Fabian Espinoza Avellan has been the sustainability coordinator and also a tour guide at Jicaro Island Ecolodge since its opening in December 2009. He was born in Rivas, Nicaragua and has studied to be a naturalist both there and in Costa Rica. He took some time away from his busy schedule at Jicaro to answer the questions for this interview.
Frances: When you were a little child, what did want to be when you grew up?
Fabian: Well…I wanted to be a pilot or an electronic engineer. I started taking my first electronics courses when I was 10 years old.
Frances: How did you come to work in tourism and to be interested in nature?
Fabian: When I was 19, I started working in a hotel on the Pacific Coast near San Juan del Sur, which was managed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality. I was working in the maintenance department, but sometimes I was asked to be the driver for some of the tours offered in the lodge. So I became curious about what the guide was explaining in the tour. Of course, at the time I did not speak any English. So learning this language and some natural history was my first goal. I never expected that nature and sustainability issues were going to be so interesting for me. As I was learning more every day, I suddenly realized I was falling in love with nature.
Frances: Explain what a typical day is like for you at work on Jicaro Island.
Fabian: On a typical day, I start by taking a walk around the kitchen, restaurant, spa, and back of the house to ensure that everything is working properly in the aspect of sustainability. I check that lights or any kind of electrical appliance that is not being used is turned off in order to save energy. I make sure that trash and recycling has been separated as it should be. Then I check all the tour equipment (life jackets, paddles, kayaks, books, binoculars, telescope) and if necessary I clean them up. On the computer, I check e-mails and special guest requests, work on developing our ongoing projects for community and schools, create slideshows for guests and update important information such as guidelines for water and energy consumption. At the end of the day I arrange the tours for the upcoming days and organize my tasks for the week. When I have an unexpected tour, my daily and weekly plan changes.
Frances: What is your favorite part of your job? What makes you the happiest?
Fabian: My favorite part of my job is teaching and sharing my knowledge of the culture of Nicaragua and its natural heritage. I am a bird lover and the location of the hotel is perfect for bird watching; I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures of beautiful birds that live around the island. They are unique! Another thing that really makes me feel happy is having a job where we are helping kids from the school as well as the local people.
Frances: Describe one of your favorite days at work.
Fabian: My favorite day so far was when we had our first guest (Kathryn Maier). Besides this, there have been another days where I have felt particularly good; for example when guests say they loved the tour or when they learned something from me about sustainability.
Frances: What do you feel are the benefits for tourists or travelers who come to stay at an eco-resort or sustainable hotel as opposed to a regular, mainstream accommodation that does not consider sustainability?
Fabian: Once guests arrive at our lodge, from their very first encounter with a staff member, they receive amazing personal and unique attention. Being a hotel committed to the environment and the local community, we try to purchase organic and non-harmful products as much as possible. Through responsible and sustainable practices, we care for our guests’ health.
Frances: Do you think Jicaro Island Ecolodge benefits from being managed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality?
Fabian: I am completely sure there is not another company like Cayuga in Central America that manages hotels with the experience and vision that they have. I like working with them because they are people who are truly committed to sustainability, beyond it just being a job. Also they take care of us and know how to treat their staff in a way that allows all of us to grow as professionals.
Frances: If the guests who come in contact with you during their stay could take away one particular memory or feeling about you as a staff member, what would you want them to take away and remember forever?
Fabian: I want to be remembered as that guy who shared his knowledge with them.
Frances: Thank you so much. It has been great to talk to you.
Fabian: I enjoyed the questions and hope my answers are helpful.