Video: Meet the Guardians of the Peruvian Amazon

Deforestation is speeding up in the Amazon. But Peruvian communities are finding new ways to protect the wilderness.

Video: Meet the Guardians of the Peruvian Amazon

The highway that connects the Atlantic in Brazil to the Pacific in Peru brings economic benefit, but it also brings destruction, deforestation, and economic pressure on local people to give up their way of life. But, there's a third way – creating premium products in harmony with nature.

The Interoceanic Highway plows through the most remote parts of the Amazon Basin, and along much of its 1,615 mi (2,600 km) length, the rainforest has been cleared and replaced with row after row of papaya. The plantations create income for the locals, but they also kill the rainforest. Nothing else will grow after papayas have taken all the goodness from the soil.

The highway also means the illegal miners can come, pillage the rivers for gold and tip their toxic waste into the pristine environment. They openly tout for workers in the frontier towns such as Puerto Maldonado. The locals know they’re killing the forest; but the jobs pay so well, and there are families to feed.

Interoceanic Highway.

For your next trip, don’t ask “where will I go”, but “HOW will I go?”

The choices we make about the way we travel can make a huge difference to the world, and its people. After all, it’s the diversity, authenticity and originality of life which draws us to travel in the first place, so let's work to protect that.

At World Nomads, we believe we have a responsibility to give back, but don’t wait until your adventure is over. Embrace the opportunities to take the third way through organizations such as Rainforest Expeditions. Travel has the power to change lives. Use that power wisely.


My last evening in the Amazon. It's late, but nothing seems to be sleeping. Little things. Big things. Everywhere I look, life stacked on life. I feel so small. A lone heartbeat swallowed by the enormity of it all.

[FLUTE MUSIC]

Woke up thinking about some of the places I've been. Things I've seen. People say I'm lucky. Maybe. But I chose to be a traveler-- to invest in experiences, not things. Be the first in and the last out. The sweaty, the wet, the soft, and the wild. It's so much fun.

But this jungle, it's slowing me down and making my mind sweat. 2 million square miles of the densest life on Earth. How many human breaths come out of these plants every day? So rich. So fragile. It's like the end never stops beginning.

And everywhere I look, I hear stories of its demise. Illegal mining. Illegal deforestation. Poaching animals. Can I do anything to help protect this place?

[TENSE MUSIC]

Forest degradation is speeding up. Deforestation speeding up.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Whatever scale of magnitude you're looking at, you're looking at an ecosystem.

They kill trees. If you're mining the area, you kill all the-- the whole ecosystem.

The miners, the people working with wood, they shoot and hunt it for eating

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Travel has got to be more than a bucket list.

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

There are 8,000 hectares of forest at the site and 22 families that depend on the rubber tapping project.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

When someone pays for a product made from this rubber, what they're actually doing is buying a story. This rubber creates income that gives communities an incentive to conserve this forest, rather than to destroy it because they have limited options to support themselves.

It was interesting to see this process going on, where they're not even harming the tree. And then, in the distance, they hear chainsaws going off in the background. They're just chopping down these trees left and right. And these guys, well, they've become the guardians of the rainforest.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Yeah.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

[CHUCKLING]

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

Oh, wow.

[LIGHT MUSIC]

I realized that by traveling to this community, we can not only help these people to have another income, but we can give them a chance to show what they're doing-- and that's not just working with rubber-- but to demonstrate their pride in keeping these trees alive.

If this project were to stop today, there would be nothing. No forest. Maybe a cattle ranch or a papaya plantation. Strip away the noise, and it all becomes so clear. Travel is not just about what and how. It should be about why.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

So the community carries these for miles. Oh! Oh! [CHUCKLES]

Come on. I mean, he's done it a few times.

[LIGHT MUSIC]

From these huge trees, the Brazil nut fruit falls to the ground, and then it's collected.

[HACKING]

That's how you do it. [CHUCKLES] This is the champ right here. World record. Five seconds, 10 cocos. Brazil nut trees can't be harvested. They only flourish in a healthy wild ecosystem. The income generated from this product helps these people preserve this forest in its natural state.

[UPLIFTING MUSIC]

How can we do this the right way? A responsible traveler's presence can give these communities more options to protect their wild places. I don't think I'm alone. We can be the pressure to keep it going. Demand, supply. I want to be the pulse that helps this forest live rather than help it die.

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