Sumak Travel adds Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia to eco trip roster

Uyani Salt Flat, BoliviaSocial enterprise Sumak Travel, the specialist in Latin American community-based ecotourism, has now added three new countries to its itinerary.

Responsible travellers can now join tours of Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia – alongside its existing tours in Argentina and Chile.  The tours, ranging from 7 to 15 days, are a combination of homestays within rural communities (with farmers, fishermen and other indigenous groups) and visits to Latin American cities and sites of special interest or outstanding natural beauty.


Transparent pricingChaxa Lagoon, Chile (courtesy of

Sumak Travel works directly with community-based tour operators in their destination countries to ensure fair agreements (a breakdown of prices and commission fees are fully transparent so tourists can see exactly where their money is going). We like their easy-to-use website – a simple key shows you the ‘Comfort Level’ at a glance (something a surprising number of tour operators neglect to outline!), and what percentage of the overall holiday price goes to the local community (e.g. “at least 50%” of the £1,535 fee for 15 days on ‘Fascinating Brazil’ goes local).

Private groups

All trips are private and they can cater for groups of any size, promising “there won’t be anyone you don’t know travelling within your group” – they can even tailor trips for individuals who are looking for specific experiences. And all homestay hosts are verified by the team or local partners. You could find yourself trying your hand at ceramic crafts with your hosts in rural Argentina; staying with Aymara communities on Sun Island, Lake Titicaca, for a taste of traditional Andean culture; or sleeping in an eco-lodge run by an indigenous community in the Bolivian rainforest.

A sample of trips available:

Fascinating Brazil (15 days, £1,535) – Explore northeastern Brazil including the remote lands of the Tremembe people, the sand dune beaches of Prainha do Canto Verde, and the historical city of Fortezela. (Click for more)

Intrepid Colombia (14 days, £2,125) – Trek through flooded forest and jungle, reach the Colombian borders with Peru and Brazil along the Amazon River, and whale-watch and snorkel around Bahia Solano. (Click for more)

Essential Bolivia (12 day, £1,585) – Visit the Aymara communities of Lake Titicaca, journey to the salt flats of Uyuni, and stay with the Alcaya community, before trekking through Bolivian rainforest. (Click for more)

Other tours available include: ‘Mystic Chile’, two versions of ‘Rural Argentina’, San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), ‘Austral Chile’. View all tours here.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • As a social enterprise, Sumak Travel’s mission is: ‘To contribute to the empowerment of local communities in Latin America by running an ethical business that is also rewarding for responsible tourists.’
  • Partnered with Sustainable Pangea, a multilingual web platform that features community-based ecotourism destinations
  • Half of Sumak Travel’s profits are reinvested back into the social enterprise; the remaining half is invested in community-led projects within the Sustainable Pangea Network
  • The local communities they work with use tourism as a complementary source of income, allowing them to maintain their traditional way of life, while preserving their environment and community


Contact Sumak Travel via T: 0044 (0) 2036 424246, E:, visit the website, or follow on Twitter via @SumakTravel.

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Naturetrek launches 14 new tours for 2013

European bee-eater in Sicily
European bee-eater in Sicily (picture by Naturetrek)

Wildlife specialist Naturetrek’s new 2013 brochure contains 14 new tours, including four new UK options.

Those 14 new offerings (see factsheet below for details) include a spring birdwatching trip to Sicily, a ‘Killer Whales & Northern Lights’ tour of Iceland, puma-watching in Chile, a visit to India’s little-known Satpura National Park and an exploration of Baffin Island in Canada.

Wildlife watching around the world

Elsewhere, the vast array of existing trips includes butterfly-viewing trips to Hungary and Greece; birding tours from Sri Lanka to Florida; jaguar-watching tours in Brazil; flora-themed visits to Kazakhstan, Norway and Ecuador; whale-watching in West Greenland and Monterey Bay; tours observing bears in Spain and Finland; and other itineraries themed around snakes, snow leopards, wolves, dragonflies, red pandas and much more.

In total, Naturetrek now offers around 350 tours to nearly every corner of the world.  That includes the ever-expanding range of UK trips, which takes in the Shetland Isles, the Scillies and the famous Somerset Levels starling murmurations.

Most tours are open to enthusiasts of all levels, although some will suit a more experienced and knowledgeable traveller.  New for 2013, Naturetrek is launching a range of Beginners’ Birdwatching Tours, aimed at those who are keen to go birding, but fear looking foolish amid seasoned veterans sporting well-used binoculars!

Small groups and solo travellers

The majority of Naturetrek trips operate in small groups (average 10-12 people; maximum 16); because these groups include many solo travellers, there’s usually a room-sharing option for those who don’t wish to pay a single supplement.  Each group is guided by a leading, experienced ornithologist or botanist (often both), and each tour departs at a carefully-chosen time when the widlife-viewing experience will be at its most rewarding. Nearly all trips are also available (at a different cost) on a tailormade basis too, for clients who cannot make the set departure dates, or who prefer to travel privately.

For more information on any of Naturetrek’s wildlife itineraries or to request a copy of the new 2013 brochure, call them on 01962 733051 or visit (If you’re in the UK, they’re based in rural Hampshire in a beautiful converted mill with a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby!).

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Run by wildlife enthusiasts with 25 years’ of experience – the founders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators
  • A commitment to sustainable tourism has been at the company’s heart since its inception
  • Tours involve small groups using local accommodation and facilities to help support the local communities
  • Naturetrek develops partnerships with local communities and naturalists, such as financing the regeneration of land in Nepal to create two ecotourism camps – Koshi and Suklaphanta
  • Some tours include charity donations to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, International Animal Rescue and the Environmental Investigation Agency
  • They are currently developing other conservation and sustainable tourism projects around the world
  • They are expanding their range of UK-based (flightless) tours


Satpura National Park, India
Satpura National Park, India (picture by Naturetrek)

NEW tours for 2013


Islay & Mull… In Style!: Your first stop is a four-night stay on Islay, popular with birdwatchers due to its numerous species of visiting Arctic wildfowl. Then there are two days spent on the smaller island of Mull, with its mountains, moorlands and vast sea-lochs, home to otters, birds of prey, rutting red deer and much more.  Accommodation is on each island’s best hotel; that includes Mull’s wonderful Tiroran House Hotel.

Departing 31 October & 1 November; prices from £1,195 pp**

Wild Flowers of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula: Enjoy coastal and inland walks during this three-night break in search of Cornwall’s botanical wonders. The Lizard Peninsula is one of the UK’s top sites for plant-life thanks to its diverse landscapes and geology. The trip includes Gew Graze Valley, known for unique outcrops of mineral-rich serpentine rock.

Departing 31 May; prices from £395 pp**
The Yorkshire Coast & Moors

This long-weekend birdwatching holiday starts at the chalk cliffs of Flamborough and Bempton, home to over 200,000 seabirds. Then follows a stop at Filey Dams Nature Reserve, a botanical hub for well known British birds such as the tree sparrow, before time on those classic North Yorkshire Moors.

Departing 25 & 28 June and 2 July; prices from £450 pp**

The Wild Flowers of Upper Teesdale
Upper Teesdale sits in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This four-day expedition covers a variety of environments, from low-lying hay meadows to rough grazing pastures and summit heaths on high fells. Discover which species make up the ‘Teesdale Assemblage’ while admiring the breeding birds of these remote moors.

Departing 21 June; prices from £450 pp**


Iceland – Killer Whales & Northern Lights: This five-day break centres on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where, in winter, killer whale pods and seabirds congregate as large shoals of herring pass by. Watch the spectacle on land and out at sea, and then, after dark, look skywards to (hopefully) see the Northern Lights.

Departing 3 & 18 February; prices from £1,295 pp*

Lesbos in Autumn: Lesbos lies just a few kilometres from the coast of Turkey, and has a magnificent coastline that supports a diverse bird population. From a secluded-village base, this eight-day trip offers an opportunity to explore the island’s many migratory hotspots whilst enjoying some Aegean sunshine.

Departing 28& 29 September; prices from £1,295 pp*

Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights!… A Norwegian Coastal Voyage: Including a three-night cruise during which the Northern Lights will hopefully be seen, this six-day trip to the Arctic Circle observes the seabirds which occupy this most extreme – and scenic – region.

Departing 26 February; prices from £1,795 pp*

Spring Birding in Sicily: Within the beautiful setting of eastern Sicily, this seven-day adventure focuses on the spring migration of native birds such as the nightjar and hoopoe. From the 800-year-old converted farmhouse base, daily excursions are made to watch the birds amid the spectacular Sicilian landscape.

Departing 1 May; prices from £1,295 pp*



Inuit Adventure: Narwhals & Other Wildlife of Baffin Island: On a ten-day trip around Canada’s largest island, expert guides will lead daily expeditions on Inuit sleds to discover the Arctic’s most elusive wildlife. Baffin Island is the only place in the world consistently inhabited by the Narwhal, with its distinctive long, narrow tusk, while other sightings regularly include polar bears.

Departing 2 June; prices from £8,995 pp*

Eastern Canada – Whales, Bears & Fall Migration: Ranking among Canada’s most stunning landscapes, Quebec is home to large populations of wildlife such as beluga whales and black bears. This 12-day holiday features walks and cruises through the beautiful creeks and forests where these creatures are regularly seen.

Departing 9 September; prices from £4,395 pp*

Chile – Just Pumas!: This 11-day trip starts off in the Chilean capital, Santiago, before heading into the heart of the Andes. The route passes flamingo-lined lakes to reach Torres del Paine National Park and its glaciers and mountains – which provide a perfect habitat for the puma. Days will be spent devoted to exploring, and seeking out this iconic cat.

Departing 14 March & 4 April; prices from £3,995 pp*

Peru – Mountain Lodges Trek to Machu Picchu: The classic landmark of Machu Picchu is appreciated fully on this 12-day trip, with six days allocated to trekking slowly towards it across the Peruvian Andes. The route offers unique insight into the landscape and wildlife of the area while plotting a slightly different course to the classic Inca Trail.

Departing 10 November; prices from £3,695 pp*


Not Just Tigers! Satpura – Best of Central India: This is a ten-day exploration of one of India’s most scenic – and least-known – tiger reserves. While tigers are shy in Satpura National Park and thus rarely-seen, there’s a good chance of encountering other iconic animals, such as leopard, sloth bear, gaur and Asian wild dog, in the 1,500km² grounds. The park’s equally empty of tourists, despite its beauty and sheer remoteness being so stunning.

Departing 9 November, 21 December, 8 February, 15 March & 5 April; prices from £2,395 pp*


Wild Sri Lanka… In Style!: This 14-day holiday provides the chance to encounter Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife – blue whales, leopards, crocodiles, wild boar, warblers and parrots included. You’ll also get to stay in luxury accommodation and admire some of the tropical country’s most impressive archaeological sites, including ancient Polonnaruwa.

Departing 19 November & 14 January; prices from £3,595*

* Prices include flights (London), transport, comfortable accommodation with all or most meals and guiding from an expert naturalist.

** Price includes transport whilst on tour, comfortable accommodation with meals (breakfast and evening meals as a minimum) and guiding from an expert naturalist.

5 ‘must do’ tips for any volunteering holiday

From working with children on the streets of India’s slums, to teaching English in Cambodia; surveying big cats in Costa Rica or marine conservation in Madagascar, volunteering can make a positive impact around the world. Maria Sowter, of NGO Frontier, looks at the more personal benefits for the volunteer…

1. Learn some of the language

Learning a few phrases in the language of the country you’re about to visit is going to ease your transition into this new culture. It will also give

hanging out with the locals

you a base to build upon during your trip that will help you get the most from your time volunteering: you’ll be communicating better with the people you aim to help. Even learning a small amount of any new language is an accomplishment that will boost your confidence and feelings of personal development in addition to your volunteering project.

2. Get involved and be flexible!

This may sound like an obvious one but always be looking for what could be done. Whether it’s from helping out around the accommodation you’re staying in to going the extra mile on the project, you’ll be more likely to get a feeling of satisfaction from making a tangible difference. Think outside the box! You get out what you put in from a project. Just because you signed up for a medical volunteering project in a rural village, doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your service in the local school if you have the chance. Being flexible like this will ensure you help where it is needed most whilst getting the most from your project.

Host family Fiji3. Make the most of your free time

It would be a mistake to view a volunteering project as a holiday abroad but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself in your spare time. Volunteering is all about experiencing a new culture first hand, so use your free time to travel around the country or to socialise with the locals

4. Eat local food

Getting to know locals is key to understanding a different way of life, and if you want to try out new experiences then food is a great way to start. Eating where and what the locals eat will not only open your eyes but quite literally your mouth to exotic and foreign tastes. Food is often the lynchpin of local customs, celebrations or the day-to-day way of life – you won’t just be filling your stomach, but also making friends and strengthening bonds with communities.

5. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal is a great way to record your time as a volunteer. Reading back over it once you return home will help keep memories all the more vivid, and may help you learn more about yourself as a result of your placement. Keeping track of what you have learnt as a volunteer will also aid you when it comes to updating your CV or LinkedIn profile (which is always good for improving career prospects).

If you’d like to find out more about all of Frontier’s volunteer opportunities you can view all our projects by viewing the website –

Keep updated with project news, photos, videos, and competitions by joining the Frontier community online with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or Flickr.

About the author: Maria Sowter works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Check out the wide variety of opportunities to volunteer abroad with Frontier: whether you’re looking for placements involving teaching abroadwildlife conservation volunteering, or simply someadventure travel, Frontier is sure to have something suitable.Visit