Coca - A Gateway to the Amazon Rainforest
Located at the point where the Coca and Napo Rivers meet, Coca is the capital of the Orellana province and is also sometimes called Puerto Francisco de Orellana. The city of Coca is quite sizable and has plenty of hotels to cater to the many visitors that make their way here. The majority of them are located on the riverfront, which is not only picturesque but puts you in close proximity to the docks. Most people visit Coca because it is so close to the rainforests.
The main reason for Coca's size is the oil boom it experienced in 1998. Prior to this it was a forgotten outpost in the midst of the jungle. It could only be reached by boat or plane. The discovery brought the sleepy village to life but also brought the ugliness of greed and urban slums to Coca. The resulting dirty streets and ramshackle houses weren't particularly alluring to tourists. However the late 1990s saw the authorities making a concerted effort to pave roads and improve the city's façade. A large metal bridge was built over the river to allow for a better flow of traffic. The few blocks nearest the river are now the best place for shopping in the area as there are quite a few colorful shops and a market. The bus station is nearby and hotels and restaurants are abundant. The town furthest from the waterfront is still a little shabby but efforts are continually been made to improve the appearance of the place.
Still, Coca is no tourist trap. While the facilities provided are adequate, the main reason a person would visit Coca is to gain easy access to the Amazon Rainforest. The Yasuni National Park and the Huaorani Reserves make up most of the Coca region. It is easy to spend days and days in these reserves exploring the superb forests and natural growth. Animals are somewhat scarce but you still get the feeling of being completely immersed in nature and all its glory. If you'd prefer to see animals, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve downstream from Coca will help you to do so. It is best to make sure that your guide has been granted permission to enter the Huaorani territory prior to attempting to enter the jungle. It is also a good idea to book accommodation and guides in advance if you are planning to visit during the holiday season as both can become scare at this time of year. Littering and hunting are prohibited in an effort to protect the Jungle.
When touring the Jungle you will usually stay over at a jungle lodge as it takes at least one day to enter and one to leave. Thus a three day tour means you will only be able to spend one day in the forest so it is recommended that you plan to spend longer. Also, it is best not to plan a flight for the morning of your return as you will likely not return in time to catch it. The rainforests in Coca are incredibly beautiful and make for the adventure of a lifetime. It is seldom that you get the opportunity to experience nature to this degree so you can be sure that a visit to Coca is one that you will cherish.