Piedra Blanca Offers Fun, Sustainable Vacations

Chachi Tree Frog, Choco Rainforest

My original trip to Ecuador fell through back in 2006 and I’ve been dreaming about an Ecuadorian escape ever since. Aside from the typical Galapagos Island excursions, Ecuador offers some cool vacation options that are ecologically conscious.

The country’s diverse landscape provides visitors with a variety of ecoturism options. Piedra Blanca offers rain forest tours by day and night, giving a glimpse into the wealth of botanical beauty and diverse wildlife of the region. Tours are done on foot in designated areas, conducted only by a small team of certified, knowledgeable guides to groups 30 visitors or fewer. These measures are taken to minimize impact on the surrounding rainforest.

Balsa river tours carry guests up the Río Zapotal in boats of balsa wood. These small crafts have been used to transport commercial goods since the colonial times. Speculation suggest that the boats predate the colonial era and were possibly used to transport the first residents of the Isla de Pascua (Easter Island). In either case, balsa river tours are motor-free, greenhouse gas-free methods of transportation that bring visitors close to Ecuador’s history.

Cover more ground with tours on horseback! Horses are the preferred method of transportation for town tours, allowing guests to visit local arts and crafts venues, markets for fresh produce and meat, organic farms, pre-Incan burial grounds and adjacent sites with remarkable ancient inscriptions. Skip the gas guzzling tour buses and hop on a horse! I must admit that I’m biased; I really enjoy horseback riding.

Locals and volunteers work together to build a balsa raft for tours.

Although the dollar isn’t as strong as it used to be, it still goes a long way in Ecuador. Catching a good deal on a flight is a trick of timing and luck, but once you get to the country the activities pack a lot of bang for each buck. It is also important to note that ecoturism is Piedra Blanca’s main effort to develop a local economy that is profitable, sustainable, and environmentally responsible. Support their efforts by buying souvenirs locally instead of at the airport or large inner-city gift shops.

Also, help them honor their efforts at ecologically friendly practices by respecting the rules and guidelines set before you by tour staff. They’re simple, stress-free rules that go a long way, like “don’t throw trash in the streets” and “don’t stray from the tour guide and wonder off into the rainforest.” You’d think that rules like those should go without saying but, alas, they must be said.

Want a real green experience? Go all the way with ecolodges. There are quite a few to chose from around the tour headquarters. Seek recommendations and reviews when possible.

Source and Balsa Image: piedrablanca.org

Tree Frog Image Source: daily pictures

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