Preserving the rainforest: Posada Amazonas

Sustainable building materials at Posada Amazonas

Sustainable building materials at Posada Amazonas. Jeff Cremer

Winner of the Rainforest Alliance Trendsetter Award in 2012, Posada Amazonas is a Peruvian eco-lodge located in Tambopata, one of the most biodiverse regions in the Amazon basin.

Ecotourism plays an increasingly important role in the economy of the Tambopata basin in southeastern Peru. As tourism has grown in Peru, a variety of eco-lodges have become established in and around protected areas such as the Tambopata Reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. Ecotourism is a contrast to the other principal economic activities in the area - gold mining and agriculture - but doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Posada Amazonas, one of the top lodges in Tambopata, is a case study of a place that has found solutions to a variety of challenges by basing much of its activities around the concept of the Long Run's 4Cs (Conservation, Culture, Community, and Commerce).

The lodge was built in 1998 and is owned by the indigenous Ese-Eja community of Infierno in partnership with Rainforest Expeditions. The land that the lodge occupies used to act as a hunting reserve for the Ese-Eja community but was converted into a nature preserve when the lodge was built and various populations of animals have increased since then.

The conversion of hunting grounds to a preserve that protects wildlife was one of the green initiatives that happened at Posada Amazonas even before the lodge was built. One of the other main initiatives that happened at this time was banning the felling of large trees in the forests around the lodge to preserve the old growth rainforests.

The success of the lodge always depended on an intact, healthy lowland rainforest ecosystem replete with macaws, monkeys, and other charismatic animals. This has fostered a conservation mindset in the local community since the beginning and strengthens the concept that protection of the forest and its biodiversity is more important than anything else. In other words, both the community and Rainforest Expeditions realized straight away that the hotel had to be as sustainable as possible and in synch with its natural surroundings for any amount of success.

Consequently the hotel has implemented many sustainable initiatives, leading to:

  • Increased sightings of uncommon and large rainforest animals that are otherwise sensitive to hunting and impacts on their habitat
  • Studies and surveys done to asses the possible impact of the hotel and trail traffic on sensitive species
  • Higher paying jobs for community members and monies for community projects that improve quality of life, education, and greatly reduce incentives to cut down forest and otherwise harm the surrounding rainforest ecosystem for profit

The winning combination of working with a local Amazonian community has not gone unnoticed. The efforts made by Posada Amazonas to work in a more sustainable manner have helped it be a finalist for or win such awards as:

  • Zeitz Foundation Award 2013
  • Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Trendsetter Award in 2012
  • Finalist for the 2008 Tourism for Tomorrow Award
  • Highly Commended First Choice Responsible Travel Award 2006
  • To Do! Award 2005
  • UNDP - Equator Initiative Finalist 2002
  • Honorable Mention British Guild of Travel Writers Silver Otter Award 2001
  • Condé Nast Traveler Magazine Best Ecotourism Tour Operator Award July 2000
  • Conservation International Ecotourism Excellence Award July 2000
Great River Otters in Tambopata basin. Jeff Cremer

Great River Otters in Tambopata basin. Jeff Cremer

Sustainable initiatives at Posada Amazonas

Posada Amazonas has worked at being a sustainable hotel since day one. In a sense, this was an easy concept to apply to the construction of the hotel and its management because in order to survive, the Ese-Eja people have always had to live in a sustainable manner with their Amazon rainforest home. Sustainable, local materials are used for traditional Ese-Eja structures and this concept was also applied to the hotel. All wood used in making the hotel came from trees that had naturally fallen down in the forest and from Gymnerium cane, an abundant, large fast growing species of grass that occurs along the edges of rivers and clearings. As is the case of the local homes in the Ese-Eja community, the roof of the hotel is made of woven palm fronds.

Other sustainable initiatives undertaken by Posada Amazonas include:

  • Waste material separated and recycled with biodegradable material being composted on site
  • Only biodegradable soaps and shampoos are used in bathrooms, for washing dishes, and for laundry
  • Shade from tall rainforest trees and frequent cloudy weather makes it difficult to use solar power so a gas generator is used for kitchen essentials but is limited to five hours per day
  • The carbon footprint of the lodge is reduced by using produce from local farms and might be offset by preserving the primary rainforest around the lodge
  • Training for various lodge positions is provided by Rainforest Expeditions for members of the local community. The majority of the workers at Posada Amazonas are currently from the community of Infierno and once enough community members are trained for management and guiding positions, it is hoped that by 2016, all lodge positions will be held by people from the community of Infierno
  • The lodge is owned by the local community of Infierno and directly benefits this community by providing them with 60% of the lodge profits, opportunities to sell hand-crafted souvenirs, and providing employment with very competitive salaries
  • Preservation of Ese-Eja culture by offering tours to a local medicinal plant garden and other activities that teach and promote Ese-Eja culture

The implementation of these green initiatives has resulted in the creation of a successful Amazonian eco-lodge that helps to protect and educate both visitors and locals about the rich biodiversity at and near the lodge. This includes an oxbow lake frequented by endangered Giant River Otters, old growth rainforests, and clay licks used by Red and green Macaws and other species of parrots. The lodge has also demonstrated that partnering  with a local community can result in an award winning lodge and top Amazonian destination in addition to providing direct benefits to that local community.

Initiatives for the future at Posada Amazonas

Green initiatives for the future include such possibilities as upgrading waste water treatment at the lodge (septic tanks are currently used but the lodge hopes to make improvements), and expanding activities that promote Ese-Eja culture.

Top three bits of advice from Posada Amazonas for hotels looking to do the same

  1. Work with local communities to provide incentive for protection of local biodiversity and listen to the people from those communities because they may already have a wealth of local knowledge about sustainable living.
  2. Don’t wait for others to take the green initiative before following suit. Make those changes on your own and then show others how they can do the same.
  3. If the first hotel and community partnership is successful, expand and promote sustainable living by repeating the process elsewhere.

For more information go to Peru Nature. Posada Amazonas is part of the sustainable organisation, Long Run Initiative. Thanks to Jeff Cremer, Marketing Officer for Rainforest Expeditions that supplied us with this information

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