Indigenous tourism in Peru: An Amazon rainforest tour in Shipetiari
In a remote and pristine corner of the Peruvian Amazon, the indigenous Shipetiari community is welcoming travellers to their home. Shipetiari is located in the buffer zone of Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve, one of the most well-preserved parts of the Peruvian Amazon. Located in south-eastern Peru, the park is the meeting point of the Tropical Andes and the Amazon Basin, where elevations vary from 350 to an impressive 4,000 meters above sea level.
This area is a world-renowned haven of biodiversity and has been recognised as a UNESCO listed world heritage site since 1977. It is this amazing setting that the Shipetiari community offer guests a special opportunity to experience their daily life and learn about their ancient beliefs and traditions. This tour into the Amazon rainforest is an unforgettable experience and a positive and rewarding example of indigenous tourism in Peru. Here, tourism is an integral part of the local community’s plan for long-term sustainable development.
Into the wild, to adventure
The journey to Shipetiari is an adventure in itself. After leaving from Cuzco, travellers can expect to reach above 4000 m.a.s.l. to cross the Eastern Andean range, before starting their trip down into the jungle. Along the way there is plenty of opportunity to witness stunning landscapes and dramatic changes in climate and vegetation. The variety of ecosystems you will encounter on your journey to Shipetiari, located at 370 m.a.s.l., translate into a huge diversity of wildlife. And all of this before you even arrive for your Amazon rainforest tour!
The last stretch of the journey is by boat, the lack of roads contributing to keeping this area pristine and geographically isolated. Shipetiari, the final destination, is a well-organised community of about sixty families. It is a remote settlement of people of Matsigenka ethnicity, the largest ethnicity in the Peruvian Amazon.
Tourism: an opportunity for sustainable development
The meeting of very different worlds has resulted in many challenges for tribal communities such as Shipetiari. Many of these communities want to preserve their own beliefs, customs and lifestyles whilst at the same time engaging positively with ‘outsiders’. Finding a path towards sustainable development isn’t always easy. What is unusual about the Shipetiari community is that they have decided to open their home to travellers.
Tourism was identified by the community as means to be self-sufficient, whilst also enabling them to preserve their culture and traditional lifestyles. Pankotsi, which means ‘home’ in the Matsigenka language, is the result of this idea. Visiting this remote corner of the country gives travellers a rewarding insight into the potential of indigenous tourism in Peru.
Pankotsi: a community lodge
Pankotsi is the name of the traditional purpose-built lodge located a 15-minute walk from the centre of the Shipetiari community. The community lodge makes an excellent base from which to experience authentic Matsigenka daily life, whilst also enjoying a decent standard of accommodation for such a remote location. Guests are made to feel like members of the community and are invited to take part in all sorts of traditional activities. Indeed, the Shipetiari community is keen to teach their guests about their local culture and share their in-depth knowledge of the forest they call home.
An array of hands-on activities
The community uses the forest to gather medicinal plants, to hunt animals such as the white-lipped peccary, and to carry out sustainable forestry. They also fish the forest’s rivers, lakes and streams for a variety of species of fish. Guests can learn how to make arrows for hunting, and even try them out during archery practice.
There are also plenty of opportunities to join in other daily tasks such as harvesting crops, weaving mats using palm leaves and making masato, a traditional cassava beer. Masato is a fermented ancestral beverage that the Matsigenka people use for all occasions. Traditional cooking lessons are also available, and guests dine on local delicacies such as pacamoto, fresh fish stuffed in bamboo and cooked in an open fire.
Handicrafts are an important part of daily life, and guests are welcome to spend time with the women of the community to learn how to make wristbands of coloured beads or seed necklaces. You will also be able to watch the more experienced ladies using looms to make fabric for traditional tunics.
For those looking to purify the body and mind, a Temazcal, ‘house of heat’, may well be the answer. Here, guests are invited into a special hut that is used as a type of sauna, where the mix of high temperatures and plant vapours are used as part of a cleansing ritual.
Amazonian wildlife at its best
On top of all these activities and opportunities to learn from the Matsigenka people, Pankotsi offers an unforgettable setting to appreciate a huge variety of Amazonian wildlife. The area surrounding the lodge is etched with trails, allowing guests to explore the rainforest and look out for its many inhabitants. In particular, there are lots of monkeys, bizarre bugs and hundreds of species of birds such as huge macaws and flocks of screeching parakeets. The Matsigenka guides will be more than happy to share with you their love of the rainforest.
This Amazon rainforest tour showcases an authentic example of community-run indigenous tourism in Peru. Tourism can’t provide the solution to all the community’s challenges, but for the time-being at least, it is supporting the community in its journey towards self-sufficiency and sustainable development. Not only is Shipetiari located in the buffer zone of Manu National Park, it is also located in the buffer zone between two very different worlds.
This post was a contribution by Daniel, one of the local experts of our trusted partner in Peru. To learn more about the activities and adventures available in the Peruvian Amazon, you can visit our Peru Holidays page and send a travel enquiry.
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