Introducing Rainforest Expeditions
The Rainforest Expeditions Story
Rainforest Expeditions(http://www.perunature.com/) is a Peruvian ecotourism company that shares with visitors in a sustainable manner the miracles of the Tambopata–Candamo Reserved Zone, 1.5 million hectares of pristine, still wild tropical rainforest encompassing an area of land the size of Connecticut and stretching from the Andean highlands to the Amazon lowlands. It includes the Tambopata National Reserve, 275,000-hectare conservation unit created by the Peruvian government in 1990 to protect the watersheds of the Tambopata and Candamo rivers. It is adjacent to the 1 million hectare Bahuaja Sonene National Park. Conservation is helping to protect some of the last untouched lowland and premontane tropical humid forests in the Amazon.
Since 1989, guests of first one and now three Rainforest Expedition lodges have added value to the region’s standing tropical rainforest. A sensitively conceived and managed (in some cases by native communities) touristic infrastructure creates a competitive alternative to such unsustainable economic uses as clear cutting the forest for timber or for cattle grazing. Partnerships with local people eager to share Amazonian traditions with guests provide connection, expertise, adventure and access to wildlife in the jungles of Tambopata.
Clean and airy rooms, fresh and tasty cuisine, natural and cultural immersion via knowledgeable guides and local connections, and access to the vast tropical rainforest wilderness are all part of a visit. Guest revenues are shared with native communities positively impacting their economy. Indigenous peoples have come to understand that visitors travel here to see a healthy wilderness; and they, in turn, become more and more committed to the health of their environment.
In each of the three distinct locations, guests are accommodated in clean and comfortable, minimally appointed, three-sided rooms built of clay, wood and palm fronds. The signature statement is to leave one wall open to the jungle so guests can hear, see and smell the rainforest.
About Rainforest Expeditions’ Three Lodges
The string of three jungle lodges is accessed from Puerto Maldonado airport arriving from Lima or Cusco on daily commercial flights lasting 45 or 90 minutes respectively. A bus transports guests to the Infierno River Port to board motorized wooden canoes for a 45-minute trip to the first lodge, Posada Amazonas. Refugio Amazonas, the second lodge, is a 3.5-hour boat trip after departing the bus. The third and most remote is Tambopata Research Center, requiring a 4-hour additional upriver boat ride from Refugio Amazonas. Each lodge is only a few minutes on foot from the river bank. See: http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-jungle-lodges-puerto-maldonado.html
Rainforest Expeditions and their three lodges have been verified and certified “a sustainable tourism business” by the Rainforest Alliance http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/.
Posada Amazonasis owned by and located within a communal reserve of the indigenous Ese’eja of Infierno who manage it in partnership with Rainforest Expeditions. Some 170 native and ribereño (second or third generation settlers) families work and profit from this 30-room (each with private bath) lodge, wellness and holistic center for massage and aromatherapy, and dining. A common area includes (a hammock lounge, a meeting room and a bar) A 30-meter scaffolding Canopy Tower offersviews of the vast expanses of standing forest and Tambopata River. Resident are toucan, parrot and macaw; hoatzin, caiman and horned screamer. From a catamaran on Lake Tres are sightings of a family of Giant River Otters. Activities include walking an ethno botanical trail, visiting a working vegetable farm, community visits, kayaking and mountain biking. http://www.perunature.com/posada-amazonas.html
Refugio Amazonasoffers 32 rooms with private baths on private land (owned by RFE) in the middle of a community of ribereños on the Tambopata River. As with Posada Amazonas, there is a partnership between Rainforest Expeditions and the Infierno Native Community. Guests with kids appreciate a children’s rainforest trail and playground and a dining room with loft above for canopy-viewing. A common area includes a hammock lounge, a meeting room and a bar. On premise are a wellness center and 30-metered scaffolding Canopy Tower for spotting resident flocks. From a catamaran on Lake Condenado are sightings of hoatzin, caiman and horned screamer. From a blind at the clay-licks guests watch parrots and parakeets descend on a river bank to ingest clay. Activities include walks on an ethno botanical trail, visits to a working jungle farm and to Brazil nut concessions, as well as kayaking and mountain biking. There is a partnership between Refugio Amazonas and a local Brazil nut concessionaire to assist sustainable forest management on lands the partners share. http://www.perunature.com/refugio-amazonas.html
Tambopata Research Center (TRC) has conducted studies on macaws for 20 years. It is also among the most remote rainforest lodges in South America. It offers 18 rooms with 8 shared bathrooms. A common area includes dining room, bar, lounge and interpretation center.The largest known macaw clay-lick in the Amazon is 500 yards from the lodge. Adjacent are comfortable hiking trails to five habitats: bamboo, flood plain, terra firma, palm and riverine forest. A small jungle tower offers views of the palm swamp and blue and gold macaw that inhabit the area surrounding it. Visitors can interact with researchers studying macaw feeding habits, genetics, radio tracking and parasites. Activities include standup paddle boarding, kayaking and visits to the uninhabited heart of the rainforest. There is a four-night minimum to visit here because of travel time. http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-research-center.html
1980s (late) – Two young Peruvians, Karl Holle and Eduardo Nycander, with a strong interest in their country’s natural treasures meet while working as field assistants on a macaw research project undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Manu National Park.
1989– After visiting a little known clay lick on the upper reaches of the Tambopata River used by hundreds of macaws, Nycander purchased this and a large area of pristine rainforest surrounding the clay lick in hopes of protecting it from threats of uncontrolled logging.
1990– Tambopata Research Center (TRC) is built: a floor raised on stilts, a palm thatch roof, no walls, mattresses to sleep on, an earthen stove and latrines. (It has since been upgraded.)
1991– The Peruvian government creates the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone on 1.5 million hectares. TRC is situated in the middle.
Macaw research begins “on a bootstrap” at TRC. As part of the study, artificial nests made of burnt PVC pipes are hung from trees and nestling macaws that would have perished in the wild are studied and reared by hand.
1992– Macaw eggs with low survival probabilities in the wild are incubated; chicks hatch in semi-captivity as the first generation of Chicos.
Rainforest Expeditions is founded to operate tours to TRC and to witness the amazing wildlife spectacle at the TRC clay lick.
1993 – TRC (lodge) is upgraded, incorporating guests ideas about leaving a fourth wall screened and open to the forest. This becomes a signature feature.
1994 – The Tambopata Research Center suddenly becomes famous! Photos of TRC macaw project appear as cover article in National Geographic after visit by Franz Lanting, photographer. Parrot lovers and ecotourists make their way to TRC as word gets out about a clay lick that hosts hundreds of macaws, parrots, and parakeets on a daily basis.
TRC sponsors macaw research in partnership with Texas A&M University at the Tambopata Research Center. Researchers study the macaw population through direct observation and measurements and also by a new type DNA analysis. Tourists to the Tambopata Research Center are able to see the project in action by visiting macaw nests and seeing how the scientists work and by nightly dinners and lectures with the researchers. There are programs for visitors who would like to come to Tambopata and be part of the project.
1995– The Community of Infierno asks Rainforest Expeditions to hire more of their community members at TRC. Discussions begin about becoming partners in community territory.
1996– House by house an ecotourism project is explained to community members at Infierno. The project is approved resulting in a 20-year contract for management of a community lodge.
1997– Funding is obtained for construction of to-be Posada Amazonas, the community partnership. A canopy tower is constructed to watch a Harpy eagle nest.
1998– Rainforest Expeditions opens Posada Amazonas, today an award-winning destination that shortens the 8-hour boat ride up the Tambopata River to TRC. The Infierno community and Rainforest Expeditions begin monthly “Control Committee” meetings to take decisions regarding lodge managements. Representatives from the community hack it out with company representatives. These meetings are still a staple.
1999– The Macaw Project is Rebornwhen ornithologist Dr. Don Brightsmith http://vetmed.tamu.edu/directorydetail?UserID=1983 begins to manage the macaw project resulting in papers appearing in dozens of peer-reviewed publications. His work is supported by the Schubot Center for Avian Veterinary Sciences and conducts cutting-edge research with a host of graduate students and volunteers year-round. The project continues to be at the forefront of macaw research to this day.
2000– The community ethno botanicalCentro Ñape, used by the local Ese’Eja, is refurbished, providing traditional healing under the expertise of a trained, local shaman. Guests pay an entry fee to visit and learn about the properties of regional medicinal plants. The fee maintains a staff and infrastructure that attend local residents requiring traditional medicine.
2001– Posada Amazonas is debt free; the first dividends are distributed to the community.
2002– Infierno community members complainthat their partners were hogging most of the decisions. They were right!
2003– TRC has to move.The river moved fifty meters horizontally over the past decade and passes right in front of the entrance. It’s carefully taken apart and reconstructed with much the same flavor, but renewed materials, about 100 meters from the rivers edge, now in the middle of white lipped peccary territory!
2004– Kayak, biking and canopy climbing areavailable to guests of the two, soon-to-be-three lodges.
2005– Rainforest Expeditions builds Refugio Amazonas, its third lodge,on private land in the middle of a community of ribereños (second or third generation settlers) on the Tambopata River. Despite making new friends with farmers and with Brazil nut concessions, Refugio Amazonas is a source of contention for the local community as it may compete with Posada Amazonas. Fortunately, an agreement is reached between Rainforest Expeditions and the community that makes it possible for them to work with other travel agencies. We make new friends with farms and Brazil nut concessions.
2006– Exclusivity issues emerge. The Posada Amazonas management contract stipulates the community cannot start other tourism operations while Rainforest Expeditions is there. Steps are taken to make sure there is an understanding of the importance of managing tourism volumes within the communities´ keystone resources. The Community can now operate other tourism enterprises within their land.
2008– Rainforest Expeditions is hired as marketing and product development consultants by iSur, the non-profit arm of the Interoceanic highway concessionaire. The goal is to help 18 home-stay owners improve their products and gain market share and profitability.
2009–2010– Rainforest Expeditions completes a rigorous, two-year process to be verified by the Rainforest Alliance as a sustainable tourism business.
2010– Rainforest Expeditions starts talking to the community of Palma Real, a traditional Ese’eja native community. Over a year goes into explaining the nuances of tourism businesses to a committee composed of elected leaders with the object of making sure community leaders understand fully what entering a tourism business means.
2011– We put a great new product out to test – all inclusive photo workshops that include top notch equipment – Canon and Nikon cameras, a 600 mm lens, robotic tripod mounts and extreme macro lenses. Rainforest Expeditions Wildlife Photography Workshops
2012– Rainforest Expeditionsplans on strengthening its commitment to sustainable tourism in the Tambopata region by continuing to partner with local people, supporting scientific research, and providing guests with a once-in-a-lifetime, high quality, Peruvian rainforest adventure. New tours and family-friendly avenues to experience the rainforest continue to be added. Recent additions and latest happenings include:
- Adventure activities: Kayaking, mountain-biking, and canopy climbing are some of the outdoor adventure activities now offered at the lodges.
- Photo workshops: Tours that teach participants how to get professional grade shots of Tambopata wildlife. They can bring their own camera or use top of the line equipment provided by us.
- Outreach to other native communities in Tambopata: We have met with “Palma, Real”, a traditional Ese’Eja community for more than a year to discuss the nuances of the ecotourism business with community leaders.
- Company sponsors all types of charity organizations from the Colorado Prairie Dog Coalition to exotic bird sanctuaries all over the United States.