Cristalino Jungle Lodge: A Resort ACTUALLY Saving the Rainforest
The bungalows for guests are very modern and nice, build with certified sustainably harvested wood and designed by Carvalho's daughter, who happens to be an architect, to be energy efficient, including using large windows to let in lots of light and thus make lights obsolete. Currently they have to use a generator several times a day, which are the few hours when guests are allowed electricity in their rooms. It was never a problem when we were there - who needs electricity when you're out hiking through the jungle and canoeing down the Cristalino River? Carvalho does hope that they can soon get rid of the generator and move to something more sustainable like solar power, and are interested in any help that they can get on engineering advice and/or resources.
The Rainforest Can Be Profitable
Image via: Alexander Yellen
Guests at the Lodge are treated to hikes through the rainforest, canoe rides down the Cristalino River, dawn hikes up to a 150 foot tall observation tower and lounging in hammocks on the dock overlooking the river. To keep the tours eco-friendly, only a few people are allowed on a trail at any one time, and trails are rotated in and out of use so that areas are not destroyed. The bugs didn't seem to be much of a problem when we were there, so you won't feel like you're the main course of a feeding frenzy instead of relaxing on vacation. Before the lodge opened, the area was not even a dot on the map and it seemed like a pipe dream to make it a tourist destination, but they kept going and its thriving.
In 2002, there was a large push by interest groups to take part of the designated reserve and cut it down for agricultural uses. This is a sensitive issue that has come up many times on TreeHugger.com when people talk about jobs or the environment. While the Amazon maybe the lungs (and the heart) of the planet, its hard to not cut it down for fuel and farmland when all you can see is your present moment, and that moment is telling you that you are jobless and hungry. So what did Cristalino do? Well they managed to keep the rainforest from being cut down, but they also continued their commitment to hire local community members, pay them fair wages, pay for their continuing education in conservation and overall improve quality of life.