Into the Wild: Cuyabeno National Park

I was in South America for over a month and was excited that I would finally spend a few days in the area that is called as lungs of Mother Earth – the Amazon Rainforest. While many people decide to visit the forest from Brazil, I choose to visit the part that falls under Ecuador, which is less touristy and easier to get to from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. This saved me a lot of time and money, which I would have spent in flying to the forest area in Brazil. Also, I was in love with Ecuador after visiting Galapagos and Quito and assumed that the rainforest of the country would also be as splendid as the rest of it…and I was absolutely correct. So, if you plan to visit the Amazon rainforest from Ecuador, don’t think twice. Read on and plan your tour …

Iguana at Galapagos

Getting there:

Cuyabeno is most accessible part of the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador. It takes about 7 – 8 hours by bus to get to the little town of Lago Agrio from Quito.

Sleepy town of Lago Afrio early in the morning

This journey is typically on a night bus, which isn’t too comfortable, but isn’t too bad either. Passengers are picked up from various hostels and hotels before hitting the highway. The bus starts at about 11 pm from Quito and gets to Lago Agrio at about 7 am, where it will drop you at a restaurant so that you can use the washroom and have breakfast.

Coffee and bread for breakfast

The next leg is from Lago Agrio to the Cuyabeno Forest Reserve. This part is handled by the lodge where you have booked your accommodation in the forest. It takes about 2 hours in a car to get to the Cuyabeno Bridge/jetty, from where you will hop on to a boat and sail over the mighty Amazon to get to your resort inside the forest.

At the Cuyabeno Bridge…all set to go to Nicky Lodge

How many days…:

Well, I could stay in the green, wild jungle for months…and Ankur could stay there forever. For most people, 4 days-3 nights is good enough to let you unwind, sample the jungle, met some tribals on an Amazonian island and take part in a few walking and boat safaris to see some wildlife.  However, I would recommend staying for 5 days-4 nights to make the trip easy and a little more relaxing.

Just another day in paradise…

How many safaris/walks are enough:

All jungle lodges include boat safaris and jungle walks as part of the package. While a schedule is typically given, it is subject to change as it can be raining cats and dogs suddenly in the forest. It is the best to let your guide take a call and reschedule a walk or a boat ride, if needed.

Cruising the Amazonn

Usually, there are walks post dinner and before breakfast. The boatrides are usually in the late afternoon/early evening or early afternoon. There is usually a tour to the local tribal island that is included in the trip and one to the ‘Big Lagoon’ to enjoy a sunset and to swim in the river.

Visiting a tribal island in the rainforest

The sunset tour was the highlight of my trip… I wish I could capture the colours …but they were changing every second! I swam in the fresh waters without a care in the world. The water was warm and soft …unlike sea water. I can almost relive the moment if I close my eyes now!

Swimming in the Big Lagoonn

Where to stay in the Amazon Rainforest?

Depending on your budget, there are a variety of options to choose from. There are luxury lodges deep inside the jungle …and then there are the hostel kind where you can share a room with other solo travellers. I booked myself at the Nicky Lodge, which is pretty deep inside the jungle…far away from civilisation.

My comfortable bed

I shared my jungle cottage with two girls, one from Switzerland and another from Japan, which helped me bring down the cost a little. The cottage was spacious and had three beds. There was enough room for all of us. Every bed had a mosquito net to keep the bugs at bay. There were two hammocks in front of our cottage. The bathroom was cleaned everyday, as was the room.

Our awesome crazy group!

The kitchen area was clean and the food was excellent. Actually, it was so delicious and so plentiful that I guess I became ‘fluffy’ during my stay at the lodge.

Food at Nicky

We had plenty of jungle walks and boat safaris.Gum boots were provided for all walks, as per our shoe size. All our walks and tours were led by a wonderful guide who knew English, Hindi, Spanish and Quechua. He was excellent in sighting wildlife and knew so much about the life in the forest…birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. His mother-in-law, who was a local tribal, often joined us on our boat rides and helped us sight monkeys and birds. Every night we would sit together to list down the new species that we saw during the day…it was so much fun!

What do you see in the Amazon Rainforest?

Well, its the wild! Sighting depends on luck. I saw monkeys, anacondas, snakes, water snakes, fresh water pink dolphins, caimans, over twenty species of birds including parakeets, macaws, oropendolas  and dozens of species of spiders and insects. I didn’t have my SLR and hardly have any pictures, which is such a pity!

Someone is knocking at the door


The 4 days-3 nights tour to the Cuyabeno Reserve cost me ~USD 320. This included bus transfer from Quito to Cuyabeno and back, all meals, boat safaris, jungle walks, tribal village visit and one night in the Hump Day Hostel at Quito (with breakfast).

I want to revisit the Amazon…to show Ankur this green wonderland. I want to go back to the jungle and spend a week to simply listen to the calls of the birds and to put my mind at ease. The Amazon Rainforest should be on everyone’s bucket list!

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11 Responses

  1. Amazing experience! I think South America has some of the last remaining wildernesses in this planet! Just love the sheer primitive feel of these forests. I want to visit this, not sure when it will be, but someday I will! The frog at the end is the winner!

  2. Visiting the Amazon has been on my list for years! Great tip about the Ecuador section being less crowded and touristy than the Brazil section. The cost seems super reasonable for everything you’re getting. Hopefully I can take this same trip soon!

  3. Sounds like quite an adventure and a once in a lifetime oppertunity. Would love to do some of the walks and boat cruises. The sunset cruise picture looks incredible… and that sunset… spectacular…wow!

  4. Wow, what an absolute dream to stay in the amazon. Honestly, I’m impressed how nice your room looks (don’t know what I was expecting!) Did you get to see the pink dolphins?!

  5. Thanks for the great tip that Amazon rainforest can be done from Ecuador too.
    I am sure this must have been a great adventure. Boat cruises, living in the forests, meeting travellers from different places… What fun!!! Loved the pics.

  6. Damn, I can’t believe I didn’t even know this place existed. That one photo from the tribal island makes me want to board a plane at this very moment and head there. Nice job using the photos to really show the experience and bring the reader along side with you!

  7. You room is so lovely! We love spots like that although mosquito nets are not our fave but gotta protect yourself from these guys! We would looooove to cruise the Amazon! Can’t wait to plan this destination.

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