Until a recent trip to South America, the word ‘Amazon’ conjured images of lush rainforests, hot and humid climates, and the allusive Anaconda. What I did not expect was to experience the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever encountered. A great way to experience this phenomenon is on a canoe trip through the Cuyabeno River, which flows into Ecuador’s Amazon Basin. The expansive sky slowly transcends from bright blue into richer colours of yellow, orange and pink creating an awe-inspiring backdrop for the chirping birds, chattering monkeys and lurking Caimon.

Canoeing on Ecuador's Amazon Basin

The Cuyabeno River is situated in North East Ecuador. If you’re a budget traveller, like myself, you can take an eight hour bus ride (which I call the death ride but that is another story!) from Quito to the town of Lago Agrio. For the safest and quickest trip to Lago Agrio, I recommend a first class overnight bus with the Trans Esmeraldas bus company. Be sure to book seats 1 and 2 for the most leg room. For those who are time restricted or are not keen on a long bus ride, you can also fly from Quito to Lago Agrio. The flight is so short that the flight attendants barely have time to serve you a snack between takeoff and landing. Upon landing, meet your tour operator in Lago Agrio and catch the one hour bus ride to the entrance of the Cuyabeno River where your canoe will be waiting.

Ecuador's Amazon Basin Sunset

As soon as I hopped into the canoe, exhilaration and excitement came over me. At any moment I could make eye contact with an anaconda, watch a Toucan fly overhead, pass turtles basking in the sun, or watch the pink river dolphins playing. Simply meandering through the river made me feel I was in a prehistoric world. The river wraps around dense jungle and you never know what is waiting for you around the corner.

Sunset at Ecuador's Amazon Basin

The canoe ride to our accommodations at Samona Lodge took two hours. The lodge was the base for our daily activities and the home for our five day stay. The lodge gives an experience of being part of the jungle – all rooms were open air so we could hear the critters of the night and occasionally a visit from one – On our first night we were surprised a bat which was eating something. It really looked like something from a horror movie, and even my husband was slightly scared. And a trip to the bathroom during the night was met with frog who was sitting on a ledge above the toilet. It is a mental comfort to have a mosquito net covering the entire bed so you don’t end up waking up to these little creatures. The lodge also had two resident tarantulas who linger out at the dining areas that seemingly enjoy the attention of humans.

Ecuador's Amazon Basin Sunset

The daily routine consists of breakfast, a morning canoe ride, lunch, an afternoon canoe ride, dinner then a night walk. Every day we explored a different part of the river, in the search for wildlife and to feel the energy and life in the Amazon. What I loved most about my experience was the unknown of it all. You are not visiting a zoo, you are visiting a jungle and what encounters you will have with the wildlife is completely unpredictable.

A stunning sunset at Ecuador's Amazon Basin

While many authentic wilderness excursions can be a challenge to organize, our visit to the Cuyabeno River was easy to arrange. There are a number of tour operators in Quito who can book the tour depending on what type of adventure you are seeking and there are plenty of options from budget to luxury. I booked through Luis Tipan Travel. I met Luis on my first trip to Ecuador ten years ago and randomly came across him again on this trip when seeking out tour operators for our jungle trip. He is extremely professional, offers great prices and speaks English if you don’t speak Spanish.

We did this trip in late September. The weather was hot and humid and it generally rained in the afternoon or night. We were caught in the rain a couple of times when we were out in the canoe but it was part of the experience of being in the Amazon. You are provided with rubber boots and ponchos, which definitely helps keep you dry. When I think back to my Amazon adventure, I realize how blessed I am to visit such a diverse and picturesque part of the world. Would I go back? Absolutely!