Sacred Waterfalls Rafting Tour
For experienced rafters who enjoy the rush of white water, this trip takes you down the best multi-day class IV river in Ecuador.
DAY 1: TRANSFER FROM QUITO TO MACAS
Our adventure begins with a scenic jungle drive from Quito to Macas, a small town in the southern Amazon. Macas is located in the territory of the Shuar indigenous community, famous for their fierce resistance to colonizers and their ritual of head shrinking. We spend the afternoon strolling through town and exploring on our own. In the evening, we enjoy a welcome dinner and a short trip briefing to prepare us for our epic rafting journey that begins tomorrow. We spend the night at a quality riverside hotel in Macas. (D)
DAY 2: RAFTING THE UPPER UPANO AND SHUAR INDIGENOUS ENCOUNTERS
After breakfast, we drive to our put-in site on the Upano River and begin our whitewater rafting journey. When we first meet the Upano, she is a wide river alternating between verdant valleys and steep boulder passages, with mostly class III rapids and a sprinkling of class IV rapids that get our heartbeats racing. Not to be underestimated, slightly further downstream the Upano morphs into a narrow but powerful channel of water when it cuts through the Namangosa Gorge. On this first day of rafting, we will get used to paddling as a team, while we take the time to appreciate the stunning rainforest ecology around us. This is a truly unique rafting and camping expedition through picturesque and untouched areas of the Amazonian jungle. We are guaranteed to see a variety of birdlife, which often includes numerous species of parrots and birds of prey, and we may see more than a dozen varieties of butterflies. This section of the Amazon is pristine primary forest, with thatched-roof hut settlements of the Shuar indigenous peoples dotted here and there along the riverbanks. The Shuar can often be seen washing clothes or fishing along the shores of the upper Upano. They are famously (or infamously) known as the "shrinking heads" peoples of the Amazon. When we make camp for the night on the riverbanks of the Upano near Sucua, we will visit a Shuar community nearby. They will likely talk to us about the ancient practice of head-shrinking and how and why it was done: the Shuar believed that shrinking the heads of enemies killed in battle was a way of preventing their victim's spirits from seeking vengeance, and gave the warrior who possessed the shrunken head greater powers. After our cultural exchange with the Shuar, we enjoy dinner at our campsite and a peaceful night's sleep along the riverbanks. (B, L, D)
DAYS 3 & 4: RAFTING THE UPANO RIVER IN NAMANGOSA CANYON GORGE
On the morning of day 3, after crossing under the Patuca Bridge and entering the stunning Namangosa Canyon Gorge, the Upano River changes her mood and becomes a very fast-moving body of water that propels our raft forward through class IV-IV+ rapid after rapid. The riverbanks grow into towering canyon walls lush with vegetation, and water is channeled into a narrow, boulder-choked gorge. The Shuar call this the "Gorge of Sacred Waterfalls," and we should be sure to ask them about the mythology surrounding the river canyon during our community visit. Stunning views of white waterfalls are the only thing that interrupts the green of the canyon walls. Combined with sightings of tropical birds and colorful butterflies, we are left breathless by the natural beauty of the canyon, as well as the thrill of the fast-moving white water. The river's volume increases as we move downstream, while the deep gorge creates fantastic hydraulics that we and our raft take advantage of with the help of our experienced rafting guide. The end of day three finds us camping at a site known as Mina, with another full day of exhilarating rafting ahead of us. On day four, hiking trails and hidden caves give us spaces to stop and seek wildlife along the riverbanks. We can swim in the numerous tributary streams that feed into the Upano, offering different temperatures and volumes of water. The afternoon of day four, we reach our take-out site, where our vehicle is waiting for us to drive back through the countryside. We reach Macas in the evening and spend the fourth night of our journey here. (B, L, D both days)
DAY 5: TRANSFER FROM MACAS TO QUITO
After breakfast, we have a chance to explore the town of Macas during the morning before transfering back to Quito. (B)
2021 price per person in US$: $1959 for 2 people, $1527 for 3, $1257 for 4, $1149 for 5-9. Single Supp. = $253
Can start on any day during Nov.-March
INCLUDED: Private ground transportation (with driver); all camping gear, including sleeping bags, kitchen, social and bathroom tents; all meals as described; all rafting and safety equipment; overnight jungle lodge accommodations; and professional certified bilingual rafting and nature guide(s).
NOT INCLUDED: optional flight Quito-Macas-Quito; hotel and restaurant beverages, tips, or gratuities; and guide tips.
Level: Challenging (Class IV to IV+)
Activities: Whitewater Rafting, Indigenous Encounters, Hiking, Bird Watching
Accommodations: Camping and Jungle Lodges
TRAVEL TIME: 40 minute flight each way, Quito-Macas-Quito
RAFTING TIME: 5-7 hours daily, depending on water level
SEASON: November to March
ALTITUDE: 1,600 to 7,500 feet (500 to 2,300 meters)
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE - AMAZON: DAY 68-95ºF / 20-35ºC, NIGHT 64-71ºF / 18-22ºC
Guides are WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certified. We use a complete first aid kid, including an anti-snakebite suction cup. We use GPS equipment for exact positioning, as well as a satellite phone for emergency communications. Our contingency plan includes a helicopter emergency evacuation service (cost is additional, but could be reimbursed by your travelers' or health insurance).
**PLEASE NOTE** This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions and river water levels. Security is always our main concern. Due to fast flooding during rains or other sudden changes in water levels, we are always prepared to change or cancel our river itinerary. Possible alternative itineraries include: 2 days of rafting on the Quijos River; 1 day of rafting on the Cosanga River; and/or 1 day of rafting on the Misahuallí River.
"As you know, the schedule changed the day we departed, and it was very slightly disappointing to get one less day's rafting, but we saw at first hand how conditions can change rapidly in Ecuador to cause such things. But everything went to plan and we had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the rafting and all the other places we saw. Accommodation/food was all good quality and Felipe, our guide, and Frank, our driver, were excellent. Thank you for your organisation, which was like clockwork, as on the previous trip to Manaus in 2017. Will have to think of our next adventure now! With best wishes" Richard
About the food
The majority of the food is brought in from Quito, including drinking water. During the trip, we offer gourmet and local foods freshly cooked by our staff. Breakfast includes granola, fresh fruit, whole wheat bread, fresh coffee or tea, cereal, marmalade, pancakes or French toast, yogurt, and eggs of your choice. Box & picnic lunches include a variety of sandwiches, fruits, cheeses, dried fruits, juices, and fresh vegetables. Dinner includes fresh soups, pastas, local dishes, rice, beans, plantains, yucca, meats, fish, mashed potatoes, fresh salads and vegetables, complemented with wine, water, and/or juice.
About this Tour
They use a style that they call “deluxe camping.” The goal is to provide the highest levels of comfort and service possible, while enjoying the remoteness and connection with nature that only camping can provide. They provide roomy tents, comfortable bedding, social tents with chairs and tables, a portable toilet, and a full kitchen which the guides and staff use to prepare delicious and fresh meals. Campsites may vary, based on weather conditions. We recycle and transport out all non-organic garbage. Although we attempt to stick to the itinerary, changes may occur due to weather and river conditions, health, or other variables. Alternate river runs are available and may be substituted for those on the itinerary due to river water levels. Being flexible will allow you to get the most from your experience.
"The connections and travel arrangements for flights, hotels and tours were perfect! The absolute highlight of our trip was Rio Upano and las Cascadas Segradas.... wow!! The tour guide Alfredo (and his assistants Arturo and Tomas and kayak guide Manuel) were all spectacularly exactly what we had wished for. The river and falls are breath-taking and the guides were fun loving, cooperative, helpful, unobtrusive, informative and just plain fun to be around. We laughed until it hurt!" James