We are EcoCamp

EcoCamp team 2013/14
 

EcoCamp Founder

EcoCamp is owned and operated by Chilean in-bound tour operator Cascada Expediciones, specialising in adventure trips of the highest quality. Cascada was founded in 1991 by university friends Yerko Ivelic and Javier Lopez and environmental steward Nani Astorga and over the last twenty years has been running eco-friendly trips in Patagonia, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia with activities including trekking, mountaineering, horseback riding, rafting, kayaking, skiing, wildlife observation and wine tours. In the last twenty years over 20,000 people visiting Chile have enjoyed Cascada-operated tours at EcoCamp Patagonia and throughout Chile. Check out Cascada's photo timeline from the last 20 years!

EcoCamp was opened in 2001 by Javier, Yerko and Nani - The region's first fully sustainable accommodation south of the Amazon and the world's first geodesic hotel room. Check out EcoCamp's photo timeline and discover the landmark events since its opening.

The team at EcoCamp is an energetic mix of guides, cooks, assistants, maintenance staff, drivers, housekeepers and administrators, mainly from the neighbouring town of Puerto Natales (180km) or Punta Arenas (330km). Their hardworking and positive attitude ensures service levels for both guests and the environment are of the highest quality. Our superstar guides are mainly locals who have grown up breathing fresh Patagonian air. They are all fun-loving, environmentally-conscious trekking enthusiasts who love their job and can be counted on for knowledge, reliability and entertainment.
 

EcoCamp's Responsible Tourism Policy

We will endeavour to adhere to the following goals in order to deliver sustainable, responsibly operated holidays where EcoCamp's guests, staff, community and surrounding environment are of the utmost priority 

 

1. Create and provide an innovative, high-quality experience for each individual during their trip

At Ecocamp we focus on the whole experience. We want travellers to enjoy every moment of their trip, and feel both relaxed and energised by each activity. Our trips are unique, eco-friendly and carefully designed to ensure maximum enjoyment and positive experiences. Staying at Ecocamp is an opportunity for guests to switch off from their normal lives, connect with nature, get to know a new place, and feel refreshed afterwards. We choose all of our suppliers extremely carefully, ensuring they meet with all our standards and expectations so that guests are comfortable all the way through their Patagonia experience, from being picked up at the airport to chatting with their guide on the mountainside.

 

2. Develop and promote environmentally-friendly tourism, which is 100% sustainable wherever possible

We carefully select our providers and fellow tour operators based on their environmentally-sustainable policies. At EcoCamp we have worked to become fully sustainable. We constantly study, test, purchase and install sustainable technologies for renewal energy supply, insulation and waste management. The Environmental Management System at the Ecocamp Patagonia has been certified under ISO14.001 by a third party. This is the only lodge or hotel to date in Chile and Patagonia that has received such recognition.

In the year 2008, Ecocamp Patagonia became a Carbon Neutral company. Our goal is to minimize our emissions of CO2 as much as possible and in the future hopefully be a CO2-free lodge. Between June 2009 and June 2010 we offset 183.68 tons of CO2 emissions. We are one of just two hotels in Torres del Paine not using generators to produce electricity, and using gas for refrigeration and heating.

We have a basic policy of environmentally-sensitive management of waste which includes bringing as little paper, tin and plastic into the wilderness as possible. All waste brought in is stored according to its recycling status, whether plastic, glass, organic matter, paper or batteries. Organic waste is feasted on by the pigs at our neighbouring farm, and other waste sent to Punta Arenas for recycling. We obtain energy from 100% natural and renewable sources.

40% of our energy is solar - in summer Patagonia receives 17 hours of daylight- and 60% hydro-electric. We only use propane gas to heat water. EcoCamp has composting chambers which collect waste from toilets. Solid waste remains in the chamber, mixed with paper and wood chips, and is heated to keep microorganisms alive and the compost process active. Liquids are passed through a cleaning chamber, filtered, then passed into the ground. To date this is the only composting unit used in Patagonia, where low temperatures mean great effort is required to maintain the active process. 

 

3. Support nature conservation and the preservation of flora and fauna

We respect all flora and fauna and foster an understanding of nature’s importance among our neighbours by sharing all our innovations with the local Corporacion Fomento & Producción (CORFO), so they can help other entrepreneurs follow the same path. We focus on developing successful, concrete examples that can be imitated by other developers. By doing this, we motivate the building of portable lodgings that don’t have a huge impact on the terrain in Chilean National Parks and don’t disrupt the flora or fauna.

EcoCamp’s design was inspired by the traditional Kawesqar (the ancient inhabitants) hut resembling an igloo and a dome at the same time, designed to conserve natural energy and heat. Between the low-impact design of the domes, the use of composting toilets, micro hydro power, wind power, recycling, the minimization of garbage and wastes, we leave no trace in the park. Since the EcoCamp is built inside a National Park and wood from native forests isn’t meant to be touched, we decided to build the structures outside the park, with materials such as galvanized iron, canvas, and pine wood.

All constructions at EcoCamp are built over raised platforms that allow wild animals to pass underneath the structures. There are no fences surrounding the EcoCamp, so horses can come in freely to graze in the mornings. Solar lamps light the walkways and domes at night. They are very subtle so as to not disturb night animals. Through the years we have witnessed several wild animal sightings close to EcoCamp, including pumas. This is welcomed proof that animals have not felt threatened by Ecocamp, nor have we disrupted their natural environment or surroundings.

 

4. Ensure excellent working conditions for all staff at EcoCamp, enabling their personal and professional development

EcoCamp's parent company (Cascada Expediciones) employs approximately 25 people in its Santiago office all year round - working in sales, marketing, traffic, operations and accounting - in addition to staff in Patagonia at Ecocamp. Our personnel at EcoCamp in the 2010-2011 season consisted of 39 employees: 5 people working in Punta Arenas and at the Puerto Natales office (two of Torres del Paine’s closest cities), 16 people attending to guests at the camp, 6 drivers and 12 experienced guides. 90% of our staff are native to Patagonia or long-term residents in Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas.

All EcoCamp staff live an eco-friendly life, taking care of energy, water and waste management. Staff share the environmentally-sustainable philosophy put into practice over the last twenty years by the Cascada, and encourage guests, suppliers and shareholders to think and act alike.