The Amazon … 10,000 acres of indigenous-owned wildlife reserve … privately guided trekking in primary rainforest …. exploration by wooden canoe on an oxbow lake and along narrow tributaries ... comfortable en suite cabana… these are the ingredients of our 4 day (or longer) Ecuador Amazon Dugout Canoe & Lodge Wildlife Safaris.
These wilderness and wildlife experiences area set in an area of rainforest just north of Ecuador's Rio Napo. We first explored these forests more than 30 years ago, with a primate research expedition led by one of Aqua-Firma's directors. The expedition soon became a medical project as well, with the expedition doctor providing free healthcare to Kichwa indigenous communities in the area. Since then, one of these local communities recognised the value of the natural assets which surround them, setting aside 10,000 acres purely for nature and building some lovely visitor cabins that you will be staying in.
Your adventure will begin with a flight into the Amazon from Quito, hoping to catch views of the snow-capped Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcanoes en route. You will land at the bustling Amazon town of Coca where you will switch to a motorised longboat canoe and speed 3 hours down the Rio Napo in the direction of Peru. This is the Amazon artery from which the great river was first descended from Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, by Francisco de Orellana in 1542. You will be in one of the best places in South America to see giant Harpy Eagles, whose primary prey is monkeys. This is also where in August 2019, BBC presenter Steve Backshall came to shoot a Deadly 60 documentary about pumas.
We will eventually switch you to a paddle-powered canoe heading up a small tributary leading out onto a stunning oxbow lake. This is where you will be based for exploration of Amazon forest on foot, from above the forest when we climb a canopy tower; and by wooden or sit-on top canoes through lagoons and narrow Amazon tributaries. 644 species of tree have been found in a single hectare in this part of the Amazon, which is almost as many as you will find in all of USA and Canada combined. We can also find 565 species of bird here, 13 species of monkey, 105 species of amphibian and 1,000 species of butterfly.
Your accommodation will stay in a comfortable en suite cabana throughout, exploring the forest on foot and by canoe by day and night. We will also take you to a clay lick where hundreds of parrots and parakeets come to top up on salts and minerals; into Ecuador's biggest national park: the Yasuni; and to visit Kichwa villagers, to understand more about their way of life.
Of primates you can hope to encounter, Red Howler Monkeys will almost certainly be clearly audible, with their dawn and dusk calls carrying up to 5km through the forest. The largest troops of monkeys you might see will be of Squirrel Monkeys or White-fronted Capuchins. Depending upon the season, Capuchins can sometimes be heard cracking nuts against the high bows of trees.
Of the smaller monkeys, Black-mantled Tamarins will be heard by their squeaking; whilst to see the world's smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset, you will require the local knowledge of your indigenous Kichwa guide to locate a tree where they feed on tree sap. Your guide will provide many insights into life in the forest, both for its flora and fauna and for its human inhabitants too. The Kichwa here rely on preserving the rainforest, for which responsible tourism provides a sustainable option to repel outside interests in logging, oil exploration, cattle ranching and conversion to a palm oil monoculture.
We will provide great opportunities to spot birds with dawn and late afternoon walks, as well as time spent looking into the rainforest canopy from a high canopy tower. Some of the highlight species we hope to show you will include toucans, hummingbirds, flycatchers; and members of the parrot family from flocks of parakeets to Blue & Gold Macaws. A night walk will reveal yet more of the forest fauna.
Whilst larger mammals do their best to keep out of sight, camera traps have recorded Pumas, Jaguars, Peccary, Jaguarundi and Tapir in the area. Our guide will be mindful to try and show the tracks of these elusive animals.
If birdwatching is your priority, then we can structure this experience to make it a dedicated birding experience.