When: Feb 24—Mar 06
Tour Leaders:
Activity Level:

Natural and Cultural Encounters in the Amazon


This one-of-a-kind eco-adventure in Ecuador gives you an opportunity to see incredible wildlife while supporting the indigenous “River people” who are protecting 400,000+ hectares of their ancestral lands in the Amazon jungle by not allowing mining, oil drilling, logging, or other environmentally destructive activities. This tour will be led by Goshen College professor of economics Jerrell Ross Richer, who lives among the Cofán people for 6 months of each year with his wife Jane and their four-children. Also, travel through the Andes mountains to Tena. Meet indigenous church leaders at the Nate Saint House and Museum. See tropical wildlife at the butterfly sanctuary on the scenic Napo River. Take a short hike to the San Rafael Falls—the largest waterfall in Ecuador.

WATCH a recorded webinar with tour leader Jerrell Ross Richer about this tour and what you might experience.

READ about accommodations in Zábalo village.

WATCH some video clips with tour leader Jerrell Ross Richer in the Zábalo village.

At A Glance

  • February 24 – March 6, 2019
  • 11 Days



Sunday, February 24     Quito

After a day of travelling, meet your tour companions in Quito, Ecuador. Settle in to your nearby hotel, and gather with your tour leader and travel companions.

Monday, February 25     Tena

Enjoy a traditional lunch en route to Tena by bus. We’ll cross the Andes—the tallest mountain range in the Western Hemisphere—as they climb and drop into the foothills of the Amazon Basin. Stretch your legs on a walking tour of Tena. Then trek through Parque Amazonia. For the best view, climb the tower to see the sights.

Tuesday, February 26     Tena

Learn the tragic, yet inspiring story of the first missionaries to the Waonani people at the Nate Saint House and Museum. After lunch at a traditional barbeque restaurant, tour the Omaere Ethnobotanical Centre to learn about traditional medicinal plants and Shuar culture.

Wednesday, February 27     Coca

Walk among thousands of exotic species of butterflies at the sanctuary on the Napo River. Travel through the mountains at the edge of the Andes and make your way east before, once again, greeting the Napo River. Along the way, stop at the Ninawachi Bible Institute to share a meal and spend some time with indigenous students who plan to return to serve their communities.

Thursday, February 28     Zábalo

Sail along the Aguarico River to the village of Zábalo, home of the world’s first community-based ecotourism project. From there, venture into the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, which you can view from the comfort of the tour boat. Containing eight major ecosystems, this area has no roadways and is one of most biologically diverse places on Earth. Once in Zábalo, greet your indigenous Cofán hosts, and take part in an orientation of what the next few days will hold. This evening, take some time to settle in to your rooms at the newly renovated Sararo Ecolodge, and drift off to sleep to the soothing sounds of the rainforest.

Friday, March 1     Zábalo

Gather inside the leaf house for breakfast, then tour Zábalo village on foot with a leader of the community. Visit the local school and church to learn about the people who live in this special place. In the afternoon, learn about the arrival of the first missionaries in this area, and their efforts to protect the people and their lands from exploitation. Relax along the bank of the Aguarico River, and spend some time interacting with the local village children. Gather in the evening to hear stories about how the Cofán advocated for legal title of their ancestral lands and the challenges that they still face to this day.

Saturday, March 2     Zábalo

Board small, motorized watercrafts to venture further down the Aguarico River, and deeper still into the rainforest. Look for freshwater dolphins frolicking about as you approach the mouth of the Zábalo River. Take in the spectacular sights of the black water river and the virgin rainforest that surrounds it. Completely untouched by modern civilization, the monkeys that are native to the environment are tamer than most because they are not hunted. See what other wildlife you can spot as you take in the wonder of the rainforest.

Sunday, March 3     Zábalo

Worship in a local church this morning. Then divide into smaller groups to follow local guides through the rainforest. Immerse yourself in a jungle of green diverse enough to support hundreds of species of trees in a single hectare. Listen intently to the sounds in the trees. Glimpse exotic birds, insects and other fauna native to this place. This afternoon, visit with local villagers in their homes. Learn some of their trades such as jewelry making, wood carving, and how they use natural resources to create beautiful art.

Monday, March 4     El Reventador

Enjoy your final meal in the village and bid farewell to those who have made your jungle stay so memorable. As you depart, wave goodbye to the children who will gather on the bank of the Aguarico River. Watch the landscape slowly change as you head upstream, toward the mountains. Arrive in El Reventador with enough time to explore the grounds and settle in to your accommodations for the evening.

Tuesday, March 5     Quito

El Reventador is home to San Rafael Falls—the largest waterfall in Ecuador. Take a short hike to see the falls up close and to view the foothills. Then, travel into the Andes and enjoy a traditional lunch of fresh, local trout. Spend the afternoon soaking in the natural hot springs at Papallacta.

Wednesday, March 6

Depart from Quito on your flight for home.


Check the pricing page for what is included and excluded in the tour fare.

For further information, please contact us. We would be happy to be of assistance.

Click here for a printable PDF of the tour itinerary and costs.