Firefly Gardens is a small, spiritual, educational, experimental, natural-building, off-grid permaculture community just getting started in Bahia de Santiago. We are located just outside the Tzutujil Maya communities of Tzanchaj, Panabaj, and Santiago Atitlan.
We are passionate about offering hands-on earth-focused building experiences through workshops and volunteering. Our center is grounded in sharing, caring, and the principles of Permaculture and Earthship Biotecture. We work to transform "waste" into valuable resources, used feed our gardens, and build natural and artistic structures.
We are travellers and yogis, musicians and farmers, foodies and healers, dreamers and believers! Our aim is to build space for holistic healing and intimate educational retreats, through yoga therapy, meditation, food as medicine, cocoa ceremonies, and cultural exchange. We are now looking for inspired humans to help co-create this community of light <3
Firefly Gardens is a budding seed poking its head out of the ground, seeking the light!
We are ideally situated next to the caldera rim at the southern edge of Bahia de Santiago and Lago de Atitlan. An area that is known for hosting the Cosmic Convergence music festival every New Year's eve.
The top-soil is incredibly rich and productive, and we are planning to expand and grow a diverse food forest while demonstrating the use of simple, shareable technologies like rainwater catchment, solar cooking, renewable energy, composting, thermal mass, fog harvesting, and contained waste treatment.
So far as a community we have built a 2-story SuperAdobe Earth dOMe, a 2 story cob/wattle and daub tiny home, permaculture gardens, a covered earthen yoga shala, communal bamboo kitchen temple, fruit tree citrus grove, sacred fire gathering area, and composting toilets. We are now working on covered camping platforms, a stone temascal, compost powered hot showers, a treehouse, and finishing the inside of the superadobe dome with a rocket mass sofa bed and boolshelves
We are developing partnerships with local community organizations in order to develop in a responsible way and offer educational opportunities for indigenous locals and travellers alike. We hope to offer a peaceful space for spiritual growth and nature retreats. Jolene is an experienced yoga teacher and registered yoga therapist. Mateo is an international adventure guide and wildland firefighter.
Together we are the Fireflies, trained in natural building practices at the Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, New Mexico.
We are living the intention to build bridges of culture between North & Central America, and transition towards a more sustainable, just, and mindful expression of life.
We aim to do this through creativity and love, by combining the ancient wisdom of indigenous practices with modern technologies of green energy and audiovisual arts.
It's a place of magic. Come and see for yourself!
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Cheyo will take you on an educational hiking tour, showing you the medicinal plants and some of their potential uses. He loves to share his culture and some Tzutujil maya words too!
Cheyo grew up here, in the village of Tzanchaj and working with his father in the cloud forests around Firefly Gardens. He is gentle soul with a big love for nature and animals.
Comprehension of basic Spanish will help you get most out of this tour. Cheyo is a patient teacher, though his English is limited.
100% of the proceeds of this tour goes to Cheyo and his family.
Other hiking tours are available in the area as well :)
Can include a healthy breakfast!
Stay in Casa Bela, our new cob cottage here in the avocado forest. Experience off-grid life in this beautiful earthen home. It is a 2-story cob cottage is built in the wattle n daub style with an epic bottle mosiac and artisan stone floor. There is a 2nd floor loft with a nice comfy organic cotton double bed. Perfect for a couple. Includes all bedding, blankets, and towels. On the ground floor there is a hammock and another bed for relaxing, or to sleep an extra person.
The house is equipped with a solar lighting system and inverter for charging your devices. Outside you have access to shared full kitchen, filtered drinking water, outdoor shower, composting toilet, fireplace area, bamboo relaxation temple, and cob/bamboo yoga deck.
We run a dog sanctuary as well so there can be up to 4 friendly dogs living on the property.
We are a functioning natural building school and healing center transitioning into quiet off-season mode. You will have your own private space with access to all community amenities.
This is a worktrade position which includes camping and access to our kitchen and services. There are spaces to setup your tent here at the gardens. Facilities are off-grid and include solar lights/,charging, compost toilet, pressurized solar shower, propane stovetop, filtered drinking water, hammocks, covered yoga deck, etc.
We have a couple nice dogs and there is typically anywhere from 4-8 people here during construction (dry) season, and 1-4 people living here in the rainy season
Eliseo is the manager of the center while we are away in the rainy season. He is our local Tzutujil partner and caretaker of the gardens. He can teach you about the local culture and language. Spanglish and language sharing are common here :)
Volunteers can take a few days a week off to go into town or explore the around. It's a nice community to home base while you can see some other villages around the lake.
You will be responsible for cooking your own meals, with some basic staples provided. There is plenty of food you can buy in Santiago, at the markets and stores.
There is an Earthbag Dome, with a 2nd floor loft available, and our outdoor yoga shala. We are also building a stone bathroom building and bamboo greenhouse. We have a full kitchen, solar oven, composting toilet, clean running water, and ceramic filter for drinking water.
It is a quiet neighbourhood in the forest, near the caldera rim surrounding Lake Atitlan. Here you with our friends and the villagers yiu can really get in touch with Tzutujil Mayan Culture. The village of Tzanchaj is 1km away. Santiago Atitlan is a 10min drive away, we also have a bicycle, and there are numerous public transportation options to get to town. We are up the hill from the lake, but have a view of Volcan San Pedro from the land.
Cheyo is our local Tzutujil partner and caretaker of the gardens. He can teach you about the local culture and language. Spanglish and language shating are common here :)
Size of project site
People on site
1 - 10
November to April
May to October
- tent camping
- private room
- shared rooms
- entire house
- over 80% locally sourced
- communally cooked meals
- communal kitchen access
- None: Off the grid
Firefly Gardens is currently offering the following opportunities:
- Natural builder
- bamboo builder
- treehouse builder
- Stone builder
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