Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is a protected area
located in Sucumbios Province in Ecuador. Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
covers an area of 6,033.8 km2 (2,329.7 mi2). It is a place with
great biodiversity, home to one of the largest concentrations of
wildlife, both in flora and fauna. A complex system of rain
formations, 14 lagoons, rivers and a tropical forest that make the
603,000 hectares a record in terms of the highest levels of
biodiversity in the world.
The Cuyabeno has more than 550
different species of birds: 60 species of orchids; more than 350
species of fish; a large variety of reptiles such as anacondas,
alligators and river turtles. The plant species found within the
reserve are estimated at 12,000. And many species of mammals,
including the amazing Tapir (Tapirus terrestris).
is also home to rare species, such as the mythical pink river
dolphin, the Hoatzin or eagle of the region, with its eight-foot
Since the Cuyabeno Reserve belongs to the
National System of Protected Areas, very few Tourism Operators are
qualified to work in this area. This is one reason why many tourists
are not visiting the area, so you can enjoy nature and its
In its western part, the reserve begins
at the foot of the Andes, but quickly entering the Amazon plains.
Thus, to the west of the main entrance of the part, the terrain is
still rugged with hills, but quickly the terrain becomes flatter.
There are two very flat floodplains, where interconnected lagoon
systems are found: the first where the Cuyabeno Lagoon (or Grande)
is located, the other on the border with Peru. Originally, the
reserve only incorporates the entire Cuyabeno River basin, but with
its extension, includes parts of the Aguarico and Putumayo Rivers.
The land outside the plains consists of solid ground in generally
very low hills.
The latter areas have a different flora and
fauna than the forests in the highest lands between these wetlands
and in the upper basin. While flooded forests are relatively poor in
species, the highest areas have some of the largest number of trees
per hectare on earth. In one place in the neighboring Yasuni
National Park, 307 species of trees / hectare were counted, and they
are many more than in all of Europe.
There are five main
ecosystems in Cuyabeno: (1) seasonally flooded forests or swamps
traveled by the sewage rivers with vegetation dominated by Mauritia
flexuosa, (2) forests flooded by rivers rich in sediments, or
“coffee with milk” várzea (Pires and Prance, 1985), (example: Río
Aguirico), (3) forests flooded by rivers of sewage or igapó (Pires
and Prance, 1985); (4) Permanent lakes that rarely go dry, such as
Zancudo Car along the Aguarico River, well-drained forest is found
in small hills and in the upper basin, particularly upstream of the
park entrance at "Cuayabeno Bridge "; dark sediment of the poor
rivers, (5) "Coffee-with = milk" rivers of rich in, the largest,
being the Aguarico River; (6) Semi-permanent lakes - the largest in
Cuyabeno Lagoon - that most of the years fall dry and is dominated
by the famous Macrolobium trees that are home to countless
epiphytes, herons, blue and yellow macaws and Huatzins.
the great Amazonian mammals are present: the lowland tapir, two
species of deer, all the Amazon cats, including jaguars and pumas,
pecaris, two species of dolphins, manatees, the giant otter, the
monkeys are represented by 10 species , while rodents and bats are
represented by dozens of species.
The current number of
registered bird species is debated, some claim 530 species, while
others suggest that more than 580 species have been seen, but nobody
knows for sure because there is no official record.
the peak of the rainy season, thousands of hectares of forests are
flooded, forming an El Dorado for an estimated 350 species of fish,
two species of alligators, boas and anacondas, and countless frogs
and toads sing their concerts Endless Dolphins have been seen
swimming in flooded forests, as they follow the fish.
Weather It is a tropical forest, with
rainfall between 3,000 and 4,000 mm3 per year, and humidity between
85 and 95%. From December to March it has a marked dry season; The
rainy season runs from April to July, and from August to November
the rain is moderate. The annual temperature ranges around 25 ° C.
Also with its humid climate
Ethnology Many ethnic
communities live on the banks of two very important rivers, the
Aguarico River and the Cuyabeno River, in particular, the Cofanes
and the Siona-Secoya, both legendary in this area. The Siona
community inhabits the northern part of the Cuyabeno Reserve, in
Puerto Bolívar and the Tarapuy River.
healers Siona, Secoya and Cofán (Shamanes) are respected and admired
by other communities in the jungle for their immense wisdom.
Thousands of years of history are well kept by these healers. They
learned from their predecessors and will transmit it to new
Ecotourism Ecotourism in the reserve was
unleashed in 1986 with a first group of 16 visitors from the
Netherlands. Before that, in the 1970s, Etnotours had been
organizing visits focused on the visit of indigenous peoples, but
there are no records of this era. When the new oil road was built in
the early 1980s and oil activities in the area increased, settlers
were increasingly established in the highlands of the reserve,
initiating uncontrolled deforestation. The director of the reserve
had requested and received an advisor from the government of the
Netherlands, who advised to expand the area of around 150,000
hectares to the east, to which the government of Ecuador decided to
expand the park until it reached the border with Peru, increasing
its size to 603,380 ha. He also advised the government to promote
ecotourism in the area in order to create alternative income and
demonstrate the importance of the reservation for the tourism sector
over the national level of Ecuador. Given the isolation of the
reserve, the visitors were going to need a facility to spend the
night in order to visit the lagoon area. Neotropic Turis was
especially incorporated as a social responsibility company to
promote conservation through Cuyabeno ecotourism, in an effort to
help rescue the reserve by promoting ecotourism. Originally visitors
spent the night at the biological station of the Catholic University
and in tents, until Turis Neotrópico received a license to operate a
lodge in 1989 and built the Cuyabeno Lodge, the first ecological
hostel in the reserve.
From the beginning, Neotropic Turis
involved indigenous peoples, both in the construction of the country
house and in the operation. He also organized the first training
course for guides, as well as for indigenous peoples. The company
remains the only operator with an operating license from the
Ministry of Environment. Since the mid-1990s, other lodges were
built, such as Tapir Lodge and other ecological lodges such as the
Macaw Ecolodge, some around the Cuyabeno Lagoon, but most downstream
of the Cuyabeno Lagoon.
The original idea of promoting
ecotourism to rescue the reserve had been a model of success: The
current director of the reserve recently cited that the current
level of visits is approximately 12 thousand visitors per year,
while most families of The Siona tribe benefit from economic
activities related to ecotourism. On the other hand, Cuyabeno has
become an ecotourism destination with national importance for the
entire Ecuadorian tourism sector, since its reputation has begun to
grow considerably in the last five years.
offered by ecotourism companies must deal with social and
environmental issues of the territory in particular by working with
local indigenous communities.The visiting area is restricted to only
one of the 14 lagoons of the reserve (7 in the plain surrounding the
Cuyabeno Lagoon, Zancuda Cocha next to the Aguaricos River and 6 on
the border with Peru) is open to the public.