Attention all green thumbs! Join us a Gardening Volunteer Vacation in the beautiful Andean highlands outside the city of Otavalo, Ecuador.
Gardening activities that the volunteers may enjoy include working at the tree nursery in the community of Achupallas, planting trees in a local community alongside community members, and working with schoolchildren in their school garden. The volunteers will also have an opportunity to tour horticultural sites and learn about native plants and gardening techniques in the region.
When they are not having fun digging in the dirt, the group will have plenty of time to immerse themselves in the local culture, soak up breathtaking scenery, and experience different biomes. They may visit the famous Otavalo market, take a cooking class at Kawsaymi Cooking School, hike to natural wonders, and meet local craftspeople.
After days filled with gardening and exploring, everyone will relax and socialize together at a comfortable inn in Otavalo.
Cost: $1,350 double occupancy, $150 additional for single occupancy. The trip fee covers all the basic expenses (food, lodging, transportation, activities) from when you land at the Quito airport until we drop you off there. (We provide one airport pickup on the first evening, and one bus back to the airport, on the last night. If your plans require different pickups or drop-offs, you will need to cover those on your own). Airfare is not included, and you'll want to bring extra money for personal expenses.
Sample Itinerary for Gardening Volunteer Vacations:
Arrive in the evening and settle in. We provide one bus to pick up the group from the airport and bring you to Otavalo.
Have orientation and visit the world-famous Otavalo market.
Work at the tree nursery most of the day, and then visit Cuicocha volcanic lake.
Do a plant-related activity with school children and help them work in their school garden. In the afternoon, visit a master weaver.
Beautify a community by landscaping its newly constructed community center. In the afternoon, tour a rose plantation.
Spend the morning at another school, helping them with their garden and engaging in fun environmental lessons. In the afternoon, have a picnic under Otavalo's sacred tree.
Help in a minga, [community work party] planting trees in one of the communities. In the afternoon, participate in a traditional cooking class and learn about the plants cultivated by local families.
Visit the high-altitude páramo to see another biome, have a celebratory dinner, then head back to Quito and fly out at night.
The CDC recommends vaccinations against Hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Yellow fever is recommended for other parts of Ecuador but not necessary in the mountains where we work. Vaccinations are up to your own discretion.
I've heard about the Zika virus. Should I be concerned for my health?
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes that generally live below 1200 meters, but Tandana works at much higher elevations--typically above 2000 meters. So the chances of encountering a Zika-carrying mosquito while with Tandana is quite low. Moreover, the main concern for Zika is the damage it can do to fetuses if the mother contracts the virus; for others, the clinical symptoms are mild. Nevertheless, if you plan to travel in lower elevations before or after your time with us, you might want to take precautions with an insect repellant approved by the EPA.
What are the accommodations like?
Tandana's gardening volunteer vacation participants are provided lodging at a wonderful bed and breakfast right in Otavalo, Ecuador: La Posada del Quinde. Rooms all have private baths, comfortable beds, and are fully modern with the same electricity as the U.S. Wi-fi is available in the common area. Breakfast each day is a treat that offers fresh local fruits and juices, excellent coffee and a selection of hot breakfast items to start your day off right. The garden and patio area are an oasis with a view of 2 inactive volcanos. And the location is perfect for market shopping just 4 blocks away.
Will my electronic devices work in Ecuador?
Yes, Ecuador uses the same electrical currents and plugs as the United States does, so you don't need a special adaptor.
What kind of clothing, etc. should I pack?
We will send you a "welcome" packet about a month before your departure, which includes a suggested packing list.
Should I bring my gardening tools?
You might want to bring personal hand tools, garden gloves, and boots or shoes that can take the mud. If you forget something, we do have a small assortment of gloves and tools left behind by others. Just remember that some things are tricky for taking on planes. If you bring a soil knife, for example, you'll need to wrap it in a cardboard sheath and pack it in your checked luggage.
What if I don't speak Spanish?
It's not necessary to speak Spanish in order to do good work and have a good time on this trip. You'll learn the important basics during orientation, and Tandana staff will be able to translate for you.
Who leads the groups of volunteers? Who do I turn to when I need help?
All of Tandana's volunteer programs are led by a team of Program Coordinators who have first-hand knowledge of the region, speak both Spanish and English, have expertise in experiential education and group leadership, hold WFR (Wilderness First Responder) or other certifications that have prepared them to handle emergencies, and are caring and capable individuals. Our permanent local staff is always on hand to help with translation, activities, logistics, and anything else to make sure the volunteers' experience is the best it can possibly be. See here for bios of some Program Coordinators.
What if I can't find the answer to my question on the FAQ page?
Please email your question to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll answer it as quickly as we can.
In Ecuador, we work primarily in communities of the Quichinche parish, Otavalo canton, in the Ecuadorian Sierra. Just outside the market center of Otavalo, this area is only 2 hours by bus from Quito but offers a rural tranquility and connection to the land very different from life in the capital.
The father and mother volcanoes, Imbabura and Cotacachi, stand guard over the valleys and hills where indigenous Otaveleño and mestizo families grow their sustenance. Diverse in their customs, these villagers are united by their need to work together to improve their communities. They farm corn, potatoes, beans, and other crops, weave textiles and baskets, and commute to Otavalo for secondary education or formal-sector jobs. The Otavaleño are one of Ecuador's indigenous groups most successful at preserving their cultural identity and traditions. Speaking both Kichwa and Spanish, they have learned to negotiate the power structures of their nation while retaining a sense of indigenousness. The people of Quichinche work hard and also love to celebrate. In general, they are very welcoming to visitors and enjoy sharing food, joking around, and discussing their culture with their guests. The landscape that surrounds their home, meanwhile, offers high lakes, waterfalls, and volcanic peaks to inspire a sense of nature's grandeur. The region's 9000-ft. elevation and proximity to the equator combine to give it consistently comfortable temperatures (50's to 80's) all year round.