Sustainable Surfing in Peru
I can’t get enough of Peru and though I’ve never been, I’m fascinated by it. I’ve fact-checked our May/June feature on taking the “High Road” to Machu Picchu, and our editor-in-chief wrote about visiting the pre-Inca city of Kuelap in our October “Places of a Lifetime” issue. So when I heard about Machapu Adventures, a new company offering environmentally sustainable, community-based surfing trips to coastal Peru, I had to find out more.
The founders of Machapu Adventures, Carlos Zuñiga and Nico Parkerson, stopped by National Geographic headquarters to tell me about their company, the kinds of trips they offer, and how travelers can help Peru’s coastal communities.
Carlos’s father opened a hotel in the small town of Chicama (population about 7,000) in 2007. Having studied hospitality management, Carlos soon took over, and set out to make the destination more than a mere hotel. He recruited his friend Nico, who at the time had been working as a security specialist in Miami. Both men love to surf and have deep family ties to coastal Peru. They decided to develop the hotel in Chicama into the Chicama Surf Resort, the first upscale surf resort in Peru.
Today, they offer travelers trips to Peru’s other superstar attractions through their company, Machapu Adventures (“Machapu” means “wave” in Quechua). The 20-room resort is ten hours south of Lima; visitors must fly to Trujillo, about 45 minutes from the hotel. The Chicama Surf Resort (which has a spa, mud baths, steam room, and gym) employs 15-20 local people and serves healthy, mostly locally sourced food, some of it organic. The guys tell me it is high-energy food for active people: quinoa, fish, ceviche. Carlos and Nico are in the process of developing green initiatives beyond the low-flush toilets and other water-saving measures already in place. As the town has no recycling facilities, they’re working on finding a place for recyclables.
Machapu Adventures attracts surfers to the “wave garden” that brews off Chicama, one of the longest left-breaking waves in the world. The guys enthusiastically tell me that at this Shangri-la for surfers you can ride the same wave for two miles [video here]. The surfing is great year-round but peak season is March-November, during the South American summer.
In addition to great surfing and comfy-chic accommodations, Machapu Adventures aims to give back to the Chicama community through a variety of initiatives. The guys tailor guests’ involvement in the community to their preferences, skills, and the length of time they have to give. For example, some Navy doctors came to Chicama during their shore leave in Lima and set up a clinic for the local people for a few days. A dentist/surfer who’d come to Chicama twice before held a dental clinic through Machapu while staying at the surf resort. Nico and Carlos are hoping to renovate and provide supplies to the local school for handicapped kids, orchestrate regular beach clean ups, preserve a section of undeveloped land as a nature area full of foxes and condors, as well as assemble a surf team for local kids to get them looking toward the future and interacting with visitors in a positive way.
Chicama was the site of sugar plantations since the Jesuits established one there in the 17th century. Century-old buildings of the W.D. Grace and Gildemeister sugar companies lie abandoned. The guys would love to renovate them and turn them into a museum or historic center. They hope to apply for an IDB
grant to salvage the Pullman train and trolley cars lurking in the yard. There are pre-Inca temples to excavate and a community center to finish. They hope local teens will perform traditional songs and dance for travelers at the community center, earning tips for their efforts while preserving their traditional culture and sharing it with travelers.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The bottom line for Machapu Adventures, Nico tells me earnestly, is to use the hotel as the focal point through which the community can take charge of its own development; to do something positive with the money generated by tourism. The guys are working with locals and the mayor to get these ambitious projects off the ground.
If, like me, you can’t get enough of Peru, check out our online photo gallery of Aaron Huey’s “Faces of Peru,” and our Lima Destination Guide, recent City Life coverage of Lima.
Photos: Jesus “El Zorro” Florian