Posada Amazonas: Managed by Rainforest Expeditions, Owned by a Local Community

Posada Amazonas is one of the premier eco-lodges in the Tambopata region. The lodge has won a number of awards, surveys have indicated the majority of guests are very satisfied with their stay, and it offers a number of activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family. But that’s not the only reason why Posada Amazonas stands out from other ecotourism ventures. This lodge isn’t actually owned by Rainforest Expeditions. Although it is managed by Rainforest Expeditions, Posada Amazonas is actually owned by a local community who live near the lodge.

The need for a new lodge

The beginnings of Posada Amazonas can’t really be discussed without mentioning another eco-lodge situated much further up the Tambopata River and the company that owns it. This lodge, the Tambopata Research Center (or TRC), was founded during the early 90s by Eduardo Nycander and Kurt Holle. Assistants of a macaw project carried out in the forests surrounding TRC, they also began an ecotourism venture called “Rainforest Expeditions” around the same time.

They hoped to offer a fantastic Amazonian wildlife experience for guests and a place where scientists could carry out research in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest. As word got out about the spectacular macaw clay lick and top-notch wildlife sightings at TRC, the number of guests steadily increased. Nevertheless, the same thing that made this lodge unique also presented one of the main challenges in visiting. Situated far removed from any road, TRC was only accessible by a 7 to 8 hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. Although a number of wildlife sightings were associated with the trip, it was nevertheless a lengthy ride that took up most of a day.

The company realized that some way to break up the trip was needed and what better way to do this than with a lodge built somewhere en-route?

Location in the rainforest

In scouting out possible locations for a lodge, the owners of Rainforest Expeditions realized that the best spot was on land used by a local community as a hunting reserve. Heavily forested, lacking settlements, and protected by a local community on the Tambopata River, the site would also take 2 to 3 hours off the boat ride to TRC. In being located on high, terra firme forest, the lodge would also be protected from annual flooding that occurred in lower-lying areas closer to the river.

The big question was whether or not the local community of “Infierno” would be interested in selling their land or hosting an eco-lodge on it.

An agreement is reached

As luck would have it, many of the people from the community were very much interested in becoming more involved with ecotourism. Living near the river, they were witness to an increasing number of boats that carried tourists to and from TRC and other lodges in the area. With few economic opportunities available other than small scale farming, panning for gold, or illegal logging, an eco-lodge appeared to be an ideal and sound means of increasing income and improving the infrastructure of their community. In addition, several of the employees at TRC were from the community and had personally seen how ecotourism was a viable option for the area.

Rainforest Expeditions began discussing the possibility of a lodge with community leaders and after months of talks and negotiations, signed a contract to work together in 1996.

This contract stipulated that:
  • The lodge would always be owned by the community but solely managed by Rainforest Expeditions for a certain amount of time.

  • The community would receive 60% of earnings and Rainforest Expeditions the other 40%.

  • Decisions would be made by both parties.

  • Hunting and felling of trees would be prohibited in the territory around the lodge.
In addition, Rainforest Expeditions would train community members to work at the lodge in the following ways:
  • Construction and maintenance of the lodge.

  • Service staff for the kitchen, guest rooms, and restaurant.

  • Middle management positions.

  • Lodge administrators and management in Puerto Maldonado.

  • Leadership positions in senior management.

  • To be professional rainforest guides who can speak more than one foreign language.
Building the Amazon rainforest lodge known as Posada Amazonas

Financing for construction and set-up of the lodge was obtained from the Peru-Canada fund. $260,000 was lent to Rainforest Expeditions as a three year loan and this was paid off within that time frame. As part of the loan agreement, Rainforest Expeditions provided administrative and marketing infrastructure while the local community provided much of the labor and land for the lodge. Contracts funded by the loan for woodwork and harvesting of materials such as cane, palm leaves, and clay were also awarded to members of the community.

Posada Amazonas opened in 1998 and has become a success from the start as tourism increased in the Tambopata region.

The control committee

On the community-based side of the decision making process, ten members from the community are elected every two years to be part of a committee that is in charge of helping to monitor, evaluate, and audit contract requirements. They also help to define business strategies and communicating information to the rest of the community.

Work continues with the community

As part of the original contract, the community of Infierno has continued to work with Rainforest Expeditions as their sole tourism operator. At the end of twenty years, the community has the opportunity to renew the contract with Rainforest Expeditions, choose another partner, or manage the lodge on their own.

Benefits to the local community

Community members have benefited in a number of ways from working with Rainforest Expeditions. These include:
  • A successful lodge: Training, marketing, and management provided by Rainforest Expeditions have played a big role in the success of Posada Amazonas.

  • More jobs for community members: In addition to various positions at the lodge itself, community members have also increased their income by providing foodstuffs and hand-crafted souvenirs for the lodge.

  • Training for careers away from the lodge: The training provided by Rainforest Expeditions has given many community members valuable skills that would have been very difficult for them to otherwise obtain.

  • Community projects: Income earned from Posada Amazonas has been used by the community in projects that have involved potable water systems, a community port on the river, social support, a tourism license, and gear for the community soccer team.

  • Keeping the Ese’Eja culture alive: Although this stems from efforts made by community members on their own, the lodge has also helped in this regard by making guests aware of Ese’Eja culture. Many of the community members belong to the Ese’Eja culture, an indigenous group who had lived in the Tambopata area for thousands of years, and are able to teach guests about their heritage through various lodge activities.
As with any partnership, not every agreement has been reached with just one meeting. Nonetheless, open and frequent discussions between the Tambopata community of Infierno and Rainforest Expeditions have helped them come to terms on various issues and this partnership will hopefully continue to grow with time.

To learn more about this award winning lodge in the Peruvian Amazon, visit perunature.com or contact Rainforest Expeditions today.