We were in the jungle, in the dark when our guide Miguel asked us to turn our torches off. The humidity was intense and the noise was deafening with frogs, crickets, more birds than I can name and the frightening wail of the howler monkey.
That was just one moment of our four days in the Amazon rain forest.
After a couple of hours on a minibus from Lago Agrio in Ecuador, a small town several hours from Quito, we boarded our motorised canoes to start our epic adventure into the Cuyabeno jungle. For two hours our expertly driven boat maneuvered through narrow, fast flowing rivers surrounded by towering jungle and eventually entered a grand lagoon. Initially our minds were racing with so much to take in but our comfy seats, the breeze and our bare feet hanging over the side soon had us relaxed.
Our guide Miguel quickly became one of our favourite people, he looked a bit like Jesus and had such passion for Ecuador and the jungle, it would’ve been impossible not to think you’re in the greatest place on Earth!
Caiman Lodge itself is hidden down a narrow river, although only in the wet season when the jungle is 3m deep in water, during the dry season it’s mostly bare. We were shown to our rooms in the tower, at the top of which were breathtaking views over the the tree line for miles in every direction. At one point we all went up after dark to listen to the concert of frogs, birds and monkeys. We even saw a shooting star…..well, two of us did!
The days were a mixture of venturing out on the motor boats or row boats to spot wildlife or visit local communities. The latter taught us about their culture and how to cook in their traditional way, the former threw their poop at us. A moment we won’t forget; in our wee row boat, heading slowly down a narrow passage with the trees creating a huge canopy above us. Wooly and squirrel monkeys were running amok all around us, except for one big wooly who patiently waited for our boat to pass directly under him. Miguel shouts ‘look out’ as el mono throws a handful of poop into the boat, wanker.
Our favourite time of day was sunset, every day we would venture into the middle of the lagoon and dive off the boat, again and again. Assured that there were no beasties in this part of the water, as they prefer the edges, we felt safe and the water was incredible.
We’d heard horror stories of pirhanas and mosquitoes but as it turns out pirhanas don’t eat humans and there were no mosquitoes! We were a tad worried about Malaria as all the websites will tell you that it’s a high risk area but the guides were quick to ‘tut’ this and sure enough no one was bitten or even saw a mosquito.
One evening Helene and I decided it would be romantic to get up at 5am and watch the sunrise over the jungle from the tower. The weather had other plans, we spent the next twelve hours listening to the most intense thunderstorm we’d ever experienced. The rain was relentless and the thunder claps so loud the building vibrated! It was utterly exhilerating and something we’ll never forget. The storm carried on way past sunrise which at least meant we had a lie in until breakfast.
At meal times we were usually the first to the arrive and twice we were rewarded for being super punctual. The first time, one of the workers had a baby Caiman about a foot in length but still terrifying to look at close up. The second, one of the guys had a luminous green Amazon Boa, one of the girls was actually brave enough to have this around her neck!
Twice we went for night walks to spot frogs, spiders and other creepy crawlies, on one of these occasions we were ankle deep wading through a swamp. While these weren’t my favourite moments the ride back was other worldly. Everyone was quiet, the boat was moving swiftly enough to create a breeze and the stars were out in force. It was dark enough that everyone else in the boat was just an outline but as it was November and close to the super moon being at full pelt it was bright enough to cast an eery glow over the rain forest. It was just incredible and quite simply one of the best experiences of my life.
For this adventure we booked last minute whilst in Quito via caimanlodge.com
We chose 3 nights/4 days for $290 and used public transport to get ourselves to Lago Agrio (about 7-8 hour bus) as it’s much cheaper than getting a tour from Quito.
We loved this place for it’s a/c, the biggest TV I’ve ever seen (with Netflix) but mostly for the incredible hospitality from the owner Carlos. $20 for a private room and bathroom we couldn’t have asked for more!