Walk the Talk at Tropic Ventures
We found a really off-the-beaten-path place that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. Everybody these days is talking about "going green" or being "eco" something or other. But, if you are really interested in learning about how to actually live green, and especially about sustainable forestry, Las Casas de la Selva is a place you should visit. This homestead is a an example of how you can live in and with nature, while still sustaining it.They occasionally offer “Walk Talk Tours”.
Some Background Info
Las Casas de la Selva is a rainforest enrichment project, owned and operated by Tropic Ventures, which is a joint venture between Global Ecotechnics Corporation and Decisions Team Inc.
About 25 years ago, these guys purchased around 1000 acres of rainforest land adjacent to the Carite National Forest. The aim of the project is to show that rainforest ecology can be maintained while profiting from the land, and to make it profitable enough to interest others in doing similar things. Called sustainable forestry, they carefully plant valuable hardwoods to be later harvested and sold for profit.
Since 1984, 300 acres of the land have been planted with saplings of Honduras Mahogany (Swietenia), Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus), and a host of native timber trees. These trees have all been planted in rows throughout the forest, using hand-tools to minimize damage to existing soil structure and other forest flora and fuana.
As the trees mature, they are carefully harvested and the lumber is sold off. Some of the wood is used locally and turned into beautiful hand-crafted goods.
The folks at Las Casas de la Selva offer talks and guided tours of the homestead and sustainable forestry areas to groups to help spread the word. The land is also used for environmental research projects.
I inquired about a tour, and a couple days later we were able to join up with a larger group that already had a tour scheduled.
After a brief introduction (3T Vakil and Andres Rua are the people who make the forest project at Tropic Ventures run) we had a tour of the Homestead. This included the saw mill & work shop, the wastewater garden, nursery and the volenteer visitor cabins. Afterwards we sat down for a short slide show about the work of the corporate founders, Earthwatch and also of the current operators of Tropic Ventures.
We then went on a walk/hike in the forest to learn about the trees and how they are running their sustainable forestry program. During the walk, Andres pointed out many of the native plants we saw along the way and discussed their uses. The hike was about 1 – 1½ hours, not too strenuous but not an easy walk in the park, either. The walking paths through the forest are natural (i.e. not paved) so long pants and decent closed toed walking shoes are required.
Following the forest walk, we returned to the Homestead for a delicious homemade hot lunch, and we enjoyed a nice afternoon of conversation.
I really enjoyed this trip, but it is not for everyone. We lucked into a gorgeous day. They are located way up in the mountains, where they get a lot of rain. It was sunny, cool, moist and everything was very green.
We really enjoyed the people and interesting conversation. I learned something about all sorts of "eco" topics — like the correct way to build a mulch pile, grey water recycling and even humanure.
I admit, I probably won’t be incorporating many of the "green" methods I learned about, but I am thinking about planting some of our open land with more trees, to help do my part keep the planet green.
They grow a few different types of wood on the property, but they have found that Blue Mahoe grows best in the area. The lumber from this beautiful wood is gorgeous — with a variety of colors in it. Andres makes furniture, bowls and other items from this wood, and they are beautiful.
The lumber is also valuable and in high demand from artisans and wood workers around the world. 3T is an artist (mainly painting and jewelry), and she has many of her lovely pieces on display in the Homestead. Items are for sale at the Homestead and through their web site.
The cost for the tour and lunch is $20 per person.
Tours are for groups of 15 or more, and by reservation only.
Tours are offered in English and Spanish.
This tour takes pretty much the whole day, once you take into consideration the time it takes to drive there and back.
From the San Juan area, take Route 52 south to exit 32 (that’s the Guavate exit). Turn left at the end of the ramp and take Road 184 up into the mountains. Turn right at the tee. Follow Road 184 until you see the sign for Tropic Ventures on your left.
We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ...
- Las Casas de la Selva, Tropic Ventures: (18.080338, -66.037950)
PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it!