and Reserves in the Jungle
Cuyabeno Reserve is located in the Napo and Sucumbios Provinces
of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The protected area, founded in 1979, contains
603,380 hectares of tropical rainforest stretching north towards
the Colombian border and east to the Peruvian border. A variety
of canoe and hiking tours are offered in the Reserve providing excellent
wildlife viewing opportunities. Frequently seen fauna include several
species of monkey, birds, caimans, pihranas, turtles, and conga
ants. Freshwater dolphins, giant armadillos, anacondas, and manatees
are also occasionally spotted. The main watershed of the Reserve
consists of the Aguarico and the San Miguel Rivers, and the Cuyabeno
River and its tributaries. Halfway down the Cuyabeno there is a
system of 14 spectacular lagoons created by lowland rainforest floods,
typical of the wet season.
its creation, the Reserve's boundaries have changed due to oil exploitation
of the area that began shortly after the protected area was designated.
Petroleum extraction and the activities derived from the oil industry
such as road building, colonization, and agriculture have negatively
impacted the environment. Responsible tourism, the involvement of
local populations, and various NGO's have helped preservation efforts
in the Reserve, but the battle continues to protect this incredible
variety of indigenous groups, including the Cofan, the Siona, and
the Secoya have traditionally inhabited the area. Recently, the
Lowland Quichuas have immigrated to the area. Some of these indigenous
communities are involved in "Indigenous Community Controlled
Ecotourism," and offer jungle tours that support responsible
Cuyabeno Reserve is best accessed via Lago Agrio, an oil town approximately
seven hours east of Quito by bus or 30 minutes by plane. Once there,
you can join a jungle tour, which generally passes through Puerto
Chiritza, down the Aguarico River and into the Reserve as far as
the Peruvian border.
Limoncocha Biological Reserve
Limoncocha Reserve, located on the north shore of the Napo River
between the Coca and Aguarico rivers, is on mostly level ground
characterized by the presence of wetlands and swamps. The Limoncocha
Reserve is one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world, but its
flora and fauna are continually threatened by increasing oil activity.
Scientific studies have identified over 450 bird species in the
area and unique trees such as the giant ceibo, cedars, laurel, the
balsa, and the Pambil are common. The Reserve also contains the
Laguna Limoncocha, which is famous for being an excellent bird watching
Quichua families live nearby the lagoon and grow mainly subsistence
products along with some cash crops. Petroleum activities during
the 1980s and 1990s have negatively impacted this region and its
people. Therefore, the community is open to ecotourism and other
alternative uses of their fragile environment.
best way to access the Reserve from Quito is by taking a plane to
Coca or Lago Agrio. Buses travel to these two destinations as well
as directly to the town of Limoncocha. There is also fluvial transportation
from Coca to two small ports (Puerto de Palos and Puerto Pompeya).
Yasuní National Park
in 1979, Yasuní 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 three types of vegetation ranging from woodlands on dry
soil to semi-permanently flooded forest. Rubber boots are imperative
for exploring the numerous wetlands, marshes, and swamps. The main
rivers traversing the Park are the Yasuní, Tiputini, Cononaco, Nashiño,
and the Curaray. The flora and fauna found in the park is varied.
Visitors will encounter vegetation such as large cedars, laurel,
chonta, and sangre de drago and numerous animals including tapirs,
harpy eagles, and pumas.
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 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. Yasuní
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 solo travel.
Ecological Reserve encompasses 10 ecological zones ranging from
páramo to lowland rainforest, along with a variety of climates,
vegetation, and wildlife. The Reserve's main attraction is the snow-capped
Antisana Volcano, the fourth highest peak in Ecuador. Antisana affords
travelers with numerous trekking opportunities including the less
traveled Guacamayos mountain range. Among the many bodies of water
in the Reserve, Micachoca Lagoon is the Reserve's largest. Located
at 3900m, it's an excellent spot for trout fishing. Visitors occasionally
spot some of the Reserve's wildlife such as puma, white-tailed deer,
the Andean fox, and the Andean condor.
are two ways to access the Reserve. Coming from Quito, go to Pintag
and then continue on a rough road through several villages for approximately
45 km. When coming from Lago Agrio, go through Papallacta, Cuyuja,
Baeza, and continue to the entrance in Cosanga.
Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve
in 1970, the Reserve's cloud forests and páramo (high altitude grasslands)
remain relatively undamaged due to the area's inaccessibility. Home
to Ecuador's third highest mountain, Cayambe, this protected territory
sloping down into the Amazon Basin offers many interesting sites.
Other than the typical páramo vegetation, the flora consists of
many species with great ecological, economic, and medicinal value
such as: orchids, balsa wood, cedar, laurel, sangre de drago, and
ayahuasca. With over 450 identified species of birds, including
the elusive Andean condor, animal life abounds. Besides the Reserve's
unique flora and fauna, there are also many exciting outdoor activities.
Volcano's trails allow for great day trips or more challenging trips
to it's summit to revel in the spectacular scenery. More accessible
and equally impressive, is the San Rafael Waterfall, where the Quijos
River drops an awesome 130-m (423-ft). The river system in this
area carves deep canyons throughout the densely forested Andes,
which are fed by approximately 80 isolated lagoons dispersed in
the páramo. Beautiful lakes are found on the road from Oyacachi
to Papallacta, a town famous for its Hot Springs, as well as in
the foothills of the Cayambe and Saraurcu Mountains. You can take
a strenuous hike down the Oyacachi valley leading to El Chaco along
a mule path, or a less demanding jaunt descending the road to Cayambe
with an excellent view of the snow capped Cayambe Mountain.
The Llangantes mountain range is one of the most remote and
difficult to hike in Ecuador. Located in the provinces of Tungurahua,
Cotopaxi, and Napo, the Park offers challenging hikes and many beautiful
trout and salmon filled lagoons. Trees such as the ceibo, the chuncho,
and cedar decorate the landscape in addition to monkeys, birds,
deer, and spectacled bears. Created in 1991, the protected area
does not yet offer an administration office or lodging for visitors.
Therefore, you should visit the INEFAN office for detailed information
about the park. A local guide is strongly recommended as well as
1:50,000 maps of the region. The park, accessed from the town of
Pillaro near Ambato, is best visited between December and January.
Sangay National Park
Sangay National Park is one of the most remote areas in Ecuador.
Within its boundaries you will find three of the country's highest
peaks, Tungurahua Volcano, El Altar, and Sangay. Although hunting
has threatened the resident fauna, it is still home to many rarely
seen animals such as tapirs, ocelots, pumas, and porcupines. The
vegetation includes highland grasses and shrubs and cloud forests
in the East. Tours can be arranged from Banos, which is located
just 70-km away from the park. The best route leading to the park
is from Riobamba to Aloa.