I spent last week deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin. Getting there took most of the morning; a 4.5hr drive to Shell, then a 50 minute prop plane flight towards the Peruvian border, landing on a dirt airstrip where we transferred down the bank (literally) to a motorised canoe for a 40 minute ride down the Pastaza and Capahuari rivers to the lodge. The eco-lodge I stayed at, Kapawi (Kap pah wee) is located in one of the most pristine and isolated points in the Amazon Basin. No logging or oil drilling has been done here and the closest town is ten days walk away.
We waited in Shell for the rain to stop and visibility to be returned before we could board the prop plane and head out. Although it was teeming down in the towns of Puyo and Shell on the edge of the rainforest, it wasn’t raining further into the rainforest, which turned out to be very lucky given the airstrip was dirt.
Each program (4 night, 3 night) has it’s own guides, an Achuar guide and a naturalist so you get to know them pretty well by the time your week is up. The guides are fantastic in finding and pointing out birds and other wildlife – although they need the patience of a saint: “Where? What tree? I can’t see it” And once the bird or animal had been discovered by us, Omar, our naturalist described it’s behaviour and characteristics which helped us understand relationships in the rainforest.
We had the opportunity to go on several hikes in the rainforest. What surprised me was that the rainforest is not uniform. We hiked several different trails and each one was home to different types of insects and animals based on the plants and trees growing there. It is also pretty humid, and even though the hikes were not particularly exhausting, by the end of it your clothes are stuck to your skin and you look like you have swum through a puddle, hair stuck to your red-faced head.
Each morning we got taken bird watching by canoe – I would have a lot of bird photos to show you, but by the time I found them with binoculars, trying to find that spec again with my camera was beyond me. Still, we saw toucans, parrots, parakeets, stinky turkeys (Hoatzin), Speckled Chachalaca, macaws, storks, pigeons, and many many others of the estimated 540 species that live in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin.
We also saw pink dolphins in the river. Pink dolphins at Kapawi have survived for centuries due to the local belief that they possess magical powers, however they are in danger of extinction in other areas. There are piranha in the river as well, however only the guides managed to catch anything. We had piranha for dinner, apart from its scary looking teeth and a lot of bones, it was a tasty fish. You would need to eat a couple to be full though.
I loved Kapawi – the amazing meals, the enthusiastic and friendly guides who loved their jobs, the various activities (hikes, bird watching, caiman spotting, kayaking, fishing, night hikes, Achuar community visit) and amazingly comfortable accommodation. It was hard to leave after a week and I think a little piece of me is still there.