The UNESCO-listed Yasuni National Park covers around one million hectares of lowland Amazon Rainforest and contains a record-breaking diversity of animals and plants. The park is situated along the Napo River in eastern Ecuador and is one of the favorite places to visit for nature lovers or people looking for a more adventurous vacation. With the comfortable lodges, such as La Selva Lodge & Spa pictured above, it’s also a great place to relax surrounded by near pristine Amazon Rainforest.
If you’re interested in visiting Yasuni National Park, you will need to book a stay at some of excellent lodges or aboard the river cruises. To get to the Yasuni rainforest, you will first fly to the Amazon Rainforest gateway town of Coca and most visitors fly in direct from Quito, Ecuador’s capital city.
The park covers lowland rainforest and has a gentle slope from west to east as the Yasuni is at the lowest reaches of the Andes. The rainforest can then be broken into different forest ecosystems, including terra firme, which is rainforest on ground too high to flood, várzea forest that floods dependent on month, and the igapo wetlands, which remain at least partially flooded throughout the year.
Animals & Plants to see in Yasuni
Home to an incredible diversity of animals and plants, research on species-richness of the Yasuni National Park has broken world diversity records. The cause of its high diversity, which is even high compared to other areas of the Amazon, has been linked to its position just east of the Andes mountains among other reasons.
Within the Yasuni rainforest, you can find around 150 different amphibians, 120 reptiles, 380 different fish, nearly 200 different mammals, and around 600 bird species. The park also holds records for tree and plant diversities.
The favorite animals to find in the Yasuni National Park are often the several different monkeys, the macaws and toucans, giant river otters, black caiman in the waterways, the different orchids, and pink river dolphins.
The different monkeys you can find on rainforest trails and while exploring the waterways include the loud and large howler monkeys, capuchins, curious squirrel monkeys, the small pygmy marmosets, titi monkeys, and the sakis.
To observe the wildlife and iconic animals, you can enjoy a stay at a rainforest lodge or aboard an Amazon cruise. You will then have different trails to walk with very knowledgeable rainforest guides who will help to point out different animals and plants.
On guided tours, you can enjoy canoeing the waterways, night walks to spot nocturnal animals like the owl monkeys and caiman, visiting a clay lick to see parrots gathered at the clay, and many lodges have canopy towers to watch for different macaws, toucans, and other colorful birds.
The Amazon lakes are also a draw for wildlife and often attract different monkeys, river otters, hoatzins, cormorants, and caiman. In addition to the animals, you can walk the rainforest to see large rainforest trees like the giant strangler figs and kapoks.
The park is very popular with nature lovers and birdwatchers. On guided tours in Yasuni National Park, you can search for 40% of all the birds in Ecuador, which amounts to over 5% of all the birds on Earth. Many of the lodges, such as Napo Wildlife Center and La Selva Lodge can provide an expert birding guide or birding itinerary for dedicated birdwatchers. You can then search for many different species, including tanagers, antbirds, toucans, parrots, and cotingas.
Not only do the different habitats, such as the different lakes, rainforest, canopy, and rivers, have different wildlife, but a new set of animals come out in the evening. The majority of the rainforest’s mammals, reptiles, and amphibians can be seen on night walks. Enjoy heading out with your highly trained guide on night hikes and boat trips, as you enjoy spotlighting for caiman, snakes, night monkeys, and nocturnal birds.
When to visit?
Although all months are great times to visit the Amazon Rainforest, the main difference is between the wetter and drier months. The wetter months in the Yasuni region are between December and June. The wetter and drier seasons create the cycle where fruit and flowers appear over the wetter months attracting monkeys and birds to feed on abundant food. The dry season is when trails are a bit less muddy and it’s thought that the smaller bodies of water concentrate the wildlife. However, the drier months during the low-water season are when the dolphins and other aquatic life tend to move into the main Amazon River and away from the smaller tributaries.
Intro to Yasuni tours
To explore the Yasuni National Park, you can choose between two recommended lodges or two Amazon cruises, which offer a slightly different type of experience. You can explore the Amazon aboard an expedition cruise or luxury cruise, or from a comfortable lodge or rainforest lodge and spa. Each of the experiences offers a canopy tower and guided tours of the rainforest, lakes, and waterways.
La Selva Lodge
La Selva Lodge & Spa offers fantastic tours of the Yasuni National Park. Positioned by the beautiful Lake Garzacocha, enjoy the canopy tower to spot toucans and parrots, visits to the Yasuni clay lick to observe parakeets, canoeing the lake, relaxing with a massage or spa treatment, and enjoying the delicious cuisine and comfort of La Selva Lodge.
Around La Selva Lodge are many different rainforest trails near some fascinating features of the Amazon Rainforest. On guided tours, walk past the giant emergent trees, see Lake Garzacocha, and head deep within the rainforest. On the rainforest walks, you can find several different monkeys and spot fascinating birds, reptiles, plants and amphibians.
The Napo Wildlife Center
Napo Wildlife Center is a much-loved community-owned rainforest lodge. From the lodge, enjoy a 40-meter tall canopy tower to see the rainforest’s various shades of green, visit to the Yasuni clay lick to see colorful parrots, enjoy talking with the Kichwa Añangu Community who own and manage the lodge, canoe the Añangucocha lagoon, and walk the many rainforest trails to see emergent trees, different monkeys, and many birds.
The Manatee Cruise
Aboard the Manatee Explorer Cruise, enjoy rainforest walks to find different Amazon animals, such as several different monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and colorful birds. You can also enjoy a canopy tower to spot parrots and toucans, visit the Yasuni clay lick to see parakeets, canoe the waterways, and meet rainforest communities living along the river. In addition to fantastic nature, relax in comfortable suites and enjoy delicious food. Guests can also choose a glamping experience to enjoy sleeping comfortable under the stars.
The Anakonda Cruise
The Anakonda Cruise is the Manatee’s luxurious sister vessel. Aboard the Anakonda, you will enjoy a variety of activities similar to the Manatee Cruise. But as this is a luxury alternative, you will be treated to a higher level of luxury aboard the vessel itself. Enjoy rainforest trails to find different monkeys and rainforest wildlife, canoe the Amazon lakes, visit a rainforest tower to spot different parrots and observe the canopy, see many different parakeets at the Yasuni clay lick, and meet a rainforest community to see how people live in the rainforest. While on the vessel, enjoy very comfortable suites and delicious cuisine.