Have you ever wondered where in the world there is the most biodiversity? The Ecuadorian Amazon offers one of the most beautiful and special ecosystems in the world, with various species of flora and fauna. Home to several national parks and reserves such as Yasuní, Cuyabeno, Sumaco-Galeras, and Cayambe-Coca. The biodiversity in this region is so incredible that in Yasuni National Park alone you will find 10% of all the species recorded in the world.
Did you know that the Ecuadorian Amazonia has an extension of more than 10 million hectares? This represents 43% of the entire Ecuadorian territory. A curious and important fact is that the famous Amazon River was discovered in the Ecuadorian jungle, in 1492 during the Spanish conquest, a well-known explorer named Francisco de Orellana, led the expedition that left from the city of Quito, also discovering several territories of the region for that reason one of the 5 provinces adopted his surname as its name. Check out the activities to do in the Amazon rainforest and more characteristics of this paradise in South America.
1. Sighting unique species, bring binoculars with you.
Is one of your objectives on this trip is to discover the biodiversity of fauna and flora? The Ecuadorian Amazon is the perfect destination for that, as you can expect to encounter around 150 species of amphibians, 120 species of reptiles, around 200 types of mammals, and around 600 different species of birds. You will find wonderful and unique fauna in every corner you explore in this part of the world. If you enter the deepest parts of the jungle, you will have the opportunity to observe the famous pink dolphins, which provide a unique natural spectacle as they leap into the currents of the Amazon River. The forests of the region are a nature lover’s paradise, with more than 1,000 species of trees recorded, including mahogany, ceiba, rubber, guadua, cedar, and balsa. Many birdwatchers come here to check several species off their list, so don’t hesitate to pack your birding books and get ready for an excursion into the jungle.
2. Living with some of the communities, what will you learn from them?
In the region there are 11 registered Amazonian nationalities, each one has ancestral cultures, throughout history their inhabitants have been protectors of the territories, defending the sustainability and protection of their rivers and forests, they are found throughout the 6 provinces, some of the nationalities are:
The Amazon basin is home to many different nationalities, each with its own established community. If you travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon, you may have the opportunity to live with one of these communities for a while, if you wish. Visitors are often welcome to participate in activities such as artisanal fishing, folkloric dances, nut gathering, preparation of traditional foods, shamanism (a ritual performed by certain cultures to cleanse the soul and body of bad energies), explanation of natural medicine, etc. The Kichwa nationality also offers tourists a chocolate-centered experience in the community of Santa Rita. You can learn about the production process and taste delicious 100% natural desserts. Excursions include canoeing on rivers and hiking on trails where you can observe some of the local flora and fauna.
3. Horseback rides, it’s time to gallop
If you are looking for an activity that everyone can enjoy regardless of their age or experience, horseback riding is an excellent option to tour the trails of the Amazon rainforest, the rides usually last between 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on the expectations and time that visitors want to allocate to the activity, children usually love this activity and it is a memory that is not easily forgotten. Imagine putting on your rubber boots, helmet, and gloves and getting on the back of your new friend, a horse. You will cross streams and meet the flora and fauna up close while you feel the wonderful climate of the region. You will feel like you are inside an adventure movie.
4. Discover the typical flavours of the area, learn how to prepare them.
When you visit the Amazon, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most fresh and flavorful cuisine around the country of Ecuador. The dishes are prepared with local and organic ingredients, so you’ll really be able to taste the difference. There is a variety of different traditional dishes in the area, so you’ll be able to find something to suit your taste.
- ¨Maito de pescado¨: This dish is typical of the provinces of Napo and Pastaza. Freshwater fish from the rivers catfish, cachama, and pintadillo can be used for its preparation. The fillets are wrapped in bijao leaves and cooked on the grill over low heat. Yucca, plantain, potato, onion, tomato, and white cocoa should not be missing as accompaniments.
- ¨Uchumanka¨: Its name comes from two words: uchu, meaning chilli, and manka, meaning food. A delicious spicy soup, prepared with palm heart, chilli peppers, kallamba (wild mushrooms), pitun and complemented with smoked fish or chicken. Accompany it with cassava, plantain and boiled potato.
- ¨Casabe de Yuca¨: A delicious omelette, that takes a long time to prepare, starting with the grated cassava, which is then squeezed with the sënoriya (a scarf-shaped instrument made from the fibre of a local tree called sënorijati). It is placed in an earthenware pot, and the dough is placed evenly in a circle and cooked over a low heat. Finally, it is hung up and dried in the sun.
In addition, you can enjoy unique experiences such as tasting the famous ¨chontacuro¨, a worm that grows on the chonta tree. It is also a very good source of natural protein that can be cooked on the grill, fried, or enjoyed raw. It has medicinal properties as it prevents flu-like illnesses, a delicacy hidden in the Amazon rainforest that you must try. You can’t leave the Ecuadorian Amazon without trying the local drink ¨Guayusa¨ an iced or hot tea that has natural properties. Its main attribute is to be a natural energizing drink, and it also has antioxidant properties. It is an ancestral drink that is still important in the new generations.
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5. Discover waterfalls and rivers. You can’t resist nature.
Water is an essential part of life, and you’ll feel it more than ever on an Amazon itinerary. Feel the magic of nature by visiting and feeling the cool waters of beautiful rivers and natural pools formed by waterfalls. You will feel free and adventurous as you jump off small cliffs and take unforgettable photos that will last a lifetime. After all, you can’t swim in crystal clear waters with such beautiful scenery every day, can you?
You can also enjoy canoe trips on various rivers, such as: Napo, Curaray, Tigre, Pastaza, and many more. If you’re looking for an amazing natural wonder to explore, you can’t miss the Hola Vida waterfall. Located in the middle of a protected forest in the province of Pastaza, this 21-meter-tall waterfall is home to an incredible variety of butterflies, birds, and mammals. You’ll also get to enjoy a beautiful walk through a secondary forest with rich tribal history. And, of course, you can take a dip in the natural pool formed by the waterfall.
6. Adventure activities: rafting and kayaking. The action begins.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is the perfect destination for thrill-seekers and adventure lovers. With its diverse range of rivers, it offers something for everyone – from beginners to experts. And with all the necessary safety measures in place, you can rest assured that you’ll have a great time. So put on your life jacket, grab your camera, and get ready to have the time of your life rafting and kayaking through one of the most amazing places on earth. Rafting in the Ecuadorian Amazon is an adventure you’ll never forget! The tour usually lasts from 45 minutes onwards, and the adventurers enjoy every moment of the trip. You’ll have the opportunity to test your skills on some of the most challenging rapids in the world, so don’t wait any longer! Put on your life jacket and waistcoat and grab a paddle – the adventure is about to begin.
7. Legend of the Birth of the Ecuadorian jungle, a magical origin.
The Shuar people have a rich history and tradition of storytelling. One of their most famous stories is that of the origin of the Amazon. According to legend, the Amazon was once a very different place. The only thing that grew there was a grass called unkuch. The people of the Amazon lived on this grass, but one day it disappeared. Without this source of food, the people began to die out.
Nuse was a brave woman. When she saw her children weakening, she decided to walk until she reached a river. There, she did not hesitate to jump in and found some white pieces floating. These pieces turned out to be cassava, she collected several pieces of this food to take to her children, but she saw the face of a woman in the sky. This woman introduced herself as Nunkui, the ruler and owner of the vegetation. She explained to him that two demons had stolen all the unkuch. Nunkui was very impressed by Nuse’s bravery in reaching this place. She decided to reward her effort by filling the plain with food, trees, and animals. She also commissioned some of her spiritual daughters to accompany Nuse and her people so that they would never lack for anything.
Without a doubt, this is a beautiful origin story from the Ecuadorian Amazon, what do you think? Do you want to know more about this legend?
Now that you know more about the Amazon and its treasures, you must come and discover them for yourself, pack your suitcase, binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses and get ready to take home the best postcards you have ever imagined. ¡A jungle adventure is waiting for you!
Marcel Perkins is CEO at Latin Trails. Latin Trails is an incoming destination management company specialized in bespoke tours, with a focus on offering unique experiences throughout Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru.