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What country/countries did you visit?

Ecuador

How did you get there?

I flew from London via Amsterdam with KLM.

Whereabouts did you go?

I arrived first into Quito and stayed at a lovely hacienda 20 minutes from the airport before flying onto the Amazon the next morning where I spent 6 amazing nights. I then returned to Quito where I stayed for 4 nights and also spent a night in the cloud forest, northwest of the capital.

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Which was your favourite:

Place: The Amazon, I was very fortunate to spend 6 nights in this incredible place and I fell completely in love. The nature is obviously amazing, I wasn’t expecting quite so many wildlife encounters, and the locals are wonderful. In the lodges I loved falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of birds. On the cruise ship, I loved how we were able to explore further afar and have more unique wildlife encounters such as searching for capybaras at night (which we eventually found!)

Hotel: I loved everywhere I stayed but I would probably have to say La Selva Ecolodge and Retreat. This lodge rents the land from the indigenous Pilchi community, so you have a native guide on all of your excursions with you. They have the most incredible eye for spotting wildlife and giving you insight into uses of plants that have been in their family for generations.

I am also a big fan of yoga and there are complementary classes here. There is an onsite yoga instructor and multiple timings throughout the day, including my personal favourite sunrise yoga.

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Excursion: The observation towers in the kapok tree. Kapok trees are known as the king of the forest by the indigenous communities, the largest tree in the rainforest. This makes them the perfect look out across the canopy either after sunrise or before sunset in search of wildlife and simply admiring the view. Only accessible by paddle canoe from the lodge reaching these feels even more remote than the lodge you’re staying in.

What was your most memorable moment?

 

There were so many, but the most was probably the crane at Sacha Lodge. Never did I think I would be in the middle of the Amazon rainforest being lifted up by a crane above the canopy for a unique viewpoint to admire the flora and search for fauna. It’s certainly not for those scared as heights, but it is incredible safe. The guide and controller of the crane helps spot wildlife and will move the position so you can get a better look at whatever they have spotted. There is nothing like this the world and a true once in a lifetime experience.

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Were there any surprises along the way?

How accessible the Amazon was. It's a very short and scenic 25 minute flight from Quito. Once you land in Coca (the main airport), you are taken to an office to refresh yourself and then you take the motorised dugout canoe to your lodge or boat. This is around 2+ hours but is very scenic, followed by a short walk and then a paddle canoe you arrive at your lodge by lunchtime.

What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destinations?

Ecuador is a year-round destination which is great, however when I went was the dry season which meant I only had a few rain showers while I was there. A visit to the cloud forest is a must if you are staying in Quito, even if you go for one night it's just a couple hour's drive away and you delve into a completely different ecosystem.

Is there anything indispensible to pack or prepare for?

I would strongly recommend layers for Ecuador as I experienced all temperatures and all weathers even though it was the dry season. Zip-off trousers are a perfect solution and always have a fleece and waterproof on hand. Bug spray is a must, although the benefit of the Amazon lodges is they are located on a black water ecosystem which means there are very few mosquitos. If you have binoculars and a torch I would recommend bringing these as most of the lodges charge for these.

Any local snacks, dishes or drinks that should be sampled?

All the Ecuadorian food I had was delicious. A staple is a potato soup (locro) which I had on many occasions and also learnt to make during a cooking class in Quito. In the Amazon they don’t have potatoes but grow casacva or yucca instead which makes this incredible bread. Miske is made from the agave plant and is particularly good in cocktails.

Any restaurant or bar recommendations?

I recommend visiting the House of Agave (Casa Agave) where you will learn about Miske which is made from the agave plant (like tequila and mezcal) and the many other uses for the plant such as clothes, hats and leather. Cardo in Quito was the best food I had in the whole trip. If you want to treat yourself to some delicious food mixing Ecuadorian food with Italian and French (the chef’s parents are Italian and French), it’s the perfect place. I opted for the 7 course tasting menu which was delicious, offering contrasting dishes and perfect portion sizes. They also offer amazing cocktails too, so overall it’s an incredible overall gastronomic experience.

Sum up your trip in a sentence?

An incredible country rich with diverse flora, fauna and friendly people, and somewhere I will return to many times.

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