Sustainable Travel in Ecuador and the Galapagos

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Written by
Emily Opie, Jennifer Richt & Lily Bunker

Interest in sustainable travel is growing and travellers are now taking a much more conscious approach to visiting Latin America’s natural wonders.

The Galapagos Islands are teeming with iconic wildlife, from playful baby sea lions to marine iguanas. Ecuador is home to pristine Amazon rainforests and epic volcanic scenery that make the environment worth protecting. As such both countries are models for sustainability initiatives in tourism.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of forward-thinking projects and properties to showcase the amazing work being done in Ecuador and the Galapagos.


Galapagos Safari Camp, Santa Cruz Island

More and more visitors are interested in how they can experience the enchanted Galapagos Islands with minimal disturbance to the ecosystem. Staying at environmentally friendly Galapagos Safari Camp is a unique way to put sustainable travel into practice. The camp is set in beautiful 55-hectare grounds in a remote corner of Santa Cruz island and is doing its bit to implement the recently introduced single use plastic ban on the islands. Long before the ban was introduced, the eco-lodge had almost entirely phased out single use plastic by using paper straws.


Plastic has been a real problem in the Galapagos, with over 22 tons of plastic collected from the shoreline between January and April 2018. The plastic ban was then introduced after a university study found plastic inside turtles and blue-footed boobies. As well as paper straws, the camp is using cloth laundry bags, biodegradable toiletries and reusable metal water bottles to further it’s sustainable travel efforts. 


A pioneering property, the hotels strives to be as eco-friendly as possible. Working alongside conservationists, the camp also participates in the reforestation of local trees. A variety of activities – from wildlife excursions to scuba diving – allow visitors to interact with both the local community and flora and fauna in their natural habitat. By choosing to stay at Galapagos Safari Camp, you’ll be contributing to the Galapagos’ war on plastic and helping to protect the local environment.   


Pikaia Lodge, Santa Cruz Island

Recently opened Pikaia Lodge has a prime location on Santa Cruz Island. Its central location, along with its own private tortoise reserve, promises heaps of wildlife discovery. Soak up the sights of misty volcanoes and the dramatic Pacific Ocean as you relax in the infinity pool, at the ‘Sumaq’ spa or from your room with its panoramic floor to ceiling windows. Guests can feel good about their stay, as Pikaia is the first carbon neutral accommodation on the Galapagos islands.


We’re big on carbon offsetting here at Jacada and ensure that all carbon generated on our trips is offset through contributions to carbon-offsetting community projects. By choosing to stay at eco-lodges such as Pikaia, you’ll be doing your bit to reduce your carbon emissions and make the world a less polluted place. You can rest assured that remaining carbon conscious doesn’t mean compromising on comfort, as Pikaia offers deluxe rooms and luxury suites – one of which even comes with its own pool. Perhaps the best opportunity for guests to support the lodge’s sustainable travel efforts, though, is by visiting the private tortoise reserve.


Hacienda Zuleta, Otavalo

In Ecuador, itineraries focused on allowing travellers to responsibly interact with the environment and local communities are on the rise. Jacada is no different, with profits from our trips supporting local initiatives and eco-lodges, including the Otavalo region’s Hacienda Zuleta. This pioneering lodge has greatly helped the development of the local Zuleta community. Originally owned by former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza, the hacienda has worked to uphold local customs since 1940. The property also works to preserve traditional livelihoods, such as embroidery and cheese production – making it a popular site for travellers wanting to experience the Ecuadorian way of life.


The hacienda still remains very active, and more than 2,000 acres of pasture land is still used for cattle and horses. The estate also houses a trout farm as well as a program for the rehabilitation of Condors. The surrounding countryside and nearby village are beautifully picturesque and relaxing. The property does a great job at encouraging visitors to interact with community and wildlife, offering activities ranging from birdwatching to visiting local weaving workshops. By staying at Hacienda Zuleta, you’ll be supporting the livelihoods of local people whilst aiding in the rehabilitation of native wildlife.


Mashpi Lodge, cloud forests

In Ecuador’s cloud forests, iconic Mashpi Lodge is set amongst one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Deep in the heart of 3,200 acre Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, the lodge runs solely on hydroelectricity, combining conscious travel with modern rooms and spacious suites. The lodge’s team of Ecuadorian biologists lead daily wildlife expeditions and nature excursions, so visitors can responsibly interact with local wildlife. Hiking is also very much part of the experience. 


At Mashpi, both employees of the lodge and those living nearby have the opportunity to become shareholders in the business. The majority of the lodge’s employees are local people who have been given specialist training to be able to share their knowledge of the forests with visitors. Guests can really experience Mashpi’s conservation efforts by boarding an aerial tram that delves deep into the protected forest. 


Once at the top, the observation tower and Life Centre showcase butterfly farms and terrariums, so that visitors can admire these unique species in all their glory. Just by visiting, you will be contributing to the local community’s economy, supporting Mashpi’s conservation efforts and helping to preserve the forest.


Whether it's Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands you fancy, speak to one of our expert travel designers to get planning your sustainable adventure.