With misinformation and greenwashing rife in tourism, Behind The Green takes it back to BASICS. Back to storytelling and human connection. Hear from the visionaries and teams behind the world’s leading sustainable stays. As well as inspiring experts that help us to REIMAGINE, RESET, and REINVENT tourism.
Written by Rebecca Woolford
Alex is a man of many passions. From photography, and art to adventurous outdoor activities. There is nothing he loves more than to be immersed in nature. Alex has fond childhood memories of playing by the Cristalino River, a nature playground in the heart of the Amazon.
This river surrounds the lodge, hence the name, Cristalino Lodge. Later in life, Alex’s studies took him to Sao Paulo and Milan before he decided to return home to his roots. To nature, calling him back home.
Founded by Alex’s mother, the lodge began with 700 hectares of pristine rainforest. Fast forward to today, Alex’s family and team now protect an impressive 11,000+ hectares of rainforest.
Enjoy this very special Behind the Green interview!
How would you describe Cristalino Lodge? Not just the guest experience but the mission.
“We are not just a luxury eco-lodge in the rainforest. Everything we do is focused on conservation. Our goal is to protect this part of the Amazon Rainforest where we are located, and tourism is a great way to do this. We offer amazing experiences in an incredible part of the Amazon with outstanding biodiversity.
We started with 700 hectares of land and we now own 11,399 hectares of rainforest which we actively protect. We also have a foundation that helps the local communities, especially the children, to learn about the rainforest and how to protect it. Cristalino Lodge is somewhere you can visit and know you are making a positive difference in the world.”
Fires burning through the forest is a sight that has become all too common in the media. Have you personally been affected by the fires in the Amazon?
“Fortunately not, not directly anyway, but the fires are a problem for Brazil as a whole, not just the Amazon. It’s unthinkable that we see even the wetlands on fire. However, this is something we all must come together to solve.
There has been a large effort to stop the fires in the dry season, but it is important to think of an ongoing strategy to prevent fires in the upcoming years, specially the large fluctuations in climate, where we see unusual drier and warmer years, creating a challenge for a country as large as Brazil. In this sense, tourism plays an important part because hotels help to protect the environment and prevent fires in their areas of operation.”
Is there a local dish or drink that you highly recommend to guests who comes to stay?
“There are so many, it’s hard to choose just one! We make Tambaqui, a regional white water fish. It is cooked in banana leaves in an open fire in front of our guests, serving it with organic chutneys. Everything we produce is organic. For dessert, we do a banana crumble with a chocolate sauce made from wild cocoa and açaí (a kind of palm tree) berry. We like to use all of the flavours of the Amazon.’
How did Cristalino Lodge come into being? Where does the story begin?
“I am the second generation. The lodge was started by my mother as a dream to protect the rainforest. She did ecotourism courses in the 90s and fell in love with the idea. She wanted to do something. For me, I always loved coming to the lodge and seeing the beauty of the Amazon. There is a brazil nut tree here in our reserve that is over 800 years old, and in 30 years, it hasn’t changed a bit! I wanted to keep things the same, to devote my time to conservation so that people can have the same experience that I had.”
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Can you tell us more about the rare wildlife that guests can expect to see?
“You might get to see the white-whiskered spider monkey, this species only inhabit a tiny region in the Amazon. Even though they are endangered in other areas, they can be seen quite often around the trees. You can also see tapirs, giant otters, anteaters and even pumas. There are 596 species of birds, which is 1/3 of all species of Brazil. For the Amazon standards, the Cristalino Reserve is extremely rich and biodiverse.”
You have so many great initiatives and projects at Cristalino Lodge. Which initiative or project are you most proud of to date?
“Protecting the rainforest where we are. If the lodge was not here, most of this forest would be lost. So, in this sense, we have helped to preserve a large part of rainforest, transforming the geography and promoting strong conservation initiatives.
The area we are protecting privately is almost two times bigger than Manhattan Island.”
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How does Cristalino Lodge engage its guests in conservation efforts?
“We believe experiences have the power to transform individuals. People often leave different than when they arrived. They realise the beauty of the planet we live on and the consequences of not caring for it. They realise that all of the rubbish that is cast away is going somewhere. They are inspired by sustainable initiatives.
We try to make the experience as touching as possible. When we take guests up the observation towers early in the morning, they get to see the rainforest waking up, with the sun and the myst all around them, with flying birds passing by. You never forget an experience like this and you start to wonder what you can also do, with your unique way and your unique capabilities. Inspiration is key to change.”
A question I always like to end with. What is next For Cristalino Lodge, Alex?
“We want to extend our reserve and protect more land. We also want to do even more for the local communities, expanding our current activities. We are always looking for ways to improve guest experiences as well.
For example, we want to offer a delicious breakfast up in the observation tower very soon, with fresh juice, hot organic coffee and snacks while you are watching the changing scenario around you.”