At the tender age of 21, Anderson is one of the youngest and brightest guides working at Mashpi Lodge. Known as “Guagito” (“little kid”) among his colleagues, Anderson grew up in the Community of Mashpi.
How did you come to work at Mashpi?
I was studying farming and I really wanted to continue the course, get a scholarship and go to Honduras.
I came to have a look around Mashpi, as I’d heard of it but I’d never been, and saw loads of my childhood friends, guys I had grown up with like Manolo. When I was 18, I started as a guide support. Now, my cousin Silvia works in housekeeping and my mum works here too.
What makes a great guide at Mashpi?
You need to be willing to learn. I didn’t study tourism or biology, but I’m really curious. You have lots to learn from people around. The first thing I bought with my first paycheck was binoculars and nature books. On my days off I go and find more birds! I also taught myself English, watching movies and reading all the time.
Do you have a goal as a guide here?
I want to see a Banded Ground Cuckoo! It’s one of the rarest birds here, almost mythical. They follow carnivorous army ants, picking out the fleeing insects, but these ants only live in primary forests, so they’re really rare. And the cuckoos hide. It really would be a personal achievement.
Apart from spotting the mythical cuckoo, what are your plans for the future?
I want to finish studying environmental engineering via distance learning and get my degree. I want to be able to guide in any other country.
How do your views on nature differ from your family?
My grandfather came from Otavalo and my grandmother from Quito, and they were some of the first to come to this area to settle. They would hunt and fish. But now a lot of my family work here at Mashpi, so attitudes are changing.
What is so special about Mashpi?
Activities here also involve children, so it’s cool getting them into nature and conservation at a young age. It’s our job to transmit this magic!