Hacienda Tijax Jungle Lodge, Guatemala
Name of Lodge or Ecotourism Project:
Hacienda Tijax Jungle Lodge & Marina
Location: Hacienda Tijax is located in Fronteras Rio Dulce, Izabal, Guatemala close to the bridge crossing over Rio Dulce. Accesible by water sailing from anywhere in the world to: 15o 39' 46.26" N 89o 00' 05.87" W. Overland travel to Km.276 on the road north to Peten (Tikal) and turn right at the sign. Travel by bus: get off in Fronteras, Rio Dulce and walk 10 yards to our Tijax Express office and ask for water shuttle to Tijax.
Year Established: 1989
Tourism activities: Ecotourism and forestry,
canopy trail tours,
kayacking and sailing.
Ecolodge / Accommodation details: Waterfront cabins nestled in the jungle (singles, doubles or triples with private or shared bath) or larger cottage style bungalows for families or larger groups. Prices vary depending on bath options and A/C.
Responsible tourism practices. How is impact upon the local environment minimized?: First in the design of the place and it's growth we have tried to be organic and to adapt to our surroundings rather than modify them. For example we do not build land fills or cut trees, rather we built the ecolodge hotel around the trees using their shade and space. The staff is constantly being trained and made conscious of the environmental issues at hand. The Hotel & Marina is totally managed by locals at this point. We limit the maximum number of tourists for our trails to 80 in one day and 400 per month. Where we inevitably have some impact as in solid waste and waste waters we use safeguards such as double septic for sewage treatment and we compost our organic wastes (previously separated in the kitchen) and the reutilization of the compost in our extensive reforestation project. We use energy saving devices such energy saving light bulbs and gas instead of electric driers whenever possible. The forestry project is meant to preserve the remaining tropical rainforest we found on the property when it was purchased and have added significant tracts over the years trying to secure a good water supply system in order not to use the community's scarce water for our hotel. We have protected our watersheds through soil conservation and reforestation in order to increase the holding capacity of the watertable and now we can provide ourselves with sufficient clean water. We have successfully reforested over 100 hectares of land with several species but mostly we produce natural rubber which substitutes fossil oil in the production of tyres and other rubber products. We capture carbon, and produce oxygen. We are also maintaining a managed forest of teak and several native species which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance through Smartwoods.
How is the local community involved with ecotourism?: We hire all local workers both in the hotel-marina and the forestry project. In total 45 heads of family are employed. We comply with all local labor laws and we comply with Rainforest Alliance certification standards in both the ecolodge (through the Green Deal certification) and the forestry project (through the Smartwoods - Rainforest Alliance Certificate). We provide opportunities for local students to realize their supervised "practicals" every year and we also provide opportunities to local school children to visit our trails and learn about ecology and conservation. Hacienda Tijax is also involved in several community projects such as the Eco-Rio Associaciotion and we have co-operated in the past with "Aktenamit" and "Association and Casa Guatemala". We are actively involved in environmental policies for the entire region around Rio Dulce and in the past have opposed oil exploration, mining, paper mills etc. Some of these campaigns were launched from our hotel in collaboration with "Madreselva". Finally we are a model of ecotourism for the region and we are frequently copied by other ecotourism initiatives, hopefully for our positive aspects. The "Canopy Trails Project" was financed by the FCG (Fideicomiso para la Conservacion de Guatemala ) and our rubber plantation is also recognized by the Government of Guatemala.
Does the presence of ecotourism leave a positive impact upon the local environment and community? If so, how?: Unfortunately for us Guatemala is the type of growing third world country where few remote protected areas have low populations of human inhabitants. As roads and bridges are built and new agricultural frontiers are opened migrations will occur from depressed and high population density areas (eg. Western Highlands of Guatemala). The newcomers will normally dedicate themselves to subsistence farming, cattle ranching or both of the above coupled with deforestation of their trees both for building, commercial uses, animal food and exotic species trading. Ecotourism offers an alternative way of developing for these regions whereby a dignified lifestyle is possible without a) destroying the environment b) introducing a less compatible development model such as agro-industrial or mining for example. In short ecotourism is at least the lesser of all evils but one in which at least the inhabitants can eventually learn to value their ecosystems for their economical value if not for the beauty.
Who owns the lodging facilities (ecolodge)? Is it communally, or individually owned?: Local family owned.