Tropical Andes to Amazon
June 2023, 2024 & 2025
From glacial peaks to lowland rainforest, Ecuador's Amazon is one of the most biologically, physically and ethnically diverse areas of our Planet. Opportunities to explore this area are consequently highly varied, ranging from a stationary hide to exhilarating wilderness white water rafting.
The team at Aqua-Firma has been involved in exploration, research and conservation Ecuador's rainforests for 30 years. In no particular order, here are 10 of best ways to explore and introduce you to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Whilst a 4 - 5 day lodge stay is the option adopted by most, it is by no means the only way and can be combined with any number of our other experiences in our Planet's biggest tropical wilderness.
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 reserve on their land in order to provide a sustainable income from ecotourism. This is where Aqua-Firma will be running this 5 days Canoe, Lodge & Wilderness Camping safari, led by Ralph Pannell, formerly of Rainforest Concern and now a director at Aqua-Firma.
These trekking & sit-on top kayak expeditions take you deep into Ecuador's biggest protected wilderness area, providing opportunities for excellent wildlife encounters, including the possibility of seeing pink river dolphin. The ultimate aim is the remote Tiputini River where it runs through the Yasuni National Park. Our accommodation is a combination of premium lodge and wilderness camping; with indigenous interactions with both Kichwa indigenous communities.
There are few places on Earth which can beat the species count of bird we find here, which is more than 560 including Blue & Gold Macaws, Channel-billed Toucans and might Harpy Eagle. Of mammals we can hope to find tracks at least of larger mammals such as tapir and peccary; and of monkeys, we can hope to see up to 13 species including Red Howlers, Golden Mantled Tamarins and Yellow-bellied Spider Monkeys.
When we first began exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1980s, we provided free medical treatment to a community of Kichwa indigenous people living along the Napo River. One inspired community at Sani Isla decided to establish a strict 100,000 acre wildlife reserve on their land and dedicate this primary rainforest resource to ecotourism. This is where, decades later, Aqua-Firma operates Amazon Wildlife Canoe Safaris, taking you to explore the Amazon rainforest on foot and in dugout canoes. We can tailor your guiding according to your special interests, be that general nature, specialist birding or adventure.
As an alternative to a fixed rainforest lodge, we can provide you with an ever-changing vista of riverside and island rainforest onboard one of two comfortable air-conditioned river cruise boats. These journeys will take you from the Amazon frontier town of Coca, all the way to Ecuador's border with Peru.
In addition to great food and an onboard environment largely free of mosquitoes, we will take you off the boat morning, afternoon and some evenings to explore parts of the Amazon rich in wildlife. Wildlife you can hope to see includes pink river dolphins, red howler monkeys, golden-backed tamarins, woolly monkeys and some of this area's incredible 570 and more species of bird. Some of our best bird sightings will usually be at a clay lick, where hundreds of parakeets and parrots often come to augment their sodium intake in an otherwise very low salt diet.
Achuar Wilderness, Wildlife & Culture
This lodge-based experience is as much about the journey to it as your stay there. We first need to drive you from Quito to the foothills of the Andes and an airstrip at the very limits of where four wheels can take you. From here, you will fly for an hour over a seemingly endless landscape of primary rainforest. The forest is in such good condition largely because its residents, the Shuar and Achuar people exercise their land rights to refuse access to oil companies. When you land, you will genuinely feel as though you are in their world, learning about it from their perspective; and have opportunities for encounters with rainforest mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and a vast array of plantlife. Whilst your accommodation will be very comfortable, an expedition approach is essential. Excessive cloud and rain will delay flights into and out of this remote area by as much as a full day.
Andes to Amazon - Overland & Whitewater Rafting
Whilst many will fly into the Amazon, on these private expeditions we will drive you from the high alto plano of the Andes, to tributaries of the Napo River where we can safely provide some exciting and scenically beautiful whitewater rafting. Our team includes some of Ecuador's most experienced river guides. No previous experience is required on your part. These journeys can be stand-alone expeditions, or a 4-day journey leading to one of our other Ecuadorian Amazon experiences.
Two Napo Wildlife & Birdwatching Lodges
We operate wildlife and birdwatching lodge stays from two Kichwa indigenous communities along the Rio Napo: Añangu and El Pilche. All three lodges provide excellent wildlife opportunities and guiding, with two being entirely indigenous owned. Walks and boat-based exploration is included, along with guiding of high quality. Observation from high canopy towers is available from each location; and the chance to experience more than one lodge is something we can also arrange.
Contact Us for details about each option.
Huaorani Canoe Expedition
This privately guided Huaorani Canoe Expedition takes you on a journey staying at different Huaorani villages along the way. You will paddle along tranquil waters in the midst of some stunning primary rainforest. This is also the living home of Huaorani people whose company and humour you will be able to enjoy whilst seeing how they live day to day. Even though the canoeing is not technically difficult, your private guide will be a professional American Canoe Association qualified instructor, trained in wilderness rescue. This is a unique experience ideal for someone in search of a deep Amazon cultural adventure.
Expert Led Private Amazon Birdwatching Trips
For someone whose focus is on seeing the widest possible variety of birds, and in particular, rare and endemic species, we recommend that you are accompanied by one of our specialist birding guides. Whilst we can be amongst 570 of more species in a single part of Amazonian Ecuador, this region needs to be combined with cloud forest and higher Andean areas to absorb more of Ecuador's incredible 1,622 species of bird (source: Birdlife International 20 Jun'19) - and what a journey you will have, amongst glacial volcanic peaks, forest clad hillsides and gently flowing tributaries of the Amazon.