of luggage and time for optional activities: Visit to interpretive center or trail, last walk through town or revisit to Loberia. Flight to Quito. Check into Hotel Alston. Dinner. Evening free.
Day 14: Departure. Remember there exists a $25 USD exit tax to be paid at airport.
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