What We Do
Rainforest Expeditions is a Peruvian Ecotourism company. Since 1989 our guests and lodges, have added value to standing tropical rainforest, transforming it into a competitive alternative to unsustainable economic uses, engaging local communities in its protection and care.
How We Do It:
What We Want To Do
For the next twenty years, we want to be able to walk the forests that have hosted us, find the same ancient trees with as many or more monkeys and macaws on them, and see that our local community partners continue to live sustainably and harmoniously with the Peruvian Amazon.
Our 25-Year History:
1989 – Eduardo Nycander is invited on an expedition organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society to the little known Colorado clay lick in the Tambopata River. As a wildlife photographer, he was awed by the massive clay lick and the incredible number and varieties of parrots that visited it. Concerned with their protection, he identified a sizable patch of pristine forest near the clay lick, to build a research center, protecting it from the threats of illegal hunting of macaws. This also included an application for a 10,000 hectare forestry concession, to legally protect as large an area as possible.
1989 - Tambopata Nature Tours was founded by Eduardo Nycander, and two other partners, to build what became the company’s first lodge – the Tambopata Research Center (TRC). As an architect specializing in indigenous Amazon construction techniques, Eduardo designs TRC to blend in with the local environment, using traditional materials.
1990 - Tambopata Research Center is complete! A floor raised on stilts, a palm thatch roof, no walls, mattresses on the floor, an earthen stove and latrines – just the basics. The 1.5 million hectare conservation unit called the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone is declared by the Government of Peru, with TRC in the middle of it. Unlike a National Reserve, a "Reserved Zone" is provisional, and could be revoked. Uncertainty ….
1990 - Eduardo bootstraps macaw research out of TRC. With a team of enthusiastic and courageous research assistants, we hang burnt PVC pipes 30 meters above ground to supplement natural nesting sites.
1992 – Rainforest Expeditions, our company today, was founded by Eduardo Nycander, bringing to it TRC and all the existing concession arrangements. In 1993, he invited Kurt Holle then a macaw field research assistant with the project, to join him. Since then, we have continued to build the company with the support and passion of a loyal and hardworking team.
1992 - We incubate macaw eggs with low survival probabilities in the wild and raise the chicks in semi-captivity, giving birth to the first generation of Chicos.
1993 - We upgrade TRC. We learn from our guests that contact with the forest from the lodge is a big plus. We thus decide to leave out the fourth wall (the one which looks out to the forest). It becomes a signature feature of Eduardo’s architectural designs in this lodge and his future lodges.
1994 - We´re in the December issue of National Geographic Magazine, thanks to famous photographer Frans Lanting, who did amazing work with macaws. We have our first year fully hosting guests. Many of them own parrots and macaws at home, and are fascinated by the clay lick.
1995 - We receive a letter from the Community of Infierno, looking for ways to expand benefits more broadly throughout the community. Could we hire more members of the community at TRC? Could we expand our levels of cooperation? Our partnership began to grow with Infierno. We ask them if they would like to join us in a partnership on community land – could this be a joint venture ecolodge in the making?
1996 - Eduardo spends six months in Infierno, explaining the ecotourism project to community members, going house by house. The project is approved almost unanimously in May. We sign a 20-year contract for management of a community lodge. This same year, the government creates the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. Finally – the clay lick is officially within a protected area.
1997 – On behalf of the community of Infierno, we obtain funding for the construction of Posada Amazonas. This marked the official beginning of the joint venture between the Community of Infierno and Rainforest Expeditions – and what a ride its been! We also build our first canopy tower for tourists to watch a harpy eagle nest.
1998 – We open Posada Amazonas in April. We start monthly “Control Committee” meetings to take decisions regarding lodge managements with the community. Representatives from the community hack it out with company reps. These meetings are still a staple today.
1999 - We bring Dr. Donald Brightsmith on board to continue running the macaw project. Great decision. Over a decade later, the macaw project has produced dozens of peer-reviewed publications, and is supported by the Schubot Center for Avian Veterinary Sciences, at Texas A&M University. It conducts cutting edge research with a host of graduate students and volunteers, all through the year.
2000 - We help refurbish Centro Ñape, the community ethnobotanical center, and start visiting it with guests. Centro Ñape is paid an entry fee for every guest that visits it. That entry fee maintains a staff and infrastructure that attend local residents requiring traditional medicine.
2001 - We finish paying loans taken to build Posada Amazonas. The first dividends are distributed to the community.
2002 - We’re almost kicked out of the community of Infierno! Community members complained we were making most of the decisions without enough consultation. They were right. We take more decisions to our board meetings with the community. As the community gains experience and more knowledge, we work together better, collaboratively. Good call.
2003 – We’re forced to move the first lodge – Tambopata Research Center. The river moved 100 meters horizontally over the past decade and passes right in front of the entrance. We take it apart carefully and reconstruct with much the same flavor, but renewed materials, about 600 meters from the rivers edge. We’re in the middle of white-lipped peccary territory!
2004 - We develop kayak, biking and canopy climbing for adventurous folk. Yet more fun!
2005 - We build and open our third lodge on the Tambopata River, Refugio Amazonas. It is on private land in the middle of a community of ribereños (second or third generation settlers). We make new friends with farms and Brazil nut concessions.
2006 – We get in trouble with the community once again, although not as bad as the last time. Now the issue is the exclusivity clause. The Posada Amazonas management contract stipulates the community cannot start other tourism operations while we are there – the intention was to avoid lodges popping up that weren’t consistent with our ecotourism principles. However, we have built a third lodge – Refugio Amazonas. So we revoke the clause, and make sure there is an understanding of the importance of managing tourism volumes, maintaining sustainability principles, to guard the communities´ keystone resources.
2007 - We stop sinking money at expansion in the Andes, in a lodge concession we engaged in. We lose a lot of time and money. We learn we are Amazonian. And this year, our long applied for ecotourism concession for the area around TRC was finally awarded! It´s where we are meant to be.
2008 – We are hired as marketing and product development implementation consultants by iSur, the non-profit arm of the Interoceanic highway concessionaire, Odebrecht. Our goal is to help eighteen home-stay owners from the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers improve their products and gain market share and profitability. This helps consolidate the buffer zone of the Tambopata-Candamo National Reserve, and Bahuaja Sonene National Park.
2009 – We embark on a tough course of action: verification by Rainforest Alliance. It takes us two years, but we make it! In the same year -- we strengthen our commitment to conservation – and secure another ecotourism concession along the buffer zone of the Madre de Dios River, covering the park and national reserve.
2010 – We start talking to the community of Palma Real, a traditional Ese’eja native community. We spend over a year explaining the nuances of tourism businesses to a committee of elected leaders.
2011 – We put a great new product out to test – photo workshops which include top notch equipment – 600 mm lens, robotic tripod mounts and extreme macro lenses.
2013 – We successfully extend the joint venture agreement with the Community of Infierno to jointly operate Posada Amazonas, taking the partnership three more years to 2019.
2014 – We secure financial resources to upgrade Posada Amazonas, the community’s Centro Nape, and other individual initiatives of community members.
There is much more to come. We plan to open a fourth lodge, along the same lines as the three we already manage. We are deep in research, to find ways to make our current and future lodges and operations more energy efficient and low carbon-emission.
We want to help develop home-stay products elsewhere in the Amazon, as we believe this has good potential with less accessible regions (aka – most of the Amazon). We also want to provide our guests opportunities to shop for beautiful Amazon jewelry, handicrafts, and wood decorations produced by native communities, when visiting our lodges. We hope to help our guests positively impact every corner of the Amazon. Join us for the adventure – your patronage, ideas and support are always welcome!
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