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Can Peru Protect Its Pristine Amazon Rainforest With Eco-Tourism?

The air is thick under the humid rainforest canopy in Peru’s Amazonian basin. Sweat pools, insects melodically hum, and the squawks of circling macaws echo through the towering trees.

I’m silently crouching on the crunchy forest floor when the rainforest ambiance is briefly interrupted by audible gasps as a tarantula leaps out of a hole and heads straight toward me. It’s not entirely unexpected, though, as our Posada Amazonas lodge rainforest guide, Ines Duran Perdomo, has been gently stroking the outer rim of a tarantula burrow with a twig.

She’s doing this to try and lure out the resident spider for the assembled visitors. A moment later, her clever spider hack has worked, and we are greeted by a massive hairy arachnid in attack mode.

“They are waiting inside the burrow, and as soon as they feel some movement, they attack as they can feel the vibrations in the ground,” explains Ines.

“That’s why I told you don’t move much because they can feel that something big is outside, so they know it’s dangerous and not prey, so they just run back inside the nest.”

Tarantulas in the wild are a sight to behold, and I am mere inches away from one as Ines describes how these gigantic spiders ambush and kill their prey with their large fangs. I hastily take a few steps backward.

Spiders are one of the many species of arachnids, insects, and animals found in the 69 million hectares of forest in southeast Peru – where the threat of deforestation and environmental destruction lingers. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, roughly 1,100 square miles of Peru’s forests are cut down annually—around 80% of them illegally.

Eco-Tourism and Its Role in The Preservation of Peru’s Wildlife

Thanks to a recent international alliance between the UK, US, Peru, Germany, and Norway, to preserve the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, serious steps are now being taken to protect this delicate ecosystem and resident wildlife. Despite Peru’s political instability, the UK has been working closely with Peru since 2021 to pursue sustainable and forest-friendly business solutions such as community-led agroforestry in the Amazon area and eco-tourism initiatives.

This new financial and international support is vital to help Peru mobilize private sector investments for nature-based solutions. Peru can now work towards tackling climate change and biodiversity while supporting the 330,000 people who depend directly on the country’s forests for their livelihoods.

The protected forest reserve of the Ese Eja Native Community of Infierno is one of the best long-standing examples of community-led eco-tourism, with an upscale lodge inside the reserve – Posada Amazonas, catering to monied tourists. Here, curious visitors can observe howler monkeys, macaws, giant river otters, white caimans, and capuchin monkeys traverse the dense forest trails and expansive river systems.

Guided wildlife spotting is one of the many curated rainforest activities at Posada Amazonas, where I’m spending a few days on my Peru trip.

It’s a 30-bedroom rustic lodge in the heart of the reserve, owned by the Community of Infierno – just a short hop from the city of Puerto Maldonado. This touristic rainforest lodge offers a visitor-friendly excursion into the Amazon basin, with en-suite rooms, a self-serve restaurant, a souvenir shop, guided activities, and even an on-site bar.

Amazon lodge Portia Jones
Image Credit: Wealth of Geeks/Portia Jones.

Jungle chic rooms are simply styled and have just three walls, with the fourth wall open to the forest. An immersive rainforest soundtrack of native birds, monkeys, and insects will lull you into a restful slumber while cascading nets protect you from pesky mosquitos.

It’s certainly an accessible and comfortable way to experience a tropical rainforest without having to trek for days through lush vegetation to reach it, which is why it’s a perfect spot for sustainable tourism. Sat in the wood-paneled open-plan common area, I found myself simultaneously connected to the natural world and yet cocooned by the safety of the tropical mahogany structure.

Through the open walls, I looked at the verdant and ethereal canopy while boozy pisco sours were served and monkeys chattered nearby.

A rather surreal experience for a city slicker like me used to traffic, light pollution, and noisy neighbors. Home feels a world away here, especially at night when the electricity shuts off at 10 pm, and darkness descends over the peaceful forest sanctuary.

Guest relations and hospitality are highly prioritized at Posada Amazonas, and with good reason. Lodge staff and management speak openly of the benefits of carefully managed tourism in the heart of the leafy reserve.

Each visit has a meaningful and direct impact on the community and helps to protect the future of the 10,000-hectare forest reserve and its abundant wildlife. Responsible tourism and community cooperation have long been at the forefront of the lodge’s ethos since it opened in 1996 in partnership with Rainforest Expeditions.

It’s a rare example of a positive, strategic alliance between a private company and a native community that shares in a venture’s success and finance. According to Rainforest Expeditions, 75% of the lodge’s profits go directly to the native community, and 80% of the staff are locals.

Working closely with a private enterprise and developing the tourism offering of the lodge has been vital for the development of the community. “They changed our lives,” says lodge manager Edgar Cesar Carrasco Moroco.

“Young people have opportunities now. Before, they finished high school and moved out from the village to work in mining and logging, but now they are working here.”

Sat in his homely lodge office, Edgar explains that high-end tourism helps nature as much as it does local employment, and he sees his community as the guardians of these ancient, forested lands.

Progressive efforts have been made in recent years, with the government and private enterprises working together to protect and preserve native wildlife and lush forest canopy.

“We used to hunt wildlife before we started working with Rainforest Expeditions,” says Edgar. “Because their focus is on the environment, we now must protect, for example, howler monkeys, macaws, jaguars, and river otters.”

alligator amazon Portia Jones
Image Credit: Wealth of Geeks/Portia Jones.

“We are doing this for the next generation,” Edgar adds. “So they can see pristine forests and even more wildlife, so education is very important for this.”

Wildlife observation in the rainforest is a big draw for international visitors keen to spot elusive creatures in their natural habitat. Preserving these animals is now more economically viable than hunting them, as guests are happy to pay a premium to connect with the natural world.

“The rainforest is one of the most popular visitor requests after Lake Titicaca,” says Marita Nuñez from travel agency Peru Trip Advisors. “They want to be close to nature and see monkeys playing in the trees.”

The Peruvian-owned agency deals with countless booking inquiries from tourists looking for ways to easily access the rainforest while visiting Peru, with wildlife observation being the main request. Thankfully, the lodge is well equipped to deal with customers’ considerable wildlife expectations, and specially trained staff guide guests on night walks, river cruises, and canopy walks to spot sloths, spiders, monkeys, and praying mantises.

On a guided night walk, I encountered my first tree frog in the wild, elegantly perched on a gnarled tree. The rest of the group is further ahead, so for a moment, it’s just a brightly colored frog and me staring back at each other as the forest gently vibrates around us.

The stillness is broken by loud gasps up ahead, so I walk through the moonlit trail, filled with renewed-yet-hesitant hope that these creatures and their forest canopy home will be protected for generations.

Need To Know

Posada Amazonas packages can be booked through Peru Trip Advisors, and prices start from around £500pp for a 3-night stay, not including airfare. Rates are dependent on the season.

To get to the lodge, you first must go to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway city to the forest reserve.

There are daily flights to Puerto Maldonado from Lima or Cuzco, at least three times a day, and prices start from around £170.

Source : Wealth of Geeks