Ecuador Amazon Tour Review – Ecotourism & Adventure in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

 Visiting the Amazon rainforest was on my bucket list for a looong time. When we decided to travel to Ecuador I knew we will be doing the Ecuador Amazon tour to properly experience one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The adventure holiday, supporting ecotourism in the Amazon rainforest, including outdoor activities, an incredible amount of wildlife, experiencing the way of living of the local indigenous communities and staying in the traditional huts in the middle of the rainforest – made me excited like a kid. And the reality was even better than my expectations.


Ecuador Amazon Tour Review in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve Table of Content:

1. Ecuadorian Amazon
    Ecuador Amazon tours – yay or nay
    Ecuador Amazon tour in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
    Ecuadorian Amazon jungle map
2. Ecotourism in the Amazon rainforest
3. 4-days tour in the Amazon
     Living in the jungle – staying in the Ecuador Amazon lodge 
     Eco lodge in Ecuador Amazon
     Food in the Amazon lodge
4. Activities in the Amazon Rainforest
     The Amazon wildlife and medicinal plants
     Sunset and swim in Laguna Grande
     Night in the jungle
     Night walks in the Amazon Rainforest
     A day tour and a visit to the local Siona community
5. Information about the Ecuador Amazon trips
    How to organize the Ecuador Amazon tour
    Where to start the Amazon tour in Ecuador from
    What to bring to Amazon Rainforest


Ecuadorian Amazon

The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest and a very important forest on Earth, spreads through 9 countries in South America. Home to 3 million species of plants and animals and 1 million Indigenous people. The Earth’s Lungs, a critical piece helping the global warming crisis.

Ecuador only has 2% of the Amazon jungle, but it is still a huge area, covering six Ecuadorian provinces. There are a lot of Ecuador Amazon tours to choose from in different reserves.

To visit Ecuadorian Amazon, you can go to Yasuni National Park or to the Cuybeno Wildlife Reserve.  Yasuni is a very remote area, deep in the Amazon, where people go to visit the Napo wildlife center. It takes quite a long time to get there. There are also Ecuador Amazon tours around Tena. 

Ecuador Amazon tours – yay or nay

Even though I am not the biggest fan of the group tours and I prefer to explore the world independently, the Amazon rainforest is one of those places where you want to be with a group and a guide.

There is no way I would be able to spot as many animals as we did and learn so much about the jungle, at the same time being safe (tarantulas on the trees!), without the proper Ecuador Amazon tour. There are also some other fancy things you can do while being there, like Amazon cruises, but after spending a lot of time on the water in Galapagos islands, I preferred to be based on land.

Obviously, apart from Ecuador Amazon tours, you can also try some of the Amazon trips in other countries that the Amazon Rainforest covers. One example is Alter do Chao in Brazil. However, for now, I only managed to try the ones in Ecuador. Maybe next time!

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Ecuador Amazon tour in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

We decided to go on one of the Amazon rainforest tours in Ecuador in Cuybaeno Wildlife Reserve. 

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve covers 6033.8 km², and it’s located in the east part of Ecuador, around 9 hours away from Quito. The reserve has been founded to protect the environment and the indigenous people who still live there. Cuyabeno is the only relatively easily accessible place, from all the South American countries in the Amazonian Andes, where you can find so many lakes and streams.

In the Cuyabeno Reserve, you have the opportunity to do numerous jungle walks, spot wild animals, go birdwatching and experiencing the culture of the indigenous people. 

The Amazon of Ecuador is also a place, where the Amazon rainforest ecotourism is the most developed. It feels good to know that you contribute to the local communities and keeping the rainforest alive acting like a responsible traveller

Ecuadorian Amazon jungle map

Ecuadorian Amazon jungle map
Map data 2019: Google

Ecotourism in the Amazon rainforest 

During the time of the Amazon fires, the whole world suddenly remembered about the importance of the Amazon rainforest. But the struggle of the Amazon started long before, and ecotourism is one of the ways to help with that. 

Ecuador Amazon is one of the places where ecotourism is the most developed. It’s not hard to find a good eco lodge in Ecuador. Sustainable tourism, caring for the environment and involving local communities, helps to keep the fragile Amazon ecosystem alive. Indigenous people from the Amazon, choose to work with ecotourism instead of relying on agriculture through burning parts of the forest and hunting or partnering with oil companies.

As we try to be more responsible travellers ourselves, we chose to support ecotourism in the Amazon rainforest. Below you can see the video of my talk with mama Aurora from the Siona community, who explains the importance of ecotourism in the Amazon for the indigenous people. 

For more videos follow me on Youtube channel.

4-days tour in the Amazon

We decided to spend 4 days on the Amazon rainforest tour with Ecuatraveling. The adventure travel company created by a group of local and experienced trip leaders didn’t disappoint. Our adventure was filled with animal encounters, Amazon river tours on a wooden canoe, walks in the forest, swims in the river and in the Laguna Grande, star-gazing and discovering another look of the jungle at night.

I was invited on this trip by Ecuatraveling, so I can share my experience with you. My boyfriend paid for his part, and we both feel that this Amazon tour is worth the money (it is also one of the least expensive ones).

Living in the jungle – staying in the Ecuador Amazon lodge 

During our Amazon rainforest tour, we stayed in the Nicky Lodge – an eco-lodge in the Cuyabeno forest located furthest up the river from the surrounding lodges. Check the reviews for Nicky Lodge on TripAdvisor.

Before we planned the trip to the Amazon, I knew I really wanted to stay inside the jungle. Not in the city, not on the side of it, but in the forest. I wanted to immerse myself in nature. Listen to the sounds of the jungle and watch the pink river dolphins across my lodge. And it was exactly that. My favourite part of staying in the Amazon was sitting on the porch, watching a thousand stars above my head and listening to the sounds of nature.

Eco lodge in Ecuador Amazon

The traditional Amazon jungle lodge is made from local materials, covered with the leaves of the palm tree. Typically, the lodges have open holes in them, which means that small bugs or a frog can enter the room. Talking about immersing yourself in nature, ha!

We had a super-cute frog visiting our room and staying for a while. The bed, however, has a mosquito net that you can (and probably should) use at night. And, to be honest, there were no mosquitos in the lodge area, so we didn’t have problems with that.

The blinking stars and night voices in the Amazon jungle were my lullaby every night.

Frog inside the eco lodge in the Amazon in Ecuador
Our frog pet, that visited us in our room in the Nicky Lodge

Food in the Amazon lodge

And what type of food do you get in the middle of the rainforest? Pretty amazing, actually! I was very impressed by the dishes we were getting in Nicky lodge. The chefs catered to every dietary requirement – including making delicious dishes for vegetarians. We started the days with a morning canoe ride on the river, where we had hot coffee, tea or chocolate. After that, we would go back for hearty breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs, bread, cheese, and other local ingredients. Lunches and dinners were also delicious and we had access to hot drinks the whole day, as well as all variety of snacks.

Milky way and night sky in Ecuadorian Amazon
Milky Way and night sky in Ecuadorian Amazon
eco lodge Ecuador where you stay during the Ecuador Amazon tour
Hammocks in front of every lodge

Activities in the Amazon Rainforest

Our days in the Amazon rainforest were filled with adventurous activities. In the morning we would go for canoe rides to try to see the wildlife when it’s the most active. After breakfast, we would go for jungle walks or more canoe rides. Then come back for lunch, have a few hours free to relax in the lodge and swim in the Amazon, and we would go for more canoe rides or walks. When it gets dark, we would go to the rainforest to spot the wildlife active at night. 

Swimming in the Amazon rainforest
Going for an afternoon dip in the Amazon jungle river

The Amazon wildlife and medicinal plants

The amount of wildlife that we were able to see during our Ecuador Amazon adventure was incredible. Our friends from the trip made the whole list on their phones, that was several pages longs (and it still didn’t include the last canoe trip). 

We’ve seen most of the animals that I really wanted to spot. On top of my list were the Pink river dolphins and we’ve been able to see them multiple times. It was such a magical experience. Very hard to photograph, though!

We were also able to learn a lot about the medicinal plants used by the indigenous people. Turns out there is a medicine almost for anything directly in the tropical rainforest. 

Ecuadorian Amazon day walk
This is a mushroom, straight from the Amazon rainforest

Sunset and swim in Laguna Grande

On the third day in the evening, we went for the evening canoe ride to the Laguna Grande. A serene lagoon on the Cuyabeno River is known for its orange sunsets and perfect swimming spots.

The water level in the lagoon changes depending on the season, up to the point that it can entirely dry up. Our guide was telling us how they walked on the bottom of the lagoon. When we were there, the lake was full of water and you could see the trees popping out of the sides.

Just before sunset, we gently moved in the canoes across the lake, watching the sky turn to orange and bright red. Then, it was time for a swim! We jumped in the water for a refreshing bath. Apparently, there are some fish and even anacondas or caimans in the water, but I don’t think they wanted to come closer to a group of people. That being said, I did feel something touching my foot and there was nobody else around. The experience of floating in the smooth water mirroring the sun rays was tranquil and very relaxing. 

Sunset in Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

A girl swimming in the Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Me swimming in the Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

Night in the jungle

After the swim, we came back to the canoe for the night journey trying to find the nocturnal animals. A million stars and a Milky Way were shining brightly above our heads. 

We were traveling at night in a wooden canoe, cutting through the smooth black water of the Cuyabeno River, which is home to pink river dolphins, piranhas, and caimans. The tour guide was looking for boa snakes on the trees and I was sitting back admiring the Milky Way moving directly above my head.

Pink sunset in Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve during Ecuador Amazon tour
Pink sunset in Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Milky Way in the Ecuador Amazon rainforest

Night walks in the Amazon Rainforest

During our stay in the Ecuadorian Amazon, we did a few of the night walks in the jungle. It was an entirely different experience from the day trips. We would walk very slowly with our torches (I recommend to take a strong one) to watch hunting spiders, insects, snakes and scorpions. We even saw a tarantula directly behind our cottage. Don’t worry, they do not come inside.

The jungle never sleeps. You can hear the gentle chirping of crickets, hooting sound of an owl, the chatter of night monkeys. Snakes hiss in the bushes and spiders hunt for small insects. The Amazon rainforest at night is a different world. A world full of adventure and mystery.

A day tour and a visit to the local Siona community

A chance to visit the local indigenous community gave us an opportunity to get to know the way of local people live in the Amazon. We met mama Aurora, an 80-years old member of the community, who also works as a guide for Nicky Lodge. 

Together with mama Aurora, who is in great shape, we prepared yucca bread, the traditional food eaten by the Siona people. It was delicious lunch with fresh avocadoes, vegetables, beans, rice and banana cakes for dessert.

Banana cakes for the dessert in the Amazon in Ecuador!
Banana cakes for the dessert in the Amazon in Ecuador!

Information about the Ecuador Amazon trips

How to organize the Ecuador Amazon tour

The best way to organize the Ecuador Amazon trip is to book it in advance. That way, you can be sure to secure your spot on the tour. They are very popular and the lodges have limited spaces. I recommend booking with Ecuatraveling the 4-day Amazon tour through their website. Check their reviews on Trip Advisor

If you prefer to do a tour in another part of the Amazon of Ecuador, you can find the selection of Ecuador Amazon tours on Viator.

Where to start the Amazon tour in Ecuador from?

Most of the tours to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve start from Quito. Quito is a place to visit in itself, so plan to spend a few days there. I can recommend staying at the Hump Day Hostel in Quito, which was our base for a few days. Make sure to go up to their roof terrace and watch the city from a mattress on the roof. Check the ratings and prices on booking here, and the reviews on Trip Advisor here.

What to bring to Amazon Rainforest

Planning to tour Amazon? There are a few important things that you want to pack for your Amazon adventure.

Would you like to go to the Amazon tour in Ecuador? Have you ever been to the tropical rainforest before? Let me know in the comments!

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