If you want to visit the Amazon rainforest, travel to the Amazon rainforest, see one fo the best places to visit in South America… this is the blog post for you! This eco-friendly guide to visiting the Amazon covers all the must-sees and our top tips for exploring one of nature’s most beautiful creations.
Shrouded in mystical potency, the might of the Amazon rainforest is unparalleled. This tropical rainforest covers most of the Amazon basin, and encompasses an area of over 2.5 million miles, spanning 9 countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname & French Guiana) across 40% of South America. Rightly topping the bucket list of every intrepid traveller, you may wonder why an eco-friendly guide to visiting the Amazon should be on your radar.
Well, 2020 saw the worst rash of fires the Amazon rainforest has ever experienced, and whilst deforestation surged to its highest level in over a decade. The rainforest deserves its title as the “lungs of the earth”, and yet this planetary life spring continues its race against the worst effects of climate change and human intervention.
Despite these worrying facts, eco-tourism is one way of protecting the magical beauty of the rainforest. This form of responsible travel aims to conserve the environment, seeking to benefit local communities rather than cause further irreversible destruction.
So, if you are looking to travel to South America, see one of the best places to visit in South America, visit the Amazon rainforest or travel to the Amazon, we have the perfect way to make sure you can enjoy an Amazonian adventure in a way that combines exploration at the benefit of the environment and its inhabitants.
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An eco-friendly guide to visiting the Amazon Rainforest...
Where to stay in the Amazon rainforest...
The Guacamayo Ecolodge is located deep in the Cuyabeno reserve of the Ecuadorian Amazon, an often forgotten about slice of the rainforest (most people look to visit the Amazon rainforest in Brazil!). Because of its location at the foothills of the Andes, this area is different from any other protected Amazonian area. It’s the perfect example of how to visit the Amazon in an eco-friendly way because:
- This lodge is operated by conservationists who helped create and protect the Cuyabeno wildlife reserve.
- They have built relationships with the local communities who live in the rainforest. They are committed to the inclusion of indigenous communities, from the building of the lodge, to hiring all internal transportation from the communities. This ensures they share the tourism revenue with the local communities, while also creating an unsullied experience for visitors.
- They promote a culture of environmental awareness and sustainability – through the use of solar power, and the provision of biodigesters for the toilet and even biodegradable soap.
- Their guides are all Amazonian experts/locals who are committed to providing visitors with a truly unique experience
- The Ecolodge is run in order to ensure the survival of the jungle – not to make money!
Guacamayo Ecolodge offer a variety of tour options for eco-conscious travellers – from 2-4 nights all without breaking the bank. You also have the option to elongate your trip if (and when) you fall in love with the rainforest. Book online or when you arrive in Ecuador (often you can get a better price booking in-country!)
Top tips for visiting the Amazon rainforest...
Can visit the Amazon rainforest as a solo traveller?
We are all for independent travel experiences, but the Amazon rainforest is one place where group travel with a guide recommended for safety reasons. The guides at Guacamayo Ecolodge are all inhabitants of the local community, making them the best source of inside knowledge that you just won’t get if you travel by yourself.
When is the best time to visit the Amazon rainforest?
Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest can be visited year-round; its location on the Equator means the climate remains hot and humid. However, as with any rainforest, you should be prepared for rainfall at any time of year. Ecuador experience two seasons, which are worth bearing in mind when booking your trip:
The wet season (December to June) – water levels are high, allowing for more canoe exploration. This is the best chance to see birds and primates as many plants flower and produce fruits for them to eat in this season.
The dry season (July to November) – water levels are lower, attracting animals that would be much harder to spot in the wet season, such as beach-nesting birds and caiman.
What should I pack when I travel to the Amazon rainforest?
Beyond your typical packing list, don’t forget: mosquito repellent, head torch, mix of short and long sleeve clothing, binoculars, suncream, sensible walking shoes, camera, pen and paper (this is the perfect opportunity for mindful journaling) and of course your sense of adventure!
Adopt a ‘take in, take back out approach’ with your rubbish when exploring. Leave no trace!
What languages are spoken in the Amazon rainforest?
There are over 330 indigenous languages of the Amazon, many of which are on the brink of extinction. Most communities will also speak the national language (Spanish or Portuguese) so try to brush up on some key phrases before adventuring – it is always appreciated!
The best eco-friendly things to do in the Amazon rainforest...
1. Grab your binoculars and spot the plethora of avian species.
Cuyabeno reserve is blessed with an avian population of close to 600 species, making it inevitable that you will spot beautiful birds no matter what time of year you venture into the reserve. Guacamayo boasts a 23-meter high observation tower at the centre of the lodge for the exclusive use of guests, gifting you with panoramic views of the surrounding reserve at any time of the day.
One of the best things to do when you visit the Amazon rainforest is to climb the Guacamayo tower and watch the birds in the tranquillity of the early morning sunrise!
2. Keep calm and caiman watch.
An exciting and exhilarating (and pretty scary!) experience for even those who boast nerves of steel! Looking for caimans is definitely one of the best things to do in the Amazon.
Each evening, under the cover of darkness you have the opportunity to search for these captivating creatures, undisturbed in their natural surroundings. After the sun has set, these reptiles come to life and you can be sure to feel their impressive presence throughout the lake.
Remember that these magnificent creatures are in charge and you are very much a guest in their home.
3. Learn the secrets of shamanism.
Part of the allure of the Amazon is meeting a local shaman, and if this interests you, put it on your list of things to do when you visit the Amazon rainforest.
Upstream through the Cuyabeno reserve is home to the Siona community and their shamans. You will have the unique opportunity to learn all about their ancient botanical knowledge passed down through generations. To these shamans, the Amazon isn’t a rainforest, but a medicine cabinet where plants, medicines and spirits are intertwined and the sad realisation that widespread deforestation of the Amazon is resulting in the depletion of this medicine cabinet means the art of shamanism is at the mercy of the 21st Century human population.
Enjoy the experience through the eyes of locals as you learn all about Ayahuasca and shamanic healing through Amazonian medicine
4. Spend time with local Amazonian communities and make delicious food.
One of the main reasons to visit this part of the world is to learn from local communities, experience their traditions, customs and captivating views of the world, and so a must-do when you visit the Amazon rainforest is to learn from the local community.
You will take a step back in time and indulge in the simplicity of life in the Siona community, appreciating the simplicity of washing clothes on the bank of the river, playing hop-scotch with children and taking part in the emblematic activity of preparing traditional food, known as “casabe” (a staple bread eaten at every meal!). Witnessing nature and humans living in harmony is almost alien to many of us in the Western world – but here you will experience a slice of this slow and satisfying life.
Get involved! The making of the casabe is a team activity – from brandishing a machete to harvest the yuca from the ground, to peeling, washing, grinding, compressing, sieving and baking on a classic stone hotplate.
5. Strap on your head torch for a night-time jungle hike.
At sundown the rainforest becomes a totally unique ecosystem. What better way to experience this than with an exciting night walk through the dense jungle vegetation?
Your guide is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to finding even the best hidden creatures. You will have the chance to observe insects with incredible, leaf-like camouflage, tree frogs, shy snakes, marching wasps, banana spiders and tarantulas to name just a few.
Put on long trousers for the night time trip!
6. Catch a glimpse of the elusive Amazon river dolphin.
It may be a fleeting flirtation, but with only 2,000 left in the world your journey in the Amazon will be complete if you catch a glimpse of the beautiful endangered pink river dolphin. The gymnasts of the water, they have the ability to remain agile due to the fact the vertebrae in their necks are unfused (unlike other dolphins). Whilst it is not guaranteed, the knowledgeable local guides at Guacamayo have ample experience to provide you with the best possible chance of watching these mythical creatures in action.
Blink and you’ll miss it! This is one of the best things to do in the Amazon rainforest, so keep your eyes peeled.
7. Feast your eyes upon the wonderful wildlife.
It’s not only the larger animals that deserve to be admired in the Amazon. Each day as you tackle the tumultuous river, your guide will show you all the weird and wonderful diverse range of creatures inhabiting the second largest reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon. From sloths sleeping in the canopy overhead, anacondas slithering on the banks of the river, to the frog chorus sending you off to sleep and waking you up with every sunrise, the fascinating wildlife supported by the rainforest cannot be rivalled.
One of the best things to do when you visit the Amazon is to ask questions! Your guides know everything about this unique area and all the fauna and flora within and want to share as much as they can with you.
8. Sunset and swim in Laguna Grande.
The serene lagoon on the Cuyabeno river is rightly known for its orange sunsets and special swimming spots. After your evening meal, hop aboard your canoe and take the plunge into the refreshing lagoon. Floating in the smooth water mirroring the sun rays is a tranquil experience not to be missed when you travel to the Amazon rainforest.
Despite the fact these rivers are inhabited by daunting creatures like anacondas, caimans and piranhas, you feel safe in knowing they do not venture to these parts of the lagoon as the water is too deep for them to find food (if that can put your mind at ease!). Feel the fear and dive in!
9. Feel the wind on your face with motorised canoes.
Liberation at its finest… shut your eyes and give yourself over to the feeling of the fresh air on your body. When you visit the Amazon rainforest, every day you will step aboard the motorised canoe (the most efficient way for locals to traverse the rivers). Travelling at great speeds, just centimetres above the water is a feeling like no other. Your guides know these river routes like the back of their hand, and even in complete darkness travelling at 30km/hr they know exactly when to turn on the winding rive, even when all you can see is the black of the deep night.
It’s a great way to get back in touch with your body and utilise your other senses when it’s dark: feel the air on your face, listen to the music of the rainforest and smell the fantastical fauna.
10. Disconnect, recharge and refuel.
It’s true that the small things make your memories here so special – and dozing in a hanging hammock for an afternoon siesta is one of the best things to do in the Amazon rainforest. If you prefer other forms of solitude and relaxation, make your way to the rooftop to appreciate the views of the Cuyabeno river, practice yoga or simply read a book. Refuel with the amazing yet modest Amazonian food the lodge has to offer. The chefs take pride in their ability to conjure up delicacies without the fuss of an overpriced city restaurant. They also cater to dietary requirements, to make sure this trip can be as inclusive as possible.
Your itinerary will be full of exploration and excitement so take these moments to cleanse your body and mind.
Prepare to disconnect as you will have no access to wi-fi. Whilst this may sound daunting in the technological world we live in today; you have the chance of a lifetime to escape your fast-paced life and open your eyes to the stillness of the rainforest, cut only by the sounds of what lives and breathes within it.
So what are you waiting for? Leave your expectations at home and surrender to the true art of slow travel.
Would you like to travel to the Amazon rainforest?
What are your tips for visiting the Amazon rainforest? Anything you’d add?
Love as always and happy adventuring…
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