Ecuador, a small gem amongst the great territories of South America boasts a wide range of attractions enticing every kind of traveler. Its four distinct regions: the Coast, the Andes, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands each offer different, yet complementing geography, culture and wildlife which produce an unforgettable traveling experience.
I myself had the pleasure of exploring two of these fantastic regions in January and February of 2012 and found out first hand how wonderful the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands truly are! For me, the jungle was the ultimate experience. Its raw, primal and unchanged-by-man ecosystems have interested me since childhood and having the opportunity to visit the Amazon (to see nature in its most lush, innate form) combined with a trip to the Islands of Evolution was truly an adventure from my dreams. The following expert review covers my experience in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest at La Selva Amazon EcoLodge. You can also read the review of my Galapagos small ship cruise aboard Eric, Letty, Flamingo here-->Galapagos Expert Review.
The trip getting to Ecuador was long, and anticipation was built due to my flight being delayed a day. I knew I was missing most of my free time in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, but was at ease because I was only missing one day and night in the city (thanks to the nature of AdventureSmith's inclusive package) instead of missing my connecting flight to Coca.
Arriving late at the Quito airport, I was met by a representative and taken to the beautiful Hotel Patio Andaluz for the night. Early the next morning, I was transferred to the airport where I met my group members and local guide to board the hour long flight to Coca.
Once off the plane, I could immediately feel the increase in temperature and humidity in the equatorial lowlands. Our group was taxied to the dock on the Napo River where we boarded a large motorized covered canoe. The ride downstream took roughly two hours. This gave us the chance to get to know Marco (our local guide) and to learn more about this region and conservation while enjoying the scenery and a hearty lunch. Along with my fellow group members, the motorized canoe acted as a taxi to a few locals whom we dropped off along the way. This provided our first experience of seeing how the natives live – in small, secluded villages dotted along the river banks, connected only by a tiny foot path out front for the children to walk safely to and from their far away schools.
Reaching the docking area, we came to a small beach lined with lush jungle. There were bathrooms and organic bananas for us as we got ready for the 15 min walk towards Garcacocha ‘Herron Lagoon’, the resting place of La Selva Ecolodge. With our luggage taken care of, we began walking along the boarded walkway listening to the first sounds of rainforest life. The walk came to an end at a tiny dock where we proceeded to board a small hand carved canoe for a silent paddle across the lagoon towards the lodge. The ride was breathtaking! With the glass water reflecting the surrounding beauty, and the soothing sounds of nature echoing throughout, I knew I was in for a special treat. As the lake started to widen, we got our first glimpse of the paradise called ‘La Selva EcoLodge’ - our home for the next three nights.
My time spent at the lodge was nothing short of fantastic! The location, facilities, staff and daily activities were all top notch, and made for a truly unforgettable Amazon Adventure.
The lodge its self was the epitome of supreme jungle living. Simple, rustic and complete with rainforest materials, the thatched bungalows provided a comfortable and sustainable haven amidst the dark, thriving rainforest. The public areas of a large cone shaped dining room and an open-air bar and lounge, had wrap-around views of the lagoon which created a very inviting and serene place to relax and mingle with fellow companions. My expectations of the private bungalows were greatly surpassed, as they were bug free and equipped with a private bathroom, hot water shower, electricity, fan, a hammock, a balcony with a cool water tub, and mosquito netting for each bed. I often found my self enjoying the privacy of my bungalow as it was the perfect place to unwind and cool off after exploring the humid jungle.
The cuisine in the dining hall was excellent. We enjoyed delicious meals three times a day, and were presented with snacks and refreshments after each activity. The meals served were always fresh, healthy and well balanced. We sat family style which provided for great conversations. Each meal was served with fresh squeezed juice from a variety of exotic fruits. Breakfast was hearty with the choice of fresh sliced fruit, eggs, toast, cheeses, meats, cereal, coffee and tea. Lunch and dinner both started with a delicious soup, followed by main courses prepared from local ingredients adorned in French and Ecuadorian flavor. The chef was very accommodating and was able to cater to special requests, including vegetarian and gluten free diets.
As far as the excursions went, I found the activity level to be perfect. There were two to three activities planned each day, one in the early morning, late afternoon, and after dinner. This schedule allowed time to explore during peak animal activity hours and to avoid the mid day heat. There was a good amount of exercise, balanced with enough free time to relax and go swimming in the refreshing lagoon. Since it rains frequently, we were equipped with tall rubber boots that made tromping through the rainforest’s muddy floor a dry and fun experience. Along with our local guide, we were accompanied by a native guide who was exceptional at locating the camouflaged wildlife and pointing out medicinal flora. Whether we were hiking one of the many fascinating jungle trails, exploring tributaries by dugout canoe, bird watching from the canopy tower, visiting a natives’ home village, or simply relaxing on the dock and taking a dip, there was always fascinating sights and sounds to keep us pleasantly occupied.
Some of my favorite activities were when we got up-close to the wildlife. This included the exciting night walk through the jungle which allowed us to understand the nocturnal nature of the rainforest; fishing for Paraná which brought us in contact to the most feared fish in the world; visiting a parrot clay lick to see hundreds of birds gathering for their daily dose of clay (needed to aid in the digestion of seeds); and the butterfly farm tour where we learned the stages of pupa to metamorphosis. No matter the activity, each day treated us to unforgettable wildlife encounters. Spotting Weaver birds, Hoatzins aka stinky turkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, tree lizards, geckos, and night hawks made this jungle adventure complete.
After having such a fabulous three days exploring and learning about the amazing rainforest, the final day was a bittersweet goodbye. With our bags packed and loaded onto the canoe, we said our final goodbyes and thanked the wonderful staff for such an enhancing experience; we then headed down to the canoe for our last paddle across the lagoon. As we strolled the last stretch of jungle to board the motorized canoe and return to Coca, we were gifted with the deep wail of howler monkeys seemingly sending us off. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic adventure!
I can highly recommend La Selva Ecolodge to any traveler looking to learn about and experience the lush diversity the rainforest has to offer. With new renovations and upgrades being implemented in July 2012, I guarantee this trip will be even more spectacular.