When you think of the Amazon you think of crazy critters that will kill you, a giant snaking river and green jungle as far as the eye can see, right? Well if you’re looking for a base to explore this diverse eco-system look no further then Leticia, Colombia. Here is a list of the things we loved about the Amazonas region accessible from this bustling Colombian town.
Leticia itself isn’t really much to write home about. It’s hot, muggy and full of speedy moto-taxis (think Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk). The best things about Leticia? It has an airport which makes it accessible, there are a lot of accomodation options and there are a multitude of tour companies offering all sorts of different tours of the Amazon. Also, at dusk 1000’s of parrots come back to nest in Santander Park, squawking and making a hell of a racket right in the centre of town. This is fun to experience. We enjoyed staying at Casa Hotel Renzeta both the night we arrived and the night before we flew out which meant we ended up with 12 full days to experience the region. These are the things I would recommend most…
Take a tour: Because Leticia is on the border with Peru and Brazil most tours offer a peek into the three different countries! While in Leticia you can easily visit the tri-border for yourself to enjoy a beer in each country, the frontera towns are all very different and it’s definitely interesting to dip a toe in to see what’s up. We took a tour with a company called Jorge of the Jungle and it took us deep enough into each country that we felt we were able to experience Amazon life, beyond the borders. We actually loved this tour. We hiked through the hot sticky jungle for a day, camped under the nights canopy in hammocks, piraña fished, went hunting for predators at night, spent lots of time navigating the waterways in boats where we saw pink dolphins, held tarantulas… there was so much I have written an entire blog post all about our experience HERE
Stay in Puerto Nariño: This beautiful little town is only about 85kms upstream from Leticia geographically, but is lightyears away when it comes to the feel and attitude of the place. There are no cars or motor vehicles, they recycle, the place is green and quiet and the people are all really relaxed and happy. The only pollution you will find here is the noise pollution of the odd stereo blasting out the “Don.. d don don” beat of reggaeton. From here we actually took a second tour which was only a day, and took us to visit the beautiful Lago Tarapoto to spot more river dolphins. We also visited the Peruvian village located just across the river from Puerto Nariño, where we saw the giant water lilies called “Victoria Amazonica” and met locals who were very at one with nature, even cultivating their own bee hives. Puerto Nariño is a fine example of how it is possible for humans to live in harmony with nature. You will find the local population is a great mixture of the local tribes, Tikuna, Cocoma and Yagua peoples, as well as expats who have arrived but not found the inclination to leave. It’s easy to see why! We stayed at Paraiso Ayahuasca which is owned by a truely eccentric coca chewing madman with a giant heart and a flare for architecture. Highly recommend staying in his treehouse amongst an extensive medicinal garden. Waking up to the sounds of the jungle here was very therapeutic.
Visit Isla de los Micos: It is possible to stop here on your way from Leticia to Puerto Nariño, just make sure you buy your tickets the day before from the dock and be prepared it will cost a bit more to make the stop and then get picked up by the next ferry. When we arrived to the island on the 1st boat of the day we were the only tourists here. It was a bit overwhelming as the place is set up for big groups with lots of staff and a whole tribe of people dressed in traditional clothing ready to sell you their potions, blow guns and crafts. Before you even get past the ticket office you will have cheeky little squirrel monkeys enquiring to see if you have any food for them. When you get to the 1st part of the island the staff come over to you and attract the little guys by whistling and rustling the food bags. Make sure you wear old clothes because we got covered in squished banana and monkey business! The 1st 5 minutes were fun, but after a while I felt a bit bad for the monkeys being trapped on this little island, and looking around the tribes people are more like an exhibit in a zoo themselves. There is nothing authentic about this island. However we did get to take a walk through the jungle and see the monkeys in a more natural environment. It was also interesting to see where the water level rises to during the wet season! It would be quite a different experience to visit then I’m sure.