Ecotourism Network

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La Vega del Volcán | Guatemala

banner-la-vegaOverview

Find yourself surrounded by green mountains and dig into a plate of fresh trout and organic veggies as you share with the innovative small farmers of La Vega del Volcán. The Cooperative of La Vega del Volcano is made up of rural men and women committed to finding new ways to support their families without leaving home or harming the environment. This local development organization is supported by Mennonite Central Committee.

Accommodations

Guests can stay in the newly-built lodge with views of the whole valley, equipped with 16 rooms and hot water. There is also the option of staying in the home of one of the co-op families.

Both options cost Q30/$4 pppn; with the families, the guests have the option of trying out a traditional Mayan bath called the chuj or tamascal for an additional Q10/$1.50.

Meals are also available and range between $3-$5.

Activities

The “Trout Trail” Tour is 1.5km, 2 hour (light) hike, which includes the following stops:

Testimony of a Successful Producer: Froilan talks about turning the mountainous terrain into trout ponds and how he’s expanding his work.

Vega’s Natural Riches: Lisandro shows his land filled with Calla Lillies and the beautiful views of the Tacaná  Volcano and the Cambaj mountain.

Hurricane Stan, Disaster, and Opportunity: Urbano shares how his family’s livelihood was threatened by Hurricane Stan, as well as how he has learned to take advantage of natural resources to support them.

Agro-ecology and the Future: Arnulfo and Mari give a tour of their organic farm and explain why it is so important to implement agro-ecology in the community.

Vega del Volcán sits at the feet of Tacaná Volcano, the second highest volcano in Central America. Apart from the “Trout Trail,” coordinator Gustavo Ramos can organize a hike up the volcano.

Getting There

Add information on contacting MCC and the Connecting Peoples program for phone numbers and emails of local leaders of the co-op.

Guides from La Vega will meet guests in Sibinal, about a 2 hour bus ride from San Marcos, the head of the department.  Visitors can easily find buses to San Marcos and the same for San Marcos to Sibinal.  From Sibinal to La Vega, there is the option of taking a pickup (Q350/$45 for up to 10 people per truck) or hiking (three hours, moderate-difficult hike).

Making a Difference

Cooperative members receive income through acting as guides, cooks and housekeepers. Money from the tours is used to support the workshops and trainings in agro-ecology, trout production, nutrition, and community organization.

Contact Information

Gustavo Ramos:  502 5581 6055 |  ramosgustavo50@gmail.com

Connecting Peoples: connecting@guatemala.mcc.org

Blog:  www.connectingpeoplesguatemala.blogspot.com

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Pacaya Tours | Nicaragua

Overview

Centered in one of the most picturesque regions of Nicaragua, the Apoyo Lagoon trail offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The trail was opened by the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism and is located only a short drive from either Managua, Nicaragua’s capitol, or Granada, Nicaragua’s tourist hub. The Apoyo Lagoon is bordered by the smoldering Masaya Volcano. A pleasant hike on the trail takes approximately an hour and a half. Concessions and a gift shop are also available.

Accommodations

Visitors can easily find accommodations in this tourist destination. Hotels and hostels are available in Managua and Granada. A few resorts surround the lagoon. Trips to the trail will be a day trip from your hotel. Price per room ranges anywhere from $25 to $125 a night. Camping areas are also available with tents accommodating up to three people. Package tours including food services are also available.

Activities

Walking the Apoyo Lagoon trail takes about an hour and a half with a fee of about $6 per per- son. Fifteen tourists per group is recommended. While walking the Apoyo Lagoon trail, there are opportunities to view wildlife such as howler monkeys and squirrels, and tropical flora including 70 species of trees. Several swimming beaches are also available for cooling off after a hot day hiking around the lagoon. The nearby town of Manay is known for its moderate climate and is a village that still engages in traditional practices, such as raising horses and creating artisanal items. One of Nicaragua’s most popular open-air markets is located nearby in Masaya, where Nicaraguan handicrafts can be purchased at exceptionally low prices. Catarina is another nearby town and is one of Nicaragua’s famous traditional towns, where ornamental plants and flowers are grown. Granada, located just four kilometers from the Apoyo Lagoon, is known for its colonial architecture and is the number one destination in Nicaragua for international travelers.

Getting There

About 45 minutes away from Managua, the Pacaya trail is accessible by a modern, paved road. Buses leave every two hours from Managua to Masaya and then on to Apoyo Lagoon. Otherwise, buses are available to Granada and then on to Masaya. Taxis are also available from Granada. Public transportation is available to Diriomito and Pacayita, two small villages situated in the upper northern part of the lagoon. The last bus back from the lagoon leaves around 4:30 pm.

Making a Difference

Pacaya Tours is one of the business development projects of World Vision Nicaragua. World Vision is one of the world’s largest economic development and advocacy organizations. Its Nicaraguan affiliate works to empower children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. All income generated through Pacaya Tours is invested back into the local community. One of the main goals for income generated by this ecotourism project is to provide health care to underweight children in Pacaya.

Contact Information

Kenia Pavon, Guide, Pacaya Tours Comunidad de Pacaya (frente a las Oficinas de ACADISMA)  | Masaya, Nicaragua | (505) 675-9090/670-1961/883-5024


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Panabaj Village | Guatemala

Overview

Nestled in a lush volcanic valley, the Tzutuhil Mayan villagers of Panabaj offer day tours for a unique look into their story of hope. The Asociación Nuevo Amanecer de Santiago Atitlán (ANADESA) is a cooperative of 16 artisans and their families. These indigenous people are dedicated to a positive future for themselves and their Mayan neighbors. This local community development organization is supported by the Mennonite Central Committee.

Accommodations

The ANADESA families invite you to stay in a Tzutuhil home and experience traditional Mayan life. The rate for the homestay option is Q90 (pppn) and includes 2 meals. The homestay option is rustic and consists of block houses with bunk beds and blankets. In addition, travel guides list lodging in nearby Santiago and Panjachel. If prior arrangements are made, lunch is provided during the ANADESA tour and for an additional charge.

Activities

“Walking in the Wake of Disaster” tour is 5–stop, 75 minute, 2.5 kilometer walking tour situated in the valley of Panabaj. The tour stops include:

Peace Park– A monument commemorating the 13 Tzutuhil indigenous people murdered by soldiers and long-awaited exit of Guatemalan military.

Coffee Forest- Some of the best coffee in the world is grown around the Lake and is a vital part of the local economy.

Volcano Canal– Example of the efforts being made by local government and international aid agencies to prevent future weather hazards from developing into disasters.

Ground Zero– A formerly bustling residential area buried after the fatal mudslides of Hurricane Stan.

Product Show & Lunch Site–Over lunch, get a change to relax and chat with the members of the cooperative themselves. In addition, you may browse their beautiful handmade crafts.

Tours cost about Q40 (about US$5) per person. Lunch, if provided, is an additional charge from Q25 (less than US$3) per person. The tour is in Spanish, but English translation is available by prior arrangement through the Connecting Peoples Program (see below). The translation services charge a Q75 fee per tour group.

The Lake Atitlán area is scenic and the tourist hub for Guatemala. While the ANADESA tour takes only a day, there are many more sights to see in the region!

Getting There

The Connecting Peoples Program of the Mennonite Central Committee may provide some assistance in help you meet the villagers of Panabaj. Their contact information is provided below. Guests travel to Panajachel city in southwestern Guatemala. Once at Panajachel, take a boat trip across Lake Atitlán to Santiago. Because the region is popular with tourists, there are many options for crossing the lake. The trip takes about 30 minutes and generally costs about Q25 pp (about US$3) one way. The tour guide will meet guests in Santiago and arrange transportation from Santiago to Panabaj. At the end of the tour, guests can stay in the village or return to Santiago, a distance of about two kilometers.

Making a Difference

ANADESA creates income generation opportunities by pooling the skills and resources of per- sons with similar talents. All profits generated by the tour are distributed among cooperative members and support the group’s activities. The cooperative uses your tourist income to run an adult literacy program, a children’s art and an environmental education program for its members and other at-risk persons living near Panabaj.

Contact Information

Juan Ramirez, your Spanish speaking tour guide in Panabaj | 502/5359-4302 Mennonite Central Committee office headquarters Guatemala City, Guatemala 502/2475-2870 | mccrep@guatemala.mcc.org Connecting Peoples Program — connecting@guatemala.mcc.org

NOTE: The village Panabaj is pronounced “pahn-a-bah.”


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Los Pinos | Honduras

Overview

Los Pinos Environmental Center is nestled in Cerro Azul Meambar National Park. The park, located in the heart of Honduras, offers one of the highest cloud forests in the country, reaching 2080 m (6656 feet). Visitors enjoy jungle wilderness, clean air and amazing biodiversity of flora and fauna. The park covers an area of 312 square kilometers.

Accommodations

Los Pinos offers a wide range of accommodations to visitors including full cabins, bedrooms and camping facilities. Conference accommodations are available for up to 110 people. Prices are reasonable for an overnight stay. Cabins are about US$5 pp per night and camping is about $1.50 pp per night. A dining facility is available; kitchen services can be arranged for about US$3-5 per meal with advance notice.

Activities

Visitors can enjoy watching exotic birds, studying plant and wildlife and hikes to the many beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking views. Facilities also include a small food store on site.

Getting There

Most guests will fly in and out of San Pedro Sula, a full service international airport. A tourist promotional office opened in San Pedro Sula in 2007 to provide reservation and transportation services for national and international tourists who come to Honduras looking for enjoying high quality ecotourism experiences. A four wheel drive vehicle is necessary to travel to Los Pinos.

Making a Difference

Los Pinos is a part of a new movement of socially-responsible tourism which has as its mission the care of the environment, local culture and community development. Operated by Proyecto Aldea Global, Los Pinos employs 24 people full time from the local community. The organization uses paid and volunteer staff from local indigenous Lenca villages to carry out its ministries of creation care and poverty alleviation.

Contact Information

Proyecto Aldea Global | panacamtours@paghonduras.org | panacam@paghonduras.org | 011+ (504)-608-5510

Web Page

www.paghonduras.org


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La Naturaleza | Honduras

Overview

La Naturaleza overlooks beautiful Lake Yojoa near the Cerro Azul Meambar National Park. Cerro Azul is located in the heart of Honduras and offers one of the highest cloud forest in country, reaching 2080 meters (6656 feet). With the park covering 312 square kilometers, it is a wonderful place for visitors to enjoy jungle wilderness and clean air.

Accommodations

La Naturaleza includes a delightful restaurant serving local cuisine, a visitor center for the park, and a natural history museum. Overnight facilities are available on sight and at Los Pinos, which is thirty minutes from La Naturaleza and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Activities

The La Naturaleza offers wonderful local cuisine, hiking on park trails swimming,

visiting a natural history museum, and more!

Getting There

Most guests will fly in and out of San Pedro Sula, a full service international airport. A tourist promotional office opened in San Pedro Sula in 2007 to provide reservation and transportation services for national and international tourists who come to Honduras looking for enjoying high quality ecotourism experiences. La Naturaleza is located on the major highway (CA 5) which connects San Pedro Sula with Tegucigalpa.

Making a Difference

La Naturaleza is a part of a new movement of socially-responsible tourism which has as its mission in the care of the environment, local culture and community development. La Naturaleza Environmental Education Center seeks to create environmental awareness through educational conferences, movies, and the natural history museum. Procedures from the center go toward environmental protection initiatives in the local community. Operated by Proyecto Aldea Global, La Naturaleza employs 24 people full time from the local community. The organization uses paid and volunteer staff from local indigenous Lenca villages to carry out its ministries of care for creation and poverty alleviation.

Contact Information

Proyecto Aldea Global | 011 + (504) 608-5510 | panacamtours@paghonduras.org | panacam@paghonduras.org

Web Page

www.paghonduras.org


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MOPAWI | Río Plátano | Honduras

Overview

North of the Amazon, the Western Hemisphere’s largest track of untouched rainforest enriches the nation of Honduras with resources and vast ecotourism potential. Moskitia Pawisa Apiska (MOPAWI), an indigenous development organization, works in this region of Central America. This isolated area contains villages of a variety of indigenous peoples: Mosquitia, Pech, Garifuna, Tawahka, and Ladino. A visit to the region, while demanding, will make a memory for life.

Accommodations

Food and lodging are rustic and traditional. Guests must have a high sense of adventure to travel in this remote region. Lodging, constructed from beautiful, local materials is simple, but comfortable. Bathhouses consist of a concrete slab for bucket bathing. Toilet facilities are private latrines. There is no electricity in these remote villages. Food is prepared in traditional local styles. Prices for food and lodging are generally low; a budget of US$ 20 per day should cover costs.

Activities

The region provides a variety of unique attractions. These include travel by dugout canoe, hiking in low- land tropical rainforest, swimming in the Caribbean, experiencing indigenous culture, sea turtle conservation, visits to sites with ancient rock carvings, and more! Extra fees are charged for these activities and vary depending on the duration; tipping guides and assistants must be included in your budget. These fees provide an important source of income for the indigenous communities.

Getting There

Most guests will use an amazing variety of transportation options to get to this isolated region: international flights, propeller plane, dugout canoe, walking, etc. Please study thoroughly all websites on options for this region. Tourist are responsible for their own travel to the Río Plátano region.

Making a Difference

MOPAWI helps protect the 815,000 hectare Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, which comprises a large portion of the rainforest. MOPAWI’s mission is to integrate sustainable, human development and nature conservation, emphasizing local ownership in community-based development. Las Marías, one of the principal villages

Contact Information

Moskitia Pawisa Apiska | 4b, 2da Calle, Tres Caminos | Apdo. Postal 2175 | Tegucigalpa, Honduras | Telephone: (504) 235-8659, 239-9234, 232-3480 | E-mail: mopawi@mopawi.org

Web Pages

www.larutamoskitia.com (lots of invaluable information)

www.mopawi.org (organizational information; Spanish)

Note: The websites provide invaluable information. However, many of the options will not directly support the excellent work of MOPAWI. Please make every effort to support the transformational work of MOPAWI!