Rough Guide’s 10 Best Jungle Lodges In The Amazon

I stumbled on this list while researching a trip for next year.

Rough Guide’s 10 Best Jungle Lodges In The Amazon

So far, I have only been to 2 of them – Cristalino & Refugio Amazonas.  I am surprised Tambopata Research Centre didn’t make the list.

Refugio Amazonas Room

Refugio Amazonas Room

Hopefully, next year I will be adding one more to my list of Amazon jungle lodges – in Ecuador!  The contenders are:

Napo Wildlife Centre

La Selva

Sani Lodge

I will be targeting a visit to the two major parrot clay licks in Ecuador which is located near all 3 of these.  Since I can’t use points for the stay, money will definitely be a consideration.  I’m still in the beginning research stage so if anyone has stayed at any of these lodges I would love to know about it!


Wildlife Tourism: A Handbook For Guides, Tour Operators, Job-seekers And Business Start-ups

This is a guide for tour operators, eco-lodge managers, wildlife park staff, students and others interested in a career in wildlife tourism or in adding a wildlife component to their tourism businesses. The emphasis and most examples are Australian, but the principles are relevant to all countries. The book is packed with information on skill-sets of tour guides,learning about wildlife, finding and observing wildlife, interpreting wildlife, interacting with tourists and colleagues, conservation issues and some of the financial and legal aspects of setting up your own business. Many references to other books, articles and websites are included.


Ophidiophobic? Don’t Let That Stop You From Eco-tourism

If you are Ophidiophobic, you have an intense fear of snakes that goes beyond fearing the reaction to their bite and poison.  You probably can’t stand the sight of them, not even on tv or in a zoo.  If you see one unexpectedly, you may scream and/or run away even if the snake is in the firm control of an experienced handler.  If one comes on tv, you may change the channel or leave the room until the segment with the snake is over.

You’d be in good company, Indiana Jones is ophidiophobic…………………..and so am I.  So are a whole lot of people as ophidiophobia is one of the world’s top ten phobias!

The good news is you don’t have to let that fear prevent you from enjoying birding and eco-tourism travel.  There are ways to avoid them in the bush and rainforest.

1.  Take a local guide.  They know the area, know where snakes are commonly found and can avoid these areas if you ask them to.  Snakes in a rainforest are difficult to see but the guides will have better eyesight than you do.  I always ask my guide to steer us away from any snake he sees and to not draw my attention to it as I would rather not see it.  This tip alone has spared me from even seeing snakes on 95% of my birding trips.

2.  Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them.  If I had a dime for every time I read that, I could buy my own rainforest!  And I have yet to hear about a snake that can read!  But it’s true, snakes want nothing to do with humans and if they know you are coming, they will get out of the way.  As long as your guide is walking in front, they will sense his approach through vibrations and be gone by the time you get there.  If you are walking alone, which I don’t advise; then walk heavily to make sure any nearby snakes can sense your presence.

3.  Avoid situations where you could surprise a sleeping snake. Watch where you step.  If you need to sit on a log to rest, ask your guide to inspect the log first.  Don’t touch or climb tree branches.

4.  Don’t walk through primary rainforest.  Stick to well-trodden trails and avoid grasses and bush where snakes could hide.

5.  Wear protective boots and long pants.  They won’t help your ophidiophobia but at least you can hopefully avoid being bitten.

6.  Look down!  Birders are always looking up-where the birds are.  Don’t forget to look down and at the road ahead frequently so you are not surprised by a snake.

7.  Look up!  Some snakes do live in trees (unfortunately for birds).  Don’t rest under a tree.

8.  If you do see one, stay away from it!  I probably don’t have to tell ophidiophobics twice about this one, so tell your friends who are traveling with you as some people do like snakes or at least don’t fear them.

Notice how there are no pictures in this post?  Mark of a true ophidiophobic!

Costa Rican Bird Route

The Costa Rican Bird Route is the first birding trail of its kind in Central America. Located in the northern region of Costa Rica, this ecotourism project offers a variety of bird watching and nature tourism opportunities. The Bird Route consists of 18 nature reserves specifically chosen for their high diversity of bird species. Most importantly, this region hosts the last remaining habitat in Costa Rica for the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus). The Costa Rican Bird Route offers the best opportunity to view this species on the planet!  Use your miles for a Central American award to get here!

On our trip, we visited two of the lodges on the Bird Route:  Selva Verde & Laguna del Lagarto.



1. Visit the Bird Route The success of this project is dependent on sustained tourism to the sites involved, so come explore all that the Bird Route has to offer.

2. Make a Donation. Make a tax-deductible donation to the Costa Rican Bird Route project using the secure Paypal button here. Donations are used to support the efforts of the private landowners. This includes assistance with producing brochures, maintaining websites, creating signs, etc. Money will also be used for continuous education efforts within the communities of the Bird Route. Rainforest Biodiversity Group is looking to implement bird education curriculum within these communities as well as fund future workshops for the landowners.

3. Volunteer. Rainforest Biodiversity Group is looking for volunteers to work with the private landowners of the remote sites of the Bird Route, assisting them in developing their land for eco-tourism. These newly created reserves are at varying stages of development as eco-tourism sites.


Why You Should Support Eco-Tourism

I know a lot of people think I am nuts for spending lots of frequent flier miles and money to get to exotic places where I can see wild birds in their natural habitat.  For many, they think it is enough to simply watch nature documentaries on the Discovery Channel.  But when you actually travel to these places and see wildlife in person you are part of a world-wide effort to show native populations that wildlife belongs in the wild and not in traps and cages.  Have a look at this video (found in this article)  to see what fate awaits many endangered species if we don’t do something to stop the evil practice of trapping and poaching.

Pretty confronting and sickening, right?  But this is the reality for thousands of innocent birds who are cruelly stolen from their forest homes and nests.  Some species such as the Spix’s Macaw are already extinct in the wild and only still on the planet due to conservation efforts.  Let’s not lose any more species!

This is where we, as eco-travelers can help.  We can show the local people that wild birds are more valuable left alone in nature because WE will come there to see them.  And we will stay in local lodges, eat in local restaurants, buy local crafts, hire local guides and provide lots of jobs.  I have personally met several guides who started out as poachers and were retrained to be forest wardens, protect the local native species and guide tourists on photo safaris.  So let’s support these people when we travel.  Yes, we do use miles to get there and hotel points in the gateway cities near the airports but this should allow more people to afford eco-tourism and leave us more money to spend out in the field supporting the local economy and giving these people a chance to make an honest living while preserving their wildlife!

Ecotourism Through The Ages

Ecotourism is an extremely rewarding experience for people of all ages.  Given the diversity of places you can go and the range of adventures from very soft “Birding from a cruise ship” to the most challenging treks through dense jungles; how do you decide which type of adventure is right for you?  Let’s take a look at various age groups and see what they have going for them and what challenges they face.  Don’t take the age groups TOO seriously, these are generalizations and not meant to be strict guidelines but simply food for thought!

Travel expenditure by age group



These people are young, (hopefully) healthy and have more freedom.  They are at the beginning of their careers, have probably not settled down yet to marriage, kids and a mortgage.  They can save their discretionary cash for travel but since they are just starting out jobwise, won’t be raking in the big bucks yet.  Of course there are exceptions with young adults who go straight into high-powered careers and do have more money to spend.  People in this age group will have no problem with more physically challenging treks, are usually happy to don a backpack, fly economy and stay in hostels or budget hotels.  They lack experience in travel and dealing with other cultures but will learn quickly if they are open-minded.  They are most likely to seek out a social life and want to spend the evening partying and still be able to wake at dawn for birding.  They also are likely to meet other like-minded travelers at hostels and form impromptu groups for safaris or trekking.

Suggestions:  Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, India