Unlike the tropical rainforest in neighboring Brazil, Argentina retains just a sliver of its original subtropical rainforest. Located in the “finger” near the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, the Atlantic Interior Rainforest contains only six percent of its original size.
Because we wished to spend time in the rainforest rather than in the touristy Puerto Iguazu town, my colleague and I spent two days and two nights at the Yacutinga Lodge which encompasses 1100 acres smack in the middle of the subtropical rainforest. Later in the week, we would spend half a day exploring and viewing the impressive and inspiring Iguazu Falls.
The drive to the lodge offered adventure, education and awareness. We hopped into a four-wheel drive jeep with a small group of visitors and drove over a muddy red dirt road, across streams and rivers. While en route, our spunky and knowledgeable lodge guide Cielito educated us about the current farmland and villages that previously encompassed rainforest. Locals and the government presently consider cash crops to be more valuable than rainforest.
The Yacutinga Lodge buildings occupy 15 percent of the 1100 acres of land. The exotic name honors a local species of bird on the verge of extinction When the owners built and opened the lodge in 2000 they only used fallen wood from the forest to construct the buildings as well as the unique furniture.
In a country that doesn’t exactly place recycling or composting as a high priority, the lodge takes the lead by recycling bottles, cans and plastics. They offer striking examples of used wine bottles which we saw embedded into the lobby and guest cabin walls. During sunny days the bottles provide colorful diffused light. Additionally, the lodge recently initiated a DO program to educate and assist the local community to recycle materials and create art which they sell in Buenos Aires.
The lodge maintains sustainability by conservation rather than technology. Although they have a few solar panels, the owners determined that due to a lack of constant sunshine solar panels do not have practical value. Instead they use other methods including heating water in the lodge water tanks via “solar power.” During the hot summer months the sun heats the water tanks sufficiently to avoid using any electricity to heat the water.
Much of the environmental awareness comes from what the lodge did not build. Because of scarceness of pristine rainforest, the owners decided that the most environmentally friendly thing that they could do was preserve 85 percent of the 1100 acres.
We explored much of the area with Cielito along with a local Guarani guide by taking a series of morning and afternoon hikes through the well maintained trails. In between hikes, the guides led us in kayaks through a river that displayed a red hue due to the rains as it washed the red clay into the river. The river eventually led to the larger Iguazu River which if we kept paddling about 60 kilometers would lead us to the gigantic Iguazu Falls.
In Argentina where environmental education lags, the Yacutinga Lodge takes a step forward supporting and educating the local community about sustaining the environment and directly protecting a portion of the fast disappearing rainforest.
Keith Rockmael blogs at greenerati.
Images courtesy of Keith Rockmael