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Sustainability in Practice in the Peruvian Amazon
Quite often, I am asked to describe the typical Greenloons travel experience with respect to how our trips promote sustainability for communities, the environment and for travelers. It's always a pleasure for me to give examples, and the latest is no exception.
This May, I had the opportunity to participate in a photo safari as part of a visit to the Tambopata National Reserve, which is located in the southeastern part of Peru near the border to Bolivia. The visit marked my second to the Amazon and third to a rainforest ecosystem. But, I must admit that I love the rainforest more each time I get the chance to see it.
Sustainability for Communities
First a little history - the Tambopata National Reserve was created in 1990 to protect the rainforests and cloud forests adjacent to the Heath and Tambopata Rivers, which themselves represent important habitats for hundreds of species of mammals and amphibians as well as more than 1000 species of butterflies.
In the decades before and since, the National Reserve has been a haven for biologists, naturalists and conservationists who have worked with the indigenous Ese'eja, Quenchuas and Aymaras tribes to preserve the biodiversity of the area. While the main economic activities are fishing, hunting, agriculture and foraging, the most important one is tourism.
Greenloons works with various eco-certified companies throughout Peru and specifically one in the Tambopata National Reserve that operates three eco lodges:
- one lodge is co-managed with the Ese'eja community
- another lodge has integrated its activities with a neighboring Brazil nut concession and
- the third lodge is an internationally recognized Macaw research and conservation center.
Local communities specifically benefit from these lodges in three ways. First, indigenous residents can receive specialized training in hotel management, hospitality services, culinary skills, and naturalist guiding. Second, local residents share in the profits and have the opportunity to build handicraft businesses. Finally, residents are invited to participate in the strategic management (i.e. conservation, visitor impact) of the area so that their way of life is preserved.
Sustainability for the Environment and Travelers
While participating in the photo safari, I stayed in two eco lodges – Refugio Amazonas (pictured above) and Tambopata Research Center. At Refugio Amazonas, the standard rooms offer open-air rainforest views, full private bathrooms, hammocks, sitting areas furnished by local artisans, and very comfortable beds (with mosquito netting) while superior rooms also offer electricity and free WiFi.
At Tambopata Research Center (pictured above), the rooms are similar except for the shared bathrooms. Having had the privilege to also participate in the back-of-house tours, I can say without hesitation that these rainforest lodges are some of the best equipped and sustainable I've seen, including:
- communications powered by solar energy,
- safe exposure to a balanced rainforest ecosystem,
- maximized natural light,
- Brazil nut (or lemongrass) biodegradable soap and shampoo provided,
- use of biodegradable cleaning products,
- trash management separated into one of five categories: biodegradable, plastic, glass, paper, or metal,
- provided rubber boots to keep lodges clean, and
- naturalist-led kayaking, hiking and mountain biking adventures.
These lodges offer comfort, distinct service, unique wildlife viewing and travelers have the opportunity to participate in ethno-botanical farm visits, children's rainforest programs, medicinal and Brazil nut trail lectures, and learn about the nature wildlife of the area – sometimes directly from visiting biologists and ecologists.
We define ecotourism as travel that focuses on the discovery of a natural or wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local economic and social goals, and reduces the possibility of environmental degradation. These lodges in Tambopata National Reserve epitomizes about what is right with ecotourism and how a successful, continuously improving model can work to benefit communities.
Check out some other wonderful trip ideas for the Peruvian Amazon.
Some photos courtesy of Jeff Cremer.