Last days in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Carlos weaves palm leaves

Our last two days in the Ecuadorian Amazon consisted of more day and night hikes and canopy tower visits.

Carlos weaves palm leavesCarlos showed us how the woven thatch roofs of the cabins are made.


Railing grows a leafI was really surprised to see new growth on branches that had obviously been cut a while back.  This branch was used as a hand-rail but still had a few fresh leaves.  Is it the humidity that permits this?


Amazon wood lizard - "Man of the Forest" aka "Sacharuna"I think this is the Amazon Wood Lizard (Enyalioides laticeps) aka aka “”Guichenot’s Dwarf Iguana” aka “Sacha runa”


Perhaps the bluntheaded tree snakeI think this was a blunthead tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa)


The market in Cocamotorbike at the market in Coca


palmetto weevil grubsPalm weevil grubs (rhynchophorus palmarum?) aka Grugru with yucca.  The larvae eat palm hearts.  The grubs were covered with some type of sauce and then grilled.


palmetto weevil grubI thought they were kind of gross.  The sauce gave it a sausage-y flavor.  The skin had a sort of tough texture and the inside was kind of mushy.  The head was crunchy.


coca colaA photo of Coca Cola stockpiles that I took while waiting for our ride to the airport.


schoolgirls in cocaschool girls in Coca


the ecuadorian amazon: an owl, monkeys, piranhas, and a night hike with insects and snakes

atop the wooden tower at sacha lodge

Back to the Ecuador photos from the Ecuadorian Amazon:

atop the wooden tower at sacha lodge

We  climbed the wooden tower at the Sacha Lodge to see more birds and wildlife.  The tower is built around a giant Kapok tree that is teeming with epiphytes, especially at the top.  You spiral around the giant trunk as you climb the tower’s steps.

ruby poison dart frog

Our guide found a ruby poison dart frog (ameerega parvula).  It was seriously impressive how adept he was at finding wildlife.  It’s poisonous enough to kill a bunch of people.

crested owl

A crested owl (lophostrix cristata).  It reminded me of one of those reverse-perspective optical illusions where a face always appears to be staring at you.  The owl would just subtly move its head to look in your direction.

Palm Strings

We took a break for a little demo where Carlos made a string from a palm leaf.

mossy walkway with leafcutter ants

A mossy walkway

leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants traverse a large exposed root

redeye piranha

We spent an hour in the afternoon fishing.  I was the only person of our group who did not catch a fish.  That’s not to say that there weren’t any fish – there were piranhas everywhere in the water but they cleverly ate the raw chicken off of my hook.  You could feel them bite after less than a second.  I think this was a red-eye piranha (serrasalmus rhombeus).

red howler monkey

 We went out again for an afternoon canoe ride after our little fishing excursion.  This is a female red howler monkey (alouatta) with young attached and what I believe are giant cheek pouches probably full of food.

common squirrel monkey

We continued along our canoe ride and heard a lot of rustling in the trees.  It turns out there was a group of common squirrel monkeys (saimiri sciureus) nearby, moving around and foraging.  We waited in the canoe for maybe half an hour and enjoyed the show.

jumping squirrel monkey

At some point, all of the common squirrel monkeys needed to cross the waterway.  One by one, they jumped across, usually after hesitating for a moment as if they were considering the prospect of falling below.

common squirrel monkeyThis one made it.  They all seemed to be able to jump across pretty well – we didn’t see any monkeys fall but some of them missed their target but were able to grab on to a branch not far below their landing site.


locust moltingAfter dinner, we went out with headlamps for a night hike to see the nocturnal creatures.  Here’s a grasshopper/locust that had just finished molting.


locust laying eggs

And here’s one laying eggs in a dead branch

glass frog on a pole

I believe this little guy was a glass frog (centrolenidae)


bird catching spider

A very large burrowing bird-catching spider (selenotypus plumipes)


red vine snakewe didn’t see as many snakes as we’d hoped, but we did see this red vine snake (siphlophis compressus)


ecuadorian amazon day 2

kichwa girl

We started the day off with a half-hour motorized canoe ride down the Napo river to check out the Yasuni parrot clay lick.  The parrots apparently lick the clay from the cliffs to reduce the toxicity of some of the seeds that they eat.

parrots fleeing the parrot lick

The parrots (mostly green amazon parrots, with some yell0w-headed and blue-headed parrots as well) were clustered around the licks and hanging out in the trees until something scared them all away


the culprit - a short-eared zorroThe culprit – I think this is the short-eared dog (atelocynus microtis) aka the short-eared zorro or short-eared fox looking for a meal.  Apparently it is an elusive canid – many of the other pictures online were triggered by camera traps.


kichwa women dancing

Our next stop was to la comunidad anangu kichwa (also Quechua or Quichua in spanish) in the Yasuni National Park.  Our visit started with watching women perform a dance for tourists.  Interesting side note – there is a small movement among Kichwa speakers to change the spelling from Quechua to Kichwa as a political statement against the Spanish language, which was forced upon their ancestors.  Another interesting aside: there is a lot of untapped oil sitting under the reserve.  The Ecuadorian government is seeking some sort of international agreement to be compensated for not drilling in the national park to make up for lost income from the sale of oil.


kichwa girlKichwa child watching the ceremony.  We watched demonstrations of trapping and hunting methods and then a short traditional cooking demonstration.  We also tried some Chicha, a drink made of fermented yucca.  We tried some – it tasted slightly sour, not very alcoholic and a little milky, starchy and gritty.


pointing out birds from the tower

We returned to Sacha Lodge and climbed the metal canopy tower in the afternoon and looked at birds and monkeys.


canopy walk

The bridge between towers

canopy walk


sunset above the canopyand the view was amazing


into la amazonia – ecuador’s amazon basin

canoe ride

We flew from Quito to Coca (aka Puerto Francisco de Orellana), a small city that serves as a hub for oil companies and tourism activities.  Coca is a 27 minute flight from Quito, and for a while I wondered “Why even fly if it’s such a short trip?”  I learned later that although the distance between the two cities is only about 120 miles as the crow flies, it’s about 180 miles by driving.  The elevation drops from 9350ft to 834ft above sea level and it’s apparently a windy (as in following a curving or twisting course rather than marked by or exposed to strong winds) trip that takes 11 hours by bus.  Our guide also told us that it’s a scary trip.

clouds and water spray over the napo riverClouds.  Our lodge was about a 1.5 hour ride east by motorized canoe on the Napo River, a tributary to the Amazon River.


oil trucks on a barge on the napo river

We were never far from oil company influences.  There were many barges with trucks, tankers, and equipment as well as a number of gas flares that we saw along the way.  Apparently the flares (example here) are for burning off the natural gas that comes out of the oil well.  They haven’t built the infrastructure to capture the natural gas, so it is burnt off as waste.  It’s estimated that this type of flaring accounts for 1.2% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.  Our guide said that locals do not like the practice as it also attracts and kills native insects and birds that are attracted to the lights.  sadface.


hammock at sacha lodge

Our lodge had a back patio with a hammock and chairs.  how nice!


mariposario at sacha lodge

blue morpho butterfly chrysalises (chrysalides?)  in the marioposario


platform at sacha lodge

The sun deck at sacha lodge

canoe ride

Heading out for an evening canoe ride


stars and the milky way

The night was so free of ambient light and the first night so clear that we could see the milky way.



Tarantula hanging out by the shower window