Sean and I have quite different travel styles, so we split up the trip into two parts: mine and his. My week was the adventurous activities portion consisting of mountain biking down the live volcano of Cotopaxi and repelling down waterfalls in Banos. His vacation would be a week with indigenous groups running around the rain forest and far, far away from civilization. In summation, we both enjoy adventures, but I prefer to stay clean while he prefers to be one with nature - I think we were both good sports!
A Fulbright friend had connected us to Otobo's Amazon Safari, a family-run well...tour agency. I'm not so sure you can all it an agency as it's just Otobo, who serves as your guide, and then his family members who spend the week with you. Tom and Mariela are the individuals that connect you to Otobo (i.e. they are literate and have internet access) and own a travel lodge in Mindo, Ecuador unrelated to Otobo's tour. Considering that you take a small private plane deep, really deep, into the Amazon, this tour is as local and truly cultural as you can get!
Have you ever seen untouched natural beauty? A tropical rainforest elevated 400 meters above sea level, Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is considered one, if not the, most biodiverse places in the world. For perspective, the core of Ecuador's rain forest contains more tree species (600+) in one hectare than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined. However, Yasuni National Park is also located on the largest reserve of heavy oil in the country. As of August 15th, President Correa has abandoned his initiative to preserve the park and approved oil drilling in the area.
Sean and I were lucky enough to spend time running around the lush green forest spotting monkeys, touching anacondas, riding canoes to find caimen and pink dolphins, and so much more; it was an utter disappointment to hear this news. The international community can show support to conserve Yasuni National Park by signing here.
The Huaorani are a deep forest, indigenous group that have lived in the lowland of the rain forest for at least the last 6,000 years. Otobo and his family are Huaorani and welcomed us with the finest hospitality. It was incredible to run with Otobo during hikes - he would have us stop, and while we'd hear silence, he'd hear the footsteps of peccaries and we'd chase after him leading us to get quick glimpses. It was incredible seeing how the Huaorani's lives truly consisted of nature's resources: hammocks and jewelry made from vegetation, weapons made from bark, etc.
With the Huaorani, we went fishing, shot blow guns, camped on beaches, painted ourselves traditionally, and laughed a lot despite our separate cultures and languages. I can only hope for the best for the future of Otobo, his family, the Huaorani, Yasuni, and Ecuador.