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Experience the island chain that has enchanted explorers since Darwin first dropped anchor off its shores. Spend a week exploring the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago aboard a stylish vessel - the Yolita II. Travelling between the central, southern and eastern islands, you will have the chance to explore these islands from land and from the sea; snorkel at Devil's Crown and spot large schools of tropical fish and head to Santa Cruz's verdant highlands, to see giant tortoises in their natural environment. Please note, this tour is operated in conjunction with a local specialist company and is not exclusive to Explore customers. Your fellow passengers may come from a number of different countries although all guiding is done in English, and may include families.
7 nights comfortable boat
2 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Quito, Ecuador's mountain capital and the second highest capital city in Latin America. One of South America's most beautiful cities, Quito lies in a narrow valley at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and extinct volcanoes. On arrival at Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), a representative will be waiting to meet you directly in front of the arrivals section, holding a sign with your name on it. They will show you where to go to catch your transfer to your hotel.
For those arriving on time, a group representative will meet you in the hotel reception at approximately 5pm for the welcome meeting. You will have the opportunity to meet other tour participants and receive information about the trip, as well as departure times for the following day. A welcome note will be left for you in the hotel so you have all the necessary information regarding the exact meeting time, though we do recommend that you arrive at the hotel by 4pm. If you arrive late, the representative will leave you a message detailing what time and where you should meet the following morning. There are no other activities planned today.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore the new and old parts of the city. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its rich blend of colonial architecture, imposing churches and bustling local markets. A climb to the top of Cerro Panecillo affords one of the best views across the city and the surrounding mountains, presenting you with an unparalleled vista of the encircling Andes from the viewing platform offered by the statue of the Virgen de Quito.
Hilton Colon (or similar)
Today we transfer to the airport early for our flight to the Galapagos Islands via Guayaquil (refueling stop only, you will not disembark the plane).
Lying on the Equator, 970km west of the Ecuadorean coast, the Galapagos National Park is a unique collection of islands, formed by volcanoes over hundreds of thousands of years and consists of six main islands, 12 smaller islands as well as over 40 small islets, supporting a distinct and unique flora and fauna, including prehistoric creatures found nowhere else on earth. This desolate and fantastic habitat was discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga. One of the original designations by him was Las Islas Encantadas, the Enchanted Isles. Charles Darwin visited the islands on the Beagle exactly three hundred years later, in 1835. He observed the total isolation of the giant reptiles and other creatures, and this played a substantial part in his formulation of the theory of evolution.
The Galapagos have never been connected with the continent. Gradually, over many hundreds of thousands of years, animals and plants from over the sea somehow migrated there and as time went by they adapted themselves to Galapagos conditions and came to differ more and more from their continental ancestors. Thus many of them are unique: a quarter of the species of shore fish, half of the plants and almost all the reptiles are found nowhere else. In many cases different forms have evolved on the different islands.
Of the extraordinary animals to be found in the Galapagos many are reptiles, such as the great tortoise, large land iguanas, numerous lizards and three species of non-poisonous snakes. There are also several species of turtle, which come ashore to mate. Up to three quarters of a million seabirds flock to the islands, including a third of the world's blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants, albatross and petrels. Only 35cm tall, the Galapagos penguin can be seen swimming among tropical mangroves, whilst offshore it is common to see dolphins, sea lions and fur seals playing in the water. Fearless though not tame, the extraordinary wildlife can be easily approached and the opportunities for photography are superb.
The Galapagos National Park charges a visitor fee of $110 USD, payable on arrival, which funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other national parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the national park system are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.
On arrival, we will meet our naturalist guide. We will board our vessel and home for the next seven nights, the stylish Yolita II. This afternoon, we visit North Seymour Island, just north of Baltra Island, which is home to sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, magnificent frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies. North Seymour Island is probably the most exciting island photographically. Birdlife abounds, and close to the trail you will find many nesting pairs and young chicks. North Seymour is also home to the Galapagos' largest colony of magnificent frigatebirds. Their mating ritual is an ostentatious display; males expand the red sack at the base of their throat and perch atop a bush with wings fully extended, flapping furiously. Interested females circle overhead, and if so inclined, may join the male on terra firma. Further along the trail we can observe a colony of sea lions. There will also an opportunity for a snorkel excursion among the colourful fish who call this area home.
Yolita II (or similar)
Our first landing for the day is at Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal. The sandy beach is home to Sally Lightfoot crabs, brown pelicans, blue footed boobies and California sea lions. A short distance away and visible from shore is an island called Leon Dormido, or 'Kicker Rock', which rises hundreds of feet above the ocean and resembles a sleeping lion. It is quite striking and if conditions are right we may be able to sail through a narrow channel which splits Kicker Rock in half. An incredible snorkelling spot, Kicker Rock is home to an incredibly diverse set of marine life in the nutrient-rich water and is also inhabited by large numbers of seabirds. We will then head to Isla Lobos, explore this tiny island for great wildlife encounters. Either by foot or by panga, view the sea and shore birds nesting and feeding. Spot a small colony of blue-footed boobies as well as two species of sea lions. Snorkel the waters of peaceful Isla Lobos, amid the families of sea lions and their inquisitive pups looking to play. Spot nesting frigatebirds and the famous blue-footed boobies resting on the shore. Be sure to bring your camera to catch some snaps at this prime wildlife watching haven.
Sail into Gardner Bay, an excellent swimming and snorkeling site. Head to Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. The southernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago is home to several wildlife species, including masked and blue footed boobies. A hike to the top of the cliff makes for spectacular photo opportunities. Punta Suarez on the western side of Espanola Island is spectacular: gargantuan waves break on jagged cliffs and large bird colonies thickly populate the interior of the island; there is a distinct feel of desolate wilderness here. The waved albatross is seen here from April to December during its mating/nesting season. This bird leaves land between January and March each year to make its annual odyssey far out to sea. Amazingly, Espanola is the nesting site of virtually the entire world population of this species, with more than 12,000 pairs residing here. Large numbers of masked and blue footed boobies are also found here, red-billed tropicbirds dash madly through the air, and both marine iguanas and sea lions are common. A huge blowhole, where the surf is forced through a natural rock formation spouting seawater 15 to 20m into the air, adds to the island's impression of untamed beauty. We follow the trail through a rookery and learn the geological history of the island from our naturalist guide, including its dramatic volcanic features, climate, flora and fauna. Then in the afternoon, we sail to Gardner Bay, an excellent swimming and snorkelling site. Strap on your snorkel and if conditions allow, see an abundance of sea life including; young sea lions and large schools of surprisingly big tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish, and bump-head parrot fish.
After breakfast this morning we head out to explore Sante Fe island, giving us a chance to mingle with the iguanas. We continue onto South Plaza Island, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, South Plaza has one of the largest populations of land iguanas. A large colony of noisy sea lions, numbering about 1000 bulls, cows and pups, has its prime habitat on the smooth rocks. We will walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation. The small cactus forest is populated by land iguanas, which can be seen sunning themselves or feeding on opuntia pads and fruits. Swallow-tailed gulls, which nest on the rugged southern cliffs, are usually seen, along with tropicbirds and Audubon's shearwaters. During the rainy season you can see the red sesuvium turn bright green and the leafless evening-blooming portulaca burst into large yellow flowers, which are loved by the iguanas.
In the morning we arrive in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and has the largest population, with Puerto Ayora as its main town, which you will have some time to explore. It also boasts the most varied of the islands' vegetation zones: coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a ten minute walk from the centre of the town and has been responsible for conservation projects within the islands since 1959 (the centenary of the publication of Darwin's book the Origin of the Species). Here, an exhibition centre displays photos of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. The Research Station is also the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station. Visit the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, a great place to observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas in captivity. A corral houses adult Galapagos tortoises, and a nursery cares for young tortoises until they are about three years old, when their shells have hardened enough to resist attack from feral dogs.
In the afternoon we may have the opportunity to visit the highlands and see giant land tortoises in the wild.
The history of Floreana Island has gradually evolved to reach near mythic proportions. The story begins when a baroness and her two lovers, a German doctor and his mistress, and a German couple and their young son all came to settle on this land. Their dalliances and disasters, shrouded in mystery, were chronicled in John Treherne's book 'The Galapagos Affair'. Descendants of the German family, the Wittmers, still live on the island in the small community of Puerto Velasco Ibarra. Mrs. Margaret Wittmer has also written a booked entitled 'Floreana' and this can be purchased at the airport in Baltra or at a local bookstore.
In the morning, snorkel at Devil's Crown, a coral reef surrounded by an eroded volcanic crater and the perfect home for marine life. Look out for small sharks, rays and schools of tropical fish. Later in the afternoon, we stop at Post Office Bay which has a lot of history. A barrel was placed here in the late 18th century by English whaling vessels to be used as a post office. Passing ships would stop to leave mail for loved ones, collecting at the same time any mail destined for ports on their itineraries. Today the box is used mainly by tourists, who may drop off and pick up unstamped letters to be carried to far destinations. The remains of a Norwegian canning factory are the only evidence of the island's history prior to its designation as a protected area. A short hike up past the post barrel takes you to an interesting lava cave. With the aid of a torch, you can descend about 80m to the point where the sea enters the cave.
In the morning the boat arrives to a small little island off the southern tip of Santiago Island called Sombrero Chino or 'Chinese Hat', named for its unique shape. Chinese Hat comprises of a tilted cone and lava flows that run down to the coast. Here it is often possible to see Galapagos penguins and the abundant marine life, including rays, turtles and sea lions. We head to Cerro Dragon in the afternoon. Here, you will have the opportunity of some excellent birdwatching.
Explore the mangrove lagoon at Black Turtle Cove. In the afternoon, we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito via Guayaquil (refueling stop only, you will not disembark the plane). On arrival back on the mainland, we transfer to the hotel for our final night in Ecuador.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Quito.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. We recommend spending extra time in Quito, particularly if you wish to go on some of the optional day trips that are bookable locally, or if you are looking to book on our Amazon extension package (trip code: AE). Pick-up times for your airport transfer to Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) will be re-confirmed locally in your welcome pack. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel.
Temperature ranges are similar all year round. In the highlands: the dry season lasts from June to mid-September. November and December are partially dry. The rainy months are October and from January to May, but showers are short and mostly in the afternoons. Temperatures range from 12°C to 24°C. Nights are cold at altitude (4°C - 10°C). The Coastal Region: from December to May it is hot and wet. From June to November it is generally cool and misty with sudden light showers. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. The Amazon Area: it is humid all year round. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. From April to August the rainfall is heavier. The Galapagos: On the Galapagos, the hot season is January to April with largely sunny days and the possibility of heavy showers; the cool season runs from May to December and is generally more cloudy with much cooler seas. Please note that although it is windier from July to November the sea can be rough at any time of the year. On the mainland the dry season lasts from June to October, though September can be wet.
2 Pin Flat
The below optional activities are bookable locally in Quito in the reception area of the Hotel Hilton Colon. Please note, the following prices are a guideline only and may be subject to change. Due to International flights timings and the times of flights to and from the Galapagos, excursions will require extra days in Quito which we can arrange for you before travel, please speak to one of our travel consultants to secure additional nights and extra transfers :- Quito city tour (Half Day) - US$50 (1 pers) / US$40 (2+ pers), Plus entrance fees approx. US$ 9pp Quito city tour + Equator Line (Half day) - US$60 (1 pers) / US$45 (2+ pers) Plus entrance fees approx. US$ 9pp Equator line museum US$9 Equator Line (Half day)- US$50 (1 pers) / US$40 (2+ pers) Museum ents. US$9 Mindo Cloudforest (Full day) - US$100 (1 pers) US$70 (2+ pers) plus entrance fees US$20 Otavalo Market (Full day) inc visit to Calderon - US$100 (1 pers) US$70 (2+pers) Cotopaxi Volcano (Full day) US$100 (1 pers) US$70 (2+pers) plus Park Entrance fee $35 USD per group (this can be split between group) Papallacta Hot Springs (Full day) - US$100 (1 Pers) US$50 (2+ pers) plus US$7 Entrance fee per person. This is transport only Spa treatments are extra. Cable Car - US$3 taxi ; Entrance US$8 You can get from 2.800 m to 4.200 m in 10 minutes and view Quito at your feet. Please note that optional activities will need to be paid in cash and do not include lunch - please allow US$10 accordingly.
We recommend that you do not bring too much clothing as space is limited in the cabins. We would recommend you bring a fleece top, waterproof jacket, 4 shirts / T shirts, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of trousers and 1 pair of hiking trousers. You will also need a swimsuit for the additional water-based activities offered. Full snorkelling equipment is provided on board.
Bring comfortable walking boots or shoes and trainers or sandals with a good grip. Plastic sandals (not flip flops) are useful for wet landings.
We recommend the use of a duffel bag or backpack (whichever you find easiest to carry). A good size daypack is also essential. If you don't wish to take your entire luggage with you to Galapagos, please ensure you have an extra bag you can leave behind at hotel storage and pick up on your return. Please note that the amount of luggage you can bring on the boat is LIMITED due to small cabin size. We recommend travellers use soft sided duffel bags of 40-50 litres in capacity. We will accept luggage types onboard, however if you are a single traveller sharing with another traveller, it's especially important to keep in mind that cabins are small in size and it's best to pack light.
Pack a torch, water bottle, sunglasses, insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, a beach towel, waterproof bag for camera and motion sickness tablets/patches for the boat. You may also wish to take binoculars. Full snorkelling equipment is provided on board.
Bus, Flight, Yolita II, Zodiac
The Yolita II is a stylish 16 passenger ship which has recently been refurbished. Boasting spacious cabins with plenty of outside deck space. The large upper deck allows you to soak up as much of the Ecuadorian sun as you need. All cabins have side by side berths, private bathrooms and air conditioning. All meals are provided and are served aboard the vessel. There is an outdoor and indoor dining area. Snorkelling equipment, wetsuits and beach towels are included at no extra charge. The daily schedule consists of a shore excursion immediately following breakfast then lunch aboard and perhaps a siesta before the afternoon shore excursion. In the evening after dinner, your naturalist guide will brief you on the islands to be visited the following day. You are ferried from the yacht to shore via small boats called pangas. Landings are either 'dry' or 'wet', where you may have to wade ashore in shallow water. Your naturalist guide will accompany you during all excursions. Snorkelling and swimming are a large part of this trip and water-based activities will be offered on most days while travelling in the Galapagos. Please note, if you are not keen on water sports, there will often be no alternative to the extra water-based activity offered, other than staying and relaxing aboard the vessel. In some landing spots, there might be an option to walk on shore but this would be without a guide. Our Galapagos trips are often part of longer or shorter itineraries, so it is not unusual that some of the group may change mid-way through your trip.
Please note that the rooming on our Galapagos yachts is done on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we are not able to guarantee the specific cabin you will receive on board. The cabins are comfortable and clean, all with private bathrooms. Due to the specific location of the cabins on board, the window sizes vary as well as the noise at times when the boat is navigating, given the proximity of the cabins to the engine room. Our friendly and competent crew will ensure a smooth and comfortable journey for the duration of your tour. On this tour, the price is based on a lower deck cabin. You can upgrade to an upper deck cabin if you wish, prices vary depending on dates and start from £60 per person.
On our Galapagos yachts, food is included, plentiful and made of fresh local ingredients. Dining is casual, tables are unassigned and the dining room is capable of seating the entire passenger compliment at one time. There is always a selection of different meals available, and vegetarians will find plenty of options. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice, please advise us at time of confirmation. Coffee, tea and water are all provided free of charge. All other beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic are not included and can be purchased at the bar. Approximate prices : Beer - $4 - 6 USD Bottle of wine - $30 USD Spirits / cocktails - $6-8 USD Please note : Payment for drinks will need to be made in cash (USD) at the end of your trip. Cards are not accepted on board.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Ecuador: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. In order for your visa to be granted on arrival, you will be required to show proof of travel insurance valid for the duration of your trip. Please also ensure your passport is stamped with the T3 permit (for 30 or 90 days) on arrival in Ecuador. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Galapagos Islands: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: (including those in transit) Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - where you apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which applies if you enter the country by sea or by air. This must be done on line - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. Please note for your ESTA application you will be required to supply Point of Contact information. Explore' s USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. If you are leaving for the USA before this, please call the Explore team to get this information.(Not necessary if in transit) For further information please check out the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim. Snorkelling and swimming form a large part of this trip and are included in addition to the standard daily itinerary. Please note, if you are not keen on water sports, there will often be no alternative to the extra water-based activity offered, other than staying and relaxing aboard the vessel. In some landing spots, there might be an option to walk on shore but this would be without a guide.
We recommend protection against malaria, Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Yellow fever in only recommended for those travelling east of the Andes (Amazon Extension). Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.