I had the opportunity to visit the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, one of the most magical places in Ecuador. Together with Yasuní National Park, these parks are the most biodiverse reserves in the country. The Cuyabeno Reserve is located in the northern Amazon region of the country in the Sucumbios province. Some the animals that you can see in the Cuyabeno reserve are: 10 species of monkeys, the tapir, 2 species of deer, jaguars, pumas, capybaras, 2 species of dolphins, manatees, giant otters, among others. There are also more than 500 registered bird species. During the wet season, thousands of hectares of forest are flooded.
You can only visit the reserve with a guide or on a tour, since most sections of the reserve are only accessible by boat and you need to know where to go. It is important to keep in mind that it is a very large park and it would take weeks to get to know it completely and with that, not all areas are accessible to the public.
We decided to take a tour with Bamboo Lodge, and the truth is that it was incredible. We loved it. They operate every day of the year as long as you have a prior reservation. The tour begins at 9:30 AM from the Arazá Hotel in Lago Agrio, a small town near the entrance to the rainforest. The Bamboo Lodge team picks you up at the hotel and takes you on a private bus for two hours to the Cuyabeno Bridge, where you transfer to a boat for a two hour ride downstream.
The truth is that the service is first class and the facilities are in very good condition. There are several tours options with Bamboo Lodge depending on the number of nights and type of room. All tours include breakfast and lunch in Lago Agrio, transportation to and from the Cuyabeno Bridge, two / three daily tours within the reserve with guides endorsed by the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism, all breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the hotel, water, coffee, tea, chocolate and juices with meals, farewell or welcome cocktails, rain poncho, lifejackets and boots to use within the reserve.
The lodge has 11 rooms in total: 3 standard rooms, 1 family room, 4 double suite and 2 family suites. The matrimonial suites are on the second and third floors and do not have an elevator. The good thing is that from these rooms you can have an excellent panoramic view of the jungle. The room includes a king size bed, a balcony, a private bathroom with a tub and shower. The Family Suite has a private terrace on top, with a king size bed and a single bed. The standard rooms have a double and a single bed and a private bathroom with a shower.
We decided to stay 4 days and 3 nights in a Matrimonial Suite. We had the most amazing views from our private balcony and from our bath tub. The itinerary may vary depending on the season, interests of the tour members, etc.
We left from Quito at 11:00 PM on an overnight private bus from Secret Garden Quito to Lago Agrio. The ticket cost us $20 per person. The bus dropped us off at a main station, where we transfered to another bus for a short ride to the meeting point where they waited for us with breakfast. Once we finished breakfast, we were taken by bus for two hours to the entrance to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve located on the Cuyabeno Bridge. There we registered and boarded the boat that took us downstream for two hours until we reached the Big Lagoon, where the Bamboo Lodge is located. During the tour we could see a boa, countless monkeys, and the impressive vegetation of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Upon arriving at the hotel, we started out with lunch and an introduction/instructions for the following days. After lunch we had time to unpack and check out our room.
In the afternoon was our first tour to see the pink dolphins in the Laguna Grande. Those who wanted to could swim in the lagoon as well. We returned to the hotel for dinner and end our first day with a night walk where we saw baby alligators, different types of spiders and nocturnal insects.
The second day we started the day at 8AM with breakfast and were off for a walk through the jungle. This hike lasts 3 to 4 hours and you can observe the different types of forests that Cuyabeno has (highlands, swamps, flooded forests). We used a canoe to reach the start of the hike, so you will have to paddle. On the way you can observe monkeys, birds and other unique species of Cuyabeno. We returned to the lodge to have lunch and rest for a few hours. The truth is that while you are eating you have a chance to spot the many monkeys that surround the hotel. In the afternoon, we used the canoe again to go to Caiman Cocha lagoon, where you can see the flooded forest, another great opportunity to see wildlife. After sunset we went canoeing to look for alligators and boas. We got lucky and saw both of them.
Normally on the third day you visit the local Siona community, but during our visit this activity was suspended as the community is still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead we had the opportunity to go out to explore different places and continue looking wild life. In fact, we get up super early in the morning to go in search of wildlife before breakfast, when birds are normally the most active. We were lucky enough to see several toucans and monkeys.
On the last day we got up early to climb the lodge’s birdwatching tower, which you can climb whenever you want, where you can see toucans, arasaris, and oropendulas among other animals. If your group wants and the guide agrees, you can go out in the morning to see the sunrise at Laguna Grande. By 10AM you should already have breakfast and your suitcases packed, ready to take the boat back to the bridge. From there it is back on the bus to the meeting point in Lago Agrio, where you have lunch before leaving on the bus back to Quito.
Bamboo Lodge Ecuador Prices:
3 Day/2 Night Amazon Rainforest Tour
- Standard Double Room: $270 USD per person
- Standard Triple or Family Room: $250 USD per person
- Matrimonial Suite: $320 USD per person
- Family Suite: $300 USD per person
4 Day/3 Night Amazon Rainforest Tour
- Standard Double Room: 320 USD per person
- Standard Triple or Family Room: 290 USD per person
- Matrimonial Suite: 390 USD per person
- Family Suite: 360 USD per person
5 Day/4 Night Amazon Rainforest Tour
- Standard Double Room: 390 USD per person
- Standard Triple or Family Room: 350 USD per person
- Matrimonial Suite: 470 USD per person
- Family Suite: 430 USD per person