Depart in the morning from Quito and drive towards the towering Cotopaxi Volcano and arrive to the Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve to explore the forest canopy by zipline. This system was originally used by scientists who were doing research in the forest canopy and includes five cables between 100 and 480 meters long. The zipline provides a great vantage point for birdwatching and enjoying the scenery and is an adrenaline rush as you soar above the trees. After a pack lunch, the group will be lead by the reserve's park rangers to perform trail maintenance and rehabilitation.
In the evening, drive to El Porvenir, a fully-functioning hacienda and our base for the next two nights, set high in the Andean paramo with spectacular views of Cotopaxi. Enjoy a nice traditional dinner and relax by the fireplace.
Click here to watch Youtube video to learn more about El Porvenir and the Tierra del Volcan's area near Cotopaxi.
A brief orientation is given in the morning to get acquainted with the horses. We head out on horseback in the spirit of the Chagras (Ecuadorian highland cowboys) to visit the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, riding side by side with herds of wild horses and bulls. As we cross the paramo, enjoy the bird and wildlife, and the native guides will share their knowledge of medicinal plants. Afterwards a delicious lunch of local dishes awaits us upon our return to the farmhouse.
During the afternoon, we participate in a forest reforestation initiative to plant trees in Hacienda El Porvenir to regenerate forests that were adversely affected by wildfire and outdated practices of clearcutting. This program has planted over 400,000 trees to date with a goal of one million trees, and the forests provide crucial habitat for wildlife and protects the soil for productive agricultural use and the watershed that supplies the water to Quito. The group will participate in tending to saplings in the nursery, planting, weeding existing areas, and preparing land for next season's planting. Return to El Porvenir for dinner.
After enjoying the views of the volcano over the last two days, we drive for 45 minutes into the Cotopaxi National Park. An hour hike takes us to the climbing hut (refugio) and a nearby glacier at 4,800 meters (14,760 ft) above sea level.
Continue by vehicle to visit Laguna de Limpiopungo, a shallow Andean lake that is a great bird habitat, and have lunch. We will work with Cotopaxi's rangers to perform maintenance on the self-guided trail around this lake. In the late afternoon, return to Quito.