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A visit to the Magical secrets of the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador

June 20, 2014 Travel to Ecuador, Travel to the Amazon No Comments

Getting to La Selva EcolodgeMake no mistake: La Selva Lodge is remote. To get there, you have to take a flight from Quito to the sweaty oil town of Coca, where you board a river canoe. You cruise two hours downriver, long past the last houses and shacks on the jungle shore. You reach a dock, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where you get off and march through the humid shadows of the rainforest floor. Then, it’s back onto another, smaller canoe, which is paddled across a glassy lagoon to the lodge. Don’t let the journey put you off: It’s worth every minute, and it’s the very remoteness of La Selva that makes it such an unforgettable trip!

I went there not too long ago, and the arrival was only the first part of my rainforest adventure. Over the next few days, I wouldswim with piranhas, see five different kinds of monkeys, climb a jungle tower, visit a butterfly farm and explore jungle trails and creeks. It’s the once-in-a-lifetime trip that dozens of adventurous souls make every month at La Selva lodge.

Monkey at La Selva Amazon Ecolodge & Spa

The lodge is located in the heart of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, and the stars of the show are the local fauna. In five days, we saw snakes, monkeys, tarantulas, whip scorpions, toucans, parrots, tanagers and caimans. We even caught a glimpse of a paiche, a monstrous river fish that bit our native guide’s paddle in half!

Seeing spectacular wildlife is sort of luck-of-the-draw: even the guides never know what you’ll see. When a troop of squirrel monkeys passed overhead, our guide Paul, a veteran of many years, said “That was lucky: usually they don’t get so close.”Catching piranhas and hanging out with howler monkeys is all well and good, but let’s face it: there’s being in the jungle, and there’s being in the jungle in style.

The Ecuadorian Amazon is a challenging environment: it can get very hot, it can pour down rain for hours at a time, and the jungle is full of insects, snakes and other creepy-crawlies that you wouldn’t want to share a room with. The first-class La Selva lodge distances you just the right amount from all that. You can go out into the jungle to see the wildlife and then return to the hotel, an outpost of civilization where you can get a cold beer, a great meal and even a massage at the spa. You’ll rarely see such a perfect balance between raw nature and the comforts that we humans love so much.

Amazon Wildlife

Just a few days before, lodge guests had seen a harpy eagle. “It was amazing,” Paul said when we asked him about it. “I’ve only seen a few of those, and there it was, a harpy eagle eating a howler monkey it had caught. You could work here for years and not see something like that.” I asked him about the Emerald Tree Boa, a brilliant green snake: seeing it in the wild is on my bucket list. “They’re fairly common,” Paul shrugged. “But you almost never see them. They hang out high up in the canopy. Sometimes you can see their eyes reflect light at night. We’ll keep our eyes open for one.”

I had done my research before heading to La Selva. I saw their web site, checked them out on Trip Advisor, asked friends about them. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised by the amount of wildlife we saw, and I was expecting the excellent food and comfortable accommodations at the lodge. What surprised me was the level of community involvement.

 

CommunitiesLa Selva is not just a place where the locals find work: it’s actually a part of the community. Guides take visitors to nearby towns to visit real families and towns, and the lodge helps out with food, buildings, school supplies and other basic needs. Luis Miguel is the manager of La Selva. “It’s not just about keeping the local workers happy,” he told me one day. “We want to make a difference. I like to think of it as a partnership: we need the local communities, and they need us. Together we make a better experience for visitors and a better life for the locals. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

And so passed what were perhaps the quickest five days of my life so far. I never did get to see an Emerald Tree Boa – that will have to wait for my next trip – but I’m not disappointed. That just means that I’ll have to go back to La Selva one day!

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