Adventure paddling at its best – and no camping involved!
I discovered that I really liked the jungle while paddling the rivers along the Caribbean coast of Central America.
Sea kayaks proved an ideal way to explore the slow-moving rivers and labyrinth of lagoons along the lush green coast. The kayaks were so silent that we heard and saw far more wildlife than we’d seen running upstream by motorized dugout canoe only a few hours before, and they provided an excellent platform for photography.
On those trips, we were camping in the jungle, which presented a specific set of challenges. Bottom line, jungle camping is hard – really hard. Regardless, those trips left me with an enduring fascination for the complexity of that wild environment.
So, for years, I’d been looking for a captivating trip to once again be able to drift silently down a jungle river surround by only sounds of the cries of birds and the hoots of monkeys – but this time, with NO camping. I finally found it in the rivers of the Amazon basin in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s Amazon basin – an ideal locale for sea kayak touring
Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon is a rich jungle ecosystem, with the highest diversity of plant and animal species on the planet. This area provides a wide range of opportunities to explore small rivers that feed into the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon River.
The Napo, like the broader Amazon, is heavily navigated by all manner of craft, from canoes to lumbering barges ferrying 18-wheeler trucks and containers upriver. What I wanted to explore was the small, wildlife-rich rivers that wound across a range of distinct forest zones and, on occasion, opened onto mirror-calm lakes fringed by Dr. Seuss-style foliage. The bonus was that here, there were luxuriant, well-appointed lodges to stay at.
Attracting avid birdwatchers, the lodges in this part of the Amazon provide an add-on experience to many travelers who are visiting the Galapagos Islands (in fact, another of the locations where we tour). The lodges we selected had customized naturalist programs plus other facilities like forest canopy walks and viewing platforms perched on the upper limbs of giant kapok trees. I wanted the trip to span a variety of different rivers and have the character of an exploratory expedition, so the ability to paddle out of three successive lodges was ideal. The trick was to get three lodges, ostensibly competitors, to work together in supporting the expeditions. Happily, the lodges embraced the project.
But the lodges aren’t the only great part of our Amazon kayak tour
To provide the best experience of kayaking the Amazon rainforest, we decided to engage both a naturalist and a native guide to accompany each trip. The naturalist provides insight into the complex ecology of the jungle while the native guide sees the forest in a way that only someone who has grown up there can and is able to point out creatures that we would otherwise miss.
The Amazon kayaking trip has proven a very successful mix of interesting deep-jungle paddling legs down rivers, each of which include several distinct types of forest habitat.
We visit unique natural features such as parrot clay licks frequented, like clockwork, by thousands of colorful parrots. In the evening we go on explorative night treks with native and naturalist guides along the trails around the lodges. In addition, we visit indigenous communities to get insight into the way of life in this fragile region that is changing all too rapidly.
A trip of a lifetime for kayakers of all abilities
Kayaking the Amazon is something that most should and can be able to enjoy. That’s why the 10-day tour we’ve created is accessible to kayakers of all abilities. With the actual paddling going downstream and ample opportunities to stop and observe the wildlife encountered along the way, the pace and effort are relaxed.
During the on-water portions, we are shadowed at a distance by the motorized dugout canoes used to transport paddlers and kayaks upriver. The canoes stay in radio contact and provide safety support for the day’s paddle and then run us back to the lodge in time for a shower and a cocktail before dinner – real jungle exploration done in style and comfort.
For more images from this spectacular trip, make sure to check out our new online catalog with tons of gorgeous pics and details on all our other fabulous trips. If you have any questions about this or other destinations, please get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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