This trip includes visits some of Patagonia's significant national parks: Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and the Fitz Roy Range; and Chile's Torres del Paine. Travelers have the opportunity to witness first-hand what makes these ecological zones so unique and understand why their protection is so important. Before the trip begins all travelers are educated on the "Do's and Don'ts" of responsible travel and how to be an active participant in preserving local ecology and culture. During the hike, all garbage and waste is packed out. And as always, group size is kept to a maximum of 12 travelers to help minimize local impact.
We base our hotel selection on the following criteria: being locally owned and operated, built in a sustainable manner, having a desirable location, safety, cleanliness, and ranging in size from 12-20 rooms where possible. This helps to ensure small group size, which in turn helps minimize local impact. In addition to site inspections, we interview local agencies to determine which lodges have the best record of historical preservation and are active in contributing to local conservation. Lodges that use innovative practices to improve upon their sustainability and mitigate any environmental impacts, as well as those that are owned by or work in conjunction with indigenous populations, are given special preference.
For example: EcoCamp. On this tour, travelers stay at EcoCamp whose dome-shaped design was inspired by huts of the nomadic Kawesqar people. EcoCamp units are less vulnerable to 100 mph winds. While Kawesqar huts were made from local materials covered in animal skins, EcoCamp domes are made from sturdy materials collected outside of Torres del Paine National Park. Each foundation-free dome is removed seasonally so the land can fully recover, and using 17 hours of sun each day, solar panels power toilet fans and indoor lighting. EcoCamp was the first Chilean hospitality company to receive the esteemed Enviromental Management Systems Certification: ISO 14001 from the SGS of Switzerland.
Our land tours are designed to use local existing infrastructure whenever possible. Typically, transfers are in private by locally owned transportation companies, and we occasionally use public transport when it makes sense or adds to the sense of adventure. We do this to help keep fund generated by tourism within the local communities.
Our escorted trips use local guides and support staff exclusively. Guides’ training and background varies throughout our tours. But one thing remains consistent: their enthusiasm, professionalism, friendliness and knowledge of the regions. Many of the local guides we use hold degrees in their region's history, biology, archaeology or a related field. Certification programs are required; many also participate in an apprenticeship before they are allowed to lead tours on their own. All guides are thoroughly researched and hand-picked by our staff or a trusted affiliate. Both our guides and our travelers are all versed in and practice the “Leave No Trace” principles.
To further support and give back to the communities where we send our travelers, we have developed a grant program. Our ongoing grant program provides funding for small, grassroots projects in the countries we visit. This past year, we were able to offer $10,000 in funding to several different groups including a reforestation and home restoration project in the Andes; a Christmas fiesta at an orphanage in Costa Rica; building supplies for a school in Guatemala made out of recycled materials; funds to dig a new well for proper plumbing and irrigation at a historic Bolivia hacienda; and first-aid and hospitality training for the community-owned Secoya lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. By traveling with us, you help support these projects.