Ecuador | Amazon & Cotopaxi | Adult Leadership Expedition

Explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world on a 25-day Ecuador expedition!

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


International programming with the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) provides unparalleled adventure. Our 25-day Ecuador expedition is developed to give you the international experiences and skills needed to travel to pristine locations around the world. And, it’s absolutely spectacular.

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25 days

Course Information

Adventure First

The Amazon contains the “Lungs of the Earth”- explore some of the most beautiful rivers and countryside in the world with every breath you take.

Our classroom on this adventure will stretch from the snow-capped volcanoes of Ecuador, through the cloud forests and past the mountains to the magical greenery and lushness that the Amazon basin provides. Within this landscape, you’ll develop solid outdoor skills and explore issues in environmental sustainability, while integrating a sense of community and adventure.

This 25-day overnight camping expedition is a truly one-of-a-kind experience that takes you through the heart of South America and into the Amazon. The expedition is tailored for adults and those in search of gap-year and study aboard courses. On this thrilling Amazon River trip you’ll see first-hand the wonders of the volcanoes of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands to name a few. Here you’ll be able to take an inside view of how we can promote environmental sustainability while traveling through the wonders on South America.

Working with our local contacts at Palugo Farm in Quito, Ecuador, explore some of the most intricate techniques to sustainable farming, from gardening and cooking, to cleaning and animal work. Through our multi-day Amazon River trip, discover the dense ecology and rich biodiversity that the area encompasses, while also culturally immersing yourself in the traditions of the local Kichua indigenous community.

NCOAE’s 25-day Amazon River & Cotopaxi  course is exceptional with a unique combination of adventure and skill development, including: outdoor leadership, map and compass navigation, plant and animal identification, and more. You’ll develop technical skills with raft guiding, backpacking, basic mountaineering, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, and international travel.

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  • Duration: 25 days
  • Minimum Age: 19
  • Tuition: $5,985.00

Education Always

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE core curriculum
  • Navigating international logistics and Spanish-language variables
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads


  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) trainer certification
  • NCOAE Curriculum for outdoor educators, teachers, and trip leaders
  • Gain experience in international travel, risk management, environmental studies, plant and animal identification, outdoor leadership, and more.



  • Develop Whitewater Rafting & Mountaineering skills
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental sustainability & outdoor education curriculum — while learning in Ecuador’s wild, beautiful places
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and environmental education are best suited to your strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to travel in pristine destinations around the world!



  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Andes Mountains
  • Amazon River
  • Cotopaxi National Park
What is the Ecuador - Amazon River & Cotopaxi Course?

The Amazon River & Cotopaxi course is a 25-day outdoor education program that takes you to the southern hemisphere. You’ll learn the skills you need to plan, prepare, and lead outdoor adventure-based experiential education courses. You will develop a wide-range of wilderness and leadership skills, including raft guiding, backpacking, mountaineering, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, international travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication styles, decision-making, and teamwork. No other program offers a combination of hands-on experiential education training in an international setting.

Where in Ecuador will our course visit?

Your group will board a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador where you will be introduced to our local contacts. Soon after your arrival, you will explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world. Ecuador is a land of extremes, and you’ll see it all.

Your course may include exploring the countryside and sustainable farming in Quito, Ecuador, paddling the Amazon river basin, backpacking and mountaineering in Cotopaxi National Park, and community homestays, and the Otavalo market.

Do I need to have any previous experience in outdoor adventure sports?

No. Previous experience is not required. NCOAE will teach you all the basics you need to know to thrive in the wilderness, and then let you apply them among your group of peers. We will train you in the skills necessary to become a competent international traveler.

How far will we travel each day?

While there are no predetermined distances, you may travel several miles one day and none the next. You will learn to embrace and appreciate the unknown and unexpected.

What activities will I engage in?

You will engage in a wide range of experiential activities, focused on outdoor technical skills, leadership skills, and environmental sustainability, including map and compass wilderness navigation, international expedition planning, paddling, backpacking, campcraft, backcountry cooking, environmental case studies, and wilderness risk management.  Specific time is included for communing with nature, journaling, engaging in rich cultural exchange, and reflecting in solitude.

What do I need to do to prepare physically for the course?

Physical preparation depends on your fitness level. You don’t need to be a triathlete to participate, but you will be responsible for carrying your own equipment and some of the group gear while maintaining a positive attitude. The backpacking section will require you to carry 40 pounds or more over rough and rugged terrain, through various environments. The paddling sections will require sitting and paddling for long periods of time and walking on rugged, slippery shorelines or through the water while carrying or pulling your boat.

Do I need to buy any special equipment or clothes for the course?

Yes. NCOAE provides all necessary group gear and food, but you will want, or be required, to bring certain items for yourself. We encourage you to contact NCOAE with all of your gear questions as early as possible. Start planning now by viewing NCOAE’s 25-Day Ecuador Pack List.

How many people will be in my group?

Each group has one to three instructors and eight to 12 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every six students.

How different is the Outdoor Educator from the Semester course?

For the Outdoor Educator course, we pack a lot into your 25 days in Ecuador. We do this through combining the highlights of local topography, geography, and culture with our exceptional Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This shorter, more intense course allows for a wide variety of activities against the backdrop of lush greenery, winding rivers, and some of the oldest mountains in the world. If you’re looking for a less intensive stay in Ecuador with more time for additional exploration and adventure, we suggest you consider joining us for a semester.

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for in Ecuador?

Your tuition covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. You may request an optional meal out when we are in an urban area, which you would need to pay for separately. Additionally, you’ll need to budget a small stipend for your personal items, including souvenirs, extra snacks, and gifts.

How do I book my flight?

All Travel Arrangements for NCOAE International programs are managed and facilitated by NCOAE’s trusted travel agency professionals, Travel Associates.  Travel Associates is a bespoke travel agency staffed by MaryJo Palmer and Heidi Cunningham, both seasoned Travel Advisors with years of experience behind them.  MaryJo and Heidi are based in Woodstock, Vermont but assist with customers based around the world.  While Travel Associates specialty is luxury travel, they are also highly skilled at complex itineraries and can provide guidance on everything from upgrades to Visas to Travel Insurance.  Upon enrolling in an NCOAE program, you will need to contact Mary Jo or Heidi at either 800-640-4137 or 802-332-3511, or by email at and  to secure your travel arrangements.

What is the age of participants?

The age range for this course is 19 – 27 years old.

Is the 25-day course offered in other locations or on different dates?

We offer this 25-day course in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the year to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can explore Alaska, North Carolina, or the Pacific Northwest at various times of the year.

Will we have any free time to ourselves?

Part of every NCOAE course is the solo experience. You will have the opportunity to spend a set amount of time alone in the backcountry for reflection – to meet your own personal needs and desired outcomes.  Additionally, there will be re-supply days throughout the course, giving you time to head into town to relax and prepare for the next leg of your course.

Is financial aid available? Can I earn college credits? How do I apply?

At this time, we do not offer financial aid.  However, if you are a college student you may be able to use your existing federal financial aid to help pay for your course, and you may receive college credits through a consortium agreement with NCOAE. If you are attending a college or university as part of a degree granting program, your advisor can determine whether your school will accept and transfer academic credits for participating in NCOAE courses from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. If it does, consult your financial aid office to determine if, how, and which funds may be used toward your NCOAE course costs. For more information on the consortium agreement process, contact

Academic Credit

Your work during our 25-day Ecuador – Amazon River & Cotopaxi / Outdoor Educator course is eligible for up to six college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington including:

  • EVS 485 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits
  • EVS 592 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits

Course Outcomes

This course is for you if you want to explore Ecuador, if you want to gain technical outdoor skills, experience cultural immersion, discover issues in environmental sustainability, and/or if your career game plan includes working full-time as an outdoor educator with international experience.

Where do you want to go (physically, mentally, socially, academic, etc.)?

NCOAE’s international programming objectives revolve around the concepts of self, community, action and impact; focus on authentic international learning and hands-on education; and involve locals and communities to create meaningful academic and personal connections.

A fundamental part of this course includes map and compass reading, wilderness navigation, water safety techniques, the fine art of setting up a campsite, “reading” rapids, paddle strokes and maneuvers, local ecology, and more.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

You’ll be immersed in 25-powerful days of The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) Core Curriculum — an approach to leadership that is unrivaled in the industry.

On top of all that, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll have an advantage over others when you apply for entry-level job openings in the fields of outdoor education, adventure-based education, environmental sustainability, backcountry guiding, college and university outdoor recreation programs, and others throughout the country.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

A 25-day Amazon River expedition designed to give you the skills needed to work professionally as an outdoor educator with international experience. And, it’s absolutely spectacular.

Available Dates
July 12 — August 05, 2022

We can pretty much guarantee you’ll have an advantage over others when you apply for entry-level job openings in the fields of outdoor education, adventure-based education, backcountry guiding, college and university outdoor recreation programs, and others throughout the country.