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Galapagos Islands

Veterinary Medicine in Ecuador & the Galapagos

Session 1:  June 7-20, 2010 

Session 2: July 19 - August 1

Session 1 & 2 are now full! 

Please contact Katie if you'd like to be put on a waiting list for 2011!

For more detailed application instructions, visit the International programs FAQ or e-mail Katie Davidson at katied@iastate.edu





Iowa State University - College of Veterinary Medicine Ecuador Wildlife Rescue Center & Galapagos Islands

Day 1 – International flight to Quito
We will depart and fly to Quito, Ecuador, where we will be welcomed by our Sustainable Horizon Group Leader and driver. From the airport we will head to our hostel where we will spend our first night in this magnificent country. If we arrive with daylight to spare, we will walk around the neighborhood for our first glimpse of this beautiful city. We will have an orientation dinner together to talk about what to expect in the upcoming days.

Day 2 – Quito & Equator Line
After breakfast we will head to the old town of Quito to enjoy the beautiful architecture and learn more about the history of Quito Colonial (old city). We will also take a trip up the hill located at the edge of the city with the Panecillo, a statue standing on the hill over the old town, guarding its inhabitants. From here we will have an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of Quito.

After lunch, we will head to the famous equator line, or Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world)! Here we will have the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at the same time! After lunch in the equator village, we will return to our hostel to rest up for our trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Day 3 – Travel to the Galapagos Islands
In the morning we will take the bus to the airport as our journey to the Galapagos Islands begins. When we arrive at Baltra Island, our Galapagos Group Leader will greet us and take us on a several hour-long boat ride to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, we will take the bus across the island to meet our hosts at a special lodge run by a local family. After our morning of travel, we enjoy a delicious local lunch and take a walk to the National Park and Charles Darwin Center to learn about their work for the animals and the islands. After our visit here we will explore the small town in which we will be staying.

Day 4 – Isabela Island
Today we will visit Isabela Island, the biggest island in the Galapagos about two hours from Santa Cruz. When we arrive, we will take another boat to explore a small island, in particular the area outside the village of Puerto Villamil, called Las Tintoreras. On our walk here we hope to see iguanas, birds and sea lions. Next, we head back to our boat to go snorkeling in the waters outside Isabela Island where we may see sea turtles, sting rays, sea lions and of course a variety of fish.

After enjoying lunch in a local restaurant, we will take a journey along the coast to the Wall of Tears. This historic place was used as a prison, and here we will learn more about the history of the islands. We will continue back along the beach through the Humedales (wetlands), partly in bus and partly by foot to end up in the village where we started. The bus awaits ready to take us to the harbor where we will board the boat back to Santa Cruz.

Day 5 – Bartolome Island
Today we will travel to Bartolome Island. We will depart early on a boat from Santa Cruz to Bartolome and enjoy breakfast on the three-hour boat ride. We will proceed to the best-known photo spot in all of the Galapagos Islands, on the top of one of the volcanoes overlooking the beaches. After taking the picturesque walk up and down the volcano, we will head to the beach to go snorkeling, hopefully in the company of sea lions and penguins.

Day 6 – Floreana Island
We leave early in the morning for the harbor. Today we will take a boat to visit Floreana Island. Upon arrival we will take a Chiva, a local bus, up to the highlands of Floreana Island. Here we will hike through the National Park area where the giant tortoises coming from different Islands are placed. From here we continue down to the place where the first island inhabitants used to live and we will learn about their history.
In the afternoon we take the boat back to Santa Cruz. If possible we stop for snorkeling along the way. Upon arrival in Santa Cruz we will take a walk down to the fisherman’s harbor to see the day’s catch.

Day 7 – Galapagos Islands – Quito

Today we will depart from the Galapagos Islands and return to our hostel in Quito. In the afternoon we will take a walk to the local market to buy some souvenirs for family and friends.

Day 8 – Baños and Wildlife Rescue Center
After breakfast we will set out on our half day journey, by bus, through the Andean mountains to the town of Baños located at the entrance to the Amazon. Upon arrival, we will be met by our local guide and together we will head to our lodging. After lunch we will meet Dr. Leonardo Arias, one of the best wildlife veterinarians in Ecuador, who will be leading our work at the center. We will take a walk through the center together, acquainting ourselves to our workplace and the animals. Before dinner Dr. Arias will give us our first seminar.

Days 9-12 – Wildlife Rescue Center & Amazon
Recent deforestation of the rainforest and heartless human behavior has caused animals to contend not only for resources, but also their lives. Unfortunately, many trafficked animals remain in the hands of their owners, who often abuse them by keeping them as pets.

In response to this, the people of Ecuador have banded together to build various wildlife rescue centers around the country. The ultimate goal of these centers is to reintroduce wild animals back into their native habitats. During their time at the center, animals are provided with food, shelter, medical attention, rehabilitation and love. Unfortunately, many animals will remain at the rescue center indefinitely.

Dr. Arias is one of the most well known vets in Ecuador due to his significant experience with Ecuador’s exotic wild animals. He has worked with rescue centers and zoos for over 20 years all over the country. We will work with Dr. Arias on many tasks and also with the staff of the center to help out with the daily tasks.

Since the center does not receive financial support from the Ecuadorian government, it also functions as a zoo in order to generate income. At the moment they have about 600 individual animals in Baños and among them they have four kinds of monkeys, a tapir, ocelots, different snakes, such as an anaconda, Galapagos Giant Tortoises, turtles, a capibara, many different birds such as macaws and flamingos, foxes, different reptiles such as caymans, amphibians such as frogs, a jaguar, a condor, and African lions (rescued from bad conditions in a circus).

Our service work will of course be contingent on the center’s immediate needs. We will participate in hands-on veterinary work that will be determined by the number of people in our group, our past veterinary experience and our level of Spanish.

Our hands-on work may include: Examination and cleaning of wounds. Giving injections, vitamins or medicine. Small operations (i.e. for animals that suffer from jaw, tooth or hip problems). Examination of animals that might have problems with issues such as digestion, weight or stress due to captivity or bad treatment before arriving at the center/zoo. Assist in the rehabilitation of animals that may have injured themselves (i.e. while playing or fighting for food) and controlling parasites. Check general health status and update the nutrition for animals with weight control issues.

Our daily tasks will include the feeding of the animals as well as cleaning and maintaining of their cages.
We will work at the center in the mornings and most afternoons. One afternoon we will be in for some well deserved adventure as we’re off for an adrenaline filled canyoneering trip rappelling down waterfalls! We head into Baños to pick up our equipment and our local guide for this adventure and then take a short ride to the starting point not too far away. After some instructions and equipment check we start on our adventure. Make sure to wear your bathing suit as we are guaranteed to get wet while rappelling, sliding and jumping down the waterfalls into pools of water!

On our last day we will drive a couple of hours to Misahualli, a small town in the Amazon beautifully situated next to two rivers. From here we take canoes down the Napo River and visit a local museum learning about the indigenous culture. We'll take the boat ride back to have lunch. This afternoon we will have the privilege to visit a local community outside of Archidona. This small community lives according to ancient tradition; however, due to the increasing influence of modernity their culture is disappearing more and more. The community has invited us to learn how they prepare traditional food, how to hunt with a blow gun and how a shaman (traditional healer) heals a person with bad energy.

Day 13 – Return to Quito
After breakfast we will say farewell to our new friends at the wildlife center as we board our bus back to Quito. We will make a couple stops on the way to stretch our legs and arrive in time for lunch.
This afternoon we will be taking a cable car ride up Cruz Loma (Cruz Hill) 11,000+ feet. If we catch a cloud free day we will have an aerial view of both old and new town Quito, the valleys, the snow-capped mountains, the 14+ Andean mountain peaks known as Volcano Avenue, and the top of Pinchincha Volcano. After we descend we will head back to our hostel preparing for dinner and our journey home.

Tonight we will have a farewell dinner relaxing and reminiscing about the time we shared together in Ecuador. If we are interested, we can also take a short bus ride into the old town to see and enjoy this beautiful atmosphere by night.

Day 14 – International flight home
Today our Ecuador adventure comes to a close as we depart early for our flight out of Quito.


All meals

All lodging (lodges, hostels, etc.)

All transportation within Ecuador

Domestic flight to and from Baltra*

Entrance fee for the National Park**

All activities***

Experienced, bilingual Group Leader

International airfare to and from Ecuador from your airport of choice



Vaccinations and malaria pills

Personal spending money

Cost of obtaining a passport

Travel & medical insurance

$41 departure tax


*The domestic flights (Quito-Baltra and Baltra-Quito) are included in the cost of this program. The current price of the round trip flight is $417/person. Should this price change, the cost of the program will be adjusted accordingly.

**The current entrance fee for the Galapagos National Park is $100. This fee is included in the price given. However, there has been rumor that the National Park may raise its fees in 2010. Should this fee be increased, the cost of the Galapagos program will increase accordingly.

***Please also note that the Galapagos Islands National Park's rules and regulations for visitors change frequently for each of the islands. If a certain island or activity is not available for your group (due to a new park regulation) after selecting your itinerary, Sustainable Horizon will arrange for a comparable island or activity to replace the one in the original itinerary.



For more information on this program or any of the Group or Individual Study Abroad opportunities offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine, contact Katie Davidson at katied@iastate.edu or call (515) 294-1501.