This week we have a great interview with adventure company Barefoot Expeditions from Ecuador. Here founder and CEO Diego Altamirano talks about the company’s services, his love for the Galapagos, a normal day in the life of an adventure business in Ecuador, the current state of the tourism industry in Ecuador and his favourite places.
What is Barefoot Expeditions and what are your specialties?
Barefoot Expeditions is a multi-adventure travel company that offers tours and adventures around Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We are professional in adventure travel and we focus on personal and customized tours at a reasonable price. We want our clients to experience adventure, fun and at the same time get a deeper insight in Ecuador and its culture.
What is your role in the company?
I founded Barefoot Expeditions and my role as CEO is to make my company grow to be one of the best adventure companies in Ecuador… by the way we are not too far away from reaching this goal.
Our clients are travelers with a thirst of adventure and an awareness of culture as well as the fragility and importance of wild life, a traveler that is far more knowledgeable than ever before. Our clients look for something different, sometimes off the typical tourist paths. We offer them unique experiences they will never forget and their expectations are often surpassed by far.
What does a normal day in your working life look like?
Every day is a new challenge: in the office we are in constant search of new trips, interesting posts, tweets and try to be ahead of the general tourism market in Ecuador. We carefully observe our competitors’ activities and are very active in social media. We were very happy to find out a few weeks ago that we are among the 10 most followed brands in Twitter in Ecuador @TravelEcuador!
Do you go on any trips and do you have any fun or interesting stories to tell from one of these trips?
As I started as the only full time guide for Barefoot Expeditions, I went on many of the trips. I think I am very blessed to have a job which enables me to do what I like best and live my passion for adventure. That’s why I enjoy every trip and sharing my experiences with other people! Now, after over 10 years of experience, I can say that every trip is different in its kind and learnt to appreciate every moment and every person. Small details, like offering the clients a guayusa tea from the jungle as a welcome drink, can make a trip even better than it already is. I like being part of the people’s life, even for a day trip, and is good to know that hey will remember the experience we shared for a long time. I found my wife in one of this trips.
I use to call them the magical Galapagos Islands. When you arrive at the airport, you are already welcome by some iguanas staring at you and lying in the sun. The landscapes never stop showing up: it is hard to decide which spot on the different islands is the most beautiful one! It just gets better and better: friendly people and a huge variety of animals make the Galapagos islands very special. Snorkeling or diving are simply great on the Galapagos: being in the water with sharks that won’t bite, penguins swimming around you, sea lions playing with the waves without any fear. When you meet the giant turtles, you ask yourself how they can the survive there. When the guide explains the evolution theory and some of the history of Charles Darwin, suddenly everything makes sense! So many good histories are exciting to listen to as well, for example how the islands where used as a maximum security jail or as favourite spot of the pirates: The islands are declared as World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve.
What does Ecuador offer and when is the best time to visit?
For sure Ecuador is famous because of the Galapagos islands, but apart from that the country is one the most diverse areas on the planet. We have four different ecological systems within a very small area: the highlands, the Galápagos, the coast and the Amazon rain forest. Within a few days you can take a closer look at giant turtles and blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos, relax at the beach of your dreams at the coast enjoying fresh sea food, visit an indigenous market in the highlands close to active volcanoes, and fish piranhas, observe pink dolphins, caymans and other exotic animals and plants in the jungle!
We don’t have any seasons in Ecuador – the weather is pretty much the same all year around because we are right on the Equator. Quito is known as the city of eternal spring. The rainiest time is generally from March to May. The driest months are June to October with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures during the day, apart from some strong but short rainfalls in the afternoon from the end of September on. In the jungle the climate is hotter and more humid – there are less rainfalls from October to February. The dry as well as the rainy season have their charm! To our point of view the best time to come are the months June to February.
How is the tourism industry in Ecuador at the moment?
The tourism industry in Ecuador is still developing and has a lot of potential: there are so many things to do in Ecuador yet. The market is growing slowly but steadily. I think it is time to rethink the purpose of the travel industry. The companies that remain and truly believe in what they are doing are the ones that are going to conquer and stay in the market.
What are your favourite places in Ecuador and why?
Galapagos because is a place like no other in the world and you simply need to experience its magic. The Andes mountains and their culture are splendid, sometimes it seems like time has stopped there hundreds of years ago. I love the jungle, too, where you feel like in some Indiana Jones movie, meet shamans and learn about their ancestral knowledge about plants as well as life and death. You get such a close relation with the nature, which simply makes you feel alive. Fish piranhas, pink dolphins, find so many different Indian communities with different languages, shamans and their ancestral knowledge about plants and it’s close relation with the nature make you feel alive. I continuously discover new amazing places in my country when I go on week-end trips: a few weeks ago I did a wonderful 12km-hike from the Quilotoa lagoon to the village of Chugchillán through beautiful landscapes!
How do you go about promoting your business to attract new visitors?
I think we are on a very good way: we are taking advantage of free social media facilities like Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. We write a blog www.ecuadoradventures.com about traveling in Ecuador with news, tips, places to visit and things to do to gain more visits on our web site www.barefootexpeditions.com. We also have a toll-free number for clients in the US (1866 ECUADOR) to make it easier for our customers to get in contact with us. We also like to share information with other websites that have similar ideas and philosophies.
What is your best and worst experiences running Barefoot Expeditions?
The best experience is when a satisfied customer tells you “Wow, thanks for a great trip!”. That is the best thing ever and I feel happy because I have accomplished my mission. Our barefoot Pathfinders are trained to deal with many situations and have many years of experience. We learned how to make things better and how to take care of the details. The worst, at least for myself, is the paper work in the public offices with which I also have to deal with…not very adventurous.
How does the future look for the company?
Bright because we love what we do and Barefoot is a strong and very appealing brand! We had a great season and we are looking forward to the next ones.