If you are looking for a luxury hotel experience with all mod cons and a sanitised experience, then the Toucanto Jungle Adventure tour is probably not for you. There are a few tour operators out there that will happily provide you with that kind of an experience, unburdening you of significantly higher amounts of your hard-earned cash in the process.
But if you have a taste for adventure, the desire to test your courage (it can be scary) and are looking for an experience that will live in the memory for a lot longer than those chain-hotel holidays, then look no further than the Toucanto Jungle Adventure.
Toucanto have put together a three-day package in the Yasuni National Park that includes transfers to and from Coca airport, three nights in a jungle cabaña and three meals a day prepared for you by your very own indigenous chef. It also includes some incredible tours which I will go into in more detail later.
Our Toucanto Jungle Adventure began on 6th February 2020 and would take us from the culture and sophistication of Quito (Ecuador‘s historic capital), to the very frontier of human civilisation.
As we sat in the unusual setting of a ground-floor departure gate, I was struck by how very few fellow passengers appeared to be accompanying us on our flight. Had we missed something? Had the flight been cancelled, and we had yet to realise? I scanned the electronic information board looking for our flight, and there it was, on time.
I looked out through the plate glass windows at the aircraft beyond, but where our plane should have been, there was a space. Then, in the distance, small at first but drawing closer by the moment, I saw it: a small and decrepit twin-propeller plane, trundling up the pitted tarmac towards us. I felt a twinge of anxiety as I realised that this relic from a bygone era, this functioning hunk of aviation history, was to be our transport to Coca.
The simple fact is that the combination of a short runway at Coca airport and the relatively low numbers of passengers flying to and from the jungle made the economic case for a large modern passenger jet redundant.
Despite the planes advanced years, our 40-minute flight proved uneventful, and we arrived at Coca Airport around 10am. The airport was small and surprisingly modern, and we made the short walk across the tarmac from the plane to the sliding glass doors and were immediately in the baggage collection area.
With no passport checks to go through and no large suitcases to carry, we walked straight through another pair of doors and found ourselves in the car park of the airport. Two men standing near a red pick-up truck approached the only Gringo (me) on the flight, and we were introduced to Mauro, our indigenous guide, wildlife expert and daily companion for the next three days.
We climbed into the pick-up and made the short journey through the bustling, colourful streets of Coca to the harbour, where we clambered over a floating cafe boat onto a long, motorised canoe. There, we waited for around 40 minutes, drinking in the scenery, while the provisions for our adventure were loaded onto the canoe, and the tourist paperwork for Yasuni National Park was completed.
As we sat waiting in that canoe, in the brilliant sunshine of a hot sticky Amazon day, the sheer scale of the jungle began to dawn on me. The riverbank on the far side of the Napo river was almost a quarter of a mile away. As I watched the flow of the brown waters from right to left, I saw whole trees carried past us, on their long journey to some faraway destination.
I thought back to the humble source of this powerful watercourse, high up in the foothills of great Cotopaxi, where a few days ago, we had enjoyed an incredible horse-ride (more of that elsewhere) in the shadow of the volcano. It struck me that the Napo, vast and powerful as it is, is just one of countless tributaries to the greatest river of them all, the mighty Amazon.
With a whistle and a wave, Mauro had returned and with the practised ease of a man as much at home on the water as on dry land, he climbed swiftly and nimbly into the canoe. Our pilot started the engine, and the mooring ropes were untied. The motor’s revs quickened, and the canoe surged away from the dock, turning in a broad arc, leaving Coca – and civilisation – behind.
Our Toucanto Jungle Adventure had begun!
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