The volume and variety of noise was astounding. We had spent an amazing night listening to the sounds of the forest and absorbing our first clear view of the Milky Way, and awoke the next morning before the sun rose in order to be out in our canoe as the Amazon Rainforest woke up. In the heart of the rainforest along the Cuyabeno River in northern Ecuador, the most chaotic jumble of noises can be heard best at dawn or at dusk, when the sun is low in the sky and animals’ activity is high. Our guides paddled the canoe, all the while looking around and listening intently for the clues that we were oblivious to. Having grown up in indigenous communities in the area, our guides were familiar with the patterns of the rainforest and could read the natural signs with ease. They directed our gaze toward toucans, ospreys, kingfishers, capuchin monkeys, and pink freshwater dolphins, and awed us with their knowledge of how the diverse array of creatures interacted with and benefited from one another. When we disembarked from the canoe and began exploring the reserve on foot, I lagged behind for a moment. I closed my eyes, and sunk my boots into the ground. This forest, which smelled and felt in many ways like any forest in the Pacific Northwest, was no ordinary forest: it was the Amazon Rainforest, pure and simple. Surreal, untainted, untouched—one of the many treasures I found in Ecuador.
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