South America Explorer with Gapforce

Video and Photos

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

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 16 - 28 of 28
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Daniel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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 Baños 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!

What would you improve about this program?
For me the only way to improve the program is to extend it. Make it 3 months and bring in Bolivia so people could see Lake Titicaca, Yungas Road and Salar de Uyuni. Start off in La Paz and do the first month in Bolivia then start in Cusco on week 5.

Obviously easier said than done but just my thoughts!
Charlotte
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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 <3

THANKS GAPFORCE FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME

What would you improve about this program?
Sorry, but every trip has its problems....
Our group leaders, Joe and Jamie were amazing and don't get paid enough for what they do. Jamie had to leave halfway through the trip due to a problem with his visa in Ecuador and Joe had to supervise all 13 kids on the trip which I imagine was quite difficult. They didn't get enough credit for their hard work and everything they had to deal with.

Secondly, the food budget was a joke. We were promised 3 meals a day, but the budget for most places was $10 which was no where close to what we needed. I spent way more of my own money than I was expecting, since we were told it was all included. Also we were promised a Gapforce t-shirt which none of us ever received, and since Gapforce was in such a rush for us to pay them, i expected to at least get a t-shirt (ha ha).

My last improvement would be to actually tell us what we're doing. A lot of the time none of us had any idea what was going on and we weren't told anything. We didn't even get the trip itinerary until the second week and it was just a calendar with words on it. My parents had no idea where I was most of the time and neither did I. (just kidding) But kidding aside, take more care in your organization. ESPECIALLY in the Galapagos, that was a MESS. Gapforce wouldn't pay for our leader to come so we had a random "leader" that we never saw and would take us to "dinner" which was just someones house, and then leave every night. We didn't do half the things promised, it was an unorganised disaster.

One thing I would recommend to Gapforce is to spend less time in the Amazon. Although it was amazing, the second week in the animal sanctuary felt more like a routine than anything else. We were bored doing the same thing every day and wanted to move on. We would have liked to spend more time in Banos or Lima, since we spent one day in Lima and saw NOTHING. Considering it is a capital city with a lot of history, i think we should have seen more.

The Shuar tribe was NOT AT ALL what I was expecting. It's not so much a tribe, but a community of Ecuadorians who wore normals clothes and loved to offer to take us places so we would pay for their taxis. The ONLY time we interacted with them was when they played soccer with us on the last night so we would buy their jewelry. Also they barely fed us so we went into the nearby town to buy food. It might be a good idea to cut this part out of the trip or go to a more traditional tribe.
Response from GapForce

Hi Charlotte,

Thank you for your review and we are delighted that you had a great time on our South America trip during your gap year. Your feedback is really important to us so we can better understand our customer needs and make amendments to our programs where necessary.

I am pleased that you found our leaders incredible. The quality of our leaders is something we pride ourselves on. Joe and Jamie have both completed our rigorous Expedition Leader Training Course to make them the best at what they do! Jamie has now led groups with us for around 3 years and we're very proud of the work our leaders do.

I'm sorry you didn't feel enough information was provided to you regarding your itinerary. We aim to provide a thorough and complete Information Pack before signing up, as well as access to our online portal pre-departure, where you can access documents about the program. We also organise a webinar briefing about a month before departure with further information about your program and itinerary. Nevertheless we will be taking all of these comments on board for an internal review of any areas we can provide more real-time information to our participants and their parents.

I'm also sorry to hear that you didn't receive your Gapforce t-shirt! I have checked our records to find that it was sent about a month in advanced from our UK office to your location in the US. In case it got lost on route and you would still like a Gapforce t-shirt, please don't hesitate to email us at [email protected] and we'll get a new one sent out to you!

Our South America trip is a very popular trip that has now been running for years, and we will be using your feedback to help us improve it even further.

Best wishes, the Gapforce team.

Read my full story
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Esi
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

so glad i made this trip

I had an amazing experience of a lifetime. I would do it 100 more times if i could!

I met lovely and interesting people who impacted my life in incredible ways.

For me one the exciting memories was our trip to Mancora. The view was spectacular and I had a ball on the jet skies!

South America is an incredible continent and offers a diverse cultural experience. The program is structured in a manner which allowed us to experience these cultures in a way that I would never have been able to experience.

The coordinators, Jaimie and Joe were very professional, well organized and caring. For me, this was the first away from home without my family and being in a country so different from my comfort zone, they went out of their way to settle me in and looked out for me....and all the members of the group. They were really key in making the trip absolutely awesome.

Advise to future attendees: make sure you are fit and bring a lot of bug spray!!!!!!

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Annie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Explore

This trip was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I've had the most amazing time. Choosing just one moment would be extremely difficult as I loved every week and loved the diversity of each week. The leaders Joe and Jamie created a safe environment and provided the group with advice about the cities and different activities throughout the trip and made everyone feel very welcome! I would definitely recommend this trip and GapForce to others as it is a great way to travel and to meet new people.

What would you improve about this program?
Knowing a bit more information about the home stay, however I thought it was a great way to get to know the people on the trip and improve my Spanish
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F
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall great trip

So many amazing memories created on this trip! I thought it had great content & I really enjoyed everything we did, there were so many different things packed into a relatively short time. However, Gapforce was not great at providing information beforehand, and some incorrect information was given. Our leader also didn't speak any Spanish, which at times made interactions with locals a bit difficult. I also think the food budget was quite tight, and we weren't always provided with bottled water, although I was told before the trip I wouldn't need to bring chlorine tablets as water was ok to drink. There were a few other improvements I think could be made, but overall I had a great time & didn't want to go home. I met some great people, did things I never thought I would & pushed myself out of my comfort at times. I definitely want to return to South America in the future, and would recommend anyone to go there.

What would you improve about this program?
Have a more experienced leader who speaks Spanish.
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Tom
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!!!

What would you improve about this program?
maybe to shut up all the complainers put a leader that can speak spanish
Default avatar
GG
6/10
No, I don't recommend this program

No Anaconda?

Leaders: very good, should be given raises and promotions, and probably take over the company all together
People on trip: very good
Office: very bad
Pre-trip information: was not happy with certain promises not kept.
Food: various (as we were promised three meals a day, was dissapointed with the lack of budgetted money given to us for food weekly.)
Lack of anaconda sightings: horrendous.

If you wish to hear more in depth, please email me.

Response from GapForce

Dear GG,

Thank you for your comments, we welcome all feedback so we can better understand our customer needs and make amendments to our programs where necessary.

First of all, I am pleased that you found our Leaders very good. We run a rigorous Expedition Leader Training Course to ensure we have the best leaders for the job. Both Nick and Hannah completed the course last year so I am pleased that you recognise the high standards we set for our staff. The quality of our Leaders is something we pride ourselves on.

I am also happy to hear that you enjoyed the company of your fellow group members. We have participants from a number of countries on our programs including the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Europe which I think really adds to the group dynamic.

Of course I am disappointed that you felt the office was not good and the pre-departure information lacking. We have asked Nick and Hannah for updated trip information so we can amend any details that are incorrect and advise all future groups accordingly. If you have more specific details on you feel we can improve in this area please do let us know by emailing [email protected]

With regards to Anaconda sightings, I am unsure whether this is a serious complaint? If it is please do email the office with more details so I can look into it further

In summary, I am pleased that you enjoyed the leadership of our staff and company of your fellow travellers and hope that, in the main, you had a great time in South America like most of our participants do.

We are constantly looking at ways we can improve our programs and thank you for your feedback. I will be reviewing our pre-departure information to ensure it is up-to-date and making any changes that are needed for future groups.

Best wishes,

James
Manager, Gapforce

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One
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Gap Force South America

I had an amazing time in South America and met some really great people. The team leaders, Nick and Hannah were really great. They were always looking out for us. Everything within the country was organised well due to the fact that Nick and Hannah were in charge.

However Gapforce were incredibly slow when it came to providing information. The staff back in the UK have very little knowledge of what the trip actually consists off and repeatedly gave wrong information to me and my fellow travelers. The food budget was a complete joke. This is no fault of the leaders but Gapforces fault. We were promised three meals per day. If I didn't have my own money, gapforce would have forced me to eat off the streets. After all the money that was given to Gapforce, I thought that this would be provided.

However the jungle experience was incredible and extremely grateful for having that opportunity. Met some great volunteers and was amazing to get so close to the animals.

Also, the galapagos trip was not organised very well, however that is Gapforce's fault for subcontracting that work to such an awful company with rude staff. However I had a great time there seeing the exotic animals and also scuba diving.

The nights out were really great, and had a really good time with all the people on the trip. All in all this trip was amazing and wish I could do it again.

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Sicily
8/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I dont understand what this means -_-

I absolutely loved the trip and the people I was with. I had the best 2 months of my life. It was the hardest but also the most rewarding thing Ive ever done in my life. I will always remember this crazy trip and the amazing friends I made on it. I could go on and on, but I'd rather give a few tips to Gapforce on how they could improve for future trips:

1) Choose an easier trek to Machu Picchu or tell people you need some experience for the trek. As a beginner hiker, I was not prepared for that at all. Again, if I didnt have my amazing friends to drag me up those mountains, I would not have made it.
2) We should spend less time in the Amazon, and more time in Mancora, Lima and Banos. There were loads of fun activities we could've done in Banos. And we had no time to explore Perus capital.
3) Tell people before that nothing is included in the trip. We had to pay for almost every single excursion on this trip. Also, the allowance you gave us for food every week was not nearly enough for 3 meals a day! We gave you boat loads of money, and I honestly don't know where at least 70% of it went. Smh.
4) Cut the Shuar tribe from the trip completely. We spent a week doing nothing with a bunch of normal Ecuadorians, who on the last night dressed up like tribesmen and danced for us for about 20 minutes.
5) Pay your leaders better! They work SO MUCH harder than you realize.
6) The Galapagos....
a) Half the people didnt know about $125 entrance fee, that was, of course, not included.
b) We did not do a fraction of the activities we were supposed to do on the itinerary. The activities that we paid a lot of money for.
c) The program we used while at the Galapagos was a hot mess and they were very rude to us. And they rationed us $5 per meal, which is a complete joke.
d) I lost about $1000 alone on the 4 days in the Galapagos. -_-

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Emma
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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 Galápagos 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.

What would you improve about this program?
The pre-departure information was not great. The itinerary was completely wrong so I'd suggest that it only be published once they've actually decided what to do on the trip, the kit list didn't include everything we needed, the people I spoke to at the office didn't seem to know much about my trip at all even about basic things such as when the trip started and ended.
The money we were given was not nearly enough to buy 3 meals a day with, so next time either give more money for food, or don't advertise that there will be 3 meals per day on the trip. For the amount of money the trip costs, I think more extra activities should have been included (although the budget suggested by gap force was enough for me personally).
Finally, don't use the flight travel agent suggested. My flights were very expensive and it seemed like they had purposely been booked to be the most inconvenient flights for me as possible!

Although there were several things wrong with Gap Force, I would still recommend it. I had a great 2 months.
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Lily
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Positives and negatives

Overall I though the programme was great; i thouroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and I have made friends for life. I feel like we managed to fit a lot in.

However, I felt the pre-departure information was very poor. The information I was given was far from the truth which made it all a bit confusing. Also on the programme we were told we would be provided with 3 meals a day; for a lot of it we were given money to spend on food as we wanted but we definitely weren't given enough and it was hard as I believed we wouldn't need to be sword hint about the food situation.

Besides that I would recommend Gapforce. I have enjoyed my time but I feel the office workers need to get their facts straight.

What would you improve about this program?
pre-departure information. I feel the office workers who give out the information should know the facts the sleeves before misleading us. Everyone on my programme was told different answers for the same question.
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Cara
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
The communication before leaving for South America could be improved, the webinar did not work so I was constantly emailing to go through information with Gapforce. Although you are given a kit list it did not have everything on it, I did not know I needed a sleeping bag until a week before hand, information could be communciated more in advanced and made clearer. Bag sizes such as your main bag could be given as a guideline as the whole group ranged in sizes of bags, some people struggled as there bag was 10liters too small, then the other side of the spectrum was that I was told to take a bag about 30liters too much but luckily decided to take a smaller bag through personal preference.
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Harriet
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

south America explore

Great trip for those who have never travelled by themselves before. I found it the perfect length of time to fit into my university summer. It also had a range of volunteering activities as well as cultural experiences. I found staying in home stays really helped to improve my Spanish.

What would you improve about this program?
More support and advice from staff in the office before the trip is needed in order to prepare.