Yasuni National Park

Discover the Amazon Full of Wildlife

Yasuni National Park is a part of the Amazon in Ecuador. The immense nature reserve is best known for the famous Napo Wildlife Center. This eco-lodge is located by a lake in the jungle and offers Community-Based Tourism. These are the best tips for visiting Yasuni National Park in the Amazon. In this article, you will find all the attractions, how to travel from the town of Coca, and a lot of information about the wildlife you can spot.

The Amazon has something magical. It is the largest rainforest in the world, known from countless nature documentaries. Numerous intriguing indigenous people and a remarkable variety of animal species live here. Including many beautifully coloured ones, but also many terrifying ones. At Yasuni National Park, you can take various tours to discover the rich nature.

How to Visit Yasuni National Park

The area is immense and certainly not very easy to reach. The most popular place to start from is Coca. Officially known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana. This town is located on the edge of the jungle at the intersection of the Coca River and the Napo River.

From the capital city Quito, you can fly to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, which takes a little over an hour. You can also travel by car, but that takes at least 6 hours. This is mainly due to the poor roads.

A Delightful Boat Trip

Search for wild animals by boat. ©Corno van den Berg

From the city, you can venture into the rainforest on fast boats. This will take a few hours. But it is a delight, as you can already see various animals. Think of crocodiles, capybaras, and various species of birds. It is a wonderful introduction to this green world.

Napo Wildlife Center

Many travellers spend multiple days at the highly acclaimed Napo Wildlife Center, situated in the middle of the rainforest. This lodge is focused on sustainable ecotourism, in an environment that is already unique in itself. The tours consist of various walks, including nighttime walks. But there are also boat trips and visits to the famous clay licks with parrots.

An Even More Beautiful Second Boat Trip

Sailing through the jungle in search of wild animals. ©Corno van den Berg

You can only reach the lodge by boat, or rather by canoe. This is mainly because the river is remarkably narrow. And that can only be done manually, without a motor. You travel with a guide and a captain, who both propel the boat with paddles. Along the way, the guide also explains a lot about the ecosystem and the animals. Stops are made when you encounter animals.

The Wildlife of Yasuni National Park

A giant otter eats a freshly caught fish. ©Corno van den Berg

The list of animals you can see is incredibly large. Of course, there are animals that you rarely see, but with most animals, you have a reasonable chance. According to biologists, about 35% of all animals in the Amazon live in this area. In the park, there are 610 species of birds, 150 species of amphibians, 100,000 species of insects, and over 60 mammals.

Including the jaguar (rarely), giant otter (often), three-toed sloth (often), green anaconda (occasionally), various species of monkeys, and many species of parrots and macaws. But also: red howler monkey, capuchin monkey, squirrel monkey, gray rainforest jumping mouse, and spider monkey.

And with a bit of luck, the tapir, armadillo, porcupine, and collar peccary. Among the birds, the hoatzin is particularly special, as it is a peculiar mix of a bird and a reptile. Additionally, you always see something remarkable, like the rare zigzag heron and the Amazonian umbrella bird.

Activities at Napo Wildlife Center

I have spent 5 days at the Napo Wildlife Center and have done numerous excursions. Usually, there are multiple excursions per day, but there are also day trips. Below is a selection of the most enjoyable tours. Please note that the weather can sometimes cause changes in the plans. I always prioritize the excursions that I want to do the most so that I am sure they will take place.

Clay Licks

Scarlet Macaws at a Clay Lick. ©Corno van den Berg

A clay lick is an open spot in the forest with a clay soil. These contain minerals that many species of parrots need, among other things, to digest their food. They are perfect for seeing macaws, parrots, and parakeets. There are often multiple species to see. You can hear these animals from far away in the trees, although it may take a while for them to arrive. They have to descend to the ground, which is not their favorite place.

When a bird has landed, the rest will quickly follow. There are several clay licks that are used by different species of birds. So many colors and the chirping drown out the other delightful sounds of the rainforest. The reason is that they are afraid of predators, including snakes. And rightly so, I also see a boa constrictor that has caught a parrot. The guide shows it through his telescope. 


There are several hiking trails that you can also do alone. The emphasis is on everything that crawls, walks, flies, or swims. Think of various birds and monkeys, but also flowers, butterflies, and more. You can do these walks at your own pace, and there is always something remarkable to see. There are shorter as well as longer walks. The choice is yours.

Ask on-site about the possibilities and the condition of the paths. It rains regularly, which makes some paths sometimes impassable. You can borrow boots at the lodge to keep your feet dry. In addition, it also protects against snakes.  

Boat Trips

A boa constrictor with a parrot. ©Corno van den Berg

Most animals are seen during the various boat trips. One of the reasons is that the animals need water to drink. But there are also many trees and bushes in bloom around the river, which makes them popular among monkeys, for example. You often get close to the animals, who are often surprisingly curious. These trips offer great opportunities for photos and videos, as there is often light shining through the trees. 

Observation Tower

The guide searches for animals from a lookout tower. ©Corno van den Berg

There are several observation towers to visit. The tallest one is 39 meters high, where you climb up into an immense tree. You can go on a guided tour, where the guide brings a binoculars and telescope. This way, you can see birds like toucans and parrots, for example. I also saw vultures, macaws, and other birds. You can go either early in the morning or at the end of the day. In both cases, you see a remarkable number of birds in the sky. They are either searching for food or returning to their sleeping place. 

Night Safari

The night safari can be quite exciting. ©Corno van den Berg

The night safari is perfect for less popular animals, such as numerous insects like beetles, crickets, ants, and more. But also dangerous spiders like tarantulas and snakes. This walk is therefore not suitable for everyone. I also saw an armadillo, which allowed itself to be observed remarkably well as it searched for food. Usually, you go in a group, where you often also see how birds sleep.

Community Based Tourism in Napo Cultural Center

Visiting the Kichwa Añangu school. ©Corno van den Berg

The Kichwa Añangu people have been living for centuries in Yasuni. They still have permission to live in the jungle and hunt. But only what they need. You can visit the people at the Napo Cultural Center. And stay overnight with them, I also did it for one night. This was in a luxury room, just like at the Wildlife Center.

In addition, I visited a school. Women also demonstrate their cooking skills, perform a dance, and create jewellery that you can buy. I also ate the infamous weevil larvae, which is actually an enormous larva of a snout beetle. A visit to this community is really a must if you visit the rainforest.

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