I recently had the privilege of chatting to Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve, one of the most remote, ecologically responsible and cultural sensible Amazon Jungle Ecolodges in the world. Within minutes of hearing their stories I knew that a visit to this Amazon Jungle Lodge really contributes to sustainable socio – cultural communities and the protection of a unique natural environment.
Kapawi lies in a remote and pristine region, the Amazon rainforest, untouched by logging, mining or petroleum extraction. For the Twitchers amongst us there are over 570 bird species in the area and many of the insects, including brightly colored butterflies have not been identified by scientists. Thousands of plant-species, many of them used for medicinal purposes by the Achuar are also in abundance. Mammals such as fresh water dolphins, giant river otters, monkeys, bats and several kinds of rodents (including capybaras) that you may see depending on the time of year are to be enjoyed in sight-seeing tours lead by local guides from the surrounding communities. Since they are mainly nocturnal, mammals like jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundis and other cats are lesser spotted, but their footprints lie in the soil next to your traditional hut in the morning.
The Kapawi project opened in 1996 as a unique partnership between Canodros, an Ecuadorian tourism company, and the Achuar people. Each partner shared a vision of building an economically sustainable project that would contribute to the preservation of the cultural and environmental riches of Ecuador’s Amazon region. As planned, Canodros transferred the ownership of Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve to the Achuar on January 1, 2008.
The project is now operated by the Achuar through their tour operator CEKSA, (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi Sociedad.Anonima), a legal structure that has a category of a Tour operator, in charge of the ownership, operation and management of the lodge.
The Amazon rainforest hosts some of the richest biodiversity in the world; stores vast amounts of carbon; and regulates the climate and rainfall over a vast area. But it’s also home to more than 30 million people in nine South American countries, many of whom rely on the forest for their livelihoods. Kapawi’s attempts shed light on how the forests can be used in more sustainable ways – while improving the lives of their poorest inhabitants.
If ever I had a something to tick off my bucket list, visiting the lungs of my planet would surely be it.
We all need to think actively about what threatens the rainforest, how the products we buy daily kill the vital carbon crunching eco-systems. I realised that even though the Amazon might be very far from where I am in South Africa, it is actually as close as my own breath.
Words: Daréll Lourens
Copy Reference and Pictures: Kapawi Eco Lodge