Sebastien Cazaudehore is an anthropologist who tried to run from a multi-generation, family tradition of hotel ownership. However, Cazaudehore failed miserably when he decided to build and open the Hamadryade Lodge. It was an alliance between two worlds, hospitality and anthropology. They collaborate with indigenous populations, and run social and development programs with the local communities. As he would say, “it is just one small brick in the wall, but I’m proud of it.”
Amber, his wife, has been helping to run the Lodge for years and brought in the personal development touch. Through her years of coaching and helping people, she was able to bring a breath of fresh air to the Lodge.
How do the experiences you offer at Hamadryade Lodge give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
We work closely with indigenous populations (Kichwa and Waorani), in particular a kichwa community nearby that created a women’s association aiming at revitalizing their culture and share it with people interested. A shamanic center has also been created on the land where the Lodge is implanted where we offer ayahuasca, coaching and healing retreat. The goal in the future is to be able to use the Lodge to offer a unique place for people seeking a place for those retreats.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
Some have held up and developed in a very positive way, like the kichwa community. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the Waorani community. This year we had to terminate our collaboration with them. The reason for that is that the influence of the oil companies has changed the people. The elders are slowly disappearing and the younger people are no longer interested by their own culture. Oil companies provide them with what they need (and not always the best things) and when tourists come to their place, they use what little culture they have left to get money. But it is not even done in a nice way.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
We run an almost 100% ecological place, but we’ve never sought accreditation for that. Mainly because we felt that most of those were not adequate, not really aiming at assessing the true ecological ways of a place, too many loopholes. Guests cannot see that 100% of our water is from the rain and treated afterwards for example, unless they ask. But all this is important to us, it is a matter of principle.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
Well, first, that the place is indeed ecological. Everybody knows or should know that this is important, but sometimes they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences. They would love to have an ecological place without having to give up some of their creature comforts. When, for example during a dry week, we explain that guests have to conserve water, taking shorter showers, some get grumpy and refuse to understand that our water tap doesn’t give an unlimited supply of water unless Nature gives it first.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Actually I’m not sure, maybe I’ve spent too long in a jungle and I’m not aware of travel trends. I’ve seen people coming to the amazon rainforest because it seems cool to have done so. But then I had to hear them complain to me about the rain or the mud in the jungle (true, and more than once). Well, people should go to a place like here because they love Nature.
What sets Hamadryade Lodge apart from other jungle lodges?
First, because we are very exclusive, 5 bungalows only, 6 rooms. Because of that, we can offer a very personalized service and people feel like at home. Also, we didn’t go for the rustic look… did you know that thatched roofs in a hotel is very bad from an ecological point of view ? the only way to maintain those without making fire under frequently is to spray them with diesel and toxic chemicals. So the architecture of the Lodge is very contemporary, spacious and luminous.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Stop focusing on what you expect to see or experience. Let yourself be carried by the flow of life, even though things don’t go as planned, if you keep your eyes and heart open you’ll be amazed.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Word of mouth. Simple as that. We get more people because of what people are saying about us.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I see what I want, I feel like I already have it and then I make it happen.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
Once, an elderly gentleman from the US told us that he really wished to go rafting, he always had been afraid to do so, and at almost ninety years old he wanted to scratch that from his bucket list. Obviously we were not comfortable with it, but he was not taking no for an answer. We worked with our partner to be as safe as possible and he returned crying tears of joy.
Sebastien’s email: email@example.com
Hamadryade Lodeg on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Hamadryade-Lodge-Amazonie-Ecuador-150374454987995