Gabriel Minas Amaya, from the Kichwa Anangu Community in Ecuador, has shared with us some of his thoughts about why the community decided to set up their extraordinary project and how they are facing the challenges posed by Covid 19. The community owns and runs the Napo Wildlife Centre, an award winning luxury Ecolodge in the heart of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon region, which has outstanding wildlife viewing and is our favourite place to visit in the Amazon.
Over the last few weeks Think Galapagos have helped put the community in touch with Sky News, who are doing a series on extraordinary wild places across the world under lockdown. The live interview (if the technology works!) is due to air on Monday 18th May at 9.20am UK time.
The Bet For Life
More than 20 years ago, the Añangu people in Ecuador took a dramatic decision that would change their lives. Petroleum companies were extracting crude oil from the soil, destroying enormous spaces of Rainforest, and paying ridiculous amounts of money to local Communities to allow them to continue drilling here and there. The result was a destroyed Amazon and split Communities where alcohol impacted negatively.
With that scenario, the Añangu Community held a series of meetings where, democratically, they decided to join a special effort to protect their land, the nature on it and their oral traditions and knowledge. Therefore, they decided to stop hunting, to stop fishing and to ban logging on their territory. They choose tourism as they path to help them achieving their goals.
The Añangu Community Now
After 20 years, the Añangu have been able to develop a local school which is open to other local Communities too, for free. They have a local health centre, electricity through solar panels, a recycling project, housing programs for their members and much more. But the most important part is they remain in their Community, they work showing their ancestral land to visitors and with their skilled eye, they know exactly where to point out the camera or the binoculars to admire the secrets of the Amazon.
Over the years the Añangu have developed special activities so tourists can best experience the magic of the Rainforest. They have constructed cosy areas where guests can have privacy and just relax in the middle of the pure nature. Additionally, Community members can stay with their children while working and, with a restriction on alcohol consumption for them, again democratically decided, everything is working better for each Añangu family.
Nowadays, tourists experience mesmerising views from canopy towers, personalised walks in the forest, kayaking in the river, sailing the creeks and the lagoon, and watching how life develops freely with parrots flying every day in couples to meet other birds and together eat clay for their diet, or giant otters fishing in groups, like many other special moments in their natural essence.
Coronavirus and the Añangu
These days, coronavirus is a challenge for the Añangu people. Community savings are being used to keep the Community members safe and healthy, and to implement the required health measures for the time when visitors return. The Añangu people want to make sure it is completely safe for tourists to come to their home, as it is for them now, as no COVID 19 cases have yet been reported in the Añangu land.
This magical piece of earth is waiting for avid travellers to return, people looking forward to experience the charm of the Amazon Rainforest, expecting to discover the richness of the symbiosis of human beings with nature and to learn to fall in love once again with travel.
Would you like to visit the Yasuni National Park? Check out our Andes to Amazon trip.