On this trip we stay at small, locally run campsites or hostels and buy our food locally, thereby directly supporting local communities. We use local companies to run all our excursions. They, in turn, employ local drivers and guides-supporting the local economy.
Before the trip commences clients are sent detailed pre-departure information which includes advice on responsible travel. This information is re-emphasised by the tour leader at the start of the trip. Clients, for example, are advised about respecting local customs, conservation of natural habitats and wildlife, litter disposal etc.
Clients are also given the opportunity, before the trip commences to attend a Spanish language school in Quito. This involves staying with a local family for a week, sharing their home and meals and one-to-one language tuition. The school also organises a programme of cultural activities. This project helps provide local families with an additional source of income and is a fantastic opportunity for our clients to experience life in Ecuador at first hand. It also obviously enables them to get more out of their entire trip as they are, hopefully, more able to communicate with the Spanish speaking South American people they meet en route. (All of our crew attend this language school before they run their first trip with us).
We try to select campsites or hostels that share our environmental concerns-although this is not always possible. In Ecuador we stay at the Arajuno Jungle Lodge and Forest Reserve. This project not only runs its accommodation on sustainable principles but supports the local community in a variety of ways (including the development of small-scale fishponds in remote indigenous villages partly to stop villagers from fishing with dynamite in the rivers. They have also trained local people to become licensed guides). The forest reserve has a native species reproduction project for guatusas and capybara and are currently involved in trying to re-introduce turtles to the Arajuno River.
We spend one night of the trip as guests in the homes of a community of Uros Indian families on the islands of Amantani or Taquile. This gives our clients an opportunity to learn more about their hosts traditional lifestyles and also provides the families with an additional source of income.
One of the highlights of this trip is obviously trekking the Inca Trails to Machu Picchu. This trek offers opportunities of employment to large numbers of the local community. Porters, cooks and guides are required. However, much of this employment is poorly paid and working conditions are not good. The local company we use to organise our trails has a commitment to the welfare of their porters providing them with a professional wage and health insurance. They are also in the process of completing a house for the porters so that they have somewhere comfortable to stay the night before they start the trail, as many of them travel in from rural areas.
The numbers of clients we take on this tour are limited, to a maximum of twenty four, thus reducing the environmental and cultural impact of a large group.
On this trip we support a small, Peruvian charity called Pachamamas Children, based twenty minutes outside of Cusco, in the community of Tika-Tika. The charity is in the process of reconstructing a derelict school in an impoverished community. The children of the community currently have no access to formal education. Once completed the school will not only provide education to the children of the community but the plan is also to provide adult education and a basic Medical Centre. We make a regular monthly, financial contribution to this project and once the building work has been completed we hope that our clients will be able to visit the school and that we will be able to offer volunteering opportunities there.