Galapagos Summer Program
Ecuador’s most famous destination, and perhaps the most iconic archipelago on the planet. Forever associated with Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos has managed to retain it’s enchanting appeal through several decades of explosive growth in tourism. It’s sensitive eco-system is closely managed by the National Park System with strong support from international groups of researchers and conservationists.
In this 8-Day Sustainable Summer ‘extension’ program…
- You’ll take in some of the ultra classic Galapagos experiences, like Bartoleme and Pinnacle Rock, while also seeing some more under the radar spots
- You’ll consider challenges to sustainable management of the Galapagos, like the competing interests of the tourist trade and conservation initiatives
- You’ll learn about the remarkable flora and fauna from naturalists, and the efforts of conservationists to protect native species and eradicate invasive ones
The Galapagos is legendary for its exotic wildlife and critical role in the history of biology. Visit four different islands on a guided exploration of this remarkable archipelago, enjoying many of the classic Galapagos experiences along the way. Our travels will also illustrate the steps Ecuador has taken to conserve this fragile and vital ecosystem, and will allow students to consider the sustainability of ecotourism.
This program is designed as a 1-week extension of EITHER our 3-week Seeds of Change program OR our 2-week Sustaining the Amazon program. Enrollment preference is given to participants in those programs rather than to stand-alone participants.
Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.
Day 1: Flight from Quito to San Cristobal. Transfer to hotel. Tour and snorkeling at La Loberia.
Day 2: Visit San Cristobal interpretation center in the morning, then boat transfer to Santa Cruz. Check-in to hotel in Puerto Ayora, then afternoon snorkeling in Tortuga Bay.
Day 3: Morning visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center then hiking in the Santa Cruz highlands.
Day 4: Volunteer day with a conservation organization working to eradicate invasive species on the islands.
Day 5: Sea kayaking in the mangroves of Divine Bay.
Day 6: Cruise to Bartolome Island and Pinnacle Rock.
Day 7: Flight to Quito and overnight in our guesthouse outside the city.
Day 8: Morning flight back to the United States.
(Please note, the Galapagos travel industry is heavily regulated and this itinerary has been customized and reserved for Sustainable Summer through a Galapagos-based tour provider that specializes in student travel. However, this itinerary is subject to change based on weather conditions outside the control of Sustainable Summer)
Similar to almost all student travel programs in the Galapagos, we do not use cruise-based accommodations. There are some budget cruise options available, but you get what you pay for. Budget cruises do not have a very good reputation for providing a high-level of value and a land-based tour of the Galapagos is a terrific option for travelers that don’t have $5 – $6000 to spend on a Galapagos cruise.
We will base out of pleasant, family-run hotels on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz and utlize boats for day trips and excursions.
The Galapagos has a well-developed tourism industry and a variety of food will be available during the program, from ‘comida tipica’ to western fare. Vegans and vegetarians shouldn’t have any problems.
We will eat most meals ‘family-style’ at our accommodations, although at certain times students will be given the option to choose from several different local restaurants for dinner.
Our Galapagos program is an ‘extension’ program. Unlike other Sustainable Summer programs, our Galapagos program is really much more of a tour than an educational experience and we don’t layer a structured academic curriculum over the experience.
Yes, there are dozens of other summer programs that bring high school students to the Galapagos and call it an “educational” experience. We’re quite certain that the Sustainable Summer Galapagos extension program will be every bit as educational as any other well-designed travel program to the Galapagos. However, as a travel destination, it simply does not posses the same opportunities for intellectual inquiry as mainland Ecuador. (This statement does NOT, of course, include all of the people doing serious long-term conservation and research work in the Galapagos.)
We think the Galapagos is a fascinating destination and worth a visit – as a tourist. Unfortunately, it’s not really possible to visit on any other terms as a traveler. Please see the curriculum tabs on our other programs for academic structure of our full-length programs.
These FAQs are specific to our Galapagos Extension program, including FAQs about student health and safety, travel, trip leaders, and other important information that prospective students and parents should consider before applying to Sustainable Summer.
For general FAQs about tuition, scholarships, how to apply or enroll, payment, what to pack, how to prepare, etc., please check our Prospective Student FAQs for more information. Enrolled participants should login to their MySummer account for all pre-program information.
This program is designed as an extension option for students in our Ecuador: Seeds of Change program or our Ecuador: Sustaining the Amazon program. The Galapagos is a huge tourist draw, and has been for years. It’s an interesting place, but people that go to Ecuador and only visit the Galapagos are seriously missing out. We couldn’t in good conscience be party to that kind of behavior. Since this is being offered only as an “extension” program, we are opening up the possibility for students that want to visit Ecuador AND the Galapagos during a single trip, an easy opportunity to do so, without requiring the Galapagos as a part of a mainland Ecuador itinerary.
We think this is a logical approach for two reasons:
1. The Galapagos is expensive. Just stepping foot in the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador is going to cost you over $600 between airfare and entrance fees (included in the tuition cost for this program). And due to the tight regulation of the tourism industry in the islands (obviously important for conservation purposes) and the demand among travelers to visit the Galapagos, prices are higher, MUCH higher, than in mainland Ecuador. So, “requiring” that students visit the Galapagos on an Ecuador program – which most summer travel programs do – drives the cost of the tuition up significantly, which closes out the possibility of participation in a program for many families, and we’re just not really okay with that.
2. Despite what people who have visited the Galapagos will tell you and despite what everyone selling Galapagos tours will say, the Galapagos is NOT a “trip of a lifetime.” At least not by our definition of a meaningful travel experience. It’s a tour to an interesting destination. We think travel can be transformational and educational in truly powerful ways, but rarely, if ever, when part of a packaged tour experience.
We think the Galapagos itinerary we’ve put together is fantastic and a phenomenal value compared to other opportunities available to high school students. We also want to be honest about our view of the Galapagos as a travel destination in relation to the educational objectives of our program. Visiting the Galapagos is not “core” to what we do as environmental educators. This is why it is an extension program.
With that said, if you want to get up close and personal with some incredible wildlife, the Galapagos is one of the most amazing places on the planet to do so. We understand that there are thousands of high school students that would love to squeeze an 8-day tour of the Galapagos into their busy summer plans, but don’t have the time for a longer trip to Ecuador. If you fall into this category, please contact us for more information about how you can visit the Galapagos with Sustainable Summer.
This program will consist of students from both our Ecuador: Seeds of Change program and our Ecuador: Sustaining the Amazon program. The total program enrollment is capped at 14 students plus 2 Sustainable Summer trip leaders. We will try to balance enrollment across the two programs and, in the interest of creating a positive group dynamic, will cap the number of enrolled extension students from any one program at 7 until March 31st. We will release 2 additional seats for enrollment at that time.
Sustainable Summer will organize a group flight from the United States, which all participants are strongly encouraged to take. This flight will be chaperoned by a trip leader. Our flight from Quito to the Galapagos will be purchased by Sustainable Summer (and is included in the tuition cost of this program). Please see the itinerary tab for more details on where and when we fly. We will take a chartered boat to travel between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. We also have a private charter for our day trip to Bartoleme island.
No Spanish is required to participate in the program; however, students with a basic command of the language will find numerous opportunities to practice their Spanish with native speakers. Students who have not previously studied Spanish will get a crash course in ‘survival’ Spanish during our orientation. Because all course instruction is in English, students who do not speak Spanish should be able to participate fully in the program, and reap the full benefits of Sustainable Summer in Ecuador.
This program is signifiantly less “academic” than other Sustainable Summer programs, but one of the main reasons to visit the Galapagos – for any traveler – is to learn about the native flora and fauna from a naturalist. We have a fantastic guide who will be with us every day sharing his knowledge about this remarkable ecosystem. There’s also plenty of opportunity for rest, relaxation, and fun. We’ll be snorkeling and hiking and sea kayaking and swimming and all sorts of other fun stuff.
This program is not explicitly intended to be a “community service” trip. All of our programs feature partnerships with local organizations with a strong commitment to improving and sustaining the local community. We will have one community service day while visiting the Galapagos, helping with conservation projects on Santa Cruz. Sustainable Summer will provide documentation of the program fundamentals and community service hours.
Communication via cell phone or Internet is often not possible for several days at a time during programs. When we are out of cell phone range, we always have an immediate means of reaching emergency assistance should it be needed, for instance, via short wave radio. However, students should be prepared for the reality that they may not be able to place or receive calls or check email/social media for long stretches during the program, up to one week at a time. Internet access is available at several points during the program, so students can plan to check in with family and friends intermittently throughout the trip. In case of emergency, family members will be able to reach our 24 hour hotline to communicate important information to their students in as timely a manner as is practical.
Of course. This is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
We expect that every trip will run smoothly and without incident, but we plan for the worst. Sustainable Summer has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in the Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments. As a result of this training Sustainable Summer has developed a risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all international expeditions, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority. All Sustainable Summer programs feature experienced staff using established risk management best practices to guide every decision. All trip leaders have CPR and Wilderness First Aid training, and at least one leader possesses advanced medical training.
All participants are required to be enrolled in a comprehensive medical and travel insurance as part of their program tuition. (You will be given the option of having Sustainable Summer purchase a plan from our preferred provider on your behalf when you enroll in the program.) We use private transportation when traveling between locations. We work exclusively with experienced local operators who have been vetted by our team. We conduct training with all trip leaders and establish clear protocols to mitigate risk and effectively mobilize resources in the event of an emergency. Please see our Safety page for a more comprehensive overview of our approach to student health and well-being. If you have specific questions about your situation, please contact us to discuss. Answers to some common questions about health and safety are below:
All trip leaders have current first aid and CPR certifications, and can treat basic medical situations on-site. Sustainable Summer has clearly defined protocols in the event of a health/medical emergency. We are happy to share examples of successful field medical treatment – give us a call if you’re concerned. A critical component of our risk management plan is to require that all participants enroll in a travel health insurance plan while traveling on the program. Policies that cover emergency health and medical evacuation while traveling abroad are inexpensive and Sustainable Summer can purchase a plan on your behalf when you enroll in the program. In the immediate areas we will be visiting, medical clinics are available for a broad range of health issues, but participants with more serious needs will be transported to Quito for more comprehensive treatment. Hospitals in Quito adhere to similar standards and practices as medical facilities in the United States.
Sustainable Summer is eager to accommodate medical or dietary needs, as circumstances permit. We are not able to provide alternate meals since most of our food is served ‘family-style’ from locally harvested sources. We will typically eat whatever is fresh that day, so students with dietary restrictions should plan to speak to our program directors before enrolling to ensure we can accommodate their needs. Programs also require a certain level of physical capability, so students with any concerns about their fitness should contact our office to confirm this is an appropriate program for them.
Malaria is not present in the Galapagos and, unlike other low elevations of Ecuador, the CDC does not have a travel advisory in effect for malaria.
The weather in Ecuador is dictated more by elevation than by season, although there are seasonal variations in each of the country’s four regions: the coast, the highlands, the Amazon and the Galapagos. July is considered the ‘cool-dry’ season in the Galapagos. The average air temp is in the low 70s and there is very little rain. The weather is often overcast and sometimes misty. Water temperatures can be in the mid to low 60s.
This program will be staffed by two Sustainable Summer trip leaders – one from our Ecuador: Seeds of Change program and one from our Ecuador: Sustaining the Amazon program. All Sustainable Summer trip leaders are professional educators. The average age of our 2013 trip leader team was 28. Trip leaders have not yet been assigned to this program for 2014, but you can see some example trip leader bios below. We will have a Class-III, highly trained naturalist guide with us for the duration of the program, too. The student:staff ratio will never be lower than 5:1.
Jeff Sharpe is the director and co-founder of Sustainable Summer. Jeff also serves as the head Trip Leader on our programs. Jeff brings extensive experience operating summer travel programs for high school students to Sustainable Summer. He is a former partner and director of Career Explorations, a summer internship program for high school students, and Vertex Academic Services, an educational consulting company. Jeff subsequently served as Executive Director for Discovery Internships before leaving to found Sustainable Summer. Jeff began his professional career as a program director with Kaplan, Inc. and has been working with young people for over a decade as a tutor, mentor, and coach, including several years as a youth wilderness guide and facilitator. Jeff has a BA from Bucknell University and an MA from Dartmouth College, where his thesis research focused on globalization’s impact on water resource management in developing countries using Ecuador as a case study. Jeff is a former Division I swimmer and an avid skier and whitewater kayaker. He enjoys adventure travel, playing guitar, following the latest news in politics, and environmental conservation advocacy. Jeff is also the President of Sustainable Learning, Sustainable Summer’s corporate parent.
Karen is an environmental educator with diverse experience teaching cultural and natural history, as well as sustainability to young people. She has designed and facilitated food and garden-based educational programs, taught river ecology in the Bronx, interpreted art history at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and tutored students at an NYC public school. In 2010, Karen co-founded Encouraging Arts, and travelled around South America teaching a workshop on empowerment through art, living for much of that time in Ecuador where she taught at an elementary school in a Kichwa community outside of Tena. Karen received her BA from University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is currently pursuing her MS in Environmental Education from Antioch University. Her graduate work is focused on educating for sustainability with a focus on community building and environmental justice. She enjoys gardening, yoga, hiking, snowboarding, painting, and playing music.
Tim Walsh is a life coach with twenty years of program development and leadership experience in the fields of addiction recovery, outdoor leadership and youth development.
As an accomplished outdoor educator, Tim has held leadership positions with schools, camps and youth groups, creating protocols and trainings for outdoor leadership and adventure-based education. He develops and leads outdoor expeditions and service trips throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.
Trevor has extensive experience traveling in Latin America and guiding young people in wilderness environments. He graduated from college with an environmental science degree and currently lives in Asheville, NC where he is involved with various sustainability projects in the mountains of Western North Caroline. In addition to Sustainable Summer, Trevor works as a wilderness therapy instructor leading kids 12-18 on backpacking trips through parts of the Southern Appalachians. He has completed a Natural Building apprenticeship, worked with cob on a mass heater, helped design and build a biogas digester, and formally studied Permaculture principles. Trevor grew up in New Canaan, CT. While in high school he travelled to Mexico and Costa Rica to participate in service learning trips where he worked with local communities and stayed with a local family for a portion of the trip. In college he volunteered as a tutor, worked as a Biology Lab teaching assistant, and volunteered with a homeless outreach group. Soon after college he coached novice youth and adults in rowing at his former rowing club. The following summer he went on a 2.5-month sea kayaking/backpacking expedition in the wilds of Chilean Patagonia and has since committed himself professionally to a career as an experiential educator. Being in wilderness environments and traveling internationally has been integral in the development of Trevor’s understanding of the world and he enjoys facilitating similar experiences for others.