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Home away from home

Date: October 8, 2020 | By: Deborah Kilcollins | Category: Travel Blog

Dear Agency partners,

The fact that I am writing this from the Equator should tell you how far the travel industry has come since mid-March. I arrived in Ecuador earlier this week and everything went like clockwork. My negative PCR Covid test certificate in hand, I boarded my JetBlue flight to Quito. I don’t think I have ever seen a plane this clean!  Upon arrival, we were escorted to a closed gate where we completed a health declaration form and had our temperatures taken. After that, it was off to immigration and customs, both seamless. We then went out to the arrivals hall where Big Five guide Javier was waiting with a smile.

Ecuador, like Big Five, has its WTTC Safe Travel stamp and all hygiene protocols in place. We headed into the San Marcos neighborhood in Quito and to my favorite boutique hotel in town, Illa Experience Hotel. Some things have changed slightly. Upon arrival, my hands were sanitized and temperature taken again before we checked into the hotel and went to my room. It all went smoothly.

The next morning, I had an amazing breakfast at the hands of chef Alejandro Chamorro, one of the top ten chefs in all of Ecuador. Then, it was off to the Cotopaxi region to a hacienda I have long called home, Santa Ana. This is the part where I stress that Ecuador is more than just the Galapagos Islands. Like no other country, Ecuador cannibalizes itself because each region literally competes with the others. How do you help fix that? Add two nights more to the mainland to compliment the Galapagos experience. I also have a few broader ideas that the Big Five team is working on.

Back to Cotopaxi, something really special happened here. First, we engaged with the community to discover their needs and, then, began planting trees. Next, we began looking for a viable solution to loose garbage since there isn’t regular garbage pick-up here.

While here, we had a sneak peak at the hottest property coming to Ecuador in 2021, a new glamping experience with direct views of Cotopaxi volcano. Make sure to watch the video of our visit. We were the first ones to walk through the property and we couldn’t be more excited! For those of you who love the starbeds of East Africa and the glamping yurts in Jordan, this is your place! You can bet that we are already working on a new program! If you just can’t wait, explore Big Five Ecuador now.

Finally, we ended at Hacienda Zuleta with my friend Fernando. This is where we come back to the known path, to a place of magic. Of course, no sooner did I get back on the path that Fernando pulled me off the path again to the other side of his land overlooking Cayambe Volcano, which sits at the same latitude line as Mt Kenya. Since I was born in Nairobi and know the Mt Kenya region well, seeing this sight 40 years later felt like it brought me full circle.

I intentionally skipped the Galapagos on this trip to showcase the mainland. A quarter of the population of the country is indigenous.  Limiting a visit to just Quito doesn’t give visitors the chance to see and experience the unique and authentic aspects of mainland Ecuador. Like a growing list of other countries, Ecuador has taken all the necessary steps to insure all is ready and waiting for travelers.

Big Five only recognizes a destination as open once we have official government documents. We are now live on Axus and Travefy and have loaded these documents on to both platforms already.

So do your best Neil Armstrong impression and take that first step.


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