The tourist attraction Nascente Azul (Blue Spring) 

The tourist attraction Nascente Azul (Blue Spring) is located on private property which for decades was exploited for its agricultural potential. Activities included crop production, fish farming, and sheep ranching, but primarily it was used as a cattle ranch.

Thanks to ignorance of environmental concerns, much of the native vegetation was destroyed during this period, including the riparian forest which protects the waterways. The soil also suffered due to outdated ranching practices. Profoundly negative effects on the local environment include:

  • Erosion along the banks of the stream caused by cattle;
  • Sedimentation in the streambed;
  • Contamination of the water due to cattle feces, as the animals ranged freely near and even in the water. Rains would carry enormous amounts of soil and organic material, including manure, directly into the stream;
  • The removal of all riparian vegetation, which was replaced with non-native grasses planted along the banks of the stream and spring as cattle feed;
  • The installations of a small hydroelectric station in the 1960s, which required significantly altering the course of the water. This narrowed the water channel and diverted water from one of the region’s largest tufa formations - a waterfall composed of a series of natural pools. Over time, the tufa deposits were overtaken by invasive grasses and other plants;
  • The construction of a number of reservoirs in the 1990s fish farming, requiring further water diversion. As a result, the property was seized by environmental agencies and essentially abandoned by the owners, resulting in extreme degradation of the entire area.
In 2008, a section of the ranch was acquired with the intention of rehabilitating it, after which it was renamed Fazenda Rio Bonito (Beautiful River Ranch), and the spring and stream were called Nascente Azul. A number of environmental studies were done and a series of significant investments have been made, with the help of a highly-qualified multi-disciplinary team, in order to recuperate and re-develop the area.

Among the many projects completed, the following merit mention:

  • Reforestation of riparian vegetation, involving the planting of over 10,000 native saplings along the banks of the spring and stream;
  • The recuperation and conservation of the soil and water by recontouring the waterway, terracing the land, and creating a rainwater retention system;
  • The creation of a permanent, uninterrupted 100-meter stretch of preserved land along the spring and stream;
  • The redirection of the water along its original course to the tufa deposits, restoring the waterfall;
  • Expansion of the legally-protected nature reserve in order to connect remnants of forest and create wildlife corridors;
  • The joining of all the fishponds and deactivation of all water diversions to create a continuous watercourse.
By 2010, much of this work was complete, and there were clear signs of recovery. It was then that the idea was born to share the results of this work with others through ecotourism.

Nascente Azul Ecotourism Complex

The Nascente Azul Ecotourism Complex opened in 2012, with the intention of merging tourism with conservation and environmental stability in order to revitalize the area.

The vision and foundation of the planning, implementation, and operationalization process was based on a series of projects in different environmental disciplines, including biology, geology, and hydrology. Many of these are shared with the public through on-site signage and our website.

All of Nascente Azul’s structures and equipment are licensed and regulated by the appropriate environmental agencies. Limits to the number of visitors for each tourism-related activity have been determined based on capacity studies. These limits are designed to allow for the sustainable use of natural resources while causing the minimum possible impact.

Since opening, one of our primary management tools has been an ongoing process of environmental monitoring. Following specific technical criteria, it is fundamental in creating a reliable database of indicators which allow us to effectively evaluate the impacts of tourism-related activities. Water quality in the spring and stream are also monitored.

The results of this continuous process of revitalization are evident in the return of fauna and flora, the formation of new wetland areas and the appearance of new small springs along the course of the stream. The difference is particularly apparent when comparing recent photos with those taken in the past.

The future is now

In 2017, the Nascente Azul Ecotourism Complex took another step in expanding sustainable tourism with the addition of adventure activities.

The success of this enterprise has depended heavily on the recognition and trust of local tour agencies who have enthusiastically spread the word about Nascente Azul, as well as the initiative and dedication of our team of staff and accredited guides who keep us operating.

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