Galapagos Islands and EcuadorDarwin's enchanted islands, Ecuadorian wonders and Amazonian adventures
The diving in Galapagos is truly phenomenal with a remarkable abundance of unique marine life. Located 600 miles west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are surrounded by deep ocean and are the meeting point of two major oceanic currents; the cold Humboldt Current that sweeps up from the Antarctic, and the warm equatorial current. The collision of these two currents brings an abundance of vital food resources into the Galapagos Islands supporting amazing arrays of marine life.
The Galapagos is a very unique place to dive. Some dives may be in cold water, where penguins abound, and others are in warmer equatorial currents, where you can witness tropical fish and reefs. Galapagos is a one-off destination. Nowhere else on the planet can you dive with the sea lions, marine iguanas, penguins, turtles, galapagos and hammerhead sharks and – fingers crossed – whale sharks, all on the same trip.
Galapagos is a year-round dive destination. To see the schooling hammerheads and have the best opportunity to sight a whale shark you need to visit between June and November. During this time of year the cooler water brought up near the surface by the Humboldt Current embraces the central isles while the warm waters are pushed northwards to surround Darwin and Wolf – then home of the hammerheads and whale sharks. In the southern central isles you will be dazzled by the sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and the fantastic bird life.
Water temperatures in the central isles are typically 18- 24C and in the north, around Darwin and Wolf, 24- 28C. The air temperatures will vary from 22-30C. A good 5mm wetsuit should be sufficient with hood, boots and gloves. During the liveaboard cruise there will be a programme of 3 dives a day. On Santa Cruz we will make a number of land tours in between and after diving. Please note that you are not allowed to go ashore at Darwin and Wolf.
Wherever you are in the Galapagos the birds, sea lions and the spectacular scenery, coupled with the thrilling diving, makes the Galapagos a fantastic experience – one not to be missed!
How to get there
Getting to the Galapagos Islands is very straightforward. For all international flights you will need to fly into Ecuador, arriving into either Guayaquil or Quito airport. There are daily flights from both Quito and Guayaquil into the Galapagos, with a flight duration of under 2hrs. Depending on the location of your liveaboard or hotel, your flight will arrive into either Baltra or San Cristobal and we will be happy to advise you best based on your destination.
Stay a bit a longer
It goes without saying that the Galapagos Islands are incredibly unique and are probably at the top of the ‘must see’ places on anyone’s wish list. We can offer all kinds of extension tours within the Galapagos Islands to make the most of your trip, including inter-island hopping programmes, hiking treks to climb volcanoes and cross lava fields, and nature tours to witness the amazing wildlife.
Ecuador, too, should not be overlooked. Quito in particular is a wondrous city to explore and from there you can take tours out to see the cloud forest, visit Octaval Marketplace or Cotopaxi Volcano.
We can also offer trips into the Amazon jungle. Trips are usually 3-5 days, and include a domestic flight to Coca followed by a canoe transfer into the Amazon jungle. There are some incredible jungle lodges to choose from. The Amazon tours will include activities during the day, such as guided wildlife treks through the jungle and visits to local tribes.
Quick Guide: Galapagos Islands
- Location: 600 miles west of Ecuador
- When to go: All year round with two seasonal variations:-
- Dec – May Average air temp: 27°C – 32°C
- Dec – May Average water temp: 21°C – 26°C
- Jun – Nov Average air temp: 21°C – 27°C
- Jun – Nov Average water temp: 18°C – 24°C
- Recommended diver level: PADI Advanced (or equivalent) with minimum 50 dives
Reached by a one hour domestic flight from Quito to Coca, followed by a scenic 2.5hr canoe ride along the beautiful Napo River, the Sani Lodge is a beautiful jungle lodge and is the perfect place from which to explore the amazing Amazon jungle.
Includes: accommodation based on twin/double share at Sani Lodge, all meals, English speaking guide and guided activities.
Not Included: Airfare Quito/Coca/Quito (approx USD $300pp), drinks, tips, service taxes, Parrot Lick entrance fee USD $35 per person, Panacocha Lagoon entrance fee USD $45 per person
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Day 1 – Domestic flight from Quito to Coca, followed by a scenic 2 ½ hour motorised canoe trip on the beautiful Napo River, spotting incredible wildlife and native communities on route. This is followed by a short walk through the fascinating flooded forest and a 20 minute tranquil paddle by canoe across the Challuacocha blackwater oxbow lake to your home for the next few days, the Sani Lodge, deep in the Amazon jungle.
Once settled, you will take a short hike into the jungle to experience first hand the dense flora, primates, birds, frogs, insects and snakes of the Amazon ecosystem.
After the sun sets, you head out to the lagoon to paddle silently through the darkness and see the Amazon come alive at night by torchlight.
Day 2 – Hike into the rainforest to learn more about the endemic plants, animals and people of the Amazon, including the medicinal uses for the many plant species, search for impossibly small species of frog and startlingly large insects, whilst looking up high to see the primates flying around the canopy, and learn about the Sani culture who will teach you their blow-gun hunting techniques.
After a picnic lunch in the forest, you hop in a kayak to paddle back to the lodge across the beautiful lagoon, enjoying the wildlife and sounds of the rainforest on the way.
Day 3 – An early morning paddle to Sani Lodge’s observation tower where you can enjoy incredible views of the forests canopy from 108ft with the chance to spot sleeping sloths, howling moneys or some of the 565 species of birds. This is followed by an insight into the life of the Sani community with a local Sani guide, you will learn about the local’s architecture, the farming techniques, their lifestyle, discover plants in the rainforest that are used for medicine, the community turtle breeding work and also help with cooking your own traditional lunch with the Sani women.
Day 4 – Explore Ecuador’s largest mainland park and is a Unesco designated international biosphere reserve, Yasuni National Park. With its diverse flora and fauna, and various species of colourful parrots, it is one of the last true wildernesses in Ecuador.
Day 5 – During the journey back to Coca for the flight back to Quito you will learn about the challenges that local communities and ecotourism ventures face with the intense pressure that extractive industries place on the Amazon.
Andes Highlands, Cotopaxi Mountain Visions Tour – 3 days/2 nights. From £930 per person
This tour begins and ends in Quito and will give you the opportunity to visit the stunning snowcapped summits of the Cotopaxi National Park, trek into volcano craters and to immerse yourself in colourful Ecuadorian culture.
Includes: accommodation based on double/twin share, bilingual naturalist guide, private transportation, entrance fees, meals
Not Included: alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, tips
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Day 1 – Visit Cotopaxi National Park where you can enjoy the incredible views of the snowcapped summits of Cotopaxi and Antisana volcanoes, followed by the Interpretation centre to learn more about the volcano’s eruption history and the surrounding area.
Next is the chance to explore Lake Limpiopungo and a hike to Mt. Cotopaxi’s J. Ribas refuge (4800m) with its spectacular views of the volcano and the surrounding Andean peaks.
The afternoon is spent riding the trails through the scenic Andes by mountain bike.
Day 2 – Trek to the Quilotoa volcano crater and its fascinating green lake followed by
a visit to the community of Tigua, who’s native painting representative the folklore and legends of the Andes.
Day 3 : Experience the traditional marketplace in the Cotopaxi area, markets are an important part of Ecuadorian culture as the places where indigenous communities meet to buy food and accessories. This is followed by a visit to a rose plantation before returning to Quito. Ecuadorian roses are recognised as being some of the world’s finest and are exported to all parts of the globe.
Train to the Clouds Tour (Guayaquil to Quito) – 4 day/4 nights From £1300 per person
Embark on an exhilarating train journey through the Andean mountains, witnessing changes of climate, vegetation and geography as you climb higher and higher. Visit colourful markets in picturesque mountain towns and see Andean cowboys showing off their skills in an Andean hacienda.
Includes: transportation aboard Tren Crucero, all meals during the trip, snacks and soft drinks on board, guide, excursions, transportation by bus/van during the program and accommodation based on double/twin occupancy.
Not Included: taxes, alcoholic beverages, meals and excursions not included in the program, air tickets, personal expenses, gratuities or transfers.
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Day 1 – You begin at Duran railway station to board the fully restored steam engine that will provide the transport along coastal tracks to Yaguachi, where you board a diesel-electric train which will take you through extensive plantations of sugarcane, banana, coffee, pineapple and a countless number of tropical products, on route to the Naranjito area.
You will then journey into the Andes by bus, climbing more than 2,000 meters (approximately 6,500 ft.) in just 4 hours. Witness the changes to the climate, vegetation and geography before arriving in the picturesque mountain town of Alausí, high in the Andes.
Day 2 – An early train journey, this time on board the fearsome Nariz del Diablo, or Devil’s Nose pass; an intricate switch-back track that allows the train to descend 511 metres (1,6756 ft.) in just 12 kilometres of railway. Considered an engineering marvel in its day, this train ride is still spectacular. This is followed by a visit to the Andean mountain community that has historically depended on the activity the train has brought, and a chance to look around the colourful local market which serves more than a dozen surrounding communities.
Next is a journey on board the “Black Monster”, an impressive and carefully refurbished Baldwin steam locomotive, travelling through fields of quinoa, potatoes, onions, corn and other products provided by these fertile soils, heading towards the capital city of Chimborazo province, Riobamba, passing Mt. Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, at 20,549 ft.
Day 3 – A chance to experience the fascinating local community of La Moya before a train journey passing through a valley close to the spectacular snow-capped Mt. Cotopaxi before the final stop of the day at Latacunga. room, dinner
Day 4 – Explore Cotopaxi National Park and the wildlife of Limpiopungo Lagoon before boarding a train that will tour the foothills of Mt.Cotopaxi and visit a typical Andean hacienda where you are met by Andean cowboys, or “Chagras”, who will show off their skills as riders and share their culture and traditions. The day ends in Quito at the Eloy Alfaro station.
Ocean Raptures Tour – 3 days /2 nights From £850 per person
Visit Ecuador’s Pacific Coast, a dramatic place of sun-drenched, rocky coastlines, punctuated by tranquil sandy beaches and small towns. See the home of the Panama Hat at the town of Montecristi, and take a boat ride to the scenic Isla de Plata, often referred to as a miniature Galapagos. From June to September, the Ecuadorian coastline is visited by humpback whales and whale watching tours are available.
Includes: Bilingual naturalist guide, land transportation to and from Manta, accommodation based on twin/double occupancy room with en-suite, breakfasts and Lunches
Not Included: air ticket, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, dinners
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Day 1 – Arrive in Puerto Lopez and visit the Salango Museum which gives the history of the region in the pre-Hispanic era. Learn about the fascinating local cultures and Señorío de Salangome (the present community of Agua Blanca).
Day 2 – Full day visit to Isla de la Plata, also known as a Galapagos in miniature. Here you can find blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and many of the same wildlife that live on the famous Galapagos Islands. There is also the option for a spot of snorkelling or swimming in the warm Pacific water before sailing back to Puerto López.
Day 3 – An opportunity to visit one of Ecuador’s most picturesque beaches at Los Frailes, where you can enjoy snorkelling, swimming or relaxing on the beautiful beach before a return flight to Quito.
Ecuador’s Three Worlds: Andes, Amazon and the Coast – 5 days/5 nights From £1670 per person
Beginning in Quito and ending in Guayaquil, this tour takes you through stunning and varied landscapes, including Cotopaxi National park, the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall on the way to the Amazon and the spectacular Devil’s Nose railway.
Includes: bilingual naturalist guide, private transportation, accommodation, entrance fees, Devil Nose train, meals
Not Included: alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, tips, dinners in Cuenca and Guayaquil
View full itinerary here...
Day 1 – Enjoy the scenic alpine drive through the Andes to Cotopaxi passing mountain villages before the snow-capped summits of both the Cotopaxi and the Antisana volcanoes come into view. After a visit to Cotopaxi Interpretation centre where you will learn the history of the volcano’s eruptions and the surrounding areas, there is a walk around the beautiful Limpiopungo Lake which is surrounded by beautiful peaks of the Andes with the imposing Cotopaxi in the distance
Day 2 – Travel the Avenue of the Volcanoes route, stopping at local markets to enjoy traditional Ecuadorian culture on route, before arriving at the huge and spectacular waterfall of Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). Next stop is the ‘Swing at the end of the World’ of Baños, on the way to the Amazon, which offers stunning views over the canyon and mountains, as well as Mt. Tungurahua, the nearby active volcano.
Day 3 – Hop on the Devil’s Nose train which zigzags through the almost perpendicular walls of the mountain face, making for an exhilarating train ride and one of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world. Before departing Sibaqmbe, you can take time to learn the traditions and culture of the native Puruhua people in Sibambe.
From Sibambe there is a hike to Pistishi viewpoint where you can see view’s of Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) railroad and reflect on the journey you have just taken!
Next is the Ingapirca Ruins, the largest and best preserved archaeological complex in Ecuador and the Inca Empire’s only remaining sun temple.
Day 4 – Travel to the towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg, the traditional settlements located just 45 minutes East of Cuenca to experience the traditional craftspeople of Ecuador. Here you have the opportunity to meet families who are still making textiles the way the “Cañaris” (the pre-Inca inhabitants) did more than 500 years ago and visit the workshops of a traditional jewellery maker, a guitar maker’s that forms part of the ‘Guitar Trail’ and a ‘Chola Cuencana,’ who stills makes straw hats in the time-honoured manner. Along the way, there is also the chance to visit an orchid farm, shoemakers and a traditional food and fruit market.
Day 5 – Heading towards Bucay on Ecuador’s coast, stopping on route to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Andes. In Bucay there is a visit to Hacienda La Danesa, a traditional dairy farm that produces about 2,000 litres of milk per day, as well as fresh cheese for guests every morning. The hacienda also has cocoa and teak plantations and breeds beautiful pinto quarter horses. Here there is an opportunity to take a tour of the cacao plantation or visit the teak plantation, alternately, you can chose to go mountain biking or tubing on the river before the final destination of Guayaquil.
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Great Escapes Diving Holidays Ltd
Office hours: Mondays to Fridays, 10am - 4pm
Tel: 01473 921888
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