Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve: A Journey to Ecuador’s Best-Kept Secret

Exploring Cuyabeño reserve

Cuyabeno Reserve is an amazing protected area located in the northeastern region of Ecuador that I had the chance to visit. This reserve is one of the most biodiverse areas in the country, as it is populated by a variety of plants and animals.

The Cuyabeno rainforest has unique characteristics that stand out from other Ecuadorian Amazon regions. One of these is that the rivers here are narrow, and the banks are close together, which makes you feel even more in the middle of the jungle. Plus, the way the rivers illuminate the trees is just breathtaking.

If you are up to an adventure, a trip to Cuyabeno Reserve is a must on your Ecuador bucket list

In this Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve travel guide, we will share what activities to do, how to get there, and all other things you need to know before going to Cuyabeno Reserve. 

How to Get to Cuyabeno Reserve

Amazon tress at Cuyabeno Reserve

The Cuyabeno Reserve lies near Yasun National Park in northeastern Ecuador.

You can get to the reserve from Quito by taking a night bus which usually leaves at 11 pm. The trip takes around 7 hours. 

You can also take a plane to Lago Agrio airport. Most flights usually leave around 9 am. Then you will have to take a canoe until you reach your destination.

Best Time To Visit Cuyabeno Reserve

You can visit the reserve any time of the year, but for the best experience, visiting around March to November will give you the best wildlife views and full waterways.

Things to Do in Cuyabeno Reserve

Paddle Boarding in Laguna Grande

Paddle Boarding in Laguna Grande in Cuyabeno Reserve

Laguna Grande is one of the 14 lagoons in Cuyabeno Reserve. It’s renowned for its serene waters and stunning sunsets. 

We enjoyed paddling and swimming in the lake while watching the sunset over the still water. You can also ride a boat or a kayak in the lake if you prefer to hang out in groups.

Bird Spotting

Bird spotting at Cuyabeno Reserve

Bird watchers will love exploring the Cuyabeno Reserve. The area’s marshy surroundings and plenty of fish, crustaceans, and insects draw various birds to the area. The reserve houses over 500 tropical bird species.

We have spotted so many bird species while exploring the jungles. We recommend bringing binoculars with you so you can better appreciate the different enchanting birds in the forest.

Catch And Release Fishing

The only fishing permitted for tourists is catch and release in consideration of the environment. 

Only the locals are allowed to fish for and eat the more than 400 distinct types of fish that inhabit these waters.

Even though we couldn’t consume our catch, we still enjoyed a fantastic local catch during our trip.

Swim With Pink Dolphins

Pink dolphins in Cuyabeno Ecuador

Photo by Allen Sheffield // Inia geoffrensis in the Amazon. Wikipedia Commons

Pink dolphins are one of the rarest species on Earth. They can be seen in Laguna Delfincocho, where you can also have the chance to swim with them.

Seeing the dolphins freely swimming in their natural habitat is a memorable experience. It gave us a different perspective on dolphins and wildlife in general.

Visiting the Siona Community

Taking a cooking class from Siona community people at Cuyabeno Reserve

While the wildlife population is immense in Cuyabeno Reserve, it is also home to the Siona people

During our trip, we were able to participate in ceremonies that involved medicinal plants and also take local cooking lessons. We were amazed to see how the Siona people preserved their culture over the years. Being welcomed into their community was a humbling experience, and we are grateful for the opportunity to meet them.

Where to Stay in Cuyabeno Reserve

The lodge we stayed at Cuyabeno Reserve

There are various eco-lodges in Cuyabeno where you can stay during your trip. Some of the well-known accommodation options among tourists are the following: 

Tapir Lodge

Tapir Lodge in Cuyabeno Ecuador

The Tapir Lodge, situated in the upper part of the reserve, was built by the collaborative effort of the Siona community’s family members. The lodge offers travelers an authentic experience of the tropical rainforest.

The Tapir Lodge is strategically located to provide a serene and isolated environment that’s perfect for wildlife spotting. Solar panels power the lodge, and the creators have kept the environment in mind throughout its construction.

The Tapir Lodge also offers an opportunity to learn about the indigenous communities in Cuyabeno and their way of life. The eco-lodge is more than just an accommodation but also an unforgettable cultural experience. Check the current price here.

Cuyabeño Lodge

Cuyabeño Lodge

Cuyabeño Lodge is considered the pioneer of ecotourism in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. It is the original eco-friendly lodge in the reserve, built over 20 years ago.

The lodge was constructed using ecological materials sourced from the jungle landscape and boasts a special comfort in Laguna Grande.

The lodge provides a peaceful retreat where you can fully immerse yourself in the rainforest and witness the sustainable development of the native communities. Check the current price here.

Tips for Your Cuyabeno Trip

Doing a guided tour at Cuyabeno reserve

  • Pack minimally and bring only what you need. We suggest lightweight and breathable clothing because the weather can be hot and humid. Remember to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat for sun protection.
  • When visiting the Cuyabeno Reserve, be mindful of the surroundings and the local culture. Be sure to adhere to your tour operator’s instructions and consider how your actions will affect the reserve’s ecosystem.
  • Remember to bring your camera to capture amazing moments during your tour at the reserve. As some areas may have limited access to electricity, remember to pack extra batteries or a portable charger.

Final Thoughts

Insect at Cuyabeño reserve

Including a tour of the Cuyabeno Reserve on your Ecuador itinerary is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience. We definitely had a great time in the reserve, and at the same time, we also learned a lot about sustainable tourism.

Respecting the local communities and natural environment during your travel is important. Make sure to follow the rules and regulations and not do activities that can harm the people and the wildlife in the reserve.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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