Deep in the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Peru lies an unspoiled country, with trees so vast and tall they look like a million little broccolis from above. Rivers snake through the land that is completely unbroken, a peppering of naturally built indigenous communities can be seen here and there along the river, but otherwise human influence seems a distant second to one of nature’s finer masterpieces.
The villages belong to the Achuar, an indigenous nation of about 8,000 members, living off the land in their semi-autonomous territory. Until the 1960s, the concept of a Westerner was completely unknown to the Achuar. It was only then that a few missionaries entered their territory, promoting catholicism and making the Achuar aware of other forms of development.
In the early 1990s, as foreign pressures slowly increased, the Achuar began to further organize themselves to protect their land and their interests. They formed the United Achuar Nation, and together decided to keep their land free from natural resource development, such as logging, mining, and oil. The Achuar are a “dream people”, and their dreams warned them of the dangers of the Western World’s thirst for oil.
The Achuar have always viewed the forest as their supermarket and the river as their highway, so they remain hesitant to overdevelop the land and put an end to their way of life as they know it. But with an increasing awareness of other languages, cultures, and developments, the Achuar cannot help but have an interest in cleaner drinking water, electricity, and educational resources. As a result, they decided the kind of business development they wanted was ecotourism. Enter Kapawi Ecolodge.
The Kapawi Ecolodge is a beautiful jungle-lodge, situated in the heart of the Achuar territory. It was built by the Achuar in their traditional elliptical styled structures, from materials harvested in the surrounding jungle. It boasts solar panels, solar showers, a reverse osmosis water filtration system, comfortable beds, a bar, and surprisingly great food. Guests enjoy a beautiful flight into the Achuar territory, motorized canoe rides searching for wildlife (such as pink river dolphins), kayaking, hiking, and cultural visits and ceremonies. The Achuar are now the sole owners and operators of the lodge, so the benefits of this business help to support the kind of development they have chosen for themselves.
The Achuar are a fascinating culture with a fascinating stance on development. Similar to the Kapawi Ecolodge, which boasts wifi and solar power, they seem to have chosen what they want from our society in exchange for sharing their knowledge and home with tourists. To visit with the Achuar in their home is a truly otherworldly experience.