Standing on the boardwalk feeling the stifling humidity of the Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, I am chatting to a lady who is a guest of a nearby jungle lodge. I ask where she is staying and if she is enjoying the accommodation – which she is and she returns my probing questions. “Anakonda” I reply. “Oh. Is that that THE boat? I think we passed it, it looks very nice.” “Yes” I say hoping she doesn’t press me further. Then she leans in towards me so no one hears and whispers “Tell me one thing. Do you have A/C?” “Yes, we do” I whisper back. She rolls her eyes a little and mops her brow again. “It’s just so hot” she breathes. I refrain from mentioning the outdoor Jacuzzi.
We step off the plane at Coca and we all exhale sharply. “Welcome to the heat” our guide says with a wry smile. The temperature in the Amazon averages at about 25 degrees and 80% humidity. We all start fanning ourselves as we wait in baggage claim which consists of no more than a bench where our bags are casually dumped for our collection. We take a short bus ride to the dock and observe the impact of the oil exploration on this town; a subject that continues to dominate over the next few days. Once a village with just 275 inhabitants some 50,000 resides today. We board a motorised canoe and head downstream as dusk starts to fall. I’m taken aback by the sheer scale of the oil production along the banks of the Napo River since I last visited this region. As we make our way downstream we see a flame from a small refinery leaping high into the night sky while passenger boats and barges carrying large tankers are racing back and forth.
About an hour and a half later we have left the busy river behind and enter calmer waters as we approach our accommodation for the next three nights. The tethered Anakonda boat is a welcoming glow on the dark river.
Sleek and modern the Anakonda is impressive. Three decks high and 45 metres long she is dynamic and elegant. The Anakonda is only the third tourism boat in Ecuadorian Amazon, but the first of her kind. We are shown to our cabins. Immaculately presented my spacious double bed looks out to the river through sliding panoramic windows. My en suite bathroom is glistening and my power shower stands proudly in the corner.
We spend the next few days navigating further downstream disembarking for expeditions into the rainforest by day and night. We visit local communities. Many women of local ethnic groups have started their own projects involving tourism in order to protect their tribal land from the ever enquiring government officials and oil companies. We see caiman, a plethora of birds and a troop of spider monkeys- even a pigmy marmoset and the endangered Scarlett macaws. We watch the sunset from the top of a canopy tower with breathtaking views to Sumaco volcano in the distance. We paddle slowly through narrow waterways by moonlight listening to a symphony of frogs. We get muddy traipsing through the forest at night in search of nocturnal delights as fireflies dart across our path, but at the end of every day, we come back to a hot shower and close the door on the jungle and everything in it.