Many visitors to Ecuador are interested in visiting the Amazon from Quito, which is Ecuador’s capital city. You can choose to explore the city to see some fantastically preserved architecture in the historic center.
Before we get to the Amazon, the city itself has many interesting areas, including the world’s 2nd largest cable car that takes you up the Pichincha Volcano for fantastic city views.
Quito is also home to excellent museums, attractive city parks, delicious restaurants, lively bars, and beautiful scenery. However, one of the best things to do in Ecuador is to experience the world’s largest container of wildlife, the Amazon.
The Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas and it’s this half of the Amazon where researchers have found the most species.
There are a few different protected areas, including national parks, national reserves, and private reserves where you can see some fantastic Amazonian animals and plants.
Although clay licks are rare in the northern Amazon, within the Yasuni National Park you can find some areas of exposed riverbank where parakeets come to feed on the salt-rich and medicinal clays. These provide almost guaranteed wildlife sightings on Amazon Rainforest tours.
Quito to Coca
To reach the Amazon from Quito, you first need to head to Coca, Ecuador’s gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. From this small jungle town, you can enjoy Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest and protected areas from top rated rainforest lodges and excellent Amazon River cruises.
Coca itself is officially known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana. The town is positioned at the meeting of the Coca River and Napo River and many tours take you down the Rio Napo and into Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest to experience the protected areas, such as the incredible Yasuni National Park.
Main Protected Areas
The main protected areas in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest are the Yasuni National Park, which you can explore from different lodges and cruises, and the Cuyabeno Reserve on the other side of the Napo River.
The Yasuni National Park
Yasuni National Park is the jewel in the crown of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest and ranks as one of the most species-rich protected areas on Earth. Research in the park across mammals, reptiles, birds, and plants have created world records in diversity.
The Yasuni National Park is bordered in the north by the Napo River, which runs past the Amazon gateway of Coca. It is this river that will transport you to your Amazon Rainforest lodge or Amazon River cruise.
The Yasuni National Park is a UNESCO-listed protected area covering around one million hectares of lowland Amazon Rainforest. The Yasuni is much-loved protected area among nature lovers because of the high amount of wildlife to see.
Enjoy exploring many different rainforest trails from the recommended lodges for Yasuni National Park to see many different monkeys, colorful birds like toucans and parrots, delicate-looking tree frogs, and fascinating reptiles.
In addition to the many animals to find, you can find some of the favorite plants and trees, including many beautiful orchids and the large trees like giant kapoks and the strangler figs.
The Cuyabeno Reserve
The Cuyabeno Reserve is Ecuador’s second largest protected area after the Yasuni National Park. The reserve protects around 600,000 hectares of lowland Amazon Rainforest and, like the Yasuni National Park, the land gently slopes down away from the Andes.
A significant portion of the reserve is classed as flooded forest and there are many lakes and waterways throughout the protected area. Possibly because of the more flooded nature of the Cuyabeno, it’s thought that area has a lower level of wildlife than the neighbouring Yasuni National Park.
As the reserve is just across the river from the Yasuni National Park, the wildlife is very similar despite having a potentially lower biodiversity. Wildlife you can find in the Cuyabeno Reserve includes the different monkeys, beautiful snakes like the emerald boa, black caiman, and giant river otters, among many others.
Best Time to visit
The Amazon Rainforest you will experience in Ecuador is a fantastic place to visit year-round as there are benefits to both seasons. As we’re in the tropics, there are now just two seasons, which are the wet season and the dry season. As this is the rainforest, it’s even debatable if there is even a dry season in the rainforest.
There is a time of year that sees an increase in the frequency and intensity of rain, which is from December to June, although because the change is only slight and as rain can fall at any time of year in the rainforest, advice on the Ecuadorian Amazon wet season will change depending on who you ask.
The wetter months in the Amazon Rainforest are when the rainforest fruits and flowers and this draws in animals to feed on the seasonal food supply. This is also when clay licks are often most active, which you can visit from the different Amazon lodges and cruises. The drier season, however, is when the trails can be less muddy and when pools of terrestrial water can shrink. This is thought to concentrate dependent wildlife.
Attractions & Features
There are a few different attractions in Ecuador’s rainforest to help you make the most of the Amazon. Enjoy canopy walkways, canopy towers, and the Yasuni clay lick to see different parrots.
Canopy towers allow you to experience the rainforest from a different perspective. This is how many birds of prey and monkeys see the Amazon as they explore the branches of tall rainforest trees. You can find canopy towers at the Sacha Lodge, La Selva Lodge, Sani Lodge, Napo Wildlife Center, and even enjoy a canopy tower from the Manatee Amazon Cruise and the more luxurious Anakonda Amazon Cruise.
Yasuni Clay Lick
The Yasuni clay lick is located by the Napo River and inside the Yasuni National Park. The lick is a naturally eroded area of clay where parrots, parakeets and macaws visit to eat the salt-rich and medicinal clay.
The clay licks provide almost guaranteed wildlife sightings and the birds visit to obtain the salts, but also to detoxify unripe fruits and seeds they have eaten in the rainforest. To find the human equivalent, you can think of antacids.
A canopy walkway allows you to walk leisurely above the canopy. The most magnificent canopy walkway in the Amazon Rainforest is accessible from the Sacha Lodge.
The Sacha Lodge walkway stands 94 feet (30 meters) above the ground and extends 940-foot (275-meter) through the rainforest. The canopy walkway is especially loved by birdwatchers as you can see many different species.
Cruises & Lodges
The Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest has some fantastic rainforest lodges and river cruises to explore the incredible amount of animals, plants, and fantastic scenery. Each of the cruises and lodges offers something a little different and a different level of comfort to help you get the best experience of the jungle.
La Selva Lodge
La Selva Lodge is a luxury-class lodge and spa for the Yasuni National Park. Enjoy a very comfortable and sustainable lodge, luxurious suites, delicious gourmet dining, and guided tours in the Amazon Rainforest to find different animals plants. Explore the rainforest on forest walks, canoe adventures, and night excursions. Enjoy La Selva’s canopy tower, spa, clay lick, nearby lake, and the many trails through the rainforest.
The Napo Wildlife Center
The Napo Wildlife Center is a much-loved and very comfortable rainforest lodge for the Yasuni National Park. Enjoy excellent guided tours in the surrounding jungle as you explore the rainforest on forest walks, canoe rides, and night excursions. Enjoy the canopy tower, clay lick, and activities with the Kichwa Añangu Community who own and operate the lodge.
The Sani Lodge
Another community-owned lodge, Sani Lodge is located in the Sani Community Reserve and provides tours in the surrounding rainforest. Enjoy various trails to see many different animals and plants, night walks, kayaking experiences, and observe the rainforest from the Sani Lodge canopy tower.
The Sacha Lodge
Sacha Lodge is nestled in its own private reserve and offers one of the most magnificent canopy walkways in the Amazon Rainforest. In addition to the walkway, you can enjoy a tall canopy tower. On guided tours from the Sacha Lodge, enjoy rainforest walks to find different monkeys, reptiles, colorful birds, and tree frogs. Head out on night walks to see a different set of animals, explore the forest by canoe, explore the lake, and visit the Yasuni clay lick.
Manatee Amazon Cruise
The Manatee Amazon Cruise takes you into the Yasuni National Park and down the Napo River to explore the wildlife-rich Ecuadorian Amazon. Enjoy spotting several different monkeys, colorful birds, reptiles, and delicate tree frogs. Enjoy the Yasuni clay lick, canopy tower, jungle hikes, and canoe exploration.
Anakonda Amazon Cruise
The Anakonda Amazon Cruise is the luxury-level sister ship of the Manatee Amazon Cruise to enjoy wildlife tours in the Amazon Rainforest to find different animals and plants. Enjoy a canopy tower, canoe excursions, the Yasuni clay lick, and rainforest hikes to find different monkeys and colorful birds. Aboard the Anakonda, enjoy very comfortable suites and delicious meals.