Why we care
Here at Swoop, we all have a love for the extreme destinations in which we work. As a result, we work to make these places more accessible for people all over the world in order to share our own special experiences. But there are ways in which we can manage our impact and choose sustainable travel options so that we can maintain and protect the ecosystems that we love and care about so much.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Our impact on Torres del Paine
Park visitation has increased by 76% from 2012 to 2016, reaching a historic record of 252,000 visitors in 2016, and this number is still rising.
Their biggest impact on the environment is erosion. Even the most careful hiker, when one of thousands, can contribute to the destruction of vegetation surrounding the trails.
The harsh environment means that fragile plants, most easily trampled, take a long time to grow back.
A second huge environmental impact is forest fires. Since 1985, three man-made fires have ravaged almost ⅕ of the park. Nearly 45,000 hectares of native lenga tree forests have been destroyed in these fires, around the size of Barbados.
Lastly, human waste remains an issue when visitation increases and campsites continue to operate at capacity throughout the season. Without composting toilets and a strict carry-out policy, the disposal of human waste continues to present itself as a problem.
What can I do?
Leave no trace
If you’ll be adventuring around Torres del Paine, there are steps you can take to reduce your impact on the trails. Leave No Trace is a set of principles that can help guide you to becoming a steward of this land.
The following are a selection from the Leave No Trace Seven Principles. © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- In popular areas, concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
3. Dispose of waste properly
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products
Photo credit: Jimmy Ngo
4. Leave what you find
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
5. Minimize campfire impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the environment. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
6. Respect wildlife
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviours, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
Photo credit: Emily Hopcian
After two seasons of working in Torres del Paine National Park, the impact of tourism is clear. The need for sustainable practices - frequent trail maintenance, improved waste management, recycling, and more - is urgent. As visitors to this delicate and one-of-a-kind environment, we should take great care to leave the least amount of impact as possible.
Natascha Yogachandra Patagonia Specialist
How to give back
Torres del Paine Legacy Fund
The Legacy Fund is the first of its kind in Torres del Paine. Instead of trying to swim against the strong current of tourism in the area, the Legacy Fund leverages the powerful resources travelers can provide - volunteering and opportunities to donate to sustainable projects.
By creating powerful partnerships between local businesses and non-profits, the Fund has achieved a huge amount since its formation in 2014:
- Recycling initiatives in Puerto Natales
- Trail restoration and construction in Torres del Paine
- Launching a community-run cultural centre with the indigenous Kawesqár people to celebrate their history and traditions
- Developing infrastructure and interpretive materials to enhance protection and appreciation of Torres del Paine’s wetlands
You can join their growing community of responsible visitors by making a donation at www.supporttdp.org. The Legacy Fund also creates volunteer opportunities for interested parties. If you’re interested, you can contact [email protected]
Photo credit: Project Eudaimonia
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We’ll work around your budget and arrange flights, transfers and buses, to create your perfect trip.