Exploring the Amazon Rainforest is the ultimate exotic experience. Spending a few days deep into the jungle, without service or wifi, surrounded by incredible species such as caimans, monkeys, frogs and hundreds of different kinds of insects and trees is truly a once in a lifetime kind of journey. The rainforest is easily accessible by land in Ecuador, which makes it a great country to visit the unspoiled area… Here’s a step-by-step guide to visiting the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador so that you can discover it for yourself!
Yasuni or Cuyabeno?
First, you need to choose which area of the Amazon Rainforest you’re going to visit: Yasuni National Park or the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Both places are similar in many ways, nevertheless, here are a few things to consider to help you make your decision.
Yasuni National Park
Yasuni is the largest protected area in mainland Ecuador and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989. Stretching over the provinces of Napo and Pastaza, the national park is the most biologically diverse place on Earth. Communities such as the Quechua, Huaorani, Auca and Shuar live in the park.
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
On the other hand, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is located in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana and stretches over about 1,500,000 acres. It comprises 14 interconnected lakes, vanishing and reappearing according to the season. Various communities such as the Siona, Secoya and Shuar live in the reserve.
Which one is better?
Both Yasuni and Cuyabeno are unspoiled acres of super diverse forest and I wouldn’t say one is better per se than the other. What will affect your decision is the kind of experience you want to live. Yasuni is a bit more remote than Cuyabeno and offers more luxurious accommodations, making it a pricier destination. However, if you’re into birdwatching and a flora expert, you may want to splurge. The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve requires less travel time to get there and with its many lakes, offers different kinds of landscapes. There are more lodges in the area, and potentially more visitors, but it is a cheaper alternative. Birds aside, you can expect to see the same wildlife in both areas.
How long to stay there?
Most lodges offer three-day, four-day and five-day tours including a variety of activities. Hikes in the forest, night walks, visits to local communities and shamans… Your days will be filled with different adventures in the jungle to discover all of its facets. I would recommend going for at least four days as half of the first and last days are solely dedicated to traveling to and from the reserve. With that being said, if you have a bit more time on your hands, spending an extra day off the grid and relaxing in a hammock never hurts!
Choose a Lodge
Whether you decide to go to Yasuni or Cuyabeno, your next step is to book a tour directly through the lodge’s website (sometimes more expensive!) or through a travel agency. The lodges don’t only provide accommodation but also work with local guides and organize the activities you will be doing during your stay. Most lodges offer the same kind of tours and activities so the biggest factor when it comes to picking one will be the level of comfort you wish to have.
I personally visited the Cuyabeno Reserve with the Dolphin Lodge and can recommend them but you may want to explore your options online or directly with a travel agency before making up your mind.
Get Ready for the Adventure of a Lifetime!
Finally, prepare your trip to make the most of your journey! I’m all about spontaneous getaways but exploring the Amazon Jungle does require a bit of preparation. Make sure to get your vaccines sorted and pack all of the rainforest essentials to enjoy your stay to the fullest (Read more: Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit the Rainforest)!
Visiting the Amazon Rainforest was a true highlight for me and I hope that you’ll enjoy the experience as much as I did! If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
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