Ecuador (May - June)

ECUADOR: The ‘Enchanted Isles’: Ecology, Geography and History on the Galápagos Islands

May 6 - June 1, 2024 (4 weeks) 

Online classes beginning May 6, Arrival in Ecuador May 9

This is the 18th year of the Summer Abroad program in Ecuador. This exciting program is a wonderful opportunity for students interested in life sciences, environmental studies, conservation biology, geology and geography to experience one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world and to explore the pressures and challenges on these unique environments.

The program is hosted by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), and will use two of its research centres, the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences, (GAIAS) and its Quito campus. USFQ has been collaborating with partner universities from around the world for many years, sharing their faculty’s expertise and research knowledge to run successful programs for local and foreign students. This course will be taught by U of T Faculty, in partnership with USFQ. 

Swim Test Requirement

Admission to the Ecuador program requires the successful completion of the "Swim to Survive" swim test, to be taken in January 2024, before the February 1st application deadline. This is a strict requirement, as most program activities take place in and around the water. The test entails rolling into deep water, treading water for 1 minute, and swimming 50 metres (any strokes). Students with Lifeguarding or Scuba certification may submit a scan of their certificate in order to be exempt from the swim test.

Date: Friday, January 26 for UTSG and UTSC. UTM tests: various dates up to Jan 25. Students should attend the test at their home campus

UTSG: 11 am. Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, 55 Harbord St.
UTSC: 12:30 pm. Training Pool at Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, 875 Morningside Ave.
UTM: Various dates/times - contact for information. Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre located at 3359 Mississauga Rd.

Link to Register (DEADLINE JANUARY 24): Ecuador Swim Test

To be exempt from the test, send a scan of your Lifeguarding or Scuba certification to:

You can find information on U of T's Swim to Survive preparation programs here: 

St. George campus 


Primeval Lands and Unique Wild Species

Ecuador is a relatively small country that contains stunning natural diversity: tropical rainforests snow-capped volcanoes, vast coastal beaches, the majestic Andes mountains and the incredible Galápagos Islands. Ecuador has 9.2 species per square kilometre, more than any other country on Earth.

Made famous by Charles Darwin over 150 years ago, the Galápagos is a string of islands about 1000 kilometres west of mainland Ecuador, containing some of the most remarkable ecosystems on Earth. Birds, sea mammals, reptiles and a wide variety of tropical fishes and invertebrates abound in the Galápagos.

Of the sixty or so Galápagos islands, only four have permanent settlements. All of the islands are volcanic and, like most island chains in the Pacific, they sit over a tectonic hotspot. The eastern islands are quiet but the western ones, particularly Isabela and Fernandina, are still very active.

Isolation has made the Galápagos a living laboratory for evolutionary biologists and for those interested in island biota and their vulnerability. We will see famous endemic and native species, including giant tortoises, Darwins finches, blue-footed boobies, and marine iguanas, and examine the deleterious effects of introduced species and the various efforts at control and elimination of invasives. The pattern of life here is largely determined by the frequency and intensity of El Niño events. This phenomenon has global consequences, but in the Galápagos Islands it brings both life and death.


Program Activities

  • Students begin in Quito with orientations and introductory lectures, including visits to old Quito and Mitad del Mundo (the Equator). Then the group will travel by plane to the Galápagos (internal flights arranged by our partner, USFQ).
  • Students will then spend eighteen days based at USFQ’s Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) campus on San Cristóbal, with day trips to several other islands. One highlight is a trip to Española, an uninhabited island that is the only breeding site in the world for the waved albatross. Another will be a snorkeling expedition to Kicker Rock, a partially eroded volcanic tuff cone, where we will have the opportunity to swim with sea lions, sea turtles, and sharks.
  • The program concludes with a return flight to Quito, followed by students’ departure home.

The focus of the 2024 course is on the Galápagos islands - students will not be visiting the Amazon rainforest and Andes highlands. However, the Amazon/Andes course will return in 2025. 

Galapagos group

Ecuador Summer Abroad: News and Highlights

Learn more about the Ecuador Summer Abroad Program through videos, past events and articles.

Questions? Email:  or book a virtual appointment.