Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve
An environmentally friendly Lodge and Private Wildlife Nature Reserve located in the heart of the Argentine Rainforest, surrounded by the Iguazu National Park.
The Wildlife & Nature Reserve area, which covers 570 hectares, is part of the 270.000 hectares of protected Rainforest; shared by Brazil and Argentina and known as the “green corridor”.
Yacutinga Wildlife & Nature Reserve still maintains richness in bio-diversity, far away from massive tourism concentration. You can enjoy diverse out-door activities with a soft adventure and eco tourism focus, such as; canoeing, biking, bird-watching or walking which will provide you with a variety of information unlocking the mysteries and peculiarities of the Rainforest.
The Lodge offers you 40 suites, 3 restaurants, a pool, naturalist guides, and a natural inventory of over 270 species of birds and mammals.
LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION:
Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve is located on the Iguazu River in the northeast of Argentina, a country full of contrasts and traditions; Patagonia and its glaciers in the south, the Andes and its peculiar geological formations along the spine of the country, the Pampas and the gauchos, Buenos Aires with its tango and the subtropical Rainforest in the north with its richness of wild fauna and the spectacular Iguazu Falls situated 42 km down-river from Yacutinga Lodge.
The Iguazu National Park in the northeastern province of Misiones, is a region of large rivers, humid tropics, red soil and bright green jungle, full of giant and ancient trees, peculiar endemic flora and a large presence of wild fauna. Iguazu itself means ‘large waters’ in Guarani language. The park, located on the Argentine border with Brazil and Paraguay, presents a pristine area of subtropical rainforest, with more than 2000 identified plant species, more than 400 species of birds, mammals and reptiles and of course also contains the impressive Iguazu Falls, one of the worlds natural wonders featured in Frank Coppolas’ famous movie “The Mission”.
The rainforests of Misiones consist of multiple levels of distinctive biosystems ranging from more than 30 meters high descending through various levels of trees down to the herbaceous plants on the ground.
In addition to this magnificent jungle, the province contains several ruins of Jesuit Missions, declared by the UNESCO as a Human Cultural Heritage area.
The Iguazu Falls are an important highlight of any travel-plan to South America, and can easily be reached from Buenos Aires (Argentina), Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo (Brazil). From the falls, traveling through the heart of the Iguazu National Park and some Argentine State Parks to reach the Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve, you are completely surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle. As the nature reserve is surrounded on three sides by over 5 km of the Iguazu River, the final leg of your journey to the lodge is by boat. The Lodge can be reached easily from Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) or Foz do Iguazu (Brazil).
The Lodge buildings follow smoothly with the natural step of the terrain and maintain harmony with the surrounding jungle. Local materials, such as stone and large wood pieces gathered from naturally fallen trees, have been incorporated into the general architectural concept, conforming this concept to the wilderness of the area. Only 4 hectares of the 570 total have been used for the facilities of the lodge and special care has been taken to use only naturally fallen trees. An absolute minimum of forest has been disturbed to accommodate the buildings.
The main building which contains the reception, an indoor restaurant, an inside garden and a terrace bar provides a special atmosphere enhanced by the Palmetto palm forest formation which surrounds the whole place.
Descending the impressive wooden stairs from the main building you arrive at the central botanical garden with its two open-air restaurants, the pool, a vegetable garden (the Lodge is self-efficient in terms of food supplies) and the main self-guided cat-trail (an elevated wooden walkway suspended in the trees) allowing you to enjoy and observe the canopy of the surrounding native forest from a unique perspective.
The facilities consist of 10 separate sleeping areas called “Butterflies” (due to the amazing variety that congregate here), spread through the forest around the common areas. Each Butterfly contains four private suites, all with the comfort of 42 sq. meters. The suites provide split-level accommodations with rustic details comprised of an entrance porch leading up to a sitting area and bedroom and further up to the bathroom. Each suite has private facilities (shower / tub) with 24 hour warm water. During winter-time, wood stoves provide heating in remembrance of the colonial period. Nice jungle views are common to all suites, providing a relaxing environment, in-touch with the “green”.
There are a total of 40 suites of which 6 are doubles (queen bed), the other 34 are twins. Triple occupancy may be booked on request
From the very beginning the Yacutinga Lodge project was concerned with both having a low impact on the environment, while providing excellent tourist services. We have achieved these two different concepts by following a sustainable development philosophy, focused on:
- The responsibility of managing one of the last untouched private rainforest reserves.
- Employment of local labor to provide environmental education and income to our neighbors.
- The prohibition of hunting and all other nature spoiling activities.
- The development of native flora seeding programs, to re-insert endangered plant species.
- The performance of wild-fauna re-breeding programs, to re-locate native species in other areas.
Considering the philosophy of Yacutinga Lodge, we have enhanced our efforts to diminish our effects on the environment by using recycling and alternative energy systems:
- Drinking water is very pure at the Lodge. A well, 85 meters deep has reached the second nap of our red clay latheritic underground soil providing the best potable drinking water.
- Hot water for showers is provided by solar heated tanks. On days when the weather does not permit this, heating is assisted by a natural gas system.
- To reduce energy consumption we have designed a recycling water system for the pool. Using tropical rainfall we keep the pool clean by recycling this natural fresh water collected by the huge roof of the main building. During rain-forest storms, the collected water flows over the 2 garden waterfalls to the pool at an average rate of 400 lt./min. The rain water then exits the pool along with floating debris (fallen leaves), is filtered and finally flows at the same rate up to the compost store area where it is again naturally filtered and re-used.
- A separate waste-water recycling system is designed to clean water used by showering, hand washing or vegetable washing. This water goes through an engineered gravel marsh planted with various rain-forest swamp plants. Waste-water flows into the gravel marsh and saturates it. Within hours the marsh is drained and filled with air, changing the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.
- The buildings have been designed to use nature to maintain a comfortable temperature. The earth remains about 15 to 17 C. cool throughout the year while the air temperature can soar to 30 C. or more in the clearing. By shading and digging we have harnessed the earth’s natural cooling abilities. Cool ground air in the shade is drawn up from under the structure through natural convection currents which are enhanced by the thermal pull of the hot zone created at the top of the roofs by the solar water tanks.
- Our energy requirements are provided by batteries which can be recharged by solar power. We use a solar array facing the northwest to maximize this solar gain. However, due to the variable weather conditions of the rainforest and the fact that at full capacity, about 2200 watts/hr energy is needed, a diesel generator is operated sparingly and quietly. To minimize this need we kindly ask that you conserve electricity thoughtfully while you are staying at Yacutinga.
While maintaining our commitment to living in harmony with nature, we have also managed to provide our guests with the highest standards and amenities possible in the jungle:
- From phone, fax, and email via a cellular link, to cool refreshments from the bar, right down to a comfortable bed with fresh linen.
- The food that we serve is all organic and locally produced with vegetables and fish farmed on the reserve, fruits picked from the wild, milk from our cows, and eggs from our chickens. Local farmers provide the remainder of our food needs at busy times.
- The main lodge is used as a base from which our daily activities in the reserve are organized, from an early morning canoe trip down the San Francisco River that cuts right through the reserve, to guided nature walks that unlock the mysteries of the rainforest.
- At Yacutinga Lodge we base our services on maintaining the cultural roots of the area, adapting native meals to international standards; using “baqueanos” – local peasants – as assistants to complement information on medicine plants, tracks, indigenous ‘cosmovision’ and many other topics that cannot be obtained through literature.
You don’t need to be a wildlife expert to enjoy Yacutinga ; beginners will have plenty of time to relax, soak up the atmosphere of the area, take out the binoculars and share nature oriented trips, escorted by bilingual naturalist guides. For the expert we have designed specific trails for bird-watching, entomology, orchids and other epiphyte species, game observing and track scouting.
YACUTINGA WILDLIFE & NATURE RESERVE
The Wildlife & Nature Reserve
To describe, with words, the rainforest to someone who has never witnessed such majesty with their own eyes is near impossible.
The overwhelming presence of various layers of vegetation overlapping from the ground up to the highest canopy formed by giant trees, the profusion of vines of all types and sizes creating an inextricable web with numerous epiphytes plants clinging to everything that can provide support, balancing in space trying to fill the void, and in the end the impressive variety and infinity of species, shapes, dimensions and colors that are the result of this natural chaos all constitute a whole that is so extraordinary as to defy description and can only be comprehended by someone who has seen and admired something similar, never to be forgotten.
The tropical jungle is imposing in its whole, admirable in its parts and curious in its details. The majestic silence that at times reigns over the jungle can at once be enjoyable and awesome yet overwhelming. The songs of the birds, the buzz of the insects and the howl of the breeze through the branches all conspire to break the oppressive silence enhancing the calm.
The consciousness that one finds alone in a virgin jungle, far away from civilization, separated from all that is known by a vastness of green without end and in which we ourselves can only see some meters can produce profound feelings that can not be explained by reason.
Certainly, the forest can offer endless hours of interest and unique enjoyment. The spectacle that presents the lively morning with the light of the sun flooding over the green glistening with morning dew, surrounded by the awakening birds is surely seductive. Moreover, the enjoyment of the fresh morning can extend to midday as the suns rays conquer the canopy of the forest and penetrate the dense cover. The evening in the jungle is no less attractive or fascinating. A whole world of life awakens with a stretch during the brief sunset to commence their nocturnal lives. On days that are very hot or windy, the night arrives with greater noise and activity. Mammals, birds and insects all take advantage of the darkness and cool of the night to hunt or gather for their survival, creating a concert of diverse and curious sounds that continuously attracts the attention of both the experienced and the amateur ear.
As soon as the cool of late afternoon descends upon the forest the nature lover will be lured by the life of the jungle to observe the many creatures as they go about their daily chores. One of the most likely places are near water where the soil is rich in alkaline salts and minerals. It is here that peccary, tapir, capybara and many other mammals can be seen licking the salts from the soil and bathing in the ponds. The palmetto groves and various other plants surrounding the waters, attract several types of birds such as; toucans, parrots, caciques and jays for a feast on their many fruits. It is at this time too that the curious guest may come across one of the elusive predators of the jungle. These creatures at the end of the food chain such as; jaguar, puma, ocelot and foxes are endangered species threatened with losing their natural habitat. Yacutinga Nature Reserve and the surrounding protected areas provide a sanctuary for these rare hunters.
One needn’t stray far from the lodge to enjoy this spectacle of nature as the common areas have a high concentration of butterflies which create clouds of colors.
The Guarani Indians and the Jesuit Missions.
The Guarani Indians:
The area inhabited by the Guaranis covers about 50.000 square km, which mostly is jungle without roads, with exception of a few settlements at the periphery of the rainforest.
The Guarani Indians can be divided in 4 sub-groups : the Guayakis (very little information is available about them), the Mbyá , the Chiripá and the Pán.
It is confirmed through their folklore, songs, prayers, cult objects and religious exercises that the Guaranis believe in a superior being, in immortality of the soul and life after death.
Their culture contains several interesting customs and traditions. They celebrate initiations for young men ( TIMPETA stick is introduced in the lower lip) and women (“purified” through special washing rituals). They bury their dead underneath their huts. Infidelity and incest are punished severely. A baptism day is celebrated in August where they pray for a better life.
Most of the stories relate to the animals of the region and provide the basis for their myths and legends. The Cacique is the head of the tribe and inherits this title. However, a new leader can be elected if authority is wrongly applied.
Their huts are simple, as life is concentrated around the fireplace, usually in the center of the house, where they get together to sleep and where all meals are taken. Their diet consists of corn, manioc, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beans, peanuts and well as fish and meat. The children grow up preparing themselves to be mothers, housewives, hunters, dancers and builders.
Traditionally, their clothing is very simple, although lately western fashion has been adopted. Jewelry is an important part of their fashion and can be made using seeds, animals teeth or inexpensive metal.
Means of transportation are definitely non – existent and the Guarani generally keep within a radius of 30 to 50km around their village. They use the help of lianas (vines) to cross small rivers, very seldom using canoes, in fact they purposely obstruct access to their settlements in order to avoid visitors. If they need to move on, they carry all their possessions on their backs in self-made baskets.
The Jesuit Missions:
Misiones province, the Argentinean state where Yacutinga Lodge is located, is so named for the Jesuit missions that once existed in the area. Starting in 1607 the Jesuits established 30 missions among the semi-sedentary Guarani Indians in the upper Parana river. Perhaps as many as 100.000 Indians lived in these settlements and were instructed in the Spanish language, catholic religion, music, hand-work, literature and arts.
Through this, the Guarani Indians were forced to undergo a difficult transcultural lifestyle transition. By 1767 the Jesuits were driven from the New World by Spanish and Portuguese slave trading and policy. The native Indian population never fully recovered and all that is left of this period are the ruins in the forests.