At the mere mention of the Galapagos Islands, images of almost mythological creatures come to mind. The giant tortoise and the unforgettable blue-footed booby conjure up a place where nature’s creative possibilities are endless.
For those looking to experience the Galapagos off the rather well-regulated path, Hands Up Holidays gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse and a life lesson all in one vacation.
Yes, you’ll see the incredible monuments, the local market, and sunny days spent snorkeling and sailing some of the most beautiful waters in the world. But instead of trailing other tourists, you’ll also participate in a community development project in restricted parts of the Galapagos. Melding meaningful sightseeing with significant community involvement, travelers work side by side with local fishermen in a rubbish collection project.
Hands Up Holidays founder and CEO (chief experience officer) Christopher Hill says the value to vacationers is something they keep with them long after they return home: “Our clients come away with a fresh perspective on the state that the oceans are in and treasure the interaction they got with the local fishermen, who are hardy, ‘salt of the earth’ and warm.”
Sound too down and dirty? The allure of these islands to scientists and travelers alike has not been without cost over the years. Hill says, “Helping pick up this trash is helping to preserve this unique environment,” maintaining the pristine coastline and ensuring thriving biodiversity. And you’ll give back to the beautiful world that has given so much to you.
Custom tours range from two to 12 travelers and are tailored to your preferred schedule.
Trip length: 15 days/14 nights Itinerary: Six days exploring Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and surrounding sights. Eight days in the Galapagos sailing, snorkeling and working with the Galapagos Foundation. Price: $5,400–$6,705, airfare not included Accommodations: Three- to four-star hotels and lodges. Most meals included. For more information: HandsUpHolidays.com Make Voluntourism Part of Your Travel Plans Here at Home
Have a morning?
Ritz-Carlton hotels organize half-day volunteer opportunities for their employees and guests that include serving at a soup kitchen in Dallas, working in the Battery’s gardens in New York City or helping at the Ronald McDonald House for families of sick children in Cleveland.
– Go to Corporate.RitzCarlton.com/en/About/GiveBackGetaways.htm
Have a week?
Paint, plant and restore America’s treasures with the Sierra Club’s National Outings Program, which pairs volunteers with park personnel to restore wilderness areas or aid on research projects.
– Go to SierraClub.org/Outings/National/Service.aspx
Need more? Check out EcoTourism.org/Voluntourism and VolunteerGuide.org/Vacation