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Discovering Amazon Rainforest Biodiversity

Finding biodiversity in Ecuador’s rich forests can be exhilarating.

There is so much tropical vegetation and wildlife which are some of the world’s most natural wonders. This land is home to the Andes, Amazon and most dense cluster of volcanoes and mountains, home to a wide array of the most exotic species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.


Located on the borders of the famous Yasuni National Park, our adventure starts in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, considered one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Arriving in the regional airport at Coca, we took a motorized canoe on the Napo River that led us to the heart of the jungle in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin. At this point, we boarded another small canoe to cruise on an Amazon tributary through mangrove swamps and a dense forest until we came to a serene body of water, known as Lake Garzacocha. The luxurious La Selva Eco Lodge & Retreat (www.laselvajunglelodge.com) is a welcome sight within the rainforest. This adventure promises to be extraordinary as we wait to meet our experienced guide, Rodrigo, who will take us on exciting wildlife encounters during our four-day visit.


In The Jungle
During the afternoon, we join six other guests on a jungle walk and wander through the dense forest canopy to view wildlife in the overhanging tree branches. Various distinct bird sounds echo in the air, even though we have not yet spotted any animals.


We take pleasure in trying to determine which birds are nearby by listening to their calls. We’re suddenly drawn to the whistles and whirrs of almost hidden birds as we begin to see a variety of exotic birds, including macaws, green parrots and other species. Not only is the wildlife so active, but the foliage is amazingly lush and green. Discovering what is around us, we are fascinated by the different kinds of wildlife and admire the vigor of the saplings, shrubs and trees that thrust upwards towards the light. To find so many plant and animal species in the wild is astonishing, and according to Rodrigo, the Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of all known species in the world.


As our time unfolds at La Selva, our group is curious about the indigenous people who live in the area near the lodge. A visit is arranged to view how the native people maintain the biodiversity of the land. We take a boat downstream to visit the Amazonian Kichwas to find out about their distinctive culture and how they cultivate the land. These native people, like their Andean ancestors, have a strong connection with the forest and the animals that live among them. They protect the land’s biodiversity by using sustainable farming practices to grow crops that benefit their communities.


As a reminder of how remote these communities are, we notice the many large monkeys scampering from branch to branch in the overhanging trees just outside the village center.


Seeking different kinds of wildlife, our group takes a long trek through the surrounding rainforest jungle. With Rodrigo’s knowledgeable guidance, we view a variety of plants and towering tree species, including bromeliad plants with vibrant blossoming orange and yellow flowers. Nearby, giant red oaks that have existed for hundreds of years now reach the very top of the rainforest canopy, further creating diversity of life here.


Silently trekking through the forest, we discover how animals sometimes hide in obscure locations. Looking intently, we see camouflaged nighthawks, predatory owls and other birds of prey. Even the small spider monkeys seem to be watchful of these ever vigilant raptors.


“A monkey group!” Rodrigo tells us as he points to a troupe of 8-10 small spider monkeys, which approach within 20 feet. Farther away, we spot other animals including a slow-moving sloth, deer and foraging anteaters.
While canoeing at night, we see a variety of other creatures. In the nearby streams, piranha hide in the muddy waters. But when our canoe reaches the lake, another large creature catches our attention. Gliding over the black surface, our canoe moves towards two protruding eyes, which seem to be watching our progress before swiftly submerging into the dark water “Black Caiman, about 8 to 10 feet,” whispers Rodrigo. As the canoe changes course towards the other side of the lake, a small white Caiman poses on an overhanging branch. A sudden splash indicates its departure.
Bats and small birds skim the black waters. Competing sounds of birds, insects, monkeys, and other chirping noises fill the nocturnal air as our canoe returned to the jetty.


Rodrigo claims that, “the greatest dangers to the ecological balance in the rainforest are humans, who wish to kill and destroy mostly for sport.” He further says, “The river otter population has been severely reduced by sportsmen. Nowhere else on the planet is there such a large number of plants and wildlife under threat. This diverse ecological habitat plays a crucial role in continued life on planet Earth.”


We wholeheartedly agree with him when he says that this spectacular place is a natural wonder that has evolved over millions of years to become what it is today.


Back at the Lodge
Returning to La Selva after such extraordinary adventures offers us a chance to unwind and relax in a tranquil setting. During midday and evening meals, we enjoy fine dining, which proves to be of a consistently high standard. While the primordial rainforest and encroaching jungle habitats are ever present, the lodge feels very luxurious and a wonderful respite from our outdoor excursions.


We are delighted to have a very spacious suite with a private balcony that offers wonderful lake views. The suite is equipped with many amenities and its quiet ambiance provides a perfect retreat. During the evening, overlooking the lake, and within the deep echoing sounds of another hidden world, the large comfortable dining room provides a most relaxing and enjoyable opportunity to mingle with fellow guests.


Coming to this Amazon jungle has provided us with a deep appreciation of the rainforest, which is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. In addition to enjoying our rambles through the rainforest, we find La Selva outstanding in delivering high quality service that enhanced our stay. One of the many highlights is dining on organic gourmet food that is sustainably sourced. As a carbon neutral eco lodge, La Selva is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in an effort to preserve the natural resources and wildlife in the Amazon rainforest for future generations.


The experience includes a host of activities and exposure to the impressive surroundings of the Amazon rainforest and the extensive stream system. From the first day of observing colorful squawking macaws, parrots and flycatchers to our last day watching the bats and other small birds skim the dark waters, these exciting experiences reveal the phenomenal diversity of the wildlife in the Amazon. Each new sighting of a different species was uplifting and provided a wonderful bond with nature. The Amazon rainforest is a uniquely special place that needs to be valued and protected for its amazing biodiversity. https://ecuador.travel

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