South America > Ecuador > Amazon (Ecuador) > Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (Reserva de Producción Faunística Cuyabeno) is well-known to be one of the areas with the hmost biodiversity on earth. The reserve is located in the Sucumbíos province, in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon rainforest.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve underwent several changes during the 20th century.
Indigenous groups (Siona, Secoya, Cofan) live in the reserve. These communities mainly lived through farming, hunting and fishing until the 1980s, but with the increase of ecotourism their lives changed in the 1990s. Different agreements have been signed in order to protect the ecosystem of the reserve and its indigenous communities.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is a great example of the ecosystem of the Amazon Rainforest. Three rivers — the Cuyabeno, Aguarico and San Miguel — flow through the reserve, and there are 13 lakes. The Laguna Grande (Big Lake) is the largest and the only one open to tourism. There are unique flooded forests and a rich variety of plants and animals that make the reserve a paradise for nature lovers.
Flora and fauna
Many plant and animal species have been identified in the reserve, making it one of the areas with the highest biodiversity on earth with the Yasuna National Park (further south). 550 bird species, 12000 plant species, 350 fish species and many insects, mammals and reptiles have been identified. The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has the record of the most tree species per hectare (307).
The climate corresponds to a wet tropical rainforest, with high humidity ranges (85% to 95%). There are two seasons: dry and rainy. The rainy season is from April to July, followed by a season of mixed rain and drought from August to November and a dry season from December to March.
The reserve is guarded by national park rangers. It is compulsory to take pluvial transportation through a tour with an accredited guide to get in.
Transportation with motorized canoe is provided by the local communities.
From Quito, it is necessary to go to Lago Agrio, either by bus (8 hours) or by plane (30 minutes).
From Lago Agrio to El Puente en Cuyabeno (1½-2 hours), private transportation is organized by local companies.
Fees and permits
The entrance to the reserve for nationals and foreigners is free There is no permission needed for personal photographies and films.
By motor canoe or on foot, accompanied by a guide.
- Cuyabeno Lagoon: The most visited area of the reserve is entered by navigating along the Cuyabeno River. The Laguna Grande is the largest of the 14 lagoons in this area. From here, through small canals, you can visit other lagoons such as Caimancocha, Mateococha, or Canangueno. There are several trails that go into the forest. The most visited are Palma Roja, Saladero de dantas, and Quebrada la Hormiga.
- Lagartococha: The Lagartococha River marks the border with Peru and it also is the eastern limit of the reserve. Navigating through this river and its small canals, you will see flooded jungle scenery, a huge variety of wild flora and fauna, especially birds and monkeys. You can navigate several lagoons, especially Imuya, Redondococha, and Delfincocha.
- Zancudococha: The largest lagoon of the Ecuadorian Amazon is found in the lowest part of the reserve, next to the Aguarico River. Its name comes from the Sianosecoya Soncari word, and means “sonco´s lagoon” referring to a small fish that is abundant here. Close to the lagoon is the Kichwa de Zancudo community that maintain a community tourism program.
- Pink dolphins
The millennial traditions can be seen in the local community settlements (e.g. Puerto Bolivar). 3 indigenous communities can be seen in the reserve: the Cofans, the Secoyas and the Sionas.
In the surroundings of the indigenous communities of Siona de Puerto Bolivar, on the Aguarico riverside, and the Cofan de Sabalo community, you can travel through the tropical rain forest, go canoeing, and buy artisan crafts made with seeds and other products of the forest.
- Rainforest treks (night and day)
- Bird Watching
- Caiman Watching
- Sportfishing (catching and releasing the fish)
- Discovery of the indigenous communities
- Cuyabeno and Laguna Grande area: Surrounding the Laguna Grande lagoon there are several trails:
- Palma Roja. A 1.6-km trail that runs through the non-flooded tropical forest and part of the flooded forest, characteristic of the reserve. Medium difficulty.
- El Saladero. A 1.7-km long trail that runs through the lagoons and non-flooded forest. It ends in a salting or quagmire where you can observe an infinity of macaws, parrots, and several mammals. Medium difficulty.
- Copal. A 2.5-km long trail that runs through the lake system, the rivers, and the flooded and non-flooded tropical rain forests. Medium difficulty.
- Aguarico and Lagartococha area: Community tourism activities are offered by the Siona indigenous community of Puerto Bolivar, on the Cuyabeno riverside, the Cofan community of Sabalo, on the Aguarico riverside, and the Kichwa community of Zancudo, on the Zancudococha lakeshore. You can explore the tropical rainforest, go canoeing on the rivers, and buy artisan crafts.
Indigenous handcrafts can be purchased from the local community members.
The food is provided by the local operators (the ecolodges in the reserve). It is possible to buy food at the entrance of the reserve (El Puente).
It is necessary to bring drinking water into the reserve, this will be organised by the tour operator. The tapwater is not drinkable.
- Geolodge Sanctuary Retreat, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Geolodge Sanctuary Retreat is an ecolodge located in the heart of Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve on the edge of the Cuyabeno River, under the thousands trees that grow in abundance on the river banks. Our lodge is suited to private parties, families, groups and solo travelers who seek privacy and romance in the middle of the Amazon Jungle.
- Cuyabeno Lodge, ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. Built in 1989, the Cuyabeno Lodge, owned by Neotropic Turis was the first ecolodge to be built in the reserve, offering tours. It was built by a group of conservation biologists to provide an alternative source of income as opposed to deforestation for agriculture.
- Tapir Lodge (Tapir Lodge), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Eco-lodge inside the reserve, accommodation with all included tours of 4, 5 and 7 days (with camping possibilities).
There are some options for lodging in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve for different budgets and with different quality of service.
- Cuyabeno Adventures, ☎ , , , e-mail: email@example.com. Low priced, professionally guided jungle tours to Cuyabeno, inside the reserve.
Some ecolodges provide camping opportunities throughout the reserve, with various prices and activities.
No incidents have been identified inside the Cuyabeno Wildlife reserve in more than 20 years of tourist activity in the zone. There are not so many mosquitos and no malaria into the reserve, but insect repellent is advised. Your guide and the staff of your accommodation have to be informed of any allergy or illness that you may suffer from.
Transportation is organized by the local tourism bodies as far as Lago Agrio (Nueva Loja).