About the Ecuadorian Amazon
Everyone has heard of the Famous Amazon, but what do you really know about it? Here are some facts to get you started!
1. It is Home to Remarkable Biodiversity
The Amazon Basin, and the Ecuadorian Amazon in particular, is home to truly astounding biodiversity: the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve is believed by many to be home to the most diverse set of species on the Earth. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, you will find:
- 800 species of fish, including three sorts of piranhas
- 350 Species of reptiles, including anacondas and iguanas
- More than 300 species of mammals, including monkeys and jaguars
- Thousands of species of plants and trees
- Thousands of species of insects: one acre of rainforest may be home to 70,000 species of insect!
Ecuador’s birdwatching is legendary. In the entire country of Ecuador, there are an estimated 1600 species of birds: more than double the number of all of North America. Many of these bird species are found in the Amazon Region, including some of the more spectacular ones, like toucans, macaws and tanagers.
3. It has a Fascinating History
Did you know that the Amazon River was discovered from Ecuador? It’s true. In 1541, a group of Spanish conquistadors left Quito in search of the legendary city of El Dorado. A year later, a small group led by Francisco de Orellana got split off from this large expedition. Orellana and his men eventually found the Amazon River, which they followed hundreds of miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, they saw some fierce native warrior women and named the river “Amazon” after them.
4. There are Uncontacted Tribes There
Ecuador’s Amazon Region is home to two small tribes of people: the Taromenane and the Tagaeri. There are only a handful of individuals left, and the tribes live in deliberate isolation, eschewing all contact with the modern world. Both tribes live within the borders of the Yasuní National Park, where their rights – including the right to be left alone – are protected by Ecuador’s constitution.
Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on whom you ask – there is a great deal of oil under the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Ecuadorian government recently approved a controversial plan to drill for the oil which lies under the pristine Yasuní National Park. Ecuadorians are divided about it: some feel that a poor nation cannot afford to ignore such vast oil wealth, while others feel that protecting the wildlife in the park (and respecting the right of the uncontacted cultures to be left alone) is much more important than drilling for oil.
6. The National Parks are Amazing
The Yasuní National Park and Biosphere Reserve is only the best-known of Ecuador’s National Parks in the Amazon Region. In addition to Yasuní, other National Parks such as Sumaco Napo-Galeras, Cayambe-Coca and Llanganates all protect parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In addition, there are other areas which, although not technically national parks, are safe havens for wildlife, such as the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Together, these protected areas ensure that Ecuador’s wildlife will continue to thrive for future generations.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Ecuador. Although the Galapagos Islands remain Ecuador’s most important visitor attraction, more and more visitors are adding an Amazon segment onto their trip. And why not? Although Galapagos is famous for wildlife viewing because many of the animals there have no fear of people, there are many more species in the Amazon, and with trained guides you can see them. There are comfortable lodges, getting in and out is easy, kids love the rainforest and there are experiences which you can have in the jungle which you will never have the opportunity to enjoy elsewhere, like seeing a chattering troop of wild monkeys pass overhead.