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Colombia

Reforestation + Community Development + Adventure

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Bogota to the Lost City

A journey of adventure and contribution

We are really excited by this new program as Colombia has well and truely shaken off its bad boy of a reputation and the doors are wide open to travellers who will transported into an awesome vibe of latino-caribbean culture, stunning architecture and delicious food. But you know us - we're always banging our drum and ask you to explore and contribute, to be so much more than a backpacker...to make a difference to our planet and the people you meet along the way.

So, this is our plan - you will start your journey in the hip city of Bogota, before heading across to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and then down to pristine Caribbean beaches.

Along the way you help with our reforestation projects, work alongside local Colombians to restore rural homes before trekking the worlds second largest canyon, whitewater down the River Fonce and complete the 4 day Lost City trek. This is an awesome combination of contribution and adventure, all organised for you. You will see all the lonely planet highlights and so much more as we get you off the beaten track to live and breathe real life.

Now is the time to visit this rediscovered gem before the masses pile in.


Welcome to an exhilarating journey through Colombia to explore and protect this unique country. Starting in the hip city of Bogota, you'll then head north across the snow-capped peaks of the Andes and down to pristine Caribbean beaches.


Program Itinerary

Your journey will start in the hip city of Bogota and end in the latino-caribbean town of Cartagena having experienced a fantastic mix of adventure and projects in the Andes and jungle.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Week 1

Bogota Explore and Reforestation

Old Town and Create a Community Orchard

Your journey will start in the amazing capital city of Bogata where you have 2 to 3 days to explore the colourful old town filled with museums, universities, arts, fashion and the houses of parliament. Combine a cultural, visual feast with your first environmental project, organised by Acualos – a local water company which was founded over 50 years ago by the grandparents of our in-country partners, Jakera.

Acualos are committed to helping local communities save water and create more sustainable community practises.They have asked us to help with one of their projects which is to donate and create a community orchard and nursery from scratch.

This will involve a big community, cultural day as everyone gets stuck in together.

Accommodation

Jakera Hostel in Old Town. This is owned and run by our co-ordinators who are responsible for organising the program.

Food

2 meals a day provided. Dinner will be extra in one of tthe many cafes. Budget about $10 per meal.

Weeks 2 & 3

San Gil Overview

Adevnture capital of Colombia

You will take the bus out of Bogota to reach the adventure town of San Gill in the heart of the country, and in the Colombian coffee region. This lively Colombian town offers an abundance of traditional cultural experiences, as well as breath-taking outdoor adventures - so get your walking boots ready.

Monday to Friday you’ll be busy in the great outdoors getting stuck into a mix of trekking and whitewater adventures interwoven with community and environmental projects.

Accommodation

You will stay in the Waterfall Hostel which is owned by our project co-ordinator, right in the heart of this groovy colonial town.
Expect dormitory style accommodation with shared bathrooms.

Food

Breakfast and lunch provided during the week.
Brunch only at the weekends.
For supper most volunteers eat in one of the local restaurants or cook in the hostel's shared kitchen.

Adventure

Exploring Rafting + Canyon Trekking

Adventure Intertwined

Interwoven with your project work during these 2 weeks you will have the opportunity to navigate:

River Fonce - Whitewater Rafting
Nothing like a touch of adrenaline, a day out on the river, through the gorges, to tackle grade 3 rapids.

Chicamocha Canyon Expedition - Second biggest canyon in the world
You will start the trek traversing across the crest of the 120 million year old canyon, stopping for breath taking views and fruit stops along the way. It's about 4 km of canyon crest walking, before you reach the entry point for descent. The climb down is shaded and can be a little technical at points, as it takes you through single track and isolated terrain, passing through tobacco and goat farms on the way down.

Eventually you will reach more level terrain and stop at the 'jacuzzi'' for a picnic - a natural rock pool of fresh flowing natural pools, before a 45 mins final push to reach camp.

The following morning its up early to ensure you get away before the canyon heats up. This time you will trek over a fixed stone footpath, one of Colombia's oldest roads / footpaths, originally built by the Spanish crown, linking Santa Marta on the coast, the original capital, with Bogota. A hugely significant road in Colombia's history. This is about a 4 hour trek up and out. Once at the summit, it’s a jeep pic-up for a celebratory local lunch in the old town, before heading back to the Waterfall Hostel for a rest.

Accommodation

Camping on overnight trek.

Projects

Environmental Reforestation + Community

Making a difference

Reforestation
Interwoven into the first 2 weeks will be a couple of environmental days run by the National Parks office, focusing on reforestation. Here you will help develop their tree nurseries in the National Parks before planting out the saplings and maintaining the young trees in designated areas.

Community and Environment
In San Gil, you will join forces with a vulnerable kids foundation and the local fire brigade of Pinchote. The plan is to encourage these kids to work with you to replant the wilderness areas which have been destroyed by fire and primitive farming techniques and to clean the river – teaching them about local environmental issues and how they can protect their planet.

Sustainable Housing Project
Last year a project started to create a house for a local family made out of local materials – the

intention was for this to be a sustainable model for house building in the rural areas. However, the project has completely stalled due to lack of funds. Our plan is to resurrect the project and breathe life back into the house which will become a home for the family and an example of what can be built for other rural farmers. It will be a pinnacle of hope and something that can become a larger sustainable housing project, using traditional and easily available natural materials.

Weeks 4

Sierra Navada de Santa Marta Overview

Enter the Sacred Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Next up it’s time to head North to the beaches of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is considered sacred by the four indigenous groups that live here; Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo.

They all believe the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the beating heart of the world: what happens here happens everywhere, and when it’s rivers run dry, it’s ice caps melt and it’s endemic species disappear, so do the rest of the world’s. They maintain their deep commitment to restoring equilibrium to the Earth through daily meditations, ritual practices and mental discipline. It is an amazing place to visit.

Adventure

Lost City Trek Jungle Trekking

Lost City Trek and Cartegana Culture and Caribbean

Your final week and it’s time to head North to the Sierra Nevada foothills and Caribbean coast.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is considered sacred by the four indigenous groups that live here; Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo. They all believe their home is the beating heart of the world and what happens here happens everywhere – so, if the rivers run dry, it’s ice caps melt and it’s endemic species disappear, so do the rest of the world’s. They maintain their deep commitment to restoring equilibrium to the Earth through daily meditations, ritual practices and mental discipline.

Lost City Trek
One of the program highlights. A 4-day expedition through the inspirational and breath-taking sacred Sierra Nevada valley.

Starting in the morning with a 1 hr 4x4 ride to the 'machete' starting point, before the beginning of a 1.5 day climb to the site through the ‘holy’ terrain of the indigenous people, who will teach you about their traditions as you overnight in their shelters. The site itself is both awe inspiring and spectacular – so get ready.

Accommodation

Camping in tents when out on a trek.

Food

3 meals a day provided when trekking.

Last days

Cartagena Explore & Relax

Latino - Caribbean Culture
Your final few days will be spent in the hip colonial town of Cartegena, exploring the markets and old town, swimming in the Caribbean and sampling the nightlife, before heading home after an action packed 4 weeks.

The perfect finale...

Accommodation

Casa Romana Hostel.
Shared dorms.

Food

Breakfast and lunch provided.
Dinner will be extra out and and about in one of the many cafes.

Program Details & Costs

We have 3 departures for this 4-week program throughout the year: January, May and July, where you can do everything described in the itinerary. If you want to go for less time anything is possible, just get in touch for more details.

Options and costs

Whats included?

Aventure

From trekking to mountain biking and rafting, get ready for an adventure.

Contrast

Two weeks spent in the mountains before heading down for two weeks on the Caribbean coast.

Beach Life

End your program on a Caribbean beach

Social Life

The program can accommodate up to 12 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Monday to Friday

Expect to be busy with your projects and adventures 5 days per week.

Weekends

Weekends will generally be free time. You’re welcome to stay and chill at the base or head off for a change of scene.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Paragliding in San Gil
  • Yoga classes
  • Learning Spanish
  • Nights out to experience Latin music and culture

It's time to reveal Colombia's hidden wonders

Colombia is free and celebrating again, and now is the time to come see its secrets first hand.

In Colombia we are focused on discovering and portraying the 'real’ Colombia, with its authentic traditions and its genuine people. We are focused on discovering its great outdoors, trekking its lands, camping in its wilderness and volunteering for its social and environmental needs.

The program will take you across the country, where you will encounter an incredible variety of first hand cultural experiences including; pre-conquests indigenous peoples and rituals, colonial rein, to an independent and now modern-day, cool Colombia.

There is so much to see and do… hurry-on-over.

Leaper's Highlights

As this is a new program for 2020 we don't have any diaries just yet BUT have a read of these from Costa Rica to get a feeling of Leap team life.

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

"​I highly recommend first time travellers to use the Leap"

The trip to Madagascar is incredible as you get to experience such a diverse, beautiful island. The locals are super friendly and life on camp is great as you start to feel like a family. As the leap is one of three volunteering schemes on the same camp it’s easy to make lots of friends. Scuba diving was the most amazing experience.

Teaching was very very rewarding and made it easier to make friends with the local community. As I was ill whilst out there I can honestly say that The Leap was definitely worth the price as I was cared for very well and had someone come to hospital with me and translate everything as well as being very kind and caring. Overall, Madagascar was an amazing trip and I will definitely go back.

- Lucy Newman

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The Leap took all the responsibility and stress out of the gap year experience. Would advise that all teenagers do this part of their gap year before they 'free' travel. The Leap are highly professional and inclusive of parents.

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"Amazing hospitality and care"

These 4 weeks in the Namibian desert were definitely an unforgettable experience. We all learnt so much about not only wildlife conservation, but also the essential camping skills and how liberating life is without wifi!

The base-camp was very comfortable, clean, and homely with Red and Dre's amazing hospitality and care. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone of any age. I have no doubt that the landscape and tranquility cannot be found anywhere else.

- Sascha

"A great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring"

I really think the leap provides an amazing unique travel experience. We got to get so involved with the local people and learn about the country in a way I don't think I would have experienced without the leap. I did travel with other companies after in different countries and did not get the same sense of being immersed in the culture.

I travelled to Borneo with the company and the trip had a great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring. I made friends for life as I am still in close contact with the friends I made with the leap and would recommend this company to everyone. All the staff I spoke to on the phone planning it and then who looked after us in the country were so friendly.

- Alice Sharp

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I had the most incredible time in Namibia even though it flew by. We achieved so much in a short month. The conservation activities were fun and fascinating to be a part of.

A particular favourite of mine was invasive tree demolition and obviously white water rafting. Having limited WiFi made it much easier to click with other people and I’ve made some great friends. Red and Andrea are truly inspiring people and I wish them the best of luck and hope to visit soon to see the progress.

- Ivo

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