An Amazon art gallery? Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions, historically keeps an eye peeled for new insects, flora and fauna.
But this time attention is turning to the Oscar Vilca Gallery, the premier exhibit in the brand-new Rainforest and Indigenous Art Gallery that opened late May 2013 at Refugio Amazonas, one of a string of three lodges along the Peruvian Amazon accessed by motorized wooden canoes. Refugio Amazonas is a 3.5-hour trip up river from the gateway town of Puerto Maldonado.
The initial exhibit featuring Vilca will run June, July and August. In September, three Peruvian artists involved in the Bahuaja Sonene Collective will be on display here, drawing attention to the community and protection of Bahuaja Sonene National Park. (The Bahuaja Sonene Collective is currently inaugurating the work on June 1 in the Japanese Peruvian Center. The 25 original paintings exhibited will be for sale.)
The exhibit space will occupy some 50 square meters upstairs in Refugio Amazonas lodge.
“Understanding and appreciating the beauty in the vast array of flora and fauna found in the Tombopata region has always been key in our mission to preserve this rare environment,” said Jeff Cremer, Rainforest Expeditions’ spokesperson. “We are thrilled to have Oscar Vilca, a naturalist illustrator, and other prominent rainforest artists display their works at Refugio Amazonas.”
Both a painter and a sculptor, Vilca is one of the premiere modern nature and science illustrators in Peru. He studied at the Faculty of Arts at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and Fine Arts. He is an artist committed to conservation and environmental disclosure. At the present he records the flora and fauna of the cloud forest and the Amazon rainforest for ecotourism projects of conservation organizations. His illustrations appear in, among others, environmental interpretation centers, field guides and specialized books.
Refugio Amazonas offers 32 rooms with private baths on private land (owned by RFE) in the middle of a community of ribereños on the Tambopata River. As with another lodge managed by Rainforest Expeditions, Posada Amazonas, there is a partnership between the company and the Infierno Native Community. Guests with kids appreciate a children’s rainforest trail and playground and a dining room with loft above for canopy-viewing. A common area includes a hammock lounge, a meeting room and a bar. On premise are a wellness center and 30-metered scaffolding Canopy Tower for spotting resident flocks. From a catamaran on Lake Condenado are sightings of hoatzin, caiman and horned screamer. From a blind at the nearby mineral clay-lick, guests watch parrots and parakeets descend on a river bank to ingest nourishment. Activities include walks on an ethno botanical trail, visits to a working jungle farm and to Brazil nut concessions, as well as kayaking and mountain biking. There is a partnership between Refugio Amazonas and a local Brazil nut concessionaire to assist sustainable forest management on lands the partners share.
Rainforest Expeditions has since 1989 created a work-in-process for sustainably exploring the miracles of the Tambopata–Candamo Reserved Zone, 1.5 million hectares of pristine, still-wild tropical rainforest encompassing an area of land the size of Connecticut and stretching from the Andean highlands to the Amazon lowlands.
Rainforest Expeditions is a Peruvian company that through conservation and ecotourism is helping to protect some of the last untouched lowland and premontane tropical humid forests in the Amazon.
Guests of first one and now three Rainforest Expedition eco-lodges have added value to the region’s standing tropical rainforest. A sensitively conceived and managed (in some cases by native communities) touristic infrastructure creates a competitive alternative to such unsustainable economic uses as clear cutting the forest for timber or for cattle grazing. The partnerships Rainforest Expeditions has forged with local people eager to share Amazonian traditions with guests provide connection, expertise, adventure and access to wildlife in the jungles of Tambopata. Rainforest Expeditions has been verified and certified “a sustainable tourism business” by the Rainforest Alliance http://www.rainforest-
Rainforest Expeditions’ string of three jungle lodges is accessed from Puerto Maldonado airport with flights arriving daily from Lima or Cusco. Motorized wooden canoes then take guests on a 45-minute trip to the first lodge, Posada Amazonas. Refugio Amazonas, the second lodge, is a 3.5-hour boat trip from Puerto Maldonado. The third and most remote is Tambopata Research Center, requiring a 4-hour additional upriver boat ride from Refugio Amazonas. Each lodge is only a few minutes on foot from the river bank.