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Guides in the Galapagos

The guides in the Galapagos Islands are some of the luckiest in the world. There is nowhere else quite like it in the world, though if you are guiding here you really need to know your stuff!  Today we focus on one of our guides in the Galapagos who has taken time out of her busy schedule to give you an insight into her world.

 

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About you

 

Name: Maria del Carmen Ramirez

Country you guide in: Ecuador

Area of the country you are a guide: The Galapagos Islands

 

 

  1. What inspired you to become a guide?

 

I started as a guide in the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador and then went to the Galapagos Islands. What inspired me was nature and people. I am a “people´s person”, like to show my country around and I am very proud of all the cultural and natural highlights that Ecuador offers.

 

  1. What do like most about being a guide?

 

What I like the most of being a guide is that I get to meet interesting people and travel around.

 

  1. When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

 

When guiding, I always have binoculars, a field guide, map of Galapagos, a radio and first aid kit. Field guide and map of Galapagos are very important to show the people in the group where are they and what are they seeing. I think that every guide should carry binoculars for some birds are found far away and for safety is mandatory to have a radio and first aid kit.

 

  1. Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

 

All of it!! If we consider a must, all of Ecuador is worth it because is so different and unique. Galapagos is a real highlight and it is the most visited are in the country, but as well as beautiful and natural is the Amazonian rainforest. The national parks in the highlands have amazing wildlife and natural resources. The country´s history and traditions are shown in our architecture and culture which reveals an amazing diversity in local markets, handicraft and artisans.

 

  1. Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

 

A very important one is the Inti Raimi Festival, or “festival of the Sun”. This festival has its roots in the ancient Inca culture that once ruled most of the Andes, including Ecuador. In the festival, native Ecuadorians dress up in traditional clothes and celebrate the sun and the fertility of the “Pachamama”, mother Earth. It takes place every year on the summer solstice, June 22. They celebrate it in different places around Ecuador, including in the “Mitad del Mundo” monument, a big tourist attraction.

 

Another important event is the “Semana Santa” or holy week festivities which are a group of celebrations taking place all over the country. Holy Week (happening the last week of March) is the one event that allows visitors to witness Quito’s significant expressions of faith, while admiring liturgical rituals and traditions, which shed light on the cultural complexities of a mixed heritage. During Holy Week, visitors can also taste the delectable blend of indigenous and Spanish cuisines in the popular “fanesca” dish, a unique soup that combines flavours from both the Andes and the coast, an elaborate and hearty treat that will make this week in Quito truly unforgettable.

You must go to the historical part of the city and join the celebrations. There will be music, costumes, parades, processions and sacred music concerts.

 

  1. What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

 

For me, it is the giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. It represents longevity, serenity and adaptation.  It has through a large process of survival from its very beginning in the old sailor’s time till now days had to cope with the threats of introduced species that harm their lives

 

  1. What tips do you have for families hoping to go to Latin America? – e.g. when to go, things to bring

 

My best advice is just to come! Come whenever you can and bring a good camera. In Ecuador, any time of year is great. With a privilege weather, outdoor activities can be practiced almost anytime. Some foreigners think Latin America is a dangerous place, and parts of some countries are, but most of Latin America is safe and fun and full of people who love tourists. From Mexico to Argentina, there are literally thousands of spectacular things to see and do. Don’t wait! There are family activities to be enjoyed such as: hiking, biking, canopy, tubbing, zip line, birdwatching, train trips, hot springs, national parks,  just to name a few.

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Our tour guides in Ecuador

Latin Odyssey will be shining a spotlight on the best guides in South & Central America to give you an insight into what a holiday with a great tour guide is like and today we focus on our tour guides in Ecuador & the Galapagos.

Being rich in wildlife and culture our tour guides in Ecuador need to be some of the best in the world in order to deliver and from their answers below, you can see they are!

 

 

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ANDREA DARQUEA, who guides for us in mainland Ecuador

 

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  1. What inspired you to become a guide?

I grew up in a family with profound cultural roots and ever since I was a little girl my father in particular taught me to love our music, our landscapes, and our people which made me fall in love with my country.

When I was 14 years old, I went on a school trip to the coast of Ecuador and our guide was a very enthusiastic woman and through her eyes I was able to interpret all the magical places and interesting characters. From this moment on I was inspired to become a tourist guide…

 

 

 

  1. What do like most about being a guide?

Being able to use a smile, a hug, the proper communication and create interest as simple tools to make people happy…

When we work we are surrounded by human beings, like tourists, our fellow workmate the driver, the craftsman, the artist, the museum guide, etc this gives us the opportunity to develop qualities while we work, such qualities undeniably help us become better human beings.

 

 

 

  1. When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

A first aid kit is what I never forget to bring, having it or not could make a huge difference.

 

 

 

  1. Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

Ecuador is an extremely diverse country, each region is special. Personally, I enjoy the mountains and I believe anyone who travels must visit the Andean region as a connection to other regions.

 

 

 

  1. Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for maybe even something most travellers wouldn’t know about?

The cultural, aboriginal and religious festivities are the ones that would be on the top of my list. Those are the events in which all the beautiful and colourful costumes get combined to represent the nature, the crops and the people. Additionally, there are typical dances which bring connection to the essence of the party and finally, the religion which seals the fused cultural expressions.

 

 

 

  1. What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

Our Andean Condor which is the biggest continental bird, although its colours are not as bright as the beautiful hummingbirds, it’s delightful glide makes all of our feelings and emotions fly as high as they do. I have never felt such silence as the silence there is when a group of tourists admire a Condor glide.

 

 

 

  1. What tips do you have for families hoping to go to Latin America? – e.g. when to go, things to bring

Latin America has a very nice and pleasant weather, and for the most part of the year on most regions the weather is not a limitation. Even more, for being in the equator, our country does not have seasons therefore it makes traveling more enjoyable all year round. What I do recommend is to dress in light layers and be ready for any sudden changes in weather.

 

The most important element that attracts visitors to our countries is the nature, for this reason and depending on the ecosystem they get to visit, they have to bring the adequate clothing. Also not to forget the picture camera, I recommend a waterproof camera to catch amazing pictures while taking a dip in any of the Islands of the Galapagos and also, binoculars to not miss any of the fascinating and colourful one of a kind birds.

 

But above all things, to have an open spirit, open to the adventure of getting to know more from within, to understand human realities and to be ready to submerge in unique areas of our planet.

 

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Javier Eduardo Guerrero Balarezo, who guides for us in mainland Ecuador

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  1. What inspired you to become a guide?

I don’t like to be trap between four walls. I like outdoors. I like people. I like to help. I love my country. I can’t think of myself doing anything else except guiding.

 

 

  1. What do like most about being a guide?

To communicate little things like a small flower here or a nice bird there. I love to tell people the greatness of this country.

 

 

  1. When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

I take with me always a backpack with a raincoat, binoculars, map of Ecuador, sunblock, mosquito repellent, pocket knife, hat and water. I like to be prepared for guiding in any type of condition always.

 

 

  1. Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

Definitely the Andes is the must visit in Ecuador and of course the Galapagos.

 

 

  1. Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

There is so many things I would recommend to visit in Ecuador such as eastern areas of  Quito and the processions, the Mama Negra at Latacunga in September, the Baby Jesus parade on Christmas in Cuenca, just to say a few.

 

 

  1. What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

Again it is so many animals deserve to be seen or consider in Latin America but there is 3 I love Condor, the lord of the skies, the Puma, the best hunter of all time and the Snakes, the warriors of the underworld. I am sorry but I can’t refer to just one.

 

 

  1. What tips do you have for families hoping to go to Latin America? e.g. when to go, things to bring

Bring everything! Expect anything!! Always smile and say hello to us locals!!!

 

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Tour guides for holidays in Peru

All holidays in South America will involve having a guide at one stage or another as there is so much to see and learn about! Our tour guides in Peru are some of the best in South America.  As always with tour guides they are hard to pin down, but Amalia and Sergio have done us proud with some wonderful insights into Peru holidays.  After reading this you will be hoping that they are your personal tour guides in Peru!

 

Amalia Alayza who guides in Lima, Paracas and Nazca in Peru.

Amala

What inspired you to become a tour guide?

My parents had a passion for travelling through Peru and they had a small collection of pre Inca art that I still have some pieces of. I love archaeology and that’s why a friend of my parents that worked on the National Tourist Bureau trained me to guide when I was in school. Later I studied to be a guide and since then I have been guiding, although I am also studying tourist administration and Hotel Management and a Masters in education.

 

 What do you like most about being a tour guide?

Sharing with the guests the beauty of my country, our long history and the Islands in Paracas.

 

When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

Patience, sense of humour, plus all the emergency phone numbers

 

Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

Definitely Cuzco with Machu Pichu, then Puno with the Titicaca Lake and the floating Island followed by Arequipa and the Colca Canon, the Nazca Lines and the Ballestas islands and Lima with its Museums and the down town World Heritage. In the jungle Puerto Maldonado and in the North of Peru Iquitos with the Amazon River.

 

Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

I would say that the Holy wee in Ayacucho is amazing to see on holiday. But the train ride from Lima to Huancayo is a fascinating experience and it only goes now on long weekends in the Peruvian winter, so I have to do it again.

 

What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

The spectacled bear that lives in the high jungle of Peru – the author of Paddington Bear was inspired by this bear to write the book.

 

What tips do you have for families hoping to go on holiday to Latin America? – e.g. when to go, things to bring

Latin America has a lot to offer, come with an open mind and you will be surprised to find wonderful food, beautiful music, extraordinary scenery and history.

 

 To go to Peru on holiday my favourite time is the end of April – May as it’s the end of the rainy season in the Andes, where everything is still green and the weather on the coast is still warm.

 

How to dress in Peru on holiday – dress in layers, comfortable walking shoes, hat and sunblock. Bring a jacket for the Andes because you can have all types of weathers in 24 hours.

 

For trips to Machu Pichu and the jungle – insect repellent, rain gear and hiking boots as its hot and wet.

 

 If you go to Paracas be sure to bring your bathing suit!

 

Sergio Santisteban who guides in Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru.

 

Photo guide Cusco

What inspired you to become a tour guide?

 

When growing up, my family and I started traveling to different parts of Peru and I became fascinated by the richness and beauty of the monuments and artefacts left by early Peruvians. As I learned more and more about them, thanks to relatives and professors, I realized the necessity of making this information as widely available as possible, so it could become a source of pride for all Peruvians. That is what inspired and inspires me still to be a guide, the opportunity of sharing our culture, past and present, with all its richness and complexity, with people from all over the world.

What do you like most about being a tour guide?

 

In an ever more globalized world, It´s a privilege to be able to get to know people from all over the globe with different backgrounds, points of view, ideas and questions! Sharing time with them is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.

 

When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

 

Ever since I started guiding I’ve always carried with me a compass, an altimeter and a good set of maps. However in recent months I´ve learned to appreciate my smartphone more and more. Not only do I get basic things like compass or a flashlight but now I get to explore the southern skies with the clients or show with accuracy the real extent of the Andes mountain range. Technology is changing the way we guides do our job, for the better in most cases.     

 

Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

 

Peru is well known around the world because of Machu Picchu, the most impressive and well preserved archaeological site left by Incas, The fact that the place has become so popular is not a matter of chance of course; the location of it in the middle of the extremely lush cloud forest, the elegant look of the white granite used in its construction, all the archaeological findings and astronomical temples built with scientific precision make it a true MUST when visiting Peru. No visit to Peru is really complete until you see the Inka’s most impressive site.    

 

Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

 

The communities in the Peruvian Andes are the ones that have preserved the best some of the traditions from Pre-Hispanic times. In most cases these is reflected in their ways of life. The yearly reconstruction of Queshuachaca Bridge is one amazing example. Every year during the second week of June four Andean communities come together for four days to perform rituals in honour of Mother Earth and later they rebuilt a hanging bridge made of thatch over the Apurimac river. The way in which the process is organized and the responsibilities assigned respond to an ancient Andean labour model called “Minka”. About a hundred kilometres away from Cusco city it’s still a hidden treasure.    

 

What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

 

Peru has 87 different climates out of 114 in the world which makes it a multi- diverse country. This gives us a wide variety of birds, mammals and reptiles (just think of the Amazon rainforest). When talking about mammals just like ancient Peruvians I have a fascination for felines, Pumas and Jaguars. They are formidable predators, elegant when moving and hunting, and understandably worshipped by every human group that ever developed in the territory as a symbol of power on earth

 

What tips do you have for families hoping to go on holiday to Latin America? – e.g. when to go, things to bring

 

Packing when coming to South America is never easy, you can find all sorts of climates from very humid and hot (Amazon Rain forest, Galapagos Islands, Uruguay coast) to very dry and cold (Peru and Bolivia highlands). The best you could do is to have several layers of clothing that you could easily put on and take off.  You should probably be willing to do some laundry so you don’t need carry your whole wardrobe with you. It is also very useful to know when the highest tourist seasons is at each of your destinations, and try to avoid them (something that’s not always easy). Learning some phrases in Spanish never hurts, not only for communication purposes but also to try to connect with people (everybody will appreciate you making an effort).  And also be ready to have a great time and some great conversations, people in Latin America are very friendly and family oriented so don’t be surprised to be received warmly.

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Travel tips from our favourite holiday tour guides

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Our Brazil holiday tour guides offer a depth of experience and knowledge that no guidebook or audio guide will come close to. If you want to hear the stories behind the Jesuits in Brazil or the nocturnal behaviour of the jaguar in the Amazon; then ask one of our Brazil holiday tour guides. If you want to get the inside track on the best bars in Rio de Janeiro and a romantic restaurant for a late bite; no problem, speak to our guides.

 

We pinned down some of our very best guides so that you could get the lowdown on their favourite continent before they whisk away another excited traveller on another memorable travel experience.

 

This week we start by introducing two of our holiday tour guides – Ricardo and Wesley.

 

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Ricardo Barbosa who guides in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

What inspired you to become a tour guide?

I was a journalist and it happened to me to become a guide, and I loved it from the very first day. Being outside, not in a radio studio, showing my city and my country to friends is something that comes naturally from me.

 

What do you like most about being a tour guide?

To be a guide of Rio and Brazil is easy and fun as going around with new friends.

 

 When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

 I always have in mind that clients are friends, friends that are also clients.

 

Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

All of our national parks specially Pantanal, Chapada Diamantina, Chapada dos Guimaráes and Lençois Maranahenses.

 

Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

The Festas de São João in the interior of Bahia

 

What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

As a birdwatcher and birdwatching guide I could make a list of 1,800 species/reasons to visit Brazil, but I will name one of my favourite monkeys, the lovely Golden Lion Tamarins.

 

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Wesley Melo who guides for us at Iguazu Falls, Brazil.

What inspired you to become a tour guide?

My family have always worked in tourism, so i have been associated with it all my life. Since a young boy i have always loved the idea of meeting different people and this is a perfect way to do it

 

What do you like most about being a tour guide?

I love showing off my country and the Iguazu falls are the best in the world. I never get bored.

 

 When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?

 A rain coat.  If it is not raining at Iguazu then you will get wet from the spray from the waterfalls.

 

Which areas of your country really stand out as must-visit destinations?

The Jesuit ruins close to Iguazu.  Few people make the journey as they are long way from the falls, but i am fascinated by the history. Rio de Janeiro, especially during carnival.

 

Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend being in your country for, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

Bird watching during the spring is amazing, especially in the Pantanal. During spring a lot of the immature birds are around so you see so many different colours and different behaviour

 

What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?

The Jaguar.  It is powerful, sleek and hard to see, which probably makes it so mysterious.

 

 

 

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South America news

 

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Let’s start by giving you some South American news, which is a roundup of hotel specials, new direct flights as well as some good old tours. You know the thrilling, tingly feeling you get in your tummy when your plane starts its descent and you know you will soon set foot in a place you’ve never been to before.

The deeply satisfied feeling you get when you discover a new food that you love.

Or perhaps the intoxicated feeling you get when you’ve indulged in one too many of those drinks the locals swear by.

 

We love Latin America because it is a kaleidoscope of amazing adventures just waiting to be discovered.

 

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Save 15% when staying in 2 or more of the Tierra hotels in Chile

The Tierra Hotels are all set in enchanting destinations from where the adventurous can explore all of Chile’s beauty. Tierra Atacama is found in the starry desert of the altiplano, Tierra Chiloé among the austral waters of the Pacific Ocean and at the ends of the earth Tierra Patagonia. We love the ambience of the Tierra hotels; casual and friendly, it enables guests to mingle and get to know one another or find a quiet corner to relax and get away from it all.

 

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New direct flight to Costa Rica from London with British Airways

The rainforests and colourful wildlife of Costa Rica will be easier to reach by May thanks to a direct, twice-weekly service from London Gatwick to the country’s capital San Jose. Now there is no excuse not to visit. From cloud forest to Pacific shore, and colonial heritage to chic resorts – if you can’t find something to suit you in Costa Rica you should probably hand in your passport.

 

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Save 25% on the Alto Atacama hotel, Chile

Plus choose from complimentary spa treatment or additional complimentary bed for child up to 15 years at the Alto Atacama hotel, Chile

 

 

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Guatemala ‘Streets and eats’ tour

This is a new tour for adventurous eaters in Antigua. You’ll begin with a walk along charming cobblestone streets lined with brightly painted Spanish colonial architecture. Then it’s on to a local restaurant to sample authentic cuisine such as chuchitos, (Guatemala-style tamales), pupusas (cheese-filled corn tortillas), and even pigs’ feet! Buen provecho!

 

 

Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina

 

 

 

 

Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

 

If you’re considering going to Peru to see the famous Machu Picchu then take a look at this new film. It showcases the Salkantay Inca Trail which we think is an ideal trek if you’re fairly fit and want to explore the local area as well as see Machu Picchu. You’ll experience remote native communities at the base of the sacred Salkantay snow peak before joining the Inca Trail path to Machu Picchu.

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