Ivonne Braga de Giardenelli or Ivy as I call her was born in Punchana a district of Iquitos Peru. She grew up in this developing rural area and went to public school just minutes from her house. After school, she would climb up into the guava, caimito and mango trees with her friends and brothers, picking and eating many fruits. It always amazed her how many different types of birds she would see . Hummingbirds, euphonias, and brightly colored cotingas who’s pitch of its call matches its flouresence. She was very curious about those birds and even monkeys that abounded.
The normal family pets back than were dogs and cats but also tortoises and monkeys. She and her family have raised a countless amount of wildlife that would come across them such as owl and wooly monkeys, sloths, deer, paca and even coatimundi! Back in those days(only 30 years ago) there was still primary forest on this gigantic river island. Ivy watched the quick replacement of forest by population. From the very same house, she used to walk to the beach every sunday with her family through trails in the primary rainforest. Now you need to take a mototaxi on paved roads and catch a boat from the port to swim on a secluded beach.
Her whole family was very excited for her when she enrolled in a language institute to learn English. Ivy knew she was destined for something more than the typical lifestyle. She was such a quick learner that a travel company scooped her up to immediately start her training to be a jungle guide. She is a natural linguist and a great leader with the passion needed to become one of the best female jungle guides in the whole world. She spent many years camping,canoeing,hiking,learning and loving the job. She has also worked with many universities from the USA as the best female ornithological guide around. she has worked for several high profile travel companies and institutions such as the Smithsonian, GAP adventures, Overseas adventure travel, Jungle Expeditions, Green Tracks, A y E and now owner of Otorongo Expeditions
Although I was born in upstate NY. I feel as if the strangest forces of magnetism and destiny pulled me into the rainforest like a tractor beam. I spent the most of my childhood and adolescence hunting, fishing,training hawks,saving salamanders and camping in the Adirondack State Park. I took a personal interest in reading anything nonfiction and had to do with nature. I quickly became an expert in many subjects that pertain to the outdoors such as medicinal and useful plants, survival skills, animal tracking, wildlife id and the miscellaneous list goes on.
It only felt natural for me to come to the Amazon for a bigger challenge of learning everything I possibly can about the worlds largest rainforest and river . Some would say that it is hard to find comfort In The jungle. I say I am never more comfortable whilst fishing silently with my camera waiting for something to pass by on the banks of a backwater tributary. I feel as if I meld into the forest and become another organism which relies on its ability to adapt and survive in the worlds largest rainforest.
Anthony and Ivy met back in the year 2004 in the Peruvian Capital of Lima. We were both scheduled for the morning flight to Iquitos Peru. I approached Ivy in a shy manner and asked her a few questions, you know the usual, what’s your name, do you have a boyfriend etc. etc. she answered, slightly flattered and proceeded to guide her group of twenty tourists to the airport terminal to begin the flight.
I sat a few rows behind her and she knew I was watching, I threw a few paper wads her direction to no avail.
I was doing a month long 3 credit study on sample methods used to measure wildlife diversity in the same lodge where Ivy was working. I had already been to this lodge twice a year before without seeing her and it turns out that she was on break.
We would exchange glances between meals and meet over where the parrots and monkeys were fed. we also would spend long nights chatting about animals, plants, fish, different places, countries, everything! I think what really won her over was when I went fishing and brought back many sabalo and pacu fish. I made a fire on the grill and started cooking local style with charcoal. She was impressed, not only because I cooked the fish in a local fashion but because I brought Her absolute favorite, the sabalo or also known as the silver brycon.
We were both smitten, having found someone that can appreciate one another. When It was time for me to go,we were very sad. We had touched each others old souls and it seemed as if they were very long time acquaintances. Due to our profound love for each other and Mother Natures creations, we started to dream up a future and a long distance relationship.
I would visit for months at a time.I had to work and finish with my college. On the side I had been putting together my own crew for trips on the rivers.
All this time, Ivy would work with other companies. I would be planning in the city. Or out exploring, but we managed to see each other every weekend.After almost a year I found a place suitable to work in. We would go to the future site of our lodge and design in our heads how it will be when it’s done. We also made reunions with the communities frequently to get a feel about the population.
Construction of the lodge followed in May of 2006. We had at any time twenty people working on the lodge for almost three months. We used local materials and workers for the rustic house and we contacted a mason from Iquitos to build the columns for the bathroom, elevated tank and septic system.
What we are most proud of is the material we used for our floors, a stilt palm called huacrapona (Iriatea deltoidies). This material is so tough when mature that the termites need to see a dentist if they even nibble at it. This material can be found hundreds of years after its demise still hard as a rock. We had to drill each nail hole before fastening it to the lower structure.
The private rooms with shower, sink and toilet are a must for some people. I always said I need to make the place comfortable enough for my own mother to visit. Trust me, if she could come and be relaxed in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, than ANYONE can!
For the first two years we would attend to a few people per month. As word got out about our stellar service, we started to get more adventurers. From 2006-2010 I was my own speed boat driver, head guide, trail blazer and quality control manager and head of sales. When Ivy wasn’t working with another company,she would be helping out in any way including cooking for our guests and tending rooms. No complaints, 100% satisfaction and excellent service means more guests!
After occupying the first place out of twenty in Tripadvisor for over a year( before the wolves caught on to the scent) we managed to be overbooked, flooded with people who want to experience the Amazon Otorongo Expeditions style.
Lonely planets gracious review and top pick for Iquitos shot us even higher in the ranks as we attend to over forty people per month. (And yes I imitate thousands of animals sounds)
It wasn’t until 2010 that we needed help. We started to interview guides, drivers and chefs from all over Peru and picked who we though we’re the best for the job. We now employ total of ten persons year round, six from surrounding communities and four here in the city for other logistical purposes.
During our high season , we may have over twenty workers attending to all of our clients at any given time!
So after a few thousand clients, we find ourselves still at the top of this pioneer industry of adventure tourism here in the Amazon Rainforest.
If you are looking for excellent service while exploring the Amazon rainforest and River, don’t hesitate to ask us for any information
Look for us also on Nat Geos “hooked 4 deadly weapons” and Robson Greenes extreme fishing.