With Colombia’s turbulent past rapidly receding, the nation is in the midst of a tourism boom. Economic growth, safety, and stability are on the rise in all corners of the country, and international visitors are joyously rediscovering the remarkable diversity and warmth of this traditional gateway to South America. Envoys programs bring you close to the reality of the Colombian people, from indigenous rainforest tribes to coffee plantation workers.
Envoys partner organization Off Bound Adventures has taken thousands of students throughout Colombia, developing strong connections with local communities and allowing us to explore the full range of destinations within the birthplace of “magical realism.”
Envoys students pursue rigorous research projects during their time in Colombia. Project themes and research questions are identified during the pre-trip online courses through a process of consultation with school leaders, academic experts, development practitioners, and business professionals. Potential project themes include:
- The implications of being in a “Post-Conflict Era”
- The impact of violence on Colombian identity and foreign relations
- The contrasts between rural and urban Colombians
- International trade and coffee plantations in Colombia
- The development of eco-tourism
[Envoys] knows kids extremely well…they know how to be cool with them while still commanding authority and establishing ground rules…I was incredibly impressed with the protocols established and put in place by Envoys.Micah M., Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Peru 2015
With its emphasis on empathy and general intelligence in planning, Envoys has quickly emerged as a premier global program provider. They are well worth the attention of any of our schools.Paul Miller Former Director of Global Initiatives,NAIS
Envoys was at the top of their game from start to finish. What initially interested me was their focus on curriculum during pre-departure meetings and the program itself. Envoys cares deeply about the experience of the participants and faculty. [They] constantly ask for constructive criticism and make changes when necessary.Joe Vogel, Executive Director Global Education Benchmark Group
Envoys carefully constructed an educational trip for students that purposefully engaged them to think, reflect, act, and enjoy. The travel logistics were always well-planned, and I had peace of mind knowing that my teen-aged daughter was in safe, responsible, and caring handsAlice T, Parent Deerfield South Korea, 2015
I could not have been more satisfied with the performance of Envoys throughout the entire process of planning and executing this trip. All Envoys staff demonstrated the utmost professionalism and dedication, as well as knowledge and competence. I am so glad that [we] chose to partner with Envoys!Rick S, Traveling Faculty Hingham Japan 2015
The team at Envoys did their very best to ensure that the the “i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed.” The staff was also quick to respond to any and all questions that arose prior, during and after the trip. My husband and I greatly appreciated the time Envoys took to provide preparation tips as well the planned activity schedules to help make our child’s South African trip a safe and memorable adventure”Regina J, Parent Dalton South Africa 2014
We had an amazing program. It was a biology teacher’s dream and Felipe and his crew couldn’t have been more thorough and professional to work with. Thanks for all of your efforts to organize an unforgettable experience for us all.Gerry, Traveling Faculty LCC Colombia, 2016
As a parent I felt the experience was well orchestrated and managed by Envoys. As a participant my daughter loved the whole experience; it is something she will treasure for the rest of her lifeLinda T, Parent Hingham Japan 2015
I don’t think it is possible to pull a trip like the Amazon and the many activities that you directed without the sense of purpose you have, without your drive for experiential learning for teenagers. All our experiences with the envoys team were amazing!Angela, Traveling Faculty RoundSquare Colombia 2015
It was not only the good times with our friends or the relationships we built but how we were after we came back, returning to this agitated society with a new view of ourselves and not just our impact on the world, but the world’s impact on us.Gabriela, Student Deerfield Colombia, 2014
The individuals we worked with, without exception, were all professional, courteous, patient, and greatly attentive to detail. As stated above, Envoys is flexible and works hard to make sure that if you have custom aspects to a trip that you want to add, they will work hard to make it happen for you.Adam H, Faculty Belmont Hill Japan 2016
I can honestly say that this was the best 10 days of my entire life. I feel as though I have grown as a person, and that I have made lifelong connections. This experience changed my life, so thank you very much to the entire Envoys staff!
Eliza C, Student Hingham Japan 2015
Every single person working for Envoys is excellent and committed to the kids and their experience, not just during the trip, but before and after. We would recommend Envoys to anyone looking for a high quality and enriching summer experience.Amy G, Parent Envoys Malawi 2014 & 2015
The Envoys staff has been amazing. I have bonded with each of them in different ways and they made the trip to Colombia nicer that I expected. Envoys helped me open myself up to interacting with the locals wherever we traveled!Illeana G, Student Deerfield Colombia 2014
My goals were to learn about post-conflict Colombia and step out of my comfort zone. These were fulfilled each and every day through activities, reflections, and first-hand experience.Julia D, Student GEBG Colombia 2016
I was incredibly impressed by the care taken by Envoys. Before we even hit the ground, there was an emphasis on comprehending impact on our destination’s environment that I appreciated. Throughout the trip, our Envoys leaders made sure that we continued to be conscious of impact. That awareness of cause and effect is something that often gets lost when traveling, and Envoys did not allow it to. During this trip, there was never a moment I did not feel safe and cared for nor a moment where I did not feel I was learning something!Keylee S, Student Dalton South Africa 2014
“Many student groups participate in ‘Voluntourism’. This trip did not attempt that, but rather funneled the collective energy of each member into meaningful, mutually beneficial cultural interactions..Thank you so much for this unforgettable and transformational experience.Altana, Student Friends Seminary South Africa, 2016
The Envoys staff were very open about sharing their first-hand experiences, which was a game-changer in terms of learning about post-apartheid South Africa. Also, having everything planned to the T made me feel very safe. I knew that I was in good hands.Gio H, Student Friends Seminary South Africa 2016
The Envoys Staff were exceptionally committed to us and to the goals of our trip. They were thoughtful, kind, caring, friendly, with great sense of humor, yet serious in their connection to the ethos of professional development that was our trip’s purpose. I was struck over and over again by how they literally RAN to be in the right place to respond to any given situation.Constance, Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Colombia 2016
Day One (Bogota)
We arrive in Bogota, Colombia’s modern and inviting capital. Following a thorough health and safety briefing, Envoys students and staff work together to review the content covered and learning goals set during our online courses. Students set out goals for learning about Latin American culture, interacting with local citizens, exploring the wildlife, and sharing the adventure with their families and classmates. This process empowers students to take responsibility for their own development during the trip, both for their research outputs as well as their individual growth.
We then set out on a tour of this fascinating city, moving from the colonial architecture of the historic La Candelaria district, to the quirky Botero Museum. We end with a tour of the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), home of the world’s largest pre-Hispanic gold work collection.
Day Two (Leticia, Amazonas)
We begin our day with an early-morning cable car ride to the Monserrate Sanctuary, rising 3,152 meters above sea level. This lofty setting gives us a great way to view the expansive municipality of Bogota.
We then head to the airport for a short flight to Leticia, Colombia’s southernmost town, and one of the major ports on the Amazon River. After checking into our hotel, Envoys staff discuss the significance of Leticia in international law as the site of a border decision by the fledgling League of Nations. We then embark on a leisurely tour of Leticia, letting the ambience slowly engulf our senses.
Days Three to Five (Marasha Nature Reserve)
We rise early to head to the spectacular Marasha Nature Reserve, situated in the midst of the Amazon River Basin. We work together to organize our expedition into the reserve, thereby building confidence in students’ ability to navigate foreign terrain.
As we move through the reserve during the next three days, we encounter a wide array of wildlife, both in the jungle canopy and alongside us. Envoys staff and local guides provide detailed lessons and activities to allow students to engage with the natural environment around them and learn about the unique challenges of building a tourist-based economy while preserving the environment. On the evening of the fifth day, we return by plane to Bogota.
Day Six (Cartagena)
We take a short flight to the coastal city of Cartagena. This remarkable city has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with mazes of cobbled alleyways, enormous balconies shrouded in bougainvillea, and a series of doors that have to been seen to be believed. We move through the city at a relaxed pace, pausing at cafes and shops and reflecting on the remarkably different environments we have experienced in our short week in Colombia.
Day Seven (Tayrona)
We take a short flight to Santa Marta and then a private bus into the magnificent Tayrona National Park. This 37,000-acre ecotourism park includes reefs, beaches, mangroves, and Indian ruins. We move through the park slowly, learning about the unique biosystems at work around us.
Day Eight (Tayrona)
We visit the EcoLodges of Tayrona and learn about the challenges and opportunities of running an eco-tourist business within a national park. Envoys staff support students in considering how adaptable the EcoLodge model would be for other settings.
We spend the afternoon on Tayrona’s magnificent sandy beach, where students work to compose the first of their “stories for home,” creating a video-based story about their trip for a specific relative at home.
Day Nine (Taryona)
We hike into the rainforest, noting the exceptional diversity of wildlife and foliage around us. Our journey ends with a rare opportunity to visit an indigenous community of the Kogi people. Envoys adopts a learning philosophy towards the Kogi’s traditions and customs. In respect for their wish for privacy, the extent of our interactions is dependent on the comfort level of the individuals within the respective community.
Days Ten-Thirteen (Rioacha)
We leave Tayrona and travel by private bus to the lovely port city of Rioacha, our base of operations for the next three days. We learn about the economy of this coastal region, visiting a sugarcane farm, wind farm, and salt extraction plant. Students are supported to make connections between the lives of the workers they meet and their own communities back home.
Envoys students also discover the ways of life of the Wayuu ethnic group. Envoys students learn farming, harvesting, and weaving methods as well as traditional dances from the Wayuu people.
Following our pedagogical principles, Envoys staff work with students, individually and in groups, to reflect on their interactions and develop an empathic viewpoint towards the communities that we have encountered.
Day Fourteen (Bogota)
We return by plane to Bogota, and then take a private bus to the remarkable Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. This fully functioning Roman Catholic church has been built within the tunnels of a salt mine, providing a uniquely spiritual ambiance.
Students revisit their learning goals, considering the gains that they have made and the areas where improvement is needed. We discuss the outputs of the student research projects, ensuring that the experience will continue after we return home.
During the evening, we head to the world-famous Andres Carne de Res DC, a personal favorite of the Envoys co-founders. This quirky restaurant provides exceptional food, providing the perfect ending to our Colombian adventure.
Day Fifteen (Back Home)
International flights home.