My Jungle Adventure by Natasha Rodney

My Jungle Adventure in Ecuador

Travelling around Ecuador these last few months has given me the opportunity to see so much nature. I have seen whales and dolphins on the South Coast; in the Northern Highlands I have sailed around a volcanic lake and visited a nature reserve that had trees with leaves that felt like rabbits’ ears, as well as ‘paper trees’, trees with thin barks that peeled off like sheets of paper. In the Central Highlands I visited a natural hot spring where the water was coming straight from an active volcano, but the best natural experience that I have had so far in Ecuador is visiting the jungle.

I have seen enough nature programmes to know that I couldn’t come to Ecuador without visiting the jungle. After much research into which part of the jungle to visit I settled on Cuyabeno Reserve. Cuyabeno is a flooded rainforest situated around River Cuyabeno in the Northern Oriente. As it is flooded it is a very remote area and the only way to travel around the reserve is by canoe.

I flew into Lago Agrio, which is at the entry point of Cuyabeno; from there I travelled for two hours by bus to a town called Tarapoa, where I was met by a tour guide. From Tarapoa I travelled by canoe to the lodge where I would be staying for the duration of my time in the jungle. The trip by canoe took two hours and from the moment I entered the canoe the tour began. We saw monkeys swinging through the trees, a snake that had just eaten and was curled up asleep, and a variety of beautiful birds and butterflies. That same afternoon we went bird watching and we spotted this bird called ‘madre luna’ (the moon’s mother), which was a nocturnal bird that camouflaged itself as a branch. We then watched a beautiful sunset, which had amazing colours of orange, yellow and purple, after which we made our way back to the lodge.

I spent four days in the jungle and it was a fantastic experience that really pushed me beyond my comfort zone. We went piranha fishing, which was a lot of fun, but then it began to rain, and it wasn’t a light steady rain, it was a heavy relentless rain, with rain drops five times the size of rain drops in England that stung when they hit your skin due to their size. Nevertheless we continued to fish in the rain until we couldn’t take it anymore, we then ventured back to the lodge in a motor powered canoe, in the middle of a rain storm, in the rainforest with the rain beating down on us. It was definitely an unforgettable experience. After been caught in the rain in the rainforest I don’t think I’ll complain about rain in England again (we’ll not as much).

My first night staying in the lodge, I saw nature at work. The lodge did not have any windows or doors so we were definitely at one with nature. That night a huge cockroach came into the lodge and all I could do was look at it, because even if I chased it out, it could still come back in. After five minutes of watching this cockroach crawl around, a small lizard entered. The cockroach did not notice that the lizard was behind it, which gave the lizard the opportunity to creep up behind the cockroach until it was close enough to eat it. The lizard then sat there for five minutes and eventually left. Just like that my problem was solved.

On the second day of the tour we visited an indigenous village, where an indigenous lady showed us how to make bread from cassava. The lady was very welcoming and kind, and she allowed us to assist her in the bread making process, the end result was delicious.

On the final night of the tour we went night walking in the jungle, this was a part of the tour that I didn’t think through entirely. It was only when we began walking through the jungle and the guide began explaining the animals that could be lurking around, that it suddenly dawned on me that I was not walking through a forest at night I was in ‘the jungle’. I started feeling very anxious, which I tried to contain as best I could, but it wasn’t helped by the guide pointing out the variety of massive spiders that we were walking past, one of which was a cross between a spider and a scorpion (nice). Thankfully the tour only lasted forty minutes and I heard more animals than I actually saw. It was such a great feeling returning to the lodge knowing that I had ventured into the jungle at night and survived, but I don’t think I would do it again.

I loved my experience in Cuyabeno, I saw so many amazing things like pink dolphins, many ‘madre lunas’, caimans, monkeys, birds, piranhas, snakes, spiders, lizards, gigantic trees and so much more, so much in fact that that my camera couldn’t capture everything.

I have been in Ecuador for 7 months now and I feel like I have seen a lot, but at the same time I feel that I have only scratched the surface of what this beautiful country has to offer. Beautiful, beautiful Ecuador, where the adventure never ends.

Natasha Rodney