Into The Amazon Jungle: The Samona Lodge

My father and I were faced with a very difficult decision. We knew we were going to hike to Machu Picchu. We knew we were going to take a cruise through the Galapagos Islands. However, we had a few days free in between and we didn’t know exactly what to do with them. In the end we decided to take a trip to the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador.

After looking into some different options we decided to stay at the Samona Lodge, which we booked through the Happy Gringo travel agency. The Samona Lodge is located within the Cuyabeno Reserve and is deeper into the jungle than some of the other options.  It’s a popular option for backpackers since it has an adventure filled itinerary, as well as an affordable price. The lodge is not super fancy, but we weren’t looking for fancy.

Amazon Jungle - Ecuador

The Samona Lodge – Photo Credit to Anna Billker

Ecuador Amazon Jungle Samona Lodge

Just chilling… – Photo Credit to Anna billker

Into The Amazon Jungle

Our Amazonian experience began with a slow boat ride down the river, towards the lodge. On the way we spotted several animals, including an Anaconda, which was just hanging out, suntanning on top of a bush. It was nice to get back to nature after spending the past day in airports and buses.

Ecuador Amazon Jungle

My Dad relaxing on the boat

Anaconda - Amazon Jungle

The Anaconda

After arriving and getting settled in at the Samona Lodge, we hopped back in the boat for our first excursion. We were off to explore the nearby lagoon. On our way there we were met by some more wild life.

Stinky Turkey - Amazon

Stinky Turkey

Monkey Amazon

Monkey – Photo Credit to Anna Billker

The Lagoon

As the sun began to set, we made our way our into the middle of the lagoon and had the opportunity to go for a swim. Even though I know that all of the dangerous animals typically stick close to the shore, I always get a little bit of an adrenaline rush before jumping into rivers in the Amazon Jungle. I think that this makes it all the more fun.

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Even my Dad jumped in. I think this trip was great for him. He was willing to try everything at least once. One of the things that I love about travel is that it gives people a chance to push their limits and practice living just beyond their edge.

“In any given moment, a man’s growth is optimized if he leans just beyond his edge, his capacity, his fear. He should not be too lazy, happily stagnating in the zone of security and comfort, nor should he push far beyond his edge, stressing himself unnecessarily, unable to metabolize his experience. He should lean just slightly beyond the edge of fear and discomfort. Constantly, in everything he does.” – David Deida

Sunset Amazon Jungle
Our first day-time excursion was a hike through the jungle, where Veronica taught us about how her people make use of the different plants in the Amazon Jungle.

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A nice casual walk through the jungle

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Look at the mans balance!

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We had the luxury of being driven by motorboat in the morning, on the way to the hike. However, for the return journey, it was time to pull out the paddles and put our muscles to use.

Amazon Ecuador
Of course, I took the first opportunity available to cool off from the hot afternoon sun.

Ecuador Amazon Tour

Back in the river

I’d like to say that we successfully paddled the entire way back to the lodge. However, that’s not the truth. When we heard a motor boat coming up behind us, we all stuck out our thumbs and ended up hitching a ride. We made sure he dropped us off a few minutes before the lodge, so it didn’t look like we were a lazy group.

Veronica’s Village

The next day was a busy one. Our first stop was Veronica’s village where we were to make yuca bread with her mother. When we arrived, we were greeted by their pet baby monkey. This monkey had been abandoned by it’s parents. The people of the village found it and took it in. They tried to release it back into the wild, but it found it’s way back a week later.

It was a little shy in the beginning, but it eventually warmed up to me and decided to spend the next hour or so on my head.

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My friend

Monkey Amazon Ecuador

Still chilling…

Unfortunately, with a monkey on my head, I wasn’t able to be too involved in making the bread. I took the important role of supervising the rest of the group, while they laboured away.

Yuca Bread - Amazon Ecuador

RIMG3145 Veronica’s mother preparing the Yuca bread

The Simple Life

One thing that I have been noticing, as I travel around this world, is that the people whom live the simplest lives, tend to be some of the happiest people I ever meet. I saw this with the tribes in the Peruvian Amazon. I saw this when I visited the Philippines last year. I saw this again in Veronica’s village.

These people who live a comfortable, but modest life style, and who have not been introduced to the materialistic views of the western world, have absolutely no yearning to chase material success. They do not fill their lives with unnecessary material objects, which do nothing but give us short term gratification and then add to the clutter in our lives. Living a more simple life, gives these people the freedom to focus on the things that are truly important; connection, family and love.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak” – Hans Hofmann

I had coffee with a Colombian woman earlier today. She has lived abroad in developed countries and she told me that she feels that the western world has a big problem. She told me that the majority of the western world has forgotten what’s truly important, as they chase material success. The people are disconnected from each other. She said that the people of developed countries tend to take so many things for granted, including family.

From what I’ve seen, traveling all around the world, I tend to agree with her on this. And the sad thing is that it usually takes some sort of tragedy in our lives before we realize this. In my last post, I talked about how my Dad was able to completely transform his life over the past couple years. He said in the interview that, it wasn’t until the tragic passing of my step brothers that he finally realized that life is short and that he should start focusing on what’s truly important to him in life.

I don’t think that we should have to wait until someone we loves passes away or until we suffer from a heart attack before we start shifting our focus to what really matters. I think that one simple step that we can all take now, is to start simplifying our lives, a little bit at a time. Lets clear the clutter and make space for what’s truly important.

The Tree Of Life

Our next stop was the tree of life. Apparently, the idea of the “Tree of Life”, from the movie, Avatar, was inspired by these types of trees.

The Tree of Life - Ecuador Amazon

The Tree of Life – Photo Credit to Alvaro

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Our amazing group

It wouldn’t have been right to go an entire day without swimming. Lucky for us, we found a perfect spot to do some cliff jumping, before heading off to our next destination.

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So much fun…RIMG3177

Our last stop before returning to the lodge was a visit to a nearby shaman. He talked about Ayahuasca a bit, but after working with Ayahuasca, with some of the best shaman’s in Peru, this seemed way too touristy to me.

We did get to shoot a giant blow gun though. I remember the process that went through my head when I stepped up to shoot. I thought to myself, “breathe, relax, focus on the target, shoot.” I was the only gringo to hit the target.

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Bullseye!

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The day wasn’t over yet. We finished off this jam packed day with one last excursion. We took a night hike through the jungle, in search of caimans and taranchulas. It was definitely an interesting experience. As soon as we docked the boat, rain started pouring down from the sky above. I honestly couldn’t see a whole lot, wrapped up in my poncho and without a flash light.

I trudged along through the mud, doing my best to stay close to the lights of the rest of the group. We didn’t have any luck finding any taranchulas or large caimans, but we did find some baby caimans.

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Baby Caiman

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As we made our way back to the lodge, I guess the universe decided that we’d been rained on enough. The skies cleared up for us and we were able to admire the stars and enjoy a peaceful boat ride back. This was the highlight of my day.

The Samona Lodge

Overall, I was really happy with our Samona lodge experience. Was the quality of the guide, the food, or the overall service to the same level as Antarctica or the Inca Trail? No it wasn’t. However, for anyone who’s looking to experience the Amazon jungle, on a budget or in a more rustic way, I’d highly recommend the Samona Lodge.

We definitely got what we paid for and they delivered on everything they promised. I am usually disappointed by most tours and that’s why I avoid them whenever I can, so it is saying something when I’m willing to recommend one.

As I’ve said before in previous posts, the people in the group can make all the difference. In this department, we couldn’t have asked for more. Regardless of the tour company, I don’t think it would have been possible to have had a bad time, hanging out in the jungle with Simon, Leah, Kathy, Anna, David, Alvaro, and of course my father. Here’s to another experience I will never forget.

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