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In 1542 Francisco de Orellana survived an epic journey across South America spanning the entire Amazon River. In 2012 we will follow. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on June 4, 2012.

In 1542 Francisco de Orellana survived an epic journey across South America spanning the entire Amazon River. In 2012 we will follow.

About this project

History. . . Adventure. . . The Amazon.

The Amazon is home to piranha, anaconda, caiman, electric eels, and the rare pink river dolphin. It is over 4,000 miles long and cuts a watery path through the heart of the South American Continent, stretching from the Andes mountains in Ecuador and Peru and across Brazil before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean. It is still a dangerous place, where oil companies clash with native peoples and land development threatens to destabilize the fragile ecology of the rainforest.

In 1541, though, the interior of the South American continent was virtually unknown, save through the tales of the native peoples near the coast. It was a dark mystery, populated by the avaricious dreams of Europe. Dreams with names like El Dorado and La Canela -- the City of Gold and the Land of Cinammon. It was in search of these dreams that Francisco de Orellana ventured inland. It was the mighty Amazon itself that propelled him across a continent and into a running battle for his life and lives of his crew.

In 2012, we will follow….

We will leave from Quito, Ecuador to follow in the footsteps of Francisco de Orellana, the first westerner to discover and travel down the Amazon. The expedition will take us through the Andean foothills and into the Amazon rainforest, subsequently travelling thousands of miles (and even more kilometres!) downriver all the way to the Atlantic coast. During the expedition, we have scheduled numerous stops to visit communities and places of biological importance in order to collect data and perform interviews with indigenous tribespeople and locally based biologists. The expedition will follow Orellana’s route as much as practical, so it  will not only be an amazing adventure but will also provide an anthropo-historical perspective on the journey, by comparing the differing conditions and the experiences of the voyage over historical time. 

Who was Francisco de Orellana? 

Francisco de Orellana was a Spanish Conquistador who fought for the Pizarro brothers in Panama, Peru, and Ecuador. In 1541 he was the second in command to Gonzalo Pizarro on a search for cinnamon and gold. By the time the expedition reached eastern Ecuador the men were dying from disease and starvation. Orellana took 57 men in search of food. They never returned. 

Ten months later Orellana and his men emerged on the Atlantic Ocean with an incredible tale of adventure and survival, having traversed South America on the river we know as the Amazon.

Who cares what happened 500 years ago?

Orellana’s expedition introduced Westerners to the enormous territory and resources to be found in the vast interior of the continent. A stream of explorers, settlers and profit-seekers have traipsed through after him, leaving a legacy of disease, scarred land, and cultural devastation. Natural resources, such as trees, rubber, and oil, have been torn from the Amazon basin with little thought to the long-term impact on the region. The native peoples’ cultures have been devastated, as many were forced to adopt western ways as a matter of survival.

There is very little documentation of these activities, with most people preferring to overlook the demise of our most priceless of treasures. During this time, the region's biodiversity has lost immeasurable richness, to a level that it may never be restored. Such destructive practices continue today.

We were driven to launch this expedition to 'Rediscover the Amazon' by the urgent need to investigate and document the ways in which this large-scale destruction is affecting the Amazon rainforest. Our primary aim is to document, in videos, photos and the written word, the impact 500 years of western intervention have had on the Amazon environment, its intricately balanced ecosystems and vulnerable indigenous tribes. 

 What will we do?

We will follow Orellana’s trail down the Amazon, using as a guide documents written at the time of his journey. We aren't trying to recreate the hardships Orellana and his men endured. We hope to avoid starvation, spears, and poisoned arrows. Also unlike Orellana, we will not have our own boat. We will take public transportation when it is available. Some parts of the journey have ferry service, which can get us near the communities we want to visit. When public transportation is not available we will hitchhike, walk on riverside trails, or hire someone to take us in the dug-out canoes that are the amazonian equivalent of an SUV. 

Along the way we will stop at the places Orellana and his men had significant experiences, such as their stops to build a boat or get food, the sighting of the "white Indians", and the famous encounter with the woman warriors they compared to the Amazons of the Greek myth.

What will we produce?

Throughout the trip, we will make detailed personal daily log to provide a personal touch to any future publications where appropriate and to compile an in-depth compendium of our trials, tribulations and triumphs, and of the fauna, flora and natural beauty of the Amazon. We will blog as much as technology allows so you can follow our progress. We are taking first-rate photography equipment in order to create fantastic images as well as to record interviews with local people, community leaders, and local experts on the issues we are investigating.

We will also write memoirs and stories and put together interactive teaching materials for school back home and for local people trying to learn enough English to participate in the tourism opportunities offered by their homeland. Our goal is to present our experiences in a dramatic framework that will interest a wide range of readers, whilst teaching them a bit of history, anthropology, ecological issues and current events. The interwoven stories of two great adventures—Orellana’s and ours—will both entertain and educate.

What will we do with your backing?

We have the equipment we need, including great photography equipment. What we still need to pay for is travel expenses (boat fare, visas, food, and beds) and contributions to communities we visit. These communities are very isolated and usually have nothing they can sell for cash, so they lack things like school supplies and medical needs (aspirin, bandages, antibiotics, etc.) Many communities have goal to acquire something to make life better for the whole community, like a generator to provide electricity a few hours a day or a gas stove for the community hut. When a community is kind enough to invite us in we will give the community leaders a cash donation. That way it gets used for what they really need and we don't have to guess what kind of gift would best show our appreciation.

We think this is going to be a great adventure, and educational, too. We hope you agree and will choose to be part of the adventure by backing us at one of the reward levels listed to the right. You can even join us for part of the trip if you dare!


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    8 backers

    Your name on the thank you page of our website PLUS... LIVE VICARIOUSLY! Get exclusive access to a members-only blog from the trail, with GPS-tracked messages, pictures, and podcasts. (Most of these will be done by cell phone, We think we’ll have cell phone service at least half of the time.) It's like being there, only without the mosquitos.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    10 backers All gone!

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL!!! Only 10 available! Be one of the first to launch our campaign and in addition to the terrific $25 prizes listed below get access to 5 of our favorite top quality photos to use any way you want. Put them on your website, make calendars, or print and frame them to hang over your desk and inspire you while you work. All we ask is that you don't sell them or give them away. These are just for our earliest, most beloved friends.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    5 backers

    Your name on the thank you page of our webpage and a real interactive adventure through access to our exclusive members-only blog from the trail, with GPS-tracked messages, pictures and podcasts, PLUS...
    Your choice of three different original Rediscovering the Amazon T-shirts. These fabulous designs will have our logo or a picture from the trip, and "I made it happen!" stamped across one corner of the design.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $40 or more

    6 backers Limited (14 left of 20)

    All of the above (Your name on our website, exclusive access to the members-only blog, and the T-shirt) PLUS... A hand-written post card from somewhere on the trail with a personal message from us.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    2 backers

    All of the $25 rewards (Your name on our website, access to the members-only blog, and the T-shirt) PLUS...Your choice of either: 1) A digital photojournal packed with outtakes from our personal logs, corresponding top quality photographs, and detailed community descriptions (about 40-60 pages.) You can view it on your computer or other device, or print it and have it bound. OR
    2) An exclusive signed and matted 8x10 inch photo from the expedition. These photos will all be unique and will not be available anywhere else—not on the exclusive members-only website, not in our social media pages, not in any newspaper or articles. Also, just so you can show all your friends how cool you are, we will include a card addressed to you personally noting the details of the photo, summarizing the nature of our project, and thanking you for making this expedition possible.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    4 backers

    All of the $25 rewards: Your name on our website, access to the members-only blog, and the T-shirt PLUS BOTH the digital photojournal AND an exclusive signed and matted 8x10 inch photo from the expedition.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $120 or more

    7 backers Limited (13 left of 20)

    Your name on our website, exclusive access to the members-only blog, a T-shirt and the digital photojournal, PLUS... A real souvenir of the expedition--a hand crafted item of indigenous artesania accompanied by a picture of the artisan and either a personal message from the maker or a note from us with information about the artist. Your friends will think you were there!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    3 backers Limited (7 left of 10)

    We'll give you everything we have--access to the blog, the digital photojournal, and handwritten postcard, and a unique hand crafted item of artisania as described above. In fact, WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH that instead of one matted 8x10 inch photo, we will give you TWO, each with a personal thank you note telling you about the picture. We'll also throw in a few of our favorite prints. PLUS... A prominent mention on the website as a sponsor.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers

    School or group sponsorship! SHARE the adventure with a school classroom or your book club, rotary club, or church. First, follow our journey on our live blog. Then, when we get home we will send you a custom-prepared powerpoint presentation or lesson plan to use in your classroom or with your group. PLUS... One of us will make a half hour Skype appearance for questions and answers about our experiences. PLUS... We'll give you an opportunity to work with us on the design of a T-shirt with our logo (or a picture from the trip if you want to wait until we finish), and you can buy as many as you want. (The T-shirt offer is valid only if all parties agree to the specifics of design, materials, and prices.)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,200 or more

    0 backers Limited (4 left of 4)

    Join Us! You aren't the sort to just sit around watching someone else have all the fun! Come on down to Ecuador and join us for our final week of expedition preparations and meet indigenous Amazonian people. Join us for our pre-launch fiesta and see us off on the first leg of our journey. We'll make sure you get there (and we have friends who will make sure you get back to the airport for your flight home) but your airfare and expenses are all yours. Caveat: this reward is subject to all parties' agreement on the specifics, which can be discussed later. We reserve the right to cancel this reward if we think the person making the pledge will be unable to handle the arduous journey or would be incompatible with us or with the local residents. If agreement is not reached or the reward is cancelled, the funds (less kickstarter and Amazon fees) will be returned or the person making the pledge may choose different rewards.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $2,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    Feeling really adventurous? Join us for the pre-launch fiesta and then GO WITH US on the first week of the journey through the jungle, or as far as the Peruvian border, whichever comes first. As with the $1200 level, your airfare and travel expenses are your own. The caveat above applies doubly here.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (26 days)