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I remember learning about the Amazon Rainforest at school and thinking that I wanted to visit so although I didn’t know how I would get there and how much it would cost it was on my South America bucket list!
I thought about going in Peru as the actual Amazon River starts there however you need to fly to Iquitos from Lima which would have been an added cost as I was in Ecuador now nd I was definitely on a budget now it was getting to the end of my trip.
Instead I waited until I got to Ecuador and booked a trip from Banos to the Amazon Rainforest and I’m so glad I did as I booked a 4 day, 3 night trip for $200USD which was a really good price! (the others on my trip paid from $220-$240 so it shows that each agency offers a different price!).
The lodge I stayed at and did the trip with was Caiman Lodge, I booked the trip through an agency but you can also book directly on their website.
I left Banos in the evening and got an hour bus to Ambarto and then got an 8 hour overnight bus to Lago Agrio (all for $10USD!), once in Lago Agrio which is a city with not much going on I had to get a taxi to a hotel and wait for 4 hours from 5am-9am to be picked up by a bus and taken to the Cuyabeno river where the trip officially starts.. yes i was very tired!
Each group is allocated a canoe, there were 8 of us in my group a long with our guide- David (and an amazing guide at that, he has worked in the Amazon in Peru and Brazil and worked on the Galapagos islands and you could tell he knew he stuff and was genuinely passionate about his job, the wildlife and the rainforest), and our canoe driver- a local from one of the Amazon Villages.
We had some lunch and then started our way in the canoe, at first i was pretty nervous about getting on as they look like they could tip over at any minute but it was totally fine and by the end of the 4 days getting in the canoe became so normal!
It took us about 3 hours to reach our accommodation and the whole way David was pointing out wildlife, we slowed down a lot and turned back around to make sure everyone got a glimpse and a photo opportunity. Within the first afternoon we saw 3 species of monkeys and lots of birds but no Anaconda’s or River Dolphin as we hoped.. least we had another 3 days to go!
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We arrived at the accommodation, had some well needed snacks and rest and then headed back out onto the canoe at 5:00pm where we headed to the lagoon (just an open area of water where many rivers lead into) and we were able to jump in the water (very refreshing!) and watch the amazing sunset before heading back for dinner and an early night.
Day 2 started off at a reasonable time with breakfast at 8:00am and then we got back in the canoe to start a rainforest walk. It was fairly flat surface so the walk was pretty easy and we were told about a lot of plants and what their uses are in the Amazon which was which really interesting, although i kept thinking how did they find out that rubbing termites on you stops mosquitos coming close to you, was it trial and error or just someones mistake that turned out quite well?? Who knows but the main part of this walk was walking through a swamp.. yes swamp!
We had been lent wellington boots for the trip so we had these to keep us dry however within the first 30 seconds i trod in a section which went past my wellies and one foot got wet straight away! A long the way there were lots of fallen logs that we had to walk on but some were fairly thin which really tested your balance and then in some places you had to work out how to cross from log to log and find a point on the ground which wasn’t any deeper than the wellies.. it was pretty difficult and i had times where i just didn’t want to keep going forward but of course you have to! Luckily i reached the end ok and with just the one foot wet from the starting point however a girl in my group did slip in right past her knees.. twice! And afterwards i was looking for gossip on what was the worst the guide had seen and he said a girl completely slipped off one of the logs before and the water literally went up to her chest!!
That afternoon after lunch and a relaxing swing in the hammocks at the lodge (while also watching monkeys play in the trees!!) we headed back out in search for Dolphins and Anacondas and ‘anything else the Amazon wanted to show us’. (I loved this quote that David kept using, it reminded us that this was the wild and they don’t know exactly where the animals will be at a certain time and we’re actually not guaranteed to see anything). This time we saw more monkeys, 2 sloths, 2 Anaconda’s but still no dolphins! We stopped to watch the sunset again and then waited for it to get dark and went out in search of Caiman! I didn’t actually know what a Caiman was until i arrived so if you don’t either then its basically a small crocodile.. but still pretty big! We found 2 and got to watch them for a while which was pretty cool.
Day 3 was an early start.. we got up at 5am and headed out on the canoe (getting in the canoe was totally normal now) and went bird watching, at first i thought this would be quite boring but the birds there are just so pretty and colourful and we caught a glimpse of some pink river dolphins!!
After breakfast back at the lodge we went to visit a women who lives in the Amazon (and was the mother of our canoe driver) and she showed us how to make bread out of Yuca’s (a potato type thing) which was interesting as the Yuca’s were literally the only ingredient and this is eaten with nearly every meal by families in the Amazon. At this point David volunteered me to get my face painted with some tribal symbols using paint found within a flower!
We also passed by a village where we used the bathroom and got to buy some snacks (just western snacks though), the guide told us how these days most people in this area are involved in tourism, even if they don’t directly work in the lodges or own the lodges they instead own the canoe boats that are rented out to the lodges for the tourists to use. This was something i was very keen to know.. what did the local people think of tourism, did they like it? As David said most people are supported by tourism in one way or another now. And i asked the lady who was making the bread and she said it was a good thing as its extra money for them, (we all paid $3 to her for the bread so thats $24 that she has made within 2 hours) so this made me happy thinking that we were not having a negative impact on their lives and hopefully providing a positive one as it provides them with more money to live and more access to things they do now need in the outside world.
The day ended by doing a night walk where we saw lots of big spiders including a tarantula and lots of other bugs too, although it was fun and not something you do everyday i did get bitten alive by mosquitos even with my legs covered!
On the last day at 9am we just headed back to the starting point which took nearly 3 hours, we then got back on the bus to Lago Agrio. We got dropped at the main bus station which had hourly buses to Quito so we took a 7 hour bus there and then i got straight on another bus to Cuenca which was 8 hours overnight as i needed to get south.
The trip was an amazing experience and a really good cost for everything that was included! And as I said my guide David was so great and enthusiastic and your guide would really make or break your trip!
Another thing I was interested in was our impact on the wildlife and also hoped it wasn’t a negative one. In this area it is now forbidden to catch piranha fish as they noticed that they were decreasing. David actually told us that in the end the guides were to blame as they kept wanting to catch bigger and bigger piranha’s to show their groups which meant they kept going out further to catch them and therefore decreased them however if from the start they had just stuck to a small area then this might not have happened. In the lodges everything is very sustainable too, they provide you with a soap/shampoo to use and ask you not to use your own as it goes into the water, they provide water so plastic bottles are not constantly being brought and then left and the food is all very local.. i’m a vegetarian and they also made some great food for me and i didn’t go without anything because of it (which doesn’t always happen!).