South America Explorer
An 8 week South American adventure combining Spanish lessons, a trek to Machu Picchu, volunteer abroad in an animal sanctuary within the jungle and a visit to the Galapagos! From volcanoes to the Amazon rainforest; Andean villages to colonial beach towns and bustling Spanish-speaking cities; sprawling Incan ruins to the fragile ocean biodiversity; in the countries of Peru and Ecuador it is possible to experience completely different ecosystems and geography in just a few hours transport!
Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime, learning about the sustainability efforts of indigenous communities, giving back through volunteering and uncovering the best-kept secrets of Ecuador and Peru.
- Learn Spanish with formal lessons and local interaction
- Trek to Machu Picchu
- Help rescue animals in the jungle
- Learn about sustainability efforts of Indigenous populations
- Make a difference in the Ecuadorian community
- Make friends and memories that will last a lifetime!
Week 1: Learn Spanish and explore Cuzco – Get to know the old capital of the Inca Empire: sightsee and take in the views of the gateway to Machu Picchu! As well as being jam-packed with fun activities, you will learn Spanish so that you can interact with the community around you! Learn how to navigate through this continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city!
Week 2: Machu Picchu Trek - With every step forward, you will feel as if you are walking further and further back into time. This sprawling Inca city lives up to every expectation. Get off the beaten Inca trail, trekking more sustainably at 5-7 hours per day through Andean landscape, rivers and waterfalls with pristine views of snow-capped mountains and lush valleys.
Week 3: From the Mountains and to the Beach - Emerge from your week of adventure trekking to some well-deserved relaxation. Beach hop along the coastline of Peru, jump into crystal waters and learn how to surf the waves. Discover European Influenced cities like Cuenca and day-trek the national park of El Cajas.
Week 4: Baños and Wildlife- Baños is surrounded by natural beauty. Marvel at waterfalls, lush forests and white-water rafting. This week starts off with a bang full of adventure in the outdoors. The group then transfers for their stay in the rainforest, volunteering at a recovery effort for rescued animals. Volunteers interact with monkeys, macaws, ocelots and more!
***This is where 4 week participants journey ends***
Week 5: Dive deep into Wildlife Volunteer Efforts - Volunteers continue to learn about conservation efforts at the Jungle Animal Rescue Center. Every year, this center receives animals confiscated from illegal trafficking, or donated from theirowners. Volunteers assist with activities like medical care, building enrichments, socializations and so much more! The aim is for the animals to be released back in the jungle or be provided with a home that is similar as possible to their natural habitat.
Week 6: Indigenous Culture Program - During the third week in the rainforest, participants head deeper into the jungle to live and work amongst an indigenous community in an eco-lodge suspended amongst 125 hectares of protected rainforest. While indigenous peoples own, occupy or use only a small fraction of the world, they safeguard nearly all of the remaining biodiversity. During the time at the eco-lodge, participants will learn about the conservation initiatives taking place in the Amazon to combat deforestation. Days are spent completing various renovation projects amongst the tranquility of the jungle, and heading deep into the cultural practices of the indigenous community. The sustainable practices of those living in the Amazon allow volunteers to reflect on the past and forge preservation for the future.
Week 7: Jungle to Quito - Wrapping up the ingenious culture experience, participants head to the capital city of Ecuador, Quito. This city has the best-preserved, and least altered historic centre within Latin America. It is also directly located at the centre of the world, on the Ecuador! This week is all about getting to know an Ecuadorian community. Volunteer here at one of the many needed community outreach programs in renovation activities and direct community connection.
Galapagos Goers - The Galapagos Islands are an awe-inspiring place of biodiversity. Home to many species that can be found nowhere else on earth, participants can explore and appreciate one of the few places left where the human footprint is kept to a minimum. From Isabella Island to Santa Cruz, enjoy an extra 5 day addition packed with snorkeling, wildlife spotting, underground volcano hiking and learning about how truly impressive this location is at the Charles Darwin Research Station. This addition can be added at the end of your program regardless if you choose the 4 or 7 week adventure!
- Pre-departure briefing and support
- Airport pick-up
- Gapforce Leader
- Local guides and support staff
- Welcome and orientation briefing
- All accommodation
- Spanish lessons
- All tours on itinerary
- Project donation
- 3 meals per day
- Social activities
- 24/7 UK emergency back-up
Why I chose South America
"The programme is such a unique experience because you get to combine all the best experiences of Ecuador. You get great one on one Spanish lessons to help you to really immerse yourself into the South American Culture. You get to experience the amazing South American wildlife up close at the rescue centre. The programme enables you to live in the Amazon Rainforest. And the extras include going to the Galapagos which is one of the most amazing places on earth. And the history in Quito and Peru are amazing from Beautiful colonial cities to the Ruins at Machu Picchu."Francesca House – Hampshire, UK
Now that I am back in the UK with some time on my hands I just wanted to email you and say how great a leader I think Jamie Bryant was in South America. I feel it needs to be said that he was a truly fantastic leader; throughout the whole trip he was on top of everything, was always willing and able to answer all our questions and give solid advice, and was truly part of the group, in that we viewed him not only as our leader and guide but also our friend. Additionally, he dealt with the circumstances of Bella's appendicitis amazingly, getting her transport to the hospital and organising the operation, all the while keeping a level head and ensuring without doubt that what needed to be done was done. Had he not been there at that time I don't know what would've happened, and I don't think anyone could've handled it better. Aside from his excellent leadership abilities he is a really lovely person, and made the whole group happier just by being there, so he was our friend as well as our leader, which I think is a rare and important quality of a great expedition leader. I also want to give my compliments to Joe Craig, who was also brilliant and like Jamie became a true part of the group who we all liked and respected. He also showed great leadership abilities, particularly during the time of Bella's illness when he was the sole leader with the group for a period of time, keeping on top of things and making sure everyone was happy. All in all I want to express my gratitude and my huge respect for both the team leaders in South America, as for me we couldn't have had two better people as our leaders, they did a magnificent job. I also wanted to thank you for all the hard work you've done in organising the South America trip and also the Bahamas trip I went on earlier this year, and everything you've done to ensure that I went on those trips and had an absolutely wonderful time, which has made my gap year the best year of my life so far. Many thanks, and all the best for the future.Elliot Williams
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 Jan 2015
During the 8 weeks, we managed to fit a lot in and see a lot of Peruvian and Ecuadorian culture. Staying with host families in Cuzco and in the jungle allowed us to see how people live in these places which was really interesting. Visiting the Galapagos Islands at the end of the 8 weeks was my favourite part of the trip. I also really enjoyed seeing Machu Picchu, the equator line and Quilotoa, to name just a few things.The positives of Gap Force are: I made great friends and went with a group of fun, lovely people, everything was organised (Nick and Hanna were amazing!) so it was a great introduction to travelling (I'd now feel confident to do it all on my own), you have a huge amount of freedom if you want it, you get to visit/stay in places you wouldn't get to as easily on your own and the length of each 'stage' was the right length and the changes in town and type of activity kept the travelling interesting.Emma
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
Easily the best 2 months of my life.
I don't even know where to start here. If you're ever in a situation where you think your life is stagnating and you need to try something new, I would highly recommend this program as it gave me so much to do, see and experience.Our group was very lucky also to have 2 very good leaders in Joe & Frank. They definitely helped make it an awesome 2 months!Everything from Cusco to Quito was just absolutely amazing (even the 20 hour bus rides!), I really can't pick a favourite week even though I thought it would be the trek to Machu Picchu before I started.Cusco offered a great city life and definitely unique and it was a great place to meet the group and get to know them. The homestays and Spanish classes were also very interesting and I got a lot out of the first week.The second week was all about Machu Picchu which was just stunning and worth all the blisters I got from hiking about 10 hours a day! I really can't explain how amazing it was to finally get to Machu Picchu and take it all in.Next up was a journey up the west coast up to the beach town of Mancora, which was a really lovely town. There was nothing like chilling beside a pool, swimming with turtles, banana boating, swimming in the sea and having a few drinks at night with your mates after the tough trek the past week. Such an enjoyable week.The next 2 weeks were spent in a really cool animal sanctuary and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would! Some of the animals were just so unique and cool I wish we could spend more time with them! The family running the place were cool too as one of them took us out to a cool waterfall one day after work! Spending the weekend between the 2 weeks here at a town called Banos was really cool too as it was full of things to do!Into the jungle we went in the 6th week to stay and work with the Shuar Tribe, which was just such an unique experience you won't really find easily anywhere else!The last week in Quito was also really good, there were loads of places to eat/drink/relax after teaching the children at school some english. It was just the perfect place really to finish things off and I was very sad to leave the place and the wonderful people I'd met!Definitely worth every penny. Thanks!Daniel, Wales
BEST 2 MONTHS EVER
This was the best two months of my life so far and I loved every minute of this trip. If I could give any advice to someone considering taking a gap year or gap semester, DO IT!! It was the best decision I have made regarding my education and I would even recommend going for longer.I grew to become very independent and made some memories i will never forget. I saw the most amazing sights and experienced things I never thought possible. I kayaked in the Galapagos Islands, fed monkeys and ocelots, hiked a volcano, taught children english, and met some of the most genuine and incredible people ever. The nights out were so much fun and now I can never think of karaoke the same way again.Our group leaders were incredible and don't get enough credit (or money) for their hard work.The part that made this trip unforgettable was the people on it. I have never been so comfortable with a group of people and I love every single person on the trip. I made lifelong friends that I will never forget and we have already started planning a reunion for next year! never forget #johncena #momsspaghetti #glockinmyrari <3THANKS GAPFORCE FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIMECharlotte, California
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- Duration: 4 to 8 weeks
- Departures: January, April, July, September