Our shared passions for travel, sustainability, and the celebration of biculturalism are where the seeds for Casa Divina Eco Lodge and SabinaTour Operator were planted. With great love, stubborn determination, and a fierce commitment to excellence, our businesses have flourished, allowing us to fulfill a dream to protect the cloud forest while introducing international travelers to its beauty and wonder. By contributing to a sustainable local economy and working to preserve and protect the Ecuadorian Western Lowlands, we are proud of the impact we have had. Together we are a bicultural, bilingual family discovering sustainable lifestyle, learning and respecting the tropical forests of Ecuador, celebrating differences and similarities, and never, ever do we finish learning about ourselves, each other and the world around us.
Growing up on his family’s subsistence farm in Mindo, Efrain’s days were spent helping his dad log tropical hardwood trees and hunting wild animals with his brother. The intimate contact he had with his surroundings allowed Efra to become the self-taught naturalist that he is today. But as is true of unsustainable resource extraction, the trees in the forests of Mindo became scarce and wild animals became threatened by overhunting and the effects of deforestation on native species. As Mindo’s farmers, loggers, and hunters struggled to make a living, Efrain took an unusual opportunity to leave Mindo to travel extensively throughout Europe. During his time away, Efrain uncovered a deep appreciation for his home country. Reflecting on the land of his birth through the lens of an observant traveler cultivated newfound respect for the indigenous culture of the cloud forest in which he was raised.
In 1987, Efrain began his environmental activism working with a local Mindo foundation called Amigos de la Naturaleza, which in cooperation with the Ecuadorian Government, declared 19,200 ha. (47,444 acres) of primary cloud forest as the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest. This designation has helped shift the main economic activities of our community from logging, hunting, and fishing, to more sustainable alternatives. In the early 90s, Efrain helped to found the Pacaso & Pacaso Foundation to help the people of Mindo learn and adopt sustainable practices fundamental for the conservation of the environment. As Mindo became known in the scientific community internationally as an area incomparably rich in biodiversity, ecotourism became the clear path for economic sustainability in our region. With the declaration of Mindo as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International in 1997, Mindo gained a reputation within the international birdwatching community and ecotourism has been thriving in our region ever since.
In early 2001 the transnational petroleum conglomerate OCP (Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados, or Heavy Crude Pipeline) made their plans public for building a new pipeline from the Amazon to the Pacific Coast that would cross through some of the most seismically unstable and environmentally biodiverse stretches of virgin Ecuadorian cloud forest. Our community was concerned about the impact this would have and armed its protest against the pipeline company. Molly and Efrain, together with a large group of informed and concerned community members, formed the foundation Acción Por la Vida (Action for Life) that headed some of the most successful protests in Ecuador against the OCP.
Molly was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area on the west coast of the United States and came to Ecuador in the late 90s as an exchange student from the University of Oregon. She studied Anthropology at the Catholic University, PUCE, in Quito. Molly was introduced to Efrain while studying the influences of ecotourism on the small town of Mindo. She immediately fell in love with its natural beauty and the warm and wonderful people who lived there. Molly and Efrain started their business in 2000 and have been introducing international travelers to the wonders of the Ecuadorian cloud forest ever since. Efrain is regarded as one of the most skilled birdwatching guides in the area and leads an expert team of guides at SabinaTour Operator.
Molly played an instrumental role in the creation of El Manantial, an alternative education school in Mindo. She also is a member of the Circulo de Mujeres del Bosque and works regularly to support fair trade and conservation projects locally and in the country at large. Molly and Efra are members of the Northwest Tourism Council of Ecuador. Molly currently volunteers at the senior center and has a lot to learn about gardening in the tropics from the old folks!
Efrain has dedicated his time to the greater community serving on the city planning commission, working to ensure that future growth and development continue in the most positive and least destructive direction. He is a member of the Mindo Guides Association and a talented carpenter who built Casa Divina Lodge from the ground up with his own two hands. He now spends much of his time maintaining the cabins, grounds and surrounding private reserve. Molly spends her time guiding the businesses toward excellence, upholding the highest standards of sustainability and corporate responsibility. Thanks to her dedication, Casa Divina Lodge and SabinaTour Operator have been recognized internationally and certified by TourCert, a rigorous German sustainability-based certifying organization, since 2016.
With Molly, Efrain, and their two teenage daughters at the helm, Casa Divina Lodge and SabinaTour Operator employ a talented team of local community members. Our passion for superior service is exceeded only by our desire to tread lightly on the earth so that it may be enjoyed by others for generations to come.