Ecuador: The Galápagos Islands & The Andes

Sustainability and the Environment

Explore Ecuador’s natural wonders, from the Andes mountains to the Amazon basin and the Galápagos archipelago. See seals in their natural habitat, snorkel, hike a volcano, and take in the country’s vast biodiversity.



Community Service


Water Activity

Outdoor Activity


Program Description

Land in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, to begin your Experiment. There, you will explore the 16th-century gold-inlaid churches and colonial buildings of the Old Town. Your first excursion is to the equator, where you can stand on the spot where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet. Experience the diverse wildlife of the Mindo Nambillo cloud forest, then travel to the Andes (the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia) for a weeklong homestay in the small city of Riobamba, where you will share daily activities such as sports, movies, and walks through town with your host family.

Continue on to the Amazon Basin to see the stunning waterfalls of Baños and get up close and personal with monkeys and exotic birds. Then, you’ll travel by boat and sleep aboard as you make your way through the Galápagos Islands, the famous site of Charles Darwin’s research, where scientists and nature lovers flock to research and admire some of the most biodiverse islands in the world. You will have the incredible opportunity to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a biological research facility and active breeding center. There, you will learn about the conservation efforts that maintain and improve the ecology and biodiversity of these remarkable islands. Activities include island-hopping on a night cruise, snorkeling, swimming in lava grottoes, visiting turtle hatching sites, exploring mangrove forests and flamingo lagoons, and observing the courtship displays of rare tropical birds.

Throughout your Experiment, you’ll develop your Spanish language skills through interactive lessons with local teachers and conversations with locals and try your hand at preparing a typical Ecuadorian dish (such as ceviche or empanadas). You will participate in a community service project to support environmental efforts or the local community. Another adventure awaits as you hike from the first base camp to the second shelter of Chimborazo, an inactive volcano that rises 20,548 feet above sea level, and bike back down through a beautiful Andean landscape.

At the conclusion of this program, each participant will earn a community service certificate noting the number of hours of community service completed.





Program Availability:

Not Yet Enrolling


Spanish (at least one year)

Sample Itinerary

    Days 1–2

    Orientation in Quito

    • Learn about the history and culture of Ecuador
    • Get to know other members of your group during activities and discussions
    • Take interactive Spanish lessons and practice your Spanish language skills

    During the orientation period, you and your group will stay at a mission.

    Days 3–4

    Thematic Focus in Mindo Cloud Forest

    • Go rafting on the river
    • Learn the process of chocolate making
    • Visit a butterfly farm to learn about butterfly life cycle and observe different butterfly species
    • Observe flora and fauna within this ecosystem

    During this period, you and your group will stay in an environmental educational facility.

    Days 5-11

    Homestay in Riobamba

    • Become fully immersed in the daily life of an Ecuadorian family and community
    • Do activities with your host family
    • Participate in community service work
    • Take dancing and cooking lessons
    • Visit a local market
    • Visit the Chimborazo mountain, the closest point to the sun
    • Go biking and hiking

    During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Riobamba, Cotacachi, Salcedo.

    Days 12-13

    Thematic Focus in the Baños

    • Visit the waterfall
    • Explore volcanic hot springs

    During this period, you and your group will stay in a hostel.

    Days 14-16

    Thematic Focus in the Amazon Jungle

    • Travel to Tena Puerto Ahuano and stay at Gaia Eco Lodge
    • Take a motorized canoe into the rainforest along the Napo River
    • Explore the area around the Napo River, observe monkeys and exotic birds
    • Go artisan fishing or search for gold in the river
    • Meet with an indigenous family and learn about the Ecuadorian Amazon from them
    • Visit the animal rescue center “Amazoonico”

    During this excursion, you and your group will stay in a lodge.

    Days 17-20

    Thematic Focus in the Galápagos

    • Go hiking, snorkeling, and swimming
    • Go on nature walks and learn about the fragile ecology of the Galápagos
    • Visit the Darwin Station, which is part of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands

    During this excursion, you and your group will stay at a hotel and  on a boat.

    Days 21-22

    Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Quito

    • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program
    • Visit the Quito historical center
    • Explore a handicraft market

    During the reflection period, you and your group will stay at a mission.

    Day 22


    Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

Itinerary is subject to change.

Past Group Leaders

  • Amelia Williams

    Amelia Williams is originally from Olympia, Washington, where her love for the outdoors and sense of adventure was instilled at an early age on family backpacking trips to the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. She graduated from Willamette University in 2002, where she earned a BA in anthropology and a minor in Spanish and spent a semester studying in southern Chile. Since college, Amelia has had the privilege of working, living, and traveling in twelve countries on five continents. Some of her favorite experiences were while working in Costa Rica for the School for Field Studies, where some weeks you might find her working with students doing research on wild palm trees, and other weeks organizing for students’ homestay experiences. Amelia has an MA in teaching from SIT Graduate Institute and currently teaches third grade at a two-way immersion school in the greater Portland, Oregon, area. Her students are constantly teaching her how to look at the world in new ways. When not teaching, Amelia enjoys playing soccer, gardening, laughing, and cooking with family and friends.

  • Melissa Skidelsky

    Melissa Skidelsky was raised in New Rochelle, New York, and attended the State University of New York at New Paltz. She spent her junior year abroad in New Zealand and has been traveling ever since. After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and served as a rural health volunteer in Belize. Over the last few years, she has taught English at a bilingual school in the Galápagos, studied agriculture in Argentina, and worked at an English language academy in South Korea. In addition, she has traveled to Mexico, Uruguay, Israel, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. When she isn’t traveling, Melissa enjoys painting, hiking, bike riding, and experimenting with new recipes she has learned abroad.

Student Voices

  • The bus ride to Riobamba was tough for the group; none of us wanted to be separated from each other. We were all anxious and super nervous about having to stay with a family of strangers, after having gotten so comfortable with the members of the group.  We reluctantly dispersed into our families. If I had only known what I was in for, I would not have been so reluctant to join my new mom and brother. My family was awesome, plain and simple! My own mother died when I was one years old, and maternal love was something in a way I grew without. My host mom was so cariñosa, so loving, so caring, so motherly. In every way she was the mother I never had. She took me in with open arms and treated me as if I was her actual son. I will never forget when my group leader, Shelley (who was an awesome leader by the way) came over just to check on how everything was going with me and my new family. We sat down in the living room with the pristine couches only sat on when guests came over. My group leader asked a couple questions, and the next thing you knew my mom was pontificating for three hours on motherhood! She cried, she laughed — the speech brought it all. It was a jaw dropping speech that left me to conclude that my mom should write a book on what it’s like being Supermom.

    Daniel, Seton Hall Preparatory School
  • My experience this summer went above and beyond my expectations. I will always remember and cherish the bonds formed with my group members, the time I spent playing with my host sisters.… I value nothing more than these connections; connections that cross cultural barriers, linguistic challenges, connections that I hope will stay strong. I’ve learned how to approach a situation with an open mind, soaking up all that an experience has to offer. Without preconceived expectations, you can learn so much more.

    Katherine, Brattleboro Union High School
  • The environment and ecosystems there are so incredibly unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and it was all amplified tenfold by the amazing job The Experiment did.