South America Explorer
With the awe-inspiring spectacle of Machu Picchu; the sensation of waking up to the sounds and sights of the Amazon rainforest; or intimate encounters with incredible animals, you are sure to encounter something to astound you at every turn of this journey. Volunteering projects in wildlife conservation mean you can leave your mark and give something back as you travel this vibrant, surprising corner of South America.
- Stunning 5 day Andean trek to Machu Picchu, one of the seven modern wonders of the world;
- Surf the pacific waves and visit the Inca ruins of Pachacamac;
- Navigate your way through the rapids with some white water rafting near Baños, Ecuador's adventure sports capital;
- Get up close and personal with a vast range of animals whilst volunteering at an Amazon Wildlife Rescue Sanctuary;
- Trek the Quilotoa Loop, arguably one of the best multi-day trekking routes in South America and one of Ecuador's most popular treks!
Week 1: Cusco
Begin your journey in Cusco, historic capital of the Inca Empire and cultural heart of Peru. Spanish lessons, homestays with friendly local families, city exploration and a Sacred Valley tour with your fellow travellers are the perfect way to acclimatise - both to the altitude and the laid-back South American way of life.
Week 2: Trek to Machu Picchu
Step up the adventure level with an epic trek across the Andes to Machu Picchu. Follow in the footsteps of Inca roadbuilders on the remote Salkantay route over icy mountain passes and through mysterious cloud forests to the remains of a fallen civilisation. This is the way to the Lost City of the Inca for those who prefer the path less travelled.
Week 3: Peruvian Beach Days & Quilotoa Loop
It's time to sling on your backpack again as you fly to Lima and then travel onto Punta Negra, a small town just a short distance south of the city, for a few chilled days on the beach. Enjoy a surf lesson in the Pacific waves and visit the Inca ruins of Pachacamac. After this brief stop, you'll head north, flying to Quito and your first taste of Ecuador! A country of diverse landscapes and a reputation for friendly, welcoming people, your time in Ecuador will begin with an incredible 3-day trek of the Quilotoa Loop. The Quilotoa Loop offers breathtaking landscapes, indigenous culture, and the stunning Quilotoa Crater Lake, providing a unique and immersive trekking experience in the Ecuadorian Andes.
Week 4: Jungle Adventures
Your adventures in Ecuador kick up a gear in week four as you explore the adventure tourism hotspot of Baños in the jungle-clad eastern province of Amazonas. This mountain town has restaurants and bars, as well as white water rafting, hiking, canopy tours, canyoning, rope swings, hot springs, cycling and many other adventure activities! It’s the perfect place to refresh and revitalise yourself before heading to the Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Puyo.
Weeks 5 & 6: Animal Rescue Sanctuary Volunteering & Indigenous Culture in Tamandua
Weeks 5 and 6 will be split between your volunteering placement and your indigenous culture immersion in Tamandua. Set to be a real highlight of your trip, get face-to-face and hand-to-paw with rainforest inhabitants at the animal rescue sanctuary. Macaws; boas; monkeys; ocelots and even caiman crocodiles are just some of the creatures the centre works to protect and rehabilitate after abuse by the black-market trade in wild animals as pets.
Alongside your truly rewarding volunteering experience, you will also venture further into the jungle and stay with an indigenous community. Learn the secrets of life in the rainforest – hike to a local waterfall and spot medicinal plants; craft beautiful bracelets and make delicious chocolate; try to keep up with the locals' dance routines; teach children at the local school and dare to go on night-time walks into jaguar territory!
Week 7: Mindo, Otavalo & Quito
To bring your adventures in Ecuador to a fitting conclusion, your final week will include ziplining in the Mindo cloud forest and soaking up the sun with some river tubing! Once dried off, you’ll head to Otavalo to browse the vibrant, bustling markets and enjoy a pleasant hike around the shores of Lake Cuicocha, in our view one of the most underrated crater lakes in all of Ecuador! As a final treat, you’ll return to Quito for the final few days of your adventure where a guided tour gives you the chance to explore this wonderful, historic city. Finally, a visit to the Mitad del Mundo, zero degrees of latitude and the centre of the world is a fitting finale to a once in a lifetime South American Adventure!
*Please download the program brochure for full details!
For available start dates check out the 'Dates & Availability' section below - you may need to scroll right to view the prices and book on! You can secure your place on your chosen adventure with a deposit of either £300 or 10% of the trip price, whichever is higher. The remainder is paid leading up to the trip departing.
- Pre-departure support
- Airport pick-up & return transfer
- Gapforce Expedition Leader
- Local project staff
- All accommodation for the duration of the trip
- Program transfers
- Flights from Cusco - Lima & Lima - Quito
- Breakfast & Dinner each day
- Some lunches
- Trips & activities as listed in brochure
- All internal transport
- 24/7 emergency back-up
- Financial failure protection
What is not included:
- Flights to/from destination
- Travel Insurance
- Visa & Vaccinations
- Some lunches
- Spending Money
- Tipping & Gratuities
How much spending money do I need?
You will need money for extra meals, drinks & snacks, as well as for any activities not on the itinerary. We advise you to budget for £70 / €80 / $100 per week (this is a guideline only).
What is the food like?
You will be provided with breakfast and dinner daily as well as lunches during the trek and project work. Typical South American food includes lots of rice, meat, beans, vegetables and fruit, regional dishes vary and local specialties will always be made available! Vegan and vegetarian diets can be catered for, please check with us regarding further dietary requirements and/or allergies.
What type of transport will I be using?
You are responsible to getting yourself to and from the start point of the expedition. During the expedition, program transfers are included. Travel is a combination of day and overnight journeys using a range of transport including public and private buses, trains, internal flights, boats and taxis. As is common on local road transport, seatbelts might not be available on all journeys. Please give us a call for more information on individual journey details.
Where will I be staying?
You will stay in a variety of diverse accommodations throughout your trip including: local hotels and hostels, camping, volunteer guesthouses, cabins in the Amazon and homestays. Most accommodations will be dorm style with shared bathrooms.
Who takes part in this program?
This program is for anyone looking to explore two of South America’s most ecologically and culturally diverse countries. There is no prior experience required although the minimum age is 18 and you must also have your doctor sign our medical form confirming you are medically fit to participate. A reasonable level of fitness is required to participate, and if you plan to take part in any open-water based activities without a life-jacket eg beach swimming or surfing, you must be able to swim 200m.
Who will be supervising me?
Throughout your expedition you will be accompanied by a Gapforce Expedition Leader. At various stages of your expedition we utilize the services of local support staff including project coordinators, drivers and guides.
INCREDIBLE AND LIFE CHANGING
What and amazing experience met some incredible people and had some amazing experiences. Obviously some stuff sometimes went wrong but its South America what are people expecting? Cant wait to go back!!!Tom
South America Explore
Have always wanted to travel but felt like going with a group/company would be best for the first time. I chose this trip as it had a mixture of expirences, for me one of the highlights of the whole trip was the Sachu Yacu wild animal rescue centre. Volunteering with animals is something I have wanted to do for a very long time and will base many future travels around. The place is so relaxing and peaceful, being in the Amazon rainforest Is truly an amazing experience. Working so closely with wild animals is experience you will never forget, going inside a cage with an ocelot is both terrifying and incredible at the same time! The people who run the place are so lovely and quickly become good friends along with all the other volunteers! Saying good bye when leaving was sad because everyone becomes so close, it really makes the expirence x10 more wonderful!Banos is a town in Ecuador which I loved, bungee jumping off a bride is something I never thought I would do but it was absolutely amazing! Being on this trip has increased my confidence hugely, my self-confidence in travelling alone has become something I am no longer afraid off.The trek to Machu pichu was difficult for me, I struggled quite a lot going uphill, but my leader was so understanding of my injury I came on the trip with and would contiously check up on me to make sure I was not in pain, he was so supportive. Completing the trek was a massive achievement for me, and the views from Machu Pichu itself made it so worth while.My leader was brilliant! His sense of humour was always apparent, even on days with 5am starts! so happy I did not have a different expedition leader as he has taught me so much about travelling, I really couldn't of had anyone better!The whole trip was better than I hoped and was defiantly the perfect first time travel!Cara
So little space but come on this trip!I made friends for life on this trip and got to see and experience things that you wouldn't normally by travelling solo. One of my favourite (or many) memories was swimming in the natural hot springs after our 2nd day of the trail to Machu Picchu followed by a bonfire and smores at the hostel!It might not change your life but it will change your heart.Andrew, Douglas
I had the most amazing time on my trip to South America in October! At first I was worried as there were only 3 other people in the group however as soon as we met the worries disappeared. Our guide Alfie was very enthusiastic and ensured we had an itinerary filled with fun activities and experiences. There was enough flexibility in the program that we were able to decide where to eat and what we wanted to see. The Spanish lessons in Cusco along with the home-stay for the first week were a great way to start the trip. My favourite part of the trip was the hike to Machu Picchu. We were in an awesome group of people and saw breathtaking views. The Galápagos Islands were absolutely incredible and the activities were great especially the day trip on a boat out to snorkel! The best thing about this tour is the variety it entails. It involves adventure activities, volunteering and cultural experiences which combined to make an unforgettable trip. Would highly recommend this program!Gillian, 19, gap year student from Australia
Amazing 8 weeks!
Just spent the last 8 weeks on the Gapforce South America expedition. Before arriving, I wasn’t so sure what to expect as the details on the website were quite vague.Upon arrival, I was picked up at the Cusco airport by one of our leaders and brought back to our hostel. Once all 14 of us in the group had arrived, we went for a stroll around Cusco and clicked instantly. We spent the next 8 weeks learning Spanish, trekking, salsaing, beaching, exploring cities, working with animals, chilling by the Amazon, volunteering at a daycare and finally living it up in the Galápagos.Going on this trip was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and although I was a little nervous beforehand, [...] I would recommend it to anyone. I would also suggest that if you’re going to do the expedition, definitely do the 7 week program and the Galápagos extension. I had originally only planned to do 7 weeks but going to the Galápagos Islands was an incredible experience and was totally worth the extra money.The people I’ve met on this trip are some of the coolest and most fun people I know. We’ve all become close friends and I will miss you all so much.Minaëlle
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- Duration: 7 weeks
- Departures: February, June, September