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Beginning in Quito, we take the overland route across the Andes making a stop for a bath in the hot springs on our way into the Amazon Basin. Jatun Sacha (Great Forest in Quichua) is a private reserve to protect lowland rainforest in the Amazon along the Napo River. We will hike in the forest with local naturalists, see the huge buttressed Kapok tree, plant tree seedlings to help with reforestation project, learn about local efforts to plant the forest back with native species. Amazoonica is a refuge for wildlife that has been recaptured from poachers and is waiting to be returned to the wild. You will see several species of monkeys, parrots, toucans, snakes, tapir, ocelot offering great photo ops more easily than in the wild, though you may see many of these species in the wild also. Morpho butterflies, bats and screaming pihas will welcome you.

We visit an indigenous Quichua village as their guests where we are served wonderful jungle meals, get to practice using a blowgun, learn how to make fish traps, visit their gardens and learn numerous uses for plants, meet Don Gabriel and hear how shaman practice their craft, hear stories translated from Quichua thru Spanish to English and participate in a cultural exchange where we might sing some songs or dance for them too. We will visit the village school where we can donate the school supplies we have brought to share. We will have the chance to purchase handmade crafts including seed necklaces, pottery, carvings and small baskets.

A possible eight day extension is to visit the Galapagos Islands 600 miles east of South America, belonging to the country of Ecuador. These volcanic islands rose from the bottom of the sea over millennia creating a laboratory for the study of evolution. On each island there are finches, iguanas and tortoises, but each different and distinct from the others as the original species adapted to the specific requirements of that island home. The animals here are unafraid of humans and you will have an unparalleled opportunity to be really close to sea lions, marine iguanas, frigate birds, Sally Lightfoot crabs, blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, masked boobies, albatross, Galapagos penguins and hawks. This part of the trip is by yacht sailing each night to a different island where you can explore during the day with local Ecuadorian guide. Snorkeling in the islands you may swim with sea lions that will come within inches of you underwater. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center tells the story of the struggle to conserve this special place and gives you the opportunity to see giant Galapagos tortoises close up in a reserve.