Adventures in the Rainforest

We have been fortunate enough to take several trips to Central and South America, including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama. During each of the trips, we specifically made a point of getting into the jungle and seeing different wildlife and plants. Each of them was unique in their own ways and we stayed in eco lodges in both Bolivia and Ecuador. Many of these experiences were quite unique and we have many wonderful memories. Here are some of our favorite rainforest adventures that we’ve had during our travels.

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Up Close and Personal with Monkeys in Panama
  1. Monkey Islands in Panama – One of the most interesting things that we did during our time in Panama was to take a boat passed the famous locks and going to the Monkey Islands. Our boat would pull up to the islands and the monkeys would climb down from the trees to take grapes and bananas from our hands. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t do that, but since the monkeys rely on humans for the survival, we felt okay with the experience.
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    Hiking in Carrasco National Park
  2. Visiting Carrasco National Park in Bolivia – Our first Amazon experience was during our trip to Cochabamba when we stayed at an eco lodge and spent a day hiking through Carrasco National Park. We climbed into caves with different varieties of bats, blind birds called Guacharos, poisonous frogs, as well as snakes. It was definitely an interesting way to get introduced to the Amazon Jungle.
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    Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park
  3. Staying at the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador – After our experiences in Bolivia, we chose to go even deeper into the jungle during our trip to Ecuador. We spent several days at the Napo Wildlife Center, which is an eco lodge sitting on a lake with caiman, birds, monkeys, and giant river otters. Every day, we would get up early and go into the rainforest to experience different wildlife.
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    Paddling in a Small Canoe in the Amazon
  4. Traveling on the Amazon River – We spent time on a motor boat as well as canoe on the tributaries of the Amazon river. After flying into the tiny town of Coca, Ecuador, we took a boat down the Amazon River where we then got out and hiked to get to our canoes. To say that it was a fascinating experience would certainly be an understatement.
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    Traditional Dance and Music in the Embera Village
     
  5. Visiting Indigenous Villages – We went to indigenous villages in both Panama as well as Ecuador and each was a truly special experience. The local tribes are very friendly and happy to welcome you into their village where they share their traditions, art, and lifestyles. We even danced with the local Emberá tribe members during our time in Panama, which was something we will forever treasure. We know that these types of opportunities are dwindling over time, so it is important to take advantage of any chance that you happen to get.
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    Parrots and Parakeets at the Salt Lick
  6. Bird Watching in the Rainforest – With over a thousand species of birds in the Amazon Rainforest, the opportunities to see birds a quite diverse. We climbed to the top of the forest canopy in Ecuador to see different colorful birds including macaws, toucans, and parrots. Going the parrot clay licks and seeing so many different parrots feeding on the mineral rich soil was absolutely amazing.
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    Canons in Fort San Lorenzo
  7. Fort San Lorenzo in Panama – Going the fort that was captured by the famous Captain Morgan, which is located in the jungles of Panama was a truly educational experience. Whether imagining swash-buckling pirates, canons blasting off of the cliffs, or picturing the ships traveling down the Chagres River, it is something worth making the effort to see when planning a trip to Panama.
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    Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle

Obviously we hope to spend more time in different rainforests in other parts of the world. There is such a diversity in the biology of the jungle that it really takes several days to truly get an understanding of everything that there is to see. If you ever get a chance to spend a few nights in the rainforest, we’d highly recommend it as it allows you to see it both during the day, but also at dawn and dusk when the animals are the most active.

Denver Botanic Garden

There are several cities with wonderful botanical gardens, but we believe that the Denver Botanic Garden is one of the best. Between the tropical flowers, rotating art displays, and special events, there is always something interesting to see at the garden. We especially enjoyed the variety of colorful orchids that we saw during our visit there. It is a great way to spend a summer afternoon, walking the flower lined paths and seeing the gardens dedicated to different regions around the world. The Denver Botanic Garden will often create displays on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver to allow shoppers to see some of the wonderful flowers that can be found in the gardens. If you are planning a trip to Denver, we’d definitely recommend that you consider adding the Botanic Gardens to your itinerary.

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One of the Garden Displays

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Lily Pond

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Orchid in the Hot House

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Walking the Grounds of the Botanic Garden

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Colorful Flowers

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Another Orchid

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Bridge Over the Water

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Reflections in the Pond

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Statues Made of Drift Wood

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Walking Through the Hot House

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Victorian Secret Garden

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Water Feature in the Garden

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Garden Outside of the Hot House

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Unique Tropical Flowers

 

Homemade Sloppy Joes

You can find various styles of beef sandwiches, beef on a stick, or beef pockets like empanadas throughout the world. The sloppy joe sandwich is uniquely American, though, and something that many people will relate to their childhoods. Most people grew up making sloppy joe sandwiches using sauce from a can, but it is possible to make it from scratch with fresh ingredients. We found that making homemade sloppy joes was not only easy, but the taste was better than what you can get from a pre-made sauce. You also have the option to make a different twist on the dish as well, perhaps making it a little spicy, but we chose to go with a traditional approach.

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Fresh Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  •  1 lb Ground Beef
  •  1/2 Medium White Onion – diced
  •  2 cloves Garlic – minced
  •  1 Red Pepper – diced
  •  3/4 cup Ketchup
  •  1 dash Worcestershire Sauce
  •  2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  •  1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  •  Salt and Pepper to taste
  •  2 cups Water

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Beef and Peppers

INSTRUCTIONS

Place the ground beef and onion into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat, breaking the ground beef up as it cooks, until the meat is browned and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot water and stir, being sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate all of beef bits into the sauce. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add another cup of hot water, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce is thick and the liquid has been reduced, about 40 minutes. Serve on buns.

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Reducing the Sauce

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Creating a Traditional Sloppy Joe Sauce

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Finished Sandwich