I saw ornate Baroque city churches and massive, horny Galapagos turtles, yet jungle immersion was by far the most fascinating part of my recent tour of Ecuador. I was beyond lucky to have as a leader Juan (not his original name), an Adventures by Disney guide who grew up within the jungle, in the Shuar tribe (I believe). Among his people's practices is shooting prey for dinner with a blowgun.
Now that he is educated, Juan has moved away from killing endangered animals like monkeys during his returns home, sticking to creatures that share the jungle in abundant numbers. In fact, the former warrior shares his newfound ecological sensitivities with his extensive family.
But was I ever in luck! One day during our jungle immersion, Juan surprised us. He stepped out onto a path dressed in the authentic ritual wear of his village. The colorful attire is all made of natural materials. Face paint was the only element missing.
Then he taught us how to use a blowgun. Juan demonstrated first, easily hitting the center of an apple (cut into a smily face) secured to a low pole. Then the eight members of our merry group got to try. It's not as easy as it looks!
Here are two videos of Juan explaining how the blowgun is made and used, followed by one of a so-called Adventurer trying. The American's blowgun skills are no better than my videotaping skills. I apologize advance for the topsy-turvy filming.
Fascinating, right? I have to say, this tour was the most substantive I have ever taken (actually, its equal was my family's private Israel guide, Nir Nissan), and I have traveled a whole lot, independently and with guides. What an amazing Amazonian adventure!