Best Place to Visit: El Coca
Situated on the Napo River, a tributary of the mighty River Amazon, El Coca is considered the best gateway to the Amazon in Ecuador. This is due to its proximity to the incredible Yasuni National Park, thought to be the jewel in Ecuador’s Amazonian crown. Covering 9,820 square kilometres, the park contains a record-breaking number of species and is the most well-known protected area of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Researchers estimate that there are as many as 100 different species of tree per acre in Yasuni National Park. Iconic animal such as jaguars, caimans and marmosets also reside within the jungle. In addition, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve sits on the other side of the Napo River, with El Coca offering great access to both protected areas.
There are some fantastic lodges near El Coca where visitors can experience the Amazon with comfortable accommodation and guided wildlife tours. In general, lodges are slightly more expensive in Yasuni National Park than in Cuyabeno, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re on more of a budget. On our Wilds of Ecuador private tour, we spend three nights at Sacha Lodge, set within its own pristine 5,000-acre ecological reserve.
Alternatively, visitors can opt for Amazon cruises to explore the Napo River System. There are two options available, the Manatee Explorer Cruise or it’s more luxurious sister, the Anakonda Amazon Cruise, which boasts the comforts and facilities of a 5-star boutique hotel.