Entering untamed wilderness in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
After this enriching day visiting my sponsor child, the next days awaited us. We would encounter beauty and wonder filled with astounding amount of flora and fauna, and breathtaking moments in the Amazon jungle of a remote location. The Amazon covers almost 40 percent of South America.
It started with the journey over the ‘Mother of the Waters’, the Amazon River. The Amazon River is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world, and the longest river system in the world (Source: Wikipedia).
After spending several hours in a speedboat traveling over the mighty Amazon, this incredibly large and wide river with a light brown color, passing alongside river banks and riverside communities (ribereos), where poverty is still apparent, and the speedboat avoiding trunks of seasonally flooded forests, we made a left turn into a darker brown and much more narrow river, the Tahuayo River, towards our lodge located in the upper Tahuayo River basin.
We appeared to be close to arriving at our destination, Tahuayo Lodge, a sustainable wilderness lodge for adventurous travellers, managed by Amazonia Expeditions. However, it took another extra-long hour of wandering along the river, which, and despite the engine noise, I made it a lengthy meditation and a Nature contemplation.
When I researched Amazon river lodges, I was very intentional in that I was not only wishing do a jungle expedition and experience the jungle in an authentic way, being in the natural wonder of the Amazon rainforest in the heart of the north western Amazon of Peru, but in a place that took sustainable development to heart, had a connection to the area and is a formal organisation in full compliance with all laws, regulations, and licensing with Peruvian Law.
I mention this because businesses often are not registered with authorities and only partially comply with other regulations. I knew this is where I wanted to go when I discovered about Tahuayo Lodge’s larger purpose to conserve one of the most biodiverse locations, in partnership with the local communities, in order to protect the enormous biodiversity contained inside this area.
Tahuayo Lodge is located in the upper Tahuayo River, a smaller tributary of the upper Amazon River surrounded by seasonally inundated forests and with incredible biodiversity. It has exclusive access to the very close Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve ACRCTT (Area de Conservacion Regional Communal Tamshiyacu), with the opportunity to experience an unmatched variety of wildlife. The site has more species of monkeys than any protected park or reserve in the world. Scientists have also documented the greatest diversity of species of mammals and birds of any site studied in the lowland Amazon basin (Source: The Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve – Amazonia Expeditions).
Once we arrived at this pristine location it felt being so far away of the world (which indeed it is). We were warmly greeted by the fantastic Tahuayo Lodge staff. The first thing that caught our eye was the lodge building structure of the main and adjacent rustic cabins raised above the jungle floor on stilts connected with each other by a raised boardwalk. The nice and large cabins were at the height of the trees, and wonderfully integrated into nature.
In the rainy season the stilts are all covered by meter high waters, as seasonal inundation floods the surrounding river basins and forests under 6 to 8 m every year! So the forest is vastly secondary forest in this region.
All staff was amazing, thoughtful, and caring and always watching for our well-being.
The food was excellent, high quality and with a large variety from local dishes to the fresh, local fruit juices.
Captivated by nature and wildlife
All guides are assigned to a traveler group, from one person to small groups. Our private expert guide Claudio was a real connoisseur, highly trained and always tuning in into our needs and interests.
We learned about the different ecosystems, the Amazonian várzea forests, the forest that is seasonally flooded up to 7m where we were in.
He amazed us showing and telling us about plant and tree species, wildlife, and environment in detail.
Being embraced by Mother Nature and connecting to my own deeper Nature
On our first day, we took the canoe floating slowly upwards on Tahuayo River until we suddenly sat foot on land. We hiked into the hot-humid swampy area in the jungle, deeper and deeper, and after a few moments there was no orientation anymore for us. Of course, Claudio and the second guide knew exactly where we were.
We carefully stepped towards Traves Lake, an enchanted place deeply hidden in the forest.
I was very conscious that we were indeed somewhere far from civilization in the middle of the Amazon jungle somewhere on the planet. Nature was overwhelming and this silence! It had something very magical and deeply connecting.
We spotted baby alligators and a small population of Slate Color Hawks.
Throughout all days we spotted an abundance of birdlife and wildlife like White Wing Swallow, Rusty Earth Snake, frogs and other species.
Given the very high humidity, and wearing long sleeved clothes this hiking experience left me totally knackered.
The nights were a giant musical concert of jungle sounds.
Listening and falling asleep to the soothing and at times joyful jungle symphony of the forest, its beautiful birdsongs and sense of its living beings was balm for the soul and it literally felt like being held in the arms of Mother Earth and being reassured, I am taken care of and part of something much greater.
One of the highlights for me was during a night excursion floating along the Tahuayo River by canoe. We were gazing at the stars and saw millions of our amazing star relatives. In this beautiful unpolluted and clear night sky we had a brilliant sight of our Milky Way. Our guide Claudio discovered a clear ‘C’ star letter. And shortly after he tracked a formation of stars that shaped a heart in the sky! This discovery and painting in the night sky moved me deeply.
As we floated in the peaceful darkness of the night, only broken by the constant noises of the jungle on our small canoe, I was so in tune with the cosmos and aware of these truly unique time that it allowed me to have a profound experience with ‘All That Is’. It was like to be on a different planet. This experience remains as truly unforgettable moments and is forever imprinted.
On another day hike, we explored more the native plant habitat, seeing some impressive trees in a variety of forms, foliage, dimensions, and height. The abundance here was awe-inspiring!
I integrated an additional way of intentionally relating with Nature by consciously focusing that I was walking on the living being of our Mother Earth, and genuinely feeling the gratitude for her.
Another unforgettable moment was meditating under a giant tree which unleashed the power of living energy of the tree, unlocking a deep connection and sense of oneness. This realization seemed to coincide with scientific research of the interconnectivity of all living systems through trees and the surrounding earth.
For me however, it was a very intimate experience and I was moved by being embraced this way by Mother Earth.
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.”Albert Einstein
Sustainability and regenerative leadership
Later on, we also had the opportunity to visit the nearby local community village Chino and learn about how Tahuayo Lodge is involved in social sustainability.
We took a walk through the community and gained an impression of the livelihood there. We crossed the super long access bridge to the Chino school zone which was recently build particularly for flood times so children still can go to school.
Just when we arrived at Tahuayo Lodge a group of volunteers finalized their week of aid for the construction of the foundational structure of a new elementary school classroom next to the current high school campus.
I was impressed by the vision and regenerative leadership of Dolly Beaver, founder of Tahuayo Lodge, who we had the pleasure to meet and have many conversations with. Sustainability is lived here and an integral part of how the lodge is led and managed. Care for the empoyees and community are at the core. And, ultimately all of this showed into a high quality experience for guests, as we can attest. Ratings of this lodge are consistently very high.
As an example, during the pandemic time, rather than letting employees go, she invested in providing personal and professional development, and help for lodge maintenance. In addition, she has been the driving force for the empowerment of women, expanding local school buildings, the regional through the Angels of the Amazon foundation, that she founded. By supporting local women of the villages in creating traditional arts and crafts, the organisation helps them find a voice in their communities uplifting their self-esteem and self-worth in their villages and in their homes.
The sustainable purchasing and procurement policy hangs visibly for everyone in the large dining room. The following image is showing a family from nearby bringing dried palm leaves to the lodge, as palm thatched roofs had to be exchanged.
A welcome board reminds visitors: “Please remember this isn’t a hotel but our home.” And some of the ground rules also visibly there: “Remember where you are, we are all part of this ecosystem,” and “Keep negative vibes out – nature will reward you.”
Rather than transactional sustainability, sustainability here is a source of empowerment, service to people, nature, and guests. It is demonstrated here by lived values not by transactional ‘must do’s’. A great window into how it works are the employees. The culture of the organization is a direct mirror of a conscious regenerative leadership.
Tahuayo Lodge is a true sustainability champion – in a very challenging environment – and lives a conscious sustainability leadership paradigm, and is a great leadership example for other tourism organisations in the country and elsewhere.
I left with a sense that genuine authentic and sustainable travel is possible in Peru and that tourism has a huge potential to be a driver for preservation and thrivability of its vast cultural and natural diversity, and that is of benefit to all the Peruvians.
In my final next blog you’ll find out about how it all comes together in my inward and outward transformative journey.
Continue reading the Series: Embarking on a Journey of Inner and Outer Exploration
Next post blog #5: ‘The gifts of a transformational journey’ (5 of 5)
Review the last post blog #3: ‘Return to the past and entering into other realities‘ (3 of 5)
Written by Claudia van’t Hullenaar, Founder Sustained Impact
Photo Credit: All photos by Claudia van’t Hullenaar if not separately mentioned
Acknowledgement and Gratitude
Sincere thanks and appreciation for Karen Aud and Scott Wurtzbacher for your support and valuable feedback on this article. And thank you dear reader for taking the time to read this blog.