Brazil restricted access to its highest mountain nearly 20 years ago. A new project may now demonstrate how ecotourism may safeguard the Amazon rainforest from environmental dangers.

These mountains are sacred and the home of spirits, both good and bad, according to José Mario Pereira Goes, head of AYRCA, the Yanomami organization established to manage the ecotourism project. Those who practice traditional medicine are aware of the spirits and are responsible for keeping visitors safe. A person can lose their soul and pass away at the hands of the spirits. For most people, Pico da Neblina is just another mountain, but not for them. The Brazilian government prohibited access to the summit in 2003 due to a large number of visitors, some of whom left trash behind. For some hikers, this means the end of a nearly two-decade wait. The Yanomami will be able to make money from tourism under the new visitation plan, which would provide them with the ability to fend off both insider and outsider miners who would tempt them to engage in destructive but lucrative gold mining. If it is effective, it will aid in sustaining local economies and may serve as an illustration of how well-controlled ecotourism may aid in defending the Amazon from outside forces attempting to exploit the land.

While mining remains a tempting source of income for young Yanomami men, hopes are high that the Yaripo project will turn a corner for the community. As per Pereira, this project is important. People from Brazil and beyond are welcome to come and visit. This project is their dream, and it’s being accomplished.