An Eco-Adventure Through Rainforests and Rivers

The Ecuadorian Amazon Sustainable Development How do we reconcile the needs of the environment with those of people?

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Ecuador: Sustaining The Amazon

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Amazon Summer Program

Few places are as critical to the overall health of our planet as the Amazon rainforest. Ecuador’s Amazon is ground zero for extractive industries – oil, minerals, timber, etc – seeking to reap economic gain and fuel our insatiable global ‘need’ for these resources. The pressure to develop the Amazon’s considerable natural resources has led to watershed contamination, deforestation, displacement and harm to the indigenous population, and much more.

In this Sustainable Summer program…

  • You’ll learn fascinating facts, like how hydropower projects account for billions of dollars in debt in developing countries while not necessarily generating ‘renewable’ energy.
  • You’ll visit chakras, the ‘forest gardens’ of the indigenous Kichwa people
  • You’ll consider economic solutions to natural resource management in a global context, like the role of social enterprises and micro-finance in sustainable development
  • You’ll examine the ecological impacts of our global hunger for non-renewable resources, which have depleted the Amazon’s ecological health while contributing massively to climate change, species extinction, and local health issues.

Come to Ecuador’s exotic ‘Oriente’ and immerse yourself in the majesty of the jungle and the indigenous people that live in it.

The core of the Sustaining the Amazon program is a multi-day segment at the Huasquila jungle lodge, near Archidona, where we will be learning about reforestation, rainforest ecology, and sustainable development of the Amazon’s natural resources. This region of the Amazon has relatively easy access and is more populated and developed, which affords greater opportunities for interactions with local culture and to learn about the challenges associated with sustainable natural resource management.

Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.

 

Swim

through a sheer walled jungle gorge

Visit

chakras, the forest gardens of the Kichwa people

Raft

the mighty whitewater of the Rio Jatunyacu

Program Details

15-Day Program

2016 Dates TBD

Tuition: $2995
Group Size: 10-12
Ages: 15-18

Full/Closed

Connecting Programs

This program is designed to connect with our Dartmouth College Program, Ecuador Seeds of Change Program, and Galapagos Program.

9-Day Program

2016 Dates TBD

Tuition: $1995
Group Size: 10-12
Ages: 15-18

Closed/Full

Connecting Programs

This program is designed to connect with our Dartmouth College Program and Galapagos Program.

 

15-Day Itinerary

  • Arrival

    Participants will depart from Miami (MIA) for Quito, Ecuador (UIO) on our ‘group flight’ with our trip leaders. It is a late evening departure, so students from all over the US (and internationally) will have ample time to travel to MIA from their local airport, connect with our group, and then make the 3.5 hour flight from Miami to Quito.

    Upon arrival, we’ll take private transportation to our accommodations in Tumbaco, a short drive from the new Quito International Airport, for a good night's rest.

    Day 1
  • Orientation

    We’ll begin the program with a full day of orientation at our beautiful guest house outside Quito to become familiar with local customs, health and safety protocols, and our individual and mutual goals for the program.

    Day 2
  • Baeza
    After breakfast, we'll have the privilege of participating in a lecture and discussion with the project manager for one of Ecuador's power utilities, Mr. Galo Aguirre. Galo will frame our experience for the next couple of days as he explains hydro-electricity, the current state of affairs in Ecuador's energy sector, and the active development of numerous dam projects, which have the potential to provide the country with an abundance of "renewable" energy, but at great environmental and financial cost. We then take private transportation northeast over Papallacta pass and the spine of the Andes. We're heading for Baeza, in Ecuador's cloud forest zone, about 2 hours away. We'll settle into our accommodations at La Casa de Rodrigo, in the sleepy town of Baeza, nestled in the beautiful Quijos river valley. We'll use Baeza as our main base of operations while we explore the surrounding rivers and mountains as part of our first sustainability intensive segment focused on water resource management. In the afternoon, we will visit the Baeza Interpretation Center where park rangers will share insights about conservation of the surrounding cloud forest and Antisana National Park. Day 3
  • Hydropower & Hot Springs
    We work with a local NGO that is working to protect Ecuador’s unique river corridors for the benefit of maintaining biodiversity and human health, and developing sustainable economies. We’ll visit a 100 MW dam project on the Papallacta and Quijos Rivers, and learn about the ecological devastation and significant financial costs of this renewable energy project being blasted through the deep river canyons. We'll see the transmission lines cutting through the cloud forest, up and over the Andes, bringing energy to Quito. We'll go for a hike in Antisana National Park and learn about the delicate cloud forest ecosystem. We'll finish up the day with a relaxing dip in the Papallacta hot springs. Day 4
  • Waterfalls!
    Today, we go to San Rafael Falls, the largest waterfall in Ecuador and also the site of the imposing Coca Codo Sinclair hydro-project, which, according to some environmentalists, may completely dewater the falls when completed. We'll speak with local groups who are both for and against the project, seek to understand the political and economic forces behind it, and contemplate alternatives. We’ll also have a chance to see how the oil industry, mining operations, and other enterprises that are contributing to watershed pollution in the Quijos Valley. We'll stop at Cascada Magica, perhaps Ecuador's most enchanting waterfall, on the ride home. Day 5
  • Huasquila
    For the second segment of the trip we will head an hour south and down in elevation into the rainforest and indigenous communities of Napo Province near Tena, a major gateway to the wilds of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We'll spend a week in the the area at Huasquila jungle lodge learning about reforestation, social enterprise and sustainable economic development; visiting chakras, the 'forest gardens' of the Kichwa people; trekking through the jungle; and spending time with the local people. After lunch, we will don rubber boots for a short walk to las golondrinas waterfall. Our Kichwa guide will introduce us to traditional medicinal plants and their uses and we will also learn about reforestation and rainforest conservation efforts in this region of the Amazon. Returning back to the lodge, we'll enjoy some time to relax by the pool, followed by dinner. Day 6
  • The Kichwa
    We'll be up before day break for a visit to one of the local Kichwa communities and to participate in the traditional guayusa ceremony, a ritual that has been practiced in the Ecuadorian Amazon for thousands of years. After breakfast, we will visit a guayusa nursery and learn how this herbal leaf is grown, how to plant it, and why it has so much potential as a sustainable agricultural export crop. After lunch, we will visit another local Kichwa community where the president of the community will give a briefing about their reforestation work. We will visit several chakras, the Kichwa family gardens; learn about the different native plants, including manioc, guayusa, and cacao; and then help with reforestation work in the community. Later we will receive a presentation on the about the traditional dances and Kichwa culture. Returning to the lodge, we will have dinner and then a guided night hike through the rainforest, when many of the jungle's inhabitants are most active. Day 7
  • The Gran Canyon
    Today we will be an all-day hike into the Mondayacu Gran Canyon, a rigorous, but rewarding hike through impressive jungle to a towering waterfall. A refreshing swim is a nearly mandatory outcome of our adventure. Our local guides will point out all manner of birds and other wildlife along the way. Day 8
  • Caves and Crafts and Kallari
    After breakfast, we'll visit Kallari, a chocolate cooperate run by the Kichwa. We'll lean about their entire supply chain, from the cacao that is collected from small family chakras throughout the region, then processed locally into chocolate and exported to the US and Europe. Kallari is an outstanding example of sustainable enterprise. In the afternoon, we will hike to a series of caves, collecting seeds and plants along the way. After exploring the caves, we'll walk to a nearby Kichwa community that is part of a Fair Trade alliance. The women in the community manufacture bracelets and other jewelry, which is sold at fair market prices around the world. These local artisans will show us how to make traditional Kichwa jewelry from the seeds and other items we collected during our morning hike. Day 9
  • Misahualli
    After breakfast, we venture to Puerta Misahualli where will take a take a dugout canoe ride to a jungle outpost. There we will learn how to make chocolate from scratch, continue our exploration of Kichwa culture, and see plenty of monkeys frolicking in the trees. Returning back to the lodge, we will stop at the El Arca wildlife rescue center to see some of the large jungle mammals that have been forced out of this part of the Amazon due to deforestation, and which can no longer be seen in the wild. Day 10
  • Rafting
    Tena is one of the world's top destinations for whitewater rafting. We'll spend the day paddling the Class III Rio Jatunyacu, which means 'Big Water' in Quichua. The Jatunyacu tumbles out of the Llanganates National Park in a torrent of big waves punctuated by calm pools, making it a great trip for both beginners and more experienced rafters. Day 11
  • Banos
    After breakfast, we'll depart for Banos, about 3-hours by bus, one of Ecuador's top spots for adventure activities. Day 12
  • Choices
    Today, we'll  go with group consensus. Banos has a lot to offer - volcano hikes, mountain biking, hot springs, and more. We like the classic Ruta de las Cascadas, so named for the numerous waterfalls that tumble out of the jungle along our descent, but it's up to the group to decide how we spend our time - and our budget - in Banos. In the past students, have elected to manage a tight budget and instead donate proceeds to a local conservation or education non-profit. Or, go all out on some fine dining. It's your call. You'll just need to make a compelling argument to the rest of the group and get consensus. Time to test out those leadership skills! Day 13
  • Final Day
    We depart Banos for the nearby indigenous community Salacas. Our exploration of natural resource management and sustainability has come full circle and we contemplate an alternative development model. A micro-hydro project being developed on the Rio Pachanlica will provide inexpensive electricity to the community while causing almost no environmental disruption. Our group will then enjoy a scenic bus ride up the central valley of the Andes, back towards Quito and a final night in Ecuador. Day 14
  • Departure

    Return flight to the US

    Day 15
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.

 

9-Day Itinerary

  • Arrival

    Participants will depart from Miami (MIA) for Quito, Ecuador (UIO) on our ‘group flight’ with our trip leaders. It is a late evening departure, so students from all over the US (and internationally) will have ample time to travel to MIA from their local airport, connect with our group, and then make the 3.5 hour flight from Miami to Quito.

    Upon arrival, we’ll take private transportation to our accommodations in Tumbaco, a short drive from the new Quito International Airport, for a good night's rest.

    We'll use our time at MIA well with some orientation activities that will familiarize us with local customs, health and safety protocols, and our individual and mutual goals for the program.

    Day 1
  • Orientation and Huasquila

    After breakfast, we take private transportation northeast over Papallacta Pass and the spine of the Andes. We're heading for Baeza, in Ecuador's cloud forest zone, about 2 hours away. We'll stop for a bathroom break and perhaps a batido, a delicious fruit smoothie, before continuing onward. From Baeza, we head an hour south and down in elevation into the rainforest and indigenous communities of Napo Province near Tena, a major gateway to the wilds of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We'll spend a week in the the area at Huasquila jungle lodge learning about reforestation, social enterprise and sustainable economic development; visiting chakras, the 'forest gardens' of the Kichwa people; trekking through the jungle; and spending time with the local people. After lunch at Huasquila, we will don rubber boots for a short walk to las golondrinas waterfall. Our Kichwa guide will introduce us to traditional medicinal plants and their uses and we will also learn about reforestation and rainforest conservation efforts in this region of the Amazon. Returning back to the lodge, we'll continue our orientation, as well as some time to relax by the pool, followed by dinner.

    Day 2
  • The Kichwa
    We'll be up before day break for a visit to one of the local Kichwa communities and to participate in the traditional guayusa ceremony, a ritual that has been practiced in the Ecuadorian Amazon for thousands of years. After breakfast, we will visit a guayusa nursery and learn how this herbal leaf is grown, how to plant it, and why it has so much potential as a sustainable agricultural export crop. After lunch, we will visit another local Kichwa community where the president of the community will give a briefing about their reforestation work. We will visit several chakras, the Kichwa family gardens; learn about the different native plants, including manioc, guayusa, and cacao; and then help with reforestation work in the community. Later we will receive a presentation on the about the traditional dances and Kichwa culture. Returning to the lodge, we will have dinner and then a guided night hike through the rainforest, when many of the jungle's inhabitants are most active. Day 3
  • The Gran Canyon
    Today we will be an all-day hike into the Mondayacu Gran Canyon, a rigorous, but rewarding hike through impressive jungle to a towering waterfall. A refreshing swim is a nearly mandatory outcome of our adventure. Our local guides will point out all manner of birds and other wildlife along the way. Day 4
  • Caves and Crafts
    After breakfast, we will hike to a series of caves, collecting seeds and plants along the way. After exploring the caves, we'll head back to the lodge for lunch and then walk to a nearby Kichwa community that is part of a Fair Trade alliance. The women in the community manufacture bracelets and other jewelry, which is sold at fair market prices around the world. These local artisans will show us how to make traditional Kichwa jewelry from the seeds and other items we collected during our morning hike. Day 5
  • Misahualli
    After breakfast, we venture to Puerta Misahualli where will take a take a dugout canoe ride to a jungle outpost. There we will learn how to make chocolate from scratch, continue our exploration of Kichwa culture, and see plenty of monkeys frolicking in the trees. Returning back to the lodge, we will stop at the El Arca wildlife rescue center to see some of the large jungle mammals that have been forced out of this part of the Amazon due to deforestation, and which can no longer be seen in the wild. Day 6
  • Kallari
    We'll spend most of the day at Kallari, a chocolate cooperate run by the Kichwa. We'll lean about their entire supply chain, from the cacao that is collected from small family chakras throughout the region, then processed locally into chocolate and exported to the US and Europe. Kallari is n outstanding example of sustainable enterprise. Day 7
  • Rafting
    Tena is one of the world's top destinations for whitewater rafting. We'll spend the day paddling the Class III Rio Jatunyacu, which means 'Big Water' in Quichua. The Jatunyacu tumbles out of the Llanganates National Park in a torrent of big waves punctuated by calm pools, making it a great trip for both beginners and more experienced rafters. After rafting, our group will enjoy a scenic bus ride back to Quito for our final night in Ecuador. Day 8
  • Departure
    Return to the US Day 9
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.

Curriculum

Overview

Overview

Our Approach to Learning Abroad

All programs include a broad introduction to sustainability as an interdisciplinary concept from a social sciences perspective. Some environmental science, as well as cultural and human dimensions of sustainability, is also part of the curriculum.

This course – through readings, discussions, presentations, and fieldwork – will examine sustainability through the investigation of energy, water, and agriculture projects with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place. By the end of the program, participants should have a solid, coherent understanding of what it means for an action, organization, or approach to be considered sustainable, and the many challenges we face to achieving environmental sustainability. Most importantly, Sustainable Summer students will have begun the important process of thinking critically about what we can do individually, collectively and globally, to begin to solve the planet’s most pressing problems.

Sustaining the Amazon

Sustaining the Amazon

Course Info

Our Ecuador: Sustaining the Amazon program has a special emphasis on renewable energy, water usage, and sustainable development. This is a great option for students that have an interest in learning about the global politics of the oil industry and energy alternatives, especially hydropower, and the complicated problems of sustainable economic development of the Amazon. Topics include:

  • Water resource management. Human uses of water. The ecological importance of rivers. Dams. Privatization of water resources. Water politics and policy.
  • Extractive industries in Ecuador. Oil, timber, and minerals. Economics and politics. Global supply and demand. The ecological and social impact locally and globally.
  • Deforestation and reforestation. The importance of the Amazon as a 'global commons.' Causes of deforestation. Reforestation projects and the role of international NGOs in protecting the Amazon.
  • Micro-enterprises and sustainable economic development. Fair trade. Cooperatives. Sustainable tourism. Funding sources and the role of international business and NGOs in opening global markets.

Although every Sustainable Summer program uses a standardized curriculum and approach, individual programs function very differently. Sustainability is an extremely broad field and each program emphasizes certain curricular segments more or less, depending on the planned (and unplanned) opportunities for instruction available on the program.

Agricultural production is always given important emphasis on every Sustainable Summer program. The problems with the global food production system are enormous, yet, on an individual or family level, there are few “easier” things that one can do to live more sustainably than make better choices in the grocery store. Consequently, Sustainable Summer is designed to highlight examples of sustainable agriculture by actively involving students in local food production. Our investigation of agriculture will often stimulate later discussions in our water and energy segments, for example, with irrigation or agricultural water pollution, or food transportation or methane biodigesters.

Our Philosophy

Our Philosophy

Additional Thoughts
We take the academic component of Sustainable Summer very seriously. Students should be prepared to engage in the subject matter intellectually. This does not necessitate any previous coursework beyond a freshman earth science or biology course. Motivated students that possess strong environmental sensitivities will have no problem with the course material provided that they are prepared to do the reading and the work that compliment all of the "experiential" aspects of the program. Once we are "on-program," most of the active learning we will be doing will be "field-based." We don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to travel to a fascinating destination and then spend most of the day in a classroom. However we believe that a structured curriculum designed to reinforce the many lessions of the program is necessary to foster retention and transferrence. We realize that this type of language may appeal to parents and educators much more so than students. So, to students that may be wondering if Sustainable Summer is "all work and no fun," we assure you that there will be ample time to make new friends, hang out, explore, be silly, and be active. If you're not sure that the program strikes the right balance between structured and unstructured time, between fun and serious time, or between experiences and academic, just give us a call and we'll put you in touch with past students who can help describe our approach from a student's perspective.
Course Goals

Course Goals

Insert subhead
Students will...
  • Develop “eco-literacy” and critical thinking about sustainability.
  • Develop understanding of the interconnectedness of human and natural systems; the linkages found in nature and those connecting economic systems, environment, and society.
  • Develop ​the ​critical reflection, communication, ​interpersonal, ​and positive risk taking skills necessary to create change in their local and global communities.
Course Requirements

Course Requirements

Course Requirements
Course Requirements:
  1. Participation in course activities: Participation is the largest qualitative and subjective aspect of this program, and will have a substantial impact on the student’s experience in the Sustainable Summer program. All students are encouraged to think critically about the issues at hand, and to share his/her opinion regularly within group discussions. Group discussions occur daily without exception during the program.
  2. Completion of course assignments and assessments: All assignments in the course reader are obligatory, and should be completed prior to the relevant class period or group discussion.
  3. Co-Facilitation: Students must take initiative in coordinating and co-facilitating at least one small group discussion on a topic related to the course.
  4. Journal entries: Students are required to keep a journal that documents their participation in the program and course. They will have focused reflective assignments that will be reviewed by Program Facilitators. Journal entries can be creative and include drawings, question lists (good for generating discussion), and other mixed-media elements. The aim is for these entries to be concise while also allowing space for students to present their comprehension of a reading, theme or issue.
  5. Sustainability Action Plan: Students are required to develop a personal Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), which will document the steps they would like to take when they return home to put what they have learned in the course into practice. The SAP should detail changes they will make on a daily, monthly and yearly basis, and will also outline steps to encourage members of their family, peer groups and community to adopt similar measures.
Our curriculum includes a required pre-program segment designed to build a common foundation among student in key concepts. The pre-program coursework is about 5 hours, can be completed at the student's convenience, and includes readings, online video lectures, and some short assignments. This segment defines sustainability and major factors that contribute to unsustainable impacts; establishes basic frameworks to analyze and assess sustainability; and introduces methods for implementing sustainable solutions at local, community, regional, national, and international scales.
 

Program FAQs

These FAQs are specific to Ecuador: Sustaining the Amazon, including FAQs about student health and safety, travel, trip leaders, and other important information that prospective students and parents should consider before applying to Sustainable Summer.

For general FAQs about tuition, scholarships, how to apply or enroll, payment, what to pack, how to prepare, etc., please check our Prospective Student FAQs for more information. Enrolled participants should login to their MySummer account for all pre-program information.

Sustainable Summer is not for everyone. In addition to the age requirements (15 - 18 years old), in general, you should have a strong interest in environmental sustainability and the requisite physical and emotional maturity to handle the experience of traveling with your peers in a developing country for 2 to 4 weeks. Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.

Ecuador is wonderful country and although the Galapagos has been a major tourist destination for decades, mainland Ecuador is quickly growing in popularity as a destination for "adventure travelers." Services for travelers are quite good by developing country standards, but the tourism industry is nowhere near as established as, for example, Costa Rica. This is part of the charm of being a traveler in Ecuador - you can discovery the country on your own terms. However, it can also make for challenging travel at times. This program has an "off the beaten path" feel but in actuality, we will be visiting regions of the Amazon that are quite accessible (by Amazon standards, at any rate). The physical circumstances of hiking through a jungle gorge may prove challenging. However, Sustainable Summer is designed to push you out of your element. A healthy degree of challenge is a very good thing! Look carefully at the course information to ensure this program is a good fit for you.

This program is capped at 12 students, ranging in age from 15 to 18.  Most students do not enroll with a friend, but pairs of students are welcome to come together.
Sustainable Summer will organize a group flight from the United States, which all participants are strongly encouraged to take.  This flight will be chaperoned by a trip leader.  More information about securing a seat on the group flight will be provided upon enrollment in the program.  Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a the local bus to a cattle truck. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!
No Spanish is required to participate in the program; however, students with a basic command of the language will find numerous opportunities to practice their Spanish with native speakers. Students who have not previously studied Spanish will get a crash course in ‘survival’ Spanish during our orientation. Because all course instruction is in English, students who do not speak Spanish should be able to participate fully in the program, and reap the full benefits of Sustainable Summer in Ecuador.
There’s plenty of opportunity for rest, relaxation, and fun. Activities on this program include rafting, hiking, and hot springs, just to name a few examples.
This program is not explicitly intended to be a “community service” trip. All of our programs feature partnerships with local organizations with a strong commitment to improving and sustaining the local community and we will actively engage in a day or two of community service during the program. Sustainable Summer will provide documentation of the program fundamentals and community service hours.
Communication via cell phone or Internet is often not possible for several days at a time during programs. When we are out of cell phone range, we always have an immediate means of reaching emergency assistance should it be needed, for instance, via short wave radio. However, students should be prepared for the reality that they may not be able to place or receive calls or check email/social media for long stretches during the program, up to one week at a time. Internet access is available at several points during the program, so students can plan to check in with family and friends intermittently throughout the trip. In case of emergency, family members will be able to reach our 24 hour hotline to communicate important information to their students in as timely a manner as is practical.
Ecuador is typically considered one of the safest countries for travelers to Latin America.  Additionally, many of the areas where we will travel are frequently visited by foreign travelers, and crime is rare. Ecuadorians in general are very welcoming to travelers from the United States, and many of the local people we will visit will treat participants with the same regard and concern they would show family members. One fact we like to share with families is that Ecuador has been voted the top retirement destination for American expats by the publication International Living for several years running. The healthcare and infrastructure is quite good, and in many cases as good or better than "first-world" standards. Hospitals in Quito are excellent with English-speaking doctors trained in the US or Europe. Many new roads and highways have been constructed in recent years making ground transportation safe and efficient. The country has also been politically stable since switching over to the US dollar for currency in 2001. The current president, Rafael Correa, was re-elected in February 2013 and is widely admired by his citizens for ushering in a wave of economic prosperity and modernization.
We expect that every trip will run smoothly and without incident, but we plan for the worst. Sustainable Summer has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in the Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments.  As a result of this training Sustainable Summer has developed a risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all international expeditions, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority. All Sustainable Summer programs feature experienced staff using established risk management best practices to guide every decision. All trip leaders have CPR and Wilderness First Aid training, and at least one leader possesses advanced medical training.

All participants are required to be enrolled in a comprehensive medical and travel insurance as part of their program tuition. (You will be given the option of having Sustainable Summer purchase a plan from our preferred provider on your behalf when you enroll in the program.) We use private transportation when traveling between locations. We work exclusively with experienced local operators who have been vetted by our team. We conduct training with all trip leaders and establish clear protocols to mitigate risk and effectively mobilize resources in the event of an emergency. Please see our Safety page for a more comprehensive overview of our approach to student health and well-being. If you have specific questions about your situation, please contact us to discuss. Answers to some common questions about health and safety are below:

All trip leaders have current first aid and CPR certifications, and can treat basic medical situations on-site.  Sustainable Summer has clearly defined protocols in the event of a health/medical emergency. We are happy to share examples of successful field medical treatment - give us a call if you're concerned. A critical component of our risk management plan is to require that all participants enroll in a travel health insurance plan while traveling on the program. Policies that cover emergency health and medical evacuation while traveling abroad are inexpensive and Sustainable Summer can purchase a plan on your behalf when you enroll in the program. In the immediate areas we will be visiting, medical clinics are available for a broad range of health issues, but participants with more serious needs will be transported to Quito for more comprehensive treatment.  Hospitals in Quito adhere to similar standards and practices as medical facilities in the United States.
Sustainable Summer is eager to accommodate medical or dietary needs, as circumstances permit. We are not able to provide alternate meals since most of our food is served ‘family-style’ from locally harvested sources. We will typically eat whatever is fresh that day, so students with dietary restrictions should plan to speak to our program directors before enrolling to ensure we can accommodate their needs.  Programs also require a certain level of physical capability, so students with any concerns about their fitness should contact our office to confirm this is an appropriate program for them.
Healthy ecosystems depend on insects and other “critters” for balance. You will definitely encounter bugs and spiders when we are in lower elevation regions, although students are routinely surprised how few mosquitos, spiders, and insects you'll see. They are, of course, everywhere in the rainforest, but you'll find that spiders keep to themselves and bites are virtually unheard of. Similarly, mosquitoes are significant food source for amphibians, bats, and other creatures higher up the food chain, and in a healthy, well-balanced ecosystem, malaria carrying mosquitoes are far more likely to end up as a frog's lunch than on your skin. We, of course, take preventative measures by covering up, using insect repellant, and sleeping in screened enclosures to further mitigate the risk of vector born diseases. Students may also want to take prescription prophylactic measures, although Sustainable Summer does not provide medical advice and all conversations about medications should be with the student's physician. Yellow fever, typhoid, and other inoculations may be advisable. Check with your primary physician or a travel medicine specialist. Please see our travel health page for some more information. We take these risks seriously and will provide you with our pre-program guide, that covers our student health policies in more detail, after you enroll in the program. Please call us with any specific questions.
Please see our travel health page for some more information.
The weather in Ecuador is dictated more by elevation than by season, although there are seasonal variations in each of the country's four regions: the coast, the highlands, the Amazon and the Galapagos. The Amazon has the least seasonal variation of any region in the country. It's the rainforest. Expect rain every day, but note that it is rare to have rain all day. Typically, heat and humidity build throughout the day which leads to brief, heavy afternoon downpours. Temperatures, especially in the morning and evenings, can be surprisingly mild. The highlands maintain a fairly consistent climate year round. Days are often sunny with temps in the 70s and the evenings can be quite brisk due to the high elevation.
There are two Sustainable Summer trip leaders on this program. All Sustainable Summer trip leaders are professional educators. The average age of our 2013 trip leader team was 28. Trip leaders bios for our 2014 programs are to the right. We also work very closely with our local partners. English-speaking guides, specialists, and instructors will be with us throughout the program. The student:staff ratio will never be lower than 6:1.

Photos & Video

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