Our Eco Group
Sharing knowledge and experiences
Here at El Monte Sustainable Lodge we really believe in the power of ecotourism to conserve large tracts of wilderness. So much so, in fact, that we feel compelled to help other people or communities to open their own lodges. Our first opportunity for doing this came in 2001 with Sani Lodge (www.sanilodge.com), one of the 1st community owned indigenous lodges in Ecuador, where we helped in the areas of management, service, style and marketing for 5 years. Since then Sani has become completely independent and one of the premier Amazonian lodges in Ecuador.
After Sani Lodge, about 10 years ago we began working with Otobo Baihua (www.rainforestcamping.com), a Huaorani native, to create Otobo´s Amazon Safari. Otobo and members of his family bring in visitors deep into the heart of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.
And then in 2017 we began helping Eden Amazon Lodge (www.edenamazonecuador.com) on the Rio Napo with marketing, service and quality. Eden has an amazing Rainforest connected to the Yasuni National Park, picturesque lake and incredibly warm people. Eden is also 100% owned by a Kichwa community.
Sani preserves 37,000 hectares (92,500 acres), Eden protects 25,000 hectares (62,500 acres) and Otobo claims ancestral rights to 100,000´s of hectares. So this is the power of ecotourism… when you visit one of these lodges you are not only empowering the local people but preserving large areas of Rainforest, that are in the buffer zone of the Yasuni National Park.
Steps to establishing community owned tourism
Get to know the community and find out if the majority of the “comuneros” want to do ecotourism. This can not be imposed on the community… it has to be 100% their decision. If the answer is yes then we can proceed, if not, then we have to thank them for their time.
Make it economic. It is important to understand the needs of comuna members, the daily stress of providing food for your family, the difficulty in finding jobs in remote areas… Ecotourism can help in all of these. First ecotourism is labor intensive. A lodge needs about 1 worker for every guest they receive. So in the beginning to “sell” the idea it´s ok to tout the number of jobs that will be provided AND, if things go well, how much profit the comuna as a whole would receive.
Make it ecologic. Western culture does not have a monopoly on bird watching or nature enjoyment. This comes with economic stability, free time and education. After the project becomes an operating lodge, it is amazing to see how local people become entranced into biology, bird watching and conservation. This is the long standing virtue that most ensures Rainforest conservation for generations to come.
Now I don’t want to insinuate that we have done this all alone… no, no,no! We have gotten by with a little (a lot of ) help from our friends. We have depended on countless volunteers… and believe me you can move mountains with a core of young people that we have had the priviledge of knowing and working with over the years. I`m sure we are leaving some out, but here goes a list of the volunteers that we have had for the last 18 years or so.
Eco Group Volunteers and Support
…could never have done it without you!!!