The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

4 days in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

To make your way into the heart of the Earth, hours deep in the rainforest, you first have to spend a night in Lago Agrio.

At least that’s how we did it on our trip to Cuyabeno.


We stayed the night at a small but comfortable hotel in the buzzing and humid city of Lago Agrio where we rested until early in the morning.

Day 1

After a good night’s sleep we got up at 6 am in the morning. We still had a 2 hour drive to the Cuyabeno reseve’s entrance ahead of us. After actually waking up and hours of singing along in the car, we reached the reserve’s parking lot. This is the final point where you use your car because from then on, you switch to canoes.

We took out our bags and met the hotel guides who were waiting for us. They helped us put our equipment on the canoe, and helped each of us get settled. Then, we started our journey down the river.

From this very moment, the trip into the Amazon is already magical. As you make you way through the river you are surrounded by green. You are so isolated from the fuzz of the cities that you become enveloped with the sounds of the jungle. There are trees everywhere… and there is the buzzing of insects, the calls of different birds, monkeys jumping from branch to branch as if they’ve come to greet you.  We even had the chance to see a Boa, sun bathing and resting on a tree branch beside the riverbed.

Millions of insects and animals roam about, and you don’t know it yet but this journey is an excursion. An excursion that gives us an insight;  on the complexity of the rainforest where so many different species coexist.

You keep making your way down the river in awe. 3 hours later, the main lake. The main lake is a beautiful place where the waters are still and calm and the trees are mirrored on the water. The reflection of these trees makes it seem as if they are upside down.

Arriving at the lodge

Along the rivers that connect to the main lake, there are several ecolodges. They are pretty similar because building permits have strict guidelines. Conservation efforts in the area have established that there can only be eco-lodges that are not disturbing or harming the local environment of the wildlife reserve. The amount of guests per hotel can be limited so remember to make your reservations ahead of time!

We got to our lodge where the guides helped us with our luggage. After checking in and freshening up in our rooms we decided to rest for a while, we were going on a night excursion. After a nap and a delicious dinner, we got our flashlights and rubber boots (provided by the lodge) and set off into the rainforest. You could hear thousands of animal sounds and if you observed closely you could see ants, long-legged spiders, and colorful frogs. The trail was short but exciting and the guides were very well informed and eager to answer any questions. Some even held the huge spiders to demonstrate!

On our way back to the lodge we took the canoes across the river. As we were pointing our flashlights, reflections began to shine by the river bed. They were eyes. And those eyes belonged to caimans. We approached them slowly, and not to close, but we got to see more than 5 caimans that first night.

Day 2

The next morning we had breakfast and took a canoe to a Tarupi indigenous community’s settlement. We met with the locals who taught us how they make tortillas from the yuca (cassava) they harvest, and we had lunch with them. We also met the community’s shaman who taught us how he performs cleanses and helped us understand their worldview and relationship with nature. They are interconnected and respectful of one another.

We left the community in the afternoon and decided to make a stop in the main lake for a swim. We had an incredible time and witnessed one of the best sunsets I have ever seen.

After that we went back to the hotel, had dinner and went to sleep eager for the next day.

Day 3

On our third day we had a mission. We were gonna navigate the rivers in search for pink dolphins. We woke up early in the morning and were lucky to see a pair of pink dolphins swimming in the waters next to us. These curious creatures are only found on rivers in the amazon.


After seeing the fascinating pink dolphins, we went back to the lodge for breakfast. Once we were ready, we went back to the main lake, paddling our canoes, guided by yellow butterflies that flew above. We took a dip and then crossed the lake to an entrance where a trail into the rainforest begins. We walked through the rainforest and saw huge ceibo trees, monkeys, parrots, spiders, fireflies and lemon ants.

Interesting fact: Ceibo trees can live up to 600 years and grow up to 3m each year- their roots can grow up to 40m! Harp eagles inhabit ceibos. 

We went back to the lodge for lunch and then decided to watch the sunset from the main lake. We got into the water and swam until it got dark. We made our way back to the lodge and asked the guides to take us out once more, we were fascinated. The stars above all reflected in the still water of the lake and we just floated about in our canoe, singing songs and sharing stories. It was the perfect ending for our rainforest experience.

Day 4

The next morning we woke up early for birdwatching, had breakfast, and departed to the Cuyabeno entrance. After the journey we arrived at the parking lot, were the car was waiting to take us back.

*** If you don’t have a car, you can arrange with the hotel to take you to Lago Agrio where an airport has direct flights to Quito. If you are looking for a lower budget trip you can arrange (beforehand) to have a private transport pick you up from Lago Agrio for your return to Quito. (*Also arrange for the day you depart from Quito to Lago Agrio).

Tell us about your Cuyabeno experience!


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