2022 Bothel High School Ecuador Conservation Expedition
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What to Expect
Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.
We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group.
|1||USA – Quito||Evening arrival to Quito and transfer to hotel.||Hotel San Francisco de Quito|
|2||Quito – Pululahua||Start the day with a walking tour of historic downtown Quito, one of the most well preserved historic districts in all of South America. After lunch we'll ascend the spires of the Basilica del Voto Nacional. In the afternoon, we'll visit the Intiñan Museum located on the equator and enjoy the disorienting coriolis effect. We'll then have dinner on the edge of Pululahua Volcano, one of the only inhabited volcanic craters in the world, and spend the night here.||El Crater Hotel|
|3||Pululahua - Otavalo||Today we'll drive between breathtaking mountains and valleys to Otavalo, where we will spend the day visiting artisan workshops and learning firsthand about Ecuadorian/Andean culture (music, dress, and cuisine). Next we'll either see a presentation from local expert musicians and lunch in their home or visit a local weaver's workshop and lunch there. We'll finish the day with some shopping at the Plaza de los Ponchos, one of Latin America's most famous artisan markets. We'll dine near the square and have the chance to sample some delicious Ecuadorian street food.||Las Palmeras Inn|
|4||Otavalo – Santa Lucia||We'll weave through the Andes mountains once again, this time descending to Santa Lucia, a community-run cloud forest reserve and conservation project where we'll be spending the next few nights. We'll hike into the Santa Lucia Nature Reserve, passing a multitude of unique flora and fauna along the way, and receive an introduction to the cloud forest ecosystem in one of the most biodiverse places on earth. After settling into our jungalows, we'll receive an orientation regarding the volunteer work with which we'll be assisting over the coming days before falling asleep to the sounds of the cloud forest all around us.||Santa Lucia Nature Reserve|
|5||Santa Lucia||In the morning we'll take a biodiversity hike through the reserve with a naturalist guide. We'll then get started on our conservation work! Depending on the time of year, our work will vary from working on reforestation projects, to setting remote cameras to catch a glimpse of rarely seen animals, such as spectacled bears and ocelots, to documenting the biodiversity of the surrounding cloud forest. During our off time we will relax in hammocks, or assist with camp maintenance. Potential side projects could include helping build and stock a butterfly and orchid garden, or constructing a bird observation tower. By night, we'll have group activities and lectures from resident and visiting researchers.||Santa Lucia Nature Reserve|
|6||Santa Lucia||We will continue with, and fiinish, our volunteer research work in the cloud forest. At the end of the day, we'll have a recap of our work, and a presentation about local and national conservation efforts in the region. We'll enjoy a final thank you meal with project coordinators to celebrate our time together in the reserve.||Santa Lucia Nature Reserve|
|7||Santa Lucia – Papallacta||As we ascend into the mountains again, we'll either stop and go on a zip-line tour of Nanegalito's cloud forest canopy or go white water rafting in Mindo. We'll travel to Papallacta Hot Springs high in the Andes and spend our last night soaking in the springs under the stars. We'll make time for a structured reflection to digest our experience in Ecuador thus far.||Termas de Papallacta|
|8||Papallacta – Quito - USA||We'll have an optional short hike in the morning to see the ecosystems that characterize the Antisana Reserve, then travel from Papallacta to Quito. Later, we'll ride a cable car up to Pichincha Volcano and take in the panoramic view of Quito, then have a final goodbye dinner before our international flight tonight.||Airplane|
|9||USA||Arrive home!||Your own bed, eventually!|
Need to Raise Money? We Have You Covered.
Our travelers are provided with funding opportunities that are easy to implement and fun to take part in. Our flagship fundraiser involves selling fair trade, organic, carbon-neutral coffee from a women’s collective in Peru. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so get started now by clicking the link below!
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.
El Crater Hotel
Situated on the precipice of the Volcano Pululahua, the hotel’s supreme location is unlike any other accommodation on the planet. Each room contains large windows from which students can admire the beauty of this setting and watch the ever-changing climate of the area from the comfort of their rooms. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Santa Lucia Eco Lodge
Located high in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, this eco-lodge is only accessible by foot, but the 45 minute hike up to the lodge rewards guests with unbeatable views of the surround nature reserve. Selected for its dedication to conservation, it is also a convenient base from which to assist local researchers with their wildlife conservation projects in the area. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Las Palmeras Inn Otavalo
This 150 year old highlands ranch is designed in traditional Andean styles. A collection of garden cottages each with their own fireplace, Las Palmeras Inn provides unmatched tranquility in a gorgeous mountain setting. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Las Termas de Papallacta
Las Termas de Papallacta is an ideal escape to nature with its collection of hot springs, comfortable accommodations, and beautiful mountain scenery. Whether soaking in the springs, star gazing, or taking advantage of any of the nearby hikes, Las Termas feels more like an experience than a hotel. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Hotel Sol de Quito
This hotel in Quito’s commercial and financial districts offers comfortable accommodations and modern amenities in a charming colonial style. The hotel is family owned and operated and boasts a large collection of historical artifacts that give it a unique character. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Hacienda La Alegria
Hacienda La Alegria is a horseback-riding ranch in the heart of Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes.” This family-run establishment combines traditional hospitality with a touch of luxury in a beautiful mountainous setting. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here.
Remember that Walking Tree is not responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.
We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure but for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure, please contact your Group Organizer/s.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
Host Community and Project Details
Situated in the cloud forest of Ecuador, the Santa Lucia Reserve is a prime example of a successful community-based conservation initiative. Local conservationists work with a variety of stakeholders to provide alternative livelihoods to people who once depended on extractive practices for their daily bread. Visitors have the chance to visit this internationally-recognized preserve, and work alongside scientists and locals to study and preserve a variety of species — many of which exist only here!
The reserve contains over 1,800 acres of primary cloud-forest ranging from 1,400 meters to 2,600 meters. Because of the differences in elevation, the small preserve of Santa Lucia is home to over 400 species of birds! Volunteers at the preserve have the chance to make a real and lasting contribution to wildlife conservation and the sustainable development of the local community. Examples of projects include working in local schools, helping construct organic gardens, maintaining trails, and assisting with biodiversity surveys
What follows is just a guideline so please adjust per your needs and preferences.
For luggage, we recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
Please note that seasons in South America are opposite ours in the United States so we will be traveling during South America’s late fall. With that said, late fall and early winter are the driest parts of the year and often the most pleasant times to visit. Most of our program will be spent at high altitudes where daytime temperatures can reach the 70’s and it can freeze at night. Layering is the best way to prepare for variable conditions.
T-shirts, tank tops or work shirts
Long sleeve shirts
Sturdy shoes (appropriate for lots of walking/athletic activity)
Sports sandals ie Chacos/Tevas etc. (optional)
Flip flops (optional)
Sun hat & a warm hat
TOILETRIES (IN ADDITION TO THE BASICS)
Sunscreen – you will use a lot.
Band Aids and Neosporin, anti-diarrhea meds, basic first aid kit.
Medication in properly marked original container (better to pack this in your carry on luggage)
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $100-$200, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle (optional personal water filtration system – Walking Tree will always provide drinking water)
1 quick-dry towel
Soap for washing your own clothes while in the host community
Batteries, if needed
Deck of cards or other portable games
At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
Constanza Montero Aguirre
Ecuador Country Director
Universidad de las Americas, Ecuador – Architecture and minor in Arts
Constanza was born in Ecuador, and from an early age she recognized that nature is the best classroom to acquire knowledge and wisdom for the intellectual and cognitive development of human beings. Her passion is working closely in human development, to embrace the sense of place and sustainability for future generations. She acquired personal and professional experience in problem solving, critical thinking, coaching and sustainability by working on projects in Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, México, Hong Kong and Romania.
She is the co-founder of Kenu Education, an experiential learning school based in Quito, Ecuador. Kenu is dedicated to helping individuals develop a bond with the environment, encourage human growth and social awareness. Kenu programs provide an integral understanding of culture, community and mentoring on academics. The experience develops life and leadership skills, teamwork abilities, compassion, service and stewardship. Our aim is to impact on sustainability for the wellbeing of future generations. Constanza has traveled 25+ countries on 3 continents and is fluent in English. She is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to Walking Tree by coordinating programs in Ecuador!
Country Director, Country Operations Manager - Peru
University of Denver – B.A. Spanish, Minors in History and Hebrew
Currently based in Minnesota, where he is originally from, Tommy works in the Country Operations department at Walking Tree Travel. His hobbies include camping, snowboarding, basketball and traveling. Fluent in Spanish, he first developed his love of languages and Latin American culture at the age of ten on a mission trip in Mexico. This experience and subsequent trips to follow inspired him to study Spanish and pursue development work in other areas of Latin America as well. Tommy gained valuable experience as a middle school Spanish teacher and coach after he graduated. His experience in education encouraged him to combine his two passions of travel and education and join our team full time. He had the pleasure of living in Cusco, Peru for three years as our Country Director and has enjoyed planning and guiding student trips ever since.
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO
Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government
While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
Blog and Communication
During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program. Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.
Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.
Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.
Standards of Behavior
In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with us.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Ecuador website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.
Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.
We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.
While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience has taught us that travel can come with risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider protecting their trip and travel investment by purchasing a travel protection plan with a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) provision.
To make this process as easy as possible, we have partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry. Begin by taking a few minutes to get a quote here.
IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date. Please note that CFAR is not available to residents of New York.