Ecuador

Two go to the jungle and return alive … eventually

It was my idea to go the jungle. Yep, this scaredy-cat, this travelling grandmother who hates heights, rickety bridges, creepy crawlies and who isn’t very fond of constantly sweating either,  persuaded her husband to go into the jungle. And not just any old jungle.  We’re talking the jungle of the Ecuadorian Amazon, we talking the Cuyabeno Reserve, a reserve that has panthers and jaguars, and snakes and piranhas and caiman and poisonous spiders. Forget the tarantula, there’s a wolf spider in this reserve that hunts you down.  I saw it, and I lived to tell the tale. Presumably it didn’t see me;  or perhaps it wasn’t very hungry that day.

Getting to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve involved a two hour bus trip from Lago Agrio, an oil mining town near the Colombian border, and then a canoe trip down the Cuyabeno river to Guacamayo Ecolodge.

Once you’re in that boat, your fate is sealed.

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It’s a lonely feeling, travelling down the Cuyabeno River

There’s no getting out of the jungle under your own steam. In fact there’s no leaving the Ecolodge without a guide.

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Overlooking the ecolodge from the birdwatching tower

The growth is so dense that if you wander only a few metres off the track you wouldn’t be able to find your  way back.

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The jungle from the bird-watching tower at Guacamayo Eco Lodge.

It’d be you and the wildlife, and there’s lots of wildlife. Most of it invisible to the untrained eye.

Can you spot the boa in this photo?

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A garden boa, but a boa nevertheless!

Even with the torch shining directly onto it, it was five minutes before I saw it, and then only because it was moving —it looked like a slithering branch.  Our guide saw it from several meters away, in the dark! Conditions weren’t great for photography. Getting a focused shot in the dark, from a canoe that was rocking about on the water, with a hand-held camera, a shaking hand it was, too—this is a garden boa, they’re known for their aggressiveness—proved impossible for me.

It might have been my idea to visit the jungle but I was terrified nevertheless, in an exhilarated kind of way. It’s a fascinating place to visit. There was wildlife everywhere. Even in our bungalow. Yep, if anyone from our tour group is reading this, I’ll own up now, now that I’m sitting safely on my couch at home—it was me who screamed in the middle of the night.

I’d had to get up to use the bathroom in the wee small hours, which I’d known was inevitable as soon as I realised there would be no electric lighting after 10pm.  So at 3:00am, when the night jungle noises are scarily loud, I fumbled around for my torch, switched it on, and saw a creepy crawly climbing up the wall next to our bed. It was a tarantula sized creepy crawly. I was screaming before I put on my glasses.

Bespectacled I could see it wasn’t a tarantula at all. It wasn’t a spider of any sort. Nope. It was a frog. The relief was immense … until I remembered that in this part of the world frogs are poisonous!

Note: The town of Lago Agrio andthe Cuyabeno Reserve are near the Colombian border. There have been reports of kidnappings in this region, although the last documented report we could find was in 2012. Nevertheless, the situation can change quickly. Check your country’s travel advisories, the conditions of your travel insurance, and enquire locally before committing to a tour here. We visited in August 2016. 

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