Jungle exploration in the Ecuadorian Amazon / by Robert Moltmaker

– Part 5: Overview & Tips | Preserving and visiting the Amazon

 The Laguna Grande.

The Laguna Grande.

** Note: This is Part 5 of a series. Read: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 **

You’ve been able to read about our preparations at the beginning of this story. But I didn’t include a packing list, for example. In this final part of the story, I will give you a complete overview and tips. But first, here’s a brief explanation what we all can do to help preserve the Amazon.

Threats to the rainforest

Unfortunately, deforestation of the Amazon continues, although the good news is that overall deforestation rates seem to decrease slowly. Nevertheless, this devastating process continues every day and action is needed.

The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is part of a region that is an oil exploitation area. The reserve itself was declared a protected area by the Ecuadorian government when the reserve became accessible by road in the early 1980’s. However, as can be seen elsewhere, when push comes to shove, economic interests prevail and conservationists lose out.

Neighbouring Yasuni National Park, also part of the Amazon, holds 20% of Ecuador’s oil reserves but is a protected area like Cuyabeno. Nevertheless, the Ecuadorian government has decided to allow oil exploitation in 2016, despite domestic and international protest. Although the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is not under such a direct threat as the Yasuni National Park, the two are neighbours and part of the same Amazon rainforest ecosystem. Damage to one part of the system and its inhabitants, influences other parts of the system and its inhabitants.

A campaign to try and alter the government decision to allow oil exploitation was started by the SOS Yasuni movement. You can find out more on their website or Facebook page.

Oil exploitation is not the only threat to the Amazon. Also colonisation, farming, (illegal) logging, illegal or unsustainable hunting, mining and the building of hydro-electric power dams pose threats.

Many ways for you to help preserve the Amazon

Helping to preserve the Amazon is actually easier than you might have though. There are different ways, and undoubtedly more than I’ve listed here.

Amazon rainforest is cut down to grow food crops for cattle and to create graze ground. Therefore, by eating less meat (for example, rainforest beef) you will help to preserve the Amazon.

Reduce your consumption of oil, paper, wood. Use recycled products and recycle your waste. Buy only forest friendly (wooden/paper) products containing certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Global ReLeaf.

Does your employer use print paper certified by FSC?

You can support organisations that put effort into preserving the Amazon, or rainforests in general. Activities vary: from installing wildlife sanctuaries to lobby activities. There are numerous small, local organisations that you could look for, such as SOS Yasuni. And then there are the big organisations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

But most important: if you want to help preserve the Amazon and rainforest generally, base your actions on your own research.

Visit responsibly

Tourism can actually help to protect the Amazon rainforest. It provides an alternative form of income, while oil as a source of energy is becoming increasingly controversial (and expensive). Therefore tourism competes with other economic interests that pose a direct threat to this beautiful and important ecosystem.

Mind that you are only able to help protect by choosing the responsible, eco-friendly options available. Do your research: visit the websites of lodges or tour agencies and look if you can find anything about sustainability in their philosophies. Don’t bring products that harm the environment. Filter the local tab water available.

Here is a short film as an example of eco tourism in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.

What have I learnt from this trip and should have done different? I could have left a smaller environmental footprint travelling to the reserve. I’d go by bus from Quito. Beforehand, we read that the journey by bus was supposed to be a difficult one, but we learned from fellow travellers staying in our lodge, that it was in fact not that bad.

Overview & tips

Location: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador
As this is a very remote area, make sure to inform the home front where you’ll reside. There is no mobile reception: only satellite phones function in the area.
Time of the year of our visit: November

Accommodation: Siona Lodge (eco lodge)

Costs: around US Dollars 350,00 (including: accommodation for five days/four nights in double room with private bathroom, all meals in the lodge, drinking water, tea, coffee, milk, snacks, excursions with English speaking guide, rain ponchos, rubber boots.) Alcoholic beverages and tips for the staff and guide are not included in this price. You can also choose to stay for four days/three nights: but with the time flying by, I’d advice to stay a minimum of four nights.

Maybe the lodge is fully booked? Or you want to compare with other lodges? Alternatively, try:
- Cuyabeno Lodge. This lodge was actually the first lodge in the reserve, focusing on the conservation of the area.
- Tapir Lodge. Another eco-lodge, also part of the short film below.


Before travelling to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, we checked whether the area was safe, as it is pretty close to the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. This hasn’t always been the safest of places in recent times with FARC guerrillas and paramilitary fighters in the area. At the moment that we visited, it was getting increasingly safe. Always inform whether the area is safe by visiting government websites and online forums. See for more information part 1 (LINK to part 1) of this story.

Don’t worry, just follow some precautions

Next to ‘cuddly’ animals, we’ve also come across some rather ‘unpleasant’ or dangerous creatures. With these around, you are provoked to take precautions and follow certain rules. If you follow these strictly, not much can go wrong. That is the good news. So what to do?

- You shall listen to the guide, and stay with him, or her.
- You shall use mosquito protection
- You shall take the prescribed malaria pills
- You shall not put your hands where you cannot see.
- You shall check your shoes before putting your feet in.
- You shall take light with you in the dark, even inside.
- You shall check you bed and sheets before entering.
- You shall close the mosquito net properly, when going to sleep.
- You shall check the toilet for any creatures loungin’ in it, before sitting down.

Besides my spiderweb in the face adventure, we’ve followed these rules and did not run into trouble.

Before you leave

When preparing your trip back home, research which vaccinations you need and get these in time. For the area we visited we needed quite some vaccinations. Consult a medical specialist.

Bring your vaccination certificates when travelling. For example, sometimes you need to show a certificate proving vaccination against yellow fever upon arrival in the country, or when travelling back home.

Malaria is common in the Amazon. Although we have met people that did not bring and take malaria pills, we did. Although there may not be a big chance you’ll get infected with malaria, when you do get infected, you’re dealing with a severe disease.

We were advised by the Academic Medical Centre Amsterdam (AMC) to take malaria pills during our visit in the reserve. Be aware that there are different anti-malaria products, which all have different characteristics, side-effects and prices. Do your research and consult a medical specialist.

Important necessities

Think about the following items to bring, if you want to have a comfortable and unforgettable stay:


- A backpack, duffel bag or suitcase for all your belongings. Mind that suitcases on wheels are not the most convenient in the jungle.
- A daypack, for daytrips.
- Water bottle (with filter).
- First aid kit (don’t forget an anti-diarrhea product and mole skin for blisters).
- Toiletries.
- Headlight (or flashlight) with extra batteries. A headlight is very handy, as you’ll automatically aim where you’re watching and walking and your hands are free.
- Malaria pills.
- Mosquito/insect repellent.
- Mosquito net if your accommodation does not provide this.
- Anti bacterial gel.
- Sunscreen (with a factor high enough for the tropical sun).
- Sunglasses.


- Walking shoes/boots.
- An extra set of shoes/sneakers that you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Flip-flops or sandals.
- Light water resistant jacket (easy to stow away during hikes) for rain showers and for keeping you warm on colder evenings. The long sleeves can also function as protection against animal/insect bites and poisonous or sharp plants.
- Two sets of shorts for when you’re not on jungle-exploration.
- One or two (long) trouser(s) for hiking (two during the rain season).
- One (or max. two) trouser(s) for in the lodge or in town.
- Shirt with long sleeves (cotton is best) for hikes, against animal/insect bites and poisonous or sharp plants.
- Three or four t-shirts (for hiking or in the lodge/town).
- One blouse or jumper for possible colder moments during the evening/night.
- Enough underwear and (cotton/walking) socks.
- Swim clothing.
- A small microfiber (quick drying) towel.

Mind that because of the humidity, nothing dries quickly. Bring thin/quick drying clothing.

Additional useful items

- Flight bag (this is not only a good protection for travelling, but also protects your backpack from becoming dirty).
- A padlock for your backpack/flight bag or possibly for in the lodge/a broken lock on a door.
- Swiss army knife.
- Anti-itch cream for bites.
- After sun cream.
- Hat against sun or rain.
- A camera, of course! Also make sure to bring protection against moist: bring one or more waterproof cases.
- Extra plastic bags (small and big) for wet clothes or protecting additional equipment.
- Notebook and pencil for writing down stories, thoughts, contact details.

Don’t bring products that harm the environment: such as regular shampoo and soap. Only bring eco-friendly products that do not harm the environment.

** Note: This is Part 5 of a series. Read: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 **

How do you feel about travelling to the Amazon after my story?

Do you have experience travelling to the Amazon? What did you do? Did you miss any practical information to help you plan your trip? Maybe you have advice for travelling in an eco-friendly way? Or do you have any questions about my story? Please leave a comment below and let me know!

Tags: Ecuador | South America | Amazon | Wildlife |

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