Created in 1979, YasunÃ is Ecuador's largest mainland National Park (982,000 hectares). UNESCO declared it an International Biosphere Reserve in the same year of its foundation. This large area in the rainforest protects some of the most diverse species of vegetation on the planet, ranging from woodlands on dry soil to semi-permanently flooded forest. The main rivers traversing the Park are the YasunÃ, Tiputini, Cononaco, NashiÃ±o and the Curaray. Visitors will encounter vegetation such as mahogany, ceibas, laurel, chonta and sangre de dragon. Inhabiting all this fauna are numerous animals including tapirs, harpy eagles, jaguars, capybaras, peccaries, anacondas, several species of monkeys and giant black caymans.
YasunÃ is mostly uninhabited, except for several Huaorani indigenous families, who have lived within the park boundaries for generations. A large concentration of this indigenous group resides in the Huaorani Reserve, created in 1991. This reserve borders the National Park to the north and serves as a buffer zone helping to maintain conservation efforts. In 1991, the Ecuadorian government gave Conoco, a U.S. based oil company, the right to begin exploitation within the Park but Maxus Oil Consortium and currently YPF of Argentina later replaced it. Since then, a 110-km road (Via Auca) has been built into the area for the use of oil workers, locals and researchers.
Nevertheless, this area remains remote and relatively difficult to explore. YasunÃ is best accessed from Coca via the Napo River, and hiring a tour guide is highly recommended, due to the remote location and difficulty involved with travelling throughout Huoarani territory. Alternatively, one can travel by land across the Via Auca to reach the several lodges and communities in Huarani territory. The Via Pompeya offers access to the Tiputini and Catolica Research Centers. Remote indigenous villages in and around the park are accessed via prop planes out of the Shell airport near Puyo.