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cuyabeno wildlife reserve

The reserve protects a flooded rainforest covering 6000+ square km. It was created in 1979. Parts of the reserve are inhabited by Siona, Secoya, Cofán, Quechua and Shuar people. Oil exploitation has continued throughout the life of reserve but it was enlarged in 1991 and has been better protected since then. However many wells exist right on the edge of the reserve and continue to affect the area.

There are many interconnected lakes and swamps and areas of underwater forest. It’s surreal to drift along looking at the canopies of ceiba trees rising out of the water. The rivers are black from decomposing foliage which creates tannin and makes the water acidic.

One interesting site is on Laguna Grande where huge guarango trees grow up to 30 metres, and serve as a resting spot for storks and cormorants searching for fish. Between January and May the lake dries up completely, revealing the roots of the trees, which effectively hibernate during this period.

You can see a huge number of bird and tree species and lots of aquatic wildlife such as freshwater dolphins, turtles, anacondas, several species of caiman, giant otters, manatees as well as many fish and frogs (81 species of the latter have been noted). Additionally there are monkeys, sloths, peccaries, manatees, agoutis, bats, tapirs, capybaras and ocelots.

There are only a few jungle lodges in the vicinity of the reserve and the majority of visitors come on tours to camps which are all near to each other on the Cuyabeno river.

It is better to visit between March and September for water levels although it is also the time of highest rainfall.


The dropping off point for the Cuyabeno Reserve is Lago Agrio. It grew up on oil exploitation and is close to a quite volatile section of the Colombian border. Lago is widely acknowledged as ugly, dodgy and generally unpleasant. Therefore unless you want to explore your seedy side, it is best to get in and out on your tour fairly quickly.


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