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Wildlife Adventures in Ecuador’s Amazon Jungle

by Charlie Burch

I’ve been to South America before and absolutely loved it but this was my first trip to Ecuador and I was super excited!

I was booked onto our amazing Amazon Wildlife Rescue programme and having experienced wildlife volunteering on a previous trip to Africa, I couldn’t wait to get into the Amazon Jungle.

After an easy flight with KLM I arrived in Quito in the afternoon. My first impression of Quito was the Volcanoes! The city sits in a valley surrounded by several volcanoes, which is an incredible sight.

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Alfredo, one of the friendly, local team, was waiting for me on arrival which was great. We made our way in to the city centre, which took about an hour. The first night’s inclusive accommodation is in Quito and I was staying in our volunteer house in the modern, lively Mariscal area, which is amazing! It’s the busiest part of the city, where everyone meets to go for a night out. Foch Plaza was just around the corner, which is the ideal spot for a couple of beers and some brilliant people-watching, so I threw my bags down and went out for a well earned beer after the long flight.

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When I went back to the house I met up with a few of the other volunteers, had another beer with them and then had to go to sleep – tiredness had really kicked in by this stage! The next morning I woke up early and went for a walk around, had a coffee and then waited for our pickup which was at 7am. We were then on our way to the Amazon…EXCITING!!!

The journey was absolutely incredible, as we travelled deeper and deeper in to the jungle. The road to Puyo follows a river, with gorgeous waterfalls and brilliant views en route.

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We arrived at the Rescue Centre around lunchtime, and met with the co-ordinators. There are two co-ordinators there, Eba and Elliot, and Elliot is English which helped with my awkward Spanish!

I couldn’t believe that I’d been in a city in the morning and I was now deep in the Amazon Jungle, surrounded by all sorts of different animals – it was amazing!

Elliot showed me our rustic accommodation, which I loved. There were hammocks outside and a big pond and the accommodation is conveniently located right in the middle of the rescue centre.

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The best way I can describe the centre is that it is like the best Amazonian Zoo you can imagine. You’re set in such lush surroundings and can walk from enclosure to enclosure to see all sorts of animals. We were shown round in the afternoon and it was brilliant, from spotting Payabara and Monkeys to seeing Tortoises’ roaming around and listening to parrots squawking!

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In the evening, other volunteers who were already based at the centre returned from their weekend away. They had been to Banos, the adventure capital of Ecuador, which is only 2 hours away by bus. They were all raving about it, having done some whitewater rafting!

On the Monday morning I had some breakfast and then followed the other volunteers into the feeding room, a room full of fruit and veg, to start preparing food for the animals. There were about seven of us cutting up and dividing food into the right buckets. All the instructions were on a big white board so it was easy to follow. It took about an hour to get it all organised and then off we went to feed them, which was brilliant!

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The general rule for the centre is you’re not allowed to touch the animals, however you can let them touch you. So we went into the Macaw’s enclosure and they started landing on us, it was fantastic! My favourite creature was the Payabara, who swam up to us and started eating all his food. He was one of the biggest animals there and was very cool, and so different to anything I’d seen before, like a giant guinea pig with webbed feet.

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Once we’d finished our rounds we went back to our list of duties and chose a job, which was to build some shelter for the parrots. We all worked together to nail 3 sheets above some perches to give the parrots a bit of protection from the rain which regularly falls here in the jungle.

It was awesome to be involved with the other volunteers straight away and get to know them really quickly, and it struck me how much everyone was enjoying it. I was so pleased I chose this project!

After doing some extra duties we went to relax and wait for lunch. There is a great communal area, with hammocks, TV and a DVD player, so we went there and relaxed in the hammocks. Lunch was served after about 20 minutes and was MASSIVE! After lunch we had time to relax and it was sunny so we chilled by the pool, until it started pouring down – we were definitely in a rainforest!!

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The centre was full, so I had loads of people to chat to and get along with. I was asked if I wanted to join in on cocktail night that evening – HELL YEAH! So $5 went in to the pot and one of the girls went shopping for drinks later on.

In the afternoon I was on the extra duties list, so we had to shift wheelbarrow loads of bark through the centre to distribute. It was pretty hard work but I felt great doing it and it was definitely a change from my normal office job. It also made the cocktails all the sweeter that night!

As I was on a bit of a whistle-stop tour of Ecuador, the next day I had to head back to Quito. However, next time I’m going back to Ecuador for a month and I am already looking forward to visiting Banos and trying some white water rafting!

Visit www.gap360.com/amazon-wildlife-rescue to find out more about this amazing trip!

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