The word “Amazon” can conjure up fearsome images in even the most intrepid travelers, but we’re here to say that the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the user-friendly places to explore in this last untamed miracle of nature – the Amazon jungle.
Access to the jungle is a short 30-minute flight from the capitol city of Quito, or a very manageable 3½ hours overland. Small rivers and tributaries, which are the headwaters for the mighty Amazon, spill down the Andes over magnificent falls as you descend from “Volcano Avenue” deep into the Ecuadorian rainforest.
The waterways are relatively fast-moving and cool compared to the jungles in the south of the continent. In fact, it’s thought that these waters — along with several species of plants that serve as natural bug repellants — help to make the Ecuadorian Amazon one of the most comfortable spots to experience this most exotically unspoiled part of the earth.
Imagine sitting out in the evening as the sun goes down over the forest canopy, while sipping a glass of wine in the open air, as the creatures of the forest begin their nightly serenade to the beat of a tropical shower…
Though Ecuador shares the Amazon region with Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, French Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, it has been declared — inch for inch — the most Bio-diverse country on the planet!
In the jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon there are over 100 species of trees per acre, more than five times what one would find in the temperate forests of North America or Europe, where it´s rare indeed to find more than 20 species per acre. The Amazon’s labyrinth of rivers, lakes, streams and marshlands are home to more than 250 types of amphibians and reptiles and over 600 species of fish.
These rivers are also home to the almost mythical pink dolphins, which appear on a regular basis in the rivers beside some lodges. For bird-lovers, this is a paradise of rare and exotic species. Approximately 1,000 different varieties of birds live in the region. On a walk through the forest you can expect to come across troupes of monkeys swinging through the trees to greet you. With luck you might spot some of the rarer mammals that hide amidst the thick foliage – ones like monkeys, armadillos, sloths, tapirs or ocelots…
The Ecuadorian Amazon is a virtual Garden of Eden for the world’s most exotic living beings.
On a visit to the Amazon jungle, days are filled with as much or as little activity as your curiosity and energy dictate, whether you choose jungles hikes, bird-watching, piranha fishing, photo safaris, cultural visits or the navigating of rivers by canoe, balsa rafts, kayaks or inner-tubes.
Nighttime in the jungle hosts myriad experiences exclusive to these moonlit hours: bird-watching at dusk as the fireflies dance amongst the trees, or a leisurely down-river float in a dugout canoe, with lazy paddles directing your experience through pristine landscapes, or stargazing and enjoying the equatorially unique view of both the Southern and Northern hemispheres’ million stars, un-changed by the lights of civilization. A favorite for adventurous travelers is a flashlight safari in search of some of the jungles more timid, nocturnal occupants: caimans, spiders, snakes and toads – to name just a few.
If you prefer to relax after a full day of Amazon adventuring, we suggest a good book on the terrace of any of our favorite lodges, soaking up the unique energy of the rainforest. To sleep in the Amazon jungle is one of life’s most dazzlingly sensory experiences: the rainforest comes alive with sounds when the sun goes down. The soul is bombarded by the noisiest silence in the world, echoes of a life long forgotten in a modern world filled with human-made sounds and stimulations. The very air seems to pulse with life, stress disappears and one’s lungs explode with an excess of newborn oxygen. In the jungle one can sleep the carefree sleep of the natives in this land of primal energy – gifted with a glimpse of what it means to be in harmony with nature and one’s wild essence.
Yet the Ecuadorian Amazon isn’t only rich in flora and fauna. These lands are filled with an intoxicating mix of different cultures – all with their own languages, history, mythology and culture. This is one of the most exciting aspects of visiting the Amazon jungle: sharing moments in the lives of the fascinating people who populate these “lungs of the planet.” Community tourism is a very important part of helping these people to preserve their cultural identities as well as their homelands, and for the tribes that have been affected by development. Indeed, tourism offers a viable means of reclaiming their heritage and land rights.
In the jungle, luxury exists in these experiences. Many of our favorite jungle lodges are both owned and operated by local indigenous communities. Just staying in these lodges and offering indigenous peoples an alternative to the exploitation of their lands is a huge contribution towards improving the quality of life on our planet. Community tourism in the Amazon offers a practical approach to saving the rainforest.