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A small team of individuals working professionally in very diverse themes related to ecological sustainability, animal welfare, permaculture, natural resource management, anthropology, linguistics, sociology, natural building, design, healing arts, cultural preservation, and education.

Meet The Team

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Juan Zuniga

Co-Founder - Director - Linguist - Ayahuasquero - Counselling - Medicine Team

Juan was born and raised in Cuzco, Peru of ancestral Incan lineage. He studied Linguistics at PUCP (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru) specializing in Quechua. He has been active in the region of Madre de Dios since 2001 and has extensive experience in working with local communities both in the Andes and the Amazonas for over 18 years. 


Juan has designed formal bi-lingual education programs for Quechua, Yine, and Ese Eja nations, community intermediation, nutritional information modules, and natural construction. 

His goal is to develop a way to live in harmony with the natural and ancestral traditions within the forests that he now calls home.

He is papa to Baby Caleb.


Cassandra Caroline

Co-founder - Strategic Sustainability Planning - Ethnobotanist - Advisor - Logistics

Cassandra is our main logistics coordinator, helping you to have a joyful, comfortable, and safe stay. She has been living with Novalis for the last 8 years and knows many of the plants and animals onsite intimately. She is one of the best to get in touch with about conservation efforts as she has been a driving force in our conservation efforts, particularly in the protection of an additional 1100 hectares through local partnerships.


She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria in Canada. Her focus was on environmental restoration of degraded ecosystems, ethnobotany, and political ecology. She completed her master's in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability from the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden in 2012.

She i
s a mama to Baby Caleb. 

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Loyver Yui

Ayahuasquero - Musician - Medicine Team

Loyver is Shipibo from the Alto Ucayali community of San Francisco and learned to work with rainforest plant medicines under the tutelage of his mother, who learned with her grandfather, father and father-in-law. Loyver's mother recounted her many experiences of medicine and ceremony to her young son. Loyver holds the tradition of Icaros (medicine songs), overseeing ceremonies and is a visionary painter.


Jonathan Diaz

Ayahuasquero - Vegitalista - Curandero  - Medicine Team

Jonathan Diaz was born in Pucallpa to Shipibo and Bora parents. Jonathan came to curanderismo from his mother and aunt, learning to cure with prayer as a child. This type of folk curanderismo is called "versero",  and is practiced in mestizo indigenous communities throughout Peru, although now is not so common. Later he learned the traditional icaro healing practiced by shipibos in his community. He is a gifted and sought out healer by his community.


Yuri Lopez

Builder - Guide - Musician - Medicine Team

Yuri is a local Kichwa member and resident of four years from the neighboring community of Puerto Arturo. He is our master tree climber, highly skilled builder, and carries knowledge of the regional plant medicines passed down from his grandfather. He is a year round resident of the Novalis community and works alongside us integrating his ancestral tradition and occidental philosophies/approaches in relating with the plants of the rainforest. He has a passion for guitar playing and is a skilled artisan. 

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Nelson Muchavi

Boat Man - Transport / Logistics

Nelson our Peruvain Bruce Lee as he is goofy, strong and kind, and  is exactly the man to call when we need a ride up and down the river (and then up and down again) - he is an expert navigator of the river currents, a handy crafts man during construction projects, and knows the forest as a second home. He has been a friend and confidant of our family for over 20 years.




Weaver - Medicine Team

Karmen is Machiguenga. She is a mother, expert garment weaver, and finder of plants for healing. She often resides in the community of Puerto Arturo where she attends to all the school age children in her family.



Builder - Land Steward - Musician - Medicine Team

Beloved husband to Karmen, Luis is a craftsman of structures, and offers his support running daily operations in brazil nut campaigns. He makes music and sings medicine songs.


Maura & Merino

Land Caretaker & Builder - Guide - Ayahuasquero - Medicine Team

Maura & Merino are husband and wife. While they don't live here. they live nearby and often come to join us in ceremony. Maura and Merino were featured in two full-length documentaries from 1994, where famous anthropologist Dr. Glenn Shepard followed them through the jungles of Manu, finding medicine and hunting. You can watch them here:

The Spirit Hunters



Land Steward - Brazil Nut Harvester

Gustavo walks the jungle every day looking for treasures like jungle grubs and special fruits. He is especially adept in hunting with traditional bow and arrow.  He is a gentle caretaker and loving, goofy father to Luna and Jackson.



Weaver - Land Steward - Chef

Machiguengas are not matriarchal, but are very oriented to the decision of women, and Yuliana carries a lot of power, especially because she keeps so much together with us. Coincidently, if you ever wanted yummy food in the middle of the forest, Yuliana would be the woman to call.

She is
also an expert maker of beads, seri (machi tabaco rapé) and artesanal garments. 

The Machiguenga


Fatua Smith

Cacao - Kambo - Counselling

Fatua joined Novalis in 2018 during her own healing journey in Peru and found a sense of belonging and purpose.

She's passionate about shamanic healing and plant medicine, studying with maestros from various indigenous groups in Peru, including Shipibo, Matses, and Qero' peoples.

Fatua serves as the resident kambo frog medicine facilitator, learning from the Matses lineage in the Amazon and teachers in the USA. She's also an energy medicine practitioner, having graduated from the Four Winds School of Energy Medicine & Healing. Fatua is a sound healer, musician, and spirit medium, channeling melodies and working with ancestors. She's skilled in playing the ukulele and African drumming.

In 2019, she founded Soul Melody Cacao, supporting indigenous women and cacao farmers in Peru and Mayan farmers in Guatemala.

Fatua is trained as a trauma-informed Psychedelic Integration Therapy Coach, helping others integrate their medicine experiences into daily life.

She remains a humble student of Shipibo traditions while assisting others on their exploration and healing journeys.


Floriane Charles

French/Spanish/English Interpreter - Counselling -Medicine Team

bio coming soon!


Breanna Shannon

Land Caretaker & Forest Steward

Breanna hails from Mishawaka, Indiana. She is a gardener, cultivating the land everywhere she goes. Her adventurous spirit has taken her to various corners of the USA, and South America, as both a traveler and a guide. In unfamiliar terrain, Breanna's fierce presence shines through, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to what matters most, the earth and good people. Breanna possesses a unique talent for active listening and thoughtful reflection, making her a trusted confidant and advocate for those she holds dear. She fearlessly stands up for the causes and values that resonate with her heart. Her knowledge extends to the intricate world of jungle plants, and she is continually deepening her understanding. Breanna's quest for connection and understanding has led her to study the Machiguenga and Spanish languages, bridging cultures and building relationships along the way. In all aspects of her life, Breanna embodies a spirit of curiosity, compassion, and determination, leaving a positive impact on those fortunate enough to know her. Breanna is also devoted mother to Sayre.

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