While conducting biodiversity surveys in Guyana's Kanuku Mountains, my guide Gordon and I had long conversations about the importance of Guyana's biodiversity. For my research, I study reptiles and amphibians, species often overlooked by local Amerindians if they are not potential food or a possible threat. I spent a few weeks with Gordon, tirelessly searching morning and night for the region’s herpetofauna and all the while teaching him everything I knew. One afternoon while we were out exploring the upper reaches of a mountain creek, light rays burst through the rainforest canopy and into the understory. Gordon paused for a few short moments, long enough for me to capture this image. To me this image captures the revelatory experience he had while working with me. He has explored these forests for his whole life, and in just a few short weeks I was able to teach him things about his “backyard” that he never knew before. Knowledge that ultimately makes him an even greater guide and champion to protect these forests. For me as a biologist, this embodies what a sustainable travel project should be. By travelling to remote locations, some of which are both frequented by tourists and of conservation threat, and simultaneously teach local guides new knowledge and skills, then I am helping facilitate sustainable travel for other people in the future. These guides are the same ones who return to enrich their local communities, passing on their new-found knowledge and environmental awareness to the next generation.
|© Andrew Snyder