Where We Be
Umm, a little help here?
Amazon Basin, Ecuador (Days 1-2)
We saw lots of creepy-crawlies during our night walk including scorpion spiders, land lobsters, and a poisonous toad. At one point Robin fell into a pile
of damp leaves and shot up from the ground faster than humanly possible. She did NOT like thinking about what might have been in that pile of leaves!
Perhaps the second biggest highlight of our
Ecuador trip after the Galapagos was visiting
El Oriente, or the Amazon Basin. We spent five
days in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve at Samona
Lodge and immersed ourselves in all things
Amazon, canoeing along the Cuyabeno River,
watching monkeys make impossible leaps from
tree to tree, fishing for piranhas, swimming in
Laguna Grande despite the caiman (alligators),
taking night walks to see the creepy-crawlies
that come out at night, and even letting a hairy
tarantula crawl around on me. El Oriente was  
definitely a memorable experience!

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is located in the far
northeastern corner of Ecuador and is one of
the most  biodiverse sites in the world along
with neighboring Yasuni National Park. It feels
like a flooded rainforest because so much of it
is submerged. Forests "float" in the water and
most excursions are by motorized canoe. The
lodge itself is mostly on dry land but a circular
boardwalk connects the rustic huts together. If
you're looking for an affordable deep-in-the-
Amazon experience, this just might be for you.
After dinner we went on a night walk and saw all sorts of animals, including these leaf cutter ants
Usually when you fish you try to be quiet but not when piranha fishing! Instead you put some meat on a hook attached to a bamboo pole and
thrash the end of the pole in shallow water for five or ten seconds to simulate an animal in distress. If piranhas are in the area, they come quickly.
On either side of the Cuyabeno River the forest stretches out, half-drowned in water as far as the eye can see
Toucans were the birds we were most excited to see in the wild
This wooden boardwalk takes you from the river to the thatched huts of Samona Lodge
A lovely canopy of green towered overhead during our jungle walk. Our guide Pajarito was an expert at making different bird and monkey calls, and
often the birds and monkeys would call back to him. We laughed at the thought of two guides calling back and forth to each other in the jungle.
This vine curlicues its way around two different trees
Perhaps the most popular hut of all is called "Section Relax" -- after a meal all the hammocks quickly fill up with nappers
This is the communal restaurant where we met for breakfast at 8 am, lunch at 1 pm, and dinner at 8 pm. The food was excellent.
Around sunset everyone comes to Laguna Grande to enjoy the views -- even these locals in their small canoe
Day 2 was a great day in the Amazon -- perfect weather, lots of animal sightings, and a spectacular sunset to cap it all off, as the following pictures show
Blue dusk falls as we head for home and dinner
Most of the trees in Cuyabeno are partially submerged in water, like these ones in Laguna Grande
Interestingly shaped canoe paddle
We disembarked from our canoe and headed off into the Amazon rainforest
We went for daily swims in Laguna Grande. Caiman sometimes swim in these waters but usually at dusk or night, not during the day (or so we were told).
We got the chance to do some piranha fishing and actually caught a few
You can see the sharp teeth on this one -- they really do have a voracious appetite for meat
Wenke from Germany had a great time swimming and wasn't about to let caiman or piranha get in her way
This apparent tree stump is actually a pygmy owl with its eyes closed
The lodge provides wading boots for you to wear when you're going on a hike on "dry" land
Looking back at our guide, Pajarito, and our boat driver as we tool down the Cuyabeno River on our second day
A few of the huts are built on stilts above the water
Shown above is our double bed with mosquito netting. Our Jaguar Hut had its own bathroom with hot showers (a nice surprise). There is no
electricity in the huts but candles in sconces provide some lighting. The thatched roof covers two different rooms with a divider wall in between.
Samona Lodge is beautifully situated on the Cuyabeno River
The central hut is filled with hammocks, and the big hut immediately behind it is the communal restaurant.
Lodging huts encircle the central hut and are connected by a wooden boardwalk.
A night walk around the boardwalk of Samona Lodge turned up this resident caiman (alligator)
I let this cute little fella crawl around on me
This mouse dropped from the ceiling of the main hut -- we think a rainbow
boa constrictor scared it! While it lay stunned on the ground one of the guides
picked it up. I held it for a minute and it even ran up and down my clothes.
Many of the huts had tarantulas living in the thatch roofs. (Really, I'm not kidding!)
We loved the feeling of going deeper and deeper into the heart of the Amazon Basin -- for another two hours
We came across this small anaconda coiled around a branch
The fun really begins once you board the canoe
We got our first taste of the Amazon rainforest during this journey -- and reveled in the fact there were no houses, buildings, or other signs of humans
Capturing decent pictures of monkeys high up in the trees isn't always easy, so there are less photos than actual sightings. These are monk saki monkeys.
If you like monkeys this is a great place to visit. We saw six species -- squirrel monkeys (our favorites, shown above), capuchin,
black, red howler, woolly, and monk saki. We also saw numerous toucans, macaws, kingfishers, and blue morpho butterflies.
The put-in point is also the welcome center for Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
At the put-in point we were served lunch then boarded a motorized canoe for the final leg of our journey
Caiman up close
We flew from Quito to Lago Agrio (or you can take a 9-hour overnight bus). From there we followed good roads for two hours to our put-in point on
the Cuyabeno River. All along the road an oil pipeline followed. Lago Agrio is an oil town and big discoveries of oil were made here fifty years ago.
We loved watching squirrel monkeys make dramatic leaps from tree to tree!
Yikes! Don't fall off the boardwalk!
We expected lots of creepie-crawlies in our hut that night but only
saw one or two cockroaches (if you look closely you might be able to
see the cockroach on this candle sconce) and one harmless tree frog.
Gorgeous profusion of jungle leaves
Kingfishers are a common sight along the river
A woodcreeper searches for insects