Our intimate understanding of this region, developed over years of living, traveling, and exploring in South America has inspired us and shaped our lives. We are passionate about sharing that adventure with others, and in this spirit, we invite you to Experience Our Home as Yours.
Meet our team:
Founder & Travel Director
Damon’s passion for South America began over 25 years ago on a high school experiential learning trip that took him to the Amazon rainforest and Andean highlands of Ecuador. After attending CU Boulder, where he majored in International Spanish for the Professions, Damon began working for an educational travel company designing language and cultural immersion programs for middle school teachers and students. He then spent three years directing Mount Kilimanjaro expeditions, and reached the summit of Africa’s highest peak on two occasions.
Damon’s fascination with Latin American cultures led to extensive travel throughout the Amazon, Galapagos and Andean highlands, where he founded Andean Discovery’s South American headquarters. As Founder and Director of Andean Discovery, he is dedicated to developing and delivering seamless, life-enriching travel experiences for families, couples, and organizations while participating with guides, staff, and local communities to ensure sustainable, authentic connections. Damon manages and overseas all daily operations and returns to South America regularly. He lives in Boston with his two daughters, who often accompany him on our South American adventures.
Kelly Villegas, Senior Operations Specialist
Kelly was born and raised in a small village in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Exposed to adventure and culture tourism at an early age, she was inspired to study Tourism Management at the Universidad de San Antonio Abad in Cusco. Her vast knowledge of Peru, together with her meticulous dedication to each and every itinerary, guarantees Andean Discovery guests a wonderful and seamless adventure. When she’s not working, Kelly loves to hike in the Andes with her daughter, Camila.
Zoila Galarza, Senior Administrative Specialist
Zoila is one of the bedrocks of Andean Discovery. For many many years, she has contributed to our mission of delivering quality trips to our guests, with the utmost integrity, while ensuring the wellbeing of the people and places we visit. From processing Galapagos Immigration Cards to offering cooking classes to Andean Discovery guests, Zoila has done just about everything and is literally a jack of all trades. Born in the coastal region of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, known for its beautiful white sand beaches and delicious seafood, Zoila moved with her daughters years ago to Quito, located in the Andean highlands. Zoila is a passionate and dedicated person who believes that the beauty of life is found in the simplest of things. When she is not delighting her family with her exquisite coastal dishes, she enjoys dancing to the rhythm of music, and walking to the park with her four dogs.
Sheyla Camacho, Operations Specialist
Sheyla was born in Ecuador, the middle of the world, a place full of natural beauty. From a very young age, she traveled her country from north to south and discovered the many hidden wonders of her country and decided to encourage other people to explore and experience these gems by supporting local tourism efforts. This is her main motivation to have studied Tourism Management and Environmental Conservation. She feels that Ecuador is a small place, but filled with so many great treasures that guests will undoubtedly love when one gets to know them. Her favorite hobby is to continue traveling and her next adventures to explore many other international destinations.
Alisson Játiva, Operations Specialist
Born in Quito, Ecuador, Alisson’s passion for tourism began at a very young age as she truly appreciated and admired the beauty and history of her home city. She studied Tourism and Business Management at the University of the Americas, and began working in various branches of tourism, developing a unique knowledge base and experiences that inspired her to embark on several adventures both locally and internationally. Alisson believes that tourism is a very positive force for the entire world as it is a great vehicle for opening people up to new ideas and challenges. Her favorite hobbies are adventure travel, and Zumba dance exercise, which includes a fusion of Latin and International music. In the future, her goal is to visit Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia as well as continue exploring other regions in Ecuador.
Melanie Ñacato, Operations Assistant
A constant adventurer from an early age, Melanie has an innate passion for exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Her life has been deeply influenced by the art world. She grew up in Quito, Ecuador in a home where creativity and artistic expression were a part of daily life for her. Her parents raised her to be passionate about visual arts and provided an environment where imagination and beauty were fundamental values, which is why Melanie has a deep passion for art and true love for cultural diversity. Her roots later inspired her to learn and study tourism and work in operations and logistics at Andean Discovery. She loves her homeland, its culture, and its beautiful landscapes, and she is passionate about offering Andean Discovery guests the opportunity to get to know the diversity of each culture and place in South America.
Johanna Tipanguano, Administrative Specialist
Johanna was born in the captivating city of Quito, Ecuador, a place she has always considered to be her home. Her family is from the Amazon basin of Ecuador and she relishes a deep appreciation for the purity of the jungle and the crystallinity of its rivers. After many trips to the Amazon growing up, she fell in love with this unique region, and continues to visit the Amazon regularly. With a degree in Accounting and Auditing, Johanna meticulously ensures that all the “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” are crossed at Andean Discovery, for the successful operation of our trips. Her fascination with travel has become an integral part of her life, fueling her desire to discover different cultures and traditions. When she is not working or traveling, Johanna enjoys hanging out with her two adorable canine companions, Nile and Princess, who fill her home with joy. She hopes to explore the ancient wonders of Machu Picchu in the future, a destination that represents to her the perfect combination of history, culture and natural beauty. Johanna believes that life is a journey, and looks forward to every step to come!
Abigail Castro, Marketing & Product Specialist
Abigail was born in the heart of the Andes mountains of Ecuador, and her family moved to the Galapagos Islands when she was 5 years old. Growing up surrounded by unique wildlife in the Galapagos, she fell in love with the flora and fauna of these Enchanted Islands. Abi developed a passion for the natural environment and in particular for marine conservation. She uses her talent as a graphic designer and enthusiasm for encouraging responsible tourism to promote the natural beauty of Ecuador and other destinations in South America. Her passion and her art come together to inspire others to value and preserve these unique environments. When she is not engaging in design projects, Abi can be found swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos and going on road trips with her family exploring remote villages throughout the Andean highlands.
Featured Guides & Naturalists
Elías, Trekking & Cultural Guide, Peru
Elias is a veteran of the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu and has completed it over 240 times. He was born in Cusco, Peru, and grew up hiking at altitude was second nature. He began working in tourism 30 years ago and found his passion in leading guests on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Elias has become one of the more experienced and well-known guides on the trail. One of his more memorable treks was with Dan Berlin, the first blind man to run the Inca Trail in one day. He loves that guiding allows him to constantly meet and interact with people from around the world. When he is not busy guiding, he spends his time with his wife and two sons.
Isabela, Galapagos Naturalist, Ecuador
Born and raised in the Galapagos Islands, from a family who has lived in the archipelago for many generations, Isabela is a true “Galapagueña.” She loves welcoming Andean Discovery guests to the islands and sharing her knowledge about sustainability and protecting the flora and fauna of the Galapagos. Her enthusiasm for the wildlife and natural history of the Galapagos is contagious and she enjoys adapting her guiding style to each group’s specific interests and pace. In addition to guiding, Isabela is pursuing a second degree in Environmental Engineering. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, ballet dancing, pilates, and traveling off-island to destinations around North America and Europe.
Gabriel, Galapagos Naturalist, Ecuador
Born and raised on the beautiful Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos archipelago, Gabriel’s passion is to be immersed in the wonderful biodiversity of the Galapagos and also to learn about the customs, cultures, and tastes of our guests as he guides them throughout the archipelago. He studied ecological tourism at university, which gave him a deep and responsible understanding of tourism and the importance of preserving the natural environment. He likes to share with the guests of Andean Discovery the richness of the biodiversity of the Galapagos as he interprets the unique flora and fauna. He believes that every small action has an impact on the future and that we all share the responsibility to know, respect and love our planet. In his free time he likes to go to the beach to rest.
Cesar, Trekking & Cultural Guide, Peru
Cesar realized he wanted to become a trekking and cultural guide when a friend in high school told him about all of the interesting people he would meet from all over the world something that has definitely proven true in the years he has spent guiding since. He is proud to share the richness of Peru with travelers and hopes to make them all ambassadors for the exploration of his country. Cesar’s passion for his job makes him feel like it does not even work, but when he is not guiding, he also enjoys spending quality time outdoors with his wife and two young children.
Cristina, Ecuador Adventure & Cultural Guide
Cristina was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, and studied Ecological Tourism. She loves learning new things including culture, people, history, nature, and languages. She loves her job as a guide for Andean Discovery, where she can share her knowledge, kindness, professionalism, and charisma with visitors. She enjoys adding new creative activities on tours such as singing and dancing. Sharing Ecuador’s beautiful places with tourist creates a powerful bond and she enjoys creating beautiful memories. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, sports, reading, trying new food, singing, and dancing.
Johanna, Ecuador Adventure & Cultural Guide
Johana was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador with an early passion for nature. After earning an undergraduate degree in Ecotourism, she started working as a National Tour guide. In her eleventh year of guiding, she still loves sharing her time, knowledge, and experience with Andean Discovery guests. Her interests are well aligned with her profession. She enjoys trekking and bird watching in the cloud forest, Galapagos, and mountains. She’s traveled to four continents and hopes to go on an African safari. Until then, she enjoys learning from visitors around the world.
Maria, Ecuador Adventure & Cultural Guide
María was born and raised in the capital of Ecuador, Quito. After spending a year in the United States as an exchange student, she studied at the Universidad de Especialidades Turísticas, and graduated as a National Guide. The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, located in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, became her favorite place, due to its rich biodiversity and wildlife. She is committed to guiding Andean Discovery guests throughout the country, giving them the opportunity to experience the rich culture and impressive nature of Ecuador. On her free days, she enjoys making handicrafts and she is most excited when she gets inloved in extreme sports, especially water sports.
Wilson, Ecuador Adventure & Cultural Guide
Wilson was born in Loja, Ecuador, and grew up in Cuenca and Quito, studying as a National Tourism Guide. He specializes in adventure, both the high mountain alpine and cycling, and is also certified as a natural and cultural heritage guide. His knowledge of bicycles extends to their mechanics and he maintains bicycles for his family and friends. His favorite place in Ecuador is Baños de Agua Santa, midway between the Andes and the Amazon because he can explore the area through many different activities. He loves working in tourism because he can share his favorite places with Andean Discovery Guests, highlighting its natural and cultural diversity, as well as its wonderful inhabitants.