Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Jessica dos Anjos de Oliveira
Biologist and Tour Guide
Can you recall the stillness and comfort of contemplating a broad landscape, jumping a waterfall or observing a bird or flower for the first time? Almost every person, at some point, seeks contact with the wilderness, which is often lacking in urban areas. That's where eco-tourism comes in: providing positive experiences and bringing people together with natural environments. On top of that, ecotourism is subtly recruiting allies in nature conservation. Today, March 1st, is the National Ecotourism Day in Brazil.
Ecotourism can be defined as tourism that uses an environment's natural and cultural heritage in a sustainable way, which guarantees its long-term usage.
Ecotourism seeks to raise environmental awareness through the explorer's experience and perception of nature. It also encourages reflection and deep thinking.
These experiences must occur alongside the participation of local communities to ensure communication, mutual benefit, and respect for the land and communities. Successful ecotourism ventures engage local communities as partners and leaders. Therefore, ecotourism can become an important economic opportunity in places with broad biodiversity, unique environments, scenic landscapes, and traditional communities, such as the Amazon.
Photo: Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffroensis), Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve, Amazonas, Brazil.
Famous globally, the Brazilian Amazon lost 20% of its original coverage, while the remaining 80% is home to 24 million Brazilians. Ecotourism reconciles profit while preserving the forest, and serves as an alternative economic proposal to deforestation activities. While living in the region for six years, I have worked in community-based tourism initiatives in a sustainable development reserve with riverside dwellers in Amazonas state, sportfishing tourism on indigenous land in collaboration with villages in Para state and on wildlife observation tourism in a private reserve in Mato Grosso state. But don't be fooled: all Brazilian biomes besides the Amazon are equally fit for nature-based activities.
Photo: Visitors of Uakari Lodge observing Giant Water Lily (Victoria amazonica) with riverside dweller local guide, Amazonas, Brazil.
Photo: Kayapo girl observing landscape, Menkragnoti Indigenous Land, Pará, Brazil.
As an ecotourism guide, nature is a religion for me. I feel immense pleasure when walking in natural environments, where everything seems to be in the right place, where no cars are heard or colourful billboards are seen.
Work as a "naturalist" guide starts with the passion and fascination about everything alive, develops into the study of these organisms' natural history, and ends with communicating this passion and knowledge in an informative manner to the visitor. With luck, we can "contaminate" the ecotourists and gain ever stronger allies for the conservation of natural environments, parks and reserves.
Photo: Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) crossing Iriri river near Kendjam Lodge, Menkragnoti Indigenous Land, Pará, Brazil.
One of the best things about my job is wildlife observation. From birds to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, bugs, and spiders… Every animal has an interesting role, aspect, appearance or behaviour in its own habitat.
Having a daily routine in remote environments, like the jungle hotel I work in, allows you to always have new observations. In an increasingly anxious and digital world, ecotourism offers the possibility of living in the present moment and experiencing the real world – one of nature, looking beyond yourself, and learning new things for the simple pleasure of knowing.
Photo: White-whiskered Spider Monkey (Ateles marginatus), Cristalino Private Reserve of the Natural Heritage, Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Photo: Jessica dos Anjos in canopy tower of Cristalino Lodge, Mato Grosso, Brazil.
How about planning an ecotourism trip to Brazil in your next opportunity?
PS: Several ecotourism operations in Brazil have adapted to strict protocols to prevent and combat COVID-19.