Prepare for the ultimate South American experience, as we take you on an epic journey through the Andes, Jungle, Galapagos and Amazon Rainforest. This adventurous team program will steer you off the regular backpacker trail and into traditional indigenous communities, where you’ll live and work alongside some of the world’s most remote cultures helping with development initiatives co-ordinated by the Yanapuma Foundation.
Yanapuma is a charitable foundation who aim to improve the quality of life for a number of communities across Ecuador through sustainable projects and volunteer tourism which provide the funds and labour required to bring about change.
Leap volunteers step into their ‘fluid cycle of development’ jumping in where others have left off. Getting stuck in and working alongside community members will be the norm – so roll up your sleeves, practice your Spanish and expect a full cultural immersion as you travel across this amazing country.
We have four departures to Ecuador throughout the year: Jan, April, July and September for either 6 or 10 weeks. The most popular is the all singing and dancing 10-week option where you can “do it all” but of course you can go for less time to accommodate restraints on time, budget or both. Just get in touch.
10 week itinerary will include:
Week 1- 3: Northern Andes, Community Building and Spanish
Your adventure starts in the Andes, where you will spend a couple of days acclimatizing in Quito, Ecuador’s historic capital city before stepping into Agato – a fairy-tale land with condors swooping down over the villages, gurgling brooks, and lush fields nestled between snow-capped volcanoes.
The Andes is a playground for the adventurous, providing endless trekking opportunities to spectacular waterfalls and crater lakes before haggling in Otavalo’s famous artisan market.
Agato is a community who struggle to maintain a sustainable living through farming and handicrafts and as a result their community is run down and lacking in basic facilities. You will live and work alongside this community, providing the additional manpower needed to refurbish their village infrastructure and to help with their harvest and crop preparation.
Spanish Lessons included to help you communicate with the community.
Weeks 4 – 5: Lowland Cloud Forest, Tsachila Tribe – Cultural Heritage
Next, it’s time to travel west to the equatorial tropics, home to the country’s last remaining indigenous Tsachila tribe. Once prolific in this region, the number of Tsachila communities has now dwindled to just seven remote settlements, all of which are at risk of losing their traditional culture, due to the expanding influence of the mestizo culture.
This phase is all about reinforcing the Tsachila’s pride in their heritage and hopefully slow down the young migration, who are drawn to modern, urban areas by the promise of paid work and better schooling, taking with them the future of the community. The reality they encounter is often very different; living in poor rural areas on the outskirts of cities, with access to only the most basic education. By showing Tsachila’s youth that there is a bright future for the community and income to be made from volunteer tourism, you will help prevent this precious culture from disappearing.
Helping to plant and manage the Tsachila’s cacao plantation, improving productivity and revenue.
Helping refurbish and preserve their traditional buildings and extending the ‘ethno cultural centre’, which will help expand their ecotourism business.
Creating an ‘edible forest’ of fruit trees and vegetables to help the Tsachila diversify their diet.
Week 6: Adventure Expedition, Ruta de los Volcanes
After five hard-working weeks of volunteering, it’s time for a backpacking expedition along the famous Ruta de los Volcanes (Volcanic Route). You’ll travel from Quito to Quilotoa, kicking off the week at the Quilotoa Crater Lake, where you can stroll around the enormous lagoon nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, before hitting the waters in a kayak.
The following day, it’s off to the adventure capital of Ecuador; Baños, to see the Tungurahua volcano and white-water raft down the river.
The week finishes in Riobamba where you’ll be taken by bus to the snowline of the mighty Chimborazo Volcano, before mountain biking back down.
Weeks 7-9: Galapagos Islands, Environment + Agriculture Projects
We will fly you into San Cristobal, the Galapagos’ easternmost island, to live and work at a conservation project and eco-farm called Hacienda Tranquila.
The Hacienda works as a flagship eco-farm to provide the local community with organic gardens and sets an example for other farmers. They also contribute to reversing the effects of environmental damage caused by human settlers over the years, restoring the land to its natural state, and creating an indigenous forest home for giant tortoises and organic gardens for the community.
Helping the Hacienda Tranquila develop eco-friendly, high yielding farming methods for the farmers in the area. They also wish to discourage the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which have had a detrimental effect on the ecosystem.
Assisting on the children’s bi-weekly visits to the Hacienda, leading horse-riding sessions and helping with the upkeep of the stables, as well as delivering educational classes to children.
Maintaining irrigation systems that bring clean, drinkable water from San Cristobal’s natural sources for domestic and agricultural use.
Week 10: Amazon Rainforest, Gaia Amazon Center
Finally, you’ll get the chance to visit the mighty Amazon Rainforest, one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Here, the Gaia Amazon Center will provide a program of activities for you to learn about the Amazon and its cultures.
We have no doubt that this will be a great finale to your time in Ecuador, as it’ll give you the chance to kick back and relax, as well as enjoy the Amazon experience. Activities here include a canoe river tour, hiking in the primary rainforest, fishing, and a trip to native family home.
We have limited spaces, per departure, so book online to reserve your place and the Leap will get back to you to confirm the details.