Paddling with a Purpose on the Marañon

11/8/2019

When Benjamin Webb and Luigi Marmanillo came to the village of Lonya Grande, and offered a free day of river rafting to local students, they figured they would get so much interest, they’d have to do multiple trips. So when there were no takers, they were surprised.

Webb and Marmanillo, along with Bruno Monteferri, are the co-founders of Marañon Experience, an adventure travel company that takes groups on rafting trips of various lengths through the Marañon Valley. The two men are also the co-founders of  Marañon Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural wonders of the Marañon Valley, that is part of the international organization, Waterkeeper Alliance.

Webb and Marmanillo have always made it a point to engage with local communities in both their work as tour guides and conservationists. “Marañón Waterkeeper has been incredibly successful in connecting with the local communities,” says Maya Raposo, Waterkeeper Alliance Communications and Marketing Director. “They have a real passion for getting things done.”

So it was in this spirit that the two men came to a school in the Peruvian village of Loyna Grande to screen a documentary on the Marañon and the conservation efforts surrounding it, “Confluir.” Attending the screening were teenage students and their parents.

The surprising results of that screening is where this short video, Paddling With A Purpose, produced by Marañón Waterkeeper begins. The screening attendees were excited to hear about the conservation efforts surrounding a river which many of them depended on for their livelihoods. Everyone agreed the river is important, and needed protection.

However, after presenting the idea of taking the students on a one-day rafting trip, only a couple of parents were willing to sign a permission form. Webb and Marmanillo learned that locals view the Marañón River respect and fear. Over the years, they had seen too many people drowned after falling into the river or trying to cross it while fishing, and also many people had a very limited ability to swim.

So Webb and Marmanillo opened the trip to anyone in the community who was interested.  They ended up with a group of Lonyanos of different ages and backgrounds, including some students from the school.

The video chronicles the trip and its life-changing results. Many of those who took the trip had never been exposed to this part of the river, and were awe-struck by what they saw. They came back with a deeply-seeded commitment to protect the river—their river—and began spreading the word to others in the community. Watch the video.

If you would like to experience the Marañón River yourself, check out the trip from Marañón Experience here.