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Feb 2012

Finch Bay Eco Hotel in Tripadvisor Top 25

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The Finch Bay Eco Hotel in Puerto Ayora, Galápagos, has been included in Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Best Hotels in South America 2012. The hotel, which already holds the #1 spot on Trip Advisor’s hotels in in the islands, now ranks among the finest establishments on the continent.

“We’re delighted with this award,” says General Manager, Xavier Burbano de Lara. “but also full of humility. The reviews written by guests from around the world on Trip Advisor give us great feedback in order to improve. To be included in their users’ Top 25 Best Hotels in South America is a reflection of our staff’s dedication and perseverance – especially considering the Tsunami wave in March which put us out of action for a few days. Our philosophy is and always will be this quote by Rabindranath Tagore “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy”.”

The Finch Bay is the only beachfront hotel in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, located on a quiet, secluded side of the town, away from cars and traffic. In 2009, it added 6 Ocean View suites to its 21 Garden View rooms, completing its facilities which include an idyllic swimming pool and relaxing shared areas.

The Finch Bay formula of day-explorations of the islands aboard its own yachts combined with a relaxing ‘disconnect’ ambience back at the hotel has proved ever-popular with guests, who are staying for longer and longer, according to Burbano de Lara. It’s also ideal for those who want to enjoy its idyllic setting for a few nights following a cruise in the islands.

It’s the only hotel in Puerto Ayora to operate its own yachts of surrounding islands: the 16-guest Sea Finch and the 20-guest Sea Lion.

It offers attractive “day-trip plus accommodation and meals” packages for guests aboard these, as well as activities such as snorkeling mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, visits to see giant tortoises, and scuba diving in the world-famous Galápagos Marine Reserve.

Taking into account the fragile and unique environment of its location, the hotel implements best practices in sustainable tourism at every level of its operation – whether growing its own organic vegetables, recycling, monitoring water use, installing more solar panels or contributing to environmental and social initiatives through its support of the Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador and the Children of Galápagos Foundation.

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Jan 2011

The Beginning of Venture Co…

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So I’m here in a different country finally having survived the first half of my trip in complete luxury really, thanks to dear uncle alan!

I was a little nervous as I left him at Lima airport and made my way through customs to the airport and the feeling not made any better by a flight which was delayed by 4 hours and so arriving at 3.30 am instead of midnight. Of course everyone was asleep by the time I got to the selvre agrea hostel and i had to dive into an unfamiliar bed in a room with 2 strangers at 4am with the promise of only 3 hours sleep.

The two strangers in my room turned out to be Inger (22, Norweigan) and Emily (18, American) and we made our way down to berakfast Friday morning along with lots of polite convesation with the rest of the group – 11 of us in total plus 2 leaders – in order to find out more about each other.

Since then the group has bonded so well, there’s no-one who’s left out and everybody seems to have some common ground – to be expected I suppose when we are all interested in travelling to the same places. There are 3 guys from Singapore, straight out of the (compulsory) army, Daryl, Darren and Chinx, 3 girls from London all on gap years – Matilda, Kate and Theodora, one guy from London who is also half Bolivian called Nikoli and another girl who is from all over the place but who at the moment lives in Hong Kong – Amanda.

The first weekend we went to a market town called Otovalo. It is home to South Americas biggest market and was pretty spectacular. You could buy anything from paanpipes to llama jumpers to gap year, striped, trousers. 1 day in I was already spending too much… We stayed in a cute little hostel – all the girls in one dorm and so providing us with an opportunity to get to know eachother a little better. Sunday morning we were told we were going on a nice walk round a lagoon which turned into a major hike up a hill at altiude. Soon discovered quite how unfit I am and how much altitude affects your breathing (so I like to think) and most of us struggled up to the top.

Monday was the beginning of Spanish lessons, 4 hours a day with a teacher who cant speak English. To be fair it probably has helped quite a bit as I have had to learn how to understand the local accent. My spanish is still basic and still in 2 tenses but its improving!

In the afternoons we have done various things, salsa and cooking lessons, visiting the equator, seeing the new town, the old town (camera stolen on a tram -lovely) had some free time to skype too. Weekend just gone (el fin de semana pasada) we headed to Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. We all walked up to the refugio at 4800m, again stopping every 10 m to catch our breath. At midnight 5 people decided to go up right to the top (midnight climbing essential as snow melts in day time) only the 2 girls managed it, the boys got half way and were advised to turn back, quite glad i cosied up in sleeping bags for the night!

Yesterday we visited the equator and did some gimicky stuff to prove it was so. Off to Tena saturday for 2 weeks of book bus which is this cool little bus, illustrated by quentin blake, that goes to various schools and gives them books and what not. It means we have to read books in Spanish to little chicos, which could be interesting…. but hopefully a great and rewarding experience.

Rushed blog I´m afraid and just a small taster really of what we´ve been up to but I´ll try to write again soon…. until then hasta luego!

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Jan 2011

Inca Amazon Venture 81. 1st Blog.

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2 weeks down, 13 to go! I feel that with such bright beginnings, this is promising to be a fantastic Venture.

We started with a very chilled weekend in Otavalo; browsing the colourful pre-Inca market, hiking to a remote waterfall, playing jenga and lounging in hammocks enjoying the beautiful surrounding countryside. Then it was time for Spanish school in Quito. This group is really dedicated to the cause, and learning really quickly which is wonderful and will serve them well on the rest of the trip. They’ve even acted out stories in Spanish with Oscar winning gusto.

There are 11 venturers representing 5 continents and they are a lovely, diverse bunch; the ideal combination of being both laid back and up for an adventure. Speaking of adventure, last weekend we went to Cotopaxi National Park and hiked up to the refuge at 4810m at the foot of the snow-capped volcano. 5 venturers got up at midnight to climb it; the girls succeeded in getting to the summit and the boys got impressively close.

There have been a couple of nights out on the town, a few Disney film screenings, salsa and cooking classes, games aplenty and the group has had their first taste of practicing their Spanish at a school near Quito, reading to the kids which they really enjoyed, so they’re now ready and confident about the Book Bus project coming up in the Amazon.

If all that isn’t enough, yesterday we went in a cable car high up above Quito with panoramic views and here’s a dare devil photo of the two leaders, Wilson and I, demonstrating our bravery and acrobatic tendencies Wilson saved my life……What do you mean it looks fake?! OK it’s a bit of fun, and there’ll be plenty more of that to come, so stay tuned for the next instalment! (Am off to play football at altitude now! Spanish teachers Vs students. Tis a hard life.)

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Apr 2010

Spotlight on volunteering in Ecuador

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You might say we know Ecuador pretty well….over a decade ago VentureCo Worldwide began in the back streets of Quito and now we have quite a collection of projects here…

We are proud to add to this our new Manta Ray project on the Pacific Coast…. one of our most exciting projects yet…..

Manta Rays are one of our ocean’s most charismatic residents. Their huge, easily recognisable shape inspires awe in divers and other water users, and no diver can ever forget the first time they saw a manta underwater. They appear as mysterious to divers as they do to science. Little is known about their lives, and their ghostly, enormous yet silent appearance along the world’s tropical and temperate reef systems have inspired generations of people. This project was developed to find out more about the migratory population of Manta birostris that visits the coast of Ecuador each summer.
For more details on this project check out the volunteer projects page

Don’t forget our other volunteer projects in Ecuador….
Our fantasticly remote Galapagos Conservation project would make a change from most peoples daily routine. Do something a bit less ordinary this year and grab a machete and get hacking!

The Book Bus in Ecuador also launched in 2010 to great success and we hope to continue this throughout the year. Climb aboard and become a story-teller!

Get involved in 2010 and give Ecuador a go…

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 – Book Bus in Tena

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The following entry is from Daisy Bard:

Monday March 15th 2010

Today we had the pleasure of attending a press conference at the site of Bajo Ongota (the first school we had visited, so this was our second time there). Amongst the dignitaries present were journalists, the minister of education, the mayor of Tena, a famous children´s writer and the British Ambassador to Ecuador. We worked with the kids for two hours (my group read and acted out parts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, drawing the grotesque characters and penning new culinary inventions), and put some of their art up around the classrooms. Next came the speeches and in typical Latin Amerian style, everyone had something to say! The award-winning writer had written something for the chidren which she read aloud, all about the Ventureco explorers and their treasure trove (the Book Bus) of smiles, fantasy and excitement. The main focus of the speeches (apart from thanking the communities for their support and welcome) seemed to be the fundamental importance of reading in education. Afterwards, each school we had visited presented a song or dance. They had all come to Bajo Ongota and there were ten performances, including a traditional dance with water pots, spears and plants as props. Finally, we all got up and had a little dancey with all of them, and refreshments commenced (a long-awaited treat in such a scorching and humid climate). Our lunch, which Bajo Ongota provided, was an exotic mix of whole barbecued fish, cocoa beans, yuca and palm hearts. After some football, clapping games and general frolicking, we were back in our beloved book bus (and Dave even had to eject some strangers who´d mistaken it for a public one).

Tuesday March 16th

Jacob´s birthday celebration; the whole group cross-dressed for the night. This would be a longer entry but it´s not for the tender eyes of our naive parents. Good fun was had by all, and little remembered the next morning!

Wednesday March 17th

We visited the school of Shandia, where they make Kallari chocolate; the plan was to have lunch and then go swimming in the river (an exciting cocktail of non-recommended activity), but the torrential rain was verging on a monsoon and quashed our ambitions. The lunch was nonetheless delicious, as was the company.

Thursday 18th March

We´ve officially been here a month. After the book bus session we headed off in a canoe to rural Ahuano, where a nice German-Ecuadorian couple looked after us, with their pet snake, whom we named Diego. The group took a trip to the little beach (again in their caneo), and most of them got stuck on a rock they´d insistently swum to despite the currents. They had to be ferried back. In the meantime, those less foolhardy descaled some freshly-caught fish, and became true Amazonians in the process.

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 – Volcano Climb

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The following entry is from Esmee Pappot:

Hola amigos,

Here is the second update from Quito.

We just finished our first week of Spanish class and it´s going really well.

So in the morning everybody is busy studying but in the afternoon we have time for our own, witch we use wisely, playing ultimate takedown in the park, bowling or laser quest.

We missed one day of school to prepare ourselves for the big climb. The volcano of Cotopaxi. We left on Friday and did a “little” hike to get used to the altitude. We walked 4 hours up to find ourselves in the middle of a cloud at the top. We arrived at our sleeping place in the dark and warmed ourselves up around the fire. Next we went to Cotopaxi, and tried all our equipment on and went for a little walk on the glacier. After that we just had to acclimatize and we went to bed really early! Around midnight, after a horrible night of sleep for the most of us, it was finally time to climb Cotopaxi.

Our first mission was to climb to the glacier, which everyone achieved. There we put on our crampons got our icepacks and started the big climb. We started with 14 people and 8 of us made it to top. A big achievement especially for inexperienced people like us. The other six went back halfway. The views we got were amazing, but walking to the top was cold, hard and the altitude made it al even worse. But everyone had a great time and got a great experience out of it.

Now we are back in Quito again. Learning Spanish and having fun. Preparing already for the book-bus project next view weeks. Witch everybody is really exited about!

That´s it for now. Ciao!

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 -Entry 1

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The following journal entry is from Millie Davies.

We spent our first day in South America having a wander around Quito; a beautiful city with friendly, interesting people. We do tend to stick out as a bunch of pasty gringos! Also visited the Old City this week, gained a knowledge of Quito and a bit of Ecuadorian culture. Checked out some clubs, witnessed some beautiful dancing skills from the likes of Glen “sexy” Gurney and Bernard Evans. Also visited Otovalo, a while from Quito and home to a huge market where we all invested in some uber colourful trousers and other neccesities! Checked out a local waterfall for an impromto plunge – too bad for those without a change of clothes. We visited a local shaman (witch doctor) where I had the pleasure of being the group guinea-pig! The ritual involved: rubbing candles all over self, a special egg being chosen for me, then the shaman spitting on table whilst chanting, spitting an alcoholic liquid all over me, rubbing my body with stinging nettles (ow), spraying yet more liquid over me again, then breathing fire over me….! Then knighted with a spear and cigarette smoke exhaled over me. Supposd to leave me refreshed and replenished next morning. Stayed in an idyillic hostal in the mountains which contributed to that effect. Next morning was a boat trip round a volcanic crator and a quick hike. Been up the cable cars to climatise ourselves for the Cotapaxi climb tomorrow! Summit is 6000 metres above sea level – wish us luck!
That´s it from Quito for now. Ciao!

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Jan 2010

Ecuador – Top 5 destinations

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Lets take it down a level… are our top 5 for Ecuador

1: The Galapagos Islands! I know, I know…obvious… but it just has to be here….there is simply nowhere quite like it.
You can volunteer on a conservation project, embark on an 8 day wildlife cruise or hop from island to island mixing it with the locals! Where else can you see giant tortoises, birds with blue feet and an iguana in the colours of West Ham!

2: Tena – a backpacker favourite but with good reason…gateway to the Amazon Jungle..once you’ve seen this place…life will never be quite the same!
With unbeliveable white-water rafting, caving adventures and Sumaco volcano Tena offers adventure like nowhere else…(by the way this place has nothing to do with bladder weakness!)

3: Puerto Lopez – a beautifully laidback fishing village on the Pacific coast. We’ve been visiting here for over 20 years and hope to do so for another 20! Come between June and September and relax on the beach whilst watching humpback whales mate and dolphins surf!

4: Cotopaxi Volcano – The highest active volcano in the world……and you can climb it! It’s not the easiest climb but more than manageable for the average person…you’ll need ice-picks and crampons but the views at the top are…..well top! Just a short drive from Quito makes it a superb weekend activity!

5: Montanita – If you like to surf…go!…beautiful beaches, cheap food and friendly people!

That’s Ecuador…go..go now….and yes you can go with VentureCo Worldwide..

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Jul 2009

The enchanted Galapagos Islands

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Did you know?
The Galapagos penguin is the only tropical penguin in the world.

The Galapagos Penguins breed as many as three times a year, since they don’t have a specified breeding season. Because of this, they are able to choose when to breed, and they ultimately decide this depending on food supplies. Before they breed, the penguins molt, and they may do this twice a year. While the birds are molting, they usually stay out of the water. They are able to go to the sea for food rather than starve though since the water is so warm in their area. Since they molt right before breeding, they are sure that they will not starve during the molting process. Granted, that may mean that there is not enough food during the breeding season, but the survival of the adult penguins is more important than the younger ones since they are the ones that make sure the species does not go extinct.

Some other interesting Galapagos wildlife facts:

The endemic Flightless Cormorant is the largest of the world’s 29 cormorant species, and the only one to have lost its power of flight.

Marine iguanas are only found in the Galapagos region. These are the only marine-going reptiles found anywhere in the world.

There are thirteen species of Darwin’s finches endemic to the islands. As noted by the great naturalist, these birds are famous for their beaks

17% of Galapagos fish species are endemic to the Galapagos.

Why are they so famous?
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in September 1835, first landing on San Cristobal. He spent a total of 5 weeks in Galapagos.. His observations about life on the islands eventually led to his famed theory of evolution. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859.

Most of the islands are the tips of enormous volcanoes formed by slabs of the Earth’s crust moving south east over a “hot spot”or stationary area where concentrated heat and magma are released.

What can I do to ensure the islands retain their uniqueness?
Why not volunteer on our project on the island of San Cristobal….from 2 weeks to 1 year..

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Feb 2009

Trekking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

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The approach to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is on the gravel roads that link one side of Patagonia to the other. Vehicles throw up a cloud of dust that leave a wake as if travelling through water. We spotted rheas (Patagonian ostriches), guanacos, (wild llamas) and a mighty condor drifting effortlessly across the wide open skies above the horizon. The great granite massif that forms the “Torres” is the centre piece to one of nature’s most stunning landscapes. Three “towers” and several aptly named “horns” soar over 2500m high above the surrounding hills, this place is all about scale, and here we’re talking big scale that’s served in quantity!

Our plan was to trek the “W” route following the 3 valleys that lead, from left to right, to the Torres base camp, the “British” base camp and Grey Glacier. We planned a route that would take 6 days with a mixture of laden and unladen walking. The group split into 3 person tent teams and procured supplies according to the food budget and the amount of weight they were prepared to carry. The walk to the Torres Base Camp was our warm-up walk which, 6 hours later, had done the warm-up and much more. After breakfast on the following morning we re-grouped and headed of to Campamiento Italiano at the head of Valle Frances.

We walked up Valley Frances to Campamiento Britanica from where had stunning views around the amphi-theatre-like bowl in the centre of the massif. Walking laden can be a challenge and our walk to Campamiento “Pehoe” proved the resolve of the group. All made it with time and weight to space.

Our walk to Glacier Grey was into the teeth a mighty gale. The weather until now had been hot, sunny and dry; today we got cool, cloudy and only slightly damp – 4 seasons in one day is the catch-phrase around here! Our travails were rewarded with fantastic views of the glacier with its blue tinges and imposing scale. Huge chunks the size of office blocks peeled of the face of the glacier creating a huge wave and a round of applause from the spectators. We returned to the camp with the ind on our backs and arrived in good time to prepare the evening meal. During the final day’s walk-out, I suspect that more than just one of us was sad to be leaving the park as we walked. A great 6 days for all!

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