This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Responsible tourism: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands activity vacation
Travel and tourism can both benefit and damage the environment, the economy, the social structure, culture and communities in any country. We know how mass tourism, unrestricted hotel building, poorly devised tours and environmentally destructive activities can bring money flooding in and governments have, in a spirit of short termism, been tempted to accept them. But experience teaches us that in the long term this sort of uncontrolled activity can be detrimental to the country's development.
As a company we love Latin America and strive to protect the rural and urban landscapes which we take you to visit. We work with local operators which have a proven record in training guides to set a good example in their respect for their surroundings and pass on advice and encouragement to visitors on how to preserve the fragile environment in simple ways, such as by refilling a water bottle, disposing of rubbish responsibly, not disturbing local communities or wildlife and not purchasing items made from endangered animals or plants. When selecting accommodation, we give preference to hotels, lodges and cruise vessels which have a verifiable commitment to eco-friendly practices.
This active vacation allows you to get an intimate knowledge of the rural landscapes and society in Ecuador and the Galápagos in a manner which could hardly be more low impact. Hiking, cycling, horse-riding and exploring towns on foot are exhilarating ways of exploring and you’ll meet and interact with local people more easily than if you were traveling in a tour bus.
The supplier of our local services in Ecuador, our travel partner, is an award–winning ecotourism company specializing in responsible, community-based tourism in Ecuador. It is a member of the International Ecotourism Society which, as a global source of knowledge and advocacy in ecotourism, offers practical educational tools and promotes capacity building opportunities for professionals.
Our supplier’s programmes combine life-changing, active-but-cultural ecotourism experiences focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability. In addition to its work with tribes in the Amazon jungle, they organise vacations for us in the Galápagos Islands, the Andes and on the Pacific coast region of Ecuador.
In 1959, the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5% of the archipelago's land area a national park, excepting areas already colonised. In 1986, the 70,000 square km of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve, second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In 1990, the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. UNESCO listed the islands in 1978 as a World Heritage Site and in 1985 as a biosphere reserve. Your national park fee of $US100 will contribute towards the conservation work.
The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean six million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thrive there. Today, the Galápagos Islands are at risk due to a growing human population. Overuse of limited natural resources and the introduction of invasive alien species and disease add stress to an isolated island system already beginning to experience the effects of global climate change.
In order to minimise negative impact on a region of vital ecological importance, during your excursions in the Galápagos any waste generated, such as plastics, dead batteries etc. are collected and transported to Quito for proper disposal, thus ensuring that no waste or polluting materials are left behind. You are also encouraged to get involved with locals causes, and you can make donations to local conservation efforts through the Conservation in Action Foundation.
The hotels we use on this vacation are all small private establishments. For example, in the Mindo cloud forest you stay at El Monte, a sustainable eco-lodge. Here in your riverside cabin you feel the lushness of tropical foliage with orchids and exotic birds. El Monte is unique for its environmental philosophy. The aim is to help protect the forest with as low an impact as possible. A conscience decision was made to keep the property small: there’s a strict ratio between guests received and the amount of land owned to keep the ecological impact to a minimum. Of the El Monte Reserve only about one hectare is used for the lodge, garden and cabins, the rest is devoted to nature walks and bird observation.
Casa Mojanda, in the Andean highlands, has striven to protect the cloud forest and wildlife throughout the Mojanda lakes region, which is home to many different plants, animals and birds, including the endangered Andean condor, of which there are fewer than 75 left in Ecuador. Unfortunately this area is in danger of degradation, as native forests are still being burned to produce charcoal and pasture lands. Permanent protection for the Mojanda lakes is a long term objective. At 3,700m the principal lake sits in the crater of an extinct volcano. Introduced rainbow trout are the only fish in the lake. The surrounding area, once heavily forested, now consists of páramo (high altitude grasslands) with some patches of mountain cloud forest. Casa Mojanda was instrumental in developing a plan to secure protected status for the lakes and grasslands, which was adopted by the two local councils with jurisdiction over the Mojanda lakes. This historical ordinance is one of the very first local government ecological initiatives in Ecuador.
Hacienda el Porvenir, your accommodation on the slopes of Rumiñahui volcano in the Cotopaxi highland region is owned by an operator with excellent sustainability credentials. Strict waste and water management guidelines – composting, recycling etc – are in force. The proprietor has been involved in a reforestation campaign, with over 400,000 native trees planted for conservation purposes on the property of Hacienda El Porvenir through agreements with NGOs and other organisations. You are afforded the opportunity to join in this project by adopting one or more trees. By planting a tree, you can do your bit to conserve the high Andean forests of Ecuador, protect the habitat of local wildlife and safeguard water sources through the run-off from native forests.
As a company whose raison d’étre is the support and survival of indigenous cultures, our Ecuadorian partner’s operation is dedicated to a tourism based on respectful cultural exchange and designed to strengthen local cultures. Groups are kept small in order to avoid cultural contamination of any kind, as well as providing you with a more intimate and rewarding experience. The aim is to inspire you through educational experiences to become active conservationists and supporters of local indigenous communities. A fundamental element of this policy is ensuring that any communities we work with, as well as their representatives, receive fair economic benefits from tourism. A major portion of the benefits from the operations you will experience in the Andean highlands and the Galápagos consequently remains within the communities, and care is taken to see that the income is distributed equitably to the various families and service providers involved.
At the Responsible Tourism Awards our partner was a highly commended operator for Cultural Engagement and the Huaorani Ecolodge highly commended as accommodation in local communities. National Geographic selected the company as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth. Casa Mojanda’s earth-friendly construction methods and organic farming techniques tread lightly on the land, and they provide secure employment for as many local community members as possible. Casa Mojanda was consciously built as a business which by its nature and mission would be oriented toward preserving the local ecosystem and playing a role in the local community.
El Monte Lodge and Casa Mojanda belong to an organisation called GreenEcuador/EcuadorVerde, a network of some of the most prestigious eco- projects in the country.
The company which owns and operates Hacienda el Porvenir participates in a number of community projects. In one project, initiated in 2010, art is key in fighting poverty and addressing the lack of educational equipment. The aim was to raise money for arts materials to be handed over to primary school teachers. In return, the teachers agreed to put on an art exhibition during the school year to display the work done by the children. This programme was being funded by a donation of postcards from the photographer, Mónica Andrade, which visitors can buy. A further project was aimed at equipping the very basic Ana María Velasco Primary School, with 112 pupils and 10 teachers, with a science laboratory.