Traveler Reports: Huaorani Ecolodge

A Detour traveler shares her adventures at the Huaorani Ecolodge in Ecuadors Amazon.

The Huaorani Ecolodge is a community based tourism project to visit and explore the rainforest with the Huaorani people.  While wildlife is not quite as plentiful as it is at other lodges, the chance to visit the jungle with the Huaorani (whose culture is very warm and welcoming) and to see the forest through their eyes makes this an incredible experience.  This trip is usually more active than most because some of the nature walks are more like hiking (the lodge is located in a fairly hilly section of the rainforest) and you have the chance to kayak for a full day during the tour.  Accommodations are simple, but very well maintained, very comfortable and even beautiful.  Additionally, the Huaorani Ecolodge is only set-up for 10 travelers at a time, so it’s a very personalized experience.  The lodge has been recognized in the press also one of the best, most responsible sustainable tourism projects in the world. Four and five-day trips are available.

“We had very little idea of what to expect on our trip to the Amazon Rain Forest but it surpassed all our imaginings by a long way.

I quote John Muiz, Scottish born American Naturalist,  “The clearest way to the Universe is through a Forest Wilderness”.

The journey to get there took us 4 hours by road from Quito through the Avenue of The Volcanoes. 13 snow capped peaks ,one of which was actively throwing up ash clouds. Then by plane. This happened to be a 2 seater single prop. Dinky toy style. Sarah sat in front with the pilot. I was in the back with the luggage. On the dash board a notice read, “get in ,sit down, hang on and shut up” I watched The Amazon forest canopy stretch out below us to infinity then I noticed that the Pilot had given the controls of the plane to Sarah while he took pictures with her camera!

45 minutes later we land bumping along on a tiny grass strip in the forest and are greeted warmly by the Huaorani people .

They paint our faces with red dye and place palm crowns on our heads and usher us into their communal lodge. This is very large , made with woven palm ,bamboo and wood. A smoky fire burns in one corner . The rest of our party arrive soon after in a four seater plane.

Our Huaorani Group – David is far right.

There are 5 of us in the group, all traveling alone, a girl named River from China, another girl named Roxanne from Ukraine, a guy called Eric from Ohio.  All are young aged about 30. The Naturalist guide David is lively, laid back and fun and also about 30.

It happens be Sarahs 30 birthday today. The Huaorani guide,  Aweyme is obviously a fit warrior and also a lot younger than me!

Sarah’s 30th Birthday.

So in lively energetic and interesting company after we have been well and truly accepted into the tribe, we don our Wellington boots. These  we  wear for most of the time to protect us from ants and any other unwelcome creatures in the forest that like to latch on to boot laces. The next leg of the journey is by dugout canoe. All our belongings and ourselves squeeze into it  and glide , sometimes bump , sometimes wobble for 2 hours all the way down river to the lodge.

The river is incredibly peaceful. Kingfishers flash their blue feathers and fly low over the water ahead of us as if to guide our path. Birds of all kinds, turtles sunning themselves on logs, big Blue Butterflies dart and dance around us . The appearance of a rickety wooden landing stage is the only clue that we have arrived at our destination. The lodge is comfortable, we have a bed , a shelf , a chair, a hammock on the verandah, a basin ,a shower and a flushing loo!. The roof is thatched, supported by timber posts . The walls are mosi netting with large holes here and there. I’m glad I brought my own net .

Before we can sleep David and Aweme take us out into the forest for a night time hike by torch light. Massive insects, Ants, a Tarantula , a Wolf spider, weird and wonderful noises and shining pairs of eyes find us in the total blackness. We have been initiated!

The next 3 days are spent trekking through the forest and traveling by dug out canoe, meeting other communities, learning about the forest and how the tribes live from it. We learn how to hunt with blow pipes and spears and how to climb trees bare foot .

We learn about the Huaorani culture, their songs, their language and stories. I get married in a typical marriage ceremony round a blazing fire on the river bank . My husband is only 15 but the community decide who will marry who . He is a lovely funny young man , a good sport who treats me like a queen after this .

A giant ant eater snuffles round our cabin at night .

We swim in the Amazon ,taken by the current as far as we dare go, stopping ourselves from being swept onwards to Peru by grabbing hold of the dug out canoe tethered to the bank. Laughing, laughing always laughing. The people laugh a lot . It’s infectious.

We climb a hill , which rises above the canopy, to see the sunset over the forest and run down the slippery treacherous slope in the dark, laughing. We climb a waterfall and have a refreshing power shower under its force running back down to the camp ,laughing and refreshed.

Aweyme and me standing under the Strangling Fig before he told us the story of good over evil , their legendary tale of the tribes dependence on and relationship with the Rain Forest and all the creatures within it.

Too soon it’s time to leave but instead of a flight back to Shell we go by river to Coca . We have Kayaks and paddle our own canoes for an hour down river , then  visit  another community before leaving the Kayaks there and getting back in the dugout for an hour and arrive for an overnight stay under canvas . There is a flushing loo ,rather open plan. When I flushed it a massive frog jumped out of the pan in fright.

Dinner is al fresco and the night is rounded off with a story telling session round the camp fire, with David.

An early start on the river in the dug out for 2 hours takes us to Coca . River dams have had to be negotiated but  Aweyme tackled all these obstacles with great expertise. Leaving the River behind at this sad outpost of dilapidation we are driven for 2 hours through the devastated countryside to Coca. Here we board a plane to Quito. Our adventure is over, but our minds , senses, spirits, imaginations and understanding, is enhanced forever.

It has been very difficult to précis the tale of this adventure. There is so much more to relate but the best way to hear about this is to go there.” – Sally Holt