After Quito the Ecuador 8 (our self titled study abroad group) headed off for our first adventure into the Amazon. We would be staying at a rustic biological research station, Yanayacu. This station is located on the side of the Antisana volcano and is in the middle of highland rainforests– also known as cloud forests (due to the high altitude). When we arrived we set off on a muddy hike on steep terrain. Our guide cleared our path with a machete. We saw many different types of plants, as well as assassin and scarab bugs, butterflies with clear wings (my instant favorite), and a bull frog. We also got to see some really beautiful birds such as subtropical casiques and an emerald tucannette. At night, the girls slept in a loft with a beautiful view of the forest. We had to set up bug nets over our beds to prevent mosquitos from attacking us.
The next day we left for Cotococha, an ecolodge located in the lowland Amazon rainforest. The cabanas here are absolutely beautiful– but there is no electricity. At night we were provided oil lamps which gave almost no light, but we all got around using flashlights. When we arrived in cotococha we swam in the beautiful pool, then had dinner.
After dinner we set off for a night hike. Our professor had warned us that the lowland rainforest would be a totally different experience than the highland rainforest. What he said went something along the lines of, “In the cloud forests all the trees and flowers have smiles and you can touch anything you want. Here, be careful because everything is angry and wants to bite, sting, or deposit its eggs on you.”. He was definitely not kidding. This night hike was intense to say the least. We saw a million different types of spiders including one of the more aggressive types of tarantulas with red legs. We passed by bullet ants, which are small but mighty and can bite, sting, and spray. We saw at least 4 frog species, including the poster child of tree frogs, the green tree frog. I have never seen so many insects, and paired with the darkness in the jungle it was quite an intense experience– I loved it!
After the hike my guide asked if I wanted to hold a tarantula and of course I said I did. We looked for one together– he knows where they like to sleep and found one quickly. Once I saw it up close I almost changed my mind, but my guide just grabbed my arm and put it in front of the spider and it climbed on. It was pretty scary at first but I’m so glad I held it. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!