On a beautifully sunny and warm day in December, I joined Federico Magri on a short hike near the Rio Azul. The scenery was beautiful, the forests are green and the water were flowing musically downstream as our trail took us closer to the river.
As I walk beside Magri, I ask him to tell me a bit more about these lesser known parts of Argentina’s Patagonia region.
We are in the province of Rio Negro, and close to the town of El Bolsón. This area lies in the northern part of Patagonia and El Bolsón is nestled at the foot of the Piltriquitron Mountain, which is on the east side of the Andes. The area has a milder climate and this is mostly due to its many valleys and lower elevations. It is famous for its aquamarine colored glacial lakes, forest and rivers. Lovers of nature and eco-tourists can choose from a long list of activities, which include trekking, climbing, hiking and rafting, all in this pristine setting. The landscapes in this region are really magnificent, and you are just getting a small sample today, since your time here is limited.
You have been a major contributor to promoting the area around El Bolsón. Why was this important to you?
Before I started El Bolsón Trekking, I was regularly visiting the area for many years. This area means a lot to me and by promoting it, I can play my part in ensuring that its ecology is preserved for many generations to come. Besides promoting its natural beauty, I also want to share the importance of being in nature and the positive impact it can have on our health, both mental and physical.
Does eco-tourism have an environmental impact?
It could, but that is up to us to ensure that it doesn’t happen. One of the best ways to ensure that nature is conserved is for all players to work closely together. We need to discourage the greed of huge corporations and developers and allow local people to have a say. Afterall, they are the ones left behind after the tourists go home and they have the best interest of their region at heart; no matter where in the world this is.
Who are the other players?
Besides the local communities the other players needed to ensure sustainable tourism are the local and federal governments, and the local tour providers. Eco-tourists also have an important role to play.
How can the local communities help with this?
The people of El Bolsón are a great example of how communities can work together to provide eco-friendly local accommodation and organically grown local produce. They have benefitted from the growth of tourism in the area, have increased their work prospects. Many are self-employed and have created profitable home industries that provide crafts and edibles for visitors. Most importantly, they have not become greedy and they have the best interests of the area at heart.
You have successfully combined your two passions; one for technology and one for nature, to increase the eco-tourism of this region. You have a huge number of followers and monthly visitors to your social media and there are rumors that you also offer marketing advice to some well-known Argentinians. Is social media marketing the key to all success?
It plays a huge role, but the biggest factor is hard work and a passion for what you do. I started out with very little and have not relied on any type of funding from anywhere. I am proud to say that with a lot of drive and hard work I have managed to get my message across.
The best thing that I ever did was to further my studies. My degrees in psychology, social network studies and marketing from Texas and Boston University taught me a great deal about how one can connect with like-minded people around the globe.
What insights do you have to share with your fellow nature lovers and eco-tourists reading this?
Nature is where they must turn to for a healthier lifestyle. It’s the best way to get rid of negativity and to calm down. I have spent a great part of my life reading the works of two great naturalists, Dr. Venzano and John Muir. Everyone should read their work in order to understand what nature offers to all of humanity. We should all be working together to create a better world.
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