South America Explorer with Gapforce

Video and Photos

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
The group
The group
zongo zongo in the Sacha Yacu animal sanctuary
Over the sacred valley

About

Discover the lost lands of the Incas! Whether the awe-inspiring spectacle of Machu Picchu; the sensation of waking up to the sounds and sights of the rainforest; or intimate encounters with incredible animals, you are sure to encounter something to astound you at every turn of this journey across Peru and Ecuador. Volunteering opportunities in wildlife conservation and mean you can leave your mark and give something back as you travel this vibrant, surprising corner of South America.

Conclude your adventure with a tour of the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of unparalleled marine biodiversity. Hike, sail and snorkel your way round the islands made famous by Charles Darwin, encountering sea lions; dolphin; turtles; sharks and more. Wrapping up with a return to Quito for the nights of your adventure where there is a chance to explore the city and visit the Mitad del Mundo, zero degrees of latitude and longitude - the centre of the world!

Highlights
  • Learn Spanish in the old Inca capital of Cusco
  • Trek off the beaten trail to the incredible ruins of Machu Picchu
  • Learn to surf in the laid back beach town of Mancora
  • Volunteer at an Amazon animal rescue centre in the heart of the rainforest
  • Visit the Charles Darwin Research centre on the world-renowned Galapagos Islands

Questions & Answers

Reviews

90%
based on 28 reviews
  • Housing 8.5
  • Support 8.3
  • Fun 8.9
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 28
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Sam
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing!

I had an amazing time on this trip. I was super nervous about meeting 7 strangers who I had to spend the next 4 weeks with but everyone was lovely and we all got on so well. The places we went were truly amazing and the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu was a big highlight for me. Even when we were all tired and cold it was still an unforgettable experience and made getting to see Machu Picchu all the more memorable and special. Stefan our guide was great and helped with any problems we had while talking and taking no shit from anyone which was refreshing and meant we all trusted him to take charge when he needed to. We were quite a young group but for me that made it even more fun. I would really push anyone who’s remotely interested to go on this trip.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have loved to spend more time at the animal rescue centre at the end of the trip. The three days we spend there were great but you don’t get to experience everything or really manage to be helpful around the site because you are still learning the ropes. A week there would be amazing. Also potentially spending some time volunteering somewhere else for a week or so would be great to
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Jai
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience

I had fun and saw some amazing things such as Machu Picchu. The views on the trek were equsiseite and the journey extremely hard but rewarding with the scenery it offered. One thing I struggled with was the food but this was due to my dietary requirements of being a vegetarian. All the hostels we stayed in were great and all the staff were lovely. Stefan made sure we were always safe and let us know when certain areas were more dangerous than others. Other activities such as white water rafting were reallly fun and memorable, but what I found the nicest was the friends I made along the way. I wish there was more we did in terms of activites as we had many free days, but at the same time it was up to us and go do something. Overall would recommend.

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Paula
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wow!

I had a great time on South America Explore 2019! I felt safe and supported everywhere we went thanks to the tireless efforts of our guide, Sara. This is the perfect program for someone who wants to travel but doesn’t want to go alone, or have the stress of planning it. I had no friends to come with and didn’t even know where to begin; 2 months later I can say that I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime and I loved not having to worry about where I was going, how I was getting there, or what I was doing since it was all pre-planned. From the coblestoned streets of Cusco to the blue waters of the Galapagos it’s been an amazing journey. The spanish school and nightlife of Cusco made it one of my favorite cities, Mancora was the perfect relaxation stop after the tiring but incredible Machu Picchu trek, Baños is a thrillseeker’s paradise with parasailing, white water rafting, bungee jumping and more, the jungle, animals, and people in Yanacocha/Tamadua made it a dream to volunteer there, visiting the Equator and markets in Quito was incredible, and the Galapagos is the perfect stop to the trip.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Leave enough room in you bag for souvenirs - with all the markets you go to you WILL end up with a lot. Make sure that you journal, it’s so nice to read back on what you’ve done.
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Maeve
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What a time

Absolutely loved travelling in a group and this program definitely let me do that. Sara our guide was always there supporting us no matter what time of the day/night. There were some tricky situations in the group that were handled very quickly and professionally. What an amazing trip. Highlights: Cusco, spanish classes were great, Machu Picchu was very hard but rewarding, Mancora beach town absolute blast, Baños (white water rafting was amazing but try not to drink the river water or you will get sick), Yanacocha is amazing especially for all animal lovers, Tamandua shuar community was a great way to wind down and in the middle of the jungle, incredible, Quito, slightly more dangerous as it’s a big city but a great night life and cultural experiences all around. Galapagos. Wow, definitely if you have the chance get your ass there right now, what a time to be alive. If you want to see turtles as big as you this is where to go. 10/10 trip, gert lush mind. Out 🎤

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Put on suncream, I know you want a tan but the burn lines are not worth it.
Bring warm clothes for Machu Picchu.
Try and use your new spanish as much as you can even though it’s difficult.
Bring lots of socks.
Drink lots of water and bring purification tablets.
You don’t need that many clothes, put it back in your wardrobe.
Keep a journal every day at the end of the trip it’s the funniest thing to look back on.


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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Explore Trip

I had a really amazing time on my trip. Everyone was really supportive & great at pushing me out of my comfort zone & discovering what I can really accomplish. Our leaders were extremely caring & attentive. I went into the experience really nervous & not sure what I had gotten myself into, but it’s probably the best decision I have ever made. It’s set me up to feel confident to continue traveling on my own. I’ve gotten over my fear of heights by zip-lining, rock climbing & paragliding, I’ve made a couple new friends who I plan to travel with in the future, & it has opened up a “whole new world” full of opportunities that I now know are possible to attain, as in seeing the world. It’s bittersweet that my trip is over but I have come out of it knowing I didn’t waste one moment.

What would you improve about this program?
Isn’t much I would improve on the trip was well organized
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Gillian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America October 2018

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 homestay 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 combinded to make an unforgettable trip. Would highly recommend this program!

What would you improve about this program?
The communication prior to departure was very poor. I had little information regarding the trip and the itinerary I was sent after asking was quite different to the one our expedition leader had.
Whilst the galapogas extension was incredible, the organisation from the partners was terrible especially in regards to the itinerary.
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Gillian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

October 2018 South America Explore

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 homestay 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 combinded to make an unforgettable trip. Would highly recommend this program!

What would you improve about this program?
The communication prior to departure was very poor. I had little information regarding the trip and the itinerary I was sent after asking was quite different to the one our expedition leader had.
Whilst the galapogas extension was incredible, the organisation from the partners was terrible especially in regards to the itinerary.
Minaëlle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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, the website not having provided many details, 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.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of that I would potentially change on the itinerary is the extra week at the animal sanctuary, as I found that 2 weeks was a little too much and it got quite repetitive.
We had a few problems with money, Gapforce not having sent our budget to our leaders in time. We had to spend some of our own money on food, but we got paid back in the end and it all worked out.
Rebekah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America trip

The trip to South America was such an amazing experience and I'm so glad I decided to do it! The main attraction of the trip for me was the trek up to Machu Picchu which was absolutely breathtaking. But I throughly enjoyed every other part of the trip and each week was different which kept it exciting. The variety of activities we did such as helping out at an animal sanctuary, helping in a day care, spending a night in the rainforest and being in the town of Banos doing whitewater rafting, canyoning etc. were unforgettable experiences! The leaders, Colin and Jade, were fantastic, they did all they could to ensure we got the most out of our trip. They were especially good in organising changes to our itinerary, which happened more often than not, and did what was best for the group. I would recommend a program like this for those who want to travel but have concerns travelling by themselves or are travelling for the first time.

What would you improve about this program?
My only concerns were that there the money we were given for food was not always enough to cover food costs as the amount given was on a budget designed for cheap market meals. So if people wanting to do this trip want to make the most of the trip and eat at nice restaurants all the time they should be advised to take extra spending money so they can do so.
Deniz
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Explore Review

Before the trip began, there was a level of uncertainty and stress as a result of poor communication. I was slightly hesitant to go. Overall, however, the trip itself was something of a once in a lifetime experience that I would highly recommend to anyone. Accomodation and food was fine and filling. Always catering to my many dietary requirements. The leaders guiding us along the way were also exceptional.

Looking back at the trip, I can confidently say that I have more of a desire to travel to other countries and complete more expeditions. Furthermore, my time at Yanacocha (animal rescue center) made me more content with my choice to study Environmental Science at university.

What would you improve about this program?
I would suggest more group based activities within cities (such as Cusco, Mancora etc.). Although the freedom to roam around the city was enjoyable.

Communications between the trip leaders and coordinator seemed non-existent at times.Saying that, the leaders on the trip were outstanding.
Cicely
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Perfect

It's always much harder to express how incredibly unforgettable a trip is, and yet that is the task I am faced with. Before I left, I was continuously told I was 'going to have the best time of my life' and consequently the flight was filled with a fear of potential disappoint. However instead of disappoint, I was met at the airport by my group leader Frank, who grew to be our hilarious, inspirational and genuinely caring 'uncle' figure. Time when you travel is a peculiar concept and looking back I don't know how the organisation managed to fit in so many amazing experiences to 7 weeks. Eating guinea pig, swimming in mountain lakes, paragliding, and even swimming with turtles seem to only touch the surface of the activities that were offered. My favourite part, however, remains the amazing people I met; hostel stayers, trekers, tribe members, every welcoming South American, and my loveable group (shoutout to Shay, Quinn, Kelly, Marv, Ellie, Val and our honorary mum Julie) will never be forgotten. In short, I LOVED IT. Thank you infinitely Frank and GapForce.

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Alex
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great fun, with incredible people

Such a interesting and eye opening trip with an amazing group of people visiting such a beautiful part of the world. Highlights include the Salkantay Trek a physically challenging 4 day trek ending at Machu Pichu and the incredible Sacha Yachu wildlife sanctuary in Ecaudor run by Raul who's dedication to the animals was inspiring. I made some great friends and memories that will last forever. Would definitely recommend this trip for anyone looking to travel to that part of the world.

John
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Unforgettable Summer

Every town we went to was another eye opening experience. We grew so much independently and as a group with every new activity. From Trekking to one of the Wonders of the World, to surfing in Mancora, Peru; we were all growing happier and closer as a group. At first I was worried about being the only minor and being the only American in the group, but that worriedness went away very quickly. I could not reccomend this program enough. I have fallen in love with South America thanks to this program.

What would you improve about this program?
Less days in Lima, More days in Mancora.
Lucy
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Explore

Visiting South America has been such an amazing experience! I have met the most amazing people, both in my group, at the wonderful animal sanctuary and throughout the whole trip. I have experienced so much with these people and I am sure we will be friends for life!

I really enjoyed the first week, exploring Cuzco. We were lucky enough to experience the City in the month of Peru. There were parades, street dances and performances on all the time, which was so interesting to watch their culture and see the locals of all ages getting involved. We improved our Spanish, with the help from Ricardo, the best Spanish teacher ever! He tried so hard to make sure we had loads of fun and games while learning to make it the best possible experience.

The trekking week was very tough! I dont think many of us prepared for the struggles ahead, but with the support of an amazing group and some banging tunes, we made it to the top! It was so worth the struggle, the views were incredible!

I feel like the third week could have been organised a lot better! It was a lot of time travelling, which we expected, but when we arrived at the three different destinations there was nothing planned for us. 2 days in Lima was definately not needed as we werent really allowed to go and explore the city as it is suppose to be quite dangerous and not very touritsy. So stuck in a hostel for 2 days was not much fun, and I would have preffered to get straight on the next bus to Mancora to spend either an extra day there or in Cuenca. Maybe this is something that could be improved or changed on the trip.

The Jungle was a great week, helping out in the sanctuary. To have travelled with Raul through Peru and to arrive at the sanctuary that he built from scratch was amazing to see! He has been such a good leader and has helped us alot throughout our time here, it would not have been the same trip without him!

In terms of food money, I think the budget was way off. It was definately the bare minimum and we were constantly eating at cheap places so we didnt have to use our own money on food we thought would be provided. I would have liked to try some differnet traditional dishes but because of the expense of some of them, i didnt try them and stuck to the cheap budget.

Overall it has been a great trip and definately worth coming to South America to explore its wonderful scenery and culture!

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Andrew
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Your Heart

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.

What would you improve about this program?
A better breakdown and explanation of costs that will likely be required (from transport to food to extra activities)

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About GapForce

Gapforce is a leading provider of structured Gap Year programs and summer opportunities overseas. The wide range of global adventures includes marine conservation, wildlife protection, community volunteering & healthcare, extreme expeditions,...