In March 2005, I visited the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador. I flew into Coca via Quito. From Coca I took a boat to the La Selva Jungle Lodge, about 40 km (25 miles) downriver. I stayed at the lodge for 5 days. After a boat trip back to Coca, I boarded the Manatee and stayed on that boat for 5 days, cruising up and down the Rio Napo.

The transportation medium of choice in this area is of course the boat. There are not many roads in the jungle. The normal boats are somewhat slow. The lodge has much faster boats. The fastest boats are the speedboats of the oil companies. They are REALLY fast.

The La Selva Lodge was excellent, I can really recommend it. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. The organization is very conscious of environmental issues. It is a North American organization, but the lodge employs mainly local people. The lodge can only be reached by foot and canoe. All luggage is transported by porters from the Rio Napo to Garzacocha Lake (Heron Lake, an apt name), on which the lodge is located. It is about a 15 min walk. From there everything (and everybody) continues in canoes. One of the pictures below shows the supply ship with a load of soda and beer  ;-) The canoe ride takes another 20 min. It is very scenic, especially during sunset. There are no motor conveyances whatsoever in and around the lodge, everything moves by people power.

I was somewhat concerned about mosquitoes in the lodge, but found out soon that this is not an issue. There are two types of water in the Amazon basin, white water and black water (see picture below). The white water is river water that comes from the mountains. It is light colored from the sediment that the river carries. It makes the river water completely opaque. The black water is water in the lakes and brooks in the basin. It is black from tannin from decaying vegetation. It is black but transparent. This water is very acidic. Mosquito larvae cannot live in acidic water, so there are no mosquitoes around the black water. Since the lodge is on a black water lake, there was no problem with mosquitoes. The river with white water, is a completely different story. The mosquitoes like that water, so the islands in the river, that have lots of standing water, are swarming with mosquitoes. That was a problem during the excursions from the Manatee. It was especially severe during one excursion on a large island in the Rio Napo. On the Manatee itself, it was not a problem, since you are two decks up, and mosquitoes don't fly much about ground level. The ship was also on running water, so mosquitoes don't hang around much.

The food was very good. Meals are included in the price, only the bar bill is extra. The local beer is pretty good, and in ample supply.

The excursions are interesting. The excursions around the lodge are either by paddle canoe or on foot. To the excursions to the parrot clay licks you go to the Rio Napo by canoe and by foot, and then take a short motorboat ride on the river. Behind the lodge is a 35 m (115 ft) high canopy observation platform, build around a tall tree. It gives you a splendid view over the jungle canopy.

The second part of the trip was on the Manatee. There were only two other tourists on the ship while I was there. The accommodations were very comfortable, there even was air-conditioning in the cabin. The food was excellent, and the crew friendly and knowledgeable. We usually did all-day excursions from the ship with a motor boat. We went to Limoncocha, where we saw the caimans, and to Pañacocha (Piranha Lake), where we saw a lot of birds.

The main attractions in the jungle are the plants, and of course birds, insects, and monkeys. We didn't see any larger mammals. The variety of plants is what you would expect from a rain forest: it is huge. The number of insects and the number of birds species is equally impressive. As far as mammals are concerned, we saw mainly monkeys.

The plant variety is enormous. Some of the trees where huge. They have very varied types of bark. One of the trees had a neat means of getting rid of the lianas and other plants growing on them: It completely sheds its bark every year. This gets rid of anything that tries to hold onto it. The lianas are everywhere. They sometimes have really interesting cork screw-like shapes. The strangler fig is the most notorious. It grows around a tree and eventually chokes it to death. By that time the strangler fig has become so strong that it can stand on its own. There where lots of epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants, like the philodendrons and bromeliads.

Most of the forest along the main river is secondary growth. This means that the original rainforest had been cut down. The secondary growth doesn't have the large trees, and is much denser with small underbrush. The fertile soil in the Amazon basin is usually only a very thing layer. Underneath it is non-fertile sand. When the rainforest is cut down, and the land is farmed, the nutrients in that thin layer are used up very quickly, and the land becomes unusable. It then takes a long time for the rain forest to come back, if it ever can. Clear cutting and loss of fertile soil are the biggest danger for the rain forest.

Insects are everywhere. They are in the lodge as well. Some of the tour guests were disconcerted by them, but they didn't bother me. I didn't see any in my room (mainly because I wasn't really looking for them). I think that is the best way to handle them, just don't look at them. It may be ostrich policy, but I think it works for my relationship with insects  :-)

One particular type is ever present: Ants. There are army ants (they are roving ant colonies without a permanent nest), bullet ants (they are almost 3 cm (1.2") long, with a very painful bite), and leafcutter ants (see pictures below). The leafcutter ants bring pieces of leafs to their underground nests. They then grow a special fungus on these leafs. The fungus is their food.

Other ubiquitous insects are grasshoppers and crickets. They look somewhat similar. The grasshoppers have the short antennae, the crickets have long ones. Some of them were colorful, others were camouflaged.

Then there are beetles, lots of different species. There are many more beetle species on earth than species of any other kind of animal. British biologist J. B. S. Haldane was once asked by theologians what conclusions he could draw about God from years spent studying life on Earth. Haldane is reported to have said that God must have "an inordinate fondness for beetles."

Spiders also are ubiquitous. From small ones all the way to the big tarantulas. Some of them build large webs, others hunt on the ground. A strange looking one was the scorpion spider.

Wasps are also very common in the jungle. The most amazing ones were so-called "Marching Wasps". We were on a boat, canoing along one of the small brooks when our guide stopped. He said we should yell real loud "March" on a count of three. One, two, three, "MARCH". At that moment there came a loud noise from the tree above us. It sounded just like a marching army. Our guide explained that it is a warning mechanism of the "Marching Wasps". When they hear a threatening noise, they start to beat their wings inn unison in the nest as a warning to whoever is around. It was a fantastic experience to hear that.

As for mammals, we saw mostly monkeys and bats. The bats were very interesting, we got pretty close to a bunch of them that were roosting on a dead tree trunk through the day. We saw monkeys quite frequently, but not from very close, so I don't have any really good pictures of monkeys.

The black water lakes have plenty of fish, including piranhas. Some of the people in our group were fishing for piranhas and they caught quite a few of them. One of the lakes, Limoncocha, has quite a few caimans in it. We did see them just after sunset on an evening canoe ride. They are easy to spot. You shine a search light across the lake, their eyes, reflecting the light, look like bright flashlights.

I did see some lizards and frogs, but not all that many. They seem to be well camouflaged.

I had a great time and saw a lot of wildlife. The two parts (jungle lodge and ship cruise) are somewhat redundant, since you visit some of the places twice (e.g. the parrot clay licks). But I think it still was worth it. The best way to do that would probably be a cruise that goes longer distances than the Manatee.

If you know the name of any of the plants or animals for which I don't have a name, I would appreciate it if you would send me that name to email me

I have the bird pictures from the Ecuador Amazon area, together with bird pictures from other parts of Ecuador on a separate page:

Birds in Ecuador
Birds in Ecuador

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Rio Napo

View Over Rainforest Canopy
View over the rainforest canopy from the observation tower. (1260k)
Original Rainforest Along Small
The original rainforest along one of the small black water rivers. (1310k)
Black Water Lake Mandicocha
A black water lake, Mandicocha, getting choked by water hyacinth. (1018k)
Fertile Soil Amazon Basin
The fertile soil in the Amazon basin is usually very thin. Underneath this thin layer is sand that doesn't allow anything to grow. (1144k)
Merger Black Water River
Merger of a black water river and a white water river. The waters of the two rivers stay separate for quite a while, it shows off the difference of the waters clearly. (984k)
Moonrise Over Jungle
Moonrise over the jungle. (446k)
Moonrise Over Jungle
Moonrise over the jungle. (626k)
Late Afternoon Rio Napo
Late afternoon on the Rio Napo. (550k)
Sunset Rio Napo
Sunset on the Rio Napo. (492k)
Sunset Rio Napo
Sunset on the Rio Napo. (520k)

Flora on the Rio Napo

Large Bamboo Rain Forest
Large bamboo in the rain forest. (1144k)
Palm Tree Rain Forest
Palm tree in the rain forest. (1434k)
Huge Buttress Roots
Huge buttress roots. (1115k)
Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra)
One of the large trees a Ceiba or Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra, german: Kapokbaum, french: Arbre à kapok), left over from the original rain forest. This is secondary rainforest, growing after the original rainforest had been cut down. (814k)
Tree Towers Over Original
This tree towers over the original rain forest. Notice the lianas hanging down from the big tree. (929k)
Tree Probably Pulled While
This tree was probably pulled down for a while by some other plant, therefore the bend in the trunk. (982k)
Cork Screw-shaped Lianas
One of the cork screw-shaped lianas. (1135k)
Lots Lianas Tree
Lots of lianas on that tree. (813k)
Strangler Fig Almost Enveloped
A Strangler Fig has almost enveloped this tree. (1151k)
Trees Try Discourage Animals
Some trees try to discourage animals from climbing up. (1097k)
Paper Ant Nest Tree
This is a paper ant nest on a tree. (768k)
Capirona (Calycophyllum spruceanum)
Capirona (Calycophyllum spruceanum, german: Mulateiro). This is the tree that sheds its bark every year. You can see that it is very smooth, preventing other plants from getting a foothold on it. Notice the column of leafcutter ants carrying the green leaf pieces down the tree. (789k)
Trunk Tree Starts About
The trunk of this tree starts about 2 m (7 ft) above ground and is held up by a system or roots. (1063k)
Walking Palm (Socratea exorrhiza)
Another one of these trees that stand on stilts. This is a Walking Palm (Socratea exorrhiza, german: Wanderpalme, french: Palmier marcheur). According to our guide, this tree will move slowly by shortening roots on one side and lengthening them on the other side. This has been shown to be a myth, not fact. The heart of this palm is used as roach kill. (1085k)
Fruits Jungle Tree Seem
Fruits on a jungle tree. They seem to grow directly out of the trunk. (890k)
Bromeliad Growing Tree
A bromeliad growing on another tree. (1083k)
Another epiphyt. (814k)
Flowering Epiphyt
A flowering epiphyt. (897k)
Philodendron Growing Tree
A philodendron growing on another tree. (733k)
Young Shoot Young Shoots
A young shoot. Young shoots tend to be reddish, they become green as they mature. (738k)
Jungle Plant Clearing Caused
Jungle plant in a clearing caused by a fallen tree. These clearings have a very different mix of plants than the main jungle. Smaller plants can grow in these areas, since they can get sun. The main forest is pretty dark on the ground, not many plants grow there. (816k)
Flowering Plant
Flowering plant. (758k)
Real Flower Petals Main
These are not real flower petals, they are main leafs that are brightly colored, like flowers. (568k)
Flower Stand
A flower stand. (696k)
Flower Stand
A flower stand. (638k)
White Flower
White flower. (727k)
Anchored Water Hyacinth (Pontederia azurea)
Anchored Water Hyacinth (Pontederia azurea, french: Eichhornia azurea). (607k)
Amazon Lily (Eucharis amazonica)
Amazon Lily (Eucharis amazonica, german: Amazonaslilie). (546k)
Trumpet Flowers
Trumpet flowers. (710k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). Heliconias were everywhere. These bright red beautiful flowers came in all kinds of shapes, hanging or standing. (968k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (459k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (584k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (586k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (583k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (526k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (654k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (646k)
Heliconia (Heliconia sp.)
Heliconia sp. (german: Helikonien:Genus). (640k)
Mushrooms Rain Forest Full
Mushrooms. The rain forest is full of mushrooms. They don't need much light, so they can grow in the dark on the forest floor. (911k)
Pig's Ears (Cotylidia diaphana)
Mushrooms called "Pig's Ears" (Cotylidia diaphana). (748k)
Mushrooms. (913k)
Mushrooms. (805k)
Mushrooms. (736k)
Monkeys Cup (Cookeina sp.)
Some of the mushrooms were really beautiful. This is a "Copa de Mono" (Monkeys Cup) (Cookeina sp.). (679k)

Fauna on the Rio Napo

Nursery Web Spider (Thaumasia sp.)
Nursery Web Spider (Thaumasia sp., german: Thaumasia ). (511k)
Nematopus (Nematopus sp.)
Leaf-footed Bug (Nematopus sp.). (639k)
Montina (Montina sp.)
Assasin Bug (Montina sp.). (617k)
Bess Beetle (Passalidae gen.)
Large Bess Beetle (Passalidae gen., german: Zuckerkäfer), about 7 cm (2.8") long. (657k)
Pleasing Fungus Beetle (Erotylini gen.)
A Pleasing Fungus Beetle (Erotylini gen.), ready to fly off. (685k)
Homalinotus (Homalinotus sp.)
Weevil (Homalinotus sp.). (536k)
Stink Bug (Edessinae gen.)
Two Stink Bugs (Edessinae gen.). (452k)
Round-backed Millipede (Juliformia ord.)
Round-backed Millipede (Juliformia ord.). (573k)
Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmida fam.)
Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmida fam., german: Bandfüßer, french: Mille-pattes à épaulette). (655k)
Foam Nest Insects Build
Foam nest. Some insects build such foam nests for their larvae. (444k)
Termite Nest Tree Termites
Termite nest in a tree. Termites build these nests and tunnels on trees so they don't have to go outside. (1102k)
Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata)
A flower pod with a Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata, german: 24-Stunden-Ameise). These bullet ants are about 2.5 cm (1.0") long and have a very painful bite. (532k)
Column Leafcutter Ants Carrying
A column of leafcutter ants carrying the pieces of leafs into their underground nest (entrance on the left). (935k)
Closeup Leafcutter Ants Big
Closeup of leafcutter ants. The big ones carry the leaf pieces, the little ones sit on the leaf pieces as guards and defense against would-be leaf thieves. (625k)
View Leafcutter Ants
Another view of leafcutter ants. (524k)
Big Cutting Off Piece
The big one is cutting off a piece of leaf, it is about half way across. The little ones are waiting for their ride. (386k)
 Ant Lion Traps Ant Lions Insects Larvae Family Insects Build Inverted Cone Shaped Traps Sit Apex Trap Wait Ant Fall Ant Trap Throw Sand Ant Keep Climbing Ant Falls All Way Grab Hundreds Traps Sand Under Huts Jungle Lodge
Ant lion traps. Ant lions are insects. The larvae of this family of insects build these inverted cone shaped traps. They sit at the apex of the trap and wait for an ant to fall in. When an ant is in the trap, they throw sand at the ant to keep it from climbing out. When the ant falls all the way down, they grab it. There were hundreds of these traps in the sand under the huts in the jungle lodge. (1280k)
Leaf Katydid (Phaneropterinae gen.)
Leaf Katydid (Phaneropterinae gen.). (473k)
Lysacris (Lysacris sp.)
Short-horned Grasshopper (Lysacris sp.). (465k)
True Katydid (Pseudophyllinae gen.)
Large True Katydid (Pseudophyllinae gen.) (about 10 cm (4") long). (586k)
True Katydid (Pseudophyllinae gen.)
Another large True Katydid (Pseudophyllinae gen.), this one more colorful. (565k)
Short-horned Grasshopper (Ommatolampidinae gen.)
Mating Short-horned Grasshoppers (Ommatolampidinae gen.). (648k)
Katydid Laying Egg Tree
This katydid was laying an egg on a tree. (598k)
Creoxylus (Creoxylus sp.)
Stick Insect (Creoxylus sp.). Some of these are very well camouflaged. (587k)
Stick Insect (Libethra sp.)
Stick Insect (Libethra sp.). (776k)
Stick Insect (Ignacia atrophica)
Mating Stick Insects (Ignacia atrophica). (500k)
Praying Mantis (Macromantis hyalina)
Praying Mantis (Macromantis hyalina). (519k)
Meneria Metalmark (Amarynthis meneria)
Meneria Metalmark butterfly (Amarynthis meneria). (624k)
Juno Silverspot (Dione juno)
Juno Silverspot (Dione juno, french: Flambeau argenté) getting moisture from a swampy area. (859k)
Uncertain Owlet (Bia actorion)
Uncertain Owlet butterfly (Bia actorion). (512k)
Lepidoptera (Lepidoptera fam.)
Butterfly (Lepidoptera fam., german: Schmetterlinge, french: Papillons). (518k)
Blushing Phantom (Cithaerias pireta)
Blushing Phantom butterfly (Cithaerias pireta). This butterfly has transparent wings, you can see the leaf behind the wing. (479k)
Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp.)
Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp., german: Bananenfalter, french: Papillons-hiboux). (871k)
Dragonfly (Anisoptera fam.)
Dragonfly (Anisoptera fam., german: Großlibellen). There were lots of different dragonflies around the lakes. (536k)
Damselfly (Zygoptera fam.)
Damselfly (Zygoptera fam., german: Kleinlibellen). (507k)
Large Woodskimmer (Uracis fastigiata)
Large Woodskimmer (Uracis fastigiata). This dragonfly has transparent wings, except for the black tips. (603k)
Greater Forceptail (Aphylla sp.)
Big, brightly colored Greater Forceptail Dragonfly (Aphylla sp.). (779k)
Clubtail (Gomphidae gen.)
Another big Clubtail Dragonfly with a tiger-striped torso (Gomphidae gen., german: Flussjungfern). (667k)
Spider Web
Spider web. (718k)
Spiny Orb Weaver (Micrathena clypeata)
Spiny Orb Weaver (Micrathena clypeata). (738k)
Ancylometes (Ancylometes sp.)
Large spider (Ancylometes sp.). (871k)
Tailless Whip Scorpion (Heterophrynus longicornis)
Tailless Whip Scorpion (Heterophrynus longicornis). (959k)
Orb Weaver (Eriophora sp.)
Orb Weaver Spider (Eriophora sp.). (576k)
Orb Weaver Spider (Eriophora fuliginea)
An Orb Weaver Spider (Eriophora fuliginea) with prey. (503k)
Pink-toed Tarantula (Avicularia sp.)
Pink-toed Tarantula (Avicularia sp.). This one lived in the bamboo hand rail in the jungle lodge. (609k)
Pink-toed Tarantula (Avicularia sp.)
The same Pink-toed Tarantula (Avicularia sp.) on her way to hunt. (822k)
Long-waisted Paper Wasp (Mischocyttarus sp.)
A Long-waisted Paper Wasp (Mischocyttarus sp.) that just started to build a nest. (463k)
Large Wasp Nest
A large wasp nest. (868k)
According Our Guide Wasp
According to our guide, this is a wasp larder. The wasps build these mud enclosures around an insect that they have caught. The insect still lives, so it keeps for a while, till the wasp needs it. (489k)
Two Nests Tree Left
Two nests on this tree, the left one is a nest of Marching Wasps, the right one is an ant nest. (1200k)
Beaked Toad (Rhinella sp.)
A Beaked Toad (Rhinella sp.). (826k)
Poison Dart Frog
A poison dart frog. (461k)
O'Shaughnessy's Gecko (Gonatodes concinnatus)
O'Shaughnessy's Gecko (Gonatodes concinnatus). (687k)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps). (803k)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps). (608k)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps)
Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps) closeup. (555k)
Giant South American Turtle (Podocnemis expansa)
Giant South American Turtles (Podocnemis expansa, french: Arrau), resting on a log. (961k)
Giant South American Turtle (Podocnemis expansa)
Giant South American Turtles (Podocnemis expansa, french: Arrau). (680k)
Redeye Piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus)
Redeye Piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus, german: Schwarzer Piranha). (354k)
Red-bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri)
Red-bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri, german: Natterers Sägesalmler, french: Piranha rouge). (423k)
Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso)
Proboscis Bats (Rhynchonycteris naso, german: Nasenfledermaus, french: Chauve-souris à long nez) roosting for the day. (687k)
Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso)
Close-up of a Proboscis Bats (Rhynchonycteris naso, german: Nasenfledermaus, french: Chauve-souris à long nez). This one has a baby on her belly. (785k)
Close Boa Constrictor Big
This was as close as I got to a boa constrictor. The big snake was high up in the tree, about 30 m (100 ft) away. You can see it in the center on that clear part of the branch. (841k)
South American Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus crocodilus)
South American Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus crocodilus, german: Krokodilkaiman, french: Caïman à lunettes). The eyes reflecting the search light. They were easy to spot because of these reflections. You could see them clear across the whole lake. (754k)
White-bellied Spider Monkey (Ateles belzebuth)
White-bellied Spider Monkey (Ateles belzebuth, german: Weißstirnklammer­affe, french: Singe-araignée à ventre blanc). (724k)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis, german: Humboldt-Totenkopfaffe). (755k)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis, german: Humboldt-Totenkopfaffe). (752k)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus, german: Roter Brüllaffe, french: Hurleur roux). (924k)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus, german: Roter Brüllaffe, french: Hurleur roux). (518k)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus)
Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus, german: Roter Brüllaffe, french: Hurleur roux). (644k)
Common Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha)
Common Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha, german: Brauner Wollaffe, french: Lagotriche commun)? (785k)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis)
Humboldt's Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri cassiquiarensis, german: Humboldt-Totenkopfaffe). (862k)
Spix's Night Monkey (Aotus vociferans)
Spix's Night Monkey (Aotus vociferans, german: Spix-Nachtaffe, french: Douroucouli). It was sitting in this tree hole, eyes reflecting our search light. (630k)
Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin (Cebus aequatorialis)
Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin (Cebus aequatorialis, german: Ecuador-Kapuzineraffe). It was a mother with her baby on her back. (878k)

This page contains 128 pictures with 58 species

Main page for Ecuador

Page last updated on Thu Feb 23 12:49:47 2023 (Mountain Standard Time)

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