4 mins

9 sustainable experiences in Latin America

From horseriding with Argentinian cowboys to planting trees in Peru, here are nine ways your next trip to Latin America can benefit the environment and local communities

Gauchos on horseback (LMB)

1. Explore primary rainforest in Costa Rica

Costa Rican rainforest (Shutterstock)

Costa Rican rainforest (Shutterstock)

Sustainability and environmental awareness are at the heart of Costa Rica’s tourism ethos, with the country receiving the UN's highest environmental honour, the Champions of the Earth award.

Exodus Travels’ Discover Costa Rica tour spends two nights in the south of the country at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, which is 100 per cent carbon-neutral.

The lodge is set within 47 hectares of primary and secondary rainforest that was saved from logging in 1992. It is also surrounded by more than 3,000 hectares of untouched primary forest. The lodge is an excellent example of how to successfully combine conservation, environmental research and community development in a rural area. Most staff are local and profits are reinvested into the community to help fund local healthcare and education services.

Prices start from £3,149pp for 15 nights including return flights, B&B accommodation, meals, transport activities listed in the itinerary and a tour leader (Exodus.co.uk).

2. Ride horses with cowboys in Argentina

Cowboys on horseback (LMB)

Cowboys on horseback (LMB)

How does horseriding on a family-run working ranch in Cordoba in Argentina sound? A new seven-day riding tour allows guests to explore the immense Sierras Chicas mountain range on home bred horses alongside gauchos (cowboys) at Estancia Los Potreros. Activities include swimming in secret waterfalls, learning the art of the lasso, driving the ranch’s herds across the Sierras Chicas and morning rides to the ‘top of the world’ – the estate’s highest point.

Most of the ranch’s energy is generated from renewable resources. The estate also has a ‘farm-to-table’ ethos, so guests can expect home-reared beef, free-range eggs and fruit and vegetables picked from the garden.

Prices start from £2,413pp for seven nights including transfers, full board, daily riding (up to six hours), guides and other activities (estancialospotreros.com). 

3. Cycle around Cuba

Cycling in Cuba (Mabelin Santos/Shutterstock)

Cycling in Cuba (Mabelin Santos/Shutterstock)

Perhaps more famous for its rum, cigars and old cars, Cuba ought to be just as famous for its sustainable policies and natural parks. Sustainability is part of Cuba’s DNA, and it was named the most sustainable country in the world by the WWF in 2016.

The adventure travel operator Cubania hosts trips with a positive impact, and responsible travel is at the heart of what it does. By working with family-run restaurants and B&Bs, Cubania aims to ensure that money stays in Cuba and supports local businesses.

Cubania is also proactively pursuing carbon reduction across its trips by teaming up with ecollective, which measures the CO2 emissions of each trip and shows what Cubania can change to reduce them year on year. Cubania Classic Cycle tour enables travellers to experience Cuba by bike, reducing your carbon footprint.

Prices start from £1,849pp for 14 nights, including B&B accommodation, bike hire, meals, activities and transfers as listed in the itinerary and a tour leader (cubaniatravel.com).

4. Hike and birdwatch with conservationists in Ecuador

Birdwatch in Ecuador (Shutterstock)

Birdwatch in Ecuador (Shutterstock)

Located in the heart of the Ecuadorian cloud forest, the Mashpi Lodge aims to protect 15,000 hectares by 2040.

To reach this target, the lodge has partnered with the tech organisation Rainforest Connection to strategically place 10 ‘Forest Guardians’ – solar-powered recording systems – around the reserve with the aim of detecting sounds related to illegal deforestation. Using this data, conservationists can protect areas of the reserve previously difficult to monitor and therefore implement protection initiatives.

Guests have the chance to get hands-on, joining the conservationists in a lab and on guided hikes, birdwatching excursions and night walks to spot particular species.

The hotel has also launched the MashpiLab in Quito, where chefs experiment with newly discovered ingredients such as the Guayusa plant and Chicle fruit to create unique dishes. Guests can join experts in the forest on community-led cultural and gastronomic forest-to-table experiences.

Prices start from £6,999pp for two nights at Casa Gangotena in Quito, five nights at Mashpi Lodge, international flights, transfers and a £50pp contribution towards a Covid-19 test (abercrombiekent.co.uk; mashpilodge.com).

5. Snorkel and kayak in the Galapagos

Snorkelling in the Galapagos (Shutterstock)

Snorkelling in the Galapagos (Shutterstock)

Montemar is at the forefront of sustainability in the Galapagos. The hotel was designed to be 100 per cent carbon neutral – it has a single-use plastic policy, it only uses rainwater and 99 per cent of its energy is solar.

Owned and run by a local couple, Montemar consists of two villas set within 17 hectares of land. The owners personally look after their guests, combining their knowledge and passion for the islands to create experiences that include hiking, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, farm-to-table dining, cooking classes, yoga and meditation. Guests can also taste Montemar’s own organic coffee.

Prices are available upon request (montemar.ec).

6. Sail along the Upper Amazon in Peru

The Delfin ll (Delfin Amazon Cruises)

The Delfin ll (Delfin Amazon Cruises)

Delfin Amazon Cruises takes its guests to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a protected area in the Upper Peruvian Amazon. Respecting and protecting this biodiverse environment is a key part of its ethos.

Delfin Amazon Cruises partners up with several wildlife conservation projects, from the NGO Pro Delphinus Peru – which works to eliminate dolphin by-catch in the Amazon – to projects that focus on the repopulation of Amazonian caiman and Taricaya turtles. The boat’s chef also works with local fishermen to ensure that the fish cooked onboard is only caught during the appropriate season to avoid damaging repopulation cycles.

The company ensures that the local handicraft community benefits from tourism too by being its main buyer and using their handicrafts to decorate the boat. This has become the main source of income for many of these communities. Staff are also recruited locally so money is reinvested into the community, helping to fund local healthcare and education services.

Prices for the Delfin III Amazon cruise start from £2,155pp (delfinamazoncruises.com).

7. Interact with locals in Chile

Mapuche locals in Chile (travelArt Chile)

Mapuche locals in Chile (travelArt Chile)

Get to know Chile in a different way on an eight-night tour across the country. Discover the city of Santiago by bicycle then continue south to the Chilean Lake District, where you’ll explore forests and waterfalls, Huilo Huilo National Park and Chiloé Island, two of Chile’s most sustainable destinations. Here, travellers learn about how these landscapes are protected and the various projects which protect the biodiversity and help sequester carbon.

Travellers will also have the opportunity to learn how to cook a typical Chilean dish and experience the culture of the indigenous Mapuche community, getting to know its people and contributing to community-owned cooperatives and local social enterprises.

All accommodation included in this trip is locally-run eco-hotels, which have a low impact on the surrounding environment.

Prices start from £2,095 for eight nights, including B&B accommodation, meals, activities and transport as listed in the itinerary and a tour leader. Excludes international and domestic flights (travelart.com).

8. Plant trees in Peru

Planting trees in Peru (Shutterstock)

Planting trees in Peru (Shutterstock)

One of the world’s most significant biodiversity hotspots, the Madre de Dios, has suffered from illegal mining and loggers sourcing wood from its primary rainforest.

In response to this, LimaTours has teamed up with The Green Initiative to contribute to its conservation by implementing carbon footprint compensation in all their tours.

LimaTours is offering its guests the opportunity to plant native trees in Madre de Dios. By offsetting carbon emissions with this project, tourists will help generate an alternative economy for local communities and help wildlife and water sources recover.

Lima Tours’ eight-day ‘Lima to Cusco in 4x4’ is available all year round. Prices available upon request (limatours.com.pe).

9. Stay in an eco lodge in Guyana

Kaieteur Falls (Jamie Lafferty/Guyana Tourism Authority)

Kaieteur Falls (Jamie Lafferty/Guyana Tourism Authority)

Indigenous communities in this South American country have created their own sustainable tourism projects, such as eco lodges and guided tours.

These communities’ low carbon lifestyle, commitment to protecting their ancestral lands and conservation efforts protecting wildlife make Guyana’s tourism one of the greenest on the planet.

Rewa Eco Lodge is an example of one of Guyana’s most established community projects. The native Makushi tribe sustainably manages local resources by offering trips to observe giant otters, harpy eagles and the arapaima, as well as many types of primate. The community’s guided treks, some of which are overnight, immerse travellers in the rainforest.

Pioneer Expeditions offers a 14-day Guyana Nature Experience from £4,195 excluding international flights (pioneerexpeditions.com; guyanatourism.com). 

 

Many Latin American communities that relied on tourism prior to the Covid-19 pandemic need help. LATA Foundation supports regional initiatives to relieve poverty and develop conservation. The charity is only run by volunteers and all proceeds are invested where they are needed most. To donate to its emergency appeal, visit latafoundation.org.

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