If you go to the Yasuni National Park region of Ecuador, it’s a full-on jungle experience. While it’s the Amazon Basin rather than being on the big river itself, this expanse of 2.5 million protected acres is packed with even more wildlife than you’ll find in Peru or Brazil.
In the Yasuni area UNESCO biosphere, one hectare in this area contains more living organisms than the entire European continent. A third of all Amazonian mammals are found here in this part of Ecuador, including 60% of all new world wild cats. You could look in and on a few trees in the Yasuni and find as many insect species as the entire United States of America.
It takes a while to get to any of the Ecuador jungle lodges we have covered in Luxury Latin America. The one that is the most remote, Napo Wildlife Reserve, can be worth the extra transit time to be closer to the completely protected areas.
The typical programs are three or four nights so you have time to get out exploring by foot and boat. Here are some of the activities you can enjoy once you’re there.
Birdwatching Around Yasuni National Park
If you go on Napo’s bird watching tour, you’ll have no shortage of sightings to check off your list. It’s not unusual to see as many different birds here in a day as you’ll see in a month where you live now in the northern Hemisphere.
One of the highlights doesn’t require you to go very far: a tall canopy tower built into the trees allows you to see birds that are hidden from the ground. At the top of a huge Ceiba tree, Tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, Blue-and yellow Macaws fly past, large toucans call, with dozens of smaller birds flitting between the trees in the morning and early evening.
Once you start exploring the area, the list keeps growing longer. At two salt and mud licks you’ll see parrots and parakeets. Nearby maybe a Zigzag Heron, the Point-tailed Palmcreeper, the Orange-crested Manakin, perhaps a Long-billed Woodcreeper. Later on, in a different habitat, perhaps your list will include oropendolas, aracaris, tanagers, and euphonias. On to Plum-throated Cotingas, various raptors, White-browed Purpletufts, or Crowned Slaty Flycatchers. Bring the zoom lens or scope camera for this trip!
Wildlife Walks and Canoe Trips
With any program at the Ecuador jungle lodges, nature walks and boat rides are included in the rates. You’ll go out with experienced local guides who can spot things you didn’t even know were there. Creatures may be hiding or blend in with the surroundings, but they’ll help you see several kinds of monkeys, bats and birds, colorful frogs and strange insects.
Even on the way in you’ll see a wealth of wildlife before you even get to your room. Then when you go out on a canoe or walk under a rainforest canopy, you’ll have a chance to see why this is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Recent spottings at Napo have included a jaguar and a rare bush dog.
Visiting Local Indigenous Communities
Deep in the jungle of Ecuador, communities have lived as long as anyone can remember. They are great guides to the flora and fauna of the area since they know it intimately. Napo Wildlife reserve is owned and operated by the Kichwa Añangu Community.
The Añangu Kichwa Community is a sustainable aboriginal group. They welcome visitors, believing that bringing outside money to the community is the best way to preserve the Amazon region. By visiting you get a sense of what their life is like living on and with the land, but you also help more than 180 members to improve their way of life through renewable energy, education, and better health care. You also get to visit the Kuri Muyu Center to learn about the Kichwa Culture and their old practices.
You hike along forest trail to visit their community and share time with a family on their activities. They are about a 30-minute walk from a parrot clay lick—the second one you’ll visit in the area.