When you arrive at Tambo Ilusion, just outside of Tarapoto, Peru, you wouldn’t guess that 33 years ago, the land was totally deforested. It had been used to raise cattle and to produce hard liquor. Now, lush groves hug the sides of the lagoon, where pichico monkeys travel through a few times per day and the wildlife eats freely of the fallen fruit.
In an area of Peru that continues to struggle with deforestation, Tambo Ilusion is a Private Conservation Area. We spoke with Johanne Delisle, one of the founders of the retreat center that calls this beautiful land home. She explains:
“In 2010, the first ministry of environment was created in Peru, and this movement started happening where the government began recognizing passionate individuals or communities who had a piece of land where there was something to protect. You had to demonstrate that you had something worth protecting. It could be a type of animal, it could be a type of plant, a landscape, etc. Here we have a very special lagoon, a natural spring, that is an oasis for animals. And the spring water flows into a creek where a whole ecosystem has formed. So, it has an essential environmental function. This creek goes into a very important river and eventually ends in the ocean. I think it was the 21 st area to be recognized as a Private Conservation Area and it was the smallest at the time. Tambo Ilusion has 35 acres.”
When most people think about retreat centers, they think lush, incredible landscapes -- but what about a center that has been created around protecting those landscapes? Johanne describes the rustic nature of the center -- there is no wifi, and the founders designated it an “electromagnetic free” zone -- offering guests a deeper sense of a tech detox than they might have expected.
“Many people leave here inspired to do extraordinary things in their life, and I think many people are surprised by that. Maybe that’s not exactly why they came here for, maybe they came here just to rejuvenate, to relax or just to learn more about yoga but then they leave here making big choices in their lives. Once somebody changed careers and started working in wellness… she had never thought of that before doing a detox retreat with us here. It’s quite amazing how spending time in nature, disconnected, really gets people to touch something really special inside of them."
Sustainable or ecotourism is on the rise, but Peru is still just beginning to get involved. Armando, Johanne’s partner co-founder and owner of the land, has been a passionate voice in the conservation movement: “Armando tries to show people that instead of hunting if you bring people with cameras then the animals are going to be there all the time, it’s a sustainable activity. If you bring people to hunt, then once the animals are gone, you don’t have a business anymore. Just trying to change people’s perspective on things."
One of the big lessons learned by this couple’s experience: to not abandon your dreams because you have hardships. "Never lose sight of your vision.” And, as Armando and Johanne continue to call people to their center in the forest, they hope they can set an example for other Peruvian landowners.
Deforesting the land to make room for cattle, or, hunting the native creatures who roam the land -- isn’t a sustainable practice. But conserving the land is more profitable, and more sustainable in the long run.
Curious? Venture to this beautiful center for a detox, to study yoga, to work with sacred medicine plants in ceremony. Or, maybe you'd just like to unplug for a while. You might not ever want to return to the buzz of city life…