Guatemalan guide Carlos Vivar explains why he set up a unique camping experience in his hometown of Uaxactun — and why the locals love it too.
We speak to one of our Guatemalan guides, Carlos Vivar, who has just been selected from over 1,000 nominations as one of nine finalists in the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2013. Born in the remote jungle village of Uaxactun, Carlos grew up listening to his shaman grandfather’s tales of the Maya. After years of guiding in the famous Maya site of Tikal, Carlos decided to set up a unique camping experience in his hometown of Uaxactun, itself a hugely important Maya stronghold. As a result, visitors can now camp close to the temples, enjoy meals prepared by local families and hear the story of Uaxactun from Carlos himself.
How did the idea to develop the camping tour in Uaxactun come about?
The idea formed from a desire to give something back to the village where I was born, in addition to wanting to show travellers just what an amazing place Uaxactun is and how rewarding it can be to interact with the community there.
Why did you become a guide?
I just followed my heart, which was telling me that I could become whatever I wanted to be, but the only way to achieve that was through education.
What are the most memorable sights and sounds visitors can experience at Uaxactun?
It is the most melodious experience you can imagine — all different species of birds calling from the treetops, combined with the background music of howler monkeys and spider monkeys. It is just magical to be there.
How have the community been involved?
They just love the idea of hosting people from other countries, getting to know them and hearing different languages being spoken. They also provide the meals for the campers and enjoy feeling a part of the whole experience.
What impact do you feel visitors are having on the wider region?
They are having a very positive effect in the sense that it is opening the eyes of both the travellers but also the people who live in the community. We work really hard to keep the experience as unique and as authentic as possible, so most visitors come away feeling privileged to have been here, almost like they are the only ones to have ever visited Uaxactun. They leave feeling very attached to the village.
What’s your most memorable guiding moment?
There is not one specific moment — it is just the continuous joy of meeting people from all over the world and being able to provide them with an unforgettable experience. The jungle around Tikal and Uaxactun is also renowned for wildlife, in addition to the spectacular Maya temples.
What unusual creatures have you spotted?
I've seen both a black jaguar and a spotted jaguar on separate occasions — what amazing encounters!
How did you feel about being shortlisted for the Wanderlust Guide Awards?
I felt amazingly happy — what a privilege!
What’s your favourite part of being a guide?
When I am able to transmit my message to visitors, and see them enjoy the experience and enjoy Guatemala — I don’t think I could carry on now if I wasn’t able to meet new and returning travellers who come here.
What is next on your ‘to-do’ list?
I actually just want to stay the same as I am now, but I also hope for a long life to allow me to eventually make all of my projects a reality!
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