– Available as 3 or 5-day tours from US $550 –
Tucked within the vast Amazon biome, near the confluence of the Napo and Aguarico rivers, a fragile chain of seven blackwater lagoons are linked by the tannin-rich Cocaya River. Here, quiet lagoons reflect the Igapo (blackwater-flooded) forests so exactly that anyone would be excused for losing sight of where the jungle ends and its mirror-image begins.
Here, at Ecuador’s far eastern frontier with Peru, is where our Yaku Warmi project begins. Yaku Warmi – or ‘Women of the Water’ – is entirely owned by the indigenous community of Martinica. This isolated Quichua community is fully committed to protecting the rainforest and its broad sweep of species – hundreds of which are on view over just a few days.
After years of resolute community effort, 6,000 hectares (14,830 acres) of primary forest are now protected as a nature reserve, which strictly forbids hunting, fishing, logging, agriculture and tourism. Three watchpoints guard against poaching year-round.
Pink Amazon River Dolphins – once considered mythical creatures – benefit today from a Martinica program developed with biologists to bring the dolphins to the Cocaya River and its closely guarded lagoons. Even now, these dolphins are hunted for their meat and especially for their teeth. Regrettably, river dolphin numbers are drastically low and they remain listed as endangered species. But thanks to community engagement and the Yaku Warmi project, several dolphin offspring have been recorded.
In 2011, an added 2,000 ha (4,940 ac) of primary rainforest was protected as a deep-jungle eco-tourism project with the limited purpose of creating income for community members. Here, only the opening of paths and a limited area for cabins is permitted.
An unmistakable draw is the chance to see Amazon river dolphins. But lifetime thrills abound here. Howler monkeys welcome the dawn. Capuchin, Tamarin and Spider monkeys shake tree branches. At dusk, fanciful parrots, macaws and toucans fill the sky overhead before they settle. Diurnal three-toed sloth and giant river otters can also make a visit.
Set on the banks of the blackwater Cocaya River, the lodge is 300 kilometers east of the city of Coca on Ecuador’s border with Peru. Yaku Warmi can only be reached by water. A Respect Travel representative or one of our guides will pick you up early in the morning at the airport, bus terminal or hotel in Coca and bring you to the marine port of the city of Coca. The roughly 4.5-hour journey to Rocafuerte starts from there by speedboat. In Rocafuerte, a representative of Yaku Warmi will meet you with a light lunch, followed by a 1.5-hour motorized canoe trip that continues down the Napo River before turning up the Aguarico River. When we reach the Cocaya River an observation point for river dolphins awaits. At the confluence of the Cocaya and Aguarico rivers we’ll try our luck at spotting these incredible mammals.
Afterward, we’ll continue for about 15 minutes more up the Cocaya River where we’ll be welcomed by the lodge staff.
The lodge has eight simple cabins that each accommodate up to three people. All cabins have a private terrace and a spacious private bathroom with unheated running water. Bedsheets, towels and mosquito nets are provided. Three times a day, the lodge serves simple but delicious hot dishes based on locally grown foods. The riverbank invites you to relax and observe – letting jungle life come to you.
Activities take place either in the mornings and afternoons or as full-day excursions. Activities vary in length and intensity depending on the booked tours (three or five days).
- Guided walks through the jungle that follow in the footsteps of Amazon wildlife – discover mammals, birds, amphibians and countless insects, plants, trees and medicinal florae
- Exploration of the Cocaya River and lagoons in a motorized canoe
- Excursion to the pink Amazon river dolphins
- Excursion to a clay lick where parrots find needed minerals
- Night walks in the jungle
- Nocturnal canoeing to observe black caimans
Included in the package:
- Round-trip transport: Coca – Lodge – Coca
- Accommodation in a cabin with private bathroom
- Three hot meals daily (starting with lunch on the first day; ending with breakfast on the last day)
- Admission to see dolphins from the observation point
- English-speaking nature guide
- Indigenous nature guide
- Rubber boots
Not included in the package:
- Flight ticket to / from Quito (round-trip about US $300) or
- Bus ticket to / from Quito (US $40 return ticket)
- Private expenses
- All applicable payment fees – please note our terms of payment
- Additional, incidental costs
For package prices and non-binding personal offer, please contact us via our online contact form or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note our terms and conditions, as well as payment options. We are delighted to devote our personal attention into preparing a exciting excursion that fits you.
Speedboats leave every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 a.m. from Coca.
If traveling by bus to Coca, a night bus from Quito is recommended. Departure at 23:00 (11 p.m.) from the Quitumbe terminal. Travel time is about 7.5 hours.
Arrival by plane must be the day before and requires a night in Coca (hostels from US $30, standard hotel from US $ 60, double room).
The return journey to Quito can be by plane or bus in the late afternoon of your tour’s last day and does not require staying an extra night in Coca.
Bus or flight tickets, and hotels can be booked through us, based on daily updated prices.
Why Yaku Warmi?
The Yaku Warmi project is an experiment that will appeal to backpackers seeking sustainable eco-tourism in the deep Amazon – authentically. The rainforest and its resident species are actively protected by the 154 families of the indigenous Martinica community. These families live by subsistence farming and restricted fishing. Nevertheless, they’ve voluntarily given up traditional hunting in the belief that a fair income from eco-tourism can replace hunting for their families’ food needs.
For Respect Travel, the Yaku Warmi project goes to the core of our mission. Yes, it offers long-term support to access basic healthcare and education for community members. And it’s a way to introduce international guests to volunteer opportunities, such as teaching English or First Aid to local guides or children. (if interested, we’ll connect you.)
Most of all, when we see an entire community tie its future to protecting nature, then we’ll proudly stand with it. Simply put, the heartfelt commitment of these indigenous men and women is ours as well. Is it yours?
– Available as 3 or 5-day tours from US $550 –