What would it be like to give everything up and move to Peru? This is exactly what a young Frenchwoman did when she set up a lodge and eco-tourism destination in the middle of the Amazon. She now offers guests the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with local populations on environmental projects.
The Inti Eco Lodge is an hour’s drive from Iquitos, a city in northern Peru considered the gateway to the Peruvian part of the Amazon rainforest. Twenty-nine-year-old Anne de Thélin, a Frenchwoman, founded the lodge with several friends a little over a year ago, in November 2014. Their aim was to do something different to other programmes for tourists visiting Peru, which can sometimes amount to nothing short of human safaris.
Ultimately, De Thelin and her fellow founders want the lodge to be totally self-sufficient. It’s not a luxurious place to stay-- it’s built to be durable and to exist in harmony with the local environment. It has eco-toilets (which don’t use water) and the cabins all have solar panels. The eco-lodge project has also brought together more than 100 volunteers, including both local Peruvians and tourists from around the world.
"We want to make this place into a centre to train visitors in sustainable development"
Anne de Thélin is one of the founders of Inti Eco Lodge.
From the city of Iquitos, it takes two hours by boat or an hour by car to get to the lodge. Volunteers help to transport the material needed for on-site work.
The lodge is on an 18-hectare plot. To get here from Iquitos, it takes about three hours on public transport, an hour by car or two hours by boat.
The plot’s previous owners burned it to make charcoal. We’ve spent months cleaning up the land with the help of both volunteers and locals-- and it’s still not done! I wanted to set up our project here because only about 3 percent of the tourists who come to Peru to visit this region.
From the beginning, we’ve had the help of volunteers -- both men from the nearby village of San Martin and people from all over the world. We built our cabins according to local tradition. For example, locals wove together the leaves that we used for the roofs. We pay our local workers with the money that we earn through the lodge. There aren’t many jobs around here and, often, people have to go live in other places to find work. When they work with us, they can remain in their village, close to family and friends.
Local kids do activities with volunteers at the lodge.
We also test out many different eco-friendly projects here. For example, we are currently working on a greenhouse. We mixed together clay, water, sawdust or straw to make a building material called “adobe”. We then put the adobe into sacks and stacked the sacks one on top of another to build the foundations of the greenhouse.
This building method is common in Colombia and Ecuador, but I’ve never seen it before in Peru.
Our homemade greenhouse conserves heat very well! We also collect rainwater in tanks to use for watering our vegetable garden. We also want to try to build a natural swimming pool with plants that create natural filters.
We want this to be a place of wellness for our guests. We teach classes on how to use medicinal plants, we do birdwatching and we also have other activities like yoga. But more than anything, we want this lodge to be a vehicle for development for the local population. One day, we want to turn this lodge into a centre where we train our guests in methods of sustainable development including organic farming.
This article is part of our project, The Observers vs. Climate Change. You can find out more about initiatives aimed at countering global warming and helping the environment by clicking here.