Imagine flying over the Amazon rainforest, with no evidence of the existence of humans for many miles. The endless green treetops mask the jungle below, making it impenetrable. The further from the city the plane goes, the quieter it gets and the calmer you feel, despite the drone of the plane’s engine. The hills and valleys and contours of the rainforest are like a glimpse of a heaving sea frozen in time. The clouds part to reveal a small valley and a winding river, and the runway slowly comes into focus, impossible in the dense rainforest. The plane banks and begins its descent. With a rumble and bounce, the plane lands on the grassy runway and the engine shuts off. For an instant, all is silent. You step out of the plane and feel the warm, humid air envelope you as you squint your eyes, and you feel the jungle’s embrace. Or was it the gracious welcome of the Sapara people?
Welcome to Naku.
Naku is a community project formed by several communities of the Sapara people in the South-Central Amazon in Ecuador. A people on the verge of extinction due to dwindling numbers and the threat of oil drilling, they created Naku to share their knowledge with the outside world so that their wisdom would live on and they could improve the lives of everyone in their community.
The Sapara people invite all who are interested to come visit their community, learn about their ancient ways, and deepen your own connection to yourself while reconnecting to nature in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
A typical trip to Sapara territory consists of 4 nights/5 days in the community where you’ll get to go on hikes through the jungle, learn about native plants, participate in a cleansing ritual and tobacco ceremony, learn about the dream world and have your dreams interpreted, and make new friends!
- Transport from Quito to Shell (and back)
- Air transport into the community
- Lodging in the community
- Guides (Sapara and professional who can translate)
- Healing ceremony and cleansing with medicinal plants
- Not Included: Shamanic ceremony ($50/person)
Day 1: Our journey begins in Quito where we’ll leave early in the morning to Shell. We will begin by driving south through the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” where we’ll see some of Ecuador’s impressive and majestic volcanoes on either side of us. Then we’ll start to descend in altitude and stop for breakfast in the beautiful and friendly town of Baños. From there we continue to drop in altitude as we approach the Amazon. Along the way we’ll see many waterfalls and see the environment begin to transform into jungle. Then we will arrive in Shell and take a small plane into the jungle. The flight is about 30 minutes. Once we arrive, the Sapara community of Llanchamacocha will welcome us and invite us to participate in a cleansing ceremony with tobacco. They will prepare our body and spirit by cleansing us of any negative energies and thoughts we bring from the outside world. Next they will give us each Sapara names and paint our faces with the seeds of the achiote (annatto) plant. We will take a short canoe ride downriver and arrive at the camp where we’ll be stay for the next few days and relax and settle in before dinner.
Day 2: Our second day begins early at around 7 am. Before breakfast we will have another cleansing, this time with the ash from the chonta palm and tobacco. This is to further cleanse our bodies and minds to allow us to better connect with the rainforest and ourselves. Then we’ll be bathed in water boiled with medicinal plants. After washing off, we will have breakfast and then talk about dreams.
Dreams are very important to the Sapara people. They believe that when we sleep our spirit leaves our body and explores the spirit world, bringing us back information and sometimes warning us of danger. Our local guide will explain this further and interpret our dreams. Not only is this important for us individually, but also will help guide the group.
After the dream interpretation we will prepare our things and travel by canoe downriver several hours until we arrive in the primary forest. There we will camp on a beach and spend the night. (Depending on the weather and the interest of the group we could also stay at camp.)
Day 3: We will wake up deep in the jungle, to the songs of the birds and surrounded by beautiful rainforest. After breakfast we will do a shorter dream sharing to help orient our day. Those who are interested can go on a several-hour hike through the jungle to get back to camp. Along the way our guides will teach us about medicinal plants, share some Sapara stories, and we will stop to meditate in the forest with tobacco.
Those who wish to can ride back to camp in the canoe.
Once we are back at camp we can swim in the river and cool off. In the evening we will have a shamanic ceremony, so whoever wants to participate must fast the rest of the day. For those not participating we will have lunch and dinner. The rest of the afternoon will be for relaxing and reflecting.
Day 4: After breakfast we will share our dreams and experiences from the ceremony the night before. Our guide will help interpret our experiences. This day is mostly about relaxing and reflecting on our experiences so far. After lunch we will go up to the community for a cultural exchange, where the community will present some traditional dances and games and we will share something from our culture as well. Then we will have the opportunity to purchase crafts made by the community. Then we will head back to camp for dinner and to enjoy our last night in the rainforest.
Day 5: In the morning we will have breakfast, pack up our things and say our goodbyes. Depending on the weather, the plane will arrive around 10 am to take us back to Shell.
Once back in Shell we will either head to Puyo or Baños for our last night together before heading back to Quito.