Conscientious travel

How to give back to Chile (nearly) as much as you get out

With plenty of ecotourism options, and local NGOs eager to take volunteers,Chile is one of the top countries in the world for ethical travel.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012 Category: Tourism - Culture - Enviroment
Volunteers plant the first tree in the Torres del Paine reforestation project. (Photo courtesy of Re Volunteers plant the first tree in the Torres del Paine reforestation project. (Photo courtesy of Reforestemos Patagonia/Facebook)

Chile is a nature lover's paradise - from glacial fjords to volcanic peaks, this narrow strip of land on the western side of the Andes offers innumerable outdoor adventures.


But what truly sets the country apart is the myriad of options for those who want to combine an adventure in the South American wilderness with an effort to help restore and preserve it for future generations.


With so many options we can’t offer you a comprehensive guide (just yet), but here’s a few ideas to get you started.


In the Pacific: Easter Island


With its mysterious Moai head statues, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the indigenous language, is one of the world’s most iconic travel destinations.


The island’s fragile ecosystem presented a challenge to local residents long before the paradisiacal landscape became a top tourist attraction, with rampant deforestation and degradation of the fragile topsoil in many parts of the archipelago.


Thankfully, over the last decade, there has been a concerted effort to strike a balance between sharing the island’s remarkable culture and archeological treasures, and preserving its unique way of life and environment.


We recommend that you check out the Umanga Mo Te Natura (“Working Together for Nature,” in Rapa Nui) project, which aims to help locals and visitors plant tens of thousands of native trees on the island.


Chile’s Desert North: Atacama and the Altiplano


More accessible than faraway Rapa Nui, but just as otherworldly in its beauty, Chile’s northern desert and high country abound in sustainable tourism operators.


Both Ecotours Chile or Darwin’s Trails are well-known Chilean sustainable tourism and ecotourism operators that offer great northern Chile adventures, including fascinating coastal ecosystems and astronomy tours.


We also recommend Turismo Aramaxi, a family business based in the Collo community outside San Pedro de Atacama, which offers an intimate experience with local Atacameño culture.


Heading South: Patagonia and the Lakes Region


To explore the volcanoes and forests of the verdant lakes region and experience all it has to offer - from horseback riding to fly fishing and whitewater kayaking - in an environmentally friendly way, look no further than EcoTravel.


Further south and offering a more hands on experience is the newly established ecotourism initiative led by the Center for Ecosystem Research in Patagonia (CIEP).


With CIEP, travelers can volunteer for research projects, and could end up sailing the Chonos Archipelago to help study whales and other marine life, or participate in an archaeological dig on the Chacabuco River.


And if you can’t make it to Chile, but you would still like to contribute, why not buy a tree to help reforest its great southern wilderness, as part of the Reforestemos Patagonia campaign.

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