Leaders in Puno fight narcotrafficking and illegal mining with a tourism proposal

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“This is an extraordinary experience that I have never had before in my 64 years. I am never going to forget being able to ride in a boat down the Tambopata River. I’ve been living here since I was 9 years old and I had never experienced this.”

The face of Juan Machaca Quispe, mayor of San Pedro de Putina Punco, a district in the province of Sandia, looks like that of a child who has just tasted the most delicious candy in the world.

What prompted this happiness was rafting, which is the navigation of flowing rivers, like the Tambopata, in an inflatable boat. And the mayor was not the only one who was riding the current this week; the river was also full of tourism operators based in Puno, who came to this area to see the potential for creating a new tourism route. The initiative is in the hands of the those in charge of the Bahuaja Sonene National Park (PNBS), and it is meant to be a way to double up on the protection of the bio-diverse area, which faces threats from coca production, narcotrafficking, and illegal mining, which is invading the Tambopata River.

The circuit will be marketed as the route of the best coffee in the world, and for the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. And in addition to rafting, the tourists will also be able to participate in activities such as trekking, rapeling, mountain climbing and experiential tourism. There will also be an opportunity to do a tasting of the well-known Tunki coffee, which has received awards on both a national and an international level.

David Aranivar, the head of PNBS, said that, currently, tourism in the area is dominated by week-long rafting trips on the Tambopata, and participants are usually foreigners. According to Aranivar, these trips from Cusco can cost up to $2,000.

The proposal for the new tourism circuit does not include these long trips, primarily because of the prohibitive cost. Instead, there will be options for more affordable, shorter trips of one or two hours. Authorities hope that this lower cost option will attract foreign tourists, as well as local ones.

The Director of Tourism of the Regional Tourism and Foreign Trade Office, Vadim Macciotti Cabala, thinks that the next step is to present the project before Puno’s regional government in order to officially register the route, and in turn ask for resources to implement it. To better protect the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, locals want to introduce a new tourism circuit that would include whitewater rafting and some of the world’s best coffee.

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