Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador

What makes the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve so special? THIS!:

  1. Located in the "Oriente" (East) of Ecuador, it is one of the few protected areas in the world, located precisely on the equator. It takes only half an hour to fly from the capital Quito to the town of Lagoagrio, the port of entry into the Amazona lowlands of Ecuador, and from there an hour or two over (mostly) an asphalt road to the park. No other Amazon park in the world has such convenient and fast access! Just for that, Cuyabeno is known to be the most convenient park for an Amazon Tour.

  2. One sees many more animals along rivers where light breaks through the canopy. This is why: When one walks in the forest, the animals are difficult to observe, because they are high up in the crowns. Moreover, looking up, the contrast between the sky and the leaves is so overwhelming, that they appear almost black. Only from the water can one see the birds, flowers and mammals in the shrubs and lower trees along the waterside;

  3. But this only works along narrow rivers and creeks. Along the wider rivers, it is difficult to observe wildlife along the river; the rivers are so wide that they appear almost seas. On the narrow rivers on the other hand, one feels in the middle of the forest while the river still opens up the canopy enough to see the lower trees and shrubs along the river and there is enough light to observe birds, flowers and mammals on the branches. As rivers are narrowest in the upper parts of the watershed, narrow rivers are most abundant in the Andes foothills, but in most of the Amazon, the foothills are rather hilly and few rivers are navigable and lakes are absent. Cuyabeno is unique for being surprisingly flat. It is an enormous hollow bowl with a narrow exit, which causes a large area to be seasonally flooded with scenic interconnected lakes, creeks and rivers. There is no other park in the Amazonian Andes countries Venezuela, Colombia, Peru or Bolivia with so many lakes and creeks that is so conveniently accessible as Cuyabeno. In fact, nowhere in South America exists another Amazon park as accessible and at such competitive prices as the Amazon Wildlife Reserve;

  4. Being right on the equator, Cuyabeno has a somewhat drier but no rainless "dry" season, as opposed to Amazon areas further away from the equator. this explains why studies have found to have the highest biodiversity in the world. It has the greatest number of species of plants and animals in the world per hectare;

  5. There is yet another reason why one will see far more wildlife in Cuyabeno than in other places. Wildlife living in a terrestrial jungle, consists primarily of land animals, while along rivers and lakes both land and aquatic species are found. Many land species need to go to the river to drink, while water-dependent species occur in addition to the terrestrial fauna. Additionally, there are quite a few water-dependent species, that are relatively big, such as the Dolphins, Manatees, Capybaras, Cayman, Ducks, Cormorants, Herons, etc.;

  6. Further, it is much more effective to spot wildlife sitting down without having to watch where one walks. While seated, one can find an animal faster in the viewer of his/her binoculars and camera, hold it steadier, while a quick consult of a bird or mammal guide is quicker with the field guides ready in one's lap;

  7. Lastly, in a motorized canoe, one may move about more rapidly between the best wildlife spotting sites than on foot, while watching birds as the scenery glides by quietly.

These factors combined make Cuyabeno the best Amazon Wildlife Reserve, with a great variety of animals and plants to see.


More Cuyabeno Wildlife, Ecuador

Learn all about Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, famous for its wildlife, lakes, bonsai shaped trees and convenient access at half an hour from Quito to the town of Coca by plane. It is also one of the few parks to be located on the equator, resulting in a unique "dry" season which accounts for its incredibly high biodiversity. Wildlife living in Cuyabeno consists primarily of land animals but also features a variety of water dependent species such as dolphins, manatees and caiman. What's more, observing wildlife at the park is made easier while seated in motorized canoes due to its many interconnected lakes, creeks and rivers giving visitors a perfect opportunity to watch birds as they glide by silently. As if that wasn't enough, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve remains one of the most accessible rainforest parks with competitive prices compared to other Amazonian cities and countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Peru or Bolivia making it quite popular amongst nature lovers everywhere.


The location within the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve also is of the essence:

As bird and wildlife observation is best very early in the morning, it is paramount to be right in the heart of the best place for observing animals. In the Cuyabeno, this is the Cuyabeno Lake system. The Cuyabeno Lodge is on a seasonal island, right in the heart of the lake system, while visitors coming from most other lodges must first travel 30 to 45 minutes to get to the lake. According to Tripadvisor, our Cuyabeno Lodge is the best Amazon Rainforest lodge in Ecuador!


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Outline Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Virgin Forest Cuyabeno Wildlife ReserveCUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Morning mist at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve


Visibility on the ground within the Amazon forests is poor, making exploring the Amazon rainforest more difficult as one is blinded looking up while having to permanently having to watch where one walks. This makes wildlife observation much more difficult.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Exploring the Amazon Rainforest, of Ecuador from a canoe is convenient and effective.CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE:  Jungle exploration.


Watching birds, flowers and mammals from narrow rivers is better as trees along the creeks are lower and the sunlight penetrates to illuminate the river banks. Moreover, wildlife observation and photography from the water is much more convenient and effective, as one always has his/her binoculars, camera and birdbook at hand, as opposed to when one is walking through the forest.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Blue and Yellow Macaw at Cuyabeno Wildlife ReserveCUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Bromelia in Amazon of Ecuador, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.


The beauty of the Amazon jungle is in the small details. There are up to 580 species of birds, many of them incredibly beautiful, while flowers, such as orchids and bromeliads decorate the forest.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve satellite image.


With or About 450 long and 150 km wide, the park covers according to the latest data of the Ministry of Environment 590,112 hectares (5,901 km2 or 2,330 square miles) of mostly pristine Amazon jungle as you can see on Google Earth above.


CLICK TO ENLARGE: Official map of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve:

CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Official map of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.


Rivers of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

The watershed of the Cuyabeno River drains into the Aguarico River; About 60 km down stream, along the Río Aguarico, is the Zancudo Cocha Lake and further down stream are the Lagarto Cocha Lakes along the border with Peru. At a gradually sloping elevation form 300 in the East and 200 m at the border with Peru, the Reserve is covered with humid tropical rainforest.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Low water at Cuyabeno LakeCUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE:  Cuyabeno National Park during the dry season


Climate and Weather

As weather stations are rare in the this part of Ecuador, the climate data are merely indicative; the precipitation is around of 3,400mm of rainfall per year. While rain showers occur any time of the year, a somewhat drier period ranges from Mid December through the first weeks of March. During this period, the narrower rivers and some of the lakes may fall dry in some years. The dry season is interesting, as wildlife often congregates around the the remaining pools of the drained lakes. For many birds, the dry season is the breeding season, while it also coincides with the Northern winter, the period that many Northern migrants visit the area.


Ecology and Species

9 ecosystems of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve:

  1. frequently flooded forests or swamps;

  2. poorly drained occasionally flooded lowland forests;

  3. poorly drained rarely flooded lowland forests;

  4. Semi-permanently flooded dwarf-forests or Igapo;

  5. well-drained forest, located on undulating terrain;

  6. "coffee-with_milk" coloured sediment-rich rivers;

  7. black water rivers;

  8. semi-permanent lakes;

  9. permanent lakes.

The lakes are black-water ecosystems; however, when the black-water rivers are laden with sediments during high rainfall, the lakes too may become sediment laden and may become lighter to a "coffee with milk" color.


Fauna of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Birds are the jewels of the tropical jungle and with a bird list of up to 580 species, the reserve is rising to one of the world's hot spots for birding. There are also a great number of mammals native as well, which include dolphins, manatee, at least 10 species of monkeys, including the night monkey, which was first recorded for the reserve by our staff, different species of both insectivorous and fruit-eating bats, many rodents, varying from the world's largest one, the Capybara to many mall ground and tree bound creatures. Ungulates are represented by tapirs, two species of peccary and several species of deer. And of course there are the Sloths, Ant Eaters and a good number of the South American cats, including jaguar and Puma. While we say that we go birdwatching, of course we keep an eye out for all animals.


When the FAO national parks team selected the Amazonian protected areas of Ecuador in 1975, Cuyabeno was known for its enormous Boa Constrictors (terrestrial, usually up to 3 m, but occasionally reaching 4 m), Anacondas (water-loving snakes, up to 6 m Anacondas are frequently seen, occasionally reaching 9 m). The good news: It still is. Giant anacondas are seen relatively frequently, sometimes with a characteristic swelling: the remains of a peccary or capybara. Some of the water turtles are larger than half a meter, while in the hilly areas, some of the land tortoises grow to up to a meter. Smaller reptiles include many species of snakes and lizards and several species of iguanas. At night geckos hunt insects around the lights, while in daytime one occasionally finds Iguanas and many turtles on logs in the rivers. Amphibians are omnipresent, but most of them are very hard to spot, and often one must be satisfied with their orchestras that last throughout the night. The diversity of tropical fish of Cuyabeno is extremely rich and includes the infamous piranhas, giant catfish, electrical eels and countless little tropical species.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Yellow Handed Titi Monkey at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Squirl Monkeys at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

A great variety of monkeys.


A primate study in the reserve, revealed that of the 19 species of primates living in Ecuador, 10 species have been reported in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Amazon Manatee at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Amazon Dolphin at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

The Cuyabeno Lakes are frequented by both species of Amazon Dolphins and  less frequently Amazon Manatee .


Our Cuyabeno Lodge, is the best Amazon Jungle Lodge located in the Reserve. Our programs are widely known for the knowledge of our guides about birds as well as other Amazon Jungle Animals and Amazon Rainforest Plants. Check our Cuyabeno Lodge rates.


CUYABENO WILDLIFE RESERVE: Cuyabeno Lodge, Ecuador from the air.

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve with the Cuyabeno Lodge from the air.



Cuyabeno Lodge:

Shyris Park Building, Av. de los Shyris N36-188 & Av. Naciones Unidas, Office 608, 6th floor, Quito

Phone Office: (++593) (0)(2) 292 6153

Cell (mobile) phone: (++593) (0)999 80 3395

Email: info@cuyabenolodge.com.ec