With countless eco awards and confusing certifications, all aiming to guide us to the best in sustainable travel, Behind the Green takes it back to basics. Back to storytelling and human connection. Meet the visionaries behind the world’s best sustainable and regenerative stays…

Meet Claudia, a manager at Comuna do Ibitipoca. She is from the local area, but lived in London for a short while to learn English so that she could pursue an ambitious career. When she was offered a job on the reserve, she was so happy that she could work so close to her home and spend her time outdoors, her favourite place to be.

Learn more about Comuna do Ibitipoca here>

Claudia at Comuna do Ibitipoca

How did Comuna do Ibitipoca come to have a sustainability focus?

‘The reserve originally began to be able to help the local people living in the Ibitipoca State Park. It has always been about the local people. The people living in the Atlantic Forest can have a hard life, it’s very mountainous so it’s not good for growing food. We brought the land that they live on, but we wanted to preserve their homes, their cultures and traditions, but help them, and help the forest too. So because of that, we have always been sustainable, because we are all about preservation.’

Could you tell us more about the ReWild Project?

‘At the beginning we wanted to create a belt of forest around the reserve, and we wanted it to grow, but we realised that doing this wouldn’t necessarily bring back wildlife to the park that had left, so we had to intervene and introduce them back into the area. The project is also about the people who come to stay with us as well, and rewilding them too. We want people to be able to reconnect with nature and live a simpler life and see that they are happier for it.’

Which eco activity would you most recommend for guests coming to stay at Comuna do Ibitipoca?

‘I would definitely recommend that they get outdoors and explore. There are more than 50 waterfalls here and so many trails they can go on. The trails don’t just focus on the nature though, guests can also go on trails that teach them about food production and our recycling system. The landscape here is so beautiful and there’s so much to see.’

Could you tell us more about some of the intriguing buildings on the site?

‘All of the buildings were created in the traditional style of the area and using recycled materials, all undertaken by local workers. Eagle’s Nest Loft is a popular room because it is 100% sustainable and it is so remote. It’s only accessible by bike, walking or horseback, so you will never have anyone looking in or anything like that – it’s truly an escape.’

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of running an eco-conscious property?

‘For me, it is about having a career where I can make a difference. This is not just a job; it is my purpose. I am doing something for the planet and the whole community in this genuinely special place. I think that we touch people when they come to stay with us, and hopefully they take something away with them and feel transformed by their experience.’

What makes the Ibitipoca State Park such a special place?

‘The park is situated in the Atlantic Forest, which is extremely special to the Brazilian people, 60% of the population live in the forest which used to cover the whole country. Unfortunately, we’re seeing species disappear from the forest and the park, so it is something that we really need to preserve. It’s worth visiting though because there is still so much wildlife to see, like the deer and the spider monkeys. Just the other day a wolf was walking around the reserve, it was so special.’
Looking up to the lodge at Comuna do Ibitipoca as advertised by Kiwano Hotels
Double bedroom at Comuna do Ibitipoca as advertised by Kiwano Hotels.

What was the latest green initiative introduced at Comuna do Ibitipoca?

‘Every single thing we do we’re always trying to be green, but we are currently working on a zero-plastic project, but it’s a very big job. We don’t have plastic bottles anymore, and we’re trying to grow more of our food, so we have to rely less on suppliers who use plastic.’

What’s next for Comuna do Ibitipoca?

‘We never really know what’s going to happen in the future and we’re always willing to learn and are open to suggestions. We have several ideas, but they could all change of course. We’re hoping to open new accommodation in a nearby village which has been practically abandoned. The people there left to go to the cities because food production was poor and there was no school or healthcare system in place. We’d love to open up a school there and help the people and give them work. Of course, everything has to be done in a sustainable way.’

Learn more about Comuna do Ibitipoca & do your own green checks here>

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