Ecuador's rainforests

Ecuador
Ecuador Itinerary

Biodiversity like nowhere else on Earth

Duration: at least one week

Ecuador’s rainforests are some of the most biodiverse in the world, and a visit there is unlike any other wildlife experience. Whereas in Africa you might travel by jeep to see animals in the savannah, or by boat to go whale watching, in Ecuador you have to travel on foot or by small boat.

This means that the wildlife is all around you and yet might be difficult to spot. However, this also makes Ecuador’s rainforests a genuinely immersive experience. You can’t help but feel like you’re a part of the ecosystem rather than just an observer. We observed the wild nature with absolute awe, but we also felt a bit uneasy at times. When sleeping, eating, and living in the middle of the jungle, you naturally encounter many wild animals and insects. We hoped the tarantula crawling on the ceiling above our heads had no intention of coming down to us

However, you’ll be rewarded with sightings of everything from monkeys and sloths to exotic birds and reptiles. It’s an unforgettable experience and one that will stay with you long after you’ve left Ecuador.There are two ways to go about your adventure in Ecuador’s rainforest. You can either go on a multiple-day tour to the Cuyabenyo Wildlife Reserve or base yourself in Tena and venture out there

Granada, Nicaragua: market

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is Ecuador’s second largest national park and a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts. “The land between waters,” as looks call it, can only be visited on a guided tour ranging from 3-5 days. Though we are not always the biggest fan of tours, our 4- day journey was one of our biggest travel highlights!

Cuyabeno’s pristine wetland is home to over 500 species of birds, ten different types of monkeys, anacondas, caimans, jaguars, pink river dolphins, manatees, and a variety of fish, including arapaima and piranhas. The sounds, smells, and intensity of the jungle can’t be put into words!

On top of the fantastic wildlife experience, you can also learn about sustainable eco-tourism at local family farms, where they offer tours and teach visitors how to prepare traditional yucca bread made by their neighbors – the SIONA tribe living nearby.

Wildlife in Ecuador's rainforests

Many rainforest animals are still unknown to science, and new species are always being discovered. The forest floor contains insects, spiders, rodents, snakes, and lizards. You’ll find monkeys, sloths, toucans, and macaws in the trees. And there are caiman, piranhas, anacondas, and river dolphins in the rivers.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot a jaguar or an Amazonian tree boa

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Visit the SIONA tribe in Cuyabeno

The Siona tribe is one of the many indigenous tribes that live in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. The Siona people have lived in the rainforest for centuries, and they have a deep respect for nature.

The Siona tribe is known for its beautiful hand-woven fabrics and baskets, which they sell to tourists. They also offer rainforest tours, where you can learn about plants and animals.

If you visit the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, be sure to take a tour with a member of the Siona tribe! You’ll not only learn so much about this amazing place but also support its inhabitants.

 

Land between waters

The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is home to an incredible variety of plant and animal life. But what sets it apart is its water system. The reserve is crisscrossed by a network of rivers, lakes, and creeks teeming with fish, turtles, caiman, and other aquatic creatures. And when the sun goes down, the rivers come alive with hundreds of fireflies flickering in the darkness. It’s truly a magical sight. By the way: the sunsets in Cuaybeno are out of this world beautiful!

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Get ready to travel Ecuador

How to get to Lago Agrio, Amazonas?

The journey is the destination! And if you plan to visit the Amazon in Ecuador, it’s a long one! First, take a night bus from Quito to Lago Agrio. The journey takes about 8 hours. From there, continue by bus for another 2 hours to El Puente. Finally, around 11 am, a canoe brings you to your lodge, which should take you another two hours.

When is the best time to travel to Ecuador's rainforest?

The Amazon region, the so-called Oriente, is a year-round travel destination. The average temperature is 25 degrees.

The dry season:

The dry season lasts from December to March, the driest months in the jungle. During this time, the Laguna Grande usually dries out entirely, and the Cuyabeno River only carries water in the lower section. To get to Cuyabeno, rain and sufficient water levels are significant. When smaller lagoons dry up, some tributaries are not navigable any longer.

The rainy season:

The rainy season lasts from April to November, with most rain falling during April and May. The rainy season is also the best time to observe wildlife in the Amazon. In addition, high water levels allow you to venture into even the smallest river passages and pass floated areas, enabling you to enter large parts of Ecuador’s rainforest.

Biodiversity in Ecuador's rainforest

Amazonia is not only home to the largest rainforest but also to the most water-rich river in the world! Moreover, 10 percent of all known animal and plant species live in the Amazon jungle. Many of them are endemic to the region. Endemic refers to animals and plants that only live in one particular part of the world.

What is Ayahuasca?

“Ayahuasca” means “plant of spirits” in Quechua. Ayahuasca is a psychedelic tea from the Amazon region which promises a profound spiritual journey.

Indigenous have used Ayahuasca for religious ceremonies. After the” cleaning,” one experiences a feeling of inner peace, a connection with every living being, nature, and the entire universe. Traditionally Ayahuasca is seen as medicine that should bring clarity and peace and make us more attentive.

The Ayahuasca experience:

Friends and acquaintances told us about their sometimes cumbersome experiences. The intoxication lasts up to 8 hours. However, the hallucinations do affect not only the senses but also influence the entire consciousness. You have to vomit or get diarrhea. The indigenous people also call ‘la purga’ because it empties the body through the physical effect and purifies the mind through meaningful psychological experiences.

Tap water in Ecuador

You can not drink tap water in Ecuador. So make sure to bring your Lifestraw Go to enjoy cool water while avoiding having to buy plastic bottles.

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Animal Encounters: Even though it is incredibly tempting to touch and come up close with the wildlife, keep your distance and do not ever touch or feed them!

Sunscreen: Protect the unique ecosystem and be extra careful to use reef-friendly sunscreens.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Ecuador rainforest 1

Ecuador Rainforest Lodges

Yasuní Ecolodge

Yasuní Ecolodge is the only lodge besides the Napo Wildlife Center that can claim to be in Parque Nacional Yasuní, and it’s a much cheaper alternative. The lodge sits within the Kichwa community village on the Río Napo, so staying here allows you to meet community members.

Napo Wildlife Center

The center is owned by the local Kichwa community, and most of its employees are members of the community. The Napo Wildlife Center is unique among other jungle accommodations because visitors arrive not by motorized canoe but by an atmospheric paddle up a blackwater tributary away from the main river, the Río Napo. The eco-friendly project is committed to conservation and sustainable tourism.

 

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