Vamos Expeditions: Eco- and Adventure Travel in Peru and Latin America

Vamos Expeditions is an adventure and ecotourism operator in Peru offering tours in several countries of Latin America with a focus on sustainability, education, communities and conservation. This LT&C-Example relates mainly to our activities in Peru, where tours – often involving university groups and scientists – support the National Protected Areas (NPAs) of the Andean mountains towards the cold coast of the Pacific Ocean. To “make it possible to travel in a way that does good for the world, that protects and restores wildlife, honours and supports the local people and fosters economic prosperity” belongs to our mission. Vamos works under the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility and contributes to worthy projects in the rural communities we work with, creating a positive impact in the lives of both locals and travellers alike. By using smaller boutique properties and well-paid staff and guides, Vamos ensures that each of their trips adds positively to the destinations they serve.

In Lake Titicaca, which is on UNESCO’s tentative lists of a World Heritage Site, Vamos Expeditions is proud to be a pioneer and motor behind a project that has become one of the best community-based tourism projects in Peru. Working together with the locals of Ticonata Island, Vamos helped expand their economy by bringing volunteers and tourism to this remote island, maintaining its ancient, pre-Inca culture. People live in “Putucos” (stone Igloo-like houses) and have built additions to receive and welcome guests. Over time Vamos got to know the community better and started to exchange ideas of how one could help this beautiful community more. Building little round houses on the island that could be used to sleep for travellers was one idea. Together with the locals, we built ‘putucos’, homes based on a pre-Inca design of ruins that are found in this area. The houses are constructed in sun-dried adobe blocks and have a thatched roof.

Also, Vamos Expeditions’ support for cloud forest conservation through the Golondrinas project in Ecuador can be seen as part of their LT&C-Example. The project focuses on conserving natural resources, conserving cloud forest, recuperating eroded soils, and environmental education in the mountainous region of Northern Ecuador. Inadequate agricultural management such as burning, row planting, overgrazing, among others, and high levels of water erosion have resulted in soil degradation and, thus, a loss in soil productivity. In Ecuador, this is one of the most successful deep-rooted ecological initiatives in the community. The principal objective of the Foundation is to conserve this unique forest ecosystem while improving the quality of life for the people in the region. The latter objective is being carried out via classes in environmental education and the introduction of appropriate agricultural techniques.

Typical tours of Vamos start from Lima, the capital of Peru. Visits to NPAs include the Paracas National Reserve with its Andean Condors, the San Fernando Bay Reserve, the Pampa Galeras Reserve with its thousands of Vicuñas, the Cotahuasi Landscape Reserve to see the world’s deepest canyons and the Aguada Blanca National Reserve with its active geysers and the most amazing Volcanoes Park. Also included is the Titicaca Lake Reserve, the highest navigable lake in the world, and finally the majestic Machu Picchu in Cusco, the door of the Amazon in Tambopata to see the fabulous jaguar and anaconda, immense rivers, infinite vegetation and the huge amount of insects and orchids

To provide management support to the NPAs and fulfil the traveller’s expectation of being in a protected area, we coordinate with operators, guides, authorities and the communities involved, park rangers, and make everyone participate in this project. On the other side, we are part of the committee in San Fernando NPA to offer spaces to stay at the bay for enjoying nature and create local, sustainable tourism offers.

Entrance fees provide financial support for every protected area we visit. Payments cover services, conservation management and social activities and projects in communities involved. Bringing more than 1000 tourists per year makes a financial difference.

When people visit and experience these protected areas, they learn about the environment, different species, sustainability and the importance of protecting habitats and species. When we use local homes and support their traditional way of life, our clients also learn about the role of local communities in the system and how important it is to involve and support them so they see the benefits of protected areas. Experiencing rural life and being in close contact with nature may lead to paradigm change. Our goal is that our travellers can share this experience and knowledge with their relatives and friends and thereby create a “more conscious world”.
We also lead and involve academic groups and researchers for their MBA and PhD thesis related to community, tourism, and protected area topics.

Yes, one of the goals of Vamos Expeditions is to involve more travellers, communities, academia and local business in ecotourism, experiential and social tourism. We are helping communities who live in the protected areas, making them aware of the benefits of tourism and the positive impacts on protected areas when well managed. For that reason, we almost always include educational, research, and practical management activities in our programs. Also, we are constantly evaluating the company’s results, getting international certifications; we are analyzing the business model and how our operation impacts the communities and protected areas.

We are part of the Committee in San Fernando Bay to make it possible to get people there.

In Peru, there are many more protected areas than those we presently are involved in. Many of them have the same “rules”, so we or others could take travellers to more of these areas and apply the same management, financial support and educational projects. Conducting tourism with quality, spreading the benefits, and being very empathic and fair with the stakeholders who participate in such activities could improve Peru’s protected area network. Our concept of winning support for protected areas through supporting local communities and engaging in education and research projects could easily be transferred to other Latin American countries, particularly those we are ourselves operating in.
The pandemic has caused more than 70% of the people who work in tourism to lose their jobs. We are a small company, we can still maintain ourselves, and we hope that we will have learned to cope with the next crisis. Now the visits are slowly beginning again. Many protocols, distance rules, but more recognized respect for nature will make it possible to reduce the risks of these epidemics and pandemics.

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