- Encounters with locals
- Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
- Sustainable Tourism
- Off the beaten track
There are different places to get into the Amazon: Misahualli, Banos, Tena, Puyo, El coca... All these towns have an easy way to explore the Amazon. If you are adventurous then a canoe trip on one of the rivers will bring you up close to the local plant and wild life.
Or, and this is what I did, you can leave Tena and head for an ecolodge with an expert guide. You will sail up the Tena and enter the jungle which you can explore at night as well as by day. Don't be frightened by the cries and other noises, you'll quickly get used to them. From the lodge you can walk through the Amazon forest and climb up a 40 metre high platform to admire the canopy. The view is amazing.
Plus, during an expedition in the Amazon, you'll meet the local population, "las Amazonas" and learn how to use a blow pipe, discover the local crafts (necklaces made from seeds), and find out about growing pineapples and cotton.
We spent three days in the jungle, sleeping under a mosquito net at night. Obviously we were taking anti-malarial pills, but something told me that there weren't just mosquitoes in the area. Mosquito nets also keep the spiders at bay!
The wildlife was impressive but my big discovery was the plantlife, all thanks to the beady eye of our excellent guide. He showed us plants that had healing properties, as well as how to make a bow and arrow from branches. We tried local dishes, invariably made from plantain, we watched a ritual sacrifice of a toad that was tied up by its legs (still no idea what it designed to achieve!) and learned about an hallucinogenic flower - you must eat it when in the company of good people for it to be beneficial, otherwise you could die...
Throughout the tour I made sure I didn't lose my guide, as I realised it would be nigh on impossible to find my way around this incredibly dense forest. It was the first time I saw pineapple and cocoa trees. Suffice to saythe Amazon rainforest is stunning!
Ecuador is not very large and travellers are very lucky because they can enjoy the Pacific coast, the Andean corridor, and the Amazon basin in the east!
During your trip to Ecuador, you have to spend at least a few days in the Ecuadorian Amazon! From Baños it's easy to get to Puyo or Tena and leave to immerse yourself in the jungle. From Quito you can also take a bus or a plane to Cuyabeno Reserve. There are lots of different things to do, such as community based tourism (with the Shuars, near Puyo, for example ), or river cruises, amongst others.
Away from the usual tourist routes, in Limoncocha Biological Reserve (in the north, 2 hours by bus from Coca), I stayed with a family who guided me around the lagoon: walks in the forest, observation of the animals and plants, a trip by pirogue at night (for the crocodiles!), fishing for piranhas, which we later cooked...Night time is really quiet and ideal for star gazing. The only thing that disturbed the tranquility was the singing of the frogs...Wherever you are in Amazonia you will discover that the forest is basically an open topped chemists because so many of the plants have medicinal properties!