Birding in Iquitos

10 steps to turn an eco-lodge into a birding lodge.

Yesterday, I posted an article on about my recent visit in Iquitos and the Amazon Refuge Lodge. This time I got better views of Wattled Curassow (although the photo is from a semi-captive individual at Explornapo – I have to make that clear).

While birding at the Amazon Refuge it became clear to me that this lodge was placed at a fantastic spot, yet noone stayed here. The lodge needed to target a smaller more specific identifiable group – and of course birders was what came to my mind. They could start cater to birders and that way get a better revenue, and at the same time support the local community. If you give the birders exactly what they want, how could they refuse?

Here is an excerpt from that blogpost.

The Amazon Refuge is last outpost  in the complex waterways of the Yanayacu. Up the creek is the newly created communal reserve and the wild Amazon. It is a privileged location. It could not be any better. Scott Robinson (legendary record holder with Ted Parker of the World Big Day record of 331 species from Manu without using aircrafts or cars) saw Wattled Curassow 50 meters from the lodge during the dry season (late May through November). That is dry season as in lower water level and exposed trails for walking. It still rains of course. Why do you think they call it rain forest, duh? The rain in the Andes sets the water level of the Amazon of course.

Amazon refuge – dry season

There are 6 spacious 2 bed rooms with private bath and a large dining hall. It is built on poles, and it is amazing to realize that the water level difference is around 7 meters!
For birders who want a big list, low water is better, but on the other hand, the serenity of high water paddling the trails rather than walking was a fantastic experience.

Wildlife was abundant I recorded 5 species of monkeys without leaving the lodge. And I saw Three-toed Sloth, as well as pink and gray river dolphins.
The food was excellent and the bar was well stocked.  One would think with such a perfect lodge it would be full all the time, but the lodge was started 3 years ago, and then came the US recession.  It has not been easy to sell tours to here.  Surely, it could have helped if the owners had done more marketing and visited trade shows, but that cost a lot of money and there are only 12 beds.

Bob Todd, one of the owners, told me that the lodge is actually for sale. (Special price: A mere US$300.000 – and a Paradise on Earth is yours. Sell your house and come and live in Peru!).  The owners would like to keep the lodge, but the reality is that an other owner with capital to invest in the marketing and some final adjustments such as putting in hot water (not essential but nice), build some more cabins, and build a canopy tower and an aerial for capturing telephone signal and Internet, would have a better chance of selling and market the lodge.

But what if….

What if it was made it into a birding lodge? We talked to the small hours at the lodge of a strategy to make an eco-lodge in to birding lodge. Let’s face it, there are simply too many eco-lodges in Iquitos. Even if you see more wildlife at Amazon Refuge, the other lodges are already filling all the market slots and have covered the regular eco-tourists who basically just want to see a bit of  jungle and a few monkeys.

If you have perfectly niched lodge for a specific group it would be much easier and less costly group to market to.  If niched, you could simply ask someone in field to write about it and publish on a birding site on the internet or in a birding magazine. If you’d do everything in your might to make it in to a VERY Birder Friendly lodge – it shall be easy to get the customers.  Hey, if your lodge is so good for birders, you may not want to sell the lodge in the end.

Check out the post for the 10 steps to turn an ecolodge into a birdinglodge. It is a strategy which could be copied by many eco-lodges that have a hard time to find the right market.

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