Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Journey to Quito, Ecuador, and visit a city that thrived during the time of the Inca Empire. Stroll its historic plazas and discover colorful outdoor Indian markets, stocked with the creations of local artisans. Then spend three nights at a jungle lodge on the Amazon, witnessing the amazing biological diversity of the tropical rain forest, home to a vast array of birds and plant species. Travel to Galápagos Archipelago, immersing yourself in the crystal-clear waters that are home to marine species found nowhere else on our planet. Two dramatically contrasting ecosystems and glimpses of Andean and Amazonian cultures make this an exceptional journey of discovery.

Please note: The itinerary shown is for departures beginning in February 2015. If you travel in January 2015, the trip will be 15 days in length, with one less night in Quito.

Quito Ecuador's Galápagos Expand All
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    You depart from the U.S. and fly to Quito, arriving late in the evening. Your OAT Trip Leader or our local staff will meet your flight at the Quito airport and help you transfer to your hotel where you'll meet travelers who took the pre-trip extension to Machu Picchu & Cuzco, Peru. Quito is Ecuador's capital city, nestled at the foot of the Pichincha volcano.

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    After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    We then explore the city paths and historic sites of Quito, a charming colonial city that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito is South America's oldest capital city, founded by Sebastián de Benalcázar on December 6, 1534. Today we experience its delicate blend of Spanish and Indian cultural influences. As we explore the city, we'll get an introduction to sites including the La Basilica Church, Independence Plaza, and San Francisco Square. After time for lunch on your own, we continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies and see work by local artists. We return to our hotel and you have the rest of the afternoon free for making your own discoveries. This evening, we enjoy an included Welcome Dinner.

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    • Meals included:
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    Today, we'll travel overland across the Andes Mountains from Quito to Coca, a small town on the Napo River in the Amazon River watershed. We'll stop en route for lunch, to learn about local culture, and to take in mountain scenery including the treeless páramo at 13,860 feet. We descend to Coca and then travel to our lodge by boat on the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon. We view the tropical rain forest and glimpse the daily life of local people who live on riverfront farms and in thatched-roof homes. We will be staying at an Amazon lodge on a beautiful riverbank, where you will have a window on the environment and culture of the people of the Amazon.

    In the words of writer Joe Kane in Running the Amazon: "The Amazon cannot be understood just as a river. It is a whole wilderness, a great integrated system of rivers and jungles." For three days, we'll have a rare opportunity to increase our understanding of the Amazon jungle—because it'll be our home. Competition among the plants and trees for rain and sunlight is fierce here. Ultimately, only about 5% of light from the sun penetrates the jungle canopy and reaches the forest floor. Interestingly, conditions in the very top of the rain forest are quite desert-like. In fact, many plants at this upper canopy level are actually cacti. This unique climatic variation in such a compact space is one reason why the Amazon Basin is home to such phenomenal biodiversity.

    Our rain forest lodge is our home base in the Amazon. Here, you can explore trails that take you into the surrounding forest, take siestas in your own private hammock, and enjoy meals of fresh local fare while enjoying beautiful views of the nearby Napo River. After we arrive, we'll have an orientation briefing followed by dinner at the lodge.

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    Before breakfast, you may join an elective birdwatching walk. The early morning is a good time to see the local birds at their most active. Following breakfast, we’ll visit a local school (when in session) and meet some of the students. Then we'll visit the home of some indigenous people and learn about their crops and handcrafts. Today we'll also join a local family for lunch.

    After lunch, we'll have some time to rest or have a siesta. In the afternoon, we'll enjoy a demonstration of traditional weaving techniques. Later, we head for a local lagoon around sunset to watch for wildlife at the time of day when many animals become active, including the caiman (a small crocodile). We have dinner at our lodge this evening.

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    You can elect to rise before breakfast for early-morning birdwatching again today. After breakfast, we'll take a nature walk in the rain forest, then return to the lodge for lunch and time to relax. Later in the afternoon, we'll explore the forest further to learn about medicinal plants and see an example of primary forest. We'll stay out until sunset, which we'll watch from a wooden observation tower, and then have dinner at the lodge this evening.

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    After breakfast, we return by motorized canoe on the Río Napo to Coca. We'll take a walking tour of the local market and dock area in Coca. Then we transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito, where we check into our hotel upon arrival and you have some time at leisure.

    This evening, we get an authentic taste of Ecuador's culture and cuisine when we are welcomed into the home of a local family for dinner. While the specific menu will be up to your hosts, it will give you a chance to sample some typical local specialties. In Ecuador, highland inhabitants fight the cold of the mountains with a soup made with pork, cheese, and quinoa, a grain from the Andean region of Ecuador that is rich in nutrients. Another typical dish is seco de chivo, a stew of goat meat in wine sauce served with potato and avocado.

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    After breakfast, join our full-day optional tour to the Andean towns of Otavalo and Chilcapamba, with lunch included, to experience the culture and crafts of the people of Ecuador's highlands. Or enjoy free time in Quito, with lunch on your own. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Early this morning, depart Quito and fly via Guayaquil to the Galápagos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon landing in the Galápagos in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our small ship. You can stow your gear in your cabin, orient yourself on deck, and enjoy the anticipation of the cruise ahead. For seven days, we explore the archipelago by ship, enjoying comfortable cabins and the services of an expert crew and our certified Galápagos naturalist Trip Leader onboard.

    Here we share an adventure of Darwinian proportions in the comfort of our small group. All meals are included during our cruise, and no matter which island you call on, each of the next days will follow a similar pattern.

    After breakfast onboard our exclusive charter, the sight of an island seemingly floating off the bow may send a shiver of anticipation through you. A small dinghy brings us close to the islands for wet landings, which require wading through knee-deep clear water. On shore, a gaudily colored Sally Lightfoot crab may scuttle by your foot as you watch iguanas sunning on the sands.

    After lunch on board, it's off to our next island stop. Hiking across volcanic landscapes, we might marvel at 15-foot tall scalesia “daisy trees,” as Darwin's finches sing their greetings. If time allows, we might swim near our boat, sharing the playground of sea lions. We'll have plenty of tales to tell at dinner on our boat as stars fill the darkening sky. And as you sleep, you'll be cruising toward another adventure in the Galápagos.

    Although wildlife sightings are unpredictable, we may see blue-footed and Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans, Galápagos doves, swallowtail and lava gulls, Darwin finches, or herons. We'll also marvel at sea lions and iguanas throughout our travels.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering choppy water that surrounds the islands.

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    For the next six days, we continue our Galápagos travel. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park. He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with the park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

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    Today we continue our Galápagos travel. Here is a preview of the islands you may visit.

    Please note: The following descriptions are meant only as a general guide to the islands that you may visit. The selection and order of islands visited during the dates of your cruise cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), ship and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice.

    Santiago (James)—Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oystercatchers, blue herons, and yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome—One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including the famous Pinnacle Rock. The mangroves often hide mating sea turtles.

    South Plaza—Sea lions often greet us raucously as we step ashore. We also find land iguanas busy eating the opuntia cactus flowers and pads. There are colonies of swallow-tailed gulls, shearwaters, and red-billed tropicbirds.

    Rabida (Jervis)—A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island its distinctive look.

    Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock)—Cruise around this sheer 500-foot tuff cone formation, where blue-footed boobies and sea lions abound.

    Santa Cruz—At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles)—Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it's the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors have been leaving letters for delivery since 1793. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington)—Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus, where land iguanas doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour—Here you'll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galápagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham)—The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Ochoa Beach boasts pelicans and other sea birds, as well as a delightful swimming beach. Nearby is Lobos Island, where you'll see pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island)—Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin's finches, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From November to April, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly-choreographed mating ritual.

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    Today we continue our Galápagos travel. An OAT traveler commented that, “The Galápagos are sun, sea, and a workshop in evolutionary biology.” We'll make numerous landings by small dinghies that involve stepping into knee-deep water to wade ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our naturalist Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species.

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    Today we continue our Galápagos travel. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colored tropical fish. Throughout the trip, we'll see magnificent landscapes of white-sand beaches, sparkling clear aquamarine water, and black and red volcanic rock landscapes.

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    Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. As we take in their striking seascapes, we can consider how they have impressed great American writers in two different centuries. Herman Melville blended knowledge of the islands, gained from his days as a sailor, with fiction in his 1854 novella The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles. More than 100 years later, Kurt Vonnegut's 1985 novel Galápagos drew inspiration from the author's own visit to the archipelago. Unique and remote, the Galápagos Islands will no doubt continue to influence creative artists for centuries to come.

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    This is the last day we spend in the Galápagos, and we’ll continue to enjoy snorkeling, exploring, observing wildlife, and hiking around the islands. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a special dinner onboard during which we’ll bid farewell to the crew.

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    This morning, we disembark our ship and fly from the Galápagos back to Quito via Guayaquil. We'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    Today, we'll visit the colorful Inaquito produce market and then head to the Middle of the World Monument and the Inti Nan Museum, where the equator runs right through the building. The museum also contains replicas of indigenous sun temples. If you fly home this afternoon, you'll make these visits in the morning. If your flight is in the evening, you'll have a free morning and then visit these Quito sites, with lunch and dinner on your own. In either case, your transfer to the airport is included.

    If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train, you will travel overland to Riobamba after breakfast today; the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.


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Questions and Answers

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below. Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

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What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 5 locations in 16 days with one 1-night stay
  • Some international flights arrive or depart from Ecuador around midnight, and internal flights are scheduled early

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be in excellent physical condition and able to walk 3 miles unassisted in hot, humid weather and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day


  • 4 full days at altitudes of 9,000-10,000 feet


  • Daytime temperatures range from 60-90°F
  • The Amazon Basin has an extremely humid tropical climate with frequent rain year-round
  • Quito has a mountain climate with a large drop in day to night temperature


  • Hike on muddy terrain and rocky trails that can be slippery; make wet landings; go on several snorkeling excursions; and you may encounter rough seas while cruising, especially from July to October
  • Agility and balance are required for embarking small motor dinghies


  • Travel by 20-passenger minibus, canoe, 16-passenger small ship, and motorized dinghies
  • 4-9 hour drives and 4 internal flights of 1-4 hours each

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are smaller than in the U.S. and offer simple amenities
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Galápagos Small Ship

    Our 16-passenger Galápagos small ship is chartered exclusively for our OAT group. The ships we use are 85-95 feet long and can maneuver easily among the islands. All ships feature lounge areas, a bar, sun deck, and a dining room serving local and international cuisine. The simply appointed cabins have twin beds, a porthole or window, and a private bath with shower. As we travel at night, there will be engine noise.

Main Trip

  • Hotel Reina Isabel

    Quito, Ecuador

    We stay overnight in Quito at the 56-room Hotel Reina Isabel. Located on the main avenue in the commercial heart of the city, the hotel features a restaurant, coffee shop, gym with sauna, spa, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, and 24-hour room service. Each modern, comfortable room comes equipped with cable TV, radio, telephone, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Yarina Lodge

    Coca, Ecuador

    We stay for three nights in an Amazon jungle lodge—either the 20-room Yarina Lodge or a similar lodge—where we take optional hikes and canoe rides with a resident naturalist guide. The lodge has a simple and comfortable design in keeping with its remote rain forest location, preserving the natural ambiance. It consists of a main building and thatched-roof cabins. Each cabin is equipped with a private bath offering hot-water showers.

  • Carmel Hotel

    Lima, Peru

    The Carmel Hotel is located in the heart of Lima's Miraflores neighborhood. Each of it's 34 air-conditioned rooms features a private bath, TV, safe, wireless Internet, and minibar. In your free time, enjoy the on-site restaurant and bar. 


  • Carmel Hotel

    Lima, Peru

    The Carmel Hotel is located in the heart of Lima's Miraflores neighborhood. Each of it's 34 air-conditioned rooms features a private bath, TV, safe, wireless Internet, and minibar. In your free time, enjoy the on-site restaurant and bar. 

  • Eco Inn Cusco Hotel

    Cuzco, Peru

    The 167-room Eco Inn Cusco is located in the historic center of Cuzco, next to the largest craft market in the city and just a ten-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. Services available on-site include a restaurant and a spa, Each room features cable TV, wireless Internet access, a direct-dial phone, a safe, and a private bath with a hair dryer.

  • Imperio Machupicchu Hotel

    Aguas Calientes, Peru

    To explore Machu Picchu over two days, we stay overnight at this hotel in Aguas Calientes, a very small town near the site. This location facilitates our discoveries; however, all accommodations here are located near railroad tracks and a river that create significant noise day and night. The Imperio Machupicchu's 18 rooms are simply appointed and each has a private bath, TV, and telephone.

  • Hotel Carvallo

    Cuenca, Ecuador

    The Hotel Carvallo is located in the historic center of Cuenca. This contemporary hotel, built in a restored colonial house, provides updated amenities and personalized service. Each of its 30 rooms includes a telephone, cable TV, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Reina Isabel

    Quito, Ecuador

    We stay overnight in Quito at the 56-room Hotel Reina Isabel. Located on the main avenue in the commercial heart of the city, the hotel features a restaurant, coffee shop, gym with sauna, spa, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, and 24-hour room service. Each modern, comfortable room comes equipped with cable TV, radio, telephone, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with OAT

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

Traveling to and from Quito will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your adventure.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

Partner since: 2004
Total donated: $283,072

Supporting a World Classroom: Ecuador

Grand Circle Foundation's World Classroom initiative supports a special organization in Ecuador that you'll visit on this adventure. In Quito, you'll visit the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, a music school for children with special needs. Our projects have included renovating and building additional classrooms, purchasing computers, funding scholarships, and more.

"The efforts to educate and improve the future for the people of this area are inspiring ... we were particularly moved by the students' performance at the Disabled Children's Orchestra in Quito."

Lois & Richard Dickerman, 3-time travelers
Estes Park, Colorado

Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra

Partner since: 2004 • Total donated: $133,699

The students at Sinamune must overcome mental and visual challenges to develop the motor skills needed to play a musical instrument—and in doing so, they gain the confidence to face many other challenges they might encounter during their lives. Furthermore, by welcoming OAT travelers, the school aims to educate the wider world about Ecuadorian music.

Since 2004, Foundation donations have helped refurbish the beautiful auditorium at Sinamune, where our visiting travelers enjoy musical performances. We've also supported the purchases of a vehicle, new computers, and musical instruments for the school; contributed funds for many building improvements; and helped to fund scholarships.

One notable project supported by the Foundation was the construction of the Alison Mae Regan room, a special multimedia classroom named in memory of a teacher of autistic children who died tragically in an accident at age 25. Because many of Sinamune’s special needs students benefit from a more visual approach to learning, the electronic “whiteboard” and digital projector in this classroom enhance their instruction in subjects ranging from geometry to art and physics, which are taught here along with the school’s special focus on music.

School in session:

The Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra is in session year-round, with vacation over the month of August and periodic closures for Christmas, New Year's, and other holidays.

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Tempera paints
  • Puppets
  • T-shirts
  • Coloring books
  • Backpacks
  • Educational videos
  • Bookmarks
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wildsand save up to $1870 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"Our Trip Leader, Jose Carnejo, made the Galápagos portion of our trip spectacular. He was so knowledgeable and caring. It was wonderful snorkeling with him. I have traveled extensively and this was the best trip I have ever taken. I will always travel with OAT."

Ronnie Davidson, 8-time traveler
Princeton, New Jersey

Monkeys and Penguins and Grubs … Oh My!

Michelle Bos, first-time traveler, Granger, Washington

My daughter, Sophie, has always loved animals. When Sophie was very young, her grandmother shared photos from a book about the Galápagos Islands with her. Sophie was very vocal about wanting to see all of the amazing wildlife in the book—so her grandmother—my mom—promised her that they would travel to the Galápagos one day.

That’s why it was no surprise to me when my mom called me last year to say, “Chelle (her nickname for me), I want to take Sophie on a trip to the Galápagos Islands. I made a promise to her and it’s about time I lived up to it.”

I had no worries about my parents taking Sophie along on their adventure since my mom is an experienced traveler, and speaks fluent Spanish. However, I told her that I could only let them take Sophie on one condition: “If you’re taking Sophie, I want to go, too!”

So, my mom, dad, Sophie, and I decided to travel on OAT’s Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador’s Amazon Wilds adventure. I worried a little about whether Sophie would have fun on the trip, as she would be the youngest member of our group. Would she have fun with a group of older people? What if the rest of the group didn’t enjoy having a child along? But from the very first day of the trip, she fit right in. Age was not an issue—there were teenagers, middle-agers, retirees, and a very spunky 80-something in our group. Best of all, everyone looked out for each other.

We’d be exploring a dense rain forest and either our Trip Leader, or another traveler in the front of the group, would ask, “Where’s Sophie? We need to get her up here so she can see this.” And Sophie would be pulled to the front where all of the action was taking place. When our local guide asked for a volunteer during a rain forest cooking demonstration, Sophie was selected. She took great pleasure in preparing and cooking grubs … and in watching me eat them!

We discovered so much of the beauty of the Galápagos and Amazon together. We had never snorkeled before, but she really wanted to do it. So we swam through crystal clear coves until we approached a group of penguins. They were intrigued by Sophie, and two of them even approached her face-to-face! As we swam away, I spotted a shark coming toward us. I warned Sophie—and was ready to get away as quickly as possible—but Sophie just laughed. “Don’t worry, Mom. That’s a whitetip reef shark. They don’t eat people.” Was this really my child comforting me?

As a mother, I’m used to sitting on the sidelines and watching my children (I have another daughter) participate in their organized sports and other extracurricular activities. But there was something incredibly different about seeing Sophie encounter the wildlife of the Galápagos. Each new species of animal was a new discovery for her—and it was something she had a true passion for. There was nothing quite like watching her experience them for the first time.

Upon returning from our trip, I asked Sophie what she loved most. After considering the question for a moment, she said, “Mom, I think the coolest thing was that we were in the middle of all of it.”

I thought about this for a moment and realized what Sophie meant was that we not only traveled to the Galápagos and Amazon, but we were able to truly immerse ourselves in the region. Experiencing this with my daughter was a tremendous privilege, and it was an opportunity to create memories we will always treasure. I look forward to exploring more of the beauty of the world with her for many years to come.

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $7000 per person
7-9 $3000 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $3000 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offer within 60 days to departure or with our Group Travel program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

Bats of the Amazon

Flying mammals that benefit the rain forest

More than 150 species of plants in the Amazon rain forest depend on bats for their survival through pollination and dispersal.

“Are we in any danger while we are sleeping from the bats that are flying around us?” I've been asked this question more than once while sitting with a group around a campfire in a wilderness area after dark. After explaining that there was almost no danger from the bats, I've also heard questions along the lines of “So they will not get into the tents and suck our blood?” and “Aren’t all bats vampires?”

After answering (“NO. No. And no.”), I began to explain that of the more than 1,200 bats in the world, only three were parasitic on mammals, and instead of sucking blood as portrayed in horror stories, the vampire bats make small incisions in the skin of the animals that they prey on and lap the blood up—much as a cat would do when drinking milk. Bats prefer almost any other mammal over humans as prey, so bat bites are rare. All three parasitic bats are found in Central and South America, and in particular the Amazon rain forest, where, incidentally, more than 1,000 of the world’s species of bats are found.

Many species, many diets

Seventy percent of the bats of the Amazon are insect eaters. (Here and elsewhere, they most notably feed on mosquitoes—as many as 1,000 an hour—and are therefore critical to keeping many areas comfortable and disease-free.) The rest of bat species typically feed on nectar, fruits, or small vertebrates such as birds, lizards, and frogs. The frog-eating bats are able to distinguish the sound of frogs amid a cacophony of other sounds—and can even distinguish among particular frog species—and then zero in on the selected target.

The fruit-eating bats are important in the ecology of the Amazon rain forest in that they disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat by spitting out the pulpy portions containing the seeds, while the nectar-feeding bats scatter pollen necessary for the survival of plants. Pollen gets stuck to the bats when they are feeding and scatters into the air when they take off, thereby pollinating flowers in the vicinity. It is said that more than 150 species of plants in the Amazon rain forest depend on bats for their survival through pollination and dispersal.

Masters of nature’s radar

Echolocation is the process whereby many bats negotiate the forest at night (a very necessary adaptation in the deep dark of the Amazon jungle) and how they locate their food. The process has only been confirmed in the last 100 years, although in the 1790s it was discovered that bats use their ears for flying and hunting.

A researcher released bats into a dark room with silk threads strung from side to side and discovered that they navigated the hazards with ease. It was only when he plugged their ears that the bats lost much of their flying skill, and from this he deduced they used their ears when flying and hunting, but how it worked eluded him. It was only in the 1900s that it was discovered that bats use echolocation—whereby high frequency sounds are emitted by the bats and when these sound waves hit prey they bounce back to the bat, thus enabling him to calculated the size, position, and distance of the prey.

The Amazon is certainly the best place on Earth to study bats—but do not be disappointed if most bats in the world find your blood offensive to their senses.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Ecuador

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.


The giant tortoises of the Galápagos don’t mind if you come close for observation—or for a picture portrait—as captured here by Jane Rohling, a first-time traveler from Eagle, Idaho.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to:

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.