South America Explorer with Gapforce

Video and Photos

The group
The group
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
person ziplining
person ziplining
Girls smiling in front of Macchu Pichu
Girls smiling in front of Macchu Pichu
group smiling at Latitude Zero sign in Quito, Ecuador
group smiling at Latitude Zero sign in Quito, Ecuador

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 social care mean you can leave your mark and give something back as you travel this vibrant, surprising corner of South America.

Conclude your adventure with an optional 5-day 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.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

90%
based on 26 reviews
  • Housing 8.4
  • Support 8.2
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 8.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 26
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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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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.

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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,...
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