Known as the “River of the Sacred Waterfalls, Rio Upano is a prime white water rafting destination in Ecuador. This 60 kilometer river stretches from the remote town of Macas situated on the western region of the Amazon Basin.
Rio Upano is composed of different whitewater sections ranging from gentle to raging rapids that take you through narrow canyons. Because of the varying rapids, Rio Upano is ideal for both beginning and advanced rafters. The rafting tours offered here usually stretch out to a couple of days, allowing you to truly immerse in this remote yet beautiful region of Ecuador.
Rafting on this river is both exciting and scenic. On this trip, you will marvel at highly isolated luscious rainforests that make this part of the world truly special. You will also get the chance to pass through fascinating native Ecuadorian tribes including the Shaur Indians, who have managed to preserve their traditional way of living for many generations. The Shaur people are formerly called the “Headhunters of the Amazon”.
A multiple-day trip also gives you time to hike some trails and camp overnight in lovely riverside camping grounds. The rafting season is during the months of October through February. Participants do not need rafting experience for this trip but you need to be at least 15 years of age and a good swimmer.
To reach Rio Upano, you first need to fly from the capital Quito to the town of Macas in the mountainous Morona-Santiago province. From Macas, you can raft all the way Rio Upano, to the wild lands of the Shaur. This trip is considered the finest in the world because of the outstanding jungle scenery that will unfold before your eyes. You will most likely encounter wildlife like iridescent butterflies, oropendolas, toucans and egrets. The river’s whitewater rafting sections are composed of wide valley and narrow canyons.
White water rafting trips in the river region are typically arranged by an outfitter, and there are a couple of local operators to choose from. Outfitters usually provide camping equipment like sleeping bags and arrange for guides to cook the meals. However, remember to bring your personal gear like proper clothes, shoes, insect repellent, water bottle, toiletries and sun protection. Before tackling the rapids, outfitters provide a safety briefing as well as paddling technique instructions to tour participants.
You can arrange a rafting tour that includes a visit to a Shaur family and a stay at a traditional palm-thatched houses near the river. By doing so, you can gain invaluable knowledge about the culture and jungle life of this indigenous tribe. There are also some operators that employ a Shaur guide to go with the tour.
One of the most exciting parts of the river is undoubtedly the Namangosa Gorge, which boasts Class IV and even IV+ rapids. On top of a promise of a wild exhilarating ride, the gorge also features several gorgeous waterfalls cascading down its sides. After conquering the challenging rapids, you will end up at the broader and deeper side of the river, where it is usually calmer. This is the section of the Rio Upano that meets up with Rio Amazonas (Amazon River).