Amazon Canoe & Lodge Wildlife Safaris

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.


4 Day Canoe & Lodge Safari itinerary

Day 1

Your journey begins at Quito airport where assistance will be provided in checking onto your flight.

As you fly from Ecuador's Andean capital, watch out of the windows for volcanic peaks. On days when cloud does not obscure, you might be able to see the snow-capped peaks of Cayambe, Cotopaxi and in the further distance, Chimborazo, whose peak is the furthest point from the centre of the Earth, by virtue of Equatorial Bulge.

You will fly over the edge of the Andes, over Andean foothills and eventually see the Rio Napo beneath you as you come into Coca. At Coca, you will pick up your baggage and then be driven to the river where you will transfer to a covered long motor canoe.

From Coca, you will follow the flow of the river about 2 ½ - 3 hours downstream. The forest steadily improves and you will eventually step off the canoe and onto the banks of the Rio Napo. You will walk for about 10 minutes through swamp forest, before transferring into a paddle-powered dugout which will take you down a stream which opens out onto a large oxbow lake.

You will settle into your room at a comfortable lodge, possibly to the tune of Red Howler Monkeys; and then set out on a night walk or lakeside canoe before or after dinner. Guided night walks are a great way to see some of the smaller life in the forest, as well potentially Night Monkeys which exist in this part of the Amazon. Canoeing a night provides easy opportunities to spot caiman, whose eyes light up with the reflection of your torch light.

Day 2

You will have an early breakfast today before taking a slow paddle across oxbow lakes, through swamp forest and along narrow tributaries in search of wildlife and birdlife.

You will then trek to a canopy tower, built around a giant Kapok tree. This will provide commanding views over canopy and swamp forest. Your private guide will be armed with a scope to help point out birds and wildlife, both near and far.

From here we will take you to a bird hide within the forest; and then on a forest trail seeking wildlife and birds, whilst learning a few things about local plants and their traditional uses.

After lunch, we will take to a wooden or sit on top canoe and paddle the fringes of a lake and narrow rivers, seeking wildlife and birdlife as you go.

Back in time for dinner.

Day 3

Another early breakfast, so that you can go in search of wildlife and birdlife again on an oxbow lake and narrow river. You will then take to a motor canoe and head to a salt lick where hundreds of parrots and parakeets come to top up on salt and minerals.

You will then head into the Yasuni National Park in search of wildlife.

For lunch, you will visit a Kichwa village where local people will show you how they grow some of the food you will be eating; as well as how they farm cacao, coffee and fish.

Further search for wildlife and birdlife in the late afternoon before dinner.

Day 4

Today you will head back to Quito, first by paddle canoe … then on foot … then motor canoe … and eventually by plane, arriving in the afternoon.


Price includes
All meals
Dugout canoeing & overnight with local private guide
All transportation starting and ending Quito airport, including flights Quito - Amazon - Quito

Not included
Arrangements in Quito

  • Aerial view of Oxbow Lake close to the Rio Napo in Ecuador Amazon rainforest - Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Squirrel Monkey in Ecuador Amazon rainforest - wildlife -photography Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Turtles Fighting over a Log in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) - Amazon Ecuador - Photograph: Ralph Pannell (Aqua-Firma)
  • Tangled Vines & Walking Palm in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Tree Fungus - Ecuador



  • Scarlet-crowned Barbet (Capito aurovirens) - feeding in the Ecuador Amazon - bird photography by Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi) in the Ecuadorian Amazon - photo Ralph Pannell, Aqua-Firma
  • Opal-crowned-Tanager-Tangara-callophrys-Amazon-Ecuador-canopy-tower-Rio-Napo-sani-yasuni-Ralph-Pannell-Aqua-Firma.jpg
  • Flowers beneath Buttress Roots - Amazon, Ecuador
  • Oxbow Lake in the Ecuadorian Amazon
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