Expert Review: Ecuador Amazon Adventure at La Selva EcoLodge

June 15, 2017 • Arielle Lightcap

AdventureSmith Explorations Adventure Specialist Arielle Lightcap reviews her Ecuador Amazon Adventure at La Selva EcoLodge. Read on for her expert review and photos.

Amazon traveler blowing into a blow gun at La Selva Lodge.

So many thoughts and images come to mind when I think about the Amazon rainforest. Wild, wet, and mysterious are a few words I associate with the rainforest, and my experience at La Selva EcoLodge was definitely wild, wet and mysterious. It was also absolutely incredible.

From Coca it is a 2-hour motorized canoe ride downriver to the lodge – talk about remote!

My journey to the Amazon of Ecuador, known as the Oriente, began with a short 30-minute flight from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, to the small oil town of Coca at the junction of the Coca River and the Napo River. Upon landing at the Coca airport I was met by David and Dan, two of the naturalist guides from La Selva. Once all guests were organized we got on a bus and headed to La Selva’s Coca office to get some water and use the restroom. From Coca it is a 2-hour motorized canoe ride downriver to the lodge – talk about remote! When everyone was ready to go, we walked to the dock where our covered canoe was waiting. Dan and David handed each of us a box lunch, which consisted of a wrap, a banana, a small muffin and a snack bar. As we slowly cruised along, Dan explained the oil and Spanish influenced history of the area. From the canoe, spotting wildlife was difficult, but it was still nice to take in the scenery.

A group of travelers on a covered open boat motoring on the water.

After the two-hour ride we reached a dock that lead to a short path to another dock. From here we got into two paddle-driven canoes and peacefully paddled through a flooded forest then through Lake Garzacocha before reaching our destination. Right from the start I knew this was going to be a great visit.

View from the water of the La Selva Lodge on the shoreline of the Amazon jungle.

La Selva Ecolodge is an impressive establishment, not only for its level of comfort and luxury, but also for its conservation efforts within the surrounding jungle. Upon arrival we were given a delicious cold juice–as is tradition–and gathered in the sitting area where the hotel manager, Miguel, gave us an overview of the property and explained ways in which we as guests could help them by reusing our towels and limiting our water and electricity use. Miguel then gave each of us our cabana assignments. My room, a Scenic Suite, was located in the main building of the lodge near the reception area. The room was large and open with a screened sliding door to my own private balcony with a lake view. Aside from the other two rooms next to mine, the rest of the accommodations are small cabanas that line the concrete path behind the main building.

View looking down into the jungle and thatched roofed huts at La Selva Lodge.

After settling into our rooms, we were told to meet in the sitting area again at 6:30pm for a presentation of the surrounding area, which David gave. At 7pm the call for dinner came so I headed to the dining room and joined the other guests in my group and our assigned guide, Dan, at our table. There were 5 of us: a couple from Belgium, and another from Toronto. Other groups were as few as 2 and as many as 12. This first meal was delicious! It consisted of a salad to start, followed by a main course of tuna steaks with pureed root vegetables and dessert. As we ate, Dan briefed us on tomorrow’s agenda, which would begin at 6am.

Dusky-headed parakeets, blue-headed, yellow-crowned and mealy Amazon parrots all came together to dine on the clay.

After a jungle-sounds noisy, but somehow restful night of sleep I awoke before my alarm at around 5:30am. Breakfast was a nice spread of fruits, cereals, eggs, bacon, tamales and breads. After breakfast my group headed back out to the Napo River where we again boarded the motorized canoe and made our way upriver to the parrot clay licks that line a portion of the river. I was thankful to have my binoculars since we had to stay away from the shore so that we didn’t disturb the wildlife. Our guide explained the digestive health benefits the clay licks provide to the parrots, and also the opportunity to socialize. From the canoe we saw a number of colorful birds swarming the hillside. Dusky-headed parakeets, blue-headed, yellow-crowned and mealy Amazon parrots all came together to dine on the clay. While watching the birds we also spotted squirrel monkeys playing in the trees near the clay lick. Not bad for our first excursion of the trip!

Dirt and rock hillside with green plants growing in sporadic places.

A snack of local fare which included a grilled palm larva (I highly recommend trying it).

Immediately following our time at the clay lick, we proceeded upriver to visit the native Pelchi Village of the Kichwa community. Upon arriving to the village our guide introduced us to Berta, a local member of the community. Berta acted as our group’s private local guide and explained the ways in which the people of her community live off the land. We even had a fun demonstration on how to use a blowdart! After our tour of the village, we went back to the main building for a snack of local fare which included a grilled palm larva (I highly recommend trying it). Back at the main house the ladies of the community laid out some of their beautiful handmade jewelry for us to purchase.

Plate of seafood and bananas on a banana leaf with wooden spoon.

The village also participates in rehabilitating the river turtle population. At the very end of our visit we each selected a baby turtle to release into the river. It was a fun way to end our time with the members of the community.

A tiny river turtle being held by a Amazon traveler.

Each of the guides at the lodge has a knack for spotting wildlife.

Back at La Selva we enjoyed yet another phenomenal lunch and a couple of hours to relax before our next excursion. I took this time to explore the grounds of the lodge, which came with a bonus surprise of watching some very playful Dusky-Titi Monkeys near the spa. Had it not been for the local guide I met on the path I would have missed these adorable little creatures. Each of the guides at the lodge has a knack for spotting wildlife.

Teleschope view of a orange and brown monkey resting on a branch in the Amazon jungle.

The afternoon at La Selva consisted of a paddle through Lake Garzacocha to a trailhead that lead us on a long nature walk. Along the walk we didn’t see wildlife, but we did see a number of exotic plants and bug life. Back into the canoe, a beautiful sunset guided us back to the lodge for dinner. With the heat of the day and the early start, I was ready for bed by around 9pm.

Telescope view of a black Amazonian bird perched on a branch in the jungle.

Another full day began at 6am with a telescope set up in the observation deck located above the bar in the main lodge. From here our naturalist guide, Dan, along with our native guide Enrique, helped us spot the unique birds of the jungle. While it was still cool enough for the wildlife to be active, we went down to the dock and got into a canoe for a paddle around the lake. This early start to the day paid off since we were able to spot a group of howler monkeys high in the treetops. A far-off male made his presence known with a deep, low and almost haunting growl. As we followed the monkeys moving through the trees from the safety of our canoe it lightly began to rain. Luckily, Enrique had a bag full of rain ponchos for each of us to use. By the time we made it to the trailhead it was fully downpouring. We spent the next hour or so tromping through the jungle in the rain, which was actually a treat because it was the coolest the air had felt since I arrived. The wet trees and leaves also really amplified the colors of the jungle.

Downward view from the top to see the green jungle canopy and floor.

It’s totally worth the climb to see over the canopy.

After lunch and a break at the lodge, the last excursion of the trip began at 4pm with a walk to the observation tower. A short walk from the lodge leads to an 80-foot-high metal structure that was constructed around a huge tree. For those afraid of heights this might be slightly terrifying, but it’s totally worth the climb to see over the canopy. We watched for birds and wildlife until the sun began to set and then made our way back down for an extended walk back to the lodge. Sheltered from the sun, the jungle floor was much darker at this time of day compared to the top of the observation tower. Before leaving the lodge for this final outing our guide advised us to bring our headlamps; this was good advice since it was fully dark by the time we got back to the lodge. A pleasant night walk concluded the activities for my stay at La Selva EcoLodge.

View from the jungle floor of the wooden staircase to the top of a tree with a viewing deck in the Amazon.
Sunlight at dusk in the jungle.

The final day of the journey was spent making my way back to Coca on the same motorized canoe that brought me to La Selva. I was sad to leave my jungle home after the four-day visit. If the opportunity presents itself, I would go back to the Amazon in a heartbeat. This was a great trip to follow my time in the Galapagos since it allowed me to see another part of the diverse country of Ecuador. I would highly recommend adding on a trip to any of our Ecuador Amazon lodges if time allows.

For more photos from this trip, view my La Selva Facebook album.

This Ecuador Amazon Adventure review was written by an AdventureSmith Explorations crew member. Read all AdventureSmith Expert Reviews for more trip reports, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more about these small ship cruises and wilderness adventures: 1-800-728-2875.

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