Cuyabeno Lodge is located by the Laguna Grande on the Cuyabeno River in the northeast part of the country. The setting is much different from that of the Napo River as it is flooded forest; as such, there is less high ground and travel is by canoe or motor launch. I was looking forward to seeing species endemic to this area.
Getting there takes a while. It is a short flight from Quito to Lago Agrio, where an uncomfortable bus picks up guests and takes them to the bridge about 2 1/2 hours away along paved and gravel roads. There, you secure a permit from the officials to visit the reserve; take your passport or Ecuadorian i.d. (permits are $20 or $6, respectively). Then you wait for the lodge´s launch to arrive; the trip along the river takes another hour and a half or two hours.
At the lodge, you are greeted with glasses of fresh juice and shown your room. I found the cabin quite comfortable, though as a previous reviewer mentioned, the wall separating the two rooms does not go to the ceiling and you can overhear conversations, snoring, or... The cabins are indeed rustic, built in the local style, and are completely open-air. While there are blinds to block the sun, the door is a half-door and there were no blinds on some of the windows. I don´t have a problem sharing my space with the locals, but if the knowledge that frogs or lizards or insects can make themselves at home there bothers you, you might prefer staying in Quito. At the very least, use the mosquito net. I experienced no bites or even heard mosquitos, but I´ve slept under thatch roofs before and don´t care for their denizens falling on me during the night. The bathroom had running water, plenty of hot water, and a flush toilet. For now, cabins are lit by candles, but when I was there solar panels had been installed in the restaurant and were being readied to place on the cabins. Either way, a flashlight is a must.
The food was simple but good. As they prefer to keep the surroundings intact, they don´t have a garden, so yes, the food is brought in and some of it is canned. Meals are set with no choices, but they do serve seconds. Vegetarians should plan to ask the wait staff to bring out the meal without meat, or just eat around it.
Activities are planned for each group, and groups alternate early morning with later morning activities. Unfortunately, my guide, while very sweet and personable, was young and less experienced than guides I´ve had elsewhere, and I didn´t feel she was as attentive to bird or animal sightings as other guides. I´m a birder but was the only one in the group I was assigned to who had binoculars, and on occasion the guide didn´t even carry hers. I felt the activities were pretty canned without a lot of spontaneity, as would happen with sudden sightings of something interesting. As far as I could tell, there were no canoes with which you could explore on your own a little, although it would seem very difficult to find your way back to the lodge unless you´re a master navigator.
I was in serious pain from all the sitting. The motor launches have seat pads, but even those get uncomfortable after a while. The canoes had hard seats. However, it was a lot of fun to hop off the boats into the river for a swim, especially knowing there are piranhas in the water; contrary to popular belief, they don´t attack just anything that falls in unless there´s blood. We took a couple of slow short hikes, but there are no trails on the spit of land the lodge is located on, and I really missed being vertical.
As the title suggests, I´m glad I went--sighted numerous animals such as six species of monkey, birds, river dolphins, and a giant anaconda. If I were to visit the rainforest again, however, I would head back to the Napo. Napo lodges take a long time to reach as well, but there is more walking and I had an excellent guide.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Built in 1989, the Cuyabeno Lodge was the first lodge in the park; the owners believed that the rainforest traveler should be accommodated in conditions which would be both in harmony with the surrounding environment and attuned to the needs of the modern visitor. At Neotropic Turis, we, the owners of the Cuyabeno Lodge, are the pioneers in the tourist operation and we built the first Eco friendly lodge in the Cuyabeno National Park. We are a group of conservation biologists with 4 decades of experience in national parks management in developing countries.The Cuyabeno Lodge one of two lodges located right on the lake and one of the few lodges that never is flooded. We recently built a canopy watch tower and 3 new deluxe rooms. We have 24 hours electricity from solar energy and hot showers are available for all our visitors. We are NOT the same as the Cuyabeno River Lodge, the latter being located at 2 hours travel from the Cuyabeno Lakes. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Cuyabeno Hotel Cuyabeno