In one of my previous posts, I talked about my day by day itinerary in the Cuyabeno Natural Reserve, the Amazon rainforest section in Ecuador, which is one of the highlights of my year-long backpacking trip, but also the best place I visited ever!
In this post, instead of an itinerary, which would probably be set by the agency you decided to take the tour with anyway, I’ll share some practical info and tips to help you plan your trip here:
What company to used
Plenty of companies in both Baños and Quito will organise this trip for you. We booked it through Geotours and stayed in Green Forest Lodge. We were very happy with the accommodation and the food we got there. As a matter of fact, the meals we got there were some of the best we got in South America and they even had a different vegetarian option for me at every meal, with fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you want more info on what to look for when choosing an eco-friendly tour agency, check out this post below.
Best time to go
In this area, there are a dry and a wet season. The dry season normally begins during the month of December and ends in February, with December and January beeing the hottest times of the year.
The advantages of travelling to the Cuyabeno reserve during the dry season is that there are less mosquitos and easier access to trails for hikes and explorations. It is also easier to spot certain species, like anacondas or caimans. However, during these months, due to the low water level in the river and the lagoon there are poorer chances to spot wildlife that depends on water, like the pink dolphins and some birds species. Moreover, due to the low levels of water, and since you have to reach the lodge by canoe, the journey from the entrance f the national park to the lodge is long and difficult.
The rainy season starts in February and lasts until the end of November, with May and June being the rainiest months.
During these months, rain is usually very heavy and there are lot more insects and mosquitos. In addition, some of the trails might be inaccessible due to the high level of water. On the other hand, travelling on the river gets easier and the rain makes the vegetation grow faster, so there are higher chances to spot animals.
We visited the Cuyabeno Forster at the end of January, just between the end of the dry season and start of the rain season and it was a great time to visit. There was enough water in the river to make the journeys to and from the lodge easy and fast, and even if we had rain for most of our stay there, it was never cold. We got the chance to spot many species while we were there, but since it was in the middle of the wet season, we could still do a couple of day and night trails in the jungle. Finally, because this was considered low season, accommodation is sometimes cheaper and there are less people. For example, on our tour/lodge it was only one extra person with us.
My main recommendation would be to pick a good tour operator who will know what the best activity is based on the weather/season, so you will still enjoy your time there.
How much does it cost?
The average night price for this tour is $65 per night per person. We were asked $280 for the four-day trip but ended up getting it for $260, for a tour with only one more person beside us and a private double room with an ensuite bathroom.
The cost included accommodation, a bilingual guide, all meals, several pieces of equipment, such as mosquito nets, boots, raincoats, and drinks throughout the day. Not included in the price were the bus ticket to Lago Agrio, plus $4 to visit the community and $4 dollars to meet the Shaman.
You can book your trip in either Quito or Banos, but most tour agencies will ask you to make your way there independently.
We started from Baños, where we got a bus to Coca. Transporte Baños Bus Company leaves every night at 10:45 and 11:45 and it will take you approximately 7 hours to get to Coca. The fare for this bus ride is $12.
Once in Coca, there are several companies going towards Lago Agrio every 15 minutes, starting from 4am for $3.
Although you could visit the Amazon forest in different countries in South America, I would really recommend visiting the Cuyabeno reserve, in Ecuador.
Not only it is one of the cheapest places – together with Peru and Bolivia – to visit it, but you can also do so in the most eco-friendly and sustainable way possible.
Having talked to some people who experienced this place in both Bolivia and Peru, we realised how lucky we were with our trip. We saw plenty of animals, like monkeys, pink dolphins, anacondas, caimans, birds, spiders and frogs, but sometimes we saw them from so far away that it was very hard to spot them or we had to spend hours before we could see one. For this reason, we were so surprised when some people we met told us that they had monkeys walk on the arms, until we found out that monkeys were forced to live in cages and then brought closer to tourists.
Moreover, all companies organising tours in Ecuador, use part of their profits to support not only conservation projects and eco-friendly accommodations within the reserve, but also the local community.
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