An unforgettable adventure in the World's largest rainforest.
In 2015, I was travelling the Americas, and while in South America, there were two things I wanted to do above all others; 1. Climb Machu Picchu and 2. Explore the Amazon Rainforest. This is my experience of the latter.
My journey begins in Ecuador, in a little city called Puyo. My guide picked me up from my hostel at 9am and I followed him to his van. I was to spend my day meeting three separate indigenous families and trekking in the rainforest, enjoying the Amazons rich biodiversity.
I must admit, I was a little disappointed when I arrived at the first village. Please forgive my ignorance and naivety back then, but I had envisioned villagers dressed in palms and banana leaves, wearing feather headdresses. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The inhabitants of this quaint little Amazonian village were wearing Adidas t-shirts and tracksuit bottoms! I was greeted by a lovely group of villagers who made every effort to make me feel welcome. One of the local ladies sat me down and painted my face with the juice of a forest fruit. Once applied, I realised how thick and oily the juice was, and later found out that it would not come off. Long story short, I spent the rest of the day with a bright orange face!
My guide showed me around the little village and introduced me to a red Macaw that was cared for by the villagers as it had a deformed beak and likely couldn’t feed itself. I was given indigenous props to wear and marvelled over the jewellery on show, handmade by the women of the village. Soon it was time to move on, and after saying goodbye to the family, we drove to a spot where we would start our trek into the Amazon and find a waterfall to swim in.
As we walked, I found myself amazed at the variety of butterflies fluttering around our heads. A typical four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants and 150 species of butterflies. I chased a beautiful blue butterfly for ages, trying desperately to get a good look at its luminous wings. I also saw a creepy black spider which looked dangerous, so I kept my distance!
After walking for some time, taking in the lusciousness of the rainforest, and marvelling at the species of flora and fauna I was seeing, I found myself stood at the bottom of an incredibly tall waterfall cascading down into a pool. I entered the water and enjoying a massage from the strength of the water falling from above. I waded in and the water was freezing, but at the same time soothing and refreshing. This is where I tried to wash the orange fruit juice off my face but failed terribly. I basically just spread it around and gave myself what looked like a bad fake tan.
After enjoying the cool water for a while, it was time to walk back. As I walked, the heavens opened, and I experienced the rainforest in its truest sense; a forest of rain. It was wonderful to experience. I was in the Amazon. I walked through the trees behind my guide in the rain, breathing in the realisation of where I was and how incredibly grateful, I felt. Once back at the van, I took shelter, and I was driven to another two indigenous families.
At the second village, one of the villagers led me to a large wooden indoor space. In this room was the skin of an anaconda. It was several meters long and reminded me that nature hosts some titanic and incredibly powerful species. I met some Marmosets that lived in the jungle but accepted gifts of fruit from the family, and a couple of land tortoises who enjoyed a banana occasionally. To this day, I do not know what species they were. One of the family members pointed toward two wild camen resting in the lake nearby the wooden huts. All I could see were their eyes and nostrils poking out above the water line. I was so excited to see such prehistoric animals in the wild and in awe of how these people live side-by-side with such powerful animals.
My guide then led me to the third and final indigenous family who were only 10 minutes away on foot. This family visit was by far my favourite because I met a gorgeous peccary named Martina. She was very tame and acted like the family dog. If you know me well, you know that I love pigs and boar, and meeting Martina was one of the highlights of my experience in the Amazon. After some time spent scratching her belly, I willed myself away from her and began to head back through the forest to the van. She followed me all the way; it was all too much! This marked the end of my experience in the mighty Amazon rainforest.
This may sound cheesy, but this trip changed me. A childhood dream had been realised, and I was fortunate to see the Amazon while there was still some left. Unfortunately, more than 20% of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed, and more than 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day to make room for cattle ranches. More than 150 acres lost every minute of every day. I don’t want to live in a world where the Amazon rainforest is just a memory in a history book.
So, what can we do to protect this incredibly beautiful and biodiversity rich ecosystem from total destruction? We must ditch the animal products. It is the simplest and most impactful change we can make in our everyday lives to save this epic ecosystem.
I do hope to go back to the Amazon one day and explore its endless beauty, but I worry that by the time I get chance, it’ll already be gone.