Posted by: Celine Cousteau | March 3, 2009

Into the Amazon with Butterfield and Robinson

I can’t seem to get enough of the Amazon.


When Butterfield and Robinson – – invited me as guide and guest speaker on a trip to the Peruvian Amazon for a new type of journey they have created, Destinations at Risk, I could not resist. Not only had I previously worked for this company for 5 years as a biking/hiking guide and Regional Director in Costa Rica and Spain, but I obviously have a soft spot for the Amazon. I was able to help plan the trip, using the contacts I had from all the logistics and field production work I had done for the Ocean Futures/pbs documentary “Return to the Amazon”. – and  –

To start the trip off we had Noam Shany of Procrel – – come talk to the group about sustainable land management and use of natural resources in the Peruvian Amazon. I had arranged a visit to an Achuar village where I had previously met the shaman, Ramon, when I joined Amazon Promise – – on a volunteer medical expedition. In this village we witnessed and talked about the complexities of a life between the past and future, between traditional culture and the new world, where the people merely want to live in harmony with nature and not be invaded by the oil companies.


Over the course of the next four days after this, we brought the group on a river adventure aboard the luxurious MV Aqua – – where our trusted naturalists showed us the wonders of the jungle. In the evenings I gave presentations on the work I had done in the region with Amazon Promise, bringing a medical team to a remote area of the Peruvian Amazon. I also spoke of the work I did on the documentary Return to the Amazon, specifically focusing on an indigenous conference we attended in the Vale do Javari, Brazil. Before parting ways, we had organized a round table discussion in Lima where Dr Richard Smith of the Insituto del Bien Comun – -, along with Alfredo Ferreyros of Explorandes – -, and Alejandro Fort of Sensac – – talked about the complicated issues of land ownership, oil exploration, indigenous rights, and use of natural resources.


There is so much to learn about what is happening in the Amazon in terms of the environment and the people. To have brought a group of people on a meaningful and educational journey into a place I feel connected to was a treat. When one can see first hand what is happening there, it is no longer a seemingly far away issue, but has become a very personal experience that will hopefully inspire one to move to action.


img_28291A moment of comedy- I’m in the tree….imitating a howler monkey call to bring the group into a small creek in an effort to surprise them with their gift. I was there for 15 minutes waiting- during which time a few canoes went by under me…and any reasonable explanation for my presence in the middle of nowhere in a tree was not an option so I told them the truth- I was waiting for a group of tourists who would come by and collect their T-shirts. Makes sense, right?



  1. How’s it hanging? : )
    Good job sitting in the tree Celine sounds like something I would have done.

    Tour Guide: ” To the left we got some interesting species of frogs takeing a sun bath, above we got a crazy french lady, but never mind her, she does that from time to time, don’t ask questions, just move on.”
    Hahahaha… love it.

    PS: thanks for all the info you gave me. I am slowly, but surly working towards living my dream.

    • Gesche
      glad you are ‘slowly but surely’ making your way- it’s a great way to go!

  2. Celine,

    Has making contact with indigenous tribes created health problems for them? They don’t have the immune systems non-amazonians have…


    • That’s a terrific question and one that worries me as well. The group mentioned in this blog have had plenty of contact with the ‘outside’ world and are actually quite mixed and therefore our presence there was nothing new. However, I would not agree to entering into contact with a tribe that has not had any contact with outsiders nor would I go into a village with moderate contact with outsiders if I was sick and felt I would put them in danger. There is no story worth telling if we are to create problems while getting the story.

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