The Cuyabeno Reserveâ€”or Reserva de ProducciÃ³n de Fauna Cuyabenoâ€”is one of Ecuador's largest reserves and part of the Amazon Rainforest basin with over 6,000 sq. kilometers of rainforest. Because of the steep drop-off from the Andes mountains in the sierra region of Ecuador, the basin area is incredibly rich in flora and fauna. An excellent spot for bird lovers, the Cuyabeno reserve has over 500 recorded bird species, including the huatzin, which is known to be a direct descendent of prehistoric dinosaurs. Not only does the reserve have species that survived the last ice age, but there is also an abundance of plant species only seen in the Amazon basin: tapirs, ocelots, 15 species of monkeys, as well as diverse aquatic wildlife like pink freshwater dolphins, turtles, five species of caiman, anaconda, manatee, giant otters, eels and around 450 species of fish.
There are several lodges to choose from when visiting the Cuyabeno Reserve ranging from rustic to hotel-like. All are reached by boat, usually a hand-carved motorized wooden canoe. A network of lakes and lagoons connect the two main black-water lake systems in the rainy season (April-October) and eventually lead down to the Napo River which leads to the Amazon River. In the dry season (November-March), many of the lodges close down for all but the hardiest tourist who are willing to walk along the dried up river bottom, or what is known as flooded forest, to reach the lodge.
Getting To and Away From Cuyabeno
Most tour operators will provide transportation from Lago Agrio and from the entrance to the Cuyabeno Reserve to the lodge.
Bring your passport. If you take the bus, you will have to get out at a military checkpoint near the border with Colombia.