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  • Some people only go to Ecuador for the Galapagos Islands, but hang around long enough and you’ll meet plenty of people who will keep barking the same thing at you: Go to Baños! As an adventurer’s paradise, Baños has no shortage of outdoor activities and is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Amazon” because of its close proximity to the jungle. After weeks of listening to stories from other travelers, I finally decided to round up some friends…
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  • When people hear about programs in the Amazon jungle, they probably imagine rustic accommodations, sleeping in tents, or picking a tree for the bathroom. But when I walked into the kitchen at Lead Adventure’s volunteer site, the first thing I saw was a television. That’s right. In the center, the volunteers had a television, Wifi, and tiled bathrooms. But living in this luxury didn’t mean that they were on vacation; in fact, this was one of the most impressive volunteer…
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  • Being on the Galápagos Islands is like being on a film set. There’s a wildlife drama unfolding before your eyes and you’re quickly reminded that you are not the star here – they are. The giant tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies run this show and you’re privileged to have a role. LEAD Adventures gives you access to the most vital areas through its three week Galápagos Experience. You see the best of what these islands have to…
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  • Ever since I read about the beauty of the Galapagos Islands in Rita Goldman’s “The Tales of a Female Nomad” two years ago, it has been my wish to visit the islands and its vibrant array of colorful wildlife. The blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and never-ending line of sea lions are enough to entice every different type of traveler. However, after doing more research online I realized that the Galapagos Islands are so much more than a place to sightsee,…
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  • During my time at the Galapagos Islands, I had the privilege of going to the biological research station that Lead Adventures volunteers work at. I was excited because I knew that it would give me a different perspective of islands. Instead of rushing through in a tour, I would be provided with an in-depth look at the islands’ plant life and see what it was like to live among so much vegetation. Luckily, the site didn’t disappoint. The main goal…
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  • My first outing in Quito: A visit to the visit to the ´neck of the moon´ The world´s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, gets it´s name from old indigenous language meaning ´the neck of the moon´. And it was easy to see why upon my first glimpse of the mountain; it sat proudly amidst the chain of volcanoes known as the Pacific ring of fire, it´s towering cone of snow piercing through the tranquil flow of clouds high in the sky,…
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  • Quilota , the most western volcano in the picturesque Ecuadorian Andes, and a destination hailed as "breathtaking" by Lonely Planet. Once the source of catastrophic eruptions spreading volcanic ash for miles, it is now known as a peaceful place of natural beauty, with a 3km wide water-filled caldera gleaming at it´s base. Commonly part of the Quilotoa loop, a hiking path that passes through remote Andean villages, Quilotoa´s crater lake is renowned as a stunning highlight of the trail by…
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  • Within the province of Pichincha in Northwestern Ecuador, the biologically diverse and environmentally striking jungle village of Mindo sits nestled in the Western slope of the Andes. It is unsurprisingly recognised as a world-renowned tourist destination, and is one of the most frequently backpacked spots in Ecuador. Founded in 1861, the town is inhabited by 3,000 natives, and encompassed by a vast Mindo-Nabillo cloud forest which is home to over 350 species of birds. Three large rivers and hundreds of…
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  • The TelefériQo (a merging of the words teleférico and Quito), or TelefériQo Cruz Loma, is a towering gondola lift in Ecuador´s capital. It operates from the edge of the city centre along the East side of the Pichincha volcano, passing panoramic views of the city and treetops, until reaching the beautiful lookout of Cruz Loma. The attraction is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising from 3.117m (10,226 ft) to 3,945m (12,943 ft), and scaling around the…
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  • The Viejos The most striking of these traditions is the creation of large scarecrow like effigies, ´viejos´, to enthusiastically set on fire in the streets at midnight. This is Ecuadorian practice to symbolically bid a resounding adios to ´los años viejos´, the old year. The construction of these dolls is a popular family activity, and includes filling old clothing with sawdust and newspaper until an eerily human-like body shape is formed. An ornately painted mask is then usually fixed on…
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  • Because I had viciously worn out Google’s “image” search function, I already knew that Quito the capital city of Ecuador was in the mountains. But when I stepped out of the airport, I realized that, as usual, there are some things that aren’t always captured by a lens. Instead of seeing the grey lumps depicted from Iphones all over the Internet, I was immediately surrounded by silent sloping hills draped in soft green. Quito is on a 9,350-foot plateau nestled…
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  • Even the most determined travelers have difficulty seeing Quito, Ecuador’s second largest city, it in its entirety. But after only ten minutes on the highest sky rail in South America, you can devour the whole thing with a sweep of the eyes. The Teleferico whisks passengers right up to the 13,451-foot summit of Cruz Loma, a mountain at the eastern end of the city. Originally the ride was meant to take visitors to a large mall filled with cinemas and…
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  • For many people, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is one of the most appealing parts of coming to South America. But before leaving for Lead Adventure’s Galapagos Experience Program, participants spend a day in Quito, Ecuador’s beautiful capital. However, don’t be fooled because the city is so much more than just the gateway to the Galapagos. The Quitu people originally inhabited the historical capital in pre-Hispanic times. As the years went on, they eventually assimilated themselves with various other…
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  • For many people, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because of this, some may have felt a little bit panicked when they heard that a climate cycle called “El Nino” might be coming to the area this year. However, you don’t have to start rebooking your dream vacation. Here’s all the information you need to know about El Nino while planning your Galapagos Experience Program! What is El Nino? El Nino is a climate cycle specific…
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  • Because Ecuador translates to “The Republic of the Equator,” a trip to the beautiful country would be incomplete without seeing the Middle of the World. Each year, about half a million visitors trek their way over for the chance to straddle the famous equator line and stand in two hemispheres at once. This phenomenon was discovered in 1736, when a French expedition team led by Charles-Marie de La Comdamine set out to see whether the earth was bigger at the…
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  • Visitors who walk through the north side of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, are bombarded by brand-name clothing stores and fast-food chains. But take a quick bus ride over to the south and you’ll feel like you’re in a different city altogether. Quito’s southern “Centro Historico” is stuffed with buildings that retained their original architectural features. These are so well preserved that they helped Quito become the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in…
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  • My friend and I decided to take advantage of a holliday in Ecuador and get away from Quito’s ever-bustling streets. After comparing the prices and activities of different nearby sites, we settled on a small overnight trip to Otavalo. Otavalo, a quaint city only about 2-3 hours outside of Quito, is one of the most common parts of the Ecuadorian experience. It is easily accessible by hopping on a bus at Quito’s Terminal Terestre Carcelen, which is in the north…
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  • A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station was one of the things that I was looking forward to the most. For years, I was captivated by the idea of seeing where scientists studied the one of the world’s most important ecosystems. The station has been around since 1959 and boasts a huge staff of scientists, 90 percent of which are Ecuadorian. To me, a visit here alone would have made the trip worth it. So I was ecstatic that…
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  • Because the Galapagos Islands have so many endemic species, a trip there takes up space on many bucket lists. However, for some people, living in the presence of sea lions, giant tortoises, and blue-footed boobies is a way of life. According to the Galapagos Conservatory, the islands hold about 25,000 legal residents and 1,800 temporary residents. Lucky for us, the Lead Adventures staff has someone who was once one of these inhabitants. Elizabeth Gallardo, our sales local specialist, often helps…
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  • Lead Adventure’s childcare program is unique in that it is located next to a trash dump in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. While the parents work at the dump during the day, volunteers and staff ensure that their children are given proper care. This center is actually fairly new; it was opened by a larger non-profit organization in 2006. Besides ensuring that the workers at the trash dump have a safe place for their children to go, the organization also provides…
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  • Every year, thousands of visitors flock to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and Amazon Rainforest for a chance to see some of the world’s most rare ecological sites. However, after a quick two-hour bus ride from Quito to Mindo, we got our first glance at one of nature’s lesser-known masterpieces: a cloud forest. Because Mindo is uniquely located high in the western slope of the Andes, this area experiences conditions that are very different from that of a regular forest. The temperature…
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  • Recent graduate from the UK, 23 year old Paul Johnson, is currently travelling South America with his girlfriend of three years. Next stop on his list is the Galapagos Islands, and we asked him a few questions about what he expects island hopping with his significant other will be like: What makes the Galapagos Islands a desirable destination for you? I know it will be a place offering the chance to see wildlife that you just can´t see anywhere else.…
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