Ecuador, Amazon

November 7 – 10, 2017

When in Colombia, I asked another traveler what were some of her highlights in South America and she mentioned her experience in a Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I’ve learned to take note of any detail that can stir us into a new adventure and upon arriving to Ecuador I started looking into it. Turns out we had just the right amount of time before going home for the holidays to explore, the only sacrifice is we needed to fly instead of driving.

Macrolobium trees of Laguna Grande in the Amazon basin

When we hear about the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest rainforest, we immediately think about Brazil because that’s where the majority (2/3) of it is located but it turns out that more than nine countries have territories included in it! The Amazon basin encompassed 7 million square kilometers ( 2,7 million sq miles). Did you know that the Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforest and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species!

That’s a lot of statistics, another factor that influenced our desire to see a part of the Amazon was a book that Joe and I red, The Lost City of Z, the true story of British Explorer Percy Fawcett’s journey into the Amazon in the 1920s where he discovered evidence of an advanced civilization but where he ultimately vanished with his son.

In Ecuador there is two popular options for Amazon tours: Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve both offer tours with incredible rainforest experiences. After reading many reviews, we opted for the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, we were not disappointed.

We left Silver in a secure place by the Quito Airport and hopped on a short flight to Lago Agrio (where the controversial oil field of the same name is located). We were greeted by a small van all arranged by the Lodge. Two uneventful hours later through the little neighboring towns, we finally made it to the entrance of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. We met our guide and the rest of our group, and embarked in a two more hour  motorized canoe ride to the Bamboo Lodge.  All worth the effort for our 4 day adventure.

We paid only $108 each for our roundtrip flights on LATAM Airlines from Quito to Lago Agrio
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador is one of the most beautiful areas of the Amazon basin to observe wildlife and interact with indigenous. 1.5 million acres of lowland tropical rainforest with some of the highest biodiversity on earth, network of beautiful lakes and navigable creeks, 165 species of mammals, 90 species of reptiles and caimans including the ANACONDA, 350 species of fish and no less than 500 species of birds! Home to the Siona, Secoya, Cofan , Quicha and Shuar tribes.
We boarded these motorized canoes for a 2 hour ride to the Lodge
A few seconds later our guide started pointing out all kinds of wildlife, monkeys, sloths, toucans…
Arriving at the Bamboo Lodge
First things first, lets have lunch!

Truth be told we wanted to stay at Jamu Lodge but they were fully booked for the dates we wanted so we booked the Bamboo Lodge , a smaller lodge with more or less the same activities. No disappointments! They offer different packages for two to four nights including:

  • free pick up from the Lago Agrio Airport
  • free parking at their office in Lago Agrio if you’re driving
  • free shuttle and canoe transport
  • all delicious meals included
  • all activities with licensed naturalist bilingual guides
  • Rain poncho, life jackets and rubber boots

We opted for the 4 day, 3 nights package at $280/person + $20 for a private room, nothing fancy but comfortable enough. There is no electricity, everything runs on generator and solar energy.

After a delicious lunch we unpacked our bags, relaxed a bit then back in the canoe to go see the mesmerizing sunset on Laguna Grande.

Swimming at sunset in Laguna Grande was amazing, that is until I learned that I was sharing it with the Anacondas!
This Lake apparently dries out during the dry season (January to early March) so you have to walk the last kilometer to get to the lodge.
We got a quick glance at a pink river dolphin, sorry no pictures!

The next activity after dinner was a 40 minute jungle walk to observe night critters  behind the lodge.

Our favorite activity was the visit to the Siona Indigenous Community where we interacted with a local family and learned about their traditions, culture and customs. We got to meet Gardenia who demonstrated the traditional method of making yucca bread and spent time with the local Shaman.

Our small group, 6 guests with our guide and captain.
We had a little bit of rain when we left the lodge in the morning of Day 2, on our way to the Siona Village
The small community lives by the river
The house where Gardenia lives with her husband and two kids.
This is where the food is cooked, but first we had to work for it.  We went to pick the yucca in the backyard, Joe volunteered to pull the roots from the ground. We couldn’t even tell where it was planted, it looked more like weeds. It doesn’t get any more farm to table than this!
After pulling the roots, she replanted the stem and said it would be ready in only 6 weeks!

After collecting the yucca from her backyard, Gardenia showed us how to wash, shred, drain and cook it to make a tortilla looking bread.

Once the bread was cooked, we all got to try it with fish cooked in a large leaf.

We then met the local Shaman, they hold a position of honor and they are respected throughout the region for being the primary gatekeepers of their cultural heritage. His role in the community is that of a healer.

The Shaman talked to us (translated by our guide) about religious practices and explained some of their medical knowledge passed down from their ancestors. He also performed a demonstration cleansing rituals on Joe and a few other people in our group including our guide using plants to clean out bad emotional energy .
We all tried blowing darts with this huge blowgun. The indigenous still use them with darts tipped with extract from poisonous dart frogs in order to hunt monkeys and large birds.
Version 2
The black cast iron pot on the right is used for Ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew used in healing rituals. after drinking the hallucinogenic plant to enter the spirit world allowing him the Shaman to diagnose his patient’s illness.

After an incredible experience with the Siona Community we returned to the lodge. Our evening activity was spotting caimans, snakes and night birds from the canoe.

Over 90 species of reptiles are found throughout the Reserve.
Our captain Nildo had no problem jumping out of the canoe into the black water to pick up a cayman!

Next morning we were up super early and in the canoe by 6 am for a bird watch tour before breakfast

Sunrise in the Amazon!
Orange-winged Amazon Parrots

After breakfast we did a 3 hour jungle hike, where our rubber boots came in handy, we had to cross areas where we were knee deep in mud! Then got into small canoes and paddled through the Laguna looking for Anacondas! The pictures are a bit blurry due to the high humidity of the jungle, even though it was super hot we had to wear pants and long sleeve shirts because of the bugs …

Our guide was extremely knowledgable and very good at explaining the functions and particularities of all the plants, critters, bugs that we came across in the rainforest.
Bit muddy!
We were very lucky to see an Amazon horned frog totally camouflaged as a leaf.
Not the best picture but there it is, a 7 meter long ANACONDA taking a nap in this tree just above our heads!

The next morning it was time to head back, the early morning 2 hour ride in the motorized canoe was enjoyable, it was a good time to reflect on the last 3 days … even though we just barely scratched the surface of the Amazon Rainforest we feel like we understand it a little more …


Few Facts about Ecuador:

  • Population: 16.62 million (2017) World Bank
  • Area: 109,484 sq miles (283,561 km²)
  • Capital: Quito
  • Currency: US Dollar
  • Time spent:  2 weeks (Nov. 1-14, 2017) and 3 months (January 17-April 13, 2018)
  • Miles driven: 1,448
  • Diesel price per gallon: $1.03 (2017)

If you are a regular reader, you noticed that our blog posts are way behind. 

For more current updates you can follow us on Facebook at Joe and Josée’s Journey or on Instagram @ joeandjosee


Next: Ecuador, Part 3 Quito and around … Stay tuned!


4 thoughts on “Ecuador, Amazon

  1. Josee u are a Excellent storyteller & writer
    I see though your writing
    Your the BEST

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