Ecotourism project in Colombia enters a new phase!
Sometimes work meetings offer an unexpected delight, and that was absolutely the case last Friday. As part of a project we have been working on with two communities in Colombia to help them grow and develop their fledgling tourism businesses (more of that to follow), Rachel met with some of the scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew who are also working on the project. The meeting took place in one of the offices at Kew’s Herbarium, which contains one of the best collections of its kind in the world. The building holds an amazing wealth of information about plants that have been collected from around the world over the past 170 years. It was a real privilege to get the behind the scenes look!
Developing Eco Tourism in Colombia
Since 2020 Think Galapagos sister company (Think Tourism) has been involved with two communities in Colombia located in areas of exceptional biodiversity. We have been working as part of a team that also includes Royal Botanic Gardens Kew to help develop ecotourism projects in Serranía de las Quinchas in the centre of Colombia and Sierra de Perija in the north of Colombia. The aim of the project, which is officially entitled ‘Promoting forest protection and peace-building through community-based ecotourism in biodiversity hotspots of Colombia’ is to channel the power of responsible travel to help safeguard some of the most exceptional biodiversity on Earth. The project is being funded being funded by UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions). By developing ecotourism tours, the aim is to create a sustainable income source as an alternative to deforestation and support the communities to build a better future based on peace and conserving the remarkable forests around them.
About Serrania de las Quinchas
Serrania de las Quinchas, the location of one of the ecotourism projects we are working with, is located between the Choco and Amazon rainforests, two of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The area is rich in enigmatic plants, animals and birdlife, including species found nowhere else on Earth. The forests here are located on the foothills of Colombia’s Eastern Andes and ranging in altitude from 200 m (660 ft) to 1,700 m (5,600 ft). The different elevations of the cloud forests and forests create unique and different ecosystems of flora and fauna. A number of species here are now critically endangered, like the Blue-billed Curassow (Crax Alberti) and the brown spider monkey (Ateles hudridus) considered to be one of the rarest primates on earth.
About Sierra de Perija
Sierra de Perija, the location of the other ecotourism community project we are working to support, is a 200 mile long mountain range and forms part of the Tropical Andes Hotspot, one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots. The northernmost finger of the Andes, it is an area renowned for the high level of species diversity and endemism, home to enigmatic mammals like the spectacle bear, puma, jaguar and a rich variety of birdlife. A big part of what makes this area an inspiring place to visit as well as the wildlife are the strong resilient communities here that bear testimony to the human spirit to strive and survive in the face of adversity.
In 2021, despite the challenges that Covid 19 brought, the project was able to run 3 special training trips with the communities with tourists as we worked to fine tune the programs and home-stay accommodation, each time taking feedback from the guests and making improvements and learning lessons. When we started out on the project, our main focus was about the wildlife around the communities, but actually what we found over the course of running the trips last year was the stand out experience for guests was the communities themselves. We often say this, but the trips really did offer the chance to go beyond the bounds of ordinary tourism with the incredible hospitality of the communities.
Working with communities in Colombia to develop tourism
This week we are officially embarking on the next phase of the community projects in Serrania de las Quinchas and Sierra de Perija in Colombia. As well as developing a visitor wildlife guide and helping train local guides in the amazing biodiversity around them for 2022/23, we will be helping organise three more trips to help the communities develop their tourism skills.
Whilst accommodation will be basic – you will be staying as guests of the community – the wildlife is wonderful, the welcome is amazing and the food is great! On each of the trips we will have one of our bilingual tour leaders on the ground helping ensure everything runs smoothly and our idea is to combine these visits with some of classic highlights of Colombia.
Later this year we are going to be helping set up a crowd funding page to help the communities raise funds for some basic improvements to their home-stays, for things like better mattresses and overall improvements in the lodging.
Why not join us on one of our trips to Colombia planned for later this year! Contact us to find out more.
Here are the links to the communities own websites if you’d like to read more about them and what they offer: