Six Basic Tips for Traveling in the Amazon Rainforest

An amazing and exotic world, the Amazon rainforest is a destination definitely deserving inclusion on your “bucket list” of travel adventures. This rainforest extends into Ecuador, where it is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Inhabiting here are unique species of plants and animal life, while this region is also home to ancient human communities – some of them still “uncontacted” by the Western world. Here, we present six basic tips for planning your unforgettable trip into the Ecuadorian Amazon.

 

A  boat ride in the Ecuadorian Amazon

 

The tremendous biological wealth and the mysterious beauty of the Amazon rainforest make this destination one of the most desired by world travelers. Thousands of unique species inhabit the Amazon, which is the largest remaining area of tropical forest in the world.

Its host of natural reserves, majestic rivers, and millions upon millions of acres of jungle and tropical forests make the Ecuadorian Amazon a place well worth visiting. However, even today, many people are somewhat fearful of traveling to this exotic destination. To help you get over those concerns and make that decision, here are a few basic tips to prepare for a trip to this intriguing part of the world.

1. Accommodations: A Riverboat Cabin or a Jungle Lodge

Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing comfort or even luxury, if you prefer that style of travel. The Ecuadorian jungle offers possibilities for lodging in full-service riverboats that cruise along its rivers or in rustic lodges constructed in harmony with nature.

For sailing down the waters of the Ecuadorian Amazon, there are basically two cruise ships from which to choose: The Anakonda Amazon Cruise and the Manatee Amazon Explorer. Check out each’s features closely to see how they meet your needs, and be sure to book your tour well in advance. Though much depends on the amount of vacation time you have and how you want to travel, it’s recommended that you to choose a tour for at least five days and four nights so that you can travel farther downriver and have time to visit wilderness areas and national parks.

One difference worth noting is that most Amazonian river cruises, even the shortest one, the cabins are supplied with air conditioning – a service that lodges that usually don’t provide.

Also, you should know that cruises offer more wide-ranging itineraries, extending from the port town of Coca to deep inside the Yasuni National Nature Reserve.

Nevertheless, you may not want to travel long distances and might prefer the isolation of being deep in the jungle to learn more about a specific area. In that case, staying in a lodge is a better option.

  1. Wildlife & Seasons for Traveling to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest

 Ecuador Amazon Red Howler Monkey

As all experts recommend, any trip will be better if you know in advance the possibilities and limitations you’ll have at your chosen destination. For a trip to the Amazon, it’s important that you investigate, for example, the species of wildlife that you will likely come across in this region of the world and find out which ones are more reclusive. In this way you will avoid being disappointed.

Another important piece of information is the timing of the rainy season, as this has great impacts on river levels. For six months (from December and May), the rivers in the Amazon basin rise and overflow their low riverbanks, resulting in many forests being underwater during this period.

During this season, between 60 and 180 centimeters (two to six feet) of rain can be expected to fall in some places. Nonetheless, this is a great time for appreciating riparian plants, fruit and flowers as well as to observing birds and monkeys on the riverbanks. Exploring flooded forests by canoe is another activity that can be enjoyed in these months.

In contrast, during the “less rainy” season, the rivers carry smaller quantities of water, therefore sandy banks and solid land are widespread. In this season, travelers can see long sandy beaches along rivers and they will have more opportunities for exploring and trekking. It’s during this time that forest dwellers plant their crops.

In both seasons its rains (remember, this is a rainforest) but with different degrees of intensity. It’s therefore important that you bring a waterproof yet breathable jacket and quick-drying clothes for traveling here.

  1. What to Wear and Bring

For those traveling to the jungle for the first time, choosing what to pack can be difficult. Taking precautions is fine on a trip like this, but if you exaggerate and over pack, the extra weight is going to create problems.

Here are some tips on what to bring to the Amazon rainforest:

  • Rainforest-appropriate clothing: Wear and bring comfortable clothes. It’s better if these are light colored (dark colors attract bugs), and not ones made of synthetic materials, as these latter produce more moisture and heat. Cottons are your best choice. And despite what you’ve seen in movies, Teva-style strapped sandals aren’t a good idea for walking in the jungle. It’s better to bring closed shoes and/or boots, which are more practical in swampy areas and will avoid problems with bugs and leeches. For the same reason, it’s better to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, all in lightweight and preferably fast drying material.
  • Medications: If you take a particular medication, it’s best to bring extra amounts, as it’s difficult to find certain medications during trips here. You may also want to include some painkillers and antihistamines in your luggage for headaches or discomfort caused by some bugs. Sunscreen and insect repellant are basic. And don’t forget to get your vaccine shots against yellow fever and tetanus at least 10 days before your date of departure.
  • Equipment accessories: On your checklist, include chargers for your gadgets, a good flashlight, and sealable plastic bags to protect valuables that you don’t want to get wet.
  1. When in Rome…

During your stay in the Ecuadorian Amazon, you will have the opportunity to interact with members of indigenous communities living in the region – except those called the “uncontacted” groups.

Many of these people are accustomed to the presence of tourists, but it’s very important that you maintain an attitude of respect. If you want to take pictures or film people, be sure to ask if they mind beforehand. In some places, especially in the more touristy areas, it’s possible that people will ask you for some change in return. The choice is yours, but if someone asks for money for posing for a photo, and you’d rather not pay, it’s probably better not to take that photograph or video. 

  1. Guides

Having a good guide can make all the difference on a trip anywhere, but this is especially true in the jungle. In general, the guides you will find on cruise ships and small boats are naturalist experts with good knowledge of their areas and the ability to introduce visitors to these regions. In addition to most of them being native to their respective areas, most of them are bilingual. Note that the quality of the guides working in jungle lodges may vary, with the best naturalist guides generally found in the more exclusive accommodations.

Local guides who belong to indigenous communities typically have a great deal of knowledge about nature, the environment, traditional medicine, human groups, and the habits and customs of the area.

Ecuador Amazon Guide

Given this fact, paying a little more can be a good investment to ensure that the guide who accompanies you optimizes your travel experience. Also, it’s preferable to have a guide who works for a tour operator or the lodge where you will be staying rather than a freelancer. 

  1. Be Prepared for a Birdwatching Paradise

Inhabiting the Ecuadorian Amazon are about 800 species of birds, many of which can be seen from close up or with a good pair of binoculars. Those people who love birding will appreciate the excursions led by ornithologists, biologists and specialized naturalist guides.

Be sure to find out in advance if the lodge or the cruise that you are considering choosing provides these types of expeditions. Generally, the “rainy” season “water” (from December to August) is best for observing the most beautiful and striking species.

 

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