There are few things more exciting than planning a trip abroad. Adventure promises excitement and fun, new places, different cultures, unfamiliar sights and sounds are the lure of travel, and these hold quite a lot of adventure in themselves, but some are looking for something even more thrilling - trekking around the lofty volcanic peaks of the high Andes, diving with hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos or zipping through the canopy of the rainforest. All this can bed done- but it requires careful planning.
Hiking and trekking is a wonderful way to explore and really get to know a little piece of earth in a foreign country. But- it is not recommended to do this by your self. While it may be possible in some places, it is generally safer to go with a group and a guide. Some remote areas in Latin American countries may be prone to robberies. Or, not knowing your way, you may get lost or underestimate distances. In the mountains, even in the tropics, it can be very cold and windy at times. In the high Andes altitude sickness can seriously impair your enjoyment of the fantastic mountain scenery. Going with a group and experienced guides takes the hassle out of the undertaking and can significantly enhance the experience.
E.g. going on multi-day hikes you can join a trip where porters and donkey support are provided - you don't have to worry about carrying your stuff, nor about the basic camping equipment, or what's for dinner in the evening. What is important though is that you bring well worn in and good quality shoes to minimize blisters. Also bring a small daypack for the personal belongings that you want access to during the day, such as your water bottle or your camera. Some companies can provide sleeping bags, but it is often better to bring your own. It may be advisable to get into shape before setting off on a multi-day hiking trip, but at any rate, you should never overestimate your capacity - choose an adventure that is appropriate to your fitness level.
If you are planning to hike at high altitudes make sure you acclimatize yourself well before you start your trip. Also, remember that many hiking tours will visit National Parks and protected areas. It is often necessary to obtain a license first, which usually costs money and may take time to process - take this into consideration when you are planning your trip.
And finally - tread lightly on the earth: Smell, put don't pick the plants and flowers along the way, keep to trails whenever possible to minimize erosion and take all your rubbish back with you. In some places, such as on the Inca Trail, metal tipped hiking sticks are not permitted.
We work with a very experienced and professional company to provide quality hiking and trekking tours in the Andes. They provide:
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although the difficulty of a trip can be graded as easy, moderate, hard and very hard, for most of the trekking and climbing tours the traveller must consider the altitude factor, since most of our activities take place on heights over 2,800 m. When a tour is described as hard to very hard, it involves certain risks and so travellers taking part in these activities are strongly recommended to be in very good physical condition as well as have knowledge of basic climbing techniques (especially for our climbing tours)
Suggested personal equipment for our Hiking Tours:
Suggested personal equipment for our Trekking Tours:
We only offer very few overnight hiking tours in Central America. Here the accommodation is usually at ranger stations or shelters. These are usually very simple structures - basically bunk houses that keep the weather out. Food, if it is provided, is also very simple. If you go by yourself you are often expected to invite the guard for supper and leave some food for him as well. There are not many spaces and in some areas, like Corcovado National Park Service in Costa Rica have now limited visitor numbers. Plan your trip early to secure your space and permit.
Exploring the tropical rainforest is like entering another world. Unfamiliar sounds, thick exotic vegetation and an enigmatic light that filters through the canopy. It is essential to go well prepared into such an environment - best with a knowledgeable guide who can help to interpret the sights and sounds. If you do go alone, only go on well marked trails near eco-lodges. Some remote locations frequented by tourists, such as Caracol in Belize and Tikal in Guatemala have become a target area for muggers who prey on tourists that stray off the beaten path.
It is very easy to become disorientated in the jungle. The best times to visit the jungle is very early in the morning when the forest wakes up or in the evening. Some lodges even offer night walks - a thrill that will not soon be forgotten. Some lodges offer rubber boots in standard sizes as walking conditions can be rather muddy. Ask if the lodge you are visiting provides boots or not, otherwise bring your own. The rainforest is always damp. It is a good idea to bring ziplock plastic bags for things you want to keep dry. Leather bags, boots or accessories don't stand much of a chance for long. Plastic has a much better survival rate. Also be aware that things can get mouldy. Large plastic bags (compression bags for example) can keep the damp out of your clothes. Bring some warmer clothes, even if you are traveling in the tropics - in Peru and Ecuador weather fronts sweeping down from the Andes can make it feel pretty nippy. In the rainforest, especially at dawn and dusk, always wear long-sleeved and -legged clothes to ward off insects and bring plenty of effective insect repellent.
Remember that the rainforest is not a themepark. It is not made 'safe' for tourists although guides will do everything in their power to make the jungle experience safe and enjoyable - use your common sense! Don't touch plants that are unknown to you -they may sting and cause blistering or have hidden thorns. There is little to fear from the wildlife - with the exception of snakes. Walk only on clear paths, avoid leaf litter and make noises to scare snakes away. The greatest dangers are from the tiniest creatures - the insects. Cover up well and use insect repellent to repel them. Coconut oil works well to ward off sandflies.
Packlist for Rainforest adventures:
Warning! Snorkeling is highly addictive - once you've done it once you'll want to do it again and again and again… no kidding, it is really a fantastic way to experience the wonders of that other world, beneath the surface of the sea. No quite the same thrill as diving perhaps but safer and much easier to do. Anybody can learn how to snorkel in about 15 minutes. There are some incredible snorkeling sites around the Caribbean - most notably Belize, which has the second largest barrier reef of the world just a few miles from its cost. A sea-kayaking trip around the Cayes is the perfect way to indulge in some serious snorkeling, and sea-kayaking…and swimming and even diving, if you wish.
In general the best snorkeling sites are often not right off the beach, but in remoter areas that require boat service to get there. Some such excursions are very flexible - they leave you alone once you get to the snorkeling area. Some provide freshly caught seafood for lunch or dinner, while others can be quite strict and require you to stay close to the group. Many such outfits rent snorkeling equipment, but it is usually recommended to bring your own if you have it. Some lodges and hotels provide snorkeling trips as part of their package (e.g. San Blas in Panama) at other places it is offered as an optional tour.
Be aware that not all places in the Caribbean are safe for swimming. Strong undercurrents can easily sweep people out to sea. Always get local information or go with a knowledgeable local guide who can show you the safe areas. Bocas del Toro and the Caribbean coast up along Costa Rica is well known for its dangerous rip tides which can carry swimmers out to sea. The important thing to remember is that they will carry you out, but not under, which means that you have a chance to get back in to shore if you swim parallel and take a 45 degree angle to swim back to shore. Don't go directly against the current-that will only tire you out.
Diving is a real thrill - to go into the deep and encounter real close-up marine life of all sorts, shapes and sizes is a fantastic experience. However, diving is not without its dangers. This is why divers need to be certified to go on dive trips. You can get certified at home, or, some places in Central America offer "Open Water Diver" certification classes. The course takes at least five days and consists of three parts: (1) theoretical, which consists of reading a 250 page book, answering questions at the end of each chapter (there are five chapters in all), four quizzes and a written final exam, (2) confined water practice, which consists of a couple of days learning about dive equipment and doing exercises in shallow water (in a calm section of the ocean), and finally (3) open water dives.
What nearly all of our customers choose, however, is to do the first two parts of the course back home and then ask their local PADI instructor to give them what is called a "referral form". When they bring this signed form to Costa Rica and give it to our instructor, they can then do the last part, which is the most enjoyable portion, which consists of the two days of diving at Isla del Caño, rather than the 5 days required for the entire course. With either option, upon successful completion of the course the student receives the Open Water Diver Certification, which never expires and which lets you dive anywhere in the world without needing to take any additional diving course. The main difference is that if you do the referral course instead of the full course while on holiday in Costa Rica or Belize, you don't have to spend the three additional days reading, etc. when you could be exploring the jungle or otherwise enjoying your vacation.
You can do this kind of dive course at Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica or if you are already certified there are several Dive shops that will take you to the best places around Caño Island and Drake Bay.
In Panama Bocas del Toro is the best place to go diving, but be aware of the possibility of strong rip tides in the area, which can also be dangerous for swimmers and snorkelers.
Another dive adventure we offer for experienced divers - the thrill of a diver's lifetime: diving in the Galapagos Islands, exploring the rich marine world around those unique islands. The best visibility is during the cold season between May and December. During the rainy season the water can get pretty murky. The water around the Galapagos is really cold. If you bring your own wetsuit make sure it is of an adequate thickness.
Phone DAN (Divers Alert Network) Latin America Hotline +1-919-684-9111 accepts collect calls / health information for Ecuador / Zubis Dive safety pages (about decompression sickness how to dive safely)
Hyperbaric chambers (or recompression chamber) in the Galapagos:
Puerto Ayora: Protesub (Sub-aquatic), 18 de febrero and R. Lara Street, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands - Phone: (593) 5-526-911 , (593)99-855-911, (593)99-283-990, (593)99-283-994 / UHF Radio on channel 26 / doctor Gabriel Idrovo /
Don't touch or break off parts of the coral. The reef is very fragile and collecting souvenirs is extremely damaging to the marine environment.
Keep the waters clean - the ocean is not a junk yard. Carry your wastes back to the shore and dispose of them in the bin, where they belong, not in the water!