This one-of-a-kind eco-adventure in Ecuador gives you an opportunity to see incredible wildlife while supporting the indigenous Cofán “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 Jerrell Ross Richer, who lives among the Cofán people for 6 months of each year. Also, travel through the Andes mountains. Take a white-water rafting adventure through pristine natural beauty on the Jondachi River. Spend a night camping deep in the Amazon rain forest, far from any human habitation. Take a short hike to the San Rafael Falls—the largest waterfall in Ecuador.
Saturday, February 15 Quito
Arrive in Quito and settle into your nearby hotel.
Sunday, February 16 Tena
Meet your tour leader and fellow travelling companions over a breakfast orientation to the tour. Cross the Andes—the tallest mountain range in the Western Hemisphere—as they climb and drop into the foothills of the Amazon Basin. Stop for lunch at a scenic spot in Tena then spend the rest of the day exploring this charming city where the Tena and Pano Rivers meet.
Monday, February 17 Jondachi River Canyon
Take a short drive to the entry point for the Grand Canyon of the Jondachi River. Put on your water shoes and hike down a muddy path to the river’s edge for a safety training with our professional guides. Board rafts for an all-day paddling excursion, negotiating Category III and IV rapids on the Jondachi and Hollin Rivers while travelling through a pristine ecological corridor that begins in the Andean foothills and ends in the Amazon River thousands of kilometers downstream.
Tuesday, February 18 Zábalo, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Today we travel by chartered bus, then motorized canoe, to the indigenous Cofán village of Zábalo, home of the world’s first community-based ecotourism project. We leave the wired world behind us as we venture into the half-million-hectare Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, passing indigenous Shuar and Kichwa villages along the way. Containing eight major ecosystems, this reserve has no roadways and is one of most biologically diverse places on Earth. Upon arrival in Zábalo, check into the Sararo Lodge, share dinner together and listen to a presentation about Cofán culture and the history of the village.
Wednesday, February 19 Zábalo, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
After a walking tour of the Cofán village, board canoes to travel up the black-water Zábalo River, where we will camp for the night. This area is protected by the Cofán people and off-limits to hunting for Woolly monkeys and other primates, who roam here freely and without fear of humans. 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.
Thursday, February 20 Zábalo, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Spend today exploring the upper reaches of the Zábalo River. There is no human habitation this deep in the rain forest and the wildlife are extremely abundant, in particular monkeys and birds. There are opportunities to float quietly on small canoes with Cofán guides and enjoy an area void of human-made noise. This area was declared the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park by Quiet Parks International on Earth Day 2019.
Friday, February 21 Zábalo, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Returning to the village of Zábalo, take the opportunity to swim in the Aguarico River at the edge of the village. Then relax in hammocks, check out the hand-made jewelry and other artisan items at a market set up by village women, and enjoy our final meal here featuring distinctive Cofán dishes.
Saturday, February 22 El Chaco
Bid farewell to those who have made our jungle stay so memorable. Travel back up the Aguarico River, then meet our bus to begin the journey into the foothills of the Andes. Watch the landscape slowly change as we head upstream toward the mountains. Along the way, hike to an overlook to take in the immensity of the 150-metre high San Rafael Falls, the highest waterfall in Ecuador. Spend the night at an eco-lodge on the eastern slope of the Andes mountains in the Amazon cloud forest.
Sunday, February 23 Quito
Travel to Papallacta Hot Springs to soak in the thermal pools and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains. Afterwards, continue to historic downtown Quito to explore on foot one of UNESCO’s first designated World Heritage Sites. Finish the day with a visit to a local artisan market and say farewell over a final meal together, then return to the airport to catch flights back to North America. Those wishing to spend more time in Ecuador can check into a hotel in Quito after dinner.
For further information, please contact us. We would be happy to be of assistance.