Tropical Tree Climbing started with Vanessa and Leo’s decision to return the family to nature, creating the sanctuary that became their home. From those beginnings have sprung the lodge of Tropical Tree Climbing and the bespoke services of river expeditions.
Leo’s 37 years of dedication to nature photography and conservation started in his first contact with the Amazon rain forest in 1989 as a captain on a very pleasant cruising sailboat, navigating from Fortaleza, Brazil to Cayenne in French Guiana. He continued his ocean voyage to the islands of the Caribbean with nostalgic memories of the river and a promise to return. Four months later, on a flight from Barbados to Manaus, he was glued to the window of the airplane on his way to an appointment at the INPA – Amazon Regional National Research Institute and set up the parameters for what was to sprout roots and anchor him to the region. He began with the first photo-journalistic report on the river dolphin. From 1990, he started Amazon Stock Photography, an agency created exclusively for his work.
He has traveled around the Amazon for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous international press publications, have also been presented in books such as Amazon Emotions (1996), Green Little Warrior (2002), O Vale Amazônico no Futuro do Mundo (2002), Amazon Colors and Feelings (2002), Amazônia: o Mundo das Águas (2004).
Leo had his first rock climbing lesson in 1997 with a major in the Brazilian Army, whom tried to adapt techniques used in climbing mountain to reach the treetops. These classes helped to conduct a scientific expedition called “Plantas Aéreas da Amazônia – Amazon’s Air Plants”, a project which its goal was to photograph epiphytes (orchids, bromeliads, etc.) and that was supported and sponsored by the Department of Culture of the Amazon State. Since that time, he became interested in doing something more with the gained knowledge from the tree climbing.
Vanessa born and grew up in Venezuela, studied graphic design in the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Caracas, and came to Brazil in 1998, after having one year journey traveled with a group of artists and environmental educators all the way from Mexico to the Amazon by bus. She meets Leo in Manaus, and the couple decided to make a road trip in a motor home for one year around Brazil, following new initiatives to learn about innovative methods for building eco-homes, clean energy, permaculture, agroforestry, organic food and meet local leaders and NGOs in sustainability.
Sooner after they set up Tropical Tree Climbing in 2000, building his digital stock photography in 667 acres of virgin forest in the northern Amazon – Presidente Figueiredo, while Vanessa focused on their lodge and bespoke tourism business.
Later, in 2006, in cooperation with Tim Kovar (master instructor of Tree Climber’s International) they brought this prestigious certification organization to offer courses in Brazil along with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), supporting the Amazon Jaguar Conservation Project.
In this setting, they live simply, educating their children Geo, sixteen, Kinan, five teen, and eleven-year-old Kena, about the natural world and taking them on their conservation missions in some of the wildest corners of Amazon. They home-school the children, and let them explore the forest with members of the local community—who also make up the staff of the lodge.
Their place in the jungle was built on a dream. When they first arrived at the site – and before starting anything – they were immediately captivated by the incredible views, intimacy with nature, and the unspoiled and raw beauty of what their senses were experiencing.
“It became a way of life that connected us to incredible experiences and defined our philosophy. We had always been part of a traveling culture, and most of those adventures to exotic destinations, especially in the Amazon region, where defined by the people who welcomed us with a smile and a commitment to service. By simple but comfortable surroundings, farm to table cuisine and an incredible attention to detail. We decided to become one of those experiences“.
Since then, the photographer and his family host adventurers from all around the world. They come to experience and capture images from the treetops in the Amazon Rain forest, as well as to get to know the biodiversity that is in it.