Accommodation and Meals:
We spend 11 nights in hotels and haciendas (Spanish colonial estate houses) and 2 nights in a jungle lodge. All accommodation is locally owned and staffed, which is of great advantage to surrounding communities in providing alternative employment opportunities- especially in more off-the-beaten-track areas. This also ensures that income earned is re-invested back into the area. Where meals are provided, locally sourced ingredients are used as much as possible. For lunch and dinner, the tour leader will recommend various options in convenient locations, usually booking restaurants and eating with the group.
Local Craft and Culture:
There is an included excursion to visit the Otavalo market. The market is always busy and is one of the most well known in the region. We become accustomed with the pristine, traditional costumes of the indigenous people from surrounding villages; women wear embroidered blouses and long wool skirts whilst the men wear felt hats, navy blue ponchos and calf-length trousers. There are plenty of souvenirs to buy such as Panama hats, exquisite weaving and jewellery. Another cultural highlight is visiting San Clemente- a small agricultural community consisting of a number of local families. We take a guided tour here and are introduced to native plants, taught traditional embroidery techniques and are taken through some day to day activities. The visit includes homemade lunch, prepared using produce grown in the village.
A Fair Deal:
We work closely with our local operator and ensure that local guides are being employed and that in exchange for their expertise they are paid and treated fairly. This way the local area benefits as income stays in the area and goes directly back into community businesses. These tours have been verified by the Rainforest Alliance, which means they have been vetted for ecological, social and economic benefits to the community. The leaders will give a briefing on responsible tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local people from your visit. Our chefs, sous chefs, camp staff, mule drivers and other transporters are also all locally hired.
We visit the Amazoonico Rescue Centre for animals in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The centre is dedicated to providing a safe and natural environment for animals that have been illegally captured or injured. As a result of the cruelty they have experienced, some animals suffer behavioural and physical effects which disallow them to live safely in the wild, whilst others are able to re-enter their original habitat. Here our entrance fees and purchasing of souvenirs go towards this valiant effort to stop animal poaching and trafficking. When we enter Chimborazo National Park and Cajas National Park, we also pay entrance fees which are contributed towards conservation efforts in these areas. Regardless of where we are, we use a ‘leave no trace’ policy.
Our local operators support conservation and social projects such as the Verde Milenio Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation in Ecuador. Verde Milenio run environmental education and research projects which contribute towards reforestation, classification of flora and fauna, veterinary control and rescue of native animals. They also donate regularly to a school in Tumbabiro village and help local Afro-Ecuadorian communities like La Victoria by supporting the pottery works which are the basis for their economy.
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.