Archive pour la catégorie ‘Ecotourism’
We are pleased to announce that Ecuador Eco Volunteer will now be running volunteer programs in the Galapagos Islands! I know, I know, we’ve had that annoying « COMING SOON » written in big black letters across the Volunteer in Galapagos page for like six months now….why now and not five months ago?
Well there’s a good reason for that, finding a decent volunteer program on those islands was damn hard! But I think you’ll find it was worth the wait…
The Problem with Tourism on the Galapagos Islands
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. But 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 one – Paradise.
The problem with paradise however is how easy it is 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.
- Now 200,000 humans visit the islands every year which left unchecked will rise to 400,000 by 2021 and 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 threaten the very existence of the Galapagos 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.
Volunteering on the Galapagos Islands
The great thing about volunteering in the Galapagos is that its the best way to visit the islands and leave without a dirty footprint or dirty conscience. The problem however is the price.
One of the reasons we’ve spent so long researching different volunteer programs in the Galapagos to promote on Ecuador Eco Volunteer is because finding that perfect program that neither breaks the bank nor compromises on quality was a very hard.
I’ve always been suspicious of organizations that charge upwards of $1000 a month to volunteer unless its somewhere ridiculously cool like Antarctica or Butan. There were certain programs we researched that seemed legitimately pricey and a great cause for those that can afford it; unfortunately quite a few seemed more interested in making money than making change (one even wanted to charge a $200 fee to « consider » the application!)
Carolina from Finland (who I mentioned in a previous post on Corrupt Money Hungry Volunteer Organizations) even encountered an organization that asked her for a full body photo along with her application form (what does how a person looks got to do with volunteer work??) of course she refused to go near that organization.
In the end we found a great organization and volunteer program to work with concerned primarily with conservation efforts and community work all for a very reasonable price!
Survival of the Fittest
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 would 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. I believe that Darwin would be tossing and turning in his grave if he knew that the fittest animals on the Galapagos, namely the Goat, Cat, Rat, and Human, were flourishing in abundance at the expense of the islands native wildlife.
Recently Rafael Correas government has shown some initiative by tightening the rules on immigration for mainland Ecuadorians and also banning fishing in many parts of the Galapagos except for designated areas. These new regulations meant that in July this year the Galapagos Islands were removed from the « List of World Heritage in Danger » despite a strong recommendation from the IUCN urging against it because it was completely premature.
While immigration has been curtailed not much will change until tourism is regulated as well. Otherwise, if we let the amount of tourists climb until it reaches 400,000 by 2021 then we will no doubt see what is called a « Malthusian Catostrophy » for all plant and animal life on the Galapagos Islands.
Lets Fight to Defend the Worlds Most Vulnerable
We cannot wait for the Ecuadoran government to get its act together, we need to take the initiative as individuals and shoulder the responsibility for protecting this world heritage site now before its too late. If the cause to save the Galapagos resonates with you consider checking out our new program to Volunteer in Galapagos.
The future for the Galapagos Islands looks brighter than it did five years ago, but that should not goad us into complacency. We are not out of the shadows yet. We must continue the admirable work of all the volunteers and environmental activists that have fought for the islands survival in the past to ensure our children can look upon the islands with the same wonder and majesty as Charles Darwin 200 years ago.
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
- Once you cross the bridge you will be at an 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.