Walks and Canoe rides at Napo Cultural Center Ecuador

a monkey peers through the canopy

There are many activities at the Napo Cultural Center.   This article is about the things we saw while hiking and canoeing through the tributaries.

To read the article about the Clay Licks and Tree Top Tower, you can go here: Lisamroberti.com/amazon-clay-licks

I was graced with one magical sunrise.   The first day there, it was overcast and the last day we paddled out before the sunrise in the dark - more on that later.

The only way to get to the Napo Cultural Center is via canoe...so we spent a lot of time in the canoes.   The naturalist and one other person paddled the canoes and we sat 2 side by side.   

The amount of plant life was spell bounding and the canoeing was very peaceful.

Here are some videos and images from the canoe and from the hikes around the water and lodge.

a monkey walking in the tree tops
2 blue and white birds sit on a branch
long nose bats on tree
long nose bats on a white tree
Caiman's eyes
poison dart frog

To see more images from the Amazon and the Napo Cultural Center, go to my photo galleries at


Night Walks at Napo Cultural Center – Ecuadorian Amazon

a gray moth type creature

When the opportunity for a night walk came up, I wasn't too sure.  I am not a fan of insects - especially spiders.

All my little girl nightmares whirled around in my head about giant insects.

But, I've never missed an outing in the wild, so I put on my "big girl panties" and headed off with the group.

I was so surprised how much I really loved it and as other people left to go to bed, I stayed until the end.

Aaron Baggenstos, the trip leader from Aarons Tours (a company I travel with often), had brought macro kits with him.   So, I was able to borrow a trigger unit and he held the flash unit on the animal.

This was really my first time shooting macro, so the photographs aren't stellar - but they will give you an idea of the little critters that roam the jungle at night.

I have to admit there was one - that was so very creepy looking, I just couldn't take its picture - it looked like a giant spider and scorpion mated...just thinking about it gives me the willies.

We went out on two different nights for macro.   The last night we didn't stay too long as we had to pack and had a very early departure the following morning.

brown bug with antenna on a leaf
black scorpion

This scorpion was very small.. you can see by the size of the leaf - but I still would NOT want to get stung by him.

red dragon fly
some kind of creature with tons of legs - looks blue
big spider with dark black and brown
close up of the spider

This spider was quite big - bigger than my hand.  It's the same spider, the second picture is just cropped in so you can see some detail on it's body and face.

some type of cricket
smiley face spider.  a clear spider with black markings that look like a smiley face
close up of the body of the smiley face spider

A spider with a translucent body and then a smiley face on it's back.   This was a very small spider.  We couldn't see the smiley face with the naked eye, we saw it when zooming into the camera to see if the image was sharp.

a small frog on a leaf
a gray moth type creature
green cricket type insect
black scorpion
green lizard
tiny orange and black frog on a hand
orange and black frog on a leaf

Amazon Clay Licks and Tree Top at Napo Cultural Center Ecuador

parakeets at the clay lick

One of the activities at the Napo Cultural Center is visiting the Clay licks and another is the Tree Top Tower.   On my trip, we visited two of the clay licks and the Tree Top Tower on the same day.  

The day started early with a 5:00 am breakfast.   We got on the rowed canoes with the rubber boots that we had been fitted with the night before and they rowed us in the dark back to the welcome center - where we stopped the day before.

It was unsettling to be in the canoe, very low to the water in the dark.   It was a very overcast day, so no sunrise.

At the welcome center, we boarded a power canoe and canoed back to the main river to get to the clay lick.

We stayed pretty far back on the river so as to not disturb the birds.  They hadn't made their way down onto the soil yet.    

the clay lick area from across the river

There were a lot of birds flying around and resting in the trees.   We couldn't see them very well, but we could hear them.

3 birds on the clay lick
2 parakeets in the trees

There was another bird hunting the parakeets and the parakeets didn't stay long.   As we boated back to the welcome center, we saw a Howler monkey and her baby up in the tree and 2 red titi monkeys.

howler monkey high in the tree holding her baby
2 red titi monkeys

We then went to the tree top tower.   It was a decent walk thru some mud to get to the tower.   

Not only am I afraid of spiders, I am super scared of heights...I don't even like to get on a glass elevator or a Ferris wheel.  

It was a little scary as the whole tower moved quite a bit.   We went to the first landing and it was a really nice view point that was still in the trees and then went up to the upper landing which was above all the trees.    It shook a lot more up there and I didn't stay too long before going back to the first landing.

looking down from the first landing -  you can see some of the tree tops and part of the stairs

Looking down from the first landing area

the stair case down from the first landing area

The following images were taken from the very top:

Panorama from the very top
View from the top looking towards the river...so many tree tops
me being brave at the very top
looking down at the first platform from the top
leaning over looking straight down from the top

Being above the trees offered such a different perspective.   We were, unfortunately, not rewarded with lots of birds as we hoped but still an experience.

We had a little snack up in the tower and as we walked back out we stopped to take a few images.

The tree trunk below was at the bottom of the stairs and a 6' tall person is a midget standing inside .

beautiful red and orange flower
a huge tree trunk
the walkway getting back from the tower
a butterfly getting some nectar

We than went to the other clay lick.  This one was very different from the first.    They had a covered seated stadium area in front of the clay lick.   I didn't take any pictures of it or the seats.   We got there early so we were the first group.   We had to sit and be quiet to not scare the birds and since we were photographers, we wanted a clear view.   

The birds have a lot of natural predators so they are timid to come down to the clay lick to get their needed minerals.    

Again, we could hear the birds and see a few.  So we sat quietly waiting for nature to do its thing.

cobalt winged parakeet on a branch

Another group came in and sat behind us.   They stayed a short while and then left.

After about 2 hours of waiting in silence, the parakeet show happened.   

They stayed there for about 10-12 minutes with many of the parakeets leaving and more joining.   It was fascinating to watch them and to hear them!

parakeets on the ground and some flying in
many parakeets on the clay lick making a mound

We walked back to the cultural center for lunch and then a slow canoe ride to the lodge.   A fabulous day in the amazon.


Santa Cruz Island – 2

profile view of the tortoise

The final morning in the Galapagos.   Breakfast at 5:00 am with all our bags packed and ready to go.

It was super choppy getting into the pangas this morning with all the carry-ons but everyone made it with no one and no bags taking a swim...so a success!

First stop was El Chato 2 Ranch.   It is an ecological reserve for tortoises.    We donned big mud boots and went for a nice walk thru a cave and then to see the tortoises.  

The wood sign for El Chato Ranch
A tortoise in the water
profile view of the tortoise
front view of a tortoise

They had a little snack and gift shop.   And in the shop, they had tortoise shells -- of course we all had to climb in one to see what it was like to be a tortoise.   It's good their necks work differently than ours - because it was not comfortable.   And in the picture, you will see Aaron - the tour leader having some fun with me in the tortoise shell.

Aaron sitting on top of the tortoise shell that I am inside of

We stayed for awhile and then made a stop at a ravine on our way to the airport - it had started raining so we did not do the walk at the ravine.

a panoramic view of the ravine

Back to the dock where they loaded our suitcases on top of the boats (so happy it had stopped raining) and then on the boat across the water to the other side and on the bus to the airport.

lading the suitcases on top of the boat

A fairly fast flight back to Quito and to the airport hotel.    The Galapagos trip was over with many fond memories and some new friendships.

I'm so glad that I was able to experience some of the Galápagos Islands. It was an interesting and educational trip.        

Santiago Island – 2, Galápagos Islands

the little cove where the panga landed - nothing but lava

This was the last afternoon destination and we returned to Santiago Island...but a different area of the island then the first time we stopped on Santiago Island.    

This side was desolate. Even though the first stop at Santiago Island had a lot of black lava, it also had green and bushes and life.   

Here, it was just destruction.   Black lava as far as the eye could see.

the little cove where the panga landed - nothing but lava

I really had a hard time walking on the uneven lava with my twisted ankle so didn't venture quite as far as some of the other photographers but I was still able to see so many different types of lava.  

rope lava
lava that is very bumpy and round

The volcano erupted about 120 years ago and just now, pioneer plants are starting to take hold.    The pioneer plant is the first plant that starts to grow on the lava.

As I walked on the lava my mind started wandering about Mother Nature.   How She destroys as easy (or maybe easier) than She creates.  Tornados, tsunamis/hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes destroy so much life in seconds / minutes / hours or even days and then it can take years or centuries for life to come back.

nothing but lava as far as the eye can see

During the walk, the naturalists showed us where a tree died, we saw some fossils.  

I know it is natural, I realize that, but my heart ached for all the life that was lost the 120 years ago when the volcano erupted.  Life I can't even begin to know or understand. 

The thoughts put me in a solemn mood as I hobbled along and then finally sat on the lava just watching the impossible blues and greens of the water.

the green and turquoise waters meet the blue sky

One day when the time is right, the island will be teeming with life again.   It starts with the pioneer plant and then other plants will take hold then the birds will come back and maybe some mammals.   

The island is just biding its time until it can once again support life.   Until then, it was a beautiful reminder that life can change in a heartbeat and that all things truly are beautiful if you have the correct perspective.

If you enjoy the pictures in the articles, be sure to see the photo gallery for images not included here.    It is a work in progress and I constantly add more images and galleries.


Please join my newsletter!   I send out an occasional email with information about wildlife related travel and conservation.

Bartolome Island – Galapagos

a view of the rocks and the island across the water

Another early start so we could get to the view point on Bartolome Island nice and early in the morning.

The mornings on the boat always consisted of a nice breakfast and then loading onto the pangas.   

Bartolome Island is a small island with a long walk up to a view point to see 365 around.   Unfortunately, we didn't have a beautiful sunrise but the walk and view were very nice...albeit - quite slow for me on my twisted ankle.

one of the staircases up to the top of the island
a long walkway across the island
a long walkway thru the island
a view of the rocks and the island across the water
the walk ways from the top of the island
A view from the top

It was very windy at the top.   From the top, we could see all around the island.   It was actually cold from the wind at the top and I didn't stay long.   I knew it would take me longer to walk down then everyone else, so I started back down to take it slow with the ankle.  

At the bottom, where we were getting onto the pangas, 2 sea lions had taken up residence.   The naturalist had to gently persuade them to leave their resting place so we could all safely get back into the pangas.

the sea lion sitting where we needed to go to get back on the panga

From the pangas, we went around some of the other islands.   There were boobies fishing and then we saw some penguins.

boobie soaring thru the sky
penguins on the lava rock

The water was a bit rough so it was difficult to photograph the birds and the penguins.

We returned to the catamaran and got ready to go on our next and final snorkel excursion.

It was a bit rough still but I didn't want to miss the last opportunity.  I was secretly (ok, probably not so secretly) hoping for more sea lions.

What I saw was hundreds of different colored star fishes, lots of little fishes, a white tipped shark, and the penguins!  The penguins are so fast.

The naturalist also found a bunch of critters deeper in the water under the shelves made by the side of the island.   I wasn't really up to going underneath, so I didn't see them.

But if you go to snorkel near Bartolome Island, you are bound to see some cool critters.

The below short video is little snippets from that snorkel session filmed on my GoPro camera.   

To see more pictures of my trip to the Galapagos - or any of my other trips to wildlife-rich destinations around the world, be sure to see the photo galleries at


Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know about new articles, travel, and other fun wildlife information.

Darwin Bay – Galápagos Islands

a grey and white fluffy baby gull takes shelter under mamas gray and white wing

Aaron, the leader of this trip, was very excited to go to Darwin Bay as it is a beautiful nesting bird sanctuary with many types of the Galapagos birds.   

For me, the sea lions once again stole the show.   Birds are beautiful, but it's the mammals that really intrigue me.

We visited this part of the island from the panga with a wet landing onto a white shelly beach.   There was another boat and group of people laying on the beach when we got there - but what I noticed right away were the sea lions.

One sea lion was very inquisitive about one of the sun bathers from the other group.   We weren't sure quite how close he was going to get to her -- seemed like he wanted to lay on her towel.   

a young sea lion very close to a sun bather on the white beach

The other group left soon after and our group had the island to ourselves.   Many of the photographers in the group went straight inland to start photographing the nesting birds.   

I, on the other hand, stayed on the beach watching the sea lions.   

sea lion nursing
close up of a light colored sea lion sleeping
mama and baby sea lion laying side by side
sea lion sleeping on the beach

There was one sea lion in particular.   It was a little one - a baby in my eyes and he was desperately looking for his mama.   

baby sea lion covered in sand

As I had learned before, the mama sea lions leave the babies on the beach to go into the water to feed and then when they have eaten enough, they come back to where they left their babies and they are reunited and the mama nurses their baby.

A sea lion will not nurse another baby - so if a baby is separated from its mama or the mama is killed when out feeding, the baby will end up dying since it is not "normal" for a sea lion to adopt another infant.

As different sea lions came onto the beach, I kept watching "my" little one to see if he would reunite.   One after another after another and none of them was the mama.   

The baby would go up to each of them crying his pitiful little cry trying to ascertain if that adult was mom and he was rejected each time.

I finally left the beach to go look at the nesting birds.

red footed boobie perched on a cactus
a brown heron
an adult gull with her chick
A frigate bird showing his irridescent feathers
a frigate bird chases a gull that has nesting materials
a yellow cactus flower
2 red footed boobies deep in the bush

I actually took one of my favorite images of the trip.  This is such an unusual image for me because usually I'm all about the big mammals but this sweet little gull chick stole my heart and this one will be hanging on my wall at home soon.

a grey and white fluffy baby gull takes shelter under mamas gray and white wing

I also took a few short videos of some of the birds. 

But, I was eager to get back to the beach to check on "my" baby sealion.

portrait of a sea lion covered in sand
young sea lion laying in the sand

Unfortunately, we had to leave before mama came back and I was left wondering if something tragic had happened or if the mama sea lion was just enjoying some time without the little one.      

The little one at the end of the video below was the one I had been watching all afternoon.   This video was taken just before our group had to leave the island.

That's one "problem" with being in the wild.   There are so many stories that are left unfinished.   Did the baby reunite?   Where was mom?  Why was she gone so long?   Did she get enough nutrition to be able to feed the baby?   Did he live to independence?   So many questions, and no answers.

To view images from my trip to the Galapagos and my other trips to wildlife rich destinations, be sure to visit my photo gallery at


Be sure to join my newsletter to get updated on travel,
wildlife, and conservation!

The Cliff – Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands

Per usual, the day started early with a 5:00 am breakfast and a 5:45 departure via Pangas.

Unfortunately for me, this departure did not go smoothly.   As I stepped into the panga, I failed to notice the emergency oar under the carpet and as I stepped into the boat - yup, there went the same ankle.   Turned under and I almost went down - not exactly sure how I managed to stay standing and in the panga.

Tears came immediately to my eyes from the pain.  It was suggested I stay behind but I've never missed an outing into the wild and I wasn't about to start now.   After the first minute or so it wasn't quite as bad.

As we motored to the island - I thought - well, maybe I should have stayed back.  I had no idea how I was going to make it up the "stairs" with my camera gear on a bad ankle.

The stairs were cut into the cliff side and were very uneven.   A challenge for some even under the best conditions.

Thankfully, Kelly - the backpacker insisted on carrying my back pack up for me.   I was and am forever grateful for the assist.    It took me a long time on a bad ankle to get up those stairs.

The side of the cliff that we had to get up in order to see the colonies of birds.

Here is a picture (faces blurred for privacy) of all of us coming down after our time up on the cliff.   You can see how steep and uneven the "steps" are.

many people on the steep steps coming down from the cliff

Once we got to the top, it was fairly flat and birds everywhere.   At the time, the naturalist told us the types of birds - but I'm really sorry as I do not remember most of them.

a panoramic view of the top of the cliff

A rare picture of me (thank you Sue) doing what I love

me sitting on the ground photographing birds

A few of the bird images I shot that morning.  

The first frigate is with his pouch deflated and the second is a different frigate with his pouch puffed out.   It was funny watching them when the pouches were out trying to move their heads around because the pouch would get in the way of their beaks.

red footed boobie that had brownish wings and feathers

The walk was short but nice -- full of birds.   On the other side of the island (where the birds are flying in the video), it was extremely windy.   I didn't stay over there for long and walked back to where most of the boobies were.

After I took the treacherous stairs back down to the panga and went back to the boat, it was time for snorkeling.  

The water was very rough at this point and I don't do well with motion sickness and I'm not a very strong swimmer so I was tempted to not go on this excursion -- but as I mentioned above, I have never missed a chance to be in the field, so I took a deep breath and stuffed myself into the wetsuit for the next adventure.

We were told we had a great chance of seeing hammer head sharks on this snorkel.   I remember from my diving days, the one shark they would always make us get out of the water for was a hammerhead shark so I was a bit confused why we were going in search for them.

Between the rough water and the sharks, I was more than a bit apprehensive.

Even though some of the sharks were big, this was a nursery.   I'm not super comfortable in rough open water, so I stayed on top but the naturalist went down and took some pictures for us.

The video was shot on my GoPro camera and the stills were given to me by the naturalist (taken on our snorkel trip)

To see images from the Galapagos and other trips, be sure to visit my photo gallery at


Be sure to join my newsletter to get updated on travel, wildlife,
and conservation!    

Santa Cruz Island – Part 1, Galapagos

A striated heron sitting deep in the mangroves

The day started early - this is the norm for photography trips.   5:30 am breakfast and then at 6:15 we went out on the pangas for a boat trip thru Black Turtle Cove.   The panga ride took about 1.5 hours and it was beautiful.

The cove we were in was so peaceful and quite beautiful.   

There were birds above the water and lots of critters in the water.   The water was fairly clear so we could see them and we all laughed and joked about how whenever our naturalist said the sharks were coming, we all put our arms in the water with our go-pros to film them.   Guess it's good they were little ones with no interest in us or our arms!

It was actually difficult to film the sharks under water hanging over a boat... I got them out of frame a few times, but the video above will give you an idea of what they look like.

Above the water were found a lot of pelicans.    The pelicans have a brown color all the way to the crown when they are nesting.   When they aren't nesting, they are grey and white.   Immature pelicans have light grey on head and chest and white underneath.

white headed pelican sits on the top of a tree
brown headed pelican preens his feathers
a brown headed pelican - nesting

We watched birds fishing deep in the mangroves.  It is absolutely fascinating how they can balance and stretch so far.  This video is a slowed down version of a Strained heron fishing from the mangroves.

A striated heron sitting deep in the mangroves

A striated heron deep in the mangroves.

We watched and photographed another type of heron fishing as well.  Unfortunately, I didn't find out what type this one was.  It was amazing to see how they hung on to the branches sideways and upside down and how much their bodies stretched in order to catch the fish.

A heron stretches far to catch its fish
The heron holds onto the branch with his body hanging off the side and in the water

Towards the end of the panga ride, we were lucky enough to see Cow Head Golden Rays.    They swam by the boat several times and I was lucky enough to get this video of them.   Absolutely beautiful, graceful and peaceful creatures.   I have no idea why they are called Cow Head Rays.

After the Panga Ride, we boarded the boat and stopped at Bakers Island for fuel.  A few people got off the boat and took a bus to the airport in order to get some soda and ice cream.   I decided to stay on board.

We motored back to another part of Santa Cruz Island and stopped at Bachas Beach.   The beach was absolutely stunning with beautiful sand.   

Lava rock on the sand with the ocean

There were a lot of lava rocks with tons of Sally Light Foot Crabs.  I took a few pictures and videos but I preferred to just walk on the beach awhile and just sit and listen and watch the waves coming into shore.   I mean, how many pictures of crabs does one need?   

The red, white and yellow crab on a black lava rock

Although, I do have to admit, they are fascinating creatures.   Watching how they move - being able to be sideways on the side of a lava rock.  The hairs on their feet, their buggy eyes...and of course, their incredible colors!

As the day started turning later, a lot of birds started fishing off the beach.   Watching the boobies fish was incredible they literally look like a speeding bullet.   Several of the members of the group were photographing them but I was so relaxed by the sounds of the waves with the sand beneath my feet, I decided to just enjoy with my eyes and not my camera.

We walked back down the beach and several of us did some stretching yoga - it felt so good!   Then back on the pangas to the boats for dinner and rest.

pelicans on lava rocks with the sky and water

To see images from my Galapagos and other trips,
visit my travel gallery at


If you enjoy the articles, images, and videos, then please join my newsletter.  I send the letter out periodically through the year when I have great stories or information to share.

Rabida Island, Galápagos Islands

Flamingo walking along the water getting ready to eat

In the afternoon, after our first visit to Santiago Island and the bullet fur seals, we headed over to Rabida Island.

This island is known for its red sand and the pink flamingos.   There were 6 mating pairs of flamingos.

6 flamingos standing with their heads buried in wings and one on a nest

They were feeding and the noise they made while feeding was really interesting -- unfortunately I wasn't able to capture it well...but if you listen close in the beginning of the video below, you may hear it. 

Flamingo walking along the water getting ready to eat
And then there was this guy (or gal) giving himself a bath....
flamingo pruning his feathers
flamingo standing so you can see the black feathers on his wings

We saw 2 nests with 1 egg in each!  It was very exciting to the naturalists as flamingos hadn't nested on the island in about 20 years.

flamingo sitting on nest
Flamingo checking on its egg
close up of the flamingo checking its egg

As we were leaving the island, a few sea lions were laying on the red sand.

a young sea lion lays on a  red sand beach

After a short visit to the island, we went for another snorkel.   This was not the best one - lots of fish and a bullet fur seal.  The water felt really cold, so I didn't stay I very long.

There was a bit of drizzle today and very overcast.   After the snorkel, back on board, briefing and dinner...early to bed to get ready for the new day.