Ecuadorian marine biologist, sailor, diver, and conservationist
More than 30 years as a naturalist-guide in Latin America
Macarena Iturralde, a naturalist and biologist by profession, was born in Quito, Ecuador, and has spent most of her adult life organizing and guiding journeys into the most exotic, pristine, and exciting parts of Latin America. As the CEO of her own company, Senderos Naturales, she draws on the depth of her experience as a marine biologist, diver, sailor, and interpreter of natural history to craft tailor-made journeys (and yoga retreats) to different destinations in Latin America, from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula. Since 1979, Macarena has been guiding trips through Ecuador, Galapagos, the Amazon, Peru, Bolivia and Patagonia. Having lived in the Galapagos for more than a decade, she has led countless voyages and scientific expeditions there, both on land and under water. From her base in the valley of Cumbaya, near Quito, Macarena still calls the Galapagos home.
In the Galapagos, Macarena works very closely with the Charles Darwin Foundation, of which she is a member of the General Assembly. The biggest and most important non-profit organization in the Galapagos, the foundation works with the Galapagos National Park, using science to inform the area’s conservation strategies, especially for the restoration of native habitat and the removal of invasive species.
The foundation also runs the Charles Darwin Research Station, a one-of-a-kind facility fostering independent research and education crucial to the management of the park. One of Macarena’s most memorable experiences here was going down to 2600 feet in depth in a submersible called the Johnson Sea Link, to help collect marine invertebrates in various zones. Enthralled by all of the islands’ wildlife, she has worked with other scientists studying waved albatrosses and mockingbirds.
Although the Galapagos could be considered at the heart of Macarena’s work, she also spends considerable time in the Ecuadorian Amazon of Yasuni National Park, and the Machu Picchu Sanctuary in Peru. She helped create the development action plans for five different national parks in Ecuador and was a consultant for Traffic International.
With many years of designing trails, campsites, and interpretive displays under her belt, Macarena is particularly knowledgeable about her country’s national parks and reserves, including Sangay, Yasuni, Machalilla, Cotacachi Cayapas and Podocarpus.
Macarena is also a keen diver with more than 350 dives around the world. Her favourite place for diving is, of course, the Galapagos, but she also loved Raja Ampat and hopes to visit the Red Sea and the Maldives someday.
For Macarena, guiding (and yoga) is a passion where the main emphasis in her trips is nature observation and adventure sports, such as rafting, trekking, biking and diving. She is a Hatha yoga instructor, certified in Rishikesh, India, in October of 2017. She organizes yoga retreats in Ecuador and other destinations in Latin America. She continues to feel incredibly lucky to guide her guests and to enjoy the culture and nature of the countries and places they visit.