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Wildlife Peru and Galapagos

14 days from £4,625pp

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Wildlife Peru and Galapagos:
Trip Dossier

This wildlife-focussed  holiday in Peru and the Galápagos Islands offers a real variety of outdoor experiences in a natural environment with a vast range flora and fauna. 

From the Inca Imperial capital and Spanish colonial masterpiece Cusco you head down to the rainforest. Refugio Amazonas is a popular and well respected lodge in the Tambopata region, the most accessible area of Peru's vast Amazon territory. On this holiday, not only will you have the chance to view wildlife but you may also be able to observe the conservation-focused scientists and researchers in the jungle.

Continue by air to Guayquil, Ecuador's principal Pacific port, and fly on for an 5-day cruise around the Galápagos Islands. It was on a similar trip 200 years ago that Darwin returned to the archipelago to write the seminal book ‘On The Origin of  Species’. Step into his shoes and explore the diversity of land and marine life which inhabit the islands.

The  different ecosystems you will visit, from humid lowland jungle to the volcanic islands of the Galápagos ensure that you will observe a multitude of species. Just look at the statistics -Peru alone has over 1,800 species of birds (120 endemic to Peru), and 500 species of mammals and over 300 species of reptiles.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cusco and transfer to your hotel in the city centre.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Cusco.

Day 3

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon and transfer to jungle lodge.

Day 4

Continue by river deeper into the jungle to the the Tambopata Research Centre.

Day 5

Visit parrot clay lick.

Day 6

Return to Cusco, chocolate and pisco tasting tour.

Day 7

Fly via Lima to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Day 8

Guided expedition to a mangrove forest

Day 9

Fly to the Galapagos islands, board motor vessel for you expedition cruise.

Days 10-12

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.

Day 13

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cusco and transfer to your hotel in the city centre.
 
Cusco, Peru

You arrive at Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes. The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the Wars of the Roses. Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and enthusiasts selling day trips jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, clubs and bars.

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Cusco, Peru

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Cusco.
 
cusco

You'll have a guided walking tour of the city's highlights. Stroll to the arty quarter San Blas, characterised by evocative narrow streets, a compact, pretty square, workshops and handicraft shops. Visit the neighbourhood's church and a family-run workshop. The atmospheric Hatunrumiyoc street is lined by near perfect Inca masonry, epitomised by the extraordinary twelve-angled stone about halfway down. Continue walking towards the buzzing main square, the Plaza de Armas  and visit the imposing baroque cathedral and the dazzling Inca Koricancha temple. Call in at a traditional textiles museum before you walk to popular San Pedro market, a vast indoor emporium with stalls overflowing with flowers, juices, fruits and vegetables as well as a multitude of artisan goods.

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cusco

Day 3

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon and transfer to jungle lodge.
 
Peruvian Amazon

Begin your adventure to the Peruvian Amazon, it's just a one hour flight to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the southern area of the steamy jungle. This busy port is a market town for the communities which live along the banks of the Amazon tributaries. From there you have your first wildlife experience - a 2.5hr motorised canoe trip on the river to your lodge deep in the rainforest, Refugio Amazonas.

The accommodation there is constructed in harmony with its isolated jungle setting, combining simplicity with relative comfort. One side of each room is facing the forest and open air, taking advantage of the low incidence of mosquitoes to allow intimate contact with the sights and sounds of nature.  Insects humming, tropical birds whooping and howler monkeys growling.

After dark, you might venture out on the river again on a guided caiman-spotting expedition. These watchful reptiles beady eyes are lit up with a bright red glow in the guide's torchlight.  

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Peruvian Amazon

Day 4

Continue by river deeper into the jungle to the the Tambopata Research Centre.
 
peruvian mazon

After breakfast you walk for a couple of kilometres to climb a canopy tower 25m high. From the top you have an amazing vantage point at tree-top level from which to view the birds as they flutter through the dense tropical foliage. Then, back at ground level, paddle around the serene, still waters of a glossy oxbow lake in search of other wildlife - mammals and reptiles such as giant otters and river turtles. Afterwards, you leave the lodge to take a four-hour boat ride up the jungle-fringed Tambopata river in the heart of the eponymous reserve, visiting a parrot clay lick along the way and eventually arriving at the Tambopata Research Centre. 

This is a low-key, rustic property on a twisty young Amazonian tributary which exudes atmosphere. You'll really feel enveloped in the jungle here. Far from any village or farmstead, it's remote enough to give you an excellent chance of observing undisturbed wildlife. Researchers have been carrying out groundbreaking macaw conservation research here - during your stay, you may have the chance  to speak to macaw biologists, ecologists and other experts while they undertake their fieldwork.

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peruvian mazon

Day 5

Visit parrot clay lick.
 
parrot lick

Set off at dawn to visit the world's largest known macaw clay lick where hundreds of parrots and macaws congregate daily. Access is by motorised canoe to a sandbank approximately 100m from the lick, from where you have an undisturbed view of this colourful spectacle.  Red bellied and chestnut-fronted macaws are the most frequently seen here as they jostle with each other in search of breakfast on the muddy walls of the lick.

Return to the lodge for your own breakfast then hike a 5 km trail, which offers a stunning example of primary tropical rainforest, including the huge, magnificent ceiba tree. On the branches of these and other ebullient trees you may spot cute little squirrel and capuchin monkeys and collared peccary. In the afternoon, take a ten-minute boat ride to a small oxbow lake which has an observation platform set within it, from which it is easy to observe bird life.

Later, after dinner at the lodge, take a nocturnal hike around the research centre. After dark you have a good opportunity to  spot frogs, snakes and other creatures which are active at night, or discover others snoozing in the foliage. All this accompanied by the symphony of haunting nocturnal jungle sounds: the croaking of toads, buzzing of insects, the squawk of a disturbed bird or the gentle flapping of an owl's wings.

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parrot lick

Day 6

Return to Cusco, chocolate and pisco tasting tour.
 
republica de pisco, cusco

Return to Puerto Maldonado by boat and fly back to Cusco. Later you'll be escorted on a private tour where in just four hours you will visit an artisan chocolate factory, a coffee museum and a similar establishment dedicated to pisco, the grape brandy spirit loved by the people of Chile and Peru which dispute its origin.

You will learn about the production process and, in the chocolate and coffee establishments, participate in an interactive workshop where you are taught to make your own confectionery and coffee blend. Naturally you get to taste and keep the result. At the bar Republica del Pisco, close to the main square, you have the opportunity to sample each of four varieties of pisco, washing down a plateful of tapas. If you are enjoying yourself you can stay on in the bar afterwards; they sometimes have live music in the evening.

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republica de pisco, cusco

Day 7

Fly via Lima to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
 
guayaquil

Fly from Cusco to Lima and change planes for your flight to Guayaquil Ecuador's principal Pacific port. Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, is situated on the banks of the River Guayas, and has gone through something of a transformation in the last few years. The expanse of waterfront has been made into an outdoor architectural showpiece, and restoration work has taken place along the city's main thoroughfare and in the historical neighbourhood of Las Peñas. Time permitting, you can take a walk from the frenetic, noisy open market at La Bahia, and past the colonial naval shipyard to the Malecón (the waterfront promenade), Guayaquil's crowning jewel. Stroll past tropical gardens, markets and street cafés, and head to Santa Ana Hill and Las Peñas, a district of brightly-coloured wooden houses and ramshackle streets dating back to the 16th century. 

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guayaquil

Day 8

Guided expedition to a mangrove forest
 
Roseate Spoonbill

It is a short drive to Manglares Churute Reserve, a protected mangrove and dry tropical forest. The park is home to a broad variety of wildlife including aquatic birds, shrimp, crabs, tortoise and armadillo. Primates include white-fronted capuchin and howler monkey. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide who will give you an idea of why this area and its mangroves are so important, then make your way by boat through this intriguing and little known world, stopping along the way to observe the wildlife and watch crab pickers at work. You will have a chance to get close to a wide array of birds, and sometimes even dolphins. Later, there's time further to explore the coastal rainforest on foot. A highlight of this hike is the unforgettable sight of howler monkeys crashing through the tree tops above.

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Roseate Spoonbill

Day 9

Fly to the Galapagos islands, board motor vessel for you expedition cruise.
 
Bartolome Island

It's a flight of only around 90 minutes it it takes you to another world.  Upon arrival in the Galápagos Islands, you'll be escorted to your waiting motor cruiser, a small and friendly vessel with a qualified naturalist guide on board. The remote Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean six million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close.

The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘On The Origin of Species’, published in 1859.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as your ship makes way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

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Bartolome Island

Days 10-12

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.
 
Giant Galapagos Tortoise on Santa Cruz Island
The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos is subject to change for operational reasons and according to the rules of the Galápagos National Park authorities. There are normally two landings a day, which will usually include chances to snorkel, on which you are accompanied by your guide in search of the different wildlife that inhabits the islands. Below is a summary of the islands that you visit on this journey, and the animals and birds that can be found on each of them.

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable): This island has the largest human population of the five inhabited islands. Some 4,000 residents are distributed between the cattle farming communities in the lush highlands and the coastal town of Puerto Ayora, which is mainly dominated by tourism. The Charles Darwin Research Station here is staffed by international scientists conducting biological research and conservation projects.

Fernandina (Narborough): The island is one of the world’s most active and impressive volcanoes, having erupted at least 10 times in the last 150 years. The lava fields offer a ‘land without time’ landscape and the island is home to a huge colony of marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and some penguins.

Isabela (Albemarle): The largest island in the archipelago, it has 5 volcanoes forming a chain down its spine. The most famous sites are situated on the western side, such as the impressive and spectacular inlets of Vincente Roca, with its high cliffs, lava formations and wonderful marine life. Urbina Bay offers an impressive array of birdlife including finches, warblers and mockingbirds, whilst Elizabeth Bay lined with mangroves is home to turtles and rays.

James (Santiago): The island is one of black rocks and little shade, and the western coast is pitted with lava pools and caves which are home to a wealth of marine life. You may well see herons and oyster catchers as well as Galápagos fur seals playing in the deep, cool water pools, and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside colourful Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Rabida Island (Jervis) is unique because the red colour of the rocks and sand. The volcanic material in this island is very porous and external factors as rain, salt water and sea breeze have acted as an oxidizing agent. A short walk along a trail lead us to a coastal lagoon behind the beach permits the observation of land birds as finches, doves, yellow warblers and mocking birds. At the lagoon there is a colony of flamingos.

Bartolome Island (San Salvador) has an altitude of 114 meters, from where you can observe one of the most beautiful sceneries of the Galapagos Islands such as: Volcanic cones, lunar like craters, lava fields, and the famous Toba formed pinnacle eroded by the sea. There is very little vegetation on this island. It has two breathtaking beaches where marine turtles exist and at the base of the pinnacle, as well as a very small colony of Galápagos penguins.

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Giant Galapagos Tortoise on Santa Cruz Island

Day 13

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

4 flights (longest 2hrs); 2 canoe journeys (90 mins each)

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates agreeable mid range hotels with excellent locations and good facilities for their grade. You stay in two rustic jungle lodges with private facilities and your Galápagos cruise vessel is a small mid-range motor yacht. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board days 3-5 and 9-12.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our customers very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included excursions

• Guided walkng tour of Cusco.
• Guided expeditions from the jungle lodges at Tambopata. 
• 5 day cruise around the Galápagos Islands with guided land excursions. 
• Private guided coffee, chocolate and pisco tasting experience.

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Cusco 2; Tambopata 3; Cusco 1; Guayaquil 2; Galápagos 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land, sea, river and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities.
•  Galápagos National Park entrance fee.

• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Peru is the sol; in Ecuador and  in the Galápagos it is the US dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals on those days in the holiday itinerary when not in the Amazon or Galápagos , drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

In addition to the guides in the jungle lodges and the staff and crew of your cruise vessel,  other service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Given the limited facilities in the Galápagos Islands and the costs related to air ambulance services, you are strongly encouraged to obtain travel insurance which includes air ambulance services.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors.

Climate

In Cusco and the highlands, June to September can be very cold at night, but days are usually extremely clear with sun. November to April are the wettest months of the year – note that rains tend to be in short, heavy bursts, rather than continual showers, with rains clearing towards the end of April. Nights are cold throughout the year at altitude.

Tambopata in the Amazon rainforest is hot and humid all year around with little variation from midsummer (December) and midwinter (June).. Daytime temperatures reach the mid-30C°s;from June to mid-September,however, cold snaps may occur lasting a few days. Rain may be encountered at any time of year, however during the “dry season” from May to October there is less than in the “wet season” from late November to April.

In the Galápagos, from January to April it’s hot and the sun is relentless, with some sudden showers. May to July, and October to December is cloudier; August and September it’s often cloudy and cool, and a stiff breeze makes the waters choppier. High and Low seasons reflect demand rather than the best time to go. Many boats are in dry dock in September.

Altitude

Your short stay in Cusco is at high altitude (3,300-2,800m). Most people are only mildly affected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol for the first couple of days at altitude), you’ll probably be OK. Symptoms vary: most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. 

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a waterproof/breathable outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well on the Galápagos Islands and in the jungle. Light trousers and long-sleeved shirts provide the most comfort and protection against insects.

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellant, sun block, hat and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for ocean swimming (Galápagos). You can hire snorkelling equipment but may prefer to bring your own. Aqua-socks or rubber sandals are useful for embarking and disembarking on wet landings. Bring a light waterproof jacket in case of rain. For June to November departures, wetsuits are recommended, as the waters can be chilly for snorkelling.

Don’t forget your binoculars, camera, charger and cards.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as malaria prophylactics.

For admission to the Galápagos a yellow fever certificate is required for anyone over 1 year old coming from an area with risk of yellow fever transmission. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.
Passports must also be e-passports with embedded digital chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.
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