Amazon River Ecuador Map
A river which carries more water than any other on Earth, the mighty Amazon and its tributaries can be found in Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela. Starting in Peru’s Andes Mountains and ending in the great Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil, this river contains one fifth of the planet’s freshwater and is a life source for both the natural world and mankind alike. Measuring more than 4,000 miles from start to finish, the Amazon is considered the longest river in the world. Throughout recent history the length of the river has been disputed. The National Geographic Society supported investigations aimed at defining the true source of the Amazon. Mount Mismi in Peru was thought to be the birthplace of the river until 2014 when it was discovered to be the Mantaro River, also in Peru. Before embarking on your Amazon River cruise, take a look at our Amazon River Ecuador map below, to get a better understand of the location.
Amazon River Cruise Map
The Amazon Basin, Ecuador
The Mantaro River starts in Peru’s highlands and joins with the Apurimac River to form the Ucayali River. The Ucayali then joins the Marañon to make the main stem of the Amazon River in Peru’s jungle. Once the Amazon reaches Brazil – where it is known as the Rio Solimões – it merges with the Rio Negro in Manaus and then travels to the Atlantic Ocean. The entire river from source to mouth measures at 6,992 kilometers. The Amazon River Basin spreads over seven million square kilometers – roughly the size of Australia – and encompasses eight South American countries! The Amazon Rainforest covers the Amazon Basin with more than five million square kilometers of jungle, and is the world’s greatest rainforest.
The Amazon River was first discovered in Ecuador. Spanish conquistadors found the river whilst on an expedition and named it Amazon after encountering tribespeople who resembled the Amazon warriors from Greek mythology. Ecuador’s Amazon, also known as El Oriente, is often overlooked for the country’s more famous attraction, the Galapagos Islands. However, the more diverse El Oriente encompasses six provinces and covers the entire eastern half of the country in pure rainforest. Ecuador is one of the planet’s most biodiverse countries, and despite possessing a mere two percent of the Amazon, the variety of flora and fauna found in this small slice of rainforest is just astonishing! Moreover, Ecuador is the perfect place to explore the jungle: Not only is El Oriente easily accessible, but it is also inexpensive, and surprisingly little visited when considering its rich biodiversity.
How to Visit Ecuador’s Amazon
Coca, Lago Agrio, and Tena are all starting points for Amazon adventures and can be reached from Quito within a day. The best way to explore the Amazon is by boat, gliding serenely through the forest’s leafy depths and mysterious waters. Surrender your senses to the jungle soundscape by staying overnight in a rainforest lodge. There are plenty situated along the Napo River, one of the Amazon’s many tributaries, found east of Coca. The Napo is flanked by the Cuyabeno, Yasuni, and Limoncocha Reserves, and many wildlife spotting opportunities are found in and around the river itself.
On the Map: Amazon Jungle Wildlife
The Amazon Basin is home to the smallest species of manatee, the Amazonian manatee. Often described as a cross between a seal and a hippopotamus, it has gray, wrinkled skin and can grow to nearly three meters. A vulnerable species, it is the only one of its kind to inhabit a freshwater environment. The Amazonian manatee is a plant-eating underwater dweller and is hard to spot in the gloomy waters.
📍Where: Yuturi Lake; Aguarico River, Cuyabeno.
Found throughout the Amazon, the pink dolphin is also known as the Amazon River dolphin. As its name suggests, this aquatic mammal is pink in color, although sometimes can appear in gray. This dolphin can grow up to two and a half meters long. It is an endangered specimen which lives in freshwater environments. It has a long beak and can move its head 180 degrees, enabling a better hunting technique when catching fish and turtles. The pink dolphin is found alone or in small groups.
📍Where: Pañachoca Lake, Pañacocha; Zancudococha Lake, Cuyabeno; where the Napo and Aguarico Rivers meet on the Ecuador-Peru border.
A variety of monkeys can be found in Ecuador’s Amazon. These include the following: The squirrel monkey which inhabits forests close to water, the red howler monkey which lives in flooded forests and feeds on leaves, the tufted capuchin monkey which hunts insects and frogs; the noisy night monkey which is nocturnal; and the yellow-handed titi monkey which measures around 35 centimeters (without the tail).
📍Where: By the Napo River; Napo Islands on the Napo River.
Parrot Clay Licks
Clay licks are feeding spots for parrots and macaws. These clay walls are frequented by birds who lick the clay to neutralize toxins consumed in their diet. Birds flock to clay licks every morning, except in the rain. Many parrot, parakeet, and macaw species can be seen.
📍Where: Yasuni has two important clay licks. One by the Napo River, accessible by boat, and the other further inland.
Look out for the endangered yellow-spotted river turtle, known as a side-neck turtle due to its lack of ability to fully withdraw its head into its shell. Instead, it turns its neck to the side to partially retract its head. Yellow spots are seen on the heads of males and infants.
Threats to this species’ survival include egg consumption, as the turtle’s eggs are traditionally eaten by indigenous people or sold at markets. However, conservation projects are in place to help eggs hatch safely. Another turtle to be seen in the Amazon is the South American river turtle which is the continent’s largest freshwater turtle. Females’ shells can measure up to 80 centimeters!
📍Where: On the banks of the Napo River, Yasuni.
The black caiman is the most impressive of its kind, growing over five meters long. It is a dark gray, scaly predator and a nocturnal hunter. The spectacled caiman gets its name from the bony ridge between its eyes which resembles a pair of glasses. It is olive green in color and can grow around to two and a half meters long.
📍Where: In calm waters; Pañacocha Lake, Pañacocha; Lagartococha, Cuyabeno.
On the Map: Amazon National Parks, Communities and Lodges
El Oriente is home to several national parks and reserves where you can enjoy activities such as trekking, wildlife watching, canoeing, and visiting indigenous communities. Please note that you must be with an official guide to enter the reserves.
Yasuni Biosphere Reserve
Yasuni is a National Park and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is the country’s largest inland National Park, covering 982,000 hectares, and is considered the most biodiverse place on the planet! Its unique location where the Equator, Andes, and Amazon Rainforest are all found is thought to contribute to the variety of species residing in the park. From piranhas to jaguars and from woodland to flooded forest, thousands of species inhabit Yasuni, including over 200 species of mammals. Indigenous tribes such as the Hauorani and the Taegari also reside in the park.
📍Where: In the Orellana and Pastaza provinces. Get there from Coca via the Napo River.
Cuyabeno Fauna Production Reserve
This wildlife reserve encompasses many lakes and narrow rivers, including black water rivers stained by decaying vegetation. In its 603,380 hectares you can find dolphins and manatees, over 500 bird species, and at least 10 species of monkey. Several indigenous groups call Cuyabeno home.
📍Where: In the Orellana and Sucumbios provinces. Get there from Lago Agrio down an asphalt road.
Limoncocha Biological Reserve
4,613 hectares in size, Limoncocha boasts over 450 bird species as well as a lagoon well-known for bird watching. The reserve comprises wetlands, swamps, and rainforest.
📍Where: Get there from Coca via the Napo River, or from Lago Agrio by road.
Pañacocha Protected Forest Reserve
Pañacocha is a 56,000 hectare area of humid tropical forest between Yasuni and Cuyabeno. There are nine monkey species, over 100 fish species, and 500 bird species. Pañacocha Lake is home to the pink dolphin.
📍Where: North of Yasuni and south of Cuyabeno.
Native Families and Community Centers
Ecuador’s Amazon is home to three main tribes: The Kichwa, Shuar, and Huaorani.
This indigenous culture is the most populous of all the native cultures in Ecuador’s Amazon. The Kichwa produce products such as coffee, cocoa, and banana, and believe in spiritual healing and Shamanism.
📍Where: Throughout El Oriente, including in Yasuni and the Sarayaku region.
A large tribe historically known for their practice of shrinking the heads of their human victims. This tribe have clear gender roles, with the women cooking, caring for children, and cultivating the land, and the men hunting and gathering.
📍Where: The Ecuador-Peru border; the Morona-Santiago province.
Also known as the warrior tribe. They are traditionally hunters and gatherers as well as being spiritual people who use hallucinogenics and Shamanism. The Huaorani are a vulnerable tribe who speak a distinct language. Some groups of Huaorani support tourism whereas other groups live in isolation and avoid contact with the outside world.
Lodges offer visits to traditional families, tribes, and community centers. Gain insights into indigenous peoples’ homes, daily routines, customs, and beliefs. Learn about pottery, hunting, Amazonian cooking, and their unique way of life. Community centers include the Kichwa Interpretation Center where you can learn about Kichwa culture and Amazonian customs. You can also purchase locally-made wares. A Kichwa Native School is found alongside the Napo River where you can meet the local children and understand how education is delivered in the jungle.
Climb an Observation Tower
Ascend the many steps for a fresh perspective over the Amazon Basin. You’ll also get to see distinct flora and fauna as to what you’ve experienced on the forest ground. One such tower rests against a mammoth-size tree and is over 35 meters high… just be sure to bring your camera and a pair of binoculars!
📍Where: In Cuyabeno and Pañacocha.
Spend the night in a Jungle Lodge
The perfect way to see wildlife and learn about Amazonian culture. You can access native tribes and be led by knowledgeable indigenous guides. Organized activities include fishing, wildlife watching, and canoe/kayak trips.
Napo Wildlife Center
For sustainable tourism. This lodge uses energy efficient solar panels, water treatment, and a recycling system. It is close to many attractions such as clay licks and has a working relationship with the Kichwa tribe.
La Selva Jungle Lodge
For a bit of rainforest luxury. The La Selva Lodge place boasts spa treatments and is perfect for a romantic getaway. It is also well situated for visiting Yasuni.
📍Where: Just north of Yasuni.
A birdwatcher’s paradise with towers and canopy walkways.
📍Where: Just east of Limoncocha.
Rustic accommodation on an oxbow lake.
Next to Yuturi Lake and the Napo River.
📍Where: North of Yasuni.
On the Map: Ecuador Amazon Cruises
An Amazon river cruise is by far the most popular way of exploring the Amazon, and with good reason. An Amazon cruise is a far cry from the ocean liners that take tourists through the Caribbean, or the quaint boats that sail along the Rhine in Europe. The Amazon cruise experience could (depending on the vessel) be most rustic water-based adventure you are ever going to have. It could also be one of the most luxurious river cruises you have done. At any rate, the trip opens up a world of new experiences and the chance to see things that you would never have the chance to otherwise. While it might seem more intrepid to venture through the Amazon on foot, believe us when we say you will see a whole lot more and cover a much greater distance if you decide to float.