One of the hottest trends in adventure travel is the idea of "voluntourism," or trips that give travelers a chance to give back while on holiday. Perhaps the coolest voluntourism adventure to date is the newly unveiled Cotopaxi Group Service Project in Ecuador.
Travelers experience an Ecuadorian adventure and volunteer for conservation at the same time, combining mountain biking with replacing national park signs, and zip-lining with trail maintenance. For five days, give back to the area you're getting to know, the Cotopaxi National Park and the Condor Biosphere, a 5.4-million acre conservation project. I just visited these locations, and let me tell you, it is like paradise.
The trip begins with a horseback ride among herds of wild horses and bulls to the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano. The ride serves as an introduction to the Andean paramo. Along the way, native guides give lessons on local medicinal plants. And as part of a forest reforestation initiative, volunteers plant trees around Hacienda El Porvenir, the group's base for three nights. The goal of the initiative is to plant one million new trees, and nearly 200,000 have already been planted.
Travelers also design and paint interpretive signs for Cotopaxi National Park and adjacent reserves. Staff members provide Spanish translation and choose sign topics, such as leave no trace ethics, waste management, and warnings against illegal hunting. The next day, on a 12.5-mile mountain bike excursion, the group places the new signs in the northern region of Cotopaxi National Park.
After much conservation work, the volunteers have an opportunity to zip line through the canopy of the Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve. The zip line system, which consists of five cables ranging in length from 330 feet to 1,500 feet, was originally used by scientists who were researching the canopy.
Brian Morgan is the CEO of Adventure Life Journeys. Adventure Life is committed to providing quality small group tours that have a positive impact on the local culture and environment. Group size is kept to a minimum, welcoming a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
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