Story and photos by Sebastian Price
Additional photos courtesy of La Selva Lodge and Manos Angelakis
Discovering the Amazon Rainforest’s Biodiversity
Discovering abundant biodiversity in Ecuador's tropical rain forest can be an exhilarating undertaking with so much varied vegetation and wildlife. This small diverse South American country includes the towering Andes, Galapagos, and many active volcanoes while also including part of the vast Amazon region.
Located within the extensive Yasuni National Park, my adventure began in discovering Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest that is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. After arriving at the regional airport in the town of Coca, I traveled in a motorized canoe on the Napo River that leads deep into the heart of the Amazon Basin. Before reaching my final destination, I boarded another small canoe in which my guide navigated through mangrove swamp and dense overhanging foliage, until I came to a serene body of water known as Lake Garzacocha.
Overlooking the lake and surrounded by dense jungle is the luxurious La Selva Eco Lodge which appears as a welcoming retreat within the rainforest. With much anticipation I am introduced to my experienced local guide, Rodrigo, who will take me on what will be exciting wildlife encounters and discovery of unique features of the rainforest during my four-day visit.
In the afternoon, I joined six other guests on a jungle walk under the dense forest canopy to view wildlife in the overhanging tree branches. Various distinct bird- sounds echo in the air, even though I have not yet spotted any animals.
I take some pleasure in trying to determine the species of birds nearby by listening to their calls. I am drawn to the distinct whistles and curious interplay of these birds. Soon I began to view a variety of colorful forest inhabitants, including macaws, various species of green parrots and other exotic animals. The surrounding dense foliage is amazingly lush and green.
While discovering these species with my small party of fellow explorers, I became fascinated by the different kinds of jungle vegetation and in particular the gigantic red oak trees that thrust hundreds of feet upwards towards the distant sunlight. To find so many plant and animal species in the wild is truly rewarding, and according to Rodrigo, the Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of all known species in the world.
Returning to the La Selva lodge after such interesting excursions offered a wonderful opportunity to unwind and relax in a very comfortable setting. During midday and evening meals, I enjoyed fine dining, which proved to be of a consistently high standard. While the primordial rainforest and encroaching jungle habitats are seemingly ever present, the lodge feels very luxurious and a wonderful respite from my outdoor adventures.
I have a very spacious suite with a private balcony that provides wonderful lake views. The suite is equipped with all amenities and its quiet ambiance provides a perfect retreat. During the early evening, within the distant echoing sounds of another hidden world, the spacious common room at the Lodge provides a most relaxing and enjoyable opportunity to mingle with fellow guests over a cocktail or glass of wine.
As time unfolded at La Selva, I became more curious about the indigenous people who live in the area near the lodge. A visit is arranged to view how these native people use age old methods to maintain biodiversity and cultivate the land. I took a boat trip with my guide downstream to visit the Amazonian Kichwas to find out about their distinctive culture and how they organize their community. These indiginous people like their Andean ancestors have a strong connection to the forest and the animals that live among them. They protect the land's biodiversity by using sustainable farming practices to grow crops, according to one of the community leaders.
As a reminder of the remoteness of these communities, I notice many large Howler monkeys scampering from branch to branch in the overhanging trees just outside the village center.
While canoeing at night, I encounter a variety of other creatures. In the nearby streams, glimpses of piranha fish could be seen in the still waters. But when our canoe reaches the lake, another large creature immediately catches my attention. Quietly gliding over the jet black surface, the canoe moves towards two protruding large eyes, which seem to be watching the boats progress before finally submerging into the murky water. "Black Caiman, about 8 to 10 feet," whispers Rodrigo. As the canoe changes course towards the other side of the lake, in the distance a small white Caiman poses on an overhanging branch, suddenly a splash indicating the amphibian's departure.
Bats and small birds skim the black waters which again remind me of how diverse and numerous animal lives are in the Amazon rainforest. Competing sounds of birds, insects, monkeys, and other strange noises fill the nocturnal air as the canoe returns to the jetty.
In searching for different kinds of wildlife, I joined another small group staying at the La Selva lodge on a long trek through the surrounding rainforest jungle. With Rodrigo's knowledgeable guidance, I encountered a variety of flora, including various bromeliad flowering plants exhibiting vibrant orange and yellow flowers that seem to cling to live and dead tree trunks. The giant red oaks which have existed for hundreds of years compete with towering palms trees to provide more habitat diversity.
As I silently trek through the forest, I discover how animals hide in obscure locations. Looking intently, I see camouflaged nighthawks, predatory owls and other birds of prey. Even the small spider monkeys are silently watchful of these raptors. "A Tamarin monkey group!" Rodrigo tells us as he points to 4 to 6 squirrel-sized monkeys suddenly leaping nearby in the overhead trees. Later in the day, I see other animals including a slow-moving sloth, small deer and a group of foraging anteaters.
Rodrigo claims that “the greatest danger to the ecological balance in the rainforest results from outside human activity, who come to destroy natural habitat and kill unprotected animals and in most instances just for sport." He adds, "The river otter population has now been severely reduced by sportsmen”. Nowhere else on the planet is there such a large number of plants and wildlife under threat.
Coming to the Amazon has provided a unique opportunity and deep appreciation of the rainforest habitat, which proves to be one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. Apart from enjoying the exploration of the unique Amazon rainforest, I find La Selva outstanding in delivering high quality service that enhanced my stay. One of the many highlights is dining on organic gourmet standard food that is sustainably sourced. As a carbon neutral eco lodge, La Selva is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in efforts to preserve the natural resources and wildlife in the Amazon rainforest.
In this marvelous once-in-a-lifetime adventure, I discovered the Amazon rainforest as a uniquely special place that needs to be highly valued and protected for its most amazing biodiversity for generations to come.
For further details:
La Selva Eco Lodge & Spa – tel: 1(877) 355-2034
Direct Ecuador +593 2 3827490
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