Photo by Marco Antonio
Courtesy of Explorandes
Explorandes offers authentic experiences that benefit locals in Peru.
The latest in our Tour Operators That Give Back Series meets the adventure travel pioneers specializing in remote and rural Peru.
In the outdoors, outfitters who are first to market can be eventually outpaced by newcomers. But in the case of Explorandes, a leader in adventure travel and the first outfitter to operate Peru’s Inca Trail trek, the quality offered to both travelers and local Peruvian communities has kept the company consistently at the front of the growing pack for the past 46 years.
Focused on providing the best travel experience for guests while contributing to the sustainable development of the region through responsible tourism, Explorandes works exclusively in Peruvian destinations, including Chachapoyas, Chiclayo, Cusco, Huaraz, Ica, Lima, Paracas, Puno, and Trujillo—covering a large swath of the country. The company focuses on both social development and environmental preservation, and it works with native communities whose activities have often been excluded from the modern economic system by employing them and collaborating with them in tour development. The result enables travelers to learn about the traditions of Indigenous peoples and support an alternative way to develop and preserve the region’s culture and natural resources.
Itineraries offered by Explorandes include trekking, family adventures, active trips, and cultural experiences. Hike the Lares Community Trek to follow original Inca trails and share meals with remote Andean communities for an immersive experience into a culture that some operators pass over. Go trail running, kayaking, surfing, mountain biking, river rafting, or traverse a rock wall by via ferrata. Visit archaeological sites, meet native wildlife, learn about ancestral agricultural traditions, or take part in weaving workshops.
Explorandes prioritizes sustainability, offering big adventures with a small footprint, and minimizes the negative impact that operations may have on Peru’s natural and cultural heritage. The company recognizes that its success is defined by generating value to society in its business, sociocultural, and environmental management.
Explorandes pioneered adventure travel in South America long before outdoor enthusiasts were flocking to Patagonia. Founded in 1975, the company focused on whisking people away from the crowds so that they could connect with local culture and the environment.
“After attending Cornell University, I returned home by driving from New York to Peru, and I decided that’s what I like to do—just travel and get to know places,” says founder Alfredo Ferreyros. “In Peru, very few visitors were hiking in the mountains, but I’d done it in Europe and the United States and I knew people were trekking in Nepal. I spent time getting to know the trails and writing up itineraries, and I decided to open a business hiking in the mountains.”
Despite being told that he should be investing in sightseeing tour buses instead of outdoor equipment, because Americans weren’t likely to come in droves to walk in the Andes, Ferreyros’s travel experience and curiosity paid off. “Now, when I meet some of the younger generation, they tell me that when they study stewards of communities and the environment, Explorandes is among the positive examples they discuss,” says Ferreyros.
Explorandes aims to always keep the local population in the foreground: creating jobs in the communities and strengthening awareness of resource protection and conservation, contributing to the development of the notion of a sustainable future. The company has developed projects in association with friends and partners from native communities of Amaru and Umasbamba in the Sacred Valley, as well as Llachón in Puno.
“In the Sacred Valley, there are two different lakes that you can visit that offer aquatic activities,” says Martin Romero, the company’s general manager. “We have a partnership with the Piuray Outdoor Center where we rent the land and pay a fee for each guest. We employ the family who owns the land and community to help with kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes, as well as a culinary experience. At the other lake, where outfitters purchased land and bring in people to work, the vibe is very different. And that difference isn’t something you can really describe or put in a brochure, but it’s something that you feel in how people look at you and welcome you.”
Explorandes also partners with Alto Perú, an NGO that provides opportunities for local children in Lima in art and sport. The organization “promotes social inclusion and education for children and young adults and aids them in developing marketable skills in order to provide promising futures free of crime and violence,” Explorandes says. Guests can join walks through the neighborhood where Alto Perú operates in the company of people who have a personal connection to the organization’s projects to gain insight into life in an underserved community.
“It’s inherent in the business model of adventure travel, or visiting remote places, that you have to take care of the people and the environment,” says Romero. “Otherwise, you don’t have a tourism product to sell sustainably over time.”
Explorandes has developed a sustainability management system certified under the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Tourism Standards for Inbound Tour Operators and is accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. In 2019, the company passed its first recertification audit since gaining the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, and it met 100 percent of the critical indicators in business, environmental, and socio-cultural aspects.
Also in 2019, Explorandes was among 17 companies recognized by Peru’s National Protected Areas Service (SERNANP) for responsible environmental practices on the Inca Trail Network in reducing single-use plastics. After the implementation of new sustainable policies, the company eliminated more than 2,700 plastic packing units annually (bags and bottles) in its trekking operations.
Explorandes, in alliance with Regenera—a network of urban custodians and rural guardians dedicated to caring for and restoring nature and combating climate change—has been offsetting 100 percent of its direct carbon emissions since January 2018. Along with other Regenera-allied companies in Manu, Explorandes says it’s helped save a total of 778 acres of rain forest.
Developing adventure tourism based on sustainability, respect for local communities, and support of the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources has been the goal for Explorandes since its beginning. It’s why guests gain much more than a check on their bucket list when visiting Peru.
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