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Ben Sander

A born world-traveler, Ben is passionate about combining education and travel, while also protecting the environment. He has worked in ecotourism ventures in Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru and Pohnpei, Micronesia. His love of ecotourism also led him to be a bike tour guide in Washington DC offering bike tours of the national memorials.

Most recently, prior to joining us, he spent 7 years managing the travel program for the National Parks Conservation Association connecting members with the best in educational travel to the US National Parks (which is, ahem, how he first met us). He has taken part in Climate Ride five times to help raise awareness around climate change, bike advocacy, and national park protection.

Ben is also an avid hiker and has thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Bay Area on foot joined by his beloved dog, Vida, as much as possible. He has visited over 140 national park units (his favorites are Glacier, American Samoa, and Mojave) and loves to connect Black Sheep travelers to amazing experiences in our national parks and public lands on foot and via bike.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I have been to over 140 national parks and led and/or designed tours to over 25 national parks in the U.S. I believe in getting guests out of the vehicle and onto the park trails to experience the park up close and allowing each guest to connect to their park in their own way. Also, we optimize guides who have a long history of guiding in the park so that guests can really understand the cultural and natural importance of the park they are visiting."

How did you get involved in travel?

"My introduction to travel was as a bike tour guide in Washington, D.C. for 5 years to help pay for the bills during my education. I then worked at an eco-lodge in Costa Rica during my time in graduate school. My professional planner career began in 2010 when I joined National Parks Conservation Association which led me to join Black Sheep Adventures in 2017 where I am the lead planner on our national park journeys."

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"I will never forget my time guiding at Rara Avis eco-lodge in Costa Rica. Every day was an adventure hiking through man-eating mud pits, finding venomous snakes, admiring huge waterfalls, and educating guests on the importance of protecting our natural heritage.

The most unique had to be when I led a group down to the waterfall which required us to go down a stone staircase after 2 hours of hiking one way. Once at the bottom it felt like the Garden of Eden including a perfect pool to cool off in. The guests were enjoying their time in the pool when I noticed out of the corner of my eye one of the guests laying on a rock starting to turn a bit pale. Once I got to her she was going into a shock possibly due to the drastic temperature change. After giving her Tylenol and Benadryl I ran up the staircase and used my machete to build a stretcher while two of the guests carried her up to me. The stretcher actually held for most of the hike and we got her back to the lodge and she was looking much better by that time. A lesson that you always need to be prepared and also what adrenaline can do to you."

Featured trips & expertise

Desert views of joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park
Mojave Desert Bike Tour - 6 Days

Explore southeastern California's Mojave Desert by bike and experience its arid desert landscapes. You'll ride through Joshua Tree National Park, the Anza-Borrego Desert, and Yaqui Pass, rewarding yourself with breathtaking views of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains, and the Yucca Valley.

Hiking along the sand dunes
Death Valley National Park Hiking Tour - 6 Days

Explore the diverse sights of Death Valley National Park in the company of an expert guide with this active and educational week in the desert. In addition to visiting the park's canyons and viewpoints, you’ll learn about the area's geology and remarkably hardy flora and fauna. After each day’s exploration, take advantage of Death Valley's designation as an "International Dark Sky Park" with some of the world's best conditions for stargazing. 

Ride through the rolling hills of Sonoma County
Sonoma Bike Tour - 6 Days

Experience Northern California's wine country and the Pacific coast on this six-day cycling itinerary of Sonoma County. Ride through world-class vineyards, redwood forests, and along the captivating California coast.

Bike on Zion National Park's iconic red roads
Utah's National Parks: Hike and Bike Tour - 6 Days

Hike and bike your way through southern Utah's national parks, including Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Snow Canyon. You'll cycle through barren landscapes, past unique multi-hued rock formations, switching gears to experience the scenery up close by foot.

Sunset over Big Sur's McWay Falls
Big Sur Bike Tour - 6 Days

This six-day biking itinerary is perfect for any adventurous cyclist looking to experience California's Big Sur coastline. You will start in Monterey, cycle the 17-Mile Drive, and continue south along the Pacific Coast Highway before turning inland through wine country to Paso Robles.

Geysers warm the land in Yellowstone National Park
Winter Adventure in Yellowstone National Park - 7 Days

Nature lovers will enjoy this wintery seven-day itinerary exploring Yellowstone's National Park. Start in Bozeman, Montana and work your way through Yellowstone, stopping to explore its natural wonders and wildlife. You will hike, snowshoe, relax in hot springs, and marvel at nature's snow-covered allure.