Missoula, Montana—Experience an Ecuadorian adventure and volunteer for conservation at the same time through Adventure Life’s Cotopaxi group service project. Combine mountain biking with replacing national park signs, and zip-lining with trail maintenance. For five days, give back to the area you’re getting to know, the Cotopaxi National Park and the Condor Biosphere, a 5.4 million acre conservation project. Adventure Life is an eco-travel company that specializes in trips to Central and South America.
The trip begins with a horseback ride among herds of wild horses and bulls to the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano. The ride serves as an introduction to the Andean paramo. Along the way, native guides give lessons on medicinal plants of the area. As part of a forest reforestation initiative, volunteers plant trees around Hacienda El Porvenir, the group’s base for three nights. The goal of the initiative is to plant one million new trees; 200,000 have already been planted.
Travelers will also design and paint interpretive signs for Cotopaxi National Park and adjacent reserves. Staff members will provide Spanish translations and choose sign topics, such as Leave No Trace ethics, waste management, and warnings against illegal hunting. Those signs aren’t left behind, however. The next day, on a 12.5-mile mountain bike excursion, the group will place the new signs in the northern region of Cotopaxi National Park.
After much conservation work, the volunteers will have an opportunity to zip-line through the canopy of the Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve. The zipline system, which consists of five cables ranging in length from 330 feet to 1,500 feet, was originally used by scientists who were researching the canopy. After zip-lining, park rangers lead the group on a trail maintenance and rehabilitation operation.