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Ecuador - on hold

Adventure and community-led sustainable development

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Discover Ecuador

Conservation, culture & adventure

Prepare for the ultimate South American experience, as we take you on an epic journey through the Andes, cloud forest and the Galapagos.

Starting in the Andean city of Quito, a world cultural heritage site and the 2nd highest capital city in the world. Here you will have time to explore and acclimatize before you descend through the Andes to Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve where you will help with their conservation and scientific projects before flying over to the celebrated Galapagos to meet Geovanni and his team to develop the pioneering eco-farm that is leading the way for sustainable living.

But of course, adventure is interwoven throughout as you white-water raft down the Pastaza River, cycle through the Cotopaxi National Park and haggle in the markets...

Step off the tourist trail and discover the real Ecuador. Let us help you make your mark and create change in Ecuador's most remote areas.


Ecuador - on hold

An epic journey of contrast, contribution and challenge as you explore 3 contrasting environments and cultures.


Program Itinerary

This program is all about getting stuck into conservation and sustainable projects within traditional communities desperate to combine the ancient with the modern world. You will play a vital part in conserving the natural landscape so, roll up your sleeves, practice your Spanish and expect a full cultural immersion as you travel across this stunning and diverse country.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Days 1 - 2

Quito Settle in and explore

Settle in and explore

You adventure starts in the stunning city of Quito, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. Here you will meet your team and Emma – our gorgeous program coordinator, and her in-country Ecuadorian guide, who will talk you through the next few weeks, whilst allowing you to rest, acclimatize and start exploring.

Accommodation

You’ll be staying in a hip traveler’s hostel right in the heart of Quito's historic center.
Expect good WIFI, shared, single sex dorm rooms and bathrooms.

Food

Three meals a day included. You’ll have breakfast at the hostel and then lunch and supper will be out in a pre-arranged restaurant.

Ecuador - on hold
Days 3 - 8

Santa Lucia Santa Lucia Cloud forest Reserve

Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve

The first phase of the program is to contribute and explore the Santa Lucia Cloud forest Reserve which is a true community-owned conservation and eco-tourism organization, located within the stunning Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve, one of the world’s biodiversity 'hotspots.'


The reserve is home to over 1500 tropical plants, including orchids, 400 species of birds, as well as pumas, ocelots and the endangered spectacled bear so there is plenty to discover and explore. It takes about 2 hours to reach the edge of the reserve from Quito and once there you will start the 2-hour trek in - weaving your way up through primary cloud forest to find the lodge at a height of 1920m.

Eco-tourism in a location such as Santa Lucía is very labour-intensive so help from volunteers is really vital. It is sometimes possible for leap teams to focus on a specific project but usually we are needed to help with the following ongoing projects:

  • Collecting orchids and maintaining the orchid garden
  • Helping in the organic kitchen garden
  • Maintaining the lodge buildings, trails and signage around the reserve
  • For those who enjoy art and creativity, helping design elaborate souvenirs
  • Bird monitoring – part of a larger scientific research project at Santa Lucia – this involves placing and retrieving camera traps in the forest
  • Working in the sugar cane plantation and sugar production, a sustainable cycle for the lodge

At Santa Lucia there is limited electricity (provided by solar panels) and for the moment they do not have WIFI. They are looking into it but no concrete plans as yet. There is good mobile phone reception so you can use your phone if you arrive with roaming or get a local SIM card from an Ecuadorian mobile phone provider.

Accommodation

In the lodge, in shared dorms and bathrooms.

Food

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included at the lodge – expect fresh, local food.

Ecuador - on hold
Days 9 - 12

Adrenaline Road Trip Bike tour, Swing, Rafting

High up in the Andes

Leaving the cloud forest behind, you'll head back to Quito before starting your next phase of adventure in the Andes, which includes:

Cotopaxi National Park
Here you'll tackle a 30 kms exhilerating biking tour through the Cotopaxi National Park - traveling along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, visiting the Limpiopungo Valley to see the wild horses, indigenous birds and plants and the beautiful Limpiopungo Lake.

Hike & Swing at the End of the World
Next up is a trip to the pretty mountain spa town of Baños, where you'll hike to the stunning waterfalls of Manto de la Novia and the Pailon del Diablo, before visiting the famous "Swing at the End of the World" where you can swing from a local treehouse out over the valley below with the smoking Tungurahua Volcano as a backdrop. Breathtaking

White Water Rafting
Along the Pastaza River to experience the thrills of big water and incredible views along the way.

Accommodation

You will be staying at different hostels along the journey.

Food

All meals provided apart from dinner in the Cotopaxi National Park and Banos (ie Day 10 and Day 11 dinners).

Ecuador - on hold
Day 13 - 26

Galapagos Conservation

600 miles off the coast

For many this is a bucket list moment...and if you’re an animal lover, the Galapagos will not disappoint.

The archipelago’s remote location, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, means that the islands’ flora and fauna have been almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years, many without natural predators. We give you the chance to go way beyond the tourist trail and explore where few people get the opportunity to discover.

You will fly you into San Cristobal, the Galapagos’ easternmost island, to live and work at a conservation project and eco-farm called Hacienda Tranquila, led by the dynamic Geovanni and his team.

The Hacienda works as a flagship eco-farm to provide the local community with organic gardens and sets an example for other farmers. They also contribute to reversing the effects of environmental damage caused by increased tourism, restoring the land to its natural state, and creating organic gardens for the community.

Projects here include:

  • Here you will work in a controlled plot of land to eliminate invasive plant species and to restore native and endemic ones, growing the plants first in a greenhouse, and then transplanting them to their permanent locations.
  • At the Hacienda, they have a hippo-therapy program which works with disabled children from the local community every Wednesday and Thursday morning. Here you will help the children with the planned activities - leading the horses while the children are riding in various positions, teaching self-sufficiency skills, and interacting with the children through game and play.
Accommodation

Hacienda Tranquila - simple, purpose-built volunteer accommodation.

You’ll be sharing bedrooms with 2-5 volunteers per bedroom, sheets and mosquito nets are provided. The house has a kitchen with two stove tops and large refrigerators, a common area and bathrooms. There’s even an outdoor pizza oven.

There’s a cleaning rota and everyone is required to muck in with household duties.

Please note there is NO WIFI in the house but available in the nearest towns of Progreso and Puerto Baquerizo.

Food

Food – NOT INCLUDED. Here you will need to buy and prepare your own meals as a team. In the past, Leapers have devised a rota for cooking and allocated responsibility for each meal to a pair of volunteers, which tends to work well.

Ecuador - on hold
Days 27 - 28

Farewell in Quito Farewell

Time to say farewell

You’ll head back to Quito for a final night to say good-bye to Emma and her team and do any last-minute shopping, before heading home or carrying on with your travels.

On your final day Emma’s team will transfer you back to the airport.

Accommodation

Overnight in a hostel in the old town

Food

Farewell dinner included
Breakfast on final day included

Ecuador - on hold
Ecuador - on hold
Ecuador - on hold
Ecuador - on hold
Ecuador - on hold
Ecuador - on hold

Program Details & Costs

We have 2 departures to Ecuador for 2021 departing in April and July for 4 weeks. Get in touch to start exploring your options. Maximum team size of 14 so don't hang about.

Options and costs

On hold for now.

Whats included?

Budget

Flights: £800 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: Approx £60 per week but twice that for the Galapagos stage.

The Galapagos is expensive so brace yourself. Firstly, you need to budget for food and we really urge you to all cook/eat in the hacienda – budgeting about $15 per day x 14 nights = $240. Plus, you need to budget for weekend activities – see My Leap for options – scuba diving, island hopping safaris are all fantastic excursions – most leapers have told us that they spend about $400 on excursions – but remember these are optional.


Eco warriors

Travel with a tight team of leapers, going beyond the tourist trail and making a real difference in extraordinary destinations.

Contrast

You will travel to the cloud forest, the Andes and the Galapagos - contributing and exploring as you go.

Adrenline Sports

White water rafting, mountain biking and hiking will be all part of the adventure week.

Cultural Exchange

Working beside local communities you will experience real life and make extraordinary friendships.

Monday to Friday

Each phase will vary in terms of project hours, depending on the area; in some cases, (such as the Galapagos), you can expect long days of hard graft, whereas in others it will be more about free time like your adventure phase.

But as a rule of thumb you’ll be kept busy for about 6-8 hours per day, Monday to Friday. Please note: the volunteer work is very heavily manual labour based – so be prepared.

Backpacker favourites:

  • The TeleferiQo cable car that flies you up Rucu Pichincha to an observation point overlooking Quito.
  • Dip in the thermal springs in Baños.
  • Galapagos boat tour around the islands.
  • Snorkelling in the sea around the Galapagos.
Ecuador - on hold

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, roughly equal in size to Colorado or the UK, but home to a huge diversity of climates, flora and fauna and indigenous cultures. Snow-capped volcanoes rub shoulders with the Amazon rainforest and Pacific beaches, and are a short hop from the unforgettable Galapagos Archipelago. Simply stunning but amongst all of this are over 17 different cultures who have had to adapt to these ecological and at times harsh environments, living alongside a myriad of unique bird, animal and plant species.

Our hosts

The over management is organised by Emma Morgan who runs her own travel company in Ecuador called Original Ecuador. Originally from the UK, Emma organised and led her first trip to Ecuador for a group of British teachers back in 1999, whilst working at the Swansea Environment Centre in South Wales.

After meeting her Ecuadorian husband, Emma finally came to live in Ecuador in 2002 and now has over 15 years of experience working in the Ecuadorian tourism industry. In this time, she has gained extensive knowledge leading, developing & running active tours across Ecuador & the Galapagos. Emma is passionate about Ecuador and especially enjoys visiting the Galapagos and the cloud forest. On weekends she loves to explore the different regions and activities that Ecuador has to offer with her husband Andres and their teenage daughter Emilia.

Emma is overall in charge of the program, but you will have one of Emma’s bi-lingual local and fun guides escorting you until you leave for the Galapagos.

In the Galapagos Geovanni Sarugu takes over. Geovanni is the visionary behind the Hacienda Tranquila which aims to restore the environment and support the community.He is eternally grateful for the time and energy our volunteers give to make his vision possible.

Ecuador - on hold

"Unstinting & cheerful help!"

Just to say Ollie got to CR & has now met up with his friends! Quite a journey! Thanks to you & all The Leap team for your unstinting & cheerful help! I fear I may be in touch in due course about exiting CR but meanwhile best of luck with all your current trips & I’ll leave you in peace!


- Julia Rooth

"Change the course of their lives"

I am filled with admiration at all the trouble you have taken over every detail, so much appreciated when filling in all those damn forms! And it was brilliant that you kept us all (in our case 3 generations!) involved and informed about the changing situation every day. It has been so difficult for this group of 18 year olds unable to do their A levels properly and with all the attendant problems of the pandemic. I think the programmes you are offering may well change the course of their lives not only for the future of the planet but also by giving them opportunities to work hard together at the same time as having fun. Huge thanks and congratulations, I’m telling everyone how fantastic you are!

- Caromy (Grandmother)

Ecuador - on hold

"They have the gap year formula spot on"

Speaking only for our experience with Costa Rica, The Leap know and understand the country so well. The team communicated brilliantly-they were always pro active and accessible, nothing felt like too much trouble and they never made you feel like your question or concern was a silly one.

They have the gap year formula spot on. All the reassurance that parents need whilst safely delivering the freedom and adventure that the volunteers want-and all through a Pandemic (!)

My daughter had the absolute time of her life with them and I’m sure has made friends for life, I wouldn’t hesitate in giving them the very highest recommendation possible.

- Frances (mum)

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