Fancy a bird’s-eye view over 1,300 hectares of Ecuadorian rainforest? The new Dragonfly gondola at Mashpi Lodge promises a jaw-dropping experience…
Mashpi Lodge, a founding member of National Geographic’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World’, has created a special way for its guests to explore the incredible wildlife of the Mashpi Rainforest Reserve. The new Dragonfly gondola, an ‘open’ cable-car gliding 200m above ground, will take passengers on a two kilometre trip through the cloud forest accompanied by a guide.
There are three separate ‘on or off’ points located at differing altitudes so guests can choose whether to combine a ride on The Dragonfly with a testing hike through the forest, or to take the full two-hour return trip for a more relaxing experience (although perhaps not for vertigo sufferers!). The whole experience promises to reveal hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, walking trails and some amazing monkeys, birds and plantlife.
Mashpi’s sustainability ethos means The Dragonfly was carefully constructed over a period of 18 months largely by hand and without the use of any heavy machinery, to ensure minimal impact to the reserve and its wildlife. Much like the lodge itself, The Dragonfly is powered by renewable energy and designed to blend seamlessly and silently into the surrounding forest.
Mashpi Lodge – A “cocoon in the clouds”
Eco retreat Mashpi Lodge is described as a “cocoon in the clouds” – the 22 luxurious rooms are set within a striking contemporary structure with floor-to-ceiling glass allowing for magnificent views of the surrounding rainforest and mountains.
A paradise for nature lovers, the award-winning Lodge features an immersive Life Centre where wildlife enthusiasts can learn more about the reserve’s inhabitants including 500 species of bird, as well as butterflies, frogs and monkeys. The Hummingbird Viewpoint offers avid birders an unrivalled setting for bird-watching, featuring a shelter with seating and feeders for the birds strung from its roof.
Mashpi’s ‘Sky Bike’ (a fun idea) is another thrilling way to explore the canopy up close – pedal your way along a cable stretched between the trees, and enjoy panoramic views across the forest from the 26m-high Observation Tower.
Love your morning cup of fairtrade coffee? Now you can visit the actual producers on these brand new tours to Latin America with responsible travel specialists Sumak Travel. Founder Felipe Zalamea explains what to expect on their new Fair Trade Adventures…
It is pretty simple to find fair trade coffee or bananas in a supermarket, or fair trade handicrafts online. But it’s still quite difficult for a conscious traveller to find genuine fair trade holidays. From the very beginning, fair trade principles have been at the core of our social business model. When we met with Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation last year, we thought it was the time to go for it: a series of fair trade small group tours to Latin America. So we joined forces to create new and exciting travel experiences, Fair Trade Adventures.
These innovative tours give travellers the rare opportunity to meet many of the outstanding people behind popular fair trade products, such as the artisans behind beautiful handicrafts and the farmers behind the organic coffee you drink every morning.
12 days in Peru, Costa Rica and Columbia
Travellers will also visit iconic destinations such as Machu Picchu, and off-the-beaten path locations that are truly stunning. We are starting with 12-day trips to Peru (departing 22 April), Costa Rica (departing 14 May), Colombia (departing 20 August) and Northern Peru (departing 16 Sept) this year. Download the brochure for the full itineraries.
What to expect on a Fair Trade Adventure
We believe these tours are the perfect mix of adventure, culture, wildlife, iconic destinations and a little rest and relaxation! And if you’re looking forward to staring the day with something other a commute by train, tube or car, we’ve included boat trips, hiking, horse-riding, 4x4s, bicycles, canoeing and a 40m high suspension bridge!
You could…kick-start the day with a cup of freshly-ground Machu Picchu coffee before visiting the Inca citadel itself; take part in artisanal fishing on Lake Titicaca; visit organic farms along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline; venture down the Yorkin River deep into the jungle to meet members of the indigenous Bribri tribe and hear their ancient stories; hop on an immaculate old Willy´s jeep through super-scenic Valle del Cocora, in Colombia’s coffee region; venture completely off the beaten path in Northern Peru to taste the pulp of some of the world’s best cocoas and try your hand at making ceviche and mixing pisco sours; and last but not least, simply chill on pristine white sand beaches.
These tours are not about passively visiting people and places, but actively engaging with them, and returning home feeling enriched and alive again!
Where you’ll be staying, what you’ll be eating
Homestays are an important feature on many of Sumak Travel’s existing tours, and our Fair Trade Adventures are no exception. To find out more about the concept, you can read about homely homestays in Lake Titicaca, on our blog.
You could be staying with Ticos in San Jose, Costa Rica, or the Ashaninka Native Community San Miguel, in the Perené Valley, Peru. You’ll also be able to stay on farms and coffee plantations – and try your hand at milking cows, cutting sugar cane, making artisanal cheese and catching your own fish for dinner! But don’t worry, you can also sit back and enjoy the delights of a traditional Caribbean food, Andean recipes with a modern twist, Puma coffee, banana creams, tropical fruits, and some of the world’s best cocoa.
Supporting and promoting fair tourism
A fair trade approach to tourism is very much needed in the developing world, and in particular in destinations where tourism is the main industry. If you are tired of mass tourism and tourist traps, if you are looking for an unusual holiday where you can meet fantastic people, and if you would like to learn from some of the amazing people behind our fair trade staples, these tours are for you.
We are strong advocates of fair trade and sustainability, and would love to be able to show you that responsible tourism is not only the most rewarding option, but can be the most exciting one too.
The type of activity and variety of experiences included have been chosen to be as inclusive as possible, making the tours great for solo travellers, couples, groups of friends, and families alike. They are 12 to 14 days long, but for those who can stay longer and have more specific interests (bird-watching, hiking, wildlife, adventure sports, beaches etc), we have created special add-ons, that can be easily included too.
From the cloud forest at Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, eco tourism pioneer Inkaterra has an Amazonian adventure in store that the whole family can enjoy…
Most adventure treks suit sprightly adults, gap year kids or fitness junkies. But this seven-night adventure holiday in the Peruvian Amazon is just right for families.
With over forty years of expertise in sustainable tourism, Inkaterra‘s family adventure, reveals the breathtaking wonders of the Amazon, Sacred Valley of the Incas and meet the mists of the cloud forest at Machu Picchu. The trip also supports local communities through conservation programmes.
What’s in store – rainforest and wildlife
The trip starts deep in the heart of the Southern Amazon rainforest, the biodiversity capital of Peru. What a place to wake-up to a symphony of birdsong and monkeys swinging through the branches overhead. Situated in a 10,000 ha. private reserve, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica has much to discover – take one of the trekking trails and don’t miss the 344m high canopy walkway leading through the heart of the vast Peruvian rainforest and offering a (literal) bird’s-eye view of the plush forest canopy.
Accommodation – pick your own food at Pueblo Hotel
The adventure continues at Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, high in the Peruvian Andes. Whilst discovering the historic wonders of the region, barbecues, bird-watching and twilight hikes await. Accommodation is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel set in farmland, home to an organic plantation, and shrouded by a majestic cloud forest.
Guests can truly immerse themselves in the local farming community by way of picking their own produce as part of the Earth to Plate concept, the brainchild of executive chef, Rafael Casin. The food guests don’t farm themselves is purchased from the association’s Andean Farm Project, where cutting edge agro-ecological techniques are used to grow organic produce and medicinal plants.
Protecting rare and endangered wildlife
Amidst the clouds, 372 native orchid species, over 200 species of birds and 111 variety of butterflies can be found along the miles of trails that wind through the forest. Also the spectacled bear which is the only bear species in South America – because of their rapidly dwindling numbers the Inkaterra Spectacled Bear Project is essential to sustaining this rare and endangered native species. The Spectacled Bears Rescue Centre works to rehabilitate the bears, and bring them back into their natural habitat whenever possible.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel works closely with Inkaterra Asociación, an organisation that develops scientific, technological and cultural research projects aimed at managing and protecting the biodiversity and local communities of the Peruvian Andes. With strong ties to the local community, the property works with schools by hosting environmental conservation workshops and running fundraising campaigns for local villages.
The final leg – Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire
The last leg of this epic Peruvian adventure brings travellers to Cusco, the vibrant capital of the Incan Empire. Accommodation is baed at Inkaterra La Casona, a renovated 16th century manor located in the heart of the city. After indulging in Andean culture and cuisine, families can revel in the Spanish-colonial ambiance, exploring the ground that was once home to the elite army of the Incas.
Recommended for… Families looking for an adventurous and educational holiday
Be aware that… There is a distance for families to travel between each property
With the 2014 World Cup and the forthcoming 2016 Olympic Games, all eyes are on Brazil right now – but what is its most famous city, Rio de Janeiro, really like?
A new walking tour of the city’s slum neighbourhoods aims to reveal a different side to Rio, while celebrating the spirit and vitality of the community that lives there. You’ll get to know the neighbourhood of Rochina (which itself houses many ‘barrios’), Latin America’s largest favela.
The tours have been set-up by the Rochina by Rochina Project, an iniative led by a small group of dedicated young people living in Rochina. Tourists can hear first hand what its like to live in the favela, plus get the chance to stop and buy souvenirs direct from local people and perhaps hear an impromptu samba performance. While this is a walking tour, part of the journey is taken by mototaxi (motorbike) to reach some of the steeper parts of the area and catch stunning views of Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf, the Lagoon Rodrigo de Freitas, and many beaches.
Project founder Erik Martins said, “We want to show what the culture of Rochina has to offer, and to give a true feeling of what it’s like to be part of the community. Our tours cover the recent initiatives that are improving the conditions of the slum, but also reveal the locations that still lack zeal.
“We don’t want to hide what saddens us but explain everything that is beautiful and culturally rich around us, and some fascinating panoramic views that fill us with pride.”
The tours are free but tourists are invited to pay what they like (and Goodtrippers believes that this positive initiative alone is worth some of your holiday money, let alone the time, effort and warm welcome given by each guide – give generously!). Rochina by Rochina guarantee that all donations go straight to the guide themselves, direct and uncut. And if you’re short of cash on the day, you can also pay by iZettle so guides can accept donations via smartphones and tablets.
Guest blogger Cristina Nanni, of volunteering NGO Frontier, reveals some great ideas for responsible tourists visiting Brazil for this year’s football World Cup…
On the 12th June the world will wait with baited breath as the first match of the Brazil World Cup 2014 kicks off as host country Brazil faces underdogs Croatia. Fans will have the chance to watch football in the country where Pelé, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Socrates first kicked a ball, but for many, watching the players fight it out in the stadium will be the end of their cultural experience.
For those that are keen to get to know more about the country behind the football, adding a volunteering project as a chance to give back to Rio’s impoverished communities is a fantastic opportunity to give back. So if you want to turn your sport pilgrimage into a true adventure, make sure to take a look behind the city’s scenes…
An easy way to get a look at the ‘real’ Rio is to immerse yourself within the favela community. By partaking in an introductory or favela tour you’ll get an insight into the vibrant carnival culture which Rio is famous for.
Recommended for… Whoever wants to discover Rio’s soul.
Be aware that…You have to be in Rio de Janeiro on the same day as your tour. Tours run from 10am to 2pm on weekdays and 12pm to 4pm on weekends.
Good credentials… A percentage of the tour fee goes straight back into the favela community, directly helping to support a number of initiatives aimed at getting kids off the streets and people back into work.
If you have a longer stay planned in Rio, you might want to consider joining a community development volunteering project running for two weeks or more. Through a series of educational programs you can help impoverished local communities to acquire expertise and knowledge to expand their academic and career opportunities. By teaching and transferring skills, you will allow locals to be more competitive in the job market, and there is a wide range of activities you can be involved in: music and dance, graffiti art, sport, gardening, handcrafts for women and young people. If you have a basic level of Portuguese you could consider teaching English or IT, or offering tutoring services.
Recommended for… Anyone that wants to make the most of this World Cup experience
Be aware that… To take part to the project you have to commit for a minimum of two weeks and you will stay in a local hostel sharing a dorm room with your fellow volunteers.
Good credentials… This project will help you to gain valuable job experience in teaching while contributing to the sustainable development of a friendly and vibrant community in one of Rio’s largest favelas.
About the author: Cristina Nanni works for Frontier, a non-profit international volunteering NGO that runs over 300 dedicated conservation, community, and adventure projects in 61 countries across the globe. Find out more about Frontier’s volunteer projects, ethical adventure trails and gap year planning.
Guest blogger Bev Sninchak reviews a luxurious eco resort nestled in the rainforest of Costa Rica…
Tucked away in the Costa Rican rainforest, eco lodge Lapa Rios, which means ‘River of Scarlet Macaws’, is a green resort which oozes luxury. According to a Stanford University study published in the Journal of Ecotourism, Lapa Rios offers significant eco-tourism benefits to the region, in addition to offering economic boosts to the area.
Nestled in a private rainforest wonderland of beaches and wildlife, Lapa Rios touts its destination as the place to be for tourists who insist on the ultimate green travel, combining ethereal luxury with environmentally friendly practices that put the goal of sustainability as the top priority. What’s more, the land can never be developed to ensure the forest remains untouched, based on a conservation easement signed by owners John and Karen Lewis.
At 930 acres, Lapa Rios’s Eco Lodge features 16 luxurious rainforest bungalows set right in the middle of the rainforest. Awaken to the sound of macaws and enjoy being surrounded by delightful jungle animals such as toucans, sloths and howler monkeys. You can take in a Pacific Ocean view directly from your bed, and when you’re ready for a meal, saunter down to Lapa Rios’s award-winning Brisa Azul restaurant.
Focusing on eco-friendly fare, Brisa Azul serves dishes featuring grass-fed beef, organic chicken, locally caught seafood, and fresh vegetables and fruits produced from the local region alongside organic wine.
This stunning location in a private rainforest set on the Osa Peninsula reserve that stretches a thousand acres provides visitors with active participation in sustainable eco-tourism. Guided tours with trained local guides teach about the biodiversity of the area. Access to waterfalls as well as three beaches provides a wealth of experiences for lovers of sand and surf, including boating trips, horseback riding along the beach, kayaking, and surfing.
Recommended for…Those who want to completely ‘unplug’ there is no internet, air conditioning, telephone, or television at Lapa Rios.
Beaware that…Lapa Rios is a private rainforest reserve located 45 minutes from the closest airstrip in Puerto Jiménez, and driving takes seven hours from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.
Lapa Rios was the first Costa Rican hotel to receive the highest status for sustainability from the Costa Rica Tourism Board.
Provides both organic and biodegradable shampoo, soap, and lotion.
Eco-friendly grooming products are produced locally.
Serves to educate about biodiversity through the use of informative materials located in a guide hut.
About the author: Bev Sninchak is a veteran freelance writer with 16 years of experience producing content for various publications. She writes about many subjects, from managing your social media platform to Reputation.com testimonials.
To celebrate World Responsible Tourism Day on 6 November, guest blogger Andrew Thompson of responsible tourism operator and South America specialist Sumak Travel, describes a fascinating new initiative in Brazil…
Responsible tourism can help reduce poverty and support the creation of sustainable livelihoods pursued in harmony with the environment and local culture. In Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, for example, Sumak Travel has developed a different approach to the ethically suspect practice of ‘slum tourism’ where some tour operators take visitors around shanty towns in vehicles with security guards. Instead, by working with local partner Soul Brasileiro, we have started running a relaxed walking tour of Santa Marta, a favela (shanty town) inhabited by around 5,500 people.
Under a state government programme launched in preparation for the World Cup and the Olympics, shanty town inhabitants have been trained as bilingual tour guides and can speak English, Spanish, French and several other languages. The cost of the tours is modest and fixed by the municipality, and between 15% and 20% of the revenues must be reinvested in local social and community programmes. The guides themselves are asked to spend their earnings inside the community.
Visitors can walk around, meet the locals, see the incredible views of the city and shop for locally made handcrafts at the market, including art made from recycled materials such as old tin cans. The tours are advertised across Rio, and favela residents are incredibly proud of the publicity generated for their community. After years of being ‘invisible,’ they are now protagonists, eager to tell Santa Marta’s story and show off its facilities.
Soul Brasileiro is a local tour group that describes itself as ‘nuts for Brazil!’. They believe responsible tourists should be given a chance to understand not only the beauty of the country but also its social problems: “this understanding is the only way to seek joint solutions and build a better Brazil every day” it says.
To that end it offers a whole range of community tours, nature treks, and hands-on encounters with local cooking, arts, and culture. They have a particularly exciting project called Nature, Kitchen and Culture which is developing an organic community garden.
We take a similar approach with less known shanty town projects in Sao Paulo and with Quilombos (hinterland settlements of people of African origin) in Paraty, in partnership with Brazilian responsible tour operator Aoka.
About the author: Andrew Thompson is a freelance writer, blogger and management coach; he works for Sumak Travel. Brought up in Latin America, he has worked for BBC World Service and been a foreign correspondent in Mexico City (The Guardian), Buenos Aires (The Times), Rio de Janeiro (BBC) and Rome (Inter Press Service). As editor of a team that produced a radio documentary on social reform in Latin America, Andrew won the 1994 King of Spain Journalism Prize. Visit his blog at http://www.yorugastories.com/
Guest blogger Andrew Lisa reviews an eco-resort in the heart of the Nicaraguan jungle…
On a vast, 4,000-acre spread located deep in the Nicaraguan jungle, 15 bungalows await holiday-makers like us, who want to enjoy the natural wonders of the jungle without disturbing them. Imagine a private tropical beach, white sand, nesting sea turtles, and perfect weather – that’s Morgan’s Rock, an island paradise that is the pinnacle of luxury and eco-friendly planning.
The bungalows at Morgan’s Rock are the pinnacle of sustainability. Half of the 4,000 acres on which they sit is government-protected land. The other half is reserved for low-impact, sustainable agriculture.Each bungalow is perched on a cliff and comes with its own terrace. All the wood and furniture is sustainable and recovered from what would have gone to waste.
The ultimate in locally grown, farm-to-table dining, about 60 percent of the cuisine you’ll enjoy at the restaurant is grown right there on the sustainable farm. Visitors can also visit the farm, milk the cows, and select their own eggs.
Chill out in a beachside hammock and indulge in fresh fruit from the local organic working farm. Enjoy an exotic massage and marvel at the bizarre and beautiful wildlife that shares the jungle with you. A beautiful seaside restaurant and straw-thatched huts await you whenever you’re ready to leave your room.
Learn to surf in the surrounding warm waters. Tour the oldest city in Nicaragua, and marvel at its colonial architecture and design. Or, for the more adventurous, check out an active volcano. Zip across the canopy of the dense, primitive Nicaragua jungle; go fishing, cruising, kayaking, horseback riding, or walking at night.
Recommended for… The tourist who wants a slow, measured pace in an ancient jungle.
Be aware that… The city is two hours away. The bungalows are hidden on purpose, isolated on a private jungle island.
Sustainable agriculture used on site
Virtually no environmental footprint on protected land
Guest blogger Rachel Cafferty reviews an eco retreat in Mexico perfect for honeymooners
Hotel Xixim is a tiny piece of paradise in the northwestern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and is part of the ‘Special Biosphere Reserve’ of Celestun. It’s tucked away from all the noise and people, located along a three mile stretch of white beaches, and home to many species of birds, animals and flowers.
Nature plays an important role at Xixim, the hotel has been built in a way to minimise any disruption to the land. The area is one of the main feeding grounds for the American Pink Flamingo, which can arrive in their hundreds, and to sea turtles who choose to nest in the beaches.
I may be biased as I spent my honeymoon there but to me, it was beautiful and I wouldn’t hesitate to back. We were lucky enough to be the only guests for two of our five nights there, so had the whole complex to ourselves. The things that stand out are the extraordinary stars in the night sky, the many lizards of various sizes which lined the paths and climbed up the walls, and the attentive staff who made sure we were well looked after (and excellent food and drink).
There are 32 bungalows and every one has a private terrace and an amazing sea view. The Master Suites are perfect for honeymooners and despite not having any air conditioning (they only have ceiling fans for ecological reasons) they stay cool and comfortable. Huge four poster beds take up most of the room and are perfectly positioned for watching the sunsets, while the bathrooms are minimalist but stylish. A member of staff sneaks in each morning and leaves a tray with tea and sweet bread for when you wake up.
The hotel is out of the way and once you get you there, you may not feel like leaving. The onsite restaurant does delicious (and relatively healthy for Mexico) food, making the most of the fresh fish and traditional Mexican flavours, and the bar serves strong cocktails. There are two pools – one ‘Family Pool’ and one ‘Wellness Pool’, both with cafes serving snacks and drinks, a wellness centre, yoga and small gym facilities and massage centre.
If you don’t want to leave the immediate area then you can swim, sunbathe, kayak, take part in a yoga session, walk along the three-mile beach or use one of the hotel bikes. There are also a number of day trips and excursions you can do – boat trips to see the flamingos (season depending) and the Petrified Forest; or visit the old haciendas; visit Uxmal (ancient Mayan city); a mangrove adventure; offshore fishing; or even a moonlight safari.
Recommended for… Couples, honeymooners, families (pets are welcome too)
Be aware that… This isn’t a ‘budget’ break and as the hotel is away from the nearest smallest town, you do end up eating each night at the hotel restaurant
The bungalows are designed to harmonise with the surrounding nature
No air conditioning – just ceiling fans and thatched roofs provide ventilation
Reforestation – planting of 30 hectares with Malayan dwarf coconut trees
All water is biologically recycled, grey waters go through a biological filter
For more information, including booking, for Hotel Xixim, Yacatan, Mexico, visit www.hotelxixim.com, T: (01-988) 916 21 00, E: email@example.com
About the author: Rachel Cafferty works in charity PR in London and has discovered the joys of choosing holidays based on how much nature there is, thanks to her husband’s insistence on seeking out wildlife and staying in yurts.
Guest blogger Ellie Cambridge, of NGO Frontier, profiles a new conservation project that takes you to the heart of the Peruvian jungle.
The mighty Amazon rainforest has long been seen as one of the ultimate destinations for adventurers – but with its fragile biodiversity in danger, it needs dedicated teams of conservationists and their volunteers more than ever.
NGO Frontier has launched a new volunteering project – Peru Amazon Rainforest Conservation. By working in a unique region of the Peruvian Amazon, Frontier and the volunteers work in partnership with leading international universities on the project to carry out research and education, to promote a model for sustainability that could be replicated by other communities throughout South and Central America. And it couldn’t some sooner…
The Amazon Rainforest boasts half of the world’s species of plants, animals and insects, and holds one fifth of the world’s fresh water and produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen. Due to deforestation, the rainforest is losing 137 plant, animals and insect species everyday. This project aims to lead by example and help protect the rainforest as a valuable resource that should be sustainably looked after.
The work – butterfly identification to tree phenology
Volunteers can get involved in several practical tasks and surveys, and take part in community work such as promoting the project’s work, and new sustainable ways to use the rainforest, in local schools. Practical projects may include camera checks, biomass projects, butterfly traps, tree phenology, agroforestry projects and night transects.
Accommodation – a fabulous eco lodge in the heart of the rainforest
Volunteers stay in a fabulous Eco-Lodge which boasts a solar-powered internet connection, an environmentally sound septic system and gravity-fed water pumps; all helping to minimise the centre’s impact on the environment. The lodges consist of six thatched buildings with two single beds in each pod. All food is provided, which includes three meals a day of pancakes, omelettes, fruit, rice, beans, meat, potatoes and cheese. Other food and snacks, if required, can be purchased once a week from a nearby town.
Recommended for… Anyone who wants hands-on conservation work that will help protect a vital and biodiverse rich area of the world; and who wants to see what it’s really like to live and work in the rainforest.
Be aware that… This project means total immersion in the rainforest so volunteers can gain the best possible understanding of conservation, climate change, and poverty. It is for those that want to get stuck in to the conservation effort and do as much as they can to help, and will potentially involve a four day expedition into the rainforest sleeping under the starts if volunteers stay for longer than four weeks.
Base data gathered by volunteers provides the local community with crucial information, helping them grow the local economy, alongside supporting natural resources to protect the environment
Frontier aims to create international connections linking industries (including agriculture, tourism, timber) to a network of responsible organisations and communities to ensure continued sustainability
About the author: Ellie Cambridge 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. Find out more about Frontier’s volunteer projects, ethical adventure trails and gap year planning