Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands
Indigenous villages in the inland highlands, a plush cloud forest mountain, the backwater streams of the Amazonian Rainforest, the uniquely remarkable Galapagos Islands.
Straddling two hemispheres, Ecuador may be small but it has a dynamic character. It is most identified with its Galapagos Islands archipelago, some 650 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Nothing quite compares to the thrill of observing wildlife on these natural volcanic islands, where the animals do not run or fly away when humans approach. It was here that Charles Darwin discovered conditions that helped shape his ideas on evolutionary theory. Life evolved on these islands in isolation, separate from the rest of the world. Distinctions exist even from one island to the next. With a visit to these special islands on the life-list of so many nature travelers, and as a leader in sustainable tourism best practices, we want to help insure that the Galapagos does not become another “go now before it’s too late” travel destination.
Our partner for the Galapagos, Big Five Tours, has raised the sustainable travel bar higher by linking the Galapagos with exploring the incredible natural and cultural heritage of mainland Ecuador, which includes some of the established indigenous markets that have existed for a millennium. Once the Inca Empire’s northernmost territory, it boasts important archeological sites as well as pre-Inca fortresses. In the highland valleys, Quechua-speaking communities continue traditions of weaving, artwork and handicrafts using many of the same techniques as generations past. There are opportunities to travel upriver via dugout canoe into the still-virgin Amazon Rainforest to stay at a simple ecolodge run by the ancestral Waorani people, where small-scale ecotourism might just help them stay in their forest. The history of Ecuador’s traditional peoples reaches back some 11,000 years, and it is estimated that 25% of Ecuador’s population today is of indigenous heritage. The beautifully preserved cities of Quito and Cuenca are noted for sumptuous 16th-century art and architecture. The tapestry of Ecuador from the Galapagos, to the Amazon, to the Andes, from distinctive wildlife to authentic highland cultures, makes this a land of adventures.
From Big Five Tours