In the lake formed by the Japurá river branch, a tributary of Solimões, a floating platform stands out between the green of the Amazon Forest and the dark brown of the water: it is the Uacari Lodging, located in the Central Amazon. The ecologically planned structure has the capacity to receive up to 24 guests simultaneously.
An average of 700 tourists visit the place each year, of which about 70% are foreigners. In addition to being located in the heart of the jungle, the site is part of the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, established in 1996 to protect the local ecosystem, and has become one of the main examples of sustainable tourism in Brazil.
Uacari was created in the late 1990s by the Mamirauá Institute, responsible for managing the reserve. The social organization, associated with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications, was conceived by the zoologist José Marcio Aires and a group of researchers, in order to promote studies on biodiversity in the Amazon and the quality of life of the local population.
The inn was an arm of this proposal to develop a local economic alternative, and soon started to count on the residents of 11 surrounding communities, including an indigenous one, totaling 800 members today. Now, the residents are preparing to soon take over the management of the hostel in an autonomous way.
Located in the Middle Solimões region, Pousada Uacari is accessible in three ways from Manaus: on a two-day trip on a regional boat; 12 hours by river on a speedboat; or by plane to Tefé and then an hour by boat.
The tourist can stay in one of the ten floating, wooden and heated bungalows and fans powered by solar panels. The structures have their own sewage treatment systems. From there, visitors can go rowing a canoe to observe the fauna and flora, walk through the forest, interact with local communities and learn more about the biodiversity of the Amazon.
According to Pedro Meloni Nassar, coordinator of the Community Based Tourism Program at the Mamirauá Institute, the profile of the visitors is that of families and couples in their 50s, mostly Europeans and Americans, in search of tranquility in the middle of the forest.
The itinerary options vary according to the level of the river. In times of flood, such as from April to August, in most of the forest circulation is done in canoes. Among the tours sought are the nocturnal and the so-called “jaguar package”, in which visitors accompany researchers to learn more about the animal and, who knows, to see it in its habitat, even at a distance. Packages cost from R$ 650 to R$ 700 per day.
In 2015, Uacari Lodging won the Braztoa Sustainable Tourism Award. Promoted by the Ministry of Tourism and the Brazilian Association of Tour Operators, the initiative recognizes since 2012 the best tourist practices that encompass the three pillars of sustainability: economic and social developments, and environmental preservation. In 2018, he was a finalist for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) award, in the communities category.
For Reinaldo Miranda de Sá Teles, specialist in sustainable tourism and professor at the University of São Paulo, Uacari Lodging is one of the main examples of sustainability in Brazil. He says that the initiative fits the guidelines of the World Tourism Organization to make the activity more sustainable in the world, as it guarantees preservation, with the ecological reserve, and involves the community in a clean activity, with a more viable financial return than the exploration natural resources.