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As the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon is famous for its biodiversity of plants and wildlife. Spreading across nine countries in South America, there are many options for experiencing the Amazon. Ecuador is a great choice given its eco-friendly lodges, incredible biodiversity, and affordable cruises down the Amazon river.

I’m so grateful that I got to experience the Amazon in Ecuador because it was one of the highlights of my entire time in South America. As one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, taking an Ecuador Amazon tour is a great choice for those looking to experience the incredible diversity of the Amazon at a reasonable cost.

This post will go over everything you need to know about planning a visit to the Ecuador Amazon, including how to get there, booking a tour/lodge, what to do while you’re there, and tips to make the most out of your visit.

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How to plan an Ecuador Amazon Tour

The Amazon rainforest is located in Eastern Ecuador. There are two sections of the park that you can visit:  Yasuní National Park, and the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

To get to either, you can fly from the capital city of Quito to Coca, the gateway town to the Amazon. TAME Airlines runs daily flights. If you are headed to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, it is about another hour and a half drive to the reserve entrance. From there, you take a boat down the river to one of the lodges.

If you book a lodge in advance, they should arrange a pickup for you at the river. Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has a number of affordable lodges to stay at.

For Yasuni National Park, you will have to spend the day on a boat down the Napo river to get inside the park. There are both expedition cruises, luxury cruises, and deluxe lodges in Yasuni National Park. I didn’t stay in Yasuni, but it seems that the accommodation options are more expensive in comparison to Cuyabeno.

Find accommodation in Yasuni National Park.

Alternatively, to save on costs, you can opt to take a bus from Quito to Coca, which takes about six hours. The easiest way to do this is to arrange a tour from Quito that will take you to the Amazon for a few days.

I booked a four-day tour through my hostel in Quito, Secret Garden, for $260 USD. This included all transport, three nights accommodations at Siona Lodge, all activities (river cruises and guided hikes), as well as food. It was great value. I highly recommend this tour for anyone looking for an easy and affordable way to see the Ecuador Amazon.

If you prefer to do a group tour, G Adventures runs tours to the Ecuador Amazon. They have tours that explore all of Ecuador as well as one-week Amazon tours where you can do a homestay.

I’ve traveled before with G Adventures and loved my experience. Aside from being a well-run and organized tour, they have great values towards responsible travel. They always work closely with the local communities and give back. Get the Latest Adventure Travel Deals from G Adventures.

Siona Lodge

After meeting our guide at the entrance of the reserve, we took a boat about two hours down the Amazon river to Siona Lodge where we stayed for the next three nights. 

Coming from a backpackers hostel, I wasn’t expecting our lodging to be as nice as Siona Lodge was. The lodge can accommodate up to 20 people at a time. They have bamboo huts with two twin beds or a double bed, and each room comes equipped with its own bathroom with hot water. The rooms are well-kept and cleaned every day.  The lodge also has a communal kitchen/dining area and a lounging area in the back where you can relax by the water.

Siona lodge in the amazon
Siona Lodge, looking towards the lounging area by the river

There is a chef at the lodge that will make guests three meals a day, as well as snacks when you come from activities. The food was so tasty. Most of the meals were seafood based but there were also vegetarian options available if you ask.

Wildlife in the Amazon

monkey in the ecuador amazon
Spotting monkeys on a river cruise in the Amazon

The best part about visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon is the diversity of wildlife that you can find there. During our stay at the lodge, we took river cruises, day hikes, and night walks to see the various animals.

Anaconda snake
Spotting an Anaconda on a river cruise

Some of the highlights we encountered were 6 of the 10 species of monkeys you can find in the Amazon, two species of toucans, blue and gold macaws, various birds, a baby anaconda, and sloths. We even saw river dolphins jumping out of the water!

bird in the ecuador amazon
Searching for birds in the Amazon

On our departure day, the guide gave us the option of going on a sunrise boat tour as this is the best chance to see birds. There are few things that will get me up before the sun, but this was completely worth it.

As soon as I came out from my room to the dock the entire river was lit by the rising sun. It was incredibly peaceful as we gently paddled through the river searching for birds. We saw quite a few and were even lucky enough to spot toucans.

Cayman
Cayman in the Amazon river

Activities in the Amazon

River Cruises

amazon river cruise
Taking a cruise down the Amazon river to search for wildlife

As one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, taking a river cruise through the Ecuador Amazon is an incredible way to see the incredible flora, fauna, and wildlife in the area. While staying at Siona Lodge, they took us on several cruises in the morning and evening to see the various wildlife.

We spotted monkeys, anacondas, crocodiles, river dolphins, macaws, toucans, snakes, and sloths while cruising down the Amazon. You are always surrounded by exotic plants and lush vegetation, which creates a magical and relaxing setting.

Sunset in the amazon
Reflections on an Amazon River Cruise

The cruises at dusk and dawn are magical, as you see the sun setting against the river it creates a beautiful reflecting in the water. The nighttime cruises are also fantastic, as the moonlight over the Amazon river lights up the area. It looked although the sun was still setting was actually the light of the moon. I’ve never seen it so bright before.

night cruise on the amazon
Moonlight over the Amazon river

Swimming in the Amazon

Every night after the day’s activity we had the opportunity to swim in the water nearby at sunset. At first, this terrified me, but it ended up being one of my highlights of the trip.

The water in the Amazon is completely black and you cannot see through it, or anything that might be lurking below. But as I saw other people go in the water my confidence grew, and I jumped in. Once I was in the water I didn’t want to get out. it was an incredibly serene experience to swim surrounded by the jungle with the sun setting over you.

Swimming in the Amazon river at sunset
Swimming in the Amazon river at sunset

Hiking in the Amazon

Amazon flower
There are so many interesting flowers in the Amazon rainforest

We went on two guided hikes in the Amazon, one at night and one during the day. Hiking through the Amazon rainforest is a great way to see the interesting flora and fauna of the Amazon. We also saw some little creatures like the tree blog pictured below.

It was so fascinating to learn about the different aspects of the jungle and how it all works together as one giant ecosystem. Some of the flowers and insects are so beautiful and intriguing.

frog camouflaging on a leaf
A frog blending into its environment in the Amazon rainforest

The guided night hike is more spooky as most of the insects come out to play during the night, and the spiders are massive! We also saw a giant snail, it looked like a completely regular looking snail but 20x the size I’ve ever seen.

We also saw the famous walking trees. These are trees that actually move a couple of meters each year to get in a better position for reaching sunlight.

trees in the Ecuador Amazon
Walking trees in the Amazon

Culture in the Ecuador Amazon

We spent a day of the trip visiting a local village in the Amazon. It was much more modern then I had expected, and our guide told us this is how most of them are now. He said that there is only one non-contactable tribe left in the Ecuador Amazon and they will kill you with spears if you go near them!

It was still a great experience to see how the local people live in the Amazon. We got to try a bunch of exotic fruits, and make yuca bread with a local family from start to finish. We went into the garden and pulled the yuca out of the ground, cleaned it up, drained the water out of it, shredded it down, and then roasted it over the wood fire. Voila, Yuca bread!

making yuca bread
Making Yuca bread with a local family in the Amazon

We also got to try some traditional amazon medicines. I was the guinea pig for a plant that helps back pain, which was an interesting experience. He rubbed the plant all over my back which resulted in it breaking out in a crazy rash that was very painful for about 10 minutes. My back did feel a bit more relaxed afterward but I don’t think it was worth the pain.

Medicinal plants in the Amazon
Medicinal plants in the Amazon

We also got to talk to the local shaman who explained his role in the village. He gave us some really interesting information about ayahuasca and his role in using it in the village to heal people.

Meeting the Shaman of the village
Meeting the Shaman of the village in the Ecuador Amazon

Tips for visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon

Diseases/Vaccines

Going into the Amazon is not as dangerous as you might think. However, there are certain vaccines you should be up to date with before taking a trip there.

Always consult your family doctor or travel clinic for up to date information on what you need.  The Center for Control and Disease is a great resource to get an idea of what you might need.

Most diseases are spread by mosquitos and the best way to prevent these is to use bug repellent, and wear long sleeves during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active. Most of the lodges should have AC and/or mosquito nets above the beds.

I recommend purchasing travel insurance before your trip to the Amazon in the unlikely event that something happens. It can be an expensive bill if you are unable to get out of the Amazon region on your own. Or worse, end up with a disease like dengue where you will have to spend time recovering in the hospital.

I recommend WorldNomads. I’ve used and claimed with WorldNomads and the process is easy, as it allows you to claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you’re already traveling.

Best time to visit the Ecuador Amazon

As a rainforest, you can expect that the weather will be hot, humid, and rainy almost every day. On average the Amazon receives around 3200-3500mm of rain per year, with an average temperature around 23-25.

There is a dry season between July and November, which just means it rains less than the rest of the year.  I went in June and it felt like a great time to visit, as the rain seemed to only come during the morning before we were up, so it was never an issue.

Packing List Suggestions for the Amazon

  • It’s not safe to drink the tap water, or the water in lakes, streams or rivers. Consider bringing a water purifier with you, such as the LifeStraw self-filtering water bottle.
  • Waterproof travel gear such as a dry bag for bringing your camera and other electronics along during the river cruise.
  • A GoPro for jumping in the river to go swimming.
  • A portable battery charger for charging your camera/phone during the day
  • Quick dry activewear clothing, as it can be humid during the hikes.
  • A waterproof jacket. I love my North Face jacket because it packs up small but offers great protection when needed.
  • Long pants for hiking, lounge pants for relaxing in the evenings & swimsuit

Final Thoughts

I loved my experience in the Amazon. If you’re looking for an easy and affordable trip I definitely recommend the tour through Secret Garden hostel. All aspects of the trip were so well managed and made for a great experience. 

I felt incredibly relaxed and at peace after spending 4 days in the Ecuadorian Amazon, it’s a special place. Tell me, have you visited the Amazon before? Let me know in the comments below!

Wondering where to go after the Amazon? If you’re in Ecuador, check out the incredible Galapagos islands!

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6 Comments

  1. This has been on my bucket list for AGES. Seeing your photographs and reading your stories has certainly inspired me to make it happen – although I’ll have to wait for my ACL to heal 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear it inspired you, it was definitely one of my highlights of South America! I know a few people who have had ACL injuries and it sounds like a huge pain, wishing you a speedy recovery! 🙂

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