Where Do Amazon Rainforest Guides Come From?
As everyone knows, the Amazon rainforest is the area of highest bio-diversity on the planet; and yet, unlike, say, an African safari, much of that diversity is not immediately apparent to the visitor. There are not huge herds of jaguars roaming across plains or anacondas grappling caimans at waterholes! This is why it is so important to have a good naturalist guide, with the knowledge and enthusiasm to bring the flora and fauna to life. To explain, for example, the remarkably complex make-up of leaf-cutter ant society, that is the largest and most complex on Earth, after humans. Or the vital role played by epiphytes in the jungle canopy in storing water that then serves as a tiny eco-system for insects and amphibians.
So Rainforest Cruises thinks it would be interesting to shine a light on the men (and, occasionally, women) who are so key to an Amazon cruise or lodge visit. We start with Juan Carlos Palomino, a highly-respected naturalist expedition leader on board La Amatista with over 20 years' experience.
Juan Carlos was born along the banks of Nanay River in one of the last remaining Iquito Indian communities, Lupuna. His uncle was a shaman with a vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of the rainforest plants - knowledge with he shared with his nephew, and which Juan Carlos in turn now shares with research biologists, students and eco-tourists.
Growing up in the Amazon, and speaking Iquito as a first language, means Juan Carlos has an intimate understanding of and empathy for the indigenous people of the region, that nicely complements his biological expertise.
At the tender age of 15, he joined the Peruvian Army where, for two years, his jungle survival skills were refined and put into practical use. Juan Carlos then went to study at the English Institute in Iquitos, followed by Botany at the University of Iquitos.
It was a natural step from here to acting as a guide, and he now boasts an impressive resume of universities, adventure travel companies private enterprises - and even National Geographic - that have employed his specialist knowledge to lead expeditions and advise on matters of bio-diversity and the environment.