Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17 - Day 12

Yes it was a wake up call – drank some coffee and 330AM met the representative from Rainforest Alliance for my transfer to Quito Airport.  American #932 departs at 640AM to Miami.  Well typical – we were about 45 minutes late taking off due to maintenance, but better safe than sorry!  Believe it or not even with the flight being late, I made it through customs, pick up luggage and then checked back in for my flight to Orlando and then had to go back through security and I for one of the 1st times in Miami I didn’t have to travel for miles & miles and I made it to my flight and had plenty of time to spare!  YEAH
Safe flight to Orlando and was met by John and he brought me home to see Jaylee and my kids. 
It was truly an Amazon Adventure

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16 - Day 11

We were up at 530AM but I was awake long before that with the animals and rain.  There was a foggy haze over the river at the sunrise.  We had a quick breakfast and left for our canoe ride back to Puerto Gregorio, where we got in the van and traveled to Coca.  During this 3 ½ hour ride we had another Toxic Tour, Jose showed us a video from Russ Kemp, The Battle for the Amazon (check this out on You Tube).  We stopped several times to see the flames that burn 24 – 7 and have for years, more African Palms – just terrible what is happening to the Amazon!  The lumber industry destroying the forests, the oil pipelines, will give you a better idea of the harsh realities that face the Amazon region of Ecuador.   Upon arrival in Coca, Jose checked in our luggage and received our boarding passes for our 30 minute TAME flight back to Quito.  We departed about 1215PM and arrived at 1245PM, we were met at the airport by a representative from Rainforest Alliance and was transferred to the Marriott Quito.  We checked in and I went right to the shower and took a long hot shower and washed my hair 3 times!  It was wonderful, I did feel guilty in wasting so much water, but in the past 9 days I didn’t use that much water . . . . . .
At 730PM we met with the Rainforest Alliance, USAID, managers from all the lodges to hear about our journey to the lodges and how things have changed from February to August in the short 6 months. 
5 lodges in 9 days and I can not even count the number of canoe rides on many different types of canoes!  Back to the room for bed as I have a 3AM wake up call for my flight in the morning.  All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15 - Day 10

Up and moving by 6AM but found out that they changed the time we were going to meet to 8AM for a 45 minute canoe ride to Yasuní Underwater Interpretation Center.  We had about 40 minute hike though the forest to the center.  It is designed to educate and inform other local people and tourist about the endangered animals in the Amazon, and how they can protect them and their habitats from further harm.  The exhibition has life-sized carvings of river dolphins, Amazon manatees, pirarucu (biggest freshwater fish), otters, turtles and numerous fish species; all swimming amongst flooded trees and roots of the rainforest during the high water season.  This was great and we enjoyed it and learned a great deal from the different exhibits.  We had a quick lunch before boarding our canoe for about 20 minutes to the motorboat, then another 40 minutes to Puerto Providencia/Belen town, where we got into the van to driver to Puerto Gregorio (located on the shores of the Shushufindi River, which eventually becomes the Aguarico River).  This journey takes an hour, during which our guide, Jose provided information about the sites and landscapes found along the way.  This was yet another Toxic Tour as we discussed about all the African Palm and the damage it is causing to the lands.  The amount of forests that have been cut down will break your heart.  We arrived to Puerto Gregorio to our next canoe ride and were joined by our native guide to continue our journey to the Secoya Lodge.  We had a brief introduction on the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, which the Secoya’s territory borders, and is home to amazing flora and fauna.  The Secoya Lodge is a very new lodge and includes three spacious palm-thatched cabañas each divided into two double rooms for a total capacity of 12 guests.  The cabañas are constructed from sustainably harvested local building materials of tropical hardwoods and traditional palm thatch, and are situated in a small clearing along the banks of the Aguarico River. The cabins incorporate cultural elements of the Secoya people in design, construction, and decoration.  Instead of closing clients off from the natural world that surrounds them, the cabañas at Secoya Lodge will immerse them in the sights and sounds of the Amazonian rain forest. The walls of the cabañas are almost entirely made out of mosquito-resistant netting that will give clients both an excellent view of the surrounding forest, as well as natural air circulation to keep the cabins cool.  Another quick bite to eat and we set out to an area where we had a short hike.  We returned to Secoya Lodge at sunset and we all hit the hammocks.  They woke us up for dinner and guess what; we were back in the hammocks for another hour and then bed time.  We have another early morning wake up and we are headed back to Quito tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14 - Day 9

This morning wake up call again at – quick breakfast and by 545AM we were back in the canoe traveling to the Observation Tower.   Again, I did not do this but…..It was a short, ten minute walk through the forest to the 30m (100ft) tree tower, built around a giant, emergent Kapok tree.  Looking out across the rainforest canopy at this level, gives you a unique perspective, opening up a whole new world of Amazon biodiversity that is often difficult, if not impossible to see.  The group did see the White-throated Toucan, some Red Howler Monkeys as well as a Harpy Eagle at quite the distance.  We returned to the lodge to pick up our lunch and we set off for Panacocha in search for Pink Dolphin.  Panacocha is a protected forest reserve, (56,000 has) and is central to a biological corridor linking Yasuní National Park and the Cuyabeno Wildlife Refuge.  Panacocha is classified as a Humid Tropical Forest.  The canoe ride was about 2 – 2 ½ hours on the Napo River, just as we started to travel into the lagoon the rain started.  We all got our ponchos on and by the time we got into the lagoon it was really coming down good.  This was our 1st rain during the day that we have had on the entire trip.  But this is the less rainy season for the Amazon. . . . The rain was started to let up and we saw them – two pink dolphins, a mama and her baby!  We were all very excited to see this.  We traveled into the lagoon a bit more, for another 30 minutes or so, the rain had stopped so we ate our lunch.  By now the sun was shining and Beth, Kate, Eric & Fredy decided to dive into to lagoon for a swim – they swam a bit and the rain started coming down again and hard.  They loaded back into the canoe and off we went back to the lodge.  I believe it rained until we got back to where we had to pay to go into Panacocha; we were all wet and cold it was a long journey back to Sani on the Napo River!  We got back to the area where we have the 20 minute walk to the canal and they rain had stopped, finally.  We all boarded our canoe and as our guide Fredy got in, he said he tripped on a nail but….he fell out of the canoe and into the canal!  Needless to say all we could do at this point was to laugh.  His face was priceless!  Got back to the lodge and changed clothes and a cup of coffee was in order as we were cold – followed closely by a beer or two as today was Kate’s 30th birthday.  We had a cake made for her and surprised her at dinner – a little special birthday present in the Amazon!  After dinner we met with the general manager of Sani Lodge, Freddy.  He explained how he taught himself to speak English and how he started out as a guide at the lodge.  The community assists all the children with school as well as any medical issues.  They have two schools one on each side of the river for the kids.  There are about 130 students near Sani Lodge and about 20 students on the other side of the river.  Here we did not have enough time to visit the community as we did at Kapawi or Huaorani or even Napo.  There are over 400 members of the comuna who make their living by subsistence agriculture and hunting as well as working for Sani Lodge and other lodges in the area.  They lived for many years in the Amazon Jungle an along the banks of the Rio Napo, accumulating experience and knowledge in forest living.  They have an incredible knowledge of medicine plants, trees and lianas as well as wild life in the forest.   Finished up about 1030PM and bed time!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13 - Day 8

This morning we were early to rise again. . .  .  wake up call and had breakfast and set out at 545AM for a hike to the canopy tower at Napo Wildlife Center.  We et out in the canoe again towards the creek where we had a short 30 minute hike to the Canopy Tower or Observation Tower.   The tower is designed to last and provide maximum safety to users.  This magnificent building is  over 125 feet tall, is standing right next to a giant 155 feet Kapok tree where an ample platform provides great space for over 15 guests and their cameras, spotting scopes, tripods and binoculars gear or other equipment ready to enjoy the canopy of the rain forest! No one should miss this amazing highlight (except for me cause I could never climb that high!)  But they said it has great views of troops of howler, capuchins, monk sakis or spider monkeys in the forest.   When they returned to land we hiked about 20 - 30 more minutes to a waiting canoe.  On the route we did see monkeys, many types of birds as well as the rare long tailed potoo.  We boarded our boat to Napo’s Welcome Center were we had a quick snack before heading out to the clay lick.  Napo Wildlife Center is fortunate to have this very special clay here within, and have discovered almost a dozen exposed areas of this clay within the Reserve. Blinds have been built at the clay licks to welcome visitors. We sat there for quite some time before we finally saw the parrots arrive.  We enjoyed watching this wonderful experience for about 45 minutes or so.  This lick is typically visited by a thousand or more Cobalt-winged Parakeets. The noise is incredible!   We did spot 4 the Scarlet macaws, but the parakeets would not let them near the lick.  We had heard there had been a hawk in the area for the last 3 days so the parrots could not get to the lick, so by this day they were hungry!!!!  It is almost certain that other small parakeets visit this clay lick, and new species for the region and Ecuador are just waiting to be discovered.  They were so loud that when we did leave we all laughed that our ears were ringing like we had been sitting up front at a rock concert!  We then returned back to the welcome center, about 20 minute walk on a great trail, and had a nice lunch.  Following lunch we then boarded yet another motor canoe for a quick trip to the Anangu community.  Anangu people are active participants of the conservation and management of a large territory within the park as well as the partners in tourism.   The Anangu people are helped by EcoEcuador Foundation which is part of the Tropical Nature Conservation System, a world leading group of ongoing ecotourism projects, all now working together on a nature tourism company.  We didn’t have much time, we watched them dance and sing and enjoyed dancing with them as well.  But time was short and we had to get to the next lodge, so we boarded the motor canoe traveling on the Napo River to lodge #4 – Sani Lodge.  We arrived and had about 20 minute walk on a wooden planked walkway to a canal where we boarded another canoe to take us about 20 minutes to Sani Lodge.  Deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon you will find a mysterious lake called Challuacocha, where floating water hyacinths and grasses obscure the shores.  Sani Lodge is an Ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, environmental conservation, and community projects in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.  Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community, meaning that with their extensive knowledge of the Amazon wildlife and biodiversity they can give Sani Lodge guests the true experience of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle.  Here, the biodiversity will amaze you! On your adventure, you will walk through a pristine rainforest gallery that is home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers, as well as 550 species of tropical birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1,000 species of beautiful butterflies We were welcomed with nice cool welcome rum drink with cheese & fruits.  We have very little time and it was getting late so we decided to take in some fishing – piranha fishing that is.  We boarded our canoe for about 30 minute ride to the fishing spot!  We had 2 additional people on this journey with us, Andy & Sally from Cambridge England!  We saw more birds & wildlife on this canoe ride than most of our journey.  Some of the birds we saw were Kingfisher & the American pygmy kingfisher, herons, flycatchers, and many Hoatzins (Stinky Bird).  Our guide Fredy also saved a yellow spotted turtle from the water.  Our guide cut up the meat and baited our hooks and we were fishing……. One of our guides caught about 4 or 5 but only one was large enough to keep and they cooked for dinner that night.  Eric from our group also caught a small piranha!  We started canoeing back to the lodge just after sunset and it was the FULL MOON…..  We were able to watch this large orange ball rise up into the sky – what terrific views we had.  As we were returning to the lodge we were able to spot many black caimans.  Upon arrival to the lodge, we were given our rooms and washed up for dinner.  We visited a bit, talked about the lodge and the next days adventure and off we were for bed.