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Wounaan-led Ecotour and Trail Development

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Rio Platanares is putting the final touches on its Crested Eagle Trail, preparing to receive visitors this tourist season. The trail, designed and developed by community members is a beautiful 3km walk through Wounaan forests to stunning vistas. Native Future has assisted in designing biocultural interpretive signs, as well as a digital interactive component for the trails that will aid guides to educate tour groups, fostering cultural exchange and environmental awareness as well as providing income. Signs are in Wounaan Meu and Spanish; information in English will be easily found in the digital content. Signage structures are built by local builders using traditional materials. A special thank you to volunteer collaborators Michael Cook of Mike Cook Creative and Dr. Julie Velasquez Runk and intern Adam Peterson of Wake Forest University for their contributions!

The Crested Eagle trail is a product of the project, Digital Transformation of Indigenous-led Ecotourism and Conservation It has supported three Wounaan communities, Puerto Lara, Rio Hondo y Rio Platanares, to meet post-COVID-19 market demand through ecotour development, digital ecotourism marketing and financial inclusion. Over its 3 years of implementation, Native Future has supported participating communities to:

  1. Develop formal agreements (reglas internas) on managing ecotourism in and between their communities, including biosecurity measures to help them avoid the potential spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

  2. Train and equip bird guides: 25 aspiring Wounaan bird guides have been trained in professional guiding practices and technologies such as E-bird and Merlin, and first aid.

  3. Guides have received beginning English classes, and will continue to receive them in 2024.

  4. Develop three bird watching trails, one aquatic, and biocultural interpretative materials in English, Spanish and Wounaan meu.

The project, a pilot funded 50% by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Innovation Lab and supported by Otter Fonds, is in its final months of implementation. By April 2024, all three communities will be marketing their tours digitally through social media and ready to take online reservations through their website. (You’ll be the first to know when ready!)

In 2017, Native Future launched the Wounaan Bird Count, to show the world the conservation Wounaan have practiced for generations. The program is training Wounaan to identify birds and become bird guides, revitalize their cultural connections to their birdlife and develop community-led ecotourism. In 2024, the Wounaan Bird Count will continue its focus on English training for the guides, reinforcing bird guide training and bird counts, and marketing the community-led and managed ecotours.

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