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Ecuador & the Galápagos

Service, Kichwa Culture, & Island Biodiversity

June 30 — July 17
July 16 — August 2
$6,890 + airfare

Ecuador & the Galápagos

Service, Kichwa Culture, & Island Biodiversity

June 30 — July 17
July 16 — August 2
$6,890 + airfare

Travel to Ecuador’s Andean highlands and Galápagos Islands on this summer service program specifically designed for middle school students. Live for nine days in a welcoming Kichwa community and engage in meaningful service projects—lend a hand with light construction work, participate in water access initiatives, teach schoolchildren, or help with the local harvest. Then, in the company of your group and leaders, explore the otherworldly landscapes and wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, home to giant tortoises, lava tunnels, equatorial penguins, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies.

• Work alongside locals on a project that benefits the community
• Hike to a coffee cooperative and natural hot springs
• Celebrate the Inti-Raymi festival with new friends
• Snorkel with sea lions in a sheltered Galápagos bay
“We hoped for Holden to learn to be a traveler and appreciate another community’s culture. The program exceeded our expectations.”
—Jenny & Brent G., Atlanta, GA

Itinerary

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

Departure — Travel Day

Meet your fellow middle school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Miami and fly together to Quito, Ecuador. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Quito — 2 days

Spend the first days of this summer program exploring Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Get to know your leaders and fellow students, take a walking tour of the colonial Old City, ride the teleférico up the Pichincha Volcano, taste rich Ecuadorian coffee in an outdoor café, and participate in an in-depth orientation to prepare for your host community stay.

Host Community — 9 days

Travel by bus to our host community, a small municipality of about 500–1,000 people, in the central Andean highlands north of Quito. Experience local culture and everyday life as you work with a Kichwa indigenous community to complete volunteer projects. Practice your Spanish as you lend a hand with water-access projects, help with renovation work at a community center, harvest crops, teach English classes, or organize a summer camp for local children. Enjoy home-cooked meals and take part in an Inti-Raymi celebration. In the afternoons and evenings, play pick-up soccer with Ecuadorian friends, practice your Spanish, or hike into the hills surrounding your host community. Take a day trip to Otavalo and explore its renowned outdoor market featuring handcrafted textiles, handwoven alpaca blankets, art, jewelry, and more. Hike around the rim of Laguna de Cuicocha, a crater lake with spiritual significance to the Kichwa people.

Intag Valley — 1 day

Take an overnight excursion to visit a cloud forest preserve and learn about the region’s biodiversity. Hike to a mirador to spot some of Ecuador’s 1,500 bird species, soak in geothermal hot springs, and visit a coffee farm to learn about coffee production from bean to cup.

Quito — 1 day

After bidding goodbye to your host community, return to Quito before a morning flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands — 1 day

Fly from Quito to Baltra Island and travel by boat to the island of Santa Cruz to meet one of the Galápagos’ most famous residents, a 100-year-old tortoise named Diego, who has helped repopulate an entire species of giant tortoises. Visit Diego along with other tortoises and rarely seen land iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn what scientists are doing to reintroduce them into the wild. Go for a hike in the highlands and check out the cavernous lava tubes. Head to Tortuga Bay, a stunning beach with fine white sand, to see marine iguanas.

San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands — 4 days

Next, board a boat bound for San Cristóbal. Visit the Interpretation Center on San Cristóbal for an introduction to the biology, geology, and history of human impact on the islands. Then, jump on bikes for an exhilarating downhill ride through the highlands to the coast. Take a boat trip to Isla Lobos to snorkel and spot manta rays, sea turtles, harmless Galápagos sharks, and an impressive array of colorful tropical fish.

Return — Travel Day

Fly with the group from the Galápagos to Quito. Fly overnight from Quito to Miami with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Itinerary

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

Departure — Travel Day

Meet your fellow middle school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Miami and fly together to Quito, Ecuador. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Quito — 2 days

Spend the first days of this summer program exploring Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Get to know your leaders and fellow students, take a walking tour of the colonial Old City, ride the teleférico up the Pichincha Volcano, taste rich Ecuadorian coffee in an outdoor café, and participate in an in-depth orientation to prepare for your host community stay.

Host Community — 9 days

Travel by bus to our host community, a small municipality of about 500–1,000 people, in the central Andean highlands north of Quito. Experience local culture and everyday life as you work with a Kichwa indigenous community to complete volunteer projects. Practice your Spanish as you lend a hand with water-access projects, help with renovation work at a community center, harvest crops, teach English classes, or organize a summer camp for local children. Enjoy home-cooked meals and take part in an Inti-Raymi celebration. In the afternoons and evenings, play pick-up soccer with Ecuadorian friends, practice your Spanish, or hike into the hills surrounding your host community. Take a day trip to Otavalo and explore its renowned outdoor market featuring handcrafted textiles, handwoven alpaca blankets, art, jewelry, and more. Hike around the rim of Laguna de Cuicocha, a crater lake with spiritual significance to the Kichwa people.

Intag Valley — 1 day

Take an overnight excursion to visit a cloud forest preserve and learn about the region’s biodiversity. Hike to a mirador to spot some of Ecuador’s 1,500 bird species, soak in geothermal hot springs, and visit a coffee farm to learn about coffee production from bean to cup.

Quito — 1 day

After bidding goodbye to your host community, return to Quito before a morning flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands — 1 day

Fly from Quito to Baltra Island and travel by boat to the island of Santa Cruz to meet one of the Galápagos’ most famous residents, a 100-year-old tortoise named Diego, who has helped repopulate an entire species of giant tortoises. Visit Diego along with other tortoises and rarely seen land iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn what scientists are doing to reintroduce them into the wild. Go for a hike in the highlands and check out the cavernous lava tubes. Head to Tortuga Bay, a stunning beach with fine white sand, to see marine iguanas.

San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands — 4 days

Next, board a boat bound for San Cristóbal. Visit the Interpretation Center on San Cristóbal for an introduction to the biology, geology, and history of human impact on the islands. Then, jump on bikes for an exhilarating downhill ride through the highlands to the coast. Take a boat trip to Isla Lobos to snorkel and spot manta rays, sea turtles, harmless Galápagos sharks, and an impressive array of colorful tropical fish.

Return — Travel Day

Fly with the group from the Galápagos to Quito. Fly overnight from Quito to Miami with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Featured

Leaders

Meet some of our featured leaders. Please note that these may not be your leaders for the program. 

2023_msseca_scrh_val-valdes_3
Valerie Valdes
View Bio
2023_msseca_mark-gonzalez
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Featured

Leaders

Meet some of our featured leaders. Please note that these may not be your leaders for the program. 

2023_msseca_scrh_val-valdes_3
Valerie Valdes
View Bio
2023_msseca_mark-gonzalez
Loading...
About the Destination

Ecuador is widely considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The Galápagos archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts unparalleled diversity in endemic species and is one of the world’s most unique biological environments. On the mainland, snow covered peaks of the Andean highlands descend into lush Amazon rainforests. Ecuadorian culture is as diverse as the country’s landscapes, from ranching communities in the Andean páramo to agropasotoralists in the cloud forest, urban businesses to fishing villages on the coast. Kichwa is the largest indigenous population in the country, and in much of South America. With regional variations, Kichwa language and traditions are an integral part of Ecuadorian communities across the country.

Language

Spanish is Ecuador’s official language and ten Indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country. Kichwa is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Ecuador.

Climate

Summer temperatures in Ecuador are moderate, reaching 60–70°F/16-21°C when the sun is out, and cooling off substantially at night. Although the Galápagos Islands are located on the Equator, the cool Humboldt Current makes the ocean water quite chilly year round.

Cuisine

Ecuador is known for its variety of exotic fruits and fresh juices, seemingly endless culinary permutations of the potato and other root vegetables, delicious seafood, hearty meals of rice and other grains, and flavorful soups. Seafood is a popular staple on the Galápagos Islands.

About the Destination

Ecuador is widely considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The Galápagos archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts unparalleled diversity in endemic species and is one of the world’s most unique biological environments. On the mainland, snow covered peaks of the Andean highlands descend into lush Amazon rainforests. Ecuadorian culture is as diverse as the country’s landscapes, from ranching communities in the Andean páramo to agropasotoralists in the cloud forest, urban businesses to fishing villages on the coast. Kichwa is the largest indigenous population in the country, and in much of South America. With regional variations, Kichwa language and traditions are an integral part of Ecuadorian communities across the country.

Language

Spanish is Ecuador’s official language and ten Indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country. Kichwa is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Ecuador.

Climate

Summer temperatures in Ecuador are moderate, reaching 60–70°F/16-21°C when the sun is out, and cooling off substantially at night. Although the Galápagos Islands are located on the Equator, the cool Humboldt Current makes the ocean water quite chilly year round.

Cuisine

Ecuador is known for its variety of exotic fruits and fresh juices, seemingly endless culinary permutations of the potato and other root vegetables, delicious seafood, hearty meals of rice and other grains, and flavorful soups. Seafood is a popular staple on the Galápagos Islands.

What to Expect

Review specific program expectations here. For more general information:

Service

During your travel in Ecuador, you can expect to participate in several different service experiences—light construction projects such as mixing cement or laying blocks for a community building, environmental projects like water access initiatives or shadowing local farmers, and educational projects such as teaching English to local children and adults. The focus of this summer travel program in Ecuador is to learn about another culture by forming meaningful relationships with local people and undertaking a shared community service experience together. You should come to the summer with an open mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. All students participate in each of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. To learn more about our Service programs click here.

Independent Project

Choose an independent project and pursue an aspect of Ecuadorian culture of particular interest to you—learn to make empanadas with a local family, try milking a cow, learn a traditional dance, or organize an opportunity for you and your friends to lend a hand in reforestation efforts.

Language Practice

Proficiency in Spanish is not required; however, students who study Spanish in school will have opportunities to practice while communicating with local people. Students who do not speak the local language will have the opportunity to learn some basic language skills.

Physical Activity

This is a very active summer program. The volunteer work, as well as activities and excursions, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. You can expect to work on projects, play soccer, hike, horseback ride, swim, kayak, bike, and snorkel. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Altitude

This program visits high altitude destinations—Quito and the region around our project community are around 9,000–10,000 feet/2,743–3048 meters.

Accommodations

Living accommodations in Ecuador are very simple. The group lives in a community building, or albergue—we have simple beds and bathrooms, running water, flushing toilets, and a shower. During excursions and in the Galápagos, we stay in simple, clean ecolodges, bungalows, and family-run inns where students sleep in beds, have hot showers, and share a room with other students in the group. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals

In the host community, we eat delicious home-cooked meals prepared by local cooks. Each day several students from the group form cooking crews and help the cooks prepare meals. Students learn about shopping at the market and preparing food, Ecuadorian-style. During excursions and in the Galápagos, the group eats most meals in restaurants and occasionally hits the markets to shop for a picnic lunch.

What to Expect

Review specific program expectations here. For more general information:

Service

During your travel in Ecuador, you can expect to participate in several different service experiences—light construction projects such as mixing cement or laying blocks for a community building, environmental projects like water access initiatives or shadowing local farmers, and educational projects such as teaching English to local children and adults. The focus of this summer travel program in Ecuador is to learn about another culture by forming meaningful relationships with local people and undertaking a shared community service experience together. You should come to the summer with an open mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. All students participate in each of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. To learn more about our Service programs click here.

Independent Project

Choose an independent project and pursue an aspect of Ecuadorian culture of particular interest to you—learn to make empanadas with a local family, try milking a cow, learn a traditional dance, or organize an opportunity for you and your friends to lend a hand in reforestation efforts.

Language Practice

Proficiency in Spanish is not required; however, students who study Spanish in school will have opportunities to practice while communicating with local people. Students who do not speak the local language will have the opportunity to learn some basic language skills.

Physical Activity

This is a very active summer program. The volunteer work, as well as activities and excursions, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. You can expect to work on projects, play soccer, hike, horseback ride, swim, kayak, bike, and snorkel. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Altitude

This program visits high altitude destinations—Quito and the region around our project community are around 9,000–10,000 feet/2,743–3048 meters.

Accommodations

Living accommodations in Ecuador are very simple. The group lives in a community building, or albergue—we have simple beds and bathrooms, running water, flushing toilets, and a shower. During excursions and in the Galápagos, we stay in simple, clean ecolodges, bungalows, and family-run inns where students sleep in beds, have hot showers, and share a room with other students in the group. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals

In the host community, we eat delicious home-cooked meals prepared by local cooks. Each day several students from the group form cooking crews and help the cooks prepare meals. Students learn about shopping at the market and preparing food, Ecuadorian-style. During excursions and in the Galápagos, the group eats most meals in restaurants and occasionally hits the markets to shop for a picnic lunch.

A Day in the Life: Host Community

Due to the traveling nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in our host community.
7:00am
Prepare breakfast with women from the community
8:00am
Complete restoration work on a community building
12:00pm
Eat a homemade lunch and relax
2:00pm
Teach an English class to local schoolchildren
4:00pm
Hike into the hills near the community to prepare for Cotopaxi
6:00pm
Reflect on your day with your group during dinner
8:00pm
Group meeting to discuss the progress of work projects

A Day in the Life:
Host Community

Due to the traveling nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in our host community.
7:00am
Prepare breakfast with women from the community
8:00am
Complete restoration work on a community building
12:00pm
Eat a homemade lunch and relax
2:00pm
Teach an English class to local schoolchildren
4:00pm
Hike into the hills near the community to prepare for Cotopaxi
6:00pm
Reflect on your day with your group during dinner
8:00pm
Group meeting to discuss the progress of work projects
“I loved every aspect of the trip, whether we were hiking in Ibarra or Intag, planting trees in different villages, or walking around San Cristobal. It was fun in every place.”
—Max S., Hommocks Middle School, Mamaroneck, NY
andrew-manzella

This Program is Directed by

Andrew Manzella

If you have questions or would like to talk further about this program, please get in touch!

andrew-manzella

This Program is Directed by

Andrew Manzella

If you have questions or would like to talk further about this program, please get in touch!

Enroll in two programs & save $1,000!

$800 tuition discount + no application fee

Ecuador & the Galápagos
Service, Kichwa Culture, & Island Biodiversity

2024 Dates
June 30 — July 17
July 16 — August 2

Duration
18 days

Tuition
$6,890 + airfare

Eligibility
Currently* in grades 7–8
*Your grade as of the day you apply

Typical Group
12–14 students, 2 leaders

Group Flight
Departs from Miami

Service Hours
30–50 

Additional Info

Questions? Visit our FAQ or call us at (802) 387-5000

 

2024 Dates
June 30 — July 17
July 16 — August 2

Duration
18 days

Tuition
$6,890 + airfare

Service Hours
30–50 

Eligibility
Currently* in grades 7–8
*Your grade as of the day you apply

Typical Group
12–14 students, 2 leaders

Group Flight
Departs from Miami

 

Questions? Visit our FAQ or call us at (802) 387-5000

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