Ecuador / Galapagos
|Dates:||June 28 – July 18|
|Grade||8th, 9th, 10th, 11th & 12th|
(Students Grouped According to Age)
*Airfare for group flight from Miami additional
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- Explore the Galapagos by Kayak and Boat
- Snorkel Alongside Sea Lions in the Islands’ Crystal Clear Waters
- Install Much-Needed Flooring in Rural Village Communities
- Whitewater Raft through the Lush Rainforest
- Partner with Andean Locals on a Reforestation Project
- Zipline through the Green Canopy of the Mindo Cloud Forest
- Work Alongside the Local Community on Much Needed Village Infrastructure Projects
- 45 Hours of Community Service
In rural communities in the Andean highlands of Ecuador, most families live with dirt floors in their homes, lacking any type of hard flooring. In addition to being uncomfortable, this living environment poses health risks for families, especially young children and can lead to a host of preventable diseases. In addition to the health concerns, dirt floors are impossible to clean and become even more of a risk during the rainy season which turns the floors to mud. For our focus project, we work alongside local families to install concrete floors in their homes, providing them with a clean and healthy living environment that will transform their lives.
Experience one of the world’s most remarkable destinations complete with towering mountain ranges, verdant rainforests and tropical isles on this unique Ecuador & Galapagos summer service program. Explore the incomparable Galapagos Islands, paddle its mysterious caves and canyons and snorkel alongside playful sea lions. Live and work with Andean villagers as together you rebuild their homes to improve their living environment. Navigate the thrilling rapids of the Toachi and Blanco Rivers in the Andean Rainforest. Lead a summer camp for Ecuadorian schoolchildren and partner with a local tree nursery to assist in a reforestation project. Visit the famous Otavalo market filled with native handicrafts and sample typical Ecuadorian treats like potato llapingachos. Appreciate the bounty of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands through the eyes of those who call it home.
Quito and Whitewater Rafting
We begin our Ecuador & Galapagos summer service program in Miami where we board a plane bound for Quito, a city surrounded by volcanoes. We explore this breathtaking capital city of the ancient Incan Empire before we receive an orientation in local customs. We also straddle two hemispheres with a visit to the World Equator Line. We travel south where our journey continues on the Upper Napo River, which offers us exhilarating rapids through a picturesque rainforest environment.
Otavalo Market & Andes Village Service
We begin our service project in Ecuador in a rural community in the Andes mountains, installing concrete floors in the homes of local families. We find that our volunteering directly and positively impacts the lives of the residents and brings us true insight into Ecuadorian culture. Our time is highlighted by a hike to Lake Cuicocha with the community members. With the impressive Avenue of the Volcanoes as a backdrop, we celebrate all the work we have done and conclude with a visit to the sprawling, colorful native market of Otavalo, where we support local artisans by purchasing handicrafts and other goods.
Amazon Village Service & Hot Springs
We stop for a relaxing and much deserved soak in the local hot springs, fed by the surrounding volcano before heading to the Amazon for our next service project. We work alongside the community to improve much needed infrastructure for the school and community members. Exact needs of the community vary year to year based on current needs, but in past years our projects have ranged from improving their irrigation system to building a community house. We also have the opportunity to play games and join in on a soccer match with local schoolchildren on the community field. We learn first hand about this small, welcoming community that lives off the land.
The Galapagos Islands guarantee an adventure of a lifetime. We swim, snorkel and mingle with prehistoric lava lizards, flamingos, blue-footed boobies, baby sea lion pups, dolphins, and playful penguins. Our evenings are spent exploring the local island communities. We visit the Charles Darwin Research Center and learn about the importance of the islands and the wildlife in our history. Island hopping highlights include kayaking the rocky coastline, visiting a giant tortoise breeding ground, swimming with sea lions at San Cristobal, and snorkeling in the beautiful Tortuga Bay. Our Ecuador & Galapagos summer service program concludes with a flight back to Quito for our final evening celebration and then on to Miami.
“It was a great experience that changed my perception of the rest of the world.”— Matt L., ARCC Student
“This trip helped me learn more about who I am through the activities I took part in, the new experiences that I learned from and the friends that I will never forget. Thanks for a great summer!”— Zoe T., ARCC Student
“This trip honestly made such a positive impact on my life through service, risk-taking, and exploring one of the most unique places on Earth.”— Anonymous
“Daniel seemed to mature and become more independent as a result of the trip. He seems more sure of himself.”— Parent of Daniel C., Bethesda, MD
“There is nothing cooler than exploring a country and then giving back to the land and people there to thank them for the adventure.”— Jessica W., Vernon Hills, IL, ARCC Student
“Besides experiencing the beautiful scenery and touring the cities of Ecuador and the Galapagos, I had the opportunity to make a change and live in a community where I could see the impact that my work was making…ARCC gave me a new perspective on what’s important in life.”— Mina B., San Francisco, CA, ARCC Student
“One of the greatest trips I have ever taken. I will never forget the people and good times.”— George S., ARCC Student
Group Journal Excerpts
Below you will find several Group Journal excerpts, written by ARCC students during the Ecuador & Galapagos summer service adventure.
Galapagos Service & Wildlife!
So far, our experiences in the Galapagos have been incredible. On Saturday, we embarked on a beautiful snorkeling adventure. During a brief boat ride, we saw diverse wildlife like playful sea lions, large crabs, and blue-footed boobies. We arrived at our first snorkeling area and were amazed at the reefs and tropical fish. We even…
Quitugo Village Service!
Today we woke up early so that we could maximize our community service hours. We started off the day by breaking into two groups: one group of four and another group of eight. The small group helped a family by replacing their decrepit concrete floors with new ones. The larger group started making the foundation…
Today is the best holiday in existence: Canada Day! To celebrate Canada Day, we went whitewater rafting in the Napo River. Today was filled with adventure and it took us about 4 hours to go down the river. Between the game on the raft and chocolate cake at lunch, today was pretty successful. Many people…
What is the packing list for this program?
Each program has a specific packing list that has been designed to fit the program’s activities, length, climate and cultural differences. Please click here to view the Ecuador/Galapagos: Island & Village Impact packing list.
What is the weather like in Ecuador?
In Ecuador the weather is a lot like Florida in the summer time. During the day it can be hot, sunny and humid (80’s-90’s) and late afternoons often bring showers, which will cool us off. You will often go to bed with only a simple cover as it is warm enough to sleep without your sleeping bag. While at a higher altitude (Quito) the temperature is a bit cooler (60’s). In the Galapagos, the weather will be quite warm and tropical.
What are the service projects like?
ARCC has been operating programs in Ecuador for several years, and we have built relationships with a variety of individuals and small communities who enjoy hosting ARCC student groups. The specific service projects that each group will work on depend on what is most needed in these communities at the time. This year we will be installing concrete floors into the homes of the villagers, partnering with a local tree nursery to assist on a reforestation project, and putting on a summer camp for Ecuadorian schoolchildren.
What kind of health precautions should I take before traveling to Ecuador?
Ecuador is a relatively clean and safe place to travel. However, ARCC does recommend that you take some health precautions before your trip to Ecuador. When you enroll in the program, you will receive more complete information on pertinent travel vaccinations and immunizations. Please also refer to the Traveler’s Health section of the CDC website. Our leaders carry a full first aid kit, and are all certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR).
Where do we sleep?
During this program we sleep in a variety of accommodations: a hostel in Quito, small simple hotels in Baños and the Galapagos, and rustic community buildings in two small rural communities in the Andes and the Amazon.
What is the transportation like once we are in Ecuador?
While in Ecuador, we will be travel by private bus with a professional driver and by boat. We will also travel to and from the Galapagos on a commercial airliner.
What is the food like?
We will have the opportunity to sample traditional Ecuadorian cuisine such as chicken, fish, rice, plantains, soups and fresh fruit. We will also be cooking our own meals while we are staying in the rural communities.
How much spending money should I bring?
For Ecuador/Galapagos, ARCC recommends that you bring an additional $225 of spending money. You should bring this money in the form of cash (small bills are best) and also bring an ATM/debit card with you. Ecuador uses the US dollar!
As with any international program, we strongly recommend talking to your bank about its international withdrawal policies to avoid any surprise fees or card cancellations.
Do I need a passport?
Yes, all students traveling to Ecuador need to have a valid passport. Please make sure the passport expiration date is at least six months after you travel. Passport applications are available at the post office. If you do not already have a passport, you should apply for one as soon as you enroll in this program. It normally takes six weeks to process a passport application.
Do I need a visa?
No. US Citizens do not need a visa for this program.
What is the time difference between Ecuador and the Galapagos and the USA?
During the summer, mainland Ecuador is 1 hour earlier than New York and 2 hours later than San Francisco and the Galapagos islands are 2 hours earlier than New York and 1 hour later than San Francisco.
Do I really need to bring a backpack, or can I bring a rolling suitcase on this program?
Although you will not be doing traditional backpacking on this program, it is important that you bring a backpack as your main piece of luggage. During the program the group will be navigating through airports, on and off buses, up and down stairways, and taking short hikes on unpaved paths. The group will be able to move much more efficiently if everyone is carrying their belongings on their back.
Do I need to speak Spanish to join this program?
No. You will be able to participate in all the activities even if you do not speak any Spanish. However, if you study Spanish in school, you will have many opportunities to practice your language skills with the locals you encounter during your program. Having some basic conversational skills will enable you to form stronger bonds with the local people you will be meeting and helping.
What kinds of goods and supplies can we bring to donate for the people we meet?
We have the chance to live amongst some people who have the very basics for survival. With education being a tool to better their lives, basic school supplies are welcomed with open arms. Pens, pencils, notepads, and books are widely accepted. Soccer balls are also an incredible way to cross the cultural border and share smiles. Because of limited space on our vehicles, ARCC would ask that every person bring no more than a gym bag of goods to donate.