Sani Lodge Pt.2 – The Place
Laguna Challuacocha as viewed looking westward from the lounge of Sani Lodge.
With the introduction of the people of Sani complete I would now like to introduce the place. The country of Ecuador is relatively small. Slightly larger than the US state of Oregon (or the UK for my Euro readers) in terms of area it is one of the most species rich places on the planet. Despite its small size, it claims approximately twice the number of bird species as all of North America (that is Mexico, the US, and Canada). This is an obvious reason why birders flock from all over the world to visit. It currently has the highest reptile and amphibian diversity based on land area. Even discounting size Ecuador will likely have about 500 species of the known near 6000 species of amphibians, and around 400 species of the world’s 7200 reptile species. I give rough numbers because the state of herpetofauna research is constantly moving. Many species are constantly being discovered (new bird and mammal discoveries are much less common) and unfortunately many amphibian species are rapidly declining.
A pair of many-banded araçaris rest in a treetop – viewed from the old canopy tower on a 2007 visit.
What makes Ecuador such a diverse place can’t be briefly summed up. But a simple answer comes from the country’s geography. Ecuador can be divided up into 3 north-south running regions: the coast, the mountains, and the orient. About 15 million years ago the Nazca and South American tectonic plates pressed together causing heavy uplift and the formation of the Andes mountain range. The mountains sharply rise which causes the one-third divisions of the country. Most of the residents live in the coastal or mountain regions, while the orient is sparsely populated. Each of these regions is ecologically and environmentally distinct and they have their own diverse flora and fauna. The orient falls within the Amazon river basin drainage system. You should know that the terms Amazon river, Amazon rainforest, and Amazon basin are not interchangeable. Geographically each is distinct with its own definitions; possibly a topic for a future blog entry.
With regards to big rivers Ecuador loses its stature – at least with regards to its South American neighbors. The two main river systems that feed into the Amazon rank fairly low as tributaries. These systems are the Pastaza and Napo rivers. The Rio Napo is the larger but it ranks as the 13th largest tributary of the Amazon. The Rio Napo begins at the foothills of the Andes and flows northeast towards the city of Puerto Francisco de Orellana – or more commonly known as Coca. The river continues eastwards on a meandering course and eventually begins a southeastward course into Peru. In Peru the Napo joins the Amazon just east of the city of Iquitos.