Ecuador Amazon Rainforest Travel Advice

by on 17th October, 2013

Amazon rainforest travel advice

The third part of a brilliant and in-depth blog from Andean Trails’ travellers Jane and Greg Windsor, who spent four fantastic weeks in glorious Ecuador.

We are in the Ecuadorian Amazon today, having visited the Galapagos Islands and Quito with cloud forest and horse riding to follow, with photos on Facebook too:


Amazon rainforest in Ecuador

“Wilson provided us with a taxi service to the airport to fly to the rainforest. He explained that he had completed and won several of Ecuador’s Adventure Races and on one guiding assignment had taken an athlete and his entourage of eight people on volcanoes for altitude training shortly before the London Olympics. He later found out that the athlete was none other than Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

We took a forty five minute flight over the Andes to a small town called Coca in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The airport is situated three blocks from the main street. On the final approach to land, the heavens opened and visibility became so poor that we could barely make out the rooftops of the houses.

The engines roared and we climbed steeply away from the runway. We circled several times before a gap in the heavy rain and the clouds allowed a second successful attempt. We touched down with a sigh of relief and again the rain bucketed down to remind us where we were.


Caiman Amazon Rainforest Ecuador

Caiman Amazon Rainforest Ecuador


River life

Our 90 km trip down the wide, open, brown, swirling and bubbling river was on board a motorised canoe furnished with luxury office chairs and plastic roll up windows. Our departure point had the remains of an aircraft fuselage on the deck of a boat which is now a night club. This sight did not make us entirely relaxed about the return flight. We passed many modes of river transport, from river barges which barely seemed to float to fast speed boats. The river is ever-changing with the skippers having to negotiate and read the water carefully as shallow sand banks and dangerous eddies provide challenging navigation as the skippers weave their way down the river.

There were signs of civilisation and activity amongst the trees with the occasional oil company landing platforms on the north bank while on the south bank the rainforest appeared pristine, especially in the national park where we were heading, although native villages could be spotted amongst the trees by the banana plants and exotic fruit trees neatly lining the shore and thatched rooftops nestled together peeking through the crops.

At the entrance to a small tributary to the river, we swapped over from the motorised canoe to a small one with two paddlers (Pato and Claudio), front and rear, plus a guide (‘Kacki’ (Macus)). Here the water changed colour dramatically. It looked like a big thick marker pen had been used to draw a line in the water, one side was muddy brown and the other side the clearest blackest black.


The thick canopy

The Rainforest is an incredible spectacle with thick, dense jungle seemingly full of animals waiting to be spotted, colourful birds and oversized flora and tributaries which wind their way peacefully around the national park with overhanging vegetation touching the water.

Napo Wildlife Centre’s lodge is idyllic, nestled on the shore of an oxbow (Anangu) lake with its own resident caiman, tarantula, a lookout allowing views of leaf cutter ants climbing the tallest trees and beavering away to reap the juiciest and most tender leaves and a family of giant otters which comes chattering along the lake in the mornings. All types of monkeys were in abundance and mums flew through the trees with their tiny babes clinging madly to them. Snakes, hawks and king vultures scared all other life around and vibrant parrots and macaws could be spotted as they squawked and streaked across the sky.

It is the only lodge situated inside the Yasuni National Park and as a result we experienced the excitement of the sights and sounds of the Amazon rainforest. As dawn approached, the howler monkeys howled loudly to mark their territory and the noise was so deafening that it woke up not only the neighbours but the entire forest’s inhabitants as the rainforest came alive with activity and animals and birds calling one another.

As the sun became more intense, the cicadas sang to each other by vibrating the membranes on their abdomens. They would then suddenly stop before singing again with increasing intensity. At night time the noises changed as an eerie darkness descended on the jungle. The cicadas, however, were relentless in never seeming to sleep.


Canopy walkway at Sacha Ecuador

Canopy walkway at Sacha Ecuador


Victorian ladies

The local guides pointed at leaves or bark which turned into creatures before our eyes including the otherwise invisible leaf frog, which is aptly named. We were treated like Victorian ladies (even Greg) only being allowed to look rather than contribute to paddling the canoes along the river. We nicknamed our Kichwa paddler at the back of the boat ‘Yamaha’ as he was a reliable, strong, tireless powerhouse, propelling the boat at a remarkable speed. Yamaha had a break while we climbed to the 40 metre canopy platform which gave us uninterrupted 360 degree magnificent views.

We were given an insight into tribal life as it used to be through the local Anangu Quichua ladies showing us around their village. Here, Greg attempted a cool James Bond tarantula pose as one jumped onto his arm. This turned into a ‘get me out of here’ for both Greg and the hairy spider as Greg tried to get the spider off his arm and the spider tried to seek a cosy refuge, away from all the frenzied screaming from the tribeswomen, by burrowing under the cuff of Greg’s shirt sleeve.

One day, a close-up encounter with a caiman sent shivers down our spines despite us being in the canoes. As we reached the prehistoric creature with its cold reptilian eyes, it slowly sank and disappeared ominously into the dark depths of the black water.


Clay parrot lick

Parrots flock into a parrot clay lick daily to get their required fix of minerals. Our visit coincided with that of a boa-constrictor which lay lazily draped over a branch nearby. This deterred the parrots from landing at the lick. A visit to another clay lick provided a jungle drama of another kind. Thousands of parakeets flocked in the highest branches and gradually made their way down the trees, branch by branch.

Our anticipation of seeing them having their afternoon tea grew with the noise level of their excitement as they greeted each other and dropped closer and closer to the clay lick. Suddenly, they all took off in flocks circling and screeching madly to warn each other of the danger that had been spotted. On investigation, a hawk could be seen quietly sitting in a tree.

As we quietly paddled out back to the main river on the final morning, the low sun shone through the trees, providing magical back lighting of the big ferns and leaves. We heard the ‘raindrop’ bird with its incredibly beautiful liquid call which seemed to echo throughout the forest. The otters were shy yet inquisitive, darting in and out of the undergrowth and then up to our boat, as if to bid farewell.

The Amazon rainforest lived up to its name through boiling thunderstorms, numerous double rainbows and torrential downpours – which luckily somehow arrived when we were under cover for lunch or dinner.”

We’ll be serialising more from Jane and Greg in the coming weeks.

Contact us for more.


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