Archive for the ‘Ecotourism’ Category
After three years of absence Ecuadors famous Nariz del Diablo train has finally returned to Riobamba!
Here you can check out the routes as well as the Train Timetable and Prices
It has taken years and billions of dollars to renovate the old train tracks designed at the turn of the 19th century for steam engines.
Unfortunately being able to ride on the roof of the train, one of the biggest drawcards for tourists, is no longer possible with the new modern carriages. The reason may be due to why the Nariz del Diablo train closed down in the first place: the deaths of two Japanese tourists whose heads were accidentally severed when some thoughtless dumbass installed a cable over the train tracks.
The interesting thing about the inauguration was that the governor of Chimborazo Province gave the speech instead of the mayor of Riobamba, Juan Salazar, who is widely perceived as corrupt. This sparked a rumour that Juan Salazar is “quemado” or “burnt” and other politicians now consider it to be a liability to associate with him as well as the belief he may be removed from power soon.
This is fantastic news for the people of Riobamba who believe the mayor has plundered the city for too long, and it gives kudos to the innovative social media campaign against him called Caos en Riobamba Sr. Salazar.
The Problem with Paradise
The Galapagos Islands is not only the most famous tourist site in Ecuador but also one of the most well known and visited vacation destinations in the world. Those that have visited the Galapagos will have no doubt in their minds the reason behind its popularity.
If you’ve never been and want to know if these islands live up to the hype, well lets just say the one word that I hear time and time again from people coming back from the Galapagos is this – Paradise.
However the problem with paradise is its easy to exploit.
One of the reasons the islands have such an amazing and diverse array of plant and animal life is that for hundreds of millions of years they have never hosted the worlds most deadly predator – the human being – until now.
Environmental Issues on the Galapagos Islands
The 18th century socioeconomist Thomas Robert Malthus stated that the increase in human population will eventually outpace the rate in which it can feed itself. That if the human population is left unchecked then famine will become a global epidemic and consume us silly humans.
It was Malthus’ essays on Population that inspired the two grandaddys behind Evolution and Natural Selection, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, to come to their own theories. If Darwin knew that today the fittest animals on the Galapagos are the Goat, Cat, the Rat, and the Human that are flourishing at the expense of everything else – he would no doubt be tossing in his grave.
- Now 200,000 humans visit the islands every year which left unchecked will rise to 400,000 by 2021.
- Now 30,000 humans have immigrated to the islands (and many more illegaly) a figure that has doubled in the last ten years and sees no sign of slowing.
- Now invasive species of rats, goats, cats, mosquitos and fire ants as well as an increase in human sewage and motor boat oil threatens the existence of the islands fragile ecosystems.
- Now “artesenal” and industrial fishing, the former to feed the large immigrant communites and tourists on the island and the latter used to sell on overseask markets, have completely wiped out fish stocks threatening animals like the Sea Cucumber that sells for a fortune in Japan and Korea with extinction
- Now introduced plants outnumber indigenous ones and 180 of the 500 native plant species are on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) of Nature Red List of threatened species.
- Now 95 species of reptiles, birds, penguins, sea lions, seals, snakes, and mammals that live on the Galapagos Islands are endangered animals.
- Now Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta Island Tortouise, is the rarest creature on Earth and a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galapagos.
Galapagos Governmental Policies to Protect the Galapagos
New regulations created by Rafael Correas government to protect the Galapagos meant in July 2010 the islands were removed from the “List of World Heritage in Danger”
This happened in despite of a strong recommendation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature to urge against removing the Galapagos Islands because it was “premature.”
The Galapagos Government now has the power to ban commercial fishing on much of the islands except for designated areas.
The Government has also tightened rules for immigration for residents from the mainland which means now at the airport many Ecuadorians en route to the islands are profiled and interrogated – Why they wish to travel to the Galapagos? For how long they are going to stay? And what happens if they find work there?
Answer any of the above wrong and they are denied travel.
All this happens while hundreds of thousands of tourists with big fat wallets pass onto the plane unimpeded – and don’t hold your breath if you think they are going to restrict foreign tourists any soon.
so how can we visit the Galapagos without feeling guilty?
Volunteering on the Galapagos Islands
The great thing about volunteering in the Galapagos is it lets you visit without leaving such a big dirty footprint. The problem however is the price.
We spent a long time researching different Galapagos Islands Volunteer Programs to promote here on Ecuador Eco Volunteer but finding that perfect program that neither breaks the bank nor compromises on quality was very hard.
There were quite a few dodgy operators running volunteer programs on the Galapagos as well. One program wanted to charge a $200 fee to “consider” the application and another wanted a full body shot of prospective female volunteers. We worked with another volunteer program that had won awards from some big names but quite a few volunteers complained and when we confronted the program administrators they claimed everything was fine and that our volunteers were lying.
In the end I decided to go there myself hoping to find some idealistic people that had the infrastructure and resources in place to set up a new Galapagos Volunteer Program from scratch. I found them!
Lets Fight to Defend the Worlds Most Vulnerable
If the cause to save the Galapagos resonates with you then you should consider checking out our new Galapagos Volunteer Program. It will take time to refine a few of the rough edges and make it great but with your help we can do that.
The future for the Galapagos Islands looks brighter than five years ago but that should not goad us into complacency. We must continue the admirable work of all the volunteers and environmental activists that have come before us to ensure our children can look at the Galapagos with the same wonder as Charles Darwin 200 years ago.
As a reward to our Volunteers we offer discounts on our Trekking and Mountain Climbing expeditions with Ecuador Eco Adventure. Here is a breakdown of the price of the expeditions with the discounts:
Trekking Volunteer Discounts
Punay Pyramid Trek:
$100 each (2 People)
*$20 Volunteer Discount
$85 each (3 – 4 People)
$75 each (5 or more people)
*$10 Volunteer Discount (3 – 8 People)
Lagoons of El Altar Trek:
$175 each (2 or More People)
*$30 Volunteer Discount
$450 each (3 People Minimum) 4 day trek
$520 each (4 or More People) 5 day trek
*$25 Volunteer Discount
Inga Pirca Trek:
$150 each (3 People Minimum)
$110 each (4 or More People)
*$25 Volunteer Discount
Chimborazo Communities Trek:
$175 each (2 – 5 People)
*$20 Volunteer Discount
Mountain Climbing Volunteer Discounts
Chimborazo Mountain Climb
$180 each (2 People)
*$10 Volunteer Discount
Cotopaxi Mountain Climb
$220 each (2 People)
Volunteer Discount $10
Machalilla National Park is home to some of the most pristine and preserved tropical dry forest in Ecuador. The National Park also has an abundance of different species of birds and if you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse of large fauna like the Tapir, Coati, and Jaguar that populate the park.
Between the months of July and September it is also possible to see large pods of humpback whales migrating past the national parks’ coastline in search of warmer waters where they mate and give birth to cubs.
Unfortuantely every year humpback whales are trapped in fishermens nets and we have criticised the Machalilla National Park for their lack of action on here before. Nonetheless this National Park is a very beautiful place.
How To Get There
To get to Machalilla National Park you need to catch a bus from Guayaquil to Puerto Lopez the nearest town. From Puerto Lopez you can make your own way to the park or take advantage of the tour agencies there.
The Poor Mans GalapagosThe Islas de la plata are commonly referred to as the “Poor Mans Galapagos” because they have a similar ecosystem to the Galapagos Islands but are much cheaper and more accessible.
The group of islands are home ot sea birds such as Fragrats, Rabihuncos, Albatros’ and Blue and Red footed Boobies that nest in the cliffs that surround the islands sea shores.
How To Get There
The only way to get to the Islas de la Plata is via an hours boat ride. Islas de la Plata tours are offered in tour agencies in Puerto Lopez and do not have the prohibitive costs of the Galapagos.
Ecuadors Most Beautiful Beach
Frailes Beach is often called the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. From the sandy shores there are clearly marked trails that lead up to the craggy cliffs and a panoramic lookout on the summit of the island. Also snorkeling around the islands is a must!
The coral reefs flourish with coloured fish of all kinds with the incredible diversity of species of a true sea forest. Other activities here include the Sombrerito Trail, and the ancestral culture of Puerto López fishermans’ village.
How To Get There
To get the Frailes Beach take a taxi from Puerto Lopez into Machalilla National Park which costs about $8 depending on your negotiating skills.
Ecuador is one of the best countries in the Andes mountain range if you like trekking and hiking. Many of the best treks in Ecuador require guides, donkeys and private transport but there are some great day hikes and independent treks you can do on your own
A great day trek for experienced and inexperienced trekkers alike is one to the cave, waterfalls, and abandoned hotsprings around the active Volcano Tungurahua . Here are the directions to get there with photos below:
- From the “Terminal Orient” in Riobamba catch the bus to Palitachwa (pronounced Palitawa)
- Get off at Palitachwa and follow the road down past the village and continue past the houses destroyed by the Volcano Tungurahua on the edge of a cliff above the River Patso
- The road will continue for about 45 minutes past farmland as you get closer and closer to Volcano Tungurahua until you reach a bridge. Cross the bridge and you will go past a cement gate over the road and then you will see a basketball court and the abandoned hotsprings facilities which you can enter and explore.
- From here there are two routes that you can take one to the beautiful view of several stunning waterfalls and the other to a cave inside the Volcano Tungurahua.
- The path to both these routes starts above the abandoned hot-springs, you will see a dirt track that goes to the left and the right but for both routes you want to go to the left and climb as the path to the right only leads to the river.
- Once you take the path to the right which climbs up the hill it will split in two again; to go to the waterfalls head to the right away from Tungurahua which follows the river and to see the cave head to the left..
- The right path to the waterfalls will climb for about two hours with multiple switchbacks and past a few remote indigenous farm-houses and plantations of Eucalyptus trees (the locals are super friendly so dont forget to say “hola!”) soon the path will curve North to the left which is where you will see many beautiful and very large waterfalls.
- The left path to the cave weaves and turns on the side of the mountain. Some parts of the trail were destroyed the last time the volcano erupted so you will need to do some path finding but there are old signs that point to another hotsprings higher up that have been destroyed.
- Once you get the hotsprings that have been destroyed, you will know because of the mangled cement and rocks, keep heading further up the source of the river and climb over the rocks. Then you will be inside the Corazon de Tungurahua (The Heart of Tungurahua) the giant cave with a beautiful waterfall above it.
I dont need to say that if the volcano is spewing lava this day trek is not the best idea. Ask the locals about the safety of the volcano, if its merely “fumando / smoking” the worst thing that will happen is a bit of ash will be in your lungs but when the volcano is very active this day trek can be dangerous.
Now youve had a taste of trekking in Ecuador and want to get off the beaten track then check out Ecuadors Best Treks
You wont regret it.