To Answer the Questions You Should Ask Before You Book A Jungle Adventure in Iquitos Peru
The following quote is extracted from a thoughtful, intelligent comment made by Justin in response to an intense series of comments at the end of my post for January 5th, 2007, titled The Dawn on the Amazon Christmas Program 2006. Justin’s comment is # 65, and I recommend you read all of the comments.
“…I hope potential and returning tourists to Iquitos take this blog as a forewarning to spend their dollar, and thus use their influence, wisely. Don’t be afraid to ask tour companies what arrangments they have with local communities, how their Peruvian staff is paid, and what efforts they take toward sustainability. The tourist industry will respond to the desires of its consumers.”
I want to respond and then open this new thread to more comments.
As the president and owner of the eco-tour company, Dawn on the Amazon, I have a responsibility to the people of Iquitos, to the inhabitants of the communities that we visit, to the men and women who depend on me for their livelihood, and to the tourists who choose the services of my company.
I am a resident of Peru, and my company is based in Iquitos. All of the money made by Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises stays in Peru, and the taxes I pay help provide the government services enjoyed by all citizens of this country. I do not have an office in Miami, nor do I pay commissions to travel agents in other countries. All of the money stays in Peru.
The official unemployment rate for Iquitos is 65%. I have built four boats and a jungle cabin. Nearly all of the labor and material came from this province, Loreto. When we were building Dawn on the Amazon III, my work force reached its maximum of fifteen. Even the guards made more than minimum wage.
The impact on the economy of Iquitos was much greater than the number of my employees. For instance, a machine shop made two shafts and propellers. The machine shop employs half a dozen skilled workers. The motor, shaft, and propellers were installed by a different group of skilled laborers. A crew of welders worked on reinforcements, steps, hand holds, and many other parts of the boat. We rented a dry dock from a firm with several workers.
I bought all of the paint, varnish, tools, nuts, washers, bolts, nails, and other hardware in Peru, providing more jobs in those sectors of the economy. The wood came from Loreto, and had to be trucked, handled, planed, joined, sanded and shaped, providing employment for many people in the lumber business. I hired wood carvers and cabinet makers. I bought refrigerators, stoves, and freezers. Local ceramic artists made all of the plates, bowls, pitchers, cups and saucers.
We purchase gas, oil, diesel fuel, insurance, food, pure water, and more. We bring tourists from outside the country who spend money on meals, hotel rooms, motocars, airline tickets, and souvenirs. We contribute to employment in nearly every sector of the economy. In short, Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises is very valuable to the economy of Iquitos, Loreto, and Peru.
Dawn on the Amazon currently has 12 full time employees. The guards, the maid who cleans the boat, the woman who helps the chef, and the newest addition to the office staff, all make more than the minimum wage. Dawn on the Amazon has five permanent employees who we provide with retirement pay and with health benefits for them and their families. As our business grows we will add more employees to the retirement and health plan. We are a team, and the respect, loyalty and love that we share should be the envy of nearly every business.
We take our responsibility to the communities that we visit very seriously. We always bring extra medical supplies, gas, salt, rice, and beans to share, as well as healthy snacks for the children. We always hire a local guide for the jungle hikes, and pay for fishing rights when appropriate. We pay an entrance fee, per guest, to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, and Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, as well as to some private and community reserves. Each village has its own problems and shortages. We try to do what we can to help. We are looking for ways to do more. Obviously we want the people we visit to be glad to see us next time. I also have a couple of small, private, charitable projects that I have undertaken.
Another responsibility is to treat the tourist as our guest. This philosophy is the opposite of cutting costs to maximize profits. Dawn on the Amazon does everything possible to assure our guests will want to come back and visit us again. We try to make every meal special. We use butter, palm oil, and olive oil. We squeeze fresh juice and brew fresh coffee. We make homemade puddings and cakes, and serve generous portions at every meal. Not one of our guests ever complained they wished there was more food. We do our guests laundry and clean their rooms like they were our own rooms. Not one guest ever complained that they wished the crew had provided better service.
We seek input from our guests about their personal preferences, and offer choices so the guests can build their own adventure with knowledgeable, multi-lingual guides to help. We are the only company I know of that takes photos of our guests enjoying their adventure, and spends an extra couple of days putting the photos through Photoshop to clean them up and email them to the guest at no extra cost.
Some of the practices that make our operation sustainable are: we sort our trash, recycle what can be recycled, take to the landfill all non-biodegradable trash, and feed the food scraps to the fish and turtles. We store our extra electrical power in eight, 360 pound, solar, deep cell batteries. My crew knows they will be fired for dumping petroleum products in the river. We practice catch and release fishing, keeping only enough for eating. We helped apprehend paiche poachers in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and are always on the lookout for ways to make an improvement.
We are trying to be the best eco-tour and cruise company in the upper Amazon, and we are succeeding. You could not choose a better company with which to have your Amazon adventure than Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises. Please look at our web site at dawnontheamazon.com and at my Flickr Photo Gallery of what other guests have experienced on their adventures at flickr.com/photos/dawnontheamazon/
This is how I see it from the crows nest. Thank you for caring.