We have said ours is a community-based tourism company, but what do we mean when we use these words? Aren’t there other companies that also do community tourism in Santa Marta? In fact, what is community tourism? In this article we will answer these three questions.

What is community-based tourism?

In the community-based tourism concept there are some key factors that we take into account: firstly the participation of local residents in tourism activity, by inviting tourists to stay in their homes, eat local food, provide a cultural exchange, among others. And secondly, the way the tourism activities improve their economy and quality of life. In many cases the community can partner with the private sector, which provides logistic, clientele, marketing and other expertise.

Community-based tourism makes it possible for visitors to discover things that would otherwise be impossible or difficult to see or experience, such as get to exclusive places to see wildlife, or other off the beaten track tourist attractions and/or know the traditions of very reserved communities. On the community side, however, it opens up to commercial and cultural exchange that also allows it to gain visibility locally and even internationally.

Community tourism in Santa Marta

Today Santa Marta has a growing portfolio of activities that belong to the community tourism category, some of them in the urban area where there is a social work in the background and approach with some popular neighborhoods of the city, in the rural areas, with peasant communities, where you can do some activities of the agrotourism and ecotourism, and of course, with the indigenous communities Arhuaca, Kogi and Wiwa, to know their vision of the world, their crafts and culture.

Is safe the community tourism in Santa Marta?

Fortunately we can say yes to that question. Perhaps what could concern you a little more about this type of tourism in Santa Marta is the issue of infrastructure. Some places are quite far from the city, have limited or no mobile coverage, and also have limited some services or amenities. However, as we mentioned earlier, the fact that the options of community-based tourism in Santa Marta continues to grow, is also a guarantee that efforts are being made to continually improve. For example, in Ciudad Perdida there is already an internet connection in every campsite, two years ago the communication was much more limited.

Tourism companies in Santa Marta that do community-based tourism

If you are a tourist, you will have seen that the most important tourist destinations in the city are right… on the outskirts of the city. And it is on the outskirts of the city, in the rural area, in the mountains, where we find the peasant and indigenous communities that move most of the community tourism in the region.

Many times these initiatives require the support of already established companies, as we saw, this partnertship benefits both parties. Although this is true in the majority of cases there are businesses created by the communities themselves, in this way they get even more resources. Mega Sierra Tour is in this category, we are a company created by the community and for the community.

The communities are Mega Sierra Tour

Rural school at El Mamey
El Mamey one of the communities represented by Mega Sierra Tour

At this point you can see the difference between those businesses that support community tourism and those whose very roots are in the community. For this reason we take pride in the work we do and the impact we generate. In total, Mega Sierra Tour represents 6 communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, two of them are La Aguacatera, and El Mamey, the community of the village where the Lost City trek starts. The others are: Honduras, Casa ‘e tabla, San Martín and Quebrada del Sol.

All of them, have a great potential for ecotourism, that is why Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D are working on the “Colibrí Trochilinas de mi Sierra” initiative, to bring more development to these communities. We know, both, our beloved customers and all the people that work with us, will be supporting this great project called Mega Sierra Tour, a company that takes care of the people and the environment.

natural soap Mega Sierra Tour
The package of the natural soaps are made of renewable materials.

Mega Sierra Tour takes pride in providing tours with the goal of improving the lives of the communities of the region. But we have a commitment with our customers and the environment too. Talking about this should not be limited to simple words written somewhere, but actions, whether they are small or big ones.

We make some improvements that continually show to our customers, our commitment with them and the land we are preserving. In this article, we will mention our recent changes that will enhance your appreciation for what happens behind the Lost City trek by Mega Sierra Tour.

Our contribution to the health of our rivers and streams

Any human activity impacts in any way the environment, and tourism is not the exception. For example, all the personal care stuff we use have chemicals that unavoidably end in our streams. We are so conscious of this, for that reason, Mega Sierra Tour is including natural soaps in the tour as a gift for our customers. They are made of coca leaves or organic coffee, in a way they will not pollute our streams. These soaps not only are made of natural products connected with the Sierra Nevada and our native communities they are our contribution to the health of our rivers and a ecological present to whom is choosing us.

Our contribution to the farmers of the region and the improvements of the food you eat

The area where the tour happens is a fertile area where most farmers cultivate mainly for their own. Nonetheless, many of them produce enough to sell to others. As they are not producing food on a large scale, many of these products are organic.

We saw many of these products could be used as ingredients in the kitchens of the Lost City trail. That way we would provide more organic food to the tourists while we do our contribution to the communities as well. In january 2020, we started changing some ingredients and providing new recipes to the tourists. So, now we have a healthier and more varied offer. This change has been progressive and slow, but we are happy with the results obtained: the food continues to be as delicious as always, but less repetitive. Variety is the spice of life!

Our contribution to a well informed tourist

The latest efforts of Mega Sierra Tour include to provide better information to the tourists and our commercial allies. In our blog you will not only find updated information but also the most accurate it could be. For example, our announcement about the cancellation of the 3-day Lost City Trek was one of the most read articles, and believe it or not, up to this date, there are Lost City tour operators still offering a tour they cannot sell anymore! On the other hand, outdated blog articles claim things like: You will be totally offline while doing the trek, give you a wrong price, the transportation used is a “chiva” bus (a typical colorful bus in Colombia), or the tour is not provided in English. The truth is: Most campsites have internet connection (you need to pay a small fee to have access), the price in 2020 is $ 1,150,000 COP, the car used is an air-conditioned 4×4 one, and all the companies provide Spanish/English translators.

Stream Lost City trail
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”

In our article about why you should do the Lost City trek with Mega Sierra we provide you reasons about why we are a different company and the experience we provide is quite better than others. We hope you can see what makes our company reliable, quality of service focused, and of course, our commitment to the environment and you.

 

Mega Sierra Tour is proud to tell the world it belongs to 6 rural communities (veredas) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Honduras, El Mamey, La Aguacatera, Casa ‘e tabla, San Martín and Quebrada del Sol. As any community tourism based company, Mega Sierra Tour is committed to the economic development  and preservation of the region.

Despite these six communities cover a much wider area than the Ciudad Perdida – Teyuna Trail, this was practically the only tourist route being exploited for tourism. Based on that, Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D. created an initiative to involve all the communities more actively. That is where the project “Colibrí Trochilinas de mi Sierra” came from. Originally, the initiative intended to create birdwatching routes, hence the name of it, Colibrí (Hummingbird) and Trochilinas, from Trochilinae, a subfamily of humingbirds.

Liliana Torres one of the pioneers of the project, on the left of the picture, receiving the certificate of the “Misión Pymes” at FITUR.

The project is supported by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and Procolombia trough a strategy that help similar projects nationwide. It goes without saying, there was a national call to review the initiatives and ours was one of 52 community tourism projects selected that together form the Red Nacional de Turismo Comunitario (National Network of Community Tourism). Now, Mega Sierra Tour envisions the expansion of the project to cover not only birdwatching routes but ethnotourism, adventure and others, due to the almost infinite potential of this area.

Recently, Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D. were at FITUR. With the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and Procolombia support there was a great opportunity to show the initiative to more people and learn so much more about the development of such projects. It was an honor for us to represent the community tourism in Santa Marta at this event and we hope to continue to cultivate the seed of community tourism that is truly responsible for the environment and the people to whom we serve: our communities and you.