As the boat’s engines start, Victor stands in front in his spotless Sani Lodge shirt. How is he not sweating in this humidity? He gives us an introduction to the journey, explains safety precautions, and informs us that we will be having water, juice and a snack once we are up the river.

The crew then breaks out a supply of large, blue waterproof ponchos with hoods. They look brand new, and are emblazoned with the Sani Lodge logo on the back. As José hands one to each passenger, he says “este es tu amigo” – this is your friend. At least I think that’s what he’s saying. But why would a poncho be my friend?

I feel guilty, because I’ve taken a seat close to the front of the boat. I worry that others may not have as a good as view. But, as I look around, I realize everyone has a stunning view of the river bank on both sides. The canopy gives us protection, but doesn’t obscure.

And we’re off! We start up the river, and slide under a modern suspension bridge. Very soon, we have left the noise of El Coca behind us. The banks of the river are a riot of brilliant greens, with varied trees rising up to dizzying heights. The canoe engine is so quiet, I can hear birds. The river is wide and we are far from the banks, but their various calls carry easily over the water.

There is a hush on the boat. I think everyone, like me, is taken by the beauty of the scene, which has come so quickly after leaving the bustling city streets of El Coca. There is absolutely nothing on the river bank but beautiful, quiet nature, for miles and miles. We pass an occasional fishing boat, but other than that, the 22 passengers and 3 crew members on this boat are alone on the river.

I look at Victor, and he smiles at me. He is bursting with pride for this place. This river. He and all the crew have an easy peace about themselves. They communicate instructions to each other, not with words, but with eye contact, small, quiet gestures. I can tell they’ve worked together for a long time. There is a congeniality and a deep respect among them. I feel safe on this boat.


As part of our continuing work with the indigenous Amazonian community of Sani Isla in Ecuador, Deborah Tompkins is sharing a travelogue of her experiences as an American in the Amazon. Deb’s company, Sage Point, works with NGOs in Africa, Asia and now Latin America to develop and execute marketing and communication strategies. She is donating her time and expertise to support RP and the Sani Warmi community. We invite you to join Deb as she introduces you to the people, the community, their Amazon ecolodge, and their forest home.

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