Its only been a few months since we visited the Amazon, but it’s certainly one of those bucket list memories that will never be forgotten. Since leaving the States four years ago, the big three for me have been: Cuba, the Galapagos and the Amazon (probably in that order). The jungles (rainforests) of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua would be close runner-ups.
I posted extensively about our time in the Amazon, but some may have missed those posts for one reason or another (or forgotten them entirely). Also I continue to add many new readers every month, some of whom may have come aboard after those posts. Expat Journal has accumulated over 1,000 posts since 2011, and one could spend a lifetime browsing through the archives.
So for those of you who may have missed the original posts, and for my own selfish enjoyment, here is a brief recap of that adventure: Remembering the Amazon (the best in words and pictures). We stayed at the Caiman Eco-lodge in the heart of the Cuyabeno Wilderness Reserve (refer to map below). As you can see we were very close to the border with Peru, and in fact we are now in Peru for an extended stay of six months.
I won’t rehash the how-to’s of getting there from Quito (Ecuador’s capitol), suffice it to say it involves a long bus trip, a long downriver trip by panga (jungle canoe) and a certain amount of walking. Basically the first day is a bitch (but worth the effort). The accommodations (as you can see in the above photo) are rustic, but comfortable. Mosquito nets, running water (cold) and all meals are provided. All transportation (with the exception of the bus from Quito) is included, as well as the services of a full-time wilderness guide. Our guide David (University trained and fluent in English) was the best ever, and was born and raised in the area.
Everyday found us exploring the miracle that is the Amazon. Whether it was roaming the jungle (actually rainforest) trails on foot, or traveling the waterways by panga, there was always something going on. We always had a morning activity, afternoon activity and often a nighttime activity (and you haven’t experienced dark until you’ve been in the Amazon after the sun goes down). The only times I’ve experienced darker dark is in the heart of cave complexes with the lamps doused (when your hand is barely two inches from your nose and you can’t see your fingers).
As you can see from the above photos, the variety of wildlife is extensive (and these are just a few of the many shots I took). Photography in the Amazon can be challenging: rain or high humidity, thick foliage, quick-moving critters, poor light (the canopy cuts out much of the available sunlight) and nighttime shooting conditions. Not to mention you are often shooting handheld from a moving, rocking river panga with a long lens (in this case 400mm). The images presented here are of “wild” critters, none of them are captive animals. Any photographer knows that shooting wild critters in their natural habitat can be difficult and very frustrating. Patience and expertise are required in equal measure.
The two girls above are the daughters of a local Shaman, who is a longtime friend of David our wilderness guide. We traveled downriver to visit them one afternoon, and it was an interesting experience. The conversation was translated from the local indian dialect to Spanish, and then from Spanish to English. I was able to get these photos by simply asking politely, most times the indigenous are photo-adverse (sometimes violently). Whether I am photographing the indigenous H’mong in Vietnam, the Maya in Chiapas, the Meleku in Costa Rica or these beautiful girls in the Amazon, I almost always ask first. It’s the polite thing to do, and it just may keep me from getting murdered (its happened to photographers before).
Well that just about recaps our unique adventure in the Amazon, and I wouldn’t be adverse to reprising a similar adventure here in Peru. We have six months in which to explore Peru, and another Amazon expedition might be in order. I’ve seen riverboat trips lasting a week or more advertised, and that might be a cool alternative to staying in another jungle lodge. The two weeks I spent exploring the Galapagos by boat was extraordinary. I will keep you updated on our plans. Until next time adios amigos.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler