When most people think of Ecuador, they think of the Galapagos Islands. But if you head inland rather than out to sea, you’ll arrive at an expanse of Amazonian jungle whose biodiversity far exceeds that of the Galapagos.
Ecuador is home to only 2% of the entire Amazon Basin, but even this relatively small section offers endless opportunities for wildlife spotting, trekking and adventure. Much of the jungle remains inaccessible to all but the most hardy and experienced of explorers, but river boats and jungle lodges allow tourists to penetrate deep inside this spectacular area.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to a handful of important national parks and reserves, most notably Parque Nacional Yasuní. Yasuní covers an area of 3,793 square miles (9,823 km2) and is considered one of the most biodiverse areas on the entire planet. It is home to more than a hundred species of reptiles and amphibians, almost 600 species of birds and an estimated 200 species of mammals. The park also falls within the territory of two uncontacted tribes, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane.
Just north of Yasuní is the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, the second largest protected area in Ecuador. The park offers a unique Amazon experience thanks to its geographic and ecological quirks. Its western fringes are tucked up against the Andean foothills, which have given rise to flooded forests, lakes, lagoons and creeks of a character not normally found in the deeper Amazon. This has helped create a birdwatcher’s paradise in an area of incredibly diverse flora, with as many as 12,000 plant species.
Tours into the Ecuadorian Amazon can last a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Eco-friendly jungle lodges have popped up across the region to cater for adventurous tourists, many of them serving as bases for treks and river boat journeys in the surrounding area. So one day you might be walking below monkeys as they swing through the canopy, and the next day you could be fishing for piranhas. All in all, an unforgettable jungle adventure.
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