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 Ember√° 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.

Interesting Foliage in South America

During our trips to South America, we have come across some very interesting plants and trees. Especially when it comes to visiting the Amazon, there are often pops of bright color amid the mostly dense green foliage. Although they came in many different colors, the vibrant red flowers and leaves certainly stood out. Some of them were fairly normal looking, but others are very different and unique. We often take photographs of wildflowers during our hikes, so it seemed natural to capture images of these flowers as we trekked around the jungle. Do you take photos of seemingly random flowers or plants as you travel or hike?

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Budding Flowers

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Is It a Seed Pod?

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Pop of Color

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Vibrant Red

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Colorful Leaves

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Fairly Average Flower

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Unique Flower

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Reflection on the River

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In the Darkness of the Jungle

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Red Leaves

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Getting Ready to Open

 

Flying to the Amazon

When we were in Ecuador, we had to take a flight from Quito to Coca, which is a small town in the jungle. The tour company booked our flight for us, so we really knew nothing about it until we reached the airport. We knew that our flight was on a local airline and that it would take a little over 30 minutes to reach Coca, but that was all that we knew. In general, flying does not make us nervous, but this was not necessarily a typical flight.

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Our Plane

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Flying Over the River

Once the announcement occurred that it was time for us to board our flight, we walked out onto the tarmac to head towards our plane. It wasn’t a tiny plane, but it was small enough that we consider it to be a “puddle jumper”. Being in a small plane wasn’t a concern as we have flown in them many times in the past, but we immediately knew that the flight would likely be more bumpy as that is often the case in smaller planes.

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Close to the Mountains

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First Glimpse of the Jungle

The flight itself was over some interesting terrain as we had to fly over the Andes Mountains and then eventually over the Amazon Rainforest. Again, we’ve flown over mountains and forests in the past, but being in a smaller plane also meant that we would be flying at a lower altitude. While that would give us great views of the mountains and jungle, it also meant that we would be closer to the mountain peaks than we would have preferred.

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Outside of Coca

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Andes Mountains

In general, the flight was fine, but we definitely experienced quite a bit of turbulence. As we neared Coca, it became evident that it was a much smaller town than what we were expecting. It also made it clear why we needed to be in a smaller plane as the airport and runway were very small. It was really more of a clearing in the jungle with a small building than a traditional airport.

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Coca

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Surrounded by the Jungle