Warning about Jungle Tours in Leticia - Mahatu Hostel

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Warning about Jungle Tours in Leticia - Mahatu Hostel

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1. Posted by RichardHas (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

A very bad thing happened to me and other travellers in leticia / colombia in the mahatu Hostel. We booked there a jungle tour for 3 days into the amazon. Before booking the trip, gustavo, the owner of the hostel also told us that there could be the possibility of shooting a wild pig in the forest. (As the wild pig is an important food source for the endangered jaguars it is forbidden to shoot them!) The idea of shooting animals during a jungle tour made me suspicios about the whole tour, but gustavo promised that there wouldn't be any animals shot. As he was very helpful the day when I arrived I believed him and booked the tour. The next day we arrived after 1h boat ride with a public boat at the town of libertad.

When we arrived at the town our guide told us that we had to hike 2 hours to reach the camping side. It finally took us 5 hours with just 2 10 minutes stops. (we were 3 big guys that hiked fast, I am used to hiking because I worked for 3 month in the rain forest of cost rica, other people might even need much more time).
During that hike we didn't get any explanation about the flora and fauna of the forest, we just headed straight to the camping site. After the dinner it was already dark and we had to go to bed, the next day we directly headed back again 5 hours without any stops. This time our guide told use it would only be 1 1/2h because of a faster way, what was a ly again. (i traced the trek with gps, we talk about a 20km hike in deep rainforest)

In the late afternoon we arrived with a small boat (overfilled, just 5cm out of the water - dangerours!) at another town after crossing the amazon river. There we arrived at a family house that our guide also had never visited before. The family didn't know about our arrival (gustavo didn't inform them) and felt surprised. They asked why we didn't inform then before arriving. We felt strange that we just showed up and nobody informed the family.

Because of rain the night walk in the forest was cancelled a second time. Our guide told us that he can't get out because gustavo don't want that we get out when it is raining. He already had problems with tourists whose camera got wet and who wanted their money back - very strange reason!

The next day we returned after only 20 min of pirana fishing without even 1 fish. The same thing happened when we went out to see dolphins in the amazon. That might have been a bad mood of mother nature but after the next "event" we finally had to stop the tour:

Our guide took us to a friend of him who knows a place where big anacondas live. As the guy showed up with a shotgun it turned out that he wanted to hunt anacondas with us, what is strongly forbidden in colombia. We asked us why we were sent on this trip, we didn't want to shoot any andangered animals neither we wanted to commit a crime.

Beside the things which happened we really felt ripped off. The price of 450 columbian pesos (approx. 170 dollar) is unreasonable for a 3-day jungle tour with public boat just 1h outside a big city, especially if you sleep in a tent and you don't have high costs for accomodation. Other agencies offer for the same price (and for 3 persons) a tour with a chartered boat deep into the primary forest. There you sleep in a lodge and not in cheap tends.

Back at the hostel we had to call the tourist police because gustavo didn't understand why we disliked the tour, anyway it was no problem for him to sent tourists to shoot andangered animals. In his opinion those animals were anyway shot by local people. My opinion is that that might be true, but you must not support that crimes by organizing tours which include hunting those animals.
Also it is also sufficient for him to sent people on a jungle tour with a guide that doesn't explain the fauna and flora, just the seeing the rainforest is enough experience - for him.

The police we found out that our guide was not authorized to do tours, neither did gustavo have a license to organize tours (at that moment).

Please warn other People about this place!!

2. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Except for the anaconda shooting, this sounds like a very typical SA experience. Don't even think for a minute that the other tours would have been any different.

3. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5680 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Quoting bentivogli

Except for the anaconda shooting, this sounds like a very typical SA experience. Don't even think for a minute that the other tours would have been any different.

That's total crap you are saying Niels. There are great tours anywhere in South America, but if you think that for a small amount of money you get to sit in the front seat I have to disappoint you. Ok, this trip wasn't that cheap, and it is a good thing that Richard warned us about it. But I am sure there are good tours from Leticia. ( I still wonder why Richard chose the trip with camping while it was just as expensive as the other one though....because it is not 'backpacker' style or arranged by a hostel?)
Like anywhere in the world, there are good tours and bad tours, good experiences, bad experiences, and even those interpretations differ from person to person.
I had close to no bad experiences in South America, because I did some research about best places regarding jungle trips or whatever trip more to the south.

4. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

I knew I should have elaborated on my brief comment...

I didn't mean to be negative, let alone to say that all tours in SA are crap. However, speaking from extensive personal experience as well as from things I've heard from many others, I do think that most tour companies simply try to maximise their cost-benefit ratios by offering rather disappointing packages for relatively high prices.

They're not to blame; the sharp increase in tourist number of the past decade is, and the fact that most travellers are 'lazy', and at worst critical after the fact. They'll come anyway, and as long as money is to be made without doing anything differently, why bother? Another thing is that the southamerican conception of nature tourism is rather different from the one that many visitors from Europe and the US have.

If you want to avoid disappointment, the best way by far is to arrange everything yourself. That need not even be more expensive than a package tour, and has a large number of advantages. The only downside is the time involved.

5. Posted by Tropicon (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Richard, sorry for that what has happened to you. I am Volker from Topicalconsulting and have acted as webmaster for Gustavos website www.mahatu.com (besides this no other commercial links). Gustavo has a licence for operating a hostel (suitable for backpackers, who no not seek privacy), but no permission to organize jungle tours (as the tourist police correctly stated). I hope you got your money back (otherwise let me know) and Gustavo a fine (yes, in Colombia they do fine). It is far more lucrative to sell an expensive jungle tour for 450.000 Pesos than a simple hostel bed for 17.000 Pesos. However, this was not the first time that Gustavo is cheating his guests. Last year I went with a Swiss guy also to LA LIBERDAD (community of the YAGUA INDIANS). The swiss guy (who also paid 450mil Pesos, I paid just the "cost" 150mil Pesos) complained also about the bad organization and excessive price.

In LA LIBERDAD you can watch the rituais of the Shaman of the Yaguas and I have never seen a place with so many snakes including ANACONDAS.

LA LIBERDAD and also PUERTO NARINO (a little bit river upstream) you can visit inexpensive ON YOUR OWN withhout a hostel owner, operator or guide as intermediate and hire a guide locally (for approx. 50.000 Pesos per day). If you wish more comfort and an organised tour, try MARASHA in Peru (30km from Leticia), a well organized jungle lodge with attractive prices. Everything of course to be booked directly without the commission hunters in Leticia.

The Indigenous do hunt animals, for eating and survival (and they are allowed to do so). Local guides may do so also with tourists. It is a question of presentation. I also organize jungle tours around Maues and Manaus (www.amazonriders.com) and we present this fact as "observation of indigenous on their hunting and fishing for survival".

6. Posted by RichardHas (Budding Member 2 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

We just got 20% of our money back, the police was in the hostel and couldn't arrange more. Gustavo didn't have to pay any fee. The reason why I wanted to pay for an "organized/official" tour was the reason that i wanted to learn about the ecosystem and compare things in the amazon with the costa rican rainforest, where i studied bevore. I thought that would be easier with an "educated" biologist or tourist guide that knows a little about "scientific" ecology.

Our Guides were really friendly, but we felt really fooled by Gustavo. Especially in the way he reacted. As long as you pay he is your best friend and really helps you. But it seems that he only helps travellers to suck out as much money as possible.