San Francisco. The home of Agro EcoTourism?
Not the San Francisco with the Goldengate Bridge or all those tech start-ups. This is the San Fransico Lodge in the Pantanal region.
What does Agro EcoTourism mean? I asked owner Robert Coelho the same question.
“Agro because we teach people about farming, and Eco because we introduce people to our unique wildlife and nature.
“My family started this farm in 1975, but in 1989, we opened it for tourism too. We have 4000 hectares for rice farming, 3000 for cattle and 8000 is a natural reserve. More than half is completely natural, and will always remain that way”
I asked him why.
“It’s important to conserve our environment. We’ve been running conservation projects on the farm for the jaguar since the 1980s. Unfortunately the projects have been paused at the moment. The global financial crisis took away the research funding.”
Why add Ecotourism to agriculture?
“Of course, it brings in extra income, and I like the integration of the businesses. As a small example, the men of the local families work on the farm, and their wives, who are not trained in farming skills, are still able to work with the tourists. For example, in the kitchen, providing the delicious food.”
And I have to say, the food at San Francisco was amazing. The cuts of meat are fantastic – some of the best that I had in Brazil.
Socially speaking, San Francisco Lodge ran a free bus for 15 years, to help local children in the area get to school in the nearest city. Nowadays, thankfully there is a public bus service.
They provide adult education classes to all staff, on subjects like health and safety, first aid and food hygiene, and invite the teens and young adults of the employed families to attend and learn as well.
During my short stay on the farm and reserve, I was able to see some beautiful wildlife. Of course, hundreds of birds. From giant stalks (the symbol of the panatanal) to kingfishers, woodpeckers, hawks, and more. Even an unusual pink spoonbill. There were plenty more.