The Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador
Even though Ecuador is one of South America’s smallest countries, its portion of the Amazon rainforest is anything but insignificant, making Ecuador one of the best destinations to visit the Amazon.
While The Galapagos Islands may be at the top of many travellers’ “bucket lists” when they visit Ecuador, going to the Amazon Rainforest is also a highlight.
With more options than ever for visiting sustainably, an Ecuador Amazon tour is a perfect opportunity to discover this region of the Amazon, which is home to some of the world’s most biodiverse areas on Earth!
The size of the Amazon Rainforest is astounding, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, covering an area of more than 2.5 million miles across nine countries in South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, and Suriname.
This makes it the world’s most important rainforest, spanning about 40% of the entire continent.
With vast biodiversity believed to cover less than a tenth of the earth’s area, the Amazon is home to thousands of different species of animals and plants, and stunning landscapes crisscrossed by rivers and lakes. and seemingly endless stretches of dense rainforest, as well as some of the world’s last remaining indigenous tribes.
Since this is such a large region, it can be difficult to determine which country has the best interests in regard to a trip to the Amazon.
With eight different countries sharing a portion of the Amazon rainforest, you might think you’d miss out on part of the adventure if you stayed in just one country.
However, it is good to consider choosing a country with many services, and regular tours of the Amazon are the best option.
There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.
The Cuyabeno canton is located within the Wildlife Production Reserve. To speak of Cuyabeno is to speak of one of the natural beauties of the world, a treasure of the Ecuadorian Amazon, a land of lagoons and sightings of pink dolphins.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve shares most of the territory with the Putumayo canton, with extensive lacustrine environments where the so-called Laguna Grande stands out.
It is the site with the highest concentration of tourist activity. Visitors arrive attracted by the particularity of the macrolobio trees, bird watching, nesting, and reproduction of the harpy eagle and guayacamayos.
Observing the mythical pink dolphins and the romantic sunsets captivates tourists from all over the planet.
The lodge was booked some time ago, as well as the transfer from Quito.
Our 4-day adventure to the Ecuadorian Amazon region can start.
It’s exciting to think that after a night of traveling, we will be in a secluded region of the planet without roads and phone reception, no internet, and an area that can only be reached by boat. Only very few people inhabit the basin, most of them members of Ecuador’s indigenous nations and tribes, living there for centuries, with their languages, community laws, and traditions.
Our bus picks us up near Mariscal Foch, late at night. After another stop in Old Town, to fill up the 15 seats, we drive through the night to Lago Agrio, the biggest town in the Sucumbios region in the east of the country, not far from the Colombian border in the north.
7 hours later, in the early morning, the bus drops us off in the center, where we can have a coffee and breakfast while waiting for our next ride, which will bring us closer to the lodge we booked. Not all the way through.
We pick up other travelers at the airport in Lago Agrio, the ones that decided to take an early morning flight out of Quito.
After a 2-hour drive, we arrive at a bridge that is also the furthest point the road leads to the east.
From there, we will have to continue our trip on canoes through the otherwise impenetrable jungle.
On the way, our guide slows down the boat to show us the first animals the amazon gives home to. Monkeys, snakes, and numerous birds cross our path.
The river winds itself further east, the jungle’s bestial inhabitants screech, and the jungle are loud and colorful, all shades of green the color palette has to offer. We smell the gasoline from our outboard motor. This is a truly unique place!
We arrive at our lodge, one of a handful in this region, after 2 hours or so.
Simple wooden huts, with comfy beds and hot showers, a common area with a kitchen, bar, a volleyball field, tables, chairs, and hammocks, all on stilts and connected with the cabañas through wooden footbridges.
The staff welcomes us.
A hearty lunch with soup, meat, rice, and veggies is served. Juice and water are also served, and coffee and tea are available all day long.
We take a little siesta to calm down and relax a bit from the night-long trip before our first tour is on schedule. Swimming in a lagoon, actually a wider part of the river where also other waters meet. The mangroves at the sides of the lagoon look stunning in the slowly setting sun. We jump in the water directly from the canoe, which at this time of day is not dangerous at all, since all the caimans are resting at the banks.
We enjoy the refreshing waters until sundown when life kicks off in the mangroves. Equipped with flashlights we see snakes meander through the trees above us. The eyes of the caimans reflect our lights next to our boat, which makes them kind of scary and appears close. But still, those amazing animals are pretty calm and the canoe rim quite a bit over the waters.
After a while, we return slowly to our lodge with the moon shining on us.
Later that night, we sit on the lodge’s little pier with a bottle of beer and a glass of wine, enjoying ourselves and in the distance, we hear the hollow roaring of the howler monkeys.
The evening ends early, we get a great night’s sleep on a bed protected by mosquito nets.
The next morning, we decide to get up early, grab a coffee before breakfast and go again to the jetty, and see river dolphins swimming around looking for food. The sun is just rising, the air is still fresh and kind of cool, and no one else is around.
Every day in the Amazon is packed with new adventures.
After breakfast, we get some rubber boots and jump in our canoe again to eventually take a walk through the forest a short ride away from the lodge.
Our guide is an excellent teacher, showing us numerous plants, bugs, and insects that all keep the ecosystem stable. Ants are used as mosquito repellent by the locals, and wandering trees, every little living thing has an exciting story to tell. Or serves as medicine or food for others. We wander through a swamp, a fresh breeze crosses the jungle, and sunlight barely makes it to the ground due to the forest’s density. Without a guide, we would have lost orientation within minutes. This is truly a green hell, in the best and most exciting meaning of the word.
The days go by fast, with many many things to see, and explore, places to go, hike, and swim. Paddling up a river, which is great fun and exercise when everyone participates to make it easier, which wasn’t the case in our group. But well, the world probably needs princes and princesses.
One of the most memorable things on our schedule is a visit to an indigenous community. In the Cuyabeno territory live nowadays 11 indigenous peoples, among them Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Shuar.
We are taught by a woman of the Siona tribe how to harvest Yucca, make bread out of it, and also roast cacao beans. Curious kids are jumping around, some elders went out to the forest to hunt.
A shaman tells us about his education, his healing abilities, and the rites of the Ayahuasca ceremony, which is essential in the Amazonian communities.
The 4 days pass quickly. We only realized what an amazing experience it was when we were on the last meters on our canoe back to the bridge and out of the forest.
For us, and probably for many other travelers, this wasn’t only a one-time thing, and since then we have already returned 3 times. With different adventures on every single visit.
The way back to civilization is pretty but with rough patches. Every time!