Mexico Monarch Butterfly Country: Immersive Ecology & Social Studies
This Discovery Expeditions and Natural Partners program is a research expedition to Mexico and its Monarch Country to study the ecology of the forest sanctuaries in Central Mexico where millions of Monarch butterflies gather to spend the winter after their 2,000-mile journey from the U.S. and Canada. To understand the key role of local communities in overwintering habitat conservation, we will also meet local students and teachers who are helping to conserve these ‘sacred places’ with support services of the Monarch Sister Schools Program.
Receipt of deposit and registration prior to February 15, 2016 will confirm your space and contracted pricing listed below. After that date, contracted pricing may change due to increase in costs in lodging or other associated costs. Please contact William Dent for updated pricing if contract has expired. Contracted prices are based on a minimum of 9 travelers and a maximum of 18 travelers. Click below to register and save your spot. For more details of the vision for the trip, the itinerary, and what is included in the trip price, read below.
Teachers: Some school districts offer tuition reimbursement for the Dominican University course. For Montgomery County, Maryland, teachers, please visit the MCPS website for more information.
Overview: Mexico Monarch Country: Immersive Ecology & Social Studies
There are three registration options for this course:
1. Non-credit (no additional fees, registered through Academic Expeditions)
2. Two credits (additional fee of $235 registered through Dominican University)
3. Three credits (additional fee of $350 registered through Dominican University)
For specific work requirements and syllabus for options 2 and 3 and to register for one of these courses (should you choose to do so now), please contact Allan Varni at Dominican University.
Itinerary: Mexico Monarch Country: Immersive Ecology & Social Studies
NOTE: Details below are subject to adaptation as more specifics are worked out on the ground.
included in your plane fare.The card will be stamped at customs/immigration inside the Mexico City airport, showing you are in the country legally. Upon departure you must return the Tourist Card Note: The cost of the tourist card (about $25) is
Day 1. Feb. 27th - Saturday
We depart early by plane for Charlotte, NC where we catch our flight (AA829) to Mexico City. Early afternoon we arrive at Mexico City’s Benitez Juarez International Airport. After clearing passport control & customs, we meet our Mexican Tour Guide, Alexander. Before checking into our hotel, we will spend a couple of hours touring the Centro historico of Mexico City, including the Zócalo (the world’s third largest city square), the main Cathedral, the National Palace and its Diego Rivera murals, and ruins of the Templo Mayor dating back to Aztec times. After this colorful City Tour, we check in at the Hotel Casa Blanca, a half block from the City’s beautiful Paseo de la Reforma Boulevard lined with statuary and a one-minute walk from the Monument of the Revolution. After freshening up, we leave about 7:00 pm for our Welcome Dinner at the renowned Café Tacuba restaurant to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine and be serenaded by live musicians in a beautiful traditional setting frequented mainly by local people.
Day 2. Feb. 28th - Sunday
After a good night’s rest, we enjoy a leisurely Mexican-style breakfast (so many options to choose from!) before departing for an excursion north of the city led by our guide Alexander Ramirez Cruz to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan where most of us will want to climb the Pyramid of the Sun, reportedly the third largest pyramid in the world, and touch its ‘power point’ at the top.
In early afternoon we depart Teotihuacan to return to Mexico City and visit the famous National Museum of Anthropology, where we will have a late lunch or ‘Sunday dinner’ in the museum’s spacious outdoor patio. Afterwards, Alexander takes us on a two-hour tour of the Museum itself highlighting the incredibly rich cultural history of Mexico’s pre-colonial civilizations. You will soon understand why the Museum ranks as one of the 10 best in the world!
After our inspiring tour, we pause just outside the Museum to take in the atmosphere of the Chapultepec Park, the City’s huge green area, before returning to our Hotel. The rest of the evening is free, though we must remember we will be rising early tomorrow to depart early in the morning for ‘Monarch Country’.
Day 3. Feb. 29th - Monday
As we check out of the hotel early in the morning, we pick up a box breakfast provided by the hotel and head west out of Mexico City in our Mercedes minibus in time to escape the heavy rush hour traffic. After cresting the high hills that separate Mexico City from the State of Mexico, we take in the beautiful scenery on our way to Zitácuaro, ‘capital’ of Monarch Country and the place where we will stay the next two days. At the top of our agenda today is a visit and ‘welcome breakfast’ with students of Leona Vicario Elementary School, which was the first Mexican school to join the Monarch Sister Schools Program and collaborate locally on doing reforestation projects to restore areas of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Students will make a brief presentation to us on their work, which includes the operation of a tree nursery to raise baby oyamel fir trees for their reforestation work.
In mid-morning, we depart for the hour-long trip up into the mountains to visit the ‘El Rosario’ Monarch butterfly sanctuary, which is managed and cared for the El Rosario community, on whose (collectively owned) lands the largest concentrations of Monarchs are found, usually in the same groves of trees where their great-grandparents overwintered the year before. We expect to arrive at the sanctuary’s colorful Visitors Center in late morning and secure a local guide from the community to usher us up the steep trails. Our starting altitude at the Center is about 7,200 feet. The climb takes about one hour.
Mid-afternoon we head back down past the Visitors Center to check out the handicrafts of local artisans. It is hard to resist buying something unique to this very special place. We then head back to town making a brief stop to meet the students of the afternoon shift at the Leona Vicario School, before returning to Zitácuaro to check into the Hotel México near the town’s main square. After freshening up, we have dinner, followed by a walking tour of this charming small Mexican town.
Day 4. Tuesday, March 1st
We enjoy breakfast at our hotel then leave to drive up to the nearby highlands for two walking tours: (1) one of the Alternare Training Center that teaches local community leaders (within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve) how to manage their community forests and watersheds and produce more food on less land for a more sustainable future (amazing work!); and (2) a tour of Angangueo, an old gold mining town facing the challenges of building a greener future. We will enjoy a light almuerzo (lunch) before beginning our intense afternoon program in the community of Valle Verde (near Zitácuaro), involving:
- Student presentation at the ‘Forestry’ Secondary School with youth leader Jésus Arriaga Vazquez
- A visit to the ‘Carpinteros’ Secondary School and discussion of student reforestation projects.
- La Comida – Mid-afternoon we will partake of a typical Mexican ‘main meal of the day’ prepared by a well-known local chef at Hotel México
- Opening ceremony of the Festival Nacional de la Mariposa Monarca (National Monarch Butterfly Festival) with:
- Presentation by local artists from the schools
- Presentation by the 'Raices Otomies' Folkloric Dance Group
- Mexican-style dinner or "Cena" [Yes, it is true Mexicans eat four times a day … and the food is wonderful!]
Day 5. Wednesday, March 2nd
Morning: Breakfast / Early departure from Alternare Lodge for Mexico City
Minibus transfer to Mexico City Airport
Trip Inclusions & Exclusions: Discovery Expeditions agrees to provide each of the following goods and services for the duration of the tour to each participant:
- Custom-designed itinerary based on years of experience in Mexico.
- Top tour guide (Alex Ramirez Cruz), one of the most knowledgeable and engaging in Mexico City.
- Full-time bilingual TC and professional guide () accompanying the group during entire tour.
- Hotel accommodations based on Double Occupancy (4 nights total) / Note: Single rooms available (US$50 single supplement)
- Meals: Sat. (2/27)-Welcome dinner // Sun. (2/28) Breakfast at hotel, mid-afternoon Sunday dinner // Mon. (2/29) Breakfast & Dinner // Tues.(3/1) Breakfast, lunch, dinner; // Wed. (3/2) Breakfast.
- Private mini bus and driver between sites in Mexico and shuttle service to and from the airport.
- Entrance fees to all program sites and activities listed on the itinerary
- Optional graduate credit from an accredited university, Dominican University. Please contact Allan Varni to register or if you have questions.
- Recommended resources/teaching materials (age appropriate books, lesson plans, and online resources)
- Peer connections
- All taxes and gratuities where the group is together (tour leader and driver included)
- Complete tour participant accounting including option to pay by credit card
- Comprehensive Accident, Medical, Liability, and Travel Protection/Cancellation/Interruption Insurance for the Land portion of the trip
- Liability Insurance included - Professional General Liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy ($5,000,000).
- Cancel for Any Reason Insurance - Cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive a 75% refund
Not included in the trip price:
- Airfare and any baggage fees (to be purchased at the discretion and responsibility of each participant).
- Customs and immigration fees at airports or border crossings.
- Any other meals, snacks, drinks, taxes, and gratuities when the group is dispersed for self-exploration.
- Additional nights lodging or additional touring days if one chooses to remain in country longer.