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Our project at Lake Peten, our ecolodge accommodation in Guatemala, began in 1993. We started by leasing five hectares of secondary forest on the lake shores. The designing, planning and building began then. We finished our main infrastructure in 1995 and opened our doors to visitors from around the world. Our main motivations were based in conservation ideals and in sharing our culture and love for nature with others. Our work has enabled us to actually own thirty five hectares of protected land where many animals live, including many birds (as much as six different species of hummingbirds are residents of the reserve).
We participate actively in environmental and conservation campaigns, including an 8.5 kilometre swim from Flores to San José to bring awareness to lake conservation. We participate actively in NODO, which is in charge of legalizing private reserves in the area and we promote educational campaigns for local communities to teach people how to take care of their environment. We also keep an eye on NGOs that are supposed to help out in the environment and brings a voice of alarm in case we see that they’re not complying exactly with what their project is supposed to do.
We support medical campaigns and project such as VOSH Pennsylvania, who come every year, most years twice a year. We provide logistics or lodging and other services (transportation, etc.) for ophthalmology campaigns either in the jungle or in towns. I've volunteered as a translator a couple of times and this year even volunteered in the project they are beginning in Haiti (in Cap Haitien). We have a box for donations for this project (specially the children branch), where guests can donate directly. We provide the space (the dinning room, specially) free of cost for different organizations so they can hold their workshops over here. We donate to the soccer team, school and library.
We take our guests directly to local restaurants (specially in El Remate area) and to local people's handicraft stores so they will buy local products. This is specially done also in El Remate, El Caoba and Flores. We take visitors to the town of San José, and specifically to the ladies' group who are developing and managing their medicinal garden and producing natural medicines, teas, tinctures, shampoo, soaps. We bring tourists free of charge in the hope that they donate or help out by buying products from them. Also, we take them to San José's Bio-Itzá, which is one of the very few reserves managed by an indigenous local community, raising awareness of how important it is to conserve this region.
We've built an extra cold room (the only air conditioned room) so that the industrial equipment will minimize its energy consumption when heat strikes and also minimizes the general noise all over the social area. We collect rain water for use in the garden, and we make our own compost. We separate our trash (biodegradable from plastic, tin, etc.) for use in the compost or to be sent for recycling. We get our water from the lake through an industrial pump, which sends the water to a cistern about 70 meters high in altitude which has filters. All of the casitas have two septic tanks (one for grey and one for black waters) to prevent contamination of the lake. The restaurant and laundry have two others. We have a laundry scheme where we only change towels and sheets usually after 3 days or when guests request them. We use biodegradable cleaning products and natural soaps with no chemicals.
We encourage wildlife in our garden by putting up bird food, hummingbird feeders, several ponds, leaving lots of hectares untouched to encourage wildlife. During most of our dinner hosting, we talk and chat about conservation and when requested and possible, give presentations on local culture, environmental issues in the area, wildlife, conservation, etc.