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The indigenous peoples of the Amazon region in Ecuador have long fascinated the rest of the world, as their lives are in some ways very different from many of ours. If you would like to make contact, it’s important to respect the people and their environment, and to remember that not all of the ethnic groups are open for contact with outsiders. However, there are some opportunities to explore and meet the people that live there, and many companies and eco-lodges work hard to create an authentic and respectful experience.
There are numerous volunteer programs with different communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. You can volunteer at an animal sanctuary, doing construction, at schools or doing conservation work. With volunteering programs, you can immerse yourself into the lives of the local people and gain a broader understanding of their lives as well as making a difference to their community. Ecuador Eco Volunteer has many opportunities with different Amazon communities such as the Yasuni, Waorani, Shiwiar and Sachahuasi communities. Mycorenewal project needs people to help with cleaning up oil contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Educators are needed in many areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon. You can work with enthusiastic children and combine play, songs and grammar. Go Abroad offers a unique opportunity for volunteers to teach English in rural areas in the Amazon. You can teach for anything from two to twelve weeks.
Ecotourism is important for many communities. In many cases the local people are fighting against oil companies that are working in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Eco-lodges usually offer activities such as river cruises, dancing, learning how they make different foods and learning about shamanic traditions. Kapawi Amazon Lodge has excellent programmes in which visitors explore the Achuar ecosystem, encounter the pink river dolphin and go out on birding, safari and cultural expeditions.
If you have a scientific background you can join a research project on Amazon diversity; for example, there are projects looking to find out how geology and climate interact to shape biodiversity, and to collect data from different species of wildlife. The Achuar Project is seeking to help Western society understand local needs and the use of natural resources.
Guanguiltagua offers home stays with indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It gives you an incredible opportunity to learn about their medical traditions using local plants, learn how to make chicha (a fermented drink made from yuca) and understand more about their shamanic traditions.
Not everyone has months to spare to explore Ecuador. If you are short of time, there are organised day trips from Baños, Tena, Puyo and Misahualli, which are at the entrance to the Amazon region. The tours usually take you to a local group of people where you can get a quick insight into their lives; they will often perform a traditional dance for you and give you some chicha to drink.