Amazon Wildlife & Conservation Insights Adventure

When we first began exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1980s, we provided free medical treatment to communities of Kichwa indigenous people living along a part of the Napo River. One inspired community at Sani Isla decided to establish a strict 10,000 acre wildlife conservation reserve on their land in order to provide a sustainable income from ecotourism. This is where Aqua-Firma will be running this 4 days Wildlife & Conservation Insights Adventure, led by Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern and now a director at Aqua-Firma.

Ralph first explored these forests when leading a primate research expedition. Primates will certainly be one of the wildlife spotting targets for this trip, based in comfortable cabanas. Our mode of exploration will be a combination of walking quietly through forest; paddling across lagoons and through narrow tributaries where the forest canopy often joins hands with trees on the opposite bank; and motor canoe in order to reach highlights such as clay licks.

Spotting wildlife and exploring the Amazon environment in detail will be a priority. So too will be learning about Kichwa history and culture, taking the opportunity to visit a village where organic coffee and cacao is grown. We will also provide an insight into conservation challenges and solutions in this gem of a country on the Equator.

Some of our best birdwatching opportunities will be from a canopy tower, built around a huge Kapok tree. From here we can sometimes see the Amazon's largest bird of prey: the monkey and sloth eating Harpy Eagle. Colourful toucans and aracaris are a regular sight from here, as well as trogons, tanagers or a scarlet-crowned barbet.

We will also head to clay lick where hundreds of parrots and parakeets often come to top up on the salt and minerals they need to neutralise acids their stomachs have to deal with when eating forest fruit.

Whilst much of our time will be spent north of the Rio Napo, we will also head south into the Yasuni National Park. This is Ecuador's largest protected area and the heart of this country's incredible biodiversity. Ecuador's north eastern lowland rainforests, an ancient Ice Age refugia nestled at the foot of the Andes, have been assessed as the most biologically diverse location on Earth. A few of its world records include 2,274 species of tree and bush, 83 species of reptile, 64 species of stingless bee and 100,000 species of insect per hectare. 644 species of tree have been found in a single hectare here, which is almost as many as you will find in all of USA and Canada combined. We can also find more than 550 species of bird, 13 species of monkey, 105 species of amphibian and 1,000 species of butterfly.

Of mammals we 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.

Of the smaller monkeys, Black-mantled Tamarins will be heard by their squeaking; whilst to see the world's smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset, we will rely on the local knowledge of your indigenous Kichwa guides to locate a tree where they feed on tree sap.

Whilst larger mammals do their best to keep out of sight, camera traps set in this area have recorded Pumas, Jaguars, Peccary, Jaguarundi and Tapir. We will be looking out for the tracks of these elusive animals; and by day and night we will have good chances to see both Spectacled Caiman and Black Caiman, which are largest of all Amazon reptiles.

In 2021,this hosted journey will take place just after our Galapagos Shark Research Insights and Photography Dive Liveaboard hosted by Dr Simon Pierce.

Details about Choco-Andes Cloud Forest extension 17 - 20 Sept 2021

Amazon tours adventures safaris and holidays


Amazon Wildlife & Conservation Insights Adventure Safari Itinerary


Day 1

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

As we fly from Ecuador's Andean capital, watch out of the windows for volcanic peaks. On days when cloud does not obscure, we 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.

We 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 we will then take you to the river where we will transfer to a covered long motor canoe.

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

You will be able to you settle into your en suite cabana, possibly to the tune of Red Howler Monkeys; and then set out on a night walk after dinner. Night walks are a great way for us to see some of the smaller life in the forest, as well potentially Night Monkeys which exist in this part of the Amazon.

Day 2

We 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.

We will then trek to a canopy tower, built around a giant Kapok tree. This will provide commanding views over canopy and swamp forest. We will be equipped with a scope to spot birds and wildlife for you, both near and far.

From this canopy tower, 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 head out in canoes through flooded forest and narrow tributaries in search of wildlife, birdlife, reptiles and amphibians such as Spectacled Caiman or Amazon Dwarf-Iguana.

As darkness falls, we will make a lakeside paddle by canoe. Canoeing at night is incredibly atmospheric and provides easy opportunities to spot caiman, whose eyes light up with the reflection of your torch light.

Day 3

Another early breakfast, so that we can go in search of wildlife and birdlife again on an oxbow lake and narrow river. We 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.

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

We will take lunch at a Kichwa village where we will be able to show you some of the crops local people grow and natural materials they use to make the things they need. This will also provide us with an opportunity to discuss how life in the Amazon is evolving. Blow darting is a bit of a sport here, so if you would like the opportunity to dart a papaya or two, that can be arranged! Trip leader, Ralph Pannell, will certainly be aiming to hone his skills.

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.


Enquire / Book 14 - 17 Sep 2021 - £ 1,490
US$ 1,890

small group privately guided, hosted by Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern

Enquire / Book 27 - 30 May 2022 - £ 1,590
US$ 1,990

small group privately guided, hosted by Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern

Enquire / Book 04 - 07 Aug 2023 - £ 1,650
US$ 2,080

small group privately guided, hosted by Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern

Single supplement
No supplement if you share, but £175 / $220 if you have your own room

Price includes
All guiding
Return flights Quito to the Amazon
All transportation in the Amazon by river and land
All meals on location in the Amazon
Park entry fees
Community fees
£25 towards Aqua-Firma's Rainforest4Climate fund
Water, coffees & teas

  • Scarlet Crowned Barbet (Capito aurovirens), Amazonian Ecuador - Ralph Pannell, Aqua-Firma
  • Golden-Mantled Tamarin (Saguinus tripartitus) - Amazon, Ecuador
  • Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu)
  • Masked Crimson Tanager (Ramphocelus nigrogularis) in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Hoatzin Birds are often seen in trees surrounding oxbow lakes and narrow Amazon rivers - photograph Ralph Pannell, Aqua-Firma
  • Canopy Tower in Kapok rainforest emergent tree - Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Rufescent Tiger Heron (Tigrisoma lineatum)



  • Black-mantled Tamarin in Amazon rainforests of Ecuador
  • Spectacled Caiman Lying in Wait - Amazon Oxbow Lake - wildlife photography Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Squirrel monkey mother and baby - Ecuador Amazon
  • Paddling-the-Amazon-Ecuador-rainforest-Aqua-Firma-wildlife-guide-swamp-forest-Ralph-Pannell.jpg
  • Giant Catfish caught on Rio Napo sandbank by falling river levels - Ralph Pannell, Aqua-Firma
  • Squirrel Monkey feeding in Kichwa indigenous rainforest reserve in Amazonian Ecuador - wildlife photography Ralph Pannell Aqua-Firma
  • Kayaking in the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador - photograph by Ralph Pannell, Aqua-Firma
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