some recommendations for Leticia, Colombia
OmShanty guest house, located 11km outside of the town on KM11, run by a guy from Spain who knows a lot about the jungle and can organize tours for you if you want. A bed in one of the shared cabins is $15,000 pesos, and a space to hang your hammock if you have one is only $5,000 pesos and has a roof to protect you from rain. Make sure your hammock has a mosquito net though (I have the Hennessey and adore it)
I’ve also heard good things about Selvaventura, run by Felipe from Bogota.
You can rent bicycles from “Almacén Y Taller Ciclo Charless” which is actually a bike store but they have several bikes for rent for $7,000 pesos a day. For 24 hour rentals they charge $10,000. They’re located on Barrio Porvenir Calle 4 N’ 7A-53 (Tels: 592-6016 and cell 314-507-1080) and also super friendly people! To find them walk towards Tabatinga along – avenue.
Once you have a bike you can easily visit Tabatinga on the Brazilian side although I don’t know what to recommend there :) I encourage you to explore the KM’s (the road goes all the way to KM19 after which it becomes a muddy and pot-holed path. KM 11 where I lived is also home to Taranboca (named after one of the oldest trees in the forest) where they organize one day excursions that involve a visit to their serpent center, a walk in the jungle, canopying through trees, and kayaking, along with a delicious lunch at the end for $117,000 pesos. They also have cabins and hammocks for rent, as well as a tree house 35 meters high with all the amenities (toilet/shower) where you can sleep overnight.
On KM 7 is Mundo Amazonico, which runs 3 hour tours to teach about local fauna and medicinal plants for $20,000 pesos. They’ve only been open for 6 months so I’m sure they will still transform into something better, but I found the tour informative and very professional. They even had ponchos ready for everyone when the afternoon downpour started. Hopefully one day they’ll have a store where they sell many of the plants they grow, until then I was told if you’re really interested they will sell case by case.
From KM 11 you can also walk into the forest to the – river. The walk is about 30 minutes and is relatively straightforward, and if you get lost people live in houses along the way. On the other side of the river is pure selva, which I would have liked to explore. There’s a path but it’s overgrown so a machete is a good thing to bring. However to get there you need to swim across the river so a waterproof bag is a good idea.
People along the KM road are friendly and I’ve never had trouble hitchhiking my way back at night from the town. (The shuttle bus runs every half hour until 6:30pm and costs $2,400 pesos) Hitchhiking with motos is a bit of a problem as helmets are mandatory and not every driver has an additional one, and most of the ones who do are the moto taxis. A funny experience was when the guy who picked me up told me he could only drive me to KM 8 because there was a police checkpoint there checking for helmets. The beer he was drinking while he drove wasn’t a problem ;)
From Leticia I strongly recommend you visit Puerto Nariño! By the speedboat taxi (it leaves every day at 8am, 10am, and 2pm) it’s about 1.5 hours away. The community is much smaller and there are villages you can visit all around. I stayed 10 minutes outside the center, in a place called the Freight. You can have a whole cabin to yourself for $15,000 pesos or share one for $10,000 pesos each. They have a kitchen and a canoe you can use for free, and are on the river so every evening you can see a magnificent sunset. There are two orphaned monkeys that live here along with several dogs and cats. The only downside is that after about 9 o’clock the school that you need to pass to get here from the town lets out its guard dogs who bark viciously. I’ve never passed by without the intermediation of the night watchman.
My favorite spot in Puerto Nariño is on the bridge that you’ll need to pass to get to the center of the town from the Freight. At night under the stars you can here the music of the forest here, a symphony of insects, bird and monkeys, under the echo of the stars. Unfortunately I lost my recording when my camera drowned in a river…. if you go to puerto Nariño and visit the bridge at night, could you record the sound for 3 minutes and send me the track, I’d appreciate it with all my being!