forty percent of all earth's fresh water flows through the Amazon
basin; more water than in the basins of the next six biggest rivers
combined! In the Amazon river there are islands as big as Switzerland
and otters bigger than men, and at certain points along it you can
be in the middle and see neither shore. It snakes thousands of miles
and draws in water from over 1500 water sources, including the Río
Napo of Ecuador, one of its primary tributaries plants are found in
this equatorial swath of green.
From the Amazon come some of our favorite foods: avocado, black pepper,
Brazilian nuts, cayenne pepper, cashews, cocoa, cinnamon, eggplant,
figs, ginger, sugarcane, vanilla and yams. The rainforest also produces
many medicines, such as quinine for malaria; curare for multiple sclerosis
and Parkinson's disease; as well as many industrial products, including
latex, resins, timber, oil, and other minerals.
to the Rainforest
can access to the jungle through one of the three roads from the
Andes. In the north from Quito. Another road in the south from Baņos
to Puyo, which is considered to be the best and most reliable one
and the third souther road with access from Cuenca to Macas.
are airports in Lago Agrio, Coca and Macas, all with scheduled flights
from Quito. These services are notoriously unreliable and the weather
can also cancel the flights, so be prepared for delay.
away from the roads and inside the rainforest the rivers are used
for travel, as most settlements are along the banks of the rivers
where dugout canoes are used for transport. Hiking through the rainforest
is tough and muddy, a delightful challenge for the adventure-seeker.
Also from November to April there are some fantastic hikes from
the Andes to the Amazon, passing down ancient trade routes, through
cloud forest and remote villages.
The Amazon rainforest, contrary to the warnings, can be a very comfortable
and healthy place to visit. To avoid health problems the three most
important things are to try to avoid being bitten by insects, taking
care of you personal hygiene and to drink only boiled water (like
anywhere else in Ecuador).
It is usually not necessary to take anti-malarials. The number tropical
diseases exist only in the background and the temporary visitor
is very unlikely to be exposed to them. The only time it is certainly
worth taking prophylactics is ifan epidemic in the area is to be
visited, in which case you should ask your embassy about before
you go or if you plan to stay in the jungle for more than a week.
Yellow fever injections are worth while, as is an anti-tetanus booster.
Injections against hepatitis should be up to date. The precautions
that you can take to avoid insect bits include the use of personal
insect repellent, long sleeve shirts and slacks, never leave the
door to your room or tents open, even during the day, not turning
on an indoor light while the door or tent flap is opened at night.
Be cautious about laying on the river shores, as sandflies may be
a problem. It's also a good idea not to pet animals or birds that
many people have living around their homes.
Things To Do
There are jungle lodges, deep in the forest where visitors
can experience the rainforest and have their best chance of seeing
monkeys and other mammals. Also canoe expeditions are an option,
combined with camping or basic accommodation, usually these include
something cultural from the area often with a community or family
visit. There are both indigenous families and communities who welcome
visitors and are usually as interested in your culture as you are
A large proportion of modern medicine is based on the traditional
herbal cures of the Amazon basin and there are many more plants
such as Sangre de Drago (a good anti-biotic, the sap of this
tree is said to cure stomach ulcers if taken twice a day in water,
among many other illnesses) still waiting to be discovered by western
society. The Shaman of the rainforest have inherited this rich tradition
and today still use these traditional techniques to cure their patients.
For those interested in extending their knowledge of herbal and
other traditional shamanic practices this is a great place to do
it. These visits are not designed to be worthwhile sightseeing trips,
but are for people who wish to actively take part in a learning/healing
This rainforest is home to thousands of indigenous inhabitants,
who make up nearly 200 distinct nations, including the Siona,
The indigenous tribes that live in Ecuador's rainforest are the
ancient keepers and guardians of the world's biological heritage
- having lived there for more than 10,000 years, they know its trees,
its animals and its rhythms better than anyone.
can learn more about indigenous forest peoples and the rainforest
itself by joining one of the many community-based ecotourism programs
offered in the Ecuadorian Amazon or by becoming a volunteer with
one of the many non-profits working in the region. Please check
out the list of organizations
with offices, or based in Ecuador to volunteer with one in the jungle
or anywhere else in the country.