March 7, 2015, Shiripuno Lodge, Ecuador — Today begins my last four days in the Amazon this year, which will include a trip to Shiripuno Lodge in eastern Ecuador. For this leg I am tagging along with an official group organized by Rockjumper Birding Tours (a tour leader from Montana named Forrest Rowland and five other birders from Australia, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.), which will help a lot with the complicated logistics in this area.
I met the group last night at a hotel in Quito, and the seven of us spent today making our way into the jungle. Shiripuno is quite remote, so it took all day to reach from Quito via plane, 4x4 taxi, and motorized open canoe. We arrived well after dark, with a nearly full moon rising over the rainforest.
Shiripuno is located within a giant block of forest in eastern Ecuador called Yasuni National Park, along the Shiripuno River. Approaching the park, we couldn’t help noticing the physical signs of oil extraction, which is the dominant industry in this area. Large oil reserves were first explored in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1940s, and a big oil boom followed in the 70s. On our way here today we passed through a jungle of pipelines, derricks, and flaming chimneys with hard hatted workers everywhere.
Oil extraction has mostly been kept out of the park itself, though a recent decision to drill in a section called Block 31 was a setback for conservationists. As our canoe floated down the Shiripuno River for several hours, we left all signs of industry and civilization behind and entered pristine rainforest. Shiripuno is far enough inside the park that it’s beyond the reach even of hunters and illegal loggers, and the forest here is about as untouched as it gets.
New birds today: 3
Year list: 1510