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Are these really the 6 best Amazon Tours in Ecuador for seeing wildlife?

YES! This is why...

When one walks in the forest, the animals above you in the the crowns are difficult to observe. Looking up you hardly see anything. The contrast between the sky and the leaves is so overwhelming, that they appear almost black.  On the other hand, along narrow rivers, the light can break through the canopy, illuminating lower braches and wildlife. So, from the water you see the birds, flowers and mammals much better, as they frolick through the shrubs and lower trees along the shores.


So what makes Cuyabeno so special...

  • It's the only Amazon park in all Amazon-Andean countries with wide flat plains. Slow-flowing narrow creeks, rivers and many lakes can only develop in flat lowlands; not in hilly terrain. This makes Cuyabeno so unique!

  • In the dryer sections, one gets to see the terrestrial animals and birds. With so much water, one also gets to see water animals like: Dolphins, Manatees, Capybaras, Cayman, Ducks, Cormorants, Herons, etc.

  • Spotting wildlife from a canoe is much easier than when walking on a trail. You have your birding and wildlife books, your binoculars and your camera all close at hand.


But there is more...

  • Getting from Lagoagrio to Cuyabeno is (mostly) over an asphalt road. Distances over water are much shorter than to other reserves, like Yasuní National Park;

  •  Our programs are organized by or in collaboration with small Indian tribes, the Cofans and Sionas;

  • All programs are so child friendly, I took my grandchildren (3,5 & 6) there. Wao, did they love it!

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Boy with butterfly in Cuyabeno.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: lunch in Cuyabeno.

Butterfly licking salt from boy's face.

Picnicking on a "blanket" of palm leaves.

CUYABENO RIVER TOUR: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve with Cuyabeno Loop route.


Day one

Our transport meets you in Lagoagrio to take you in about 1 hour 30 minutes to the the canoe landing location Nuevo Unión, on the Aguarico River.

CUYABENO RIVER TOUR: Aguarico River landscape.CUYABENO RIVER TOUR: Visitor canoe of the Cofan Nation.

Cuyabeno Loop route takes you on a 200km odyssey through the Western Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

The tourist canoe of the Cofan Lodge.


Upon arrival in Zábalo, you will be shown around in the village and taken to your cabins to freshen up and rest, as it has been a long day since your departure from Quito.

Cuyabeno Loop: Relaxing on the Cuyabeno Lodge deck during your Amazon visit in EcuadorCuyabeno Loop: Cofan Lodge Cabin.

The restaurant of our Cofan Lodge.

One of the cabins of the Cofan Lodge.


Upon arrival in Zábalo, you will be shown around in the village and taken to your cabins to freshen up and rest, as it has been a long day since your departure from Quito.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Resting in hammocks at the Cofan Lodge when visiting the Amazon in Ecuador.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: an evening stroll through Zábalo village, the center of the Cofan tribe.

Relaxing in the hammocks in our restaurant.

A view of our Zábalo village.


In the evening, you will be taken on a night excursion to discover the critters of the night.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Tree Frog of the Amazon Jungle seen on a night excursion when visiting the Amazon in Ecuador.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Grasshopper shedding skin.

Tree frogs are everywhere, but it is a bit difficult to spot them. The moment you think you finally have one in your camera, they leap away to never be found again smiley. On a rare occasion, with lots of luck you may catch the green eyes of a wandering Ocelot Cat in the beam of your flash light.


Cuyabeno loop, Day Two

Early in the morning, we take on one of the few Ecuadorian black water rivers, where the clear water provides an ideal conditions for Giant Otters. Black water gets it color from decaying leaves fallen in the forested lowlands and swamps, while there are little or no sediments. There is also a vivid population of Scarlet Macaws as well as a great variety of tropical birds and monkeys.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Cuyabeno Lodge welcome sign welcoming you on your Ecuador Amazon visit5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: The black water of the Zábalo River mixing with the "white" -in reality coffey-with-cream colored sediment loaded River Aguarico.

The Zabalo River is one of the few clear black water rivers in the Amazon of Ecuador.

The clear black - sediment poor - water of the Zábalo river mixes with the sediment loaded water of the Aguarico River. The color comes from the soil particles dispersed in the water.




Cuyabeno loop, Day Three

The day starts out with a discovery of the Cofan ways. You will be taught how to use a blowgun, and

get to see the traditional Cofan dresses.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Learning how to shoot a blowgun.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Cofan and visitor children with the Cofan shaman.

Learning how to shoot with a blowgun.

The shaman with some of the children of the village and of visitors.


5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Manioc plants in the Cofan vegetable garden.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Turtles being raised in the captive breeding program to restore turtle densities.

The traditional Cofan vegetable garden produces a part of your food.

The Cofan turtle breeding program has restored the turtle population in the Zábalo River.


After breakfast, we take you to the mouth of the Cuyabeno River, where usually some river dolphins hang out. From there you will be taken to the Canopy tower, to have an impression of the natural canopy.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: The mouth of the Cuyabeno River as it poors into the River Aguarico.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Climbing the Canopy Tower of Cuyabeno.

The Mouth of the Cuyabeno River is frequented by Amazon Dolphins.

The highest canopy tower in Cuyabeno takes you all the way into the crown of a gigantic tree.


5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: admiring the jungle as monkeys see it from the tree canopy.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Looking down from the Canopy tower at Cuyabeno.

Admiring the view from the canopy tower platform.

Looking down from the canopy tower.


After the visit to the canopy tower, the programs split into:

  • Cofan standard program and the

  • Cuyabeno Loop

The Standard Program

The Cofan Lodge standard program will take you on a fabulous excursion into the Amazon jungle, after which it takes you back to the Cofan Lodge.


Standard Program, Day 4

On day four, of the standard program takes you back on a ride on the Aguarico River, and from there back to Quito.


The Cuyabeno Loop

The Cuyabeno loop continues its journey upstream to the Cuyabeno Lake, from where the program will be taken over by one of the lodges at the Cuyabeno Lake, of which the most famous it the Cuyabeno Lodge.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: natigating up the Cuyabeno River5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: macrolobium tree swamp at sunset.

Continuing the journey upstream the Cuyabeno River.

The Macrolobium trees at the border of the Cuyabeno lake are like giant Bonsai trees and full of epiphytes.


Upon arrival at the lodge, you can take a hot shower and rest up a bit and take a swim in the lake at sunset.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Swimming in Cuyabeno5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Make great friends at the Cuyabeno Lodge when visiting the Amazon in Ecuador.

A swim at the lake is always wonderfully refreshing and a lot of fun.

Dinner in the restaurant of the Cuyabeno Lodge.


At night you can take an night excursion at the lake to look for the orange eyes of Caymans and other nocturnal animals that hide in the Macrolobium swamps.


Cuyabeno loop, Day Four

After a well-deserved night's rest, you will explore the Cuyabeno Lake and its surrounding Macrolobium swamps.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Amazon Manatee at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.Amazon jungle animals Ecuador: Pink Dolphin at the Amazon River in Cuyabeno

Most of the time you will be able to spot an Amazon Dolphin (of course no we can never guarantee this) or maybe, if you are very lucky, even a Manatee.



Blue and Yellow Macaws fly noisily across the Cuyabeno Lake, while Hoatzins whisper their hoarse sounds as they scope the Macrolobium trees for food. You may also hear the mysterious swelling sound of the Howler Monkeys or see a troop of squirrel monkeys bouncing through the treetops. In fact, 10 species of monkeys have been recorded in the reserve.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: excursion on Lake Cuyabeno5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Birdwatching by visitors of the Amazon in Ecuador

Bird and wildlife watching


5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Achiote bixa Orellana shrubs provide a natural coloring.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Beautiful flowers enlighten Amazon visits in Ecuador.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Amazon rainforest plants include the Orchids growing in Cuyabeno. 5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Heliconia in the Amazon tropical Rainforest seen when visiting the Amazon in Ecuador.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Blue and Yellow macaws can be frequently seen in Cuyabeno.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Brown Woolley Monkeys are common in Cuyabeno.

Blue and yellow Macaws are fairly common around Lake Cuyabeno.

Brown Woolley Monkeys are common in Cuyabeno.


5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Swamp trees, Macrolobiums, at Cuyabeno are frequently seen on Amazon visits in Ecuador.5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Liana or vine reaching for the tree crowns.


Cuyabeno loop, Day Five

On day five, you will experience the feel of so many of our visitors: "It all went by too quickly". Maybe you will become one of our frequent visitors that keep coming back for a special program. Anyway, you will have to leave in the morning to get back on time to catch the plane or  bus in Lagoagrio. You will ride the canoe up the Cuyabeno River to the main entrance of the park, the "Cuyabeno Bridge", where your transport will be waiting for you to bring you to the airport or to the bus station to take you on your trip back to Quito.

5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Visitor on the Cuyabeno Loop5 BEST AMAZON TOURS IN ECUADOR: Watching wildlife




There are 3 options to travel to the Amazon Lowlands:

  • Take the night bus from Quito to Lagoagrio (usually leaves at 11 at night) from the "Terminal Norte" in Quito and arrive in Lagoagrio at dawn. It costs about $ 46 for the round trip and you have to leave from your hotel in Quito to the terminal  an hour before departure. Alternatively, you can take a day bus, but then you will have to spend the night in Lagoagrio. We will pick you up in Lagoagrio in combination with arriving passengers by plane, departing generally at 10:30 (depending on the arrival of the plane), to Nuevo Unión (2 hours), where we embark in our canoe at about 12:30. Between your departure from your hotel at night at 10 at night until disembarking, will be more or less 15 hours.

  • Fly with Tame Quito - Lagoagrio. You can book your ticket at, which costs about $ 220 round trip per person, but additionally you have to consider the cost of a taxi that costs 2X25; Then it actually costs $ 270. Your flight usually leaves at 9 in the morning, and takes 30 minutes to arrive. As many times the flight is delayed, count on arriving around 10, and after getting your luggage, it will be 10:30. We'll pick you up at the airport. From there it takes two hours to arrive in Nuevo Union, where we leave in our canoe at 12:30. Thus flying takes a total of 5, 5 - 6 hours from your hotel until you can embark on the Rio Aguarico.

  • A great alternative is taking our Private Trans-Andean Transportation to the Aguarico River, which costs $300 per party which will be shared among the participants in your group. We will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning and take to the Aguarico  or Cuyabeno River in about 8 - 9 hours depending how much time we spend on the way at the overlooks into the Cayambe - Coca Ecological Reserve.


Very early in the morning you will be picked up at your hotel in Quito to travel along the scenic road to the Aguarico River, passing through Ecuador's most striking waterfall, the San Rafael Waterfall, as well through the paramo (Andes meadows) of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.

Lake Papallacta.San Rafael Waterfall overlook.

Near the mountain pass you pass by beautiful paramos and some of the highest rainforests in the world along Lake Papallacta.

The virgin cloud forest San Rafael waterfall is the most beautiful waterfall of the country.


Jamanco Spa hotsprings, near Papallacta.Reventador Volcano pouring out lava.

Bordering Lake Papallacta is the Jamanco Spa with great mineral water without prior filtration as done in the Papallacta resorts. As a result, the mineral quality is supposed to be better, while resort prices are a fraction of the spas in Papallacta.

The Reventador is Ecuador's most active volcano and frequently runs of down-pouring can be seen glowing in the night.

  • It is possible to arrange for spending the night at either a Papallacta (costly) or Jamanco (friendly and much more economical) Spa, but then another day is needed.

  • Many passengers who take the private transportation, chose to fly back or visa versa.

Lagoagrio Airport.Cayambe Volcano seen from the flight to Lagoagrio.

Arrival at the airport of oil-boom town Lagoagrio.

At a clear day you can see the Cayambe exactly on the equator, as you fly around it. On the way in, chose a window on the right and on the way back on the left of the plane.



Amazon Tours

All Amazon programs include all meals, and fruit juices served with the meals. Our restaurants serve a mix of international cuisine and occasionally, the Cofan Lodge offers  a sample meal of traditional Cofan dishes. Meals include coffee, tea and bottled water, while additional bottled drinks and alcoholic beverages can be bought.

Transportation between Lagoagrio and the access rivers.

Transportation between Lagoagrio and the river(s).


National Parks Tours

  1. All hotels and lodges;

  2. Transportation: All ground transportation on the National Parks tours;

  3. In-country flights where included in the national parks tour program, but NOT to/fro Galapagos and Lagoagrio;

  4. An English speaking naturalist guide. A German or French speaking guide may also be available, but can't be guaranteed.

  5. All entry fees.


Depending on the program you selected, we always try to give you a discount on combined modules. Groups above 4 passengers will receive discounts, depending on group size.



Our programs are rather customized and we try to accommodate the travel needs of our customers. To avoid misunderstandings, we don't offer a prepaid travel option. Just send an email to or contact us through our contact data below. 


From Abroad:

Sending money from abroad is rather costly and we try to minimize money going to bank transfers. Once your schedule has been worked out, we kindly request you to make a reservation guarantee transfer of only $100 by Western Union or Moneygram. The balance you pay in CASH in Quito upon arrival (we don't take credit cards!) This way you don't lose a lot of money sending money. The $100 is NOT recoverable upon cancelation.


Why we don't accept credit cards in Ecuador either? The credit card services charge 7%! We would have to charge you for that, making your trip more expensive. We do everything to make your trip as cost effective as possible.


Already in Ecuador?

You can pay in our office mentioned below. We apply a cancelation fee of $100.


What is essential to bring?

For this question we link to our special vacation packing list.



The COFAN LODGE has its sales office in:

Mariano Cardenal N74-153 y Joaquín Mancheno; Carcelen Alto District (Barrio)


(++593) (0)(2) 252 7314



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