Could there be a more perfect country for ecotourism than Ecuador? With four distinct regions in an area the size of Colorado, Ecuador offers endless possibilities for adventure travel. You’ll find the Galapagos, Pacific coast, Andean highlands, and the Amazon…
Ecuador is, per square mile, the most biodiverse country on the planet and numerous expats have moved there to become part of the ecotourism industry.
Back in the 1980s, Richard Parsons was based in Quito and one day, while enjoying a leisurely drive through the Tandayapa Valley, he and his wife Gloria stopped and struck up a random conversation with a man cutting up a tree.
“We learned that this 55-hectare (135 acres) property right at the top of the valley was for sale,” recalls Richard. The couple purchased the property with a view to saving it from deforestation.
Building a lodge wasn’t part of the initial plan but several years later, Richard and Gloria found that ecotourism had gained some traction as a viable business concept, so they decided that building a lodge would be the best way to both conserve their property and create an income.
Bellavista Lodge opened its doors in mid-1995. Today, the project is known as Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve and Lodge and has expanded to 700 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres).
Andres Hammerman describes himself and partner Michelle Kirby as “young…naïve…and adventurous” when, back in the early 1990s, they decided to create the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan near the Quilotoa crater lake.
Hardcore backpackers, they both worked for a San Francisco-based tour company, earning enough to explore off-the-beaten path destinations until they ran out of money and needed to work again.
They were overwhelmed by the beauty of Ecuador’s remote countryside and the friendliness of the people. They stayed in a local home for two weeks, and were amazed when the family offered to sell them a parcel of land.
In 1995 they returned to Chugchilan and made good on their promise to purchase the 10-acre parcel. And so began the Black Sheep Inn. Almost 20 years later, their operation has grown from a hostel to a hotel to a resort.
As of two years ago Andres and Michelle stepped back from daily operations, making the Black Sheep Inn 100% community-operated. “We finally consider ourselves retired,” says Andres, “and our lifestyle has improved 1,000%. This whole experience has been perfect for us!”
Douglas McMeekin, from Kentucky, built a jungle lodge deep in the Amazon with no backers and no experience in the hospitality industry…but he also started a foundation, a high school, a medical clinic, and a vocational training center.
Arriving in Ecuador in 1986 as an oil industry consultant, he decided—five years later—that more needed to be done to help the impoverished indigenous people and to conserve their fragile environment. At age 71 most of us would be resting on our laurels, looking to slow down and relax. But not Douglas. He continues to churn out ideas and put them into motion.
There are bountiful opportunities for new responsible eco-lodges in Ecuador, and the government is promoting the country as a travel destination like never before.
Andres Hammerman is pleased with his decision to locate there. “What a blessing to work with what we have and leave something behind that will be beneficial to future generations. Life is good!”
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