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50 Shades of Green – The Ecuadorian Amazon

6 things to expect on your Jungle Journey

A trip to the Amazon jungle is an adventure filled with nature’s most spectacular wonders and discoveries.  It’s an experience that evokes the senses through its deep lush green landscape and backdrop of symphonic animal calls from birds to monkeys to frogs and crickets.  The jungle simply invites one to venture into its windy rivers and twisting paths to explore its never-ending subtleties and surprises.

One of the most accessible and pristine parts of the Amazon basin is in the country of Ecuador, located in the UNESCO protected Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and Park.  Within this 9,820 square kilometers, or 3,792 square miles, there are more than 300 species of mammals, 567species of birds and 800 species of fish, making it one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet.  Researchers estimate that in a single acre of Yasuni, there are as many as 100 different species of trees and 70,000 species of insects!

Accommodation:

A traditional way to experience the magic of the jungle is by staying at an Eco-Lodge.  I recommend two different lodges as they artfully combine comfort with adventure for a delightful immersion into unadulterated nature.

La Selva Jungle Lodge is located just outside of Yasuni National Park.  Refurbished and re-opened in 2012, this celebrated lodge offers guests a luxurious experience in the jungle. There are 15 suites and 3 family cabins, all of which have a private porch or balcony. La Selva’s Spa has one of world’s most coveted views overlooking Lake Garzacocha and they also offer regular yoga sessions. The dining experience is superb and the staff is very attentive to guest’s individual dietary restrictions and requests.

Napo Wildlife Wildlife Center is designed and operated exclusively by the local Kichwa Añangu Community.  There are 16 private bungalows and a soon to be completed observatory tower that will captivate guests with its unobstructed and scenic views of the beautiful Añangu Lake.  It is a world-class eco-tourism project replete with solar panels and advanced water processing – a perfect model of sustainable tourism and local community involvement.

Both lodges have hot water, electricity, purified water coolers and Internet connectivity.

Napo room

6 things to expect on your Jungle Journey:

Rain

Regardless of the time of year, a little rain will probably fall during your time in the Amazon jungle.  It is after all, a rain forest.  Both La Selva and Napo supply guests with a pair of rubber boots to wear for hikes and explorations through mud and soiled land.  I wore mine everyday so be sure to pack yourself some knee socks. They also provide rain ponchos for downpour protection during canoe rides.

Canoe Rides

Travelers will spend a lot of time in canoes.  Since there are no paved roads in the jungle, everything moves along the river via handy fleets of different styled canoes.  Both La Selva and Napo lodges transport arriving and departing travelers along the main Napo River in large silicon motorized canoes.  They move relatively fast and are built to transport multiple passengers at one time.  The rest of the experience is spent with a guide and naturalist aboard smaller man-paddled canoes that maneuver well through the little river paths of the jungle.

A motorized canoe

A motorized canoe

Subtle Discoveries

Although the jungle is densely packed with an incredible amount to see, the viewing is subtle and slow.  Everything is camouflaged among the 50 shades of green. It can be challenging for an un-trained eye to spot small insects, birds and animals.  However, don’t despair, the Guides and Naturalists, one of which accompany every tour group excursion at La Sleva and Napo, are experts in navigating, seeking and spotting wildlife.  Although they do exist, do not expect to see dramatic sightings of jaguars or any close up encounters with monkeys or other animals for that matter.  Most of the wildlife in the jungle is happening above the ground within the layered canopies of the trees.   A good pair of binoculars and some patience is recommended.  Birdwatchers will be in heaven.

Early mornings and full days

The day starts early in the Amazon.  Guided excursions depart at 5:30am.  Although if requested, both La Selva and Napo are flexible with guests and offer extended breakfast hours and the opportunity to remain at the lodge to lounge.   When the sun gets hot, there are always shady places to relax. For those who want to explore, guided tours are offered every morning, day and night – rain or shine.

Insects

There are plenty of mosquitos in the jungle, as well as many other critters like spiders, crickets and ants.  Thankfully, they are not as pestering as one might expect and certainly are not to be feared.  The lodges always recommend that travelers consistently wear bug repellent and all of the rooms in both La Selva and Napo have screened windows and mosquito nets over the beds

Poisonous frog

Poisonous frog

Peace and calm

There is nothing quite like the profound depth of tranquility that the jungle provides to its visitors.  Guests of La Selva and Napo have the chance to experience this serenity from both an observatory tower at 160 meters high as well as from ground level via river or walking paths.  Both opposing perspectives bring new impressions of the vastness and mystery of the jungle, a concert hall to hear its exotic sounds and a place to feel its misty air.  This is the place to receive nature’s big hug of wellbeing.

Lodge Info: La Selva Jungle Lodge www.laselvajunglelodge.com and Napo Wildlife Center www.napowildlifecenter.com

Text & photos: Karen Lynn Dixon

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