Eco-Friendly Trips To Latin AmericaPosted on: 29 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Stay with local families, assist with projects or simply relax in an ecological South American hideaway.
This month Peru announced the creation of its first Environment Ministry, dedicated to protecting the nation’s Amazon rainforest. while the Brazilian government stepped up its “Arc of fire” operation against illegal logging and deforestation.
All good stuff, on paper, but the resignation of Brazil’s Amazon Minister, Marina Silva, citing “difficulties in implementing the government’s environmental agenda,” reminds us that striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection continues to be a struggle.
But responsible tourism and community-led conservation initiatives do offer some hope for the future, and here are six responsible experiences to choose from in Latin America.
Posada Amazonas: Puerto Maldonado
A collaborative project set up by local operator Rainforest Expeditions, together with the Ese-Eja Amerindian community. After 20 years the lodge will be given over completely to the community; having been fully trained to run the lodge in guiding, cooking, accounts, finance and marketing.
60% of all income goes back to the community to fund education, health-care initiatives and protect the surrounding rainforest and its wildlife. So far over 10,000 hectares has been achieved.
Visit and support it with 3 nights from £191 pp + flights. Combine with the Inca highlights of Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Huaorani Lodge: Napo River
A fantastic lodge where both community and conservation benefit in a region which was threatened by oil companies. Similar in principle to the pioneering Kapawi lodge which is also in Ecuador, this is a 10-year collaborative project set up by local operator Tropic, with the region’s Huaorani community. Five comfortable palm-thatched cabins with private bathrooms, a hammock house and guided jungle excursions. Biodegradable products, solar power and a bio-filter for organic waste disposal.
3 nights costs £398 pp + flights. Combine your stay with colonial Quito and the Andean markets, or a cruise in the Galapagos Islands.
Surama Village: Pacaraima Savannah
Surama Village is the blueprint for community-led tourism and conservation in Guyana, and is now being followed by other Amerindian communities. In an attempt to stem the exodus of villagers to the capital of Georgetown, Surama’s “Macushi” villagers, backed by local operator Wilderness Explorers, built a rustic lodge and hammock camp to offer hiking and dug-out canoe tours in the surrounding jungle. The village provides a source of employment and income, aswell as an outlet for local produce and handicrafts.
The 12 night “Highlights of Guyana” tour includes Surama from £2235 pp + flights. Combine with a visit to the Space Centre and Papillon’s Devil’s Island in French Guiana.
Punta Islita: Nicoya Peninsula
Proof that "luxury" can also still be sustainable. An award-winning Pacific-coastal hideaway, famed for its stunning natural setting, strong eco-credentials and impeccable service. Set in the middle of a 50-acre private tropical dry forest reserve, all produce is locally sourced and over 85% of staff are from the local villages. There are 32 luxurious rooms, suites and villas, and visitors can enjoy a range of activities from horse riding and mountain biking, to enjoying the spa and infinity pool.
7 nights costs from £688 pp + flights to San José. Combine your stay with a jungle lodge in Tortuguero or Corcovado, or the active Arenal volcano.
Voluntary Adventures In Peru, Brazil & Panama
New for 2008, Journey Latin America offers a range of short, tailor-made conservation projects. These projects give travellers the chance to volunteer their time as a much-needed "extra pair of hands" - assisting local conservation NGO's with field studies and lab research.
A 4-night “Panama Adventure Project” tour costs from £500 pp + flights to Panama City, and allows you to help local NGO workers with data collection and field studies, and in their training of local farmers on forest preservation and alternative farming techniques.
Combine with the idyllic San Blas islands, the home of the semi-autonomous Kuna indians.
Community Journeys In Peru & Chile
Two unique, new group tours from Journey Latin America, which aim to show the key highlights of the country, but with the emphasis on the communities you’re visiting. Where possible, you stay with local communities in family homestays rather than hotels, and are invited to participate in their daily lives - learning how they weave, cook, farm, and helping out with their daily tasks. This offers an economic benefit to the communities and a valuable cultural exchange for both parties.
The 14-night “Chile Community Journey” costs from £1428 pp + flights to Santiago. Includes homestay on Isla Chiloe, where you will witness ancient traditions, dunes and lagoons in the Atacama and trek in the awesome Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia.
Combine with a visit to the mysterious moai statues on Easter Island.
All these holidays are available from Journey Latin America. Prices are based on double occupancy and include accommodation with some meals, land transfers, guided excursions and domestic flights where relevant. International flights are not included, unless stated otherwise, but can be provided if necessary.
Still an independent operator, since 1980 Journey Latin America has been forging long-term relationships with local operators, offering small-scale, family-run accommodation where available and supporting any local eco-tourism initiatives which have been introduced.
Their Responsible Tourism credentials have been recognized by AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) with their “3-star” Responsible Tourism status, which is the highest achievable. They also support 4 small charities in Latin America, all of which focus on long term development, through education, healthcare and conservation, and provide a CO2 off-setting option, which has achieved a 70% take up rate so far.
For further information telephone 020 8747 8315 (London) or 0161 832 1441 (Manchester). Alternatively visit www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk
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