The Truth About Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Amazon! Few places evoke as much excitement and apprehension than the most extensive jungle wilderness on the globe. Most people hear the word “Amazon” and respond with stories of dense, dangerous jungles filled with strange and perilous wild animals. Although the rainforests of the Amazon aren’t as safe as a local state park, they aren’t any more dangerous than wilderness areas in other parts of the world. In fact, compared to parks in Africa and Tiger reserves in the subcontinent, the Amazon is pretty tame.

In Ecuador, as with other parts of the Amazon, the main peril comes in the form of getting lost. This is what locals fear far more than any snakes or caimans (although you won’t catch them swimming at night in oxbow lakes). As with other road-less, forested areas, getting lost in the woods is a serious situation where dangers come in the form of exposure to the elements, dehydration, and starvation. Fortunately, whether hiking in Maine, or the Ecuadorian Amazon, it’s also very easy to avoid becoming lost. All you have to do is stick to well marked trails and it won’t happen. It’s even better to explore with a local guide, something that is always part of the experience at the Huaorani Ecolodge. Guests of this award-winning lodge hike through the surrounding, beautiful rainforests with a guide who knows the place like the back of his hand. This not only ensures that guests will not wander off and become lost in the forest, but that they also see more wildlife, learn about the rainforest, and learn a few jungle survival skills from local experts.

Experience the wild Ecuadorian Amazon in a safe, comfortable manner at the Huaorani Ecolodge.

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Tourism in Ecuador after the Earthquake

A little more than a week ago, Ecuador was struck by a strong earthquake. It measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale and as expected from a severe earthquake of that strength, resulted in a lot of structural damage and caused the deaths of at least 600 people. This is a tragic disaster and rescue efforts and aid have been ongoing but it has affected tourism much less than media sources might have us believe.

Contrary to what had been written and expressed at some sources, the earthquake did not affect the entire country. In fact, it wasn’t even felt in the eastern part of Ecuador and damage was mostly limited to one area. Here are some other facts about this recent tragic disaster:

  • An epicenter near the coast: The epicenter of the earthquake was located very near the coast in western Ecuador, especially near the cities of Pedernales, and Manta. These and other nearby towns in Manabi province were mostly destroyed, roads in the area were heavily affected, and the people living in that area are passing through difficult times. Fortunately, aid from within and outside of Ecuador has been reaching them. Trips to this area should be changed for the time being.

  • What parts of Ecuador were not affected?: Actually, most of the country. For example, although the quake was felt in Quito, this was far enough from the epicenter that very little to no damage was reported. The airport at Quito is open, and all of the regular tours there are possible. The same goes for Otavalo, Banos, the Galapagos Islands, and all of eastern Ecuador including the Huaorani Ecolodge. Tourism in these areas is normal and the same activities and infrastructure are available as before the earthquake.

To learn more about Ecuador and if the recent earthquake has affected trips to certain areas, contact us at Tropic.

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How to See Tree Frogs at the Huaorani Ecolodge

The Amazon rainforest is a bastion of biodiversity. This is a well known fact but what is not as well known is how difficult it can be to see the animals that live in the forest. Upon entering the rainforests of eastern Ecuador, most people’s first impression is that of entering a humid cathedral of green. A constant chorus of insects is part of the natural soundtrack but it can take a while to see animals, even some of the 500 bird species that live there.

Everything that lives in the Amazon is so difficult to see because just about everything is either highly camouflaged, or nocturnal. Evolving with a wide variety of predators has resulted in birds, snakes, mammals, frogs, and insects that happen to be natural-born experts at staying out of sight. They can be seen but it takes a well-practiced eye, acute hearing, and the patience of a quiet hunter. This is exactly what you get when walking through the forest with a local guide at the Huaorani Ecolodge. They grew up tracking and hunting animals in those majestic forests and are as just at home in the jungle as city-dwellers are in an urban zone. Hike with a local guide on a night hike to see tree frogs. You will probably see some other animals too.

Visit the Huaorani Ecolodge for an authentic jungle adventure of a lifetime.

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Penguins in Ecuador?

Penguins are some of the more memorable of birds. Although most folks don’t really know what a flycatcher is, just about everyone knows about penguins. We know that they can’t fly, are patterned in crisp black and white (and thus look like they wear tuxedos), and are birds of the cold southern oceans.

While the first two of those facts are mostly true (at least one penguin species looks more blue-gray than black), the third is actually not true. Most penguin species do occur in the Antarctic, but not all of them. Two species range north to Chile and Peru, and one other penguin actually lives in Ecuador right on the equator.

Ironically, the Galapagos Penguin isn’t found anywhere other than the place on the globe that receives the most direct rays from the sun. With that in mind, it would seem that weather in the Galapagos would be a bit too hot for it. However, this unique penguin can exist there for some of the same reasons that so many other animals make their homes in the bucket list archipelago. Cold water is the source of life for the Galapagos Penguin, thousands of seabirds, and prolific marine wildlife around the islands. The cold upwellings from nearby deep waters provide enough nutrients and small creatures to form the base of a food pyramid that includes the Galapagos Penguin. It also benefits from the temperatures of those cool waters despite living right on the equator.

Take a Galapagos cruise to see these unique penguins, Marine Iguanas, and a host of other interesting wildlife.

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The Zika Virus and Travel to Ecuador

The Zika Virus and Ecuador


Recently, one of the biggest headlines to hit news agencies in the USA, Europe, South America, and elsewhere has been that of the Zika virus. Although the virus has been known since 1947, it didn’t really make international news until 2016 after the WHO (World Health Organization) published a “public health emergency of international concern” in early February, 2016. The WHO made this statement after studies showed a much higher than normal incidence of microcephaly among newborns in Brazil, and that the cases of microcephaly were probably associated with the Zika virus.


Anyone who has been paying attention to the news has probably heard this already so what about Ecuador? Is this South American country also affected by the Zika virus? Not to mention, what exactly is the Zika virus? We hope that the following information will answer questions and concerns about this virus, especially related to travel to Ecuador.


What is the Zika virus and why haven’t we heard of it before?

This virus is in the same family as several other mosquito-borne viruses including the ones that cause Yellow Fever, Dengue, and Chikungunya. It was actually discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda, Africa in 1947 but hasn’t made major headlines until now for a few reasons. Since the Zika virus is not lethal and does not cause grave symptoms (and 80% of people are believed to not show symptoms), few scientists studied the virus compared to Malaria or other, more dangerous diseases. Also, the virus was not known to occur in many areas, and so did not seem to have as much as an impact as other diseases.


How is it transmitted?

The main way that people get the Zika virus is after being bitten by a mosquito that carries it. The mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two mosquito species that mostly feed on and live among people. Recent studies have shown that the virus can also be transmitted from pregnant mothers to their babies, and by sexual intercourse with an infected person. It has also been found in saliva and urine but is not known if a viable virus can be transmitted from these fluids.


What happens if you have Zika?

Most people who have the Zika virus are believed to not show any symptoms. The 20% of infected people who do show symptoms of the Zika virus have a fever, joint pains, conjunctivitis, and a rash for around three days. In general, the symptoms resemble those of a mild flu accompanied by a rash. Since those same symptoms can also be produced by other viruses and end after a few days, infection with Zika could be easily overlooked. Given the recent information about Zika probably causing more health problems than expected, anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor straight away.


If the virus only caused such mild symptoms, it probably wouldn’t have made the news. However, since it appears to be linked to a higher incidence of microcephaly, and may also be associated with a higher incidence of Guillain-Barre syndrome, there is more cause for concern. The cases of microcephaly (much smaller than normal skulls) in babies have happened with mothers who had the Zika virus while they were pregnant, and those babies were also shown to be infected with the virus after they were born.


Where does it occur? In Ecuador?

Outbreaks of the Zika virus have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In 2015, cases were found in Brazil, and then in several other countries in South and Central America. Recently, cases of Zika virus were also found in Hawaii and Texas in people who had either traveled to Brazil or had sexual intercourse with someone who had been to Brazil.


Although the virus has been found in Ecuador, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, it has only been found in a few provinces, does not appear to be widespread, and efforts are being made to control mosquitoes in many areas.


Is it safe to travel to Ecuador?

For most travelers, this is the biggest question. According to the WHO, “There should be no restrictions on travel or trade with countries or areas with Zika virus transmission”.

They also mentioned that “Travellers to areas with Zika virus transmission should be provided with up to date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites”.


In other words, the WHO believes that travelers to Ecuador (and Brazil, where the chance of catching Zika is much higher) shouldn’t cancel their trip but should be aware of how to avoid being bit by mosquitoes. In fact, since the mosquitoes that can carry Zika probably do not occur above 2,000 meters, most montane areas of the country are probably free of the virus in any case.


This conclusion is echoed by the USA Center for Disease Control in their recommendation for a Level Two Alert that advises “travel with enhanced precautions”. In other words, they suggest taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites as well as using a condom during sexual relations with males. They also advise pregnant women to consider postponing their trips and to consult their physician before going on the trip.


How to prevent Zika

Although researchers are working on a vaccine, it isn’t expected to be available for at least ten years. In the meantime, the main defense against Zika lies in precaution against mosquito bites. If you are traveling to any area with mosquitoes (in Ecuador, this could mean most areas of the country, but especially areas below 2,000 meters), you could use use long sleeves and long pants, DEET repellent, permethrin treated clothing, and sleep in screened rooms, rooms with air conditioning, or under mosquito nets.




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Exploring the Amazon at the Huaorani Ecolodge

The Amazon rainforest covers a vast area, the majority of which is in Brazil. However, substantial areas of the largest rainforest in the world are also located within the borders of Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. As with many parts of the Amazon basin, the wildest areas in eastern Ecuador are the places that lack roads. It would be foolhardy indeed to attempt to explore such areas on your own, but fortunately, you don’t have to if you want to experience one of the most remote corners of Eastern Ecuador.

Take a trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge and the real journey starts with a canoe ride down a wild, jungle river. As the boat goes downstream, watch the forest edge to see if you can spot monkeys, parrots, and other jungle wildlife.

Once you reach the lodge, a local guide accompanies you on hikes through beautiful primary rainforest. He will help you explore the forest by pointing out certain useful plants, and looking for animals high up in the cathedral-like canopy, and hidden in the undergrowth. Keep a close eye on the vegetation and you might spot well-camouflaged insects, lizards, and other jungle creatures. Your guide will also show you how to use a blowgun and demonstrate a few other survival tips, as well as introduce you to the local Huaorani community.

A trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge is the safest and most exciting way to explore the Amazon!

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Escape the Winter in Ecuador

For many folks in North America and Europe, the cold, gray days of December are here again. No matter how much people enjoy the holiday season, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they are in for two or three more months of freezing cold weather. On some of the coldest days, more than one person has wondered what the weather must be like way down south on the equator. Well, we can tell you exactly what to expect!

Situated right on the equator, Ecuadorenjoys the same, beautiful weather all year long. To escape the snow, you might like a walk on the beach. There are several beautiful ones to choose from on the Pacific coast and we can guarantee that you won’t be cold.

One of Ecuador's beautiful beaches.

After the beach, make the most of the tropical climate with a boat ride through the mangroves near Guayaquil. Or, visit unique tropical dry forest in and near Machalilla National Park. For an easy blend of adventure and possible whale sightings, take a boat ride to Isla de la Plata.

If you still need to warm up after the cold days of  a northern December, pay a visit to the warm, humid rainforests of eastern Ecuador at the Huaorani Ecolodge.

Rainforest hike at the Huaorani Ecolodge.

To round out the winter escape, take an exciting cruise in the Galapagos Islands.

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Highlights from the Train Tour in Ecuador

Deciding upon an itinerary for Ecuador can be a challenge. After looking into possibilities, it can seem that this exciting country almost has too much to offer. One of those exciting possibilities is the train tour. Buy a ticket for this train and you will experience stunning High Andean scenery, visits to local markets, and more while traveling in comfort on a beautiful vintage train. These are some of the other highlights when taking the train in Ecuador:  
  • Cozy Haciendas, Quaint Inns: After riding the easy-going rails during the day, nights are spent in classic haciendas and small inns surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.
  • Visit a Glacier: On the second day of the tour, the train pulls into Urbina station, a stop located at 11,840 feet (3,600 meters) above sea level. The station is also located near the Chimborazo glacier and passengers will actually visit it with one of Ecuador’s last ice traders.
  • Authentic Andean Cuisine: If you thought the food was good in Quito (and it is!), just wait until you try the local delicacies in the markets and haciendas visited during the train tour.
  • The Devil’s Nose Descent: This is the name of a famous, steep decent down the Pacific slope of central Ecuador. This feat of engineering takes the train through several switchbacks for 800 meters down a nearly vertical slope.

Want to experience stunning scenery and activities from the comfort of a beautiful, vintage train? Get tickets for the train in Ecuador!

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Why are the Galapagos Islands a Bucket List Destination?

Everyone has their own set of bucket list destinations. Paris is one of the most common bucket list cities but it’s also one of the easiest to visit. The Great Wall of China also makes it onto the destination lists of some people, as does Mount Kilamanjaro, and other famous sites. Take a look at the bucket lists of folks starting out with travel or having visited dozens of countries, and you will probably see the Galapagos Islands written there.

This archipelago is famous for many reasons and not just for its history. Visit the Galapagos and you cruise through a series of scenic volcanic islands set in what seems like the middle of the ocean. While the spectacular views are enough to warrant a cruise, visitors to the Galapagos also experience a host of unique and amazing wildlife.

The sea cliffs are alive with calling seabirds flying to and from their nests. In the ocean, pods of dolphins might swim past and eagle rays make occasional leaps out of the water. The rocks at the shore host brightly colored Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Marine Iguanas, and sunning Sea Lions. On land, we can visit a breeding center for Galapagos Giant Tortoises and watch unique mockingbirds and Darwin’s Finches hop around. All of these animals are also tame and make fantastic photography subjects. Add wonderful food and drink on a comfortable ship, and a trip to this bucket list destination also becomes a memorable trip of a lifetime.

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The Amazon Experience at the Huaorani Ecolodge

A visit to the Amazon can take the form of a trip to a local town, a boat ride down a river, a stay at a lodge where the primary rainforest has been cut down, or an authentic experience that includes local Amazonian native peoples and wildlife in primary Amazonian rainforest. The latter experience is the exception because although general ideas about the Amazon basin often involve stories of deep, dark forests haunted by Jaguars, Anacondas, and other exotic jungle animals, this is pretty far from the truth. Yes, big cats and large snakes do occur but they are shy, difficult to see, and only live in remote areas. Most areas along roads and other easily accessible sites have been deforested, and few animals can be seen there.

A river flows through the Amazon rainforest.

An authentic Amazonian experience is possible but involves some travel, and a stay at a unique ecolodge. This is what we find at the Huaorani Ecolodge, and getting to and from this award winning lodge is part of the adventure. For example, after a short plane ride from Quito, Ecuador to the Amazonian lowlands, guests board dug-out canoes and travel down a river through intact Amazonian rainforest. There aren’t any roads to the lodge and it shows with wildlife being seen on the trail cams at the ecolodge and by guests hoping to spot toucans, monkeys, and, for lucky ones, a Tapir. After a few exciting days of hikes through primeval jungle, learning about Huaorani culture, and learning some jungle survival tips from people who actually use such skills to survive, guests leave the lodge with another boat ride along a remote jungle river.

A trail cam at the Huaorani Ecolodge captures a view of an Amazonian Tapir.

Visit the Huaorani Ecolodge for a true Amazon experience.

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