One of the most adventurous ways to travel from Ecuador towards the Peruvian Amazonian rain forest is to cruise along the Rio Napo, embarking on the cargo boats that follow the route Coca (Equador) – Iquitos (Peru). We have been attracted by this adventure for a long time, but the extreme uncertainty on delays and distances, has forced us to renounce. This is the information we have collected, hoping it can be useful for other travellers. Coca is situated in the North-Eastern region of Ecuador and there are three ways to go there:
- Quito-Coca, 12 hours of direct bus.
- Quito-Tena-Coca, with a stop in Tena (rafting, canyoning, kayaking, ecotourism in the Amazonian forest).
- Quito-Baños-Tena-Coca, with a stop in Baños for trekking and thermal baths.
Coca, a rainy city born as base for the explorations of the oil companies, it’s the place where all the roads end, the travel continuous on the cargo boats along the Rio Napo: near the port of Coca you will look for a boat going to Nuevo Rocafuerte, officially supposed to leave on Mondays and Thursdays, but there could be others. Meantime, it’s necessary to get your passport stamped at the immigration office (the last one before Ecuadorian border). The travel until Nuevo Rocafuerte lasts approximately 12 hours, but could be interesting to program a stop along the way (Limoncocha for example): it’s one of the wildest zones of the Amazon, for a long time the Rio Napo borders the Yasunì National Park, where Huaorani, Tagaeri, Achuar and Siona isolated indigenous groups still live. We advise to contact a local guide before your arrival. From Nuevo Rocafuerte, you should find a canoe to Pantoja, the first village in Peruvian territory, where it’s possible to get your passport stamped. From Pantoja the hardest part of the travel begins: four or five consecutive days by boat, until the city of Masan, from where other travelers suggest to take a moto-taxi to a port of fast lanchas (canoes) directed to Iquitos, in order to save 13 hours of boat trip.
Probably a long and debilitating travel, to be undertaken with a lot of calm in order to know a wonderful part of Amazonian forest, surely an adventure.
Ecotourism, communitarian tourism, ecolodges, ecoresorts are just many names which refer to the same experience: coming in contact with the rain forest and the people (aboriginal peoples) that inhabit it. In the case of the Amazon, because a good part of its future goes necessarily through this type of tourism, we want to give some suggestions, fruit of our experience. Firstly, you should consider that it’s difficult, if not impossible, the integration in the indigenous communities of the forest, there are too many differences. The only way to try a deeper approach to this world it’s to go there as volunteer (voluntourism): in this case better to get information in Quito on the options available, remembering that usually the period of cooperation is at least 3-6 months and that often the volunteers are asked to pay in order to cover expenses and registration fee. If instead you are travelers or tourists, our suggestion is to directly go to one of the cities/entrance gate towards the Amazon (in the case of Ecuador: Tena, Puyo, Macas, Coca or Lago Agrio) and spend there some days, trying to get information or better to know a person able to indicate you the communities that receive visits in the forest. A smart trick is to go to the travel agencies which offer organized tours and ask for their destinations; sure they will deny, but you will always be able to find a passage by bus, canoe or taxi towards the same place. Currently, Kichwa communities in the region of Tena (Napo) offer lodging in wooden cabañas and food for approximately 10 dollars a day. In this case, what you will be able to see is limited to the nearest attractions, unfortunately it’s impossible to explore the forest as independent traveller. Therefore, you’ll have the problem to find a guide who could accompany you in the remote places. After all, especially in the event your group isn’t numerous, it would be better to buy an organized tour by any travel agency, maybe after verifying that your money will be used for the development of the community itself. Last consideration: locals always deny, but tropical diseases exist (dengue, malaria, etc)… avoiding paranoias, take necessary precautions.
For many travelers the ecotourism in the Amazon it’s just a waste of time and money, but with an intelligent approach, it could transform in an opportunity to know and help to preserve one of the most incredible ecosystems of our planet.