South America Nature Tour
24 Nights / 25 Days
Day 1 Quito
On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2 Fri Quito (B)
Morning at leisure to relax and adjust to the altitude .
This afternoon enjoy a half day tour of Quito including the historical quarter
Day 3 Sat Otavalo (B,L)
Full day excursion to Otavalo. This excursion goes north, to the land of the Otavaleños and South America's most famous Indian fair.
Otavalo is located on the province of Imbabura, known also as the “lake province”, in the north part of the country. Imbabura counts with a pleasant dry climate with temperatures averaging around 18C and it is home of many indigenous handicraft markets of which Otavalo is the most famous. The Otavalo market is most popular on Saturday when many indigenous communities gather at the “Plaza de los Ponchos” to exhibit their textile crafts, especially blankets and tapestries, that date from colonial times. Lunch is included. Later this afternoon return to Quito.
Day 4 Sun Quito – Galapagos (B,L,D)
You will be transferred to the airport your flight to Galapagos.
Please note there is a US$10 immigration fee payable on arrival.
One of the world's greatest treasures of natural history lies in the bewitching Galapagos Islands, famed for its fearless and unique wildlife, and is the highlight of most trips to Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands have been named after the giant Galapagos Tortoises. The archipelago, 1000 Km (600 miles) off Ecuador's Pacific Coast originated from undersea volcanic activity, six million years ago. The archipelago's 13 major islands, 6 smaller ones, and scores of islets are all part of Ecuador's National Park system. In 1835, the English naturalist Charles Darwin visited the islands and discovered this "living laboratory" which inspired his writings on the Theory of Evolution. Many of the animals on the Galapagos Islands have developed into different species from their continental relatives, and because they have never experienced man as a predator, they show no fear of humans. The world's most wondrous group of islands is yours for unhurried exploration. Follow the nature trails; enjoy the amazing sights, wade and even dive among the animals of land and sea.
After lunch we will go to the interpretation center, the local branch of the Galapagos National park service where your guide will explain to you about the formation of the islands, how the flora and fauna arrived and got established in Galapagos, as well as visiting the corrals where we have several species of giant tortoises under the care of the National park service.
Night navigation to our next destination.
Day 5 Mon Santa Fe - Plazas (B,L,D)
After breakfast on the yacht, we continue to Santa Fe Island, upon arrival to the island, we will be treated to a noisy welcome by the local sealion colony. Following our naturalist guide on the island paths we will come to Santa Fe's main attraction, a towering forest of giant cacti. Scattered around the cacti trees you will see a number of the island's indigenous sun-seekers: marine and land iguanas, the rainbow-streaked lava lizards and, if you are lucky, land tortoises - the namesakes of the islands. After our walk we will plunge into the salty sea and snorkel in the company of sealions, lion fish and sea turtles. Finally, we will return to the yacht for lunch.
After lunch we will navigate to Plazas Island, where a large colony of sea lions lounges daily in the equatorial sun. Soon you will notice their subtly diabolic grins and wonder what they find so humorous; you only hope the joke isn't on you! Plaza also boasts excellent examples of typical Galapaganean flora such as the towering cacti "trees" that form the principal diet for both the land iguanas and the cactus finch. Other birds that may flutter by include lava gulls, yellow warblers and red-billed tropicbirds with their elaborate tails
Day 6 Tues Santa Cruz - Darwin Centre - El Chato (Highlands) (B,L,D)
Here we can find tiny tortoises, hand-sized between the ages of one and five, and marvel at how they achieve such a large size as adults (500 lbs. or more!) Galapagos tortoises are believed to have a lifespan of over 100 years, so the young ones have a long life ahead of them as long as they receive the protection they need. Aside from the Station headquarters, Santa Cruz boasts the largest town and economic center of the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora. In this port-side town we can buy souvenirs of the islands (postcards, t-shirts, books, etc.) Check out the uniquely Galapaganean ceramic shop near the entrance of the Charles Darwin Station. After shopping in Puerto Ayora and lunch on the boat (guests may dine in town if they desire), we will explore the upper region ('parte alta') of the island, a moisture-rich area with fertile volcanic soils. We will learn about the vegetation and animal life of this zone, often strikingly different than that found at lower elevations. This area in the highlands is called EL CHATO which is a giant tortoises reserve,one of the few places open to visitors where giant tortoises are found in their natural habitat interacting with the rest of the Galapagos life.
Day 7 Wed Islabella Island - Puerto Villamail - Humedales - Muro De Laslagrimas - Centro de Craianza (B,L,D)
Our first visit in the morning will take place in Puerto Villamil, one of the smallest towns in Galapagos, located right in front of a white sand beach is one of the most beautiful locations in the islands, after a dry landing we will go to visit the humedales, which is a mangrove area with small brackish water lagoons thatcreate the perfect environment for a small type of shrim, which serves as food for flamingos making it easy to find them in this site.
Following this visit we will be transported to El Muro de las Lagrimas or the wall of tears, when the Ecuadorian government took posetion of the islands their main purpose was to harbor Ecuadorian prissioners, since there wasn’t much for them to do they were forced to carry rocks to a far location and build a wall which nowadays is know as the wall of tears.
After this visit we retun to the beach for relaxation before lunch on the boat.
In the afternoon we will visit the local branch of the Galapagos park service which main purpose is to take care of the many species of giant tortoises that inhabit isabela island so we can see the efforts made by the national park service to protect and increase the decaying population of giant tortoises in this island.
Back on board and night navigation to our next visitors site.
Day 8 Thurs Punta Morena - Elizabeth Bay (B,L,D)
After a whole night navigation we arrive to punta Moreno on the west coast of isabela, a dry landing on a lava field. The vegetation found in the area is small and concentrated mainly in the mangrove area and around the lakes. It should be noted that the three kinds of cacti are found here.
The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amid black lava flows where there are several species of birds. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos that are Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul of Isabela Island and La Cumbre of Fernandina Island.
After lunch on board we continue on our way to Elizabeth bay, located on Isabela Island`s west shore, this is extremely interesting for observing marine life. You can motor past a few islands where you usually see Galapagos penguins. One of the best areas to take their photos. A colony of these magnificent birds inhabit a rocky islet at the entrance to Elizabeth Bay.
We let our boat drift through a small passage lined with mangroves and you emerge into an enclosed cove. We will turn the motor off and look in the sheltered waters for marine turtles, rays, flightless cormorants, sea lions, and, circling overhead, Galapagos hawks.
Day 9 Fri Isabels Caleta Tagus - Fernandina Punta Espinoza - Isbelapunta Viente Roca (B,L,D)
The visitor’s site of Tagus Cove is located west of Darwin Volcano on Isabela Island. The route of the trail is about 1800 meters. This was a favourite spot for pirates and whalers, a tradition is still observed that has continued since that time: the inscription of the names of boats. At the start of the walk, going up and passing the staircase, is a small cave where we find inscriptions dating to the 1800s.Its name originated from a British warship that went through the islands in 1814 looking for Galapagos Tortoise for food.
The road, mostly gravel, leads into the interior, along Darwin Lake. During the walk, you can see various land birds; we can identify the characteristic vegetation of the arid zone. Finally, we observe the lava fields of Darwin Volcano.
Back on board for lunch and short navigation to Elizabeth Bay on Fernandina Island.
Punta Espinoza is a narrow ledge of lava and sand that extends from the base of the volcano to the sea. There is a vivid description given by Captain Benjamin Morrell that from its anchorage at Bay Banks witnessed and recorded an eruption of Fernandina in the decade of the 1820s that probably gave rise to the Point. In 1975, there was an uprising, about 90 cm, which is why the pier built for landing can only be used during high tide.
Punta Espinoza is a place famous for its large colonies of marine iguanas and as the habitat of unique species like the flightless cormorant, galapagos penguin, galapagos hawk, galapagos snake, among others. It is an ideal place to observe the lava cactus (brachycerus nesioticus), which grow on young lava and survive with little water.
After visiting Fernandina we will start our navigation to the central part of the Galapagos and on the way we will see from the Boat Punta Vicente Roca,a part of a mostly eroded and destroyed volcano whis now is a great site for seeing blue footed boobies, frigate birds and other marine birds from the boat.
Day 10 Sat James Bay - Rabida ISland (B,L,D)
James Bay is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island.
South of the beach is Sugarloaf Volcano, which has deposits of volcanic tuff, the same that has favored the formation of the black sand beach. El Cráter is just north of this site, it has a saltwater lagoon, which during the summer dry season becomes a salt mine. Between 1928 and 1930, there was the first exploitation of salt; there were no major achievement. Then in 1964 a new attempt was made that lasted for some time.
After lunch on board we navigate to our next destination, Rabida
Rábida Island, consists of a red sand beach, a coastal lagoon behind the beach, and a loop trail. The approximate distance of the trail is 1.1 kilometers.
The color of the rocks and sand on the beach is due to the very porous volcanic material, which with the help of environmental factors (rain, salt water and sea breeze, has acted as an oxidizing agent. The main attraction of the place is the red sand beach, scenery, aside from the vegetation of the arid zone and the presence of native and endemic species.
Day 11 Sun North Seymour Island - Santa Fe Island - Quito - Lima (B)
After an early breakfast we will disembark at North Seymour Island. Here we will see frigatebirds, the clownish blue-footed booby, and of course the ubiquitous sea lions. With luck we will witness the striking courtship display of the male frigatebird, in which he inflates a red balloon-like sac below his throat and struts his stuff for all of the young females. Seymour North, Plaza Sur and Plaza Norte, Baltra, northeastern Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and part of Española, were formed by uprisings of underwater volcanic lavas. They were part of a volcanic lava table deposited in sheet form along cracks located on the ocean floor. The uprisings occurred sporadically and lasted more than a million years to reach its current level. All marine fossils found in the archipelago are found in these islands and the best example is the North Channel side of Baltra. The fossils date from the Pleistocene, and specifically in the case of Baltra, one can say that these volcanic tables were close to the surface about a million years ago.
Return to the boat & sail to Baltra Island to catch our plane back to the mainland to Quito and connect by LAN Airlines to Lima. On arrival transfer to our hotel near the airport.
Day 12 Mon Lima - Puerto Maldonado (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado.
Tambopata Research Centre Programme Macaw Clay Lick - 5 day/4 nights
The Tambopata Research Center is a simple but comfortable lodge situated by the world´s largest Macaw Claylick on the uninhabited frontier of the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.
The Tambopata Research Center is a must for those looking for access to pristine wilderness and an in depth exploration of the rain forest. Refugio Amazonas is a charming lodge, well placed immediately adjacent to the Tambopata National Reserve.
This is the Amazon Jungle – please don’t expect all mod cons and electricity is generator only. Note that flights to/from Puerto Maldonado can be a waiting game as the runway in Puerto Maldonado is weather dependent. It’s all part of the experience!
You will be met at the airport by your naturalist guide and transferred to a dugout canoe for the trip up the Tambopata River to the lodge. On the journey the vegetation changes from colonized deforested areas to virgin rain forest. A box-lunch is provided on board. On arrival you'll have a welcome drink and meet the rest of the staff. After dinner a night walk to find nocturnal animals or insects by the eye-shine a specialization for increasing the light and see better, about 50% of the animals are nocturnal in the rainforest. We will be out at the river’s edge at night, scanning the shores with headlamps and flashlights to catch the red gleams of reflection from caiman eyes.
Day 13 TuesTambopata Research Centre (B,L,D)
Before breakfast ,a thirty minute walk from Refugio Amazonas leads to the 25 meter scaffolding canopy tower. A bannistered staircase running through the middle provides safe access to the platforms above. The tower has been built upon high ground, therefore increasing your horizon of the continuous primary forest extending out towards the Tambopata National Reserve. From here views of mixed species canopy flocks as well as toucans, macaws and raptors are likely.After breakfast a few minutes hike from the lodge is a beautiful old growth patch of Brazil Nut forest that has been harvested for decades (if not centuries) where the precarious remains of a camp used two months a year by Brazil Nut gatherers can still be experienced. We will be demonstrating the whole process of the rain forest's only sustainably harvested product from collection through transportation to drying. Then a 4&1/2 hour journey by boat from Refugio Amazonas, in the pristine heart of the reserve, lies the Tambopata Research Centre.One and half hours into our boat journey, as we cross the confluence with the Malinowski River, we will leave the final traces of human habitation behind. Within the 700,000 hectare uninhabited nucleus of the reserve, sightings of capybara, caiman, geese, macaws and other large species will become more frequent. A 3-5km hike will lead us to overlooks commanding magnificent views of the Tambopata winding its way into the lowlands. The forest on this trail, regenerating on old bamboo forest, is good for Howler Monkey and Dusky Titi Monkey.After dinner attend a lecture providing a in depth look at the biology of macaws, their feeding habits, the theories for clay lick use, their breeding and feeding ecology, population fluctuations and the threats to their conservation.
Day 14 Wed Full day at Macaw Lick & Explore the Forest Trails (B,L,D)
On most clear mornings of the year dozens of large macaws and hundreds of parrots congregate on this large river bank in a raucous and colorful spectacle which inspired a National Geographic cover story. Discretely located 50 meters from the cliff, we will observe green-winged, scarlet and blue-and-gold Macaws and several species of smaller parrots descend to ingest clay. Outings are at dawn when the lick is most active. They arrive in search of minerals and salts and the digestive properties of the clay particles themselves. On average several hundred macaws and smaller parrots visit the clay-lick daily, including scarlet, blue and yellow, red and green, chestnut-fronted and blue-headed parrots, among others. This clay-lick is considered one of the largest in the world. Following a late morning hike in the trail system in search of some of the nine species of monkeys present in the area, including spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys and dusky titi monkeys as well as the elusive large mammals like tapir, white-lipped peccaries and jaguar. After lunch visit the Pond Platform -10 minutes up-river from the lodge is a tiny pond with a platform in the middle. It is a great place to spot waterfowl such as muscovy duck, sunbittern and hoatzin along with the woodpeckers, oropendolas, flycatchers and parakeets that call this pond their home. After dinner you will have the option of hiking out at night, when most of the mammals are active but rarely seen. Much easier to find are frogs with shapes and sounds as bizarre as their natural histories.
Day 15 Thurs Return to Refugio Amazonas & Visit Oxbow Lake (B,L,D)
The opportunity to enjoy another trail this morning or a second opportunity to witness the wonders at the lick.
After breakfast return by boat to Refugio Amazonas.
Visit Oxbow Lake where you will see a special kind of ecosystem created in hundred of years for the chance of the river source, rich in bird and aquatic life. A family of giant otters live in the vicinity of the lake and are often observed. Birds abound especially rufescent tiger-herons, great egrets, wattled jacanas, hoatzin, the noisy donacobius and many others. Remember to bring your hat and sun cream for there is no shade out on the water.
Day 16 Fri Puerto Maldonado - Lima - Sau Paulo (B)
A dawn start is required for the canoe trip back to Puerto Maldonado giving memorable views of the sun rise over the river. Lookout for the early morning wildlife which is particularly active at this time. Howler monkeys are frequently heard, as they stakeout their territories. Your guide will take care of you on arrival in Puerto Maldonado and will deal with all the necessities at the airport prior to you departure.
Services included in your trip: All meals and accommodation in rooms with own bathroom, from lunch on Day 1 to Breakfast on your final day (inclusive). All transport from your arrival al Puerto Maldonado to your return to the airport (inclusive). All guided excursions described in the itinerary.
Services Excluded in your trip: Any drinks you may purchase from the bar.
Remember to take:
Torch and spare batteries or headlight / rainproof jacket or poncho (we got drenched one time when it started tipping down as it does in the jungle – just as we got into the canoes for our 4 hours trip to the Lodge – you can only laugh and get wet – but something rainproof helps!)
Some sweets/ nibbles – great to keep the energy levels up – plenty of insect repellent – stick and spray types.
Anti-histamines – cream or pills or both.
Long sleeved cotton shirt, hat (don’t want creepy crawly things on your head as your brush past some bushes) and long cotton pants for walking in the jungle.
Sandals, shorts and t-shirts are fine for wearing in the canoe during the day. Its in the evening you need to cover up quick smart. As this is the best time to visit – less bitey things – then you should be OK.
Please note that you will leave your main baggage in storage at Puerto Maldonado, so suggest you have a lightweight fold out bag to just pack what you need for the Amazon excursion.
Refugio Amazonas is a 24 bedroom lodge, opened in 2005. Its location is 2 & 1/2 hours up-river from Puerto Maldonado and is ideal for breaking the expeditions to and from Tambopata Research Center. Refugio Amazonas is built on a 200 hectare private reserve on the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve. It is becoming integrated to the communities of Brazil nut extractors that surround it, attempting to extend the benefits of ecotourism to the families that commit to the sustainable use of the forest within this buffer zone. It is located ten minutes walking from the river.
TAMBOPATA RESEARCH CENTER
Tambopata Research Center is built using a combination of traditional native materials (wood, palm fronds, wild cane and clay) and architecture and modern day eco-lodge technology. The lodge consists of one wing of 18 rooms connected by raised boardwalks to eight shared bathrooms, the research quarters and a dining room. The dining room is an open building that doubles as a bar.
Rooms are small and hold two beds. The walls dividing each room are built using cane, and extend from the floor to about 2.5 meters height making each room private. The side that looks out to the forest does not have a wall or screening of any kind, acting as a large window facing the forest. The reason we have been able to incorporate this "luxurious" design into our lodge is because mosquitoes are not really a problem around the lodge clearing and the open section allows for an intimate contact with the rain forest. Doors are replaced with drapes. Rooms are not soundproof. Each room has beds, mosquito nets, bedside tables and a rack of clothes hangers. Bathroomare shared, and have no hot water. The research quarters is a two story building usually full of scientists and their assistants from the macaw project.
You have survived a foray into the mighty Amazon Jungle!!! An experience you will never forget!
On arrival in Lima remain in the airport to catch our flight to Sao Paulo where we will overnight in an airport hotel.
Day 17 Sat Sao Paulo - Pantanal (D)
We depart early morning for a flight direct to Campo Grande.
Commence the drive through the heart of the Pantanal to your lodge.
“Pousada do Xaraés” is situated in one of the most beautiful geographic regions of the Pantanal, the Abobral Pantanal, washed by the river Abobral. The lodge is part of a commercial cattle ranch carrying about 1.500 head in a total area of 4.200 Has. It was previously called “hotel fazenda Xaraés” (farm hotel), open to tourists from 1991 to 2000 and was owned by local businessmen. In 2001 it was purchased by Portuguese businessmen and the name was changed to “Pousada do Xaraés” (the Xaraés lodge), and the previous infrastructure was totally re-modelled giving it excellent comfort and quality. The lodge’s 17 apartments are distributed among three buildings, all of which are but a few meters from the Abobral river. From these trees you can hear the marvellous songs of the pantanal birds or the thrilling roar of the monkeys, which, in the early morning, come to the trees on the banks of the river. All the apartments have private bathrooms, air conditioning, fridge bar and telephone, with rustic decoration and a welcoming atmosphere. In each set of rooms, there is a verandah with fans and hammocks providing an alternative resting area. The restaurant dining room, which overlooks the gardens from whose trees the nesting birds can be heard all day, is equipped with fans and air conditioning and decorated in the rustic style that is characteristic of the whole guest-house. Delicious food, typical of the Pantanal, is served in a buffet system while being kept hot on a wood fired stove. The sitting room, in the same rustic style as the rest of the lodge, is surrounded by the garden, and has various areas for chatting, reading, table games, snooker, television and bar, where you can sample delicious drinks and tit-bits served there. On the bar’s verandah, a few meters from the river, there is a beautiful view of the Pantanal, with its characteristic sounds and scents, and also the ecological swimming pool, in which no chemicals are used.
You can also participate in the following activities: horse riding, trips by boat canoe or horse cart, photographic safaris in a 4X4 pick-up, ecological trailing and, after dark, spot lighting of nocturnal fauna, always accompanied by bilingual guides and local guides.
Day 18 Sun & Day 19 Mon Panatnal (B,L,D)
Participate in exccursion at the lodge
Day 20 Tues Pantanal - Manaus (B)
A further excursion early morning from the lodge.
You will be transferred to Campo Grande where we connect by air to Manaus arriving in the evening. Transfer to our hotel.
Manaus, capital of Amazonas, is located in the middle of the Amazon forest. In the early years of the 20th century the city of Manaus, became very wealthy and the most important cultural centre in the Northern Region of Brazil The old rubber barons dreamed of transforming it into a European style city and called it "the Paris of the Tropics.
A reflection of this period of opulence is to be found in the mansions and monuments of Manaus, such as the Opera House opened in 1896. Built with the aid of materials and artists brought from Europe, its central area, in the shape of a harp, can seat 640 people in the stalls. In 1965 it was declared part of the Brazilian National Heritage and was reopened in 1996.
Day 21 Wed Manaus - Amazon Cruise (B,D)
Guided walking tour by Rua Bernardo Ramos, Teatro Amazonas(Opera House), Palacete Provincial with Praça Heliodoro Balbi, visit to the Municipal Market and Fish Market with a view to the Manaus Harbour and stop outside Palácio Rio Negro.We then transfer to the pier to join our cruise on the Amazon.
Cabins: The Amazon Clipper hosts all guests in 8 air-conditioned cabins, with bunk berths (6m² – 8,75m²) and private bathroom facilities with shower.
Description: The Amazon Clipper contains 3 decks, on the main deck are located 6 Cabins, on the 2° deck you find 2 cabins and a covered dining room who seats all passengers leisurely at same time and a bar with library. The last deck is a spacious sundeck with a fantastic 360° panoramic view, as well as a covered area for outdoor sightseeing.
Crew: 1 captain, 3 sailors, 1 cook, 1 english speaking field guide.
Depart upstream on the Rio Negro while we drink a fresh fruit juice and listen to the information about facilities. After a snack meet for lectures about Amazon where we will get a good start to understanding Amazon preservation and ecology. After Dinner we will explore little creeks in our canoes and listen to the sounds of nocturnal animals with the possibility of observing birds, frogs, snakes and caimans.
Day 22 Thurs Amazon (B,L,D)
Early morning we explore the surroundings along the water’s edge in our canoes while we mainly find fruit eating birds like parrots and toucans. After breakfast we go for a jungle walk, to discover many surprising fragrances in leaves, fruits, woods and animals. Around midday we return and we may go for a swim, before lunch. In the afternoon we navigate through the Anavilhanas National Park, one of the world`s largest fresh water archipelagos, a labyrinth of waterways. In the late afternoon we embark in the canoes and learn more about this wonderful nature park.
Day 23 Fri Amazon (B,L,D)
Early this morning we spend a little time fishing for piranhas and other fish. After breakfast we visit a “Native Community” where we find many of the typical Amazonian fruits like Cupuaçu and Tapereba, palm trees like Açaí, Tucumã and Pupunha. We learn about the preparation of manioc flour and the health and education situation of the children. After lunch we are landing on one of the white sandy beaches to swim in the dark water and enjoy the Pink River Dolphins. Exploring by canoe and scout for wildlife in the late afternoon. On the way toward the Amazon River will be served dinner.
Day 24 Sat Manaus - Sao Paulo (B)
Early this morning we explore the Lago Janauary Ecological Park. This area is usually a very good place to observe wildlife and chances to see the “Victoria Regia” the giant water lilies. While we have breakfast we navigate to the "Meeting of the Waters", the confluence of the world`s two largest rivers, the Amazon and the Negro. Then return towards Manaus with fine views of Manaus` waterfront. Transfer to the airport for late afternoon flight to Sao Paulo.
Overnight at hotel near the airport with transfers included.
It is possible to continue on to Rio or Iguassu Falls.
Day 25 Sun Depart Sao Paulo (B)