There are many different countries that you might want to visit the Amazon from amd many different ways in which to explore this incredibly vast and diverse rain forest.
Our choice was to visit the Cuyobueno national park in Ecuador.
Through Anna's work, we were lucky enough to get a free 3 night 4 day tour free for Anna and net price for me. Our tour was with Jamu lodge, one of a hand full of lodges available.
Getting to the jungle from Quito is either by plane or bus (you can guess which is faster but also more expensive). Either way, you will arrive a Lago Agrio and be transported with the rest of your group to the Cuyobueno River, about 2 hours by mini bus.
We had some lunch upon arrival and then took a boat to our lodge. Travel time to the lodge varies depending on how many times your boat will stop for animals. For us it probably took about 3 hours. By the end of the trip we had seen about 6 different species of monkeys.
Our lodge was quite nice. Several rooms with nice amenities, holding a maximum of 35. It was quiet for the
first night but full for the other two nights.
After settling in we jumped in the long thin motor boat to Laguna Grande which is about 15 min from the lodge but we did some animal spotting along the way so it took longer. A highlight was seeing 3 sloths, the last one being the closest and easily visable.
One thing about the animals along the river, being monkeys or birds, is that they can be quite high up in the trees or behind the thick foliage, so it makes it difficult to see them, but somehow the guides spot a needle in the hay stack with ease! Its unbelievable!
Even when the guide points to where the animal is, it still takes you several minutes before you say out loud 'Ah, I see it now', only for the animal to merge back in to the forest or disappear completely soon after.
We stopped at Laguna Grande for the sunset and a swim, yes that's right, a swim, it was short and a little unnerving but something that you don't do every day.
Day two saw us jumping back on the boat (the main form of (quick) transport
and not the quietest either to be able to enjoy the sounds of the jungle!), to visit an amazonian village. Again we spent some time stopping for river side animal spotting.
As opposed to day one where we saw lots of monkeys, day two's theme was birds, including two different types of Toucan's where binoculars were greatly appreciated.
Unfortunately a lot of these animals are quite far away for top national geographic style photos but are still visible to a certain degree by the naked eye.
The village tour felt like a bit of a tourist conveyer belt exercise with a less than enthusiastic lady showing use how they make flat bread from a plant in the ground. We then went on to visit a local shaman (amazonian style doctor) where we learnt about his experiences with ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic drink, and how he uses that to gauge what illness a person has.
A highlight was seeing an anaconda, all be it a baby one, not a 9 meter one. Again, it baffled me as to how our guide spotted it amongst bushes going quite quickly on the boat.
Day three and we left the water for some land
and left the motor for a people powered canoe via the second largest lake in the area.
The lake was stunning as the black colour of the lake and the lack of wind made for some amazing reflective views.
We had a walk around in the forest for a change where we swapped the bigger animals for the smaller insects including the forever despised mosquito. Around where we had been previously and where our lodge is, mosquitos don't exist as the nutrients in the water is too acidic for mosquitos to lay eggs, that's a big plus especially for the amazon!
So we we're paddling our way back to the lodge in a quiet river and listening to the sounds of the Amazon when one sound in particular caught out attention, the sound of a river dolphin! It was all paddles out to try and catch it. They're very quick in the river and surface for air every minute or so. There were two of them and we followed them for about 30 minutes. At one point when the river dolphin was spooked by a motor boat, it jumped half out of the river right in front of our eyes.
They're sneaky too. When you are waiting and looking in one direction for it to surface, all of a sudden it appears on the other side and it only appears for a brief second or two which makes taking photos a pain in the bum!
It was amazing and we were lucky to have seen the dolphins at that point as the events leading up to seeing them could have meant missing them by mere minutes.
We were lucky again as when we left the lodge to leave the Amazon the next day we came across two river dolphins again and the usual cat and mouse game of taking photos resumed.
On our final night we went for a night walk and saw some nice creepy crawlies including tarantulas and a huge cricket.
The Amazon trip was incredible! We were glad to have been in a small group of 6 and the others were very nice. The food and accommodation of Jamu Lodge was excellent.
Some tips would be to have a merino ice breaker tshirts which helped for the humidity and not sweating much.
The lodge provided a rain poncho which is to be taken
at all times, we were lucky as the times it rained we were under cover. Gumboots are provided as well which is a necessity.
There was a lot of boat sitting and head turning but we thought that 3 nights was sufficient.
The Amazon experience is a must!
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