Ecuador and Galapagos

Quito and Amazon Rainforest with Galapagos Cruise

Trip Scholar: Professor Daniel J Field

Professor Daniel J Field, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology, University of Cambridge
Available to Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, family and friends

13 day tour
Price from £6,495

27 November – 08/09 December 2024

Imagine exploring the Galapagos Islands, the living laboratory of evolution where Darwin made his groundbreaking discoveries. Imagine walking among giant tortoises, marine iguanas and colorful birds that are found nowhere else on Earth. Imagine sailing on a first-class yacht with just 32 fellow travelers and a Cambridge zoologist who will share his insights on the natural wonders you encounter. This is the ultimate adventure for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The tour starts in Ecuador’s capital, Quito a UNESCO World Heritage city filled with colonial gems dating back to the 16th century.  Here you will marvel at the city’s rich colonial and indigenous heritage and stunning scenery of the surrounding Andes mountains on excursions with an expert local guide.  Then, experience a complete contrast as you journey to the Ecuadorian Amazon, the most biodiverse place on earth. Stay in a comfortable eco-lodge surrounded by lush rainforest, discoving the secrets of the jungle on fascinating walking and boat excursions, spotting exotic birdlife, monkeys and reptiles in the enveloping canopy.  You will also meet the indigenous Kichwa people and learn about their culture and traditions.

The highlight of the tour will be a small-ship expedition cruise in the Galapagos Islands, the volcanic archipelago that seeded Darwin’s Theory of evolution by natural selection. Home to an amazing diversity of endemic species which are specially adapted to the conditions on each of the different islands, we’ve chosen an itinerary that includes islands ranging in geological age from just a few hundred thousand years old (and still being formed) to up to 2.5 million years old.  This shows incredibly clearly how life begins and what happens over millennia, but with the added factor of the islands’ remoteness meaning only species which could fly, swim or float long distances made it to the islands.  This has led to very unbalanced species diversity on the islands in comparison to the main continents of the world, with totally unique (and wonderful) evolutionary consequences.

During the cruise, enjoy a choice of two guided excursions daily, whether exploring island trails by foot, discovering the fascinating coastal birds and marine-life by small boat, or kayaking/snorkelling in the marine-rich waters filled with rays, reef sharks, brightly coloured fish, playful seals and marine iguanas.  The pristine landscapes of the islands are breathtaking, from lofty volcanoes, highlands and lakes to craggy lava coastlines and beautiful sandy beaches.  The ships’ expert naturalist guides are on hand to interpret each islands’ unique landscape and wildlife, and throughout you will have the benefit of expert lectures given by our trip scholar Professor Field, providing an academic understanding of the very special concepts you’ll witness during the tour.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime journey that will inspire you with the beauty and wonder of nature. Don’t miss this chance to follow in Darwin’s footsteps and discover the secrets of evolution.

Tour highlights

  • Explore colonial Quito and the indigenous market town of Otavalo
  • Discover the biodiverse Amazon rainforest with daily walks and canoe rides with naturalist guides
  • Visit clay licks in the Yasuni National Park visited by brightly coloured parrots, parakeets and macaws
  • Experience the ‘natural laboratory’ of evolution that is the Galapagos islands on a first-class small-ship cruise
  • Meet giant tortoises, get up close to curious seals and penguins, and marvel at the islands’ unparalelled birdlife


Blue-footed_Booby by Mike's Birds at Wikimedia Commons

Itinerary at a glance (click on the itinerary tab for full details)

Day 1:    Tour starts in Quito  |  Meet for introductions at 6pm  |   Welcome dinner at the hotel.
Day 2:    Half day excursion to see colonial Quito and the ‘Middle of the World  |  Dinner at the hotel
Day 3:    Full day excursion via ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ to Otavalo  |  Explore indigenous market  | Dinner at leisure
Day 4:    Fly Quito to Coca  |  Motorised boat along Napo River |  Dug-out canoe to Napo Wildlife Centre |  Dinner
Day 5:    Parrot clay lick  |  Visit Kichwa community and Napo Cultural Centre  |  Forest walk to second clay lick  |  Dinner
Day 6:    Rainforest Canopy Tower  |  Terra Firme primary rainforest walk  |  Explore lake by dugout canoe  |  Dinner
Day 7:    Return to Coca by dugout canoe and motorboat  |  Fly back to Quito  |  Dinner and overnight at airport hotel
Day 8:    Morning flight from Quito to Baltra, Galapagos  |  Board expedition yacht  |  Dinghy to Blake Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz
Day 9:    Dingy excursion to Vincente Roca, Isabela   |  Nazca boobies and other birdlife  |  Walk on lava flows at Espinosa Point, Fernandina
Day 10:  Walk at Urbina Bay, Isabela  |  Giant tortoises, land iguanas and flightless cormorants  |  Walk or snorkel at Tagus Cove, Isabela
Day 11:   Visit Egas Port, Santiago  |  Spot yellow-crowned night herons and fur seals  | Sullivan Bay, Santiago walk on lava flows
Day 12:   Return to Santa Cruz   |  Visit Charles Darwin Research Centre and highlands  |  Fly Baltra to Guayaquil where tour ends
Day 13:    Those flying on our recommended KLM flight from Guayaquil will land back in Europe this morning.

Dates and Prices
Prices are in UK£, per person, based on double occupancy

27 November 2024 - 08 December 2024
Room/Cabin typePrice per personSingle SupplementKLM via AmsterdamAvailability
Standard Plus Cabins Twin/Double£6,495£2500 (Very limited)From £950 return1 Standard room/cabin left
Junior Cabin in GalapagosExtra £320ppExtra £150As above1 Junior cabin left
Suite at NapoExtra £260ppPlease askAs above1 Suite left

Domestic flights Quito-Coca-Quito and Quito-Galapagos-Guayaquil, twin or double bedded room on land, Standard Plus cabin on board Coral I/Coral II, all with private ensuite bathroom, full board whilst in the Galapagos and at Napo Wildlife Centre,  and full board for the land section of the tour except for the third evening in Quito when dinner is at leisure, bottled/purified water with all meals, all excursions mentioned in the itinerary (except optional Guayaquil excursion on final day of tour where an extra charge applies), services of an English speaking guide on all excursions,  naturalist guides whilst in the Galapagos, all site entrance fees and transfers to/from sites,  Galapagos National Park entrance fees/migrational control card fee, lectures by expert trip scholar on average once every two days throughout the tour.

Transport to and from Ecuador(see optional flights below),  transfers on arrival or departure unless travelling on (or at the same time as) our specified recommended flights – see below for timings) drinks (other than the water which is provided at mealtimes) tips to boat/lodge crew,/hotel staff/local guide(s),  dinner on one evening whilst in Quito, travel insurance, items of a personal nature (ie souvenirs, snacks/drinks). Wetsuits in the Galapagos are not included but are available for a charge of $35pp per cruise locally.

The cost of any visas or any other entry requirements to enter Ecuador are not included if required,  but we provide up to date advice about what is required for entry and guidance on the quickest and most cost-effective way of complying with current rules to make this side of things as simple as possible.

Optional KLM flights
Temple World can arrange flights to co-ordinate with this tour.  Our recommended flights are with KLM Heathrow to Quito and from Guayaquil to Heathrow, via Amsterdam in both directions. KLM also flies from many regional UK airports.

Wed 27 Nov 24   KL1000   Heathrow to Amsterdam  06:35 arr 09:00
Wed 27 Nov 24   KL755     Amsterdam to Quito        10:15 arr 16:15

Sun 08 Dec 24    KL751   Guayaquil to Amsterdam  20:05 arr 13:20+1
Mon 09 Dec 24  KL1011  Amsterdam to Heathrow   15:45 arr 16:05

As a price guide the return cost for the flights shown from London Heathrow are usually about £950-1050 return, per person, but prices will rise as the flights fill up.

KLM also flies from London City, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle and Glasgow but it may be necessary to fly one day early if departing from these airports, in order to connect with the morning flight from Amsterdam to Quito. We are happy to provide a quote for private transfers and accommodation in Amstersam or Quito for the night before the tour if needed.

Please contact us for assistance or advice regarding flights. We can assist with quotes using other airlines and from other regions should you like to look at alternative options.

Booking your own travel
Clients who would like to make their own travel arrangements are welcome to do so.  If arriving/departing at a different time to the recommended flights  you will not be able to take part in the group transfer to/from the airports,  however we will be happy to arrange and quote for private transfers to meet any flight time if required.

VERY IMPORTANT! Those making their own arrangements should check with us before making any binding or non-refundable flight arrangements, firstly because the tour departure is not guaranteed until we reach minimum numbers, and secondly to obtain advice that the proposed flights will work with the start/end times of the tour. 

Fitness Guideline
We have graded the fitness level required for participation in this tour as Moderate.

The fitness challenges of this tour are quite varied as the tour visits such different regions with totally different terrains and excursions in each, so we recommend reading the fitness guideline carefully so you’re fully informed as to what the tour will be like.

In Quito we won’t be undertaking any strenuous activities, just some sightseeing strolls on flat terrain through the city centre and out at Otavalo Market. The challenge is that Quito is at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level which can cause shortness of breath and fatigue for the first day or so. Simple activities like climbing stairs can seem much harder than usual! We have kept the activity on the first day of sightseeing relatively low-key whilst people acclimatise.  Age and fitness don’t usually have much bearing on whether you’ll feel the effects of the altitude more or less than others. The hotels have oxygen just in case, and a doctor can prescribe anti-altitude sickness medication in case of any (rare) symptoms experienced.

In the Amazon, guests will need to be able to get in and out of canoes and small boats. The bobbing of the boats can make this tricky for those with poor balance. Excursions include jungle walks of up to 3-4km on the uneven forest floor, and humidity levels are high in the jungle, so even the fit may feel fatigued more easily.  The Amazon is very hot between midday and early afternoon, so the morning excursions start early, between 0600 and 0700, to catch the animals at dawn when they are very active.

When on board the Galapagos yacht there is a choice of excursions daily and those who may find an island walk or guided snorkel too strenuous often have the option to do a seated dinghy-based excursion instead, or can remain on board the yacht.  For some island visits guests will need to be able to climb over the side of the dinghy and drop down into shallow water to wade up the beach as there isn’t always a jetty to dock at.  The island walks can last between 1-2 hours, and most are not considered strenuous,  but the terrain can be very uneven, especially on volcanic islands where you could be walking on jagged lava flows.  In some cases there are no made paths.

Note that being so close to the Equator, visitors can find the sun particularly strong here and there is usually no shade on island visits, and nowhere to sit down.   It is a condition of the national park that to preserve the ecosystem, guests must remain with the guide at all times so it is not possible to split into smaller groups by ability or to stop mid-way through and catch the group up later.  It’s very important that everyone can keep up with the group.  For those who wish to be more active, there are opportunities to kayak and snorkel in this section of the tour.

We are able to provide a day by day analysis of the visits and their difficulty in order to help potential guests make the decision about whether this tour is suitable for them.  As a general rule we would say that if you rely on a stick, frame or walker to get around your home or neighbourhood, this tour probably is not suitable, and instead we would recommend planning a private holiday so you can have your own guide and go at your own pace.  Those who use hiking poles for lengthy walks are most welcome to bring them. Please contact us if you are at all unsure if this tour is for you.

Note that a Yellow Fever vaccination is generally recommended by the WHO and NHS for visititors to the Ecudorian Amazon,  but those over 60 generally can’t have these due to the risk of adverse side effects. If you are over 60 and have never had a Yellow Fever vaccination, we strongly recommend checking with your GP whether the tour will be suitable for you, before booking.  Although Napo Wildlife Center advises there have been no cases of Yellow Fever amongst guests or staff since the lodge opened, and the WHO reports that the average number of cases in Ecuador is usually fewer than 5 annually, you need to be aware that the risk is present.



There are no mandatory vaccinations for entry to Ecuador unless arriving from Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, or Uganda, in which case there is a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate requirement.  Note however, that a Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended by the NHS for those visiting certain parts of Ecuador including the Napo region which we visit during this tour.  See your GP or travel health professional at least 4-6 weeks before travel for advice tailored to your personal requirements, as some people may be recommended to have certain precautionary vaccinations depending on their personal health. The vaccine takes 10 days to take effect.  If you have previously had a Yellow Fever vaccination the WHO now advises it is valid for life.

Note that those over the age of 60 and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to experience adverse effects from a Yellow Fever vaccination and the vaccine is therefore not always advised.  Please discuss with your GP at the time of booking in order to ensure you will be able to travel safely to Ecuador.  It may be worth telling your GP that Napo Wildlife Center (where you will be staying in the Amazon) claims that Yasuni National Park is free of malaria, yellow fever, and the zika virus as it has never registered any cases during the more than 20 years that it has been operating. 


Entry Regulations
Most nationalities can enter Ecuador without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days in any 12-month period. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months on entry.
Foreign Office Advice

Accommodation on this tour will be in a five star hotel in Quito, a very comfortable eco lodge in the Amazon, and aboard a first-class small yacht in the Galapagos, either Coral I or Coral II (sister ships).  Full details of the hotels and ship we are using can be found in the itinerary, with links to take you to each of the relevant websites.

Trip Scholar
Professor Daniel J Field, Professor, Strickland Curator of Ornithology, Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Professor Daniel J. Field is a Cambridge ornithologist and vertebrate palaeontologist interested in the evolutionary history of birds and other vertebrate animals. His group’s research explores the vertebrate fossil record and organismal biology in a phylogenetic framework to explore how and when extant vertebrate diversity has arisen.

Daniel is originally from Calgary, Alberta, studied Zoology at the University of British Columbia, and received a PhD in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University in 2017. He joined the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge in 2018 and joined the University Museum of Zoology in 2021 as the Strickland Curator of Ornithology and is also Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Department of Earth Sciences.


Lectures during our tours
All our tours are accompanied by an academic ‘trip scholar’ as well as local guides. The local guide or guides provide the day-to-day guiding on our tours, whilst the trip lecturer will give regular lectures on his/her specialist subject throughout to provide an academic overview. Lectures/talks usually last 30-40 minutes including questions and answers (if applicable). These are generally held in the evenings before dinner and attendance is optional. We don’t usually specify before travel which days the lectures will be given (for operational reasons) but guests can expect them roughly every other day as a minimum, with some lecturers giving some kind of talk or presentation more frequently.

Peru: Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu private extension

While you’re in the region, it’s easy to add a private pre or post-tour extension to Peru to see the Sacred Valley, historic Cusco and the magnificent Inca citadel of Machu Pichu.  Depending on how much time you have, the extension can be anything from 5-8 nights in length (longer if you’d like to add other areas of Peru such as Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon or Arequipa, or the deluxe Andean Explorer rail journey.   There are direct flights between Quito and Guayauil to/from Lima in Peru and we can arrange an open-jaw ticket into Peru and out of Ecuador (or vice versa) should you wish to combine the two countries.   Please ask us for a sample itinerary and quote.

Further exploration in Ecuador

There are some very lovely parts of Ecuador that are simple to add as private extensions to our main tour, should you wish to explore further. Highly recommended is a visit to the Mindo Cloud Forest which is around a two hour road transfer from Quito, a wonderful contrast to the Amazon and Galapagos and one of the country’s most intact and healthiest bioregions.  The subtropical forest is at an altitude of 2,000 m above sea level, with tall, spindly trees wrapped in orchids and bromeliads, and home to a staggering array of birdlife from hummingbirds and toucans to the more unusual long-wattled umbrellabird and the Andean cock-of-the-rock. We can arrange a stay at either the simple Bellavista Cloudforest Reserve, or the sublimely luxurious Mashpi Lodge, where a two night, three day package including transfers, all meals and shared guided excursions is either £375 per person at Bellavista or  £1200 per person at Mashpi, based on two sharing a twin/double room.

Alternatively, a stay in Ecuador’s prettiest and most easy-going city, Cuenca, is possible at the end of the tour. Reached via a three hour road transfer from Guayaquil, it’s known for its Panama Hat-making (most people don’t know they actually originate in Ecuador!) and UNESCO World Heritage Spanish Colonial architecture. Safe and compact, it’s a wonderful city to stroll around on foot, taking in flower markets, cobbled plazas, panama hat workshops and lovely museums.

Please contact or in our alumni tours team for advice or a quote on any private pre or post tour extensions.

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    A fantastic holiday, one of my best ever. Our lecturer was excellent. He pitched his frequent impromptu and organised speeches at just the right level for those of us, the majority, who had no previous experience of Geology. Rosemary

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