Filled with an exceptional diversity of life, the Amazon is the world’s largest tropical forest and spans 40% of South America. Ecuador’s region of the Amazon Rainforest is then regarded as the most species-rich section of this vast wilderness.
Cradled by the Andes mountains, Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest can be reached after a short flight from Quito to the Amazon gateway town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana, named after the Spanish Conquistador, and known to locals as El Coca.
The small jungle town of El Coca sits on the Napo River, which continues its flow down the Andes to help form the mighty Amazon River after it crosses Ecuador’s border with Peru.
You can enjoy fantastic Amazon Rainforest tours, lodges, and cruises in Ecuador to explore the incredible wildlife, see beautiful scenery, and to learn from local rainforest communities.
The wildlife you can find in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest is incredible. Enjoy spotting many different monkeys, colorful birds, such as parrots and toucans, caiman crocodilians, and many different reptiles, amphibians, and colorful butterflies.
Protected Areas of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest
There are a few different protected areas in Ecuador’s Amazon. The most famous, and a protected area regarded as the jewel in the crown of Ecuador’s rainforest, is the Yasuni National Park.
Other protected areas include the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve founded in connected forest with the Yasuni, the Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, the Cayambe Coca National Park, the Llanganates National Park, and a number of private reserves.
The Yasuni National Park
The Yasuni National Park is the main protected area in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest and protects around 1 million hectares of wildlife-rich tropical forest.
Named as one of the world’s most important protected areas for animals and plants, studies inside the Yasuni National Park have set world records for species diversity.
Within the Yasuni National Park, you can find different habitats. You can find high-ground forest known as terra firme, which doesn’t flood, várzea forest, which floods at certain times of year, and the igapo forest that remain at least partially flooded throughout the year. Combined, these habitats provide homes for countless animals and plants.
There are around 150 frogs and other amphibians to find, including the favorite tree frogs iconic to tropical forests. There are also 600 different birds making Yasuni and Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest a birder’s paradise. Enjoy spotting the many different parrots, toucans, tanagers, cotingas and hummingbirds. There are also over 200 different mammals, including the larger species such as jaguar, tapir and many different monkeys.
For a lodge actually inside the Yasuni National Park, which is owned and operated by the local community, we recommend the very comfortable Napo Wildlife Center. We will mention more about this fantastic rainforest lodge further down the page.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is found the other side of the Napo River to the Yasuni National Park. Although In the shadow of the more famous Yasuni National Park, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is still one of the largest protected areas in Ecuador.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve stretches over 600,000 hectares of Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. This is an area where you can still feel the gentle slope of the Andes mountains.
Offering similar forest and a similar diversity of animals and plants, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve contains a little more flooded and semi-flooded forest to Yasuni National Park. This may make sightings of aquatic species, such as caiman, pink dolphins, and anaconda more common.
Although possibly lower numbers of species than the Yasuni National Park, you can still find around 550 bird species, over 100 different mammals, including the iconic species, and many others. The birds you can find include different toucans, macaws, cotingas, and many water species. See a diversity of kingfishers, herons, hoatzins, and cormorants. There are also different rare and endangered species, such as giant river otters and crested eagles.
Animals to See
Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest is the most species-rich section of Amazonia. This means that the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador is perhaps the most wildlife-rich area on Earth.
Iconic Species in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest
Here, we will go over some of the favorite wildlife sightings to see from the top Amazon tours in Ecuador. With your professional guide, head out from comfortable lodges and cruises to experience this incredible forest.
The Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador is home to several different monkeys. You can find the intelligent capuchins, curious squirrel monkeys, playful tamarins, and some larger species. These larger monkeys include the howler monkeys, woolly monkeys, and spider monkeys.
The spider monkeys are the largest species in Ecuador’s Amazon, but are also some of the most rarely encountered. This is unless you’re in areas of pristine forest, as they like the dense rainforest interior.
The smallest species you can find are the pygmy marmosets. These small monkeys weigh around 3.5 ounces (100 grams) and are only found this side of the Amazon Basin. Pygmy marmosets often live as a family unit around a favorite tree where they feed on tree sap and small insects.
If you head out on night walks with your rainforest guide, you will also see the owl monkeys. You can see these monkeys in tree holes during the day when they poke their heads from their hide to investigate their surroundings.
On the list of many bird watchers, Ecuador is home to around 1600 different bird species. This number is concentrated in the Cloud Forest and the lowland Amazon Rainforest.
To give an example of the birdlife in Ecuador’s Amazon, 587 birds can be seen at the fantastic Sacha Lodge, which represents 37% of all Ecuador’s birds and 7% of the world’s birdlife. The recommendation if you’re interested in birds is the Sacha Lodge bird watching program to take full advantage of expert birding guides, the canopy tower, and the canopy walkway.
Some of the favorite species to see in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest are the colorful and iconic toucans, macaw parrots, parakeets, cotingas, tanagers, kingfishers, hummingbirds, hoatzins, and herons. You can then enjoy chance sightings of giant harpy eagles and magnificent king vultures.
On most guided tours in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest from El Coca, you will visit the Yasuni claylick, which is one of the only known claylicks in the northern Amazon Rainforest. Different macaws and parrots visit the claylick for the salt-rich and medicinal clay that detoxify compounds found in forest fruits and seeds.
One of the favorite wildlife sightings in the Amazon Rainforest, giant river otters measure 5.6 feet (1.7 metres) and have a playful and curious personality. They are a highly social species and communicate to others in their group with a diversity of calls.
The otters can be individually identified with their white throat patch, which is unique to each individual. The otters feed on fish, which they hunt together as a family team. They then retreat to the riverbank or floating log to enjoy their meal.
In Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, to have the best chance of spotting the giant river otters we recommend the Napo Wildlife Center inside Yasuni National Park.
Caiman are crocodilians in the alligator family, but show less aggressive behavior than their alligator or crocodile cousins. Caiman mainly feed on fish and there are different species to find. The largest is the black caiman, which reach the same size as the larger crocodile species. Others include the spectacled caiman and dwarf caiman. They are often seen in lakes and at river edges when scouting for nocturnal wildlife with your rainforest guide.
On guided expeditions through Amazonia, you’re sure to see many large and colorful butterflies. There are over 100,000 different insect species in Ecuador’s Amazon, but it’s the butterflies that are often the favorites sight. The most famous group are the blue morphos with their large size and lightning blue wings. Other notable species include glasswing butterflies with transparent wings and the ‘puddling’ kite swallowtails and sulfurs often seen gathered at puddles or on turtles attracted by salt.
Bigs cats are on on the minds of most visitors to the Amazon Rainforest. However, with their keen senses of fantastic vision and hearing combined with silently moving through the rainforest, cats are very rarely encountered. The largest species in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest are the jaguar and puma. However, sightings are very rare. Other cat species that are seen more frequently are ocelots and margays. These smaller cats sometimes like to patrol claylicks where they can ambush parrots that come to visit the clay.
You will visit the Yasuni claylick on guided tours from the excellent Amazon Rainforest lodges and cruises in Ecuador.
The Best Time To Visit Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest
Because the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador is located on the Equator, the region offers a year-long hot temperature. In fact, Ecuador in Spanish means equator. This means Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest is a fantastic place to visit at all times of year, but there are some differences.
As we’re on the equator, there are no seasons characteristic of temperate regions and climate remains similar month-to-month. Instead, there is simply a wet and dry season. Note that as this is a rainforest, the rain can fall at all times of year, but over the wet season the water is higher which means more canoe exploration.
The dry season is usually from December until February with the driest months being December and January. These are also the hottest months with a temperature of around 95°F (35°C).
The rainy season is then from the end of February until November. The wettest months are often May and June. These are also the coldest months where days can get down to 75°F (24°C).
Even over the wet season, the rain often falls in late afternoon and clears by the following morning. When you choose to go to Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest really depends on the when you have available to visit.
The Top Lodges & Cruises
There are some fantastic Amazon Rainforest lodges and cruises in Ecuador where skilled guides will show you this incredible section of forest. See the many different monkeys, butterflies, and colorful birds mentioned further up plus much more.
La Selva Lodge & Spa
The luxury-class La Selva Lodge offers a very comfortable experience of the Amazon Rainforest. The lodge offers a sustainable experience and is Rainforest Alliance certified.
From the lodge, explore the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador with your professional guide to find incredible animals and plants. Walk past giant trees and beautiful lakes as you look for the different monkeys and colorful birds.
In addition to trail walks, you will visit the Yasuni clay lick to see colorful parrots and canoe the waterways scouting for lake-living animals. You will also enjoy night walks to find different amphibians, night monkeys, and more.
La Selva Lodge offers a fantastic canopy tower where you can climb into the rainforest canopy to see hummingbirds, bromeliads, and many different birds. Your guide will take a bird-spotting scope to give you the best chances of finding interesting species. Sometimes, you can even see monkeys moving through the canopy.
La Selva Lodge provides luxurious suites with comfortable king-sized beds with high-quality linen and private bathrooms with rainforest showers. You can also enjoy a relaxing massage at the in-house spa after your excursions.
The Amazon & Galapagos Combination Tour
To make the most of Ecuador’s top attractions, you can combine the luxurious La Selva Lodge with a luxury cruise of the Galapagos Islands.
Explore the Amazon Rainforest from La Selva Lodge mentioned above. Enjoy expertly guided tours to find different monkeys, toucans, parrots, and other colorful birds. You can then relax with a massage at La Selva Lodge Spa.
You will also explore the incredible Galapagos Islands, which we rank as one of the top places to visit in Ecuador and top places to visit in South America. Enjoy a luxury cruise of the Galapagos islands aboard the Ocean Spray or Petrel Cruise for small-group Galapagos Islands exploration.
Not only offering a more personalized experience, the cruises provide more stability and offer both guided island exploration, as well as guided snorkeling and kayaking excursions.
See the incredible Galapagos wildlife, including marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and giant tortoises. You will also hear of the rich Galapagos history filled with pirates, whalers, and world-changing exploration.
On the combination program, enjoy 3 nights on either the luxury Galapagos Cruise, 3 nights at La Selva Lodge, and then 3 nights at a hotel in Quito city.
The Manatee Amazon Cruise
The Manatee Amazon Cruise is the sister ship to the Anakonda mentioned above. Aboard the Manatee Cruise, enjoy comfortable accommodation options with modern en-suites.
From the vessel, you will be exploring the incredible Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. With your professional rainforest guide, leave the vessel aboard modern motorized skiffs to find many different animals and plants.
Your guide will be especially on the lookout for pink dolphins, the many different monkeys, colorful toucans and parrots, caiman crocodiles, and the tall emergent trees.
In addition to seeing the iconic macaws and other parrots flying over the rainforest canopy, you will also visit the much-loved Yasuni claylick to see different birds feed from the medicinal and salt-rich clay. This is one of the only known claylicks in northern Amazonia.
Aboard the Manatee Cruise, you can choose from 3-night, 4-night or 7-night Amazon cruise itineraries.
In addition to guided boat tours from the main Manatee vessel, you will also enjoy canoe tours, night expeditions, forest walks, and the tall canopy tower for incredible views.
The Manatee Cruise offers 14 comfortable and modern double-twin and single-twin cabins. Each offers air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms complete with massage showers.
The Sacha Lodge
The Sacha Lodge offers a fantastic experience of the Amazon Rainforest in the Sacha Lodge’s own private reserve.
Because the reserve sits on private ground for exclusive use for tourism, the wildlife has become used to tourists. This means you can see monkeys and birds moving across the lodge and boardwalks as if the lodge blends with surrounding rainforest in Ecuador.
Enjoy fantastic guided tours through the rainforest on many Amazon Rainforest trails. You will also be paddled around the waterways by your rainforest guide to find water and lake-living animals, such as hoatzins and caiman.
One of the unique features of the Sacha Lodge is the giant canopy walkway. This incredible structure stretches 940 feet (275 meters) through the rainforest as you walk 94 feet (30 meters) above the forest floor. This is an incredible place for birdwatching especially and you can see many colorful species.
Because the lodge was carefully constructed to blend with the surrounding rainforest, it’s normal for troops of monkeys to cross through the rainforest above your accommodation. You will also see animals from the boardwalk, which is built above the jungle floor to minimize disturbance.
The Sacha Lodge offers two dining areas. There is the main dining area and bar as part of the main lodge area, and then another overlooking the beautiful Pilchicocha Lake. Meals are served buffet style and on at least one evening you will enjoy a delicious BBQ overlooking the lake.
So far, 587 bird species have been recorded on the Sacha Lodge grounds, which represents 37% of all Ecuador’s bird species. This means it’s an excellent place for birdwatching and you can be assigned a specific birdwatching guide if this of interest.
The Anakonda Amazon Cruise
The only luxury cruise in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, aboard the Anakonda enjoy a fantastic tour of Amazonia.
Led by expert rainforest guides, explore different areas of Amazonia along the Napo River and Yasuni rainforest.
See pink river dolphins, caiman crocodilians and different monkeys, such as howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins and titi monkeys. The favorite birds to see include the iconic toucans, macaw parrots and parakeets.
Aboard the Anakonda vessel itself, enjoy large, comfortable accommodation options with air-conditioning and modern en-suite bathrooms with hot water. There are 18 suites in total with 4 Deluxe Suites that include their own private balcony.
The Anakonda Cruise also offers a spa room, jacuzzi, a bar-salon, a solarium, and al fresco lounge. The dining room offers some fantastic views of Amazonia while you enjoy delicious cuisine. Floor-to-ceiling windows placed throughout the vessel then keep you connected to this incredible environment.
There are different itinerary length on offer for a cruise aboard the Anakonda. Choose from 4, 5, and 7 nights depending on your time available.
The Napo Wildlife Center
The only lodge positioned inside the fantastic Yasuni National Park, the Napo Wildlife Center is a luxury-class rainforest lodge owned and operated by the Kichwa Añangu community. It is thanks to the community ownership that the lodge is in such an incredible location.
From the Napo Wildlife Center, enjoy heading out into Amazonia with your highly skilled guide to find some incredible sights and sounds of the rainforest.
The Napo Wildlife Center consists of a large main hall, which also functions as a library with wildlife and nature books. This is where you will find the lodge bar and restaurant. Enjoy some fantastic views as you dine or while enjoying an evening cocktail.
The main hall is also where you can find the canopy tower. Enjoy climbing the stairs at your leisure to enjoy some exceptional views over the Amazon Rainforest. You can even spot toucans and parrots flying over the rainforest canopy.
The Napo Wildlife Center suites offer very comfortable accommodation with 24/7 electricity provided by solar panels. The suites also feature private bathrooms with hot water, ceiling fans, and your own balcony for some fantastic views.
In addition to seeing toucans, parrots and other colorful birds, you will also visit the Yasuni Claylick to see colorful parrots gathered at the clay.
Enjoy many different rainforest trails and canoe the fantastic Añangucocha lagoon to see different lake-living wildlife.
The Sani Lodge
The Sani Lodge is a community-owned rainforest lodge in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest. The lodge is found in a private reserve of Ecuador’s rainforest between the Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.
Owned and managed by members of the Sani Isla community, enjoy being guided around the Amazon Rainforest by those who know it best.
Around the Sani Lodge, you can find over 550 different birds including the favorite species of cotingas, tanagers, hummingbirds, macaws and toucans. You will then enjoy guided tours through the rainforest to find many different monkeys, caiman, pink dolphins and more.
Enjoy the Sani Lodge’s 108 foot (36 meter) high canopy tower for incredible birding opportunities. Sometimes, you can also see monkeys moving their way through the canopy.
The Sani Lodge offers ten private cabanas with private bathrooms and a traditional thatch-roofed design. Enjoy meals in the open-air dining room while enjoying fantastic views of the surrounding rainforest. This is also where you will find the bar to enjoy a cocktail in the evening after your rainforest excursions.