With so much to see and experience in Ecuador, sometimes squeezing in a jungle tour doesn’t seem possible. The Amazon is often left off the itinerary because of time, money, or a lack of information; travelers simply don’t know their options for exploring the area.
Remember this: If you’re coming to Ecuador, don’t pass up a trip to the Amazon! To help you plan your trip, here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.
Amazon Deep Jungle Adventures in Ecuador
In Ecuador, the Amazon is relatively small compared to other countries like Peru and Brazil. However, it still takes up about ⅔ of Ecuador’s landmass. The deep Amazon begins where the road ends; you’ll likely need to travel by canoe from this point on. Ecuador jungle tours in this region of the Amazon will probably take place in one of the following areas:
- The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (northeast, along the Colombia-Ecuador border) in Sucumbios Province
- Yasuní National Park (south of Cuyabeno, extending east towards the Peruvian border) in Orellana Province
- Pastaza Province
- Morona-Santiago Province
Of note are the variety of experiential tourism opportunities in this part of Ecuador. The Province of Pastaza in the eastern part of Ecuador is known for being home to seven of Ecuador’s indigenous tribes: the Kichwas of the Amazon, the Andoas, Záparas, Huoranis, Achuar, Shiwiar, and Shuar.
As is the case in much of the Amazon region, to visit those communities located deep in the jungle, within this extensive territory, one may need to travel along the Pastaza River (a tributary of the Amazon River) by canoe. Getting there, as they say, is a part of the experience. And what you can see and observe along the river is vastly different than what you might see from any sort of road or highway.
Activities: Get Inspired by the Jungles of the Amazon
For those of you that like to keep busy even on vacation, many Ecuador jungle tours include activities such as:
Hiking through the Amazon rainforest is well worth the sweat and adventure. As you trudge through the dense forest, remember you’re walking through the “lungs of the Earth.” Much of our planet’s oxygen supply is produced right here, where you’re standing. On a day hike, you might spot plants and animals of all shapes and sizes, including birds, snakes, primates, and insects.
Birding and Wildlife Observation Tours
These take place on foot or aboard a canoe. A local guide will know exactly where to take you to spot some of the world’s rarest tropical birds and mammals, such as the Amazon’s pink dolphins.
A nighttime activity done by canoe, cayman spotting, can be quite a thrill! Though these imposing carnivorous reptiles can be spotted during the day, it’s an entirely different experience to drift into the darkness and watch as thousands of unblinking cayman eyes rise above the water’s surface.
A popular activity on most Ecuador jungle tours, fishing allows you to get up close and personal with one of the Amazon’s most terrifying predators: the piraña (or piranha). Make sure you carefully remove these from the line before returning them to the water
Surprisingly, you may spot more rainforest dwellers at night than during the day. Once the sun sets over the horizon, a host of nocturnal creatures come out to play, including numerous lizard and snake species, tarantulas, bats, and more.
Cultural and Gastronomical Activities
The Amazon region is home to guayusa, a natural source of energy and nutrition. It is easy to find tours and workshops revolving around this particular plant, the leaves of which contain powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Ecuadorians enjoy guayusa as a tea, enjoyed hot or cold. It is one of the best supplements for cardiovascular health.
Another thing worth trying on your trip through the Amazon is chicha. This beverage dates back to pre-Incan times. It can be made with corn, rice, or quinoa, though its preparation in this region calls for yucca (or cassava root) as its principal ingredient. Because it involves fermentation, the final product has high alcohol content. It is an exotic treat not to be missed.
Experiences: Connect with the Amazon Jungle
There’s no need to plan a full schedule for your Ecuador jungle tour. One of the best ways to experience the Amazon is simply relaxing, being still, and absorbing your natural surroundings. Another way to connect with this mystical place is to spend time among local communities and learn about their worldview, spiritual beliefs, and traditions.
Most jungle tours in Ecuador’s Amazon will include a stop at an indigenous community, like the Siona, Kichwa, Shuar communities.
What to Expect When Visiting the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador
If it’s your first time going on a jungle tour in Ecuador, go to experience the rainforest for what it is—a delicate ecosystem and one of the world’s natural wonders. Keep in mind that it might rain every day of your trip because, well, that’s what happens in the rainforest.
Along a similar vein, don’t set your expectations too high around spotting wildlife. Though the Amazon is teeming with creatures, they tend to camouflage with their surroundings and prefer to be left alone or viewed from afar.
One of the most memorable aspects of any rainforest-related experience in this region is the culture, which flows hand in hand with nature. Communities in the Amazon have a rich tradition and abundant knowledge of plants and their many medicinal and healing properties. Often overlooked by potential tourists, this fascinating part of the journey truly merits a greater appreciation.
Your experience in the Amazon will depend, in large part, on the type of trip you plan. When you decide to invest in community-led tourism experiences, which are incredibly rewarding and directly benefit the local people, you find modest yet comfortable accommodations with limited electricity and possibly wifi. This type of lodging can help you truly connect with your destination. Meanwhile, there are some higher-end lodges, where you can expect to find wifi (though it may not be very fast), multilingual guides, international cuisine, and more.
Weather in the Amazon Jungle
The weather in Ecuador’s Amazon is either wet or dry. The dry season lasts from December–February and then July–October. The wet season typically takes place from April–June and then November–December.
Don’t be swayed by the term “dry season”—it’s always wet in the Amazon rainforest. The region sees an average of 126–169 inches (3,200–4,300 mm) of rain each year!
In terms of temperature, evenings can be a little cooler, averaging about 68º F (20º C), while daytime temperatures can get as high as 95º F (35º C), depending on the current weather pattern.
Ecuador Jungle Tours: Tips and Recommendations
As you prep for your Ecuador jungle tour, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Set aside 4–7 days for your trip, counting the time it travels to get to your destination and back (roughly one day each way). If you can only spare 2–4 days, consider visiting Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve instead of other harder-to-access areas.
Finally, though most tour companies in Ecuador will provide all the necessary packing tips before your visit, make sure you pack the following:
- Rubber boots
- Lightweight pants
- Light long-sleeved shirts
- Extra pairs of socks
- A sweater, sweatshirt, or windbreaker for cooler, rainier days
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen)
- Insect repellent
And, don’t forget to pack a sense of curiosity and adventure, and get ready for an experience that you’ll remember forever!
Recommended Experience: Visit the Sarayaku Community
Along the banks of the Bobonaza River in Pastaza Province, the Sarayaku Tribe has long lived in complete harmony with their surroundings. They are keepers of traditions built upon generations of respect for the land, animals, trees, plants, and neighboring communities that share this beautiful, pure, and natural setting.
In 2002, fierce petroleum interests, backed by the Ecuadorian military, invaded their lands without consultation nor any prior notice. The 1,200-person community began organizing with the help of indigenous rights organizations to defend their lands from exploitation. Their decade-long crusade culminated when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica ruled in the tribe’s favor in 2012. This documentary tells their story.
The Sarayaku are artists, musicians, teachers, and so much more. Their creativity and talent are visible in everything they make and do. If you want to learn about the Amazon region, immersing yourself in a community like that of the Sarayaku may be just what you need.