Guests of Yacutinga Lodge in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, use words and phrases like “out of this world,” “magical” and “wild jungle adventure” to describe the unique destination. The lodge, situated just 50 miles from the famed Iguazu Falls in the heart of the Atlantic Forest, is special for more than its incredible setting and dedication to service. It is also a sustainability standout, recently becoming the first hotel in Argentina to earn the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark.
We spoke with lodge director Carlos Sandoval to learn more about the hotel’s commitment to sustainability and species conservation.
What makes Yacutinga Lodge’s location so special?
Yacutinga Lodge is located in one of the last remnants of the Interior Atlantic Forest ecoregion, which was the second largest forest in Latin America until the early 20th century. Today, the forest that remains is very high in biodiversity and rich in endemic species, with nearly 500 species of birds and more than 700 species of butterflies. Our guests can explore the curiosities of this subtropical forest accompanied by professional ecologists and native Guarani guides in Yacutinga’s private nature reserve. We are also close to the legendary Iguazu Falls, a main attraction for visitors to the southern part of South America.
Why did you decide to build a sustainable lodge?
Yacutinga Lodge [is] the economic backbone of a larger environmental project in the region. It was made for lovers of nature and for the intelligent traveler who wants to interact responsibly with the environment.
What does Rainforest Alliance verification mean to you?
Achieving Rainforest Alliance verification is a reflection of our commitment to continuous improvement. We are delighted to receive this distinction after working so hard. We hope that the Rainforest Alliance Verified [mark] will now help us to attract responsible tourists and build a sustainable identity.
What challenges did you face while building the lodge?
The biggest challenge was building with local labor in a nearly pristine environment of tangled, wet jungle far from modern civilization. It took us two years of intensive but highly constructive and creative work. Everyone involved participated enthusiastically, sharing knowledge and showing great coordination to optimize costs and efforts in a difficult working environment that had no electricity or roads. The second ongoing challenge [is] constantly improving [our] service to ensure guest satisfaction and keep local staff trained.
How has Yacutinga’s private wildlife refuge helped to protect the local ecosystem?
The refuge has been essential in protecting the region’s natural resources. This reserve is a stronghold for the conservation of the Paraná Atlantic Forest. More than 320 species of birds and 572 species of butterflies have been documented in the reserve, and we even discovered 70 species that were new to Argentina and one subspecies that was new to science! We have planted over 20,000 native trees in the reserve as part of the project for forestry enrichment that we have been developing for six years. We also have volunteer and environmental education programs that we consider the soul of the Yacutinga project.
How does your work support the Guarani indigenous people, who call this region home?
About 45 Guarani families [live] in the neighboring Kagui Pora community. We are constantly supporting them, not with a charitable approach, but by training them to adapt to the dynamic of today’s world without losing their roots. Little by little, and with great respect, we invite them to be involved in our ecotourism activities and our DO project, which aims to recycle non-polluting wastes generated by the lodge and transform them into art.