When I was younger, my preferred travel destinations were always cities.
Perhaps, it was because from the age of 5 to 18, I lived in smaller towns. Maybe it was because I found cities to be life-affirming, educational and liberating. Whatever the reason, I felt rejuvenated after a trip to Singapore, London or Paris, Sydney, or New York for that matter. However, that sentiment changed with a recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon.
It was my third trip to a rainforest ecosystem and second to the Amazon, but that is where the similarities end. I was invited by Rainforest Expeditions in Peru, to participate in one of their wildlife photography safaris through the Tambopata National Reserve, which is a relatively remote and unexplored area of the Peruvian Amazon.
Bursting with life
In a country where there are issues with water pollution, soil erosion and deforestation, the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru is a fledgling success story of the symbiotic relationship that can exist between natural resources, wildlife and cultural standards.
As a result, the region is bursting with life. It is not just the vast wildlife contained within the rainforest ecosystem, with its jaguars, caimans, capybaras, black hawks, geese, macaws, turtles, monkeys, peccaries, frogs, butterflies and countless tree and plant species. Life was also encompassed within the sweet smell of the afternoon rains as we relaxed in the hammocks at the rainforest lodge.
Life was in the rapt attention and glimmer in guests' eyes and they asked questions and exchanged information with volunteer ecologists, who were participating in extended stays in the Tambopata Research Center in order to observe the habits and habitats of the myriad of butterfly, frog and bird species in the region.
Life was also found in the easy smile of my guides - a professional photographer, an etymologist and a local certified guide - who could spot what my suburban eyes always initially missed, and eagerly impart their knowledge about the mysteries of the Amazon Rainforest.
Connected with nature & communities
Ultimately, my perspective changed after having felt a profound sense of connection with the Peruvian Rainforest. I wasn't merely observing lots of life around me, such as what I feel when visiting cities. Rather, I felt that I was a direct participant, who was doing her part to respect life, nature, culture and the future.
I was helping the environment and the local community by staying in sustainably built lodges, which partner with local families and businesses to ensure that they share in the social, economic and environmental benefits of ecotourism.
I felt connected to Tambopata when the caiman "smiled" for my photo and I could stare right into a frog's eyes and know that it was just as curious about life as I am. I felt humbled when the peccaries suddenly emerged en masse from the rainforest onto the eco-lodge's front entrance clearing to eat some roots - only to completely disappear twenty minutes later.
I felt a greater wisdom when learning how medicinal plants are used to cure skin diseases, organ failure and even addiction.
Finally, I felt privileged to be among the people and indigenous tribe communities that work hard to preserve their culture and protect the land that, in turn, protects them in time of need. Yes, a truly connected and amazing life!