Kayaking Down the Amazon River

Amazon Wildlife Kayak Exploration, 5 Days

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Practice sustainable travel along this incredible journey in the Amazon.



Our journey begins with a short flight from Quito to the Amazon frontier town of Coca. Here we board
a motorized canoe for the next leg of our trip into the Amazon. We cruise down the Napo River for three
hours, the jungle around us getting ever thicker, until we arrive at the entrance to the Challuacocha nature
reserve on the Challuayaku River, where we are greeted by one of the Kichwa families who form this
ecotourism collaborative. After a short safety briefing and instructional session, we slip into our kayaks
and paddle down the river for about two more hours to reach our lodge on Challuacocha Lake.
As we kayak, we keep an eye out for golden orioles, toucans, blue morpho butterflies, and many other
species of birds, as well as the occasional monkey family in the trees above. As we reach the lake, we
may be greeted by black caimans, herons, parrots, and more. After a long day of travel, we settle in to
our lodge and enjoy a delicious gourmet meal prepared by our Kichwa hosts. In the evening, we head out
for a nocturnal hike along a nearby trail, where we keep an eye out for black caimans, howler monkeys,
bats, and other animals that come alive as night falls in the Amazon basin. (L, D)


After breakfast, we board our kayaks and paddle out to explore Challuacocha Lake. As we hug the
banks, we are able to observe a great variety of bird species, especially in the early morning. Eventually,
we reach a narrow tributary surrounded by vegetation, which we follow for a couple of kilometers while
seeking out tiger herons, blue cotingas, black-capped donacobius, and other exotic bird species. We
stop at a small trailhead where we leave our kayaks and hike into the remote jungle. Our guides help to
identify plants and animals and reveal the secrets of the jungle around us.
The path winds around and leads us back to our kayaks, and we paddle back to our lodge in time for
lunch. In the afternoon, we set out on another jungle hike that brings us to an observation tower built
around a 500-year-old Ceiba tree. From the high platform at 100 feet (30 meters), we look out over the
canopy of the Amazon, and our guides point out dozens of exotic bird species as the sun slips under the
horizon. After sunset, we return to our lodge for another gourmet dinner. In the evening, we venture back
out to the lake in our kayaks for a closer look at the black caimans we saw from shore last night. (B, L, D)


This morning, we board a motorized canoe and travel on the Napo River to the entrance of the Pañayucu
River, which we follow until we arrive at Pañacocha Lake. The lake is part of the Pañacocha nature
reserve, which covers a huge number of waterways and lagoons on 56,000 hectares, all of which is
100% Kichwa owned and managed. Here we get in our kayaks and start exploring the lake. Pañacocha
is home to a wealth of bird life, and as we paddle we are likely to find kingfishers, jacamars, trogons,
potoos, hoatzin, anis, terns, hawks, and eagles. We will also keep an eye out for monkeys and identify
the tropical plants that populate the bank.
Our main objective for the day is to spot the pink freshwater dolphin. This endangered species has
become extinct from many other Amazon tributaries, but there is still a healthy group living in and around
Pañacocha. These intelligent animals grow to be up to nine feet in length and are considered sacred by
the local tribes. Natives tell tales of dolphins that have rescued drowning swimmers. The pink freshwater
dolphin is elusive and their numbers are small, but we have a good success rate of at least catching a
glimpse. In the late afternoon, we return to spend the evening at our jungle lodge. (B, L, D)

Today we paddle across the lake to reach the Chorongo (woolly monkey) trail, where we begin a hike
through pristine primary forest within the Challuacocha Reserve. As we walk through dense jungle and
cross muddy swamps on log bridges, our guides will help us spot bromeliads, heliconias, orchids, and
other tropical flowers and trees. We will also learn about the uses of medicinal plants, taste edible fruits
and insects, and learn how to weave traditional palm-fiber bags. We are likely to see cuckoos, tinamous,
and snakes, and with luck, it is also possible to see black-mantled tamarin monkeys, poison-dart frogs,
giant anteaters, and countless other elusive animals native to the Amazon. The adventurous can also get
their bodies painted in the native style with achiote, a natural red plant dye.
After our hike, visit the local Kichwa community to learn more about their culture and traditional way of
life. From medicinal plants to foods, we learn the vast importance that the jungle plays in nearly every
aspect of their daily lives. We also tour the local school, health center, and traditional bamboo and thatchroof
homes. The prosperity of the community has greatly improved with the income and independence
brought by their ecotourism project. Their school and health center are recently improved, bringing an
unheard-of level of education and medical care to this remote community. It is very rewarding to see how
your investment in this trip is making a positive impact on the lives of the locals. (B, L, D)

After an early breakfast, we bid farewell to the Challuacocha and board our motorized canoe to navigate
the Napo River back to Coca. Weather and time permitting, we may stop on our way back to visit Parrot
Clay Lick within Yasuni National Park. Parrot Clay Lick is a natural deposit where hundreds of parrots
of four different species gather to exhibit a peculiar habit – eating clay. These parrots eat certain types
of mineral-rich clay to neutralize the toxins in many of the fruits and plants they eat. After taking in this
unique sight, we continue on to Coca and head to the airport for our afternoon flight back to Quito. (B)

Quick Facts

Ecuadorian Amazon

Dates & Prices
5 Days from $2715


Expedition Type


Expedition Level
Easy hikes, snorkeling, and kayaking

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