Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tells stories of the people on the ground, exposes the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Juan, a biologist who works closely with Kapawi Ecolodge. He’s a strong believer in using tourism as a tool to help conservation and he loves being outdoors. He even owns a farm where he likes to be involved with replanting native species.
Can you tell us more about the reforestation projects you support?‘The lodge recently underwent a renovation project in which the local communities had lots of meetings to discuss the lessons they had learned in the past and how to improve the lodge going forward. As a result of these meetings, the people went away and began planting native chapi trees, which grow very quickly and can be used for construction. It’s a small project, but it is ongoing and all of the communities in this area are involved.’
How would you describe a stay at Kapawi Ecolodge to potential guests?‘Kapawi offers a stay in the last primary tract of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. There are no extractive industries or roads in this area, and it is only accessible by plane, which means that you can come here to be completely immersed in nature. You get to see incredible wildlife and meet the local Achuar communities to learn about their culture and traditions.’
What in your opinion makes the Amazon Rainforest so extraordinary and a must-see for the bucket list?‘The Amazon is a huge biome under increasing threat, there has been particular concern about Brazil and the need to mitigate climate change. Travelling to see it is so important though, because it is great for helping conservation. Not only that, but you would struggle to find such rich culture and biodiversity anywhere. The birdwatching is unparalleled, so it really is a must-see.’
What have you observed regarding impact on the community, has it changed their awareness and attitudes towards sustainability?‘The lodge began in 1996, and it has definitely impacted the community in a big way. The 11 communities in the area have learned how tourism can be extremely beneficial for their surroundings. They have learned the importance of outside collaborations with other communities to improve the area, whilst still remaining this primary tract of the Amazon Rainforest. It has created a lot of social and environmental awareness for them.’
What is the most challenging aspect of running an ecolodge?‘Historically at Kapawi, the very environment that makes this place so special is also the biggest challenge. The rainforest is aggressive, and we are situated right in the middle of it. We do not have the technology that some other places have, we work with our landscape, and the wildlife, humidity and weather can all cause problems. We are always learning though, and working to improve operations to make a better future for Kapawi.’
What has been the highlight of working at Kapawi Ecolodge so far?‘It was one of the very first ecolodges in Ecuador and it established the standards for everyone else to meet, so it feels like an honour to be involved with Kapawi. As well as that, being at the lodge itself is so special. Once you get off the plane, you are completely immersed in nature, within a special indigenous community. You can’t see anything that wasn’t put there by the indigenous people, it’s so far from the cities of today; truly an escape.’
What wildlife can guests expect to witness at Kapawi Ecolodge?‘If you paddle along one of the rivers, you might see the beautiful pink river dolphins, or the primates in the trees. We have tamarins, squirrels and howler monkeys, most days you can wake up to the sounds of the howler monkeys, which is pretty impressive. Wildlife spotting is definitely best at night, or very early in the morning, because a lot of animals rest in the daytime when the temperature rises. If you’re lucky and you’re quiet, you might get to see the animals the Amazon is known for, like pumas, jaguars and tapir. Of course, the birdwatching is always amazing.’
What’s next for Kapawi Ecolodge?We’re looking to create new cultural and adventure programmes to engage guests and become a hub to connect the surrounding communities. We would also like to partake in more travel events and travel shows, so that more people can see this amazing place and help our conservation efforts!