Exploring the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

After our relaxing stay in Banos, we made our way to the next leg of a trip to the Amazon Rainforest! My sister is a lover of nature and wildlife, so we certainly couldn’t leave Ecuador without visiting the jungle! She did all the planning for our trip and picked one of the nicest resorts for our stay knowing that some of us were creatures of comfort. πŸ˜…

We left Banos barely at the crack of dawn for the 6 hour drive to Coca. The ride itself wasn’t too bad since we slept most of the way, though it did get a bit bumpy at times. Once we arrived to Coca, our guide from the lodge, Rodrigo, greeted us and gave us a brief intro on what’s to come. We took a bathroom break, gave all our luggages to the porters, and then picked up the water bottles and lunches that were prepared for us in advance. Rodrigo led us on a short walk to the motorized canoe that awaited us, where we boarded and put on our life jackets. The canoe ride down the Napo River was another few hours, which seemed very long since we had just came from a 6 hour car ride. Once we went on our way though, the welcomed breeze put us to sleep for a good portion of the ride. After another round of restful naps, a simple but tasty lunch of sandwiches and chips, and some beautiful sights all around us, we arrived to a dock closed to La Selva Lodge, where we would be staying. We got out of the motorized canoe and quickly put on our mosquito suits while the porters transferred our luggages to yet another canoe! This last canoe ride was much faster, as Rodrigo rowed us swiftly towards the lodge.

Approaching La Selva Lodge, which sits so peacefully and beautifully on the river, was a breathtaking moment. We were escorted to the lobby area upon arrival, where a La Selva staff greeted us with a refreshing drink. Bridge and I couldn’t be happier about that since we are both pretty heat sensitive and the humidity of the Amazon was already making us quite uncomfortable!

We booked 2 family suites at the lodge, and I got to be roomies with Brianne and Bridgette. Each suite had 2 separate bedrooms, so the girls took the bedroom with 2 single beds, and I got a whole queen size bed to myself. Because we were in the Amazon jungle, even the nicest lodges are green and earth friendly, which ofcourse meant NO air conditioning despite the heat and high humidity. πŸ˜… There were, however, ceiling fans and mosquito nets to help with the insect situation. We also had a balcony with a jacuzzi and hammock, but we were rarely that space as we always wanted to be right underneath our ceiling fan, lol.

One of the reasons my sister chose La Selva Lodge was that they were one of the only lodges that could custom tailor their daily itineraries for younger kids. Since my nephew was only 4, we didn’t want a program that would be too intense or difficult. Our guide Rodrigo was very accommodating to our group that consisted of 3 adults, 2 teens, and 4 year old Brady, allowing us to sleep in just a teeny bit. Our wake up call on most days was 7am instead of the usual 6am.

Each day, we’d drag ourselves out of bed at 7am to get ready, and then meet in the dining area for breakfast. After breakfast, Rodrigo and his partner guide Jose would come greet us and began our exploration of the Amazon, Some days, we’d start off with a hike amongst the lush and mysterious jungle while other days, we’d quietly canoe down the river looking for wildlife. Unlike the Galapagos where we got to be up close and personal to the animals, it took immense effort to spot the wildlife from afar in the Amazon. Our guides were absolutely phenomenal, having grown up in the jungle, and they’d be able to hear or spot the wildlife with their keen senses from like a zillion miles away! Even as they pointed to a specific animal to us, or even when they lend us their binoculars, I’d still have such a hard time looking for the owl that was 30 feet up on a tree, or the macaw that was 20 feet away from our position. Even when there was a black caiman just a few feet from our canoe, I had a difficult time spotting it when only the eyes are visible amongst all the marsh!

We’d always go back to the lodge for lunch, and then we’d get a break in the afternoon because it was too hot and humid to do any activities mid-day. I would literally just lie in bed with both the ceiling fan and my hand held fan on during the break as I drift in and out of sleep. The humidity definitely made us all very tired throughout the day! As we near sunset, Rodrigo would take us out again, usually on the canoe, and we’d continue looking for wildlife while getting to admire the magical sunsets of the Amazon. We also got to do one night hike, so that Rodrigo could show us all the different species that come out in the dark, and that was super cool.

Food at the lodge was quite delicious, with a different menu every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’d think I would assimilate into the jungle environment but I never did. I never got over the heat and humidity, nor the bug situation. Every night, Bridgette would be the bug buster in our suite as Brianne and I cry out frantically every time we come across an insect in the bathroom or around our bedrooms, lol.

My favorite day of all during our time in the Amazon was the day we ventured out to a nearby local village. On route to the village, we stopped to view parrots claylicking, which was something I had never heard of prior to this trip. Apparently, when hundreds of parrots all flock to a clay wall to lick the minerals, they become this roaring group of birds that are so loud it can probably scare off any and all predators. We sat in our canoe for about 15 minutes, mesmerized by the sight and the sound of it all, before we proceeded further down the river to arrive to the village.

Due to COVID, the village school was closed, but we did get to peek inside some of the empty classrooms. We were completely astounded to hear that some of the students walk about 8 hours a day round trip just to attend school there! They were currently trying to raise money to build some basic shelter on site, so that the students who lived furthest away could live there during the week.

After touring the school, one of the local villager led us to the village where we were greeted by a group of warm and welcoming indigenous women. We continued our tour of the village, where we got to taste test the seeds of a cacao picked right off the tree, and Bridge and Brady got their face painted from the seeds of a local fruit call Achiote. It was amazing to learn of all the different functions each plant could serve. Some were used for personal hygiene functions, some as a dye, and many others as various healing functions.

While we were touring the village, the indigenous women were busy cooking for us. They used local herbs to brew a tea that they claimed would help fight COVID, which we happily drank. Amongst the food that they cooked for us was a skewer of fried beetle larvae. None of us were eager to eat that, but we did anyways in respect to the local culture. Heck, Rodrigo ate those beetle larvae straight out of the tree bark, when they were still alive and squirmy! We could certainly handle dead, fried ones! As you can see from Bridge’s face below, we did not particularly enjoy the beetle but we’re very proud of ourselves for trying!

While the Amazon was never on my bucket list, I’m very happy to have experienced it with Bridge and the Chuangs. I learned so much in such a short amount of time, and overcame conditions that I normally wouldn’t want to endure. This is the thing with our worldschooling lifestyle though…I don’t recall any place in the world that I’ve regretted visiting. Getting to travel and to see the world is a privilege I will never take for granted, and I have come to realize that while I definitely have my preferences on destinations around the world, each place is unique and special because of its history, people, and culture, and that’s something I will always enjoy learning and experiencing.

A big thank you to the best, most remarkable guides ever– Rodrigo and Jose!

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