The Amazon Rainforest
Welcome to the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforest. More life hums, buzzes, chatters and bubbles here than anywhere else on the planet. One Amazonian tree can host more ant species than all of the British Isles put together, one hectare of forest boasts about as many frog species as all of North America, and the great expanse of the jungle contains more than twenty percent of the earth’s vascular plant species. Here you can find a monkey small enough to sit on your fingertip, an eight pound toad, a spider that eats birds, and the world’s largest snake, the 30-foot anaconda.
Moreover, forty percent of all of all the earth’s fresh water flows through the Amazon basin; more water than in the basins of the next six biggest rivers combined! In the Amazon river there are islands as big as Switzerland and otters bigger than men, and at certain points along it you can be in the middle and see neither shore. It snakes and swivels thousands of miles and draws in water from over 1500 water sources, including the Rio Napo in Ecuador, one of its primary tributaries plants are found in this equatorial swath of green.
See “Amazon Tales” for a look into the lives of Ecuador’s Amazonian Indigenous Peoples.
This rainforest is home to thousands of indigenous inhabitants, who make up nearly 200 distinct nations, including the Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Shuar, Zaparo, Huaorani, and Quichua. The indigenous tribes that live in Ecuador’s rainforest are the ancient keepers and guardians of the world’s biological heritage – having lived there for more than 10,000 years, they know its trees, its animals, and its rhythms better than anyone.
Amazon Rainbow, photo by Cherise Miller.
From the Amazon come some of our favorite foods: avocado, black pepper, Brazil nuts, cayenne pepper, cashews, chocolate (cacao), cinnamon, eggplant, figs, ginger, sugarcane, vanilla, and yams. The rainforest also produces many medicines, such as quinine for malaria; curare for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease; as well as many industrial products, including latex, resins, timber, oil, and other minerals.
Ecuador, with its 2% share of the Amazon (know as the Oriente), provides unparalleled opportunities for experiencing the magic of the rainforest. Not only does it have one of the world’s best developed infrastructures for rainforest tourism, but most destinations are accessible within a day’s journey from Quito, including:
Although the Amazon basin occupies about a third of Ecuador, most rainforest excursions into amazonian reserves leave from the eastern transportation hubs of Tena, Puerto Francisco de Orellana (Coca), and Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio). The basic jungle activities available in each region do not vary much, although considerations like cost, distance from Quito, and abundance of wild life do differ. Below are some guidelines for planning your trip to the Amazon.
Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio) is the northernmost hub in Ecuador’s orient, and is the capital of Sucumbíos Province. It is the gateway to a number of lodges in Cuyabeno Reserve and Limoncocha Biological Reserve, known for its less developed tourism industry, vast diversity of wildlife, and relative cost-effectiveness. The bus ride to Lago Agro from Quito is between eight and ten hours. From there to the mouth of the reserve is another three hours by truck or van, and from the mouth of the reserve to the lodges is about two hours in a dug-out canoe. Plan about a day of travel in both directions.
A starting point for excursions into Yasuni National Park and Huaorani Reserve, Limoncocha Biological Reserve and portions of Cuyabeno Reserve, Coca is about a 10 hour bus ride from Quito. It is located in the province of Orellana, at the junction of the Coca and Napo Rivers. As with Lago Agrio, the lodges accessible via Coca are surrounded by a plethora of flora and fauna. In general, lodges in Yasuni National Park tend to be slightly more expensive than those in Cuyabeno.
Only a four to six hour bus ride from Quito, Tena has highly developed tourist infrastructure outside of national parks and reserves. It’s relatively easy to stay in a hostel or hotel in Tena and take day trips into the jungle without paying park entrance fees and really “roughing it”. The wildlife that surrounds Tena is, not surprisingly, less diverse and abundant than in the more remote areas outside of Lago Agrio and Coca. Tena is also a starting point for Jatun Sacha Biological Station, Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, and Misahuallí.
Whether you are looking for a luxury lodge with three-course meals and hot showers, a mud-up-to-your-knees trekking and camping adventure, or something in between, Ecuador has program to meet your needs. See our list of recommended rainforest tour operators and stay in one of our recommended rainforest hotels or lodges.
You can learn more about indigenous forest peoples and the rainforest itself by joining one of the many community-based ecotourism programs offered in the Ecuadorian Amazon or by volunteering with one of the many non-profits working in the region.
|Amazon Rainforest Tours|
|Ecuadorian Amazon Guids|
|Yasuní National Park|