Yasuni National Park – Ecuador

Have you heard of Yasuní?

Surely yes. In recent years, it is perhaps the most mentioned protected area in Ecuador. Everyone talks about him, but how many actually know it?

The Yasuní is one of the last pieces of intact jungle in Ecuador, the most biodiverse place on the planet. Extraordinary forests are erected here that are the heritage of all Ecuadorians and a reserve of life on Earth. It is also the home of peoples who have developed in close dialogue with the jungle and who know it in depth.

The Yasuní Biosphere Reserve comprises

  • Yasuni National Park (YNP), whose main purpose is the conservation of biodiversity.
  • The Waorani Territory (WT), home to the people who have inhabited these lands ancestrally.
  • The Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone (TTIZ), created by the State to respect the decision of its inhabitants to live in isolation and in a traditional way.

Yasuní Biosphere Reserve (YBR)

Since 1976, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated as “biosphere reserves” regions of global relevance for their ecosystems and landscapes. One of them is the Yasuní.

The Reserve includes a nuclear zone, made up of the National Park of the same name “Yasuní” and the Waorani territory. The YNP and the WT share the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone, where the last isolated peoples of Ecuador have taken refuge. The Reserve also incorporates the zones of influence of these areas, including the Kichwa communities on the banks of the Napo and Curaray rivers and other population centers. The country’s authorities have worked on the delimitation of the Reserve, in a process of consultation with the inhabitants and local governments.

Within the YBR live three indigenous nationalities –Waorani Kichwa and Shuar-, the Tagaeri, Taromenane peoples and other unidentified isolated groups, as well as mestizo and Afro-Ecuadorian settlers. This fragile reserve is based on important oil deposits, key in the Ecuadorian economy, which has generated serious social and environmental conflicts. By carrying out sustainable and responsible tourism, you can help with more autonomous subsistence alternatives for the communities of the region, taking advantage of the greatest resource of the YBR: its biodiversity.

Important note

In Ecuador there are six biosphere reserves:

  • Galapagos.
  • Yasuní.
  • Sumaco Napo-Galeras.
  • Podocarpus-El Cóndor.
  • Macizo El Cajas.
  • Bosque Seco.

The Yasuní National Park is the largest protected area in continental Ecuador. Whoever travels through it will find an amazing biodiversity, with several world records in richness of flora and fauna.

The sinuous rivers of the Park flow into the great Napo River, the most important tributary of the Amazon that originates in our country. Among them stand out the Tiputini, Nashiño, Yasuní, Tivacuno, Tigüino and Cononaco. Not all rivers in the PNY are the same. Depending on their origin, they can be white water or black water. The first ones are born in the Andes, so they drag sediments that give them a characteristic brown color. An example is Curaray, the southern limit of the Park.

On the other hand, the rivers and lagoons of black waters are born in the same forest. Its dark and crystalline tone, similar to tea, is due to the tannins, pigments that the rains wash from the forest litter.

The rain regime in the Amazon causes the level of the rivers to vary a lot during the year. Between March and November, the rivers overflow their banks and turn large areas into swamps. If the river that floods an area is white water, it will give rise to the varzea forest, and if it is black water, the igapo. Upland areas that are not flooded are known as terra firme forest. In the latter, the greatest biodiversity has been found, including gigantic trees.

The diversity of the Yasuní

  • More than 1400 different species of animals.
  • Approximately 140 species of amphibians, a world record.
  • Almost 610 different birds, a third of the avifauna of the entire Amazon basin.
  • 204 species of mammals, including 12 monkeys.
  • 270 species of fish.
  • More than 100 thousand species of insects in one hectare.
  • In 50 hectares of the forest there are up to 1,300 different plants. A single hectare contains more than 650 species of trees!

Important note

Creation: November 1979.

Extension: 1,022,736 hectares.

Ecosystems: Tropical humid forest, white water flooded forest, black water flooded forest, swamps, moretales, rivers, lagoons.

Due to the extension of its forests, many species inhabit the YNP that have disappeared in more intervened places. The portentous jaguars prowl among the vegetation, while the fabulous harpy eagle looks down from the heights at some maquisapa monkey that serves as food.

Giant armadillos, pennant bears, tapirs, marmoset monkeys… The assortment of mammals is stupendous.

What to say about the bird species: five different macaws, six owls, seven toucans, two dozen hummingbirds, more than 50 anteaters, to name just a few. The enumeration of the animal varieties of Yasuní could go on endlessly: the rainbow boa or the anaconda, the flat-headed alligator, the pink dolphin or the manatee, the gigantic paiche fish and endless fish and insects.

“Remember that observing the Amazon fauna is not easy. Animals have developed a refined ability to hide. Therefore, to have a rewarding encounter, you will need a lot of patience, stealth and the help of a good local guide.”

The YNP has suffered little alteration by human activities. However, to the north and west, roads were opened for oil exploitation between the 1970s and 1990s, indirectly promoting colonization, deforestation, intensive hunting and illegal logging. In addition, part of the YNP coincides with areas of oil potential and in its vicinity the agricultural frontier extends.

Sustainable tourism is one of the alternatives that several communities in the YNP and its surroundings have opted for. There are several places with the capacity to receive tourists, ranging from simple lodgings to comfortable lodgings, with food service, artisan shops, river and land transportation, and trails that can be walked together with native guides or naturalists of the Park.

Tourism in Yasuní National Park

Barely 15 years ago, to visit Yasuní it was necessary to set up an expedition. Currently, there are several community, private or mixed developments that offer an interesting assortment of destinations, from those appropriate for those seeking comfort and style to those designed for the more adventurous.

In the YBR, the attractions are related to its biodiversity and cultures, so the values that should guide tourism are respect for the environment and social responsibility.

What can’t be missed

Paddling in a canoe
The rhythm of the river will show you the jungle serenely, allowing you to see various aquatic and terrestrial animals that come to cool off in the water.

Night walk
Go out in search of the unknown creatures of the night, including alligators, insects, toads, monkeys and owls.

Saladeros
They are places where the land is very rich in minerals, so animals come to them to supplement their diet. There are no better places in the jungle to observe normally elusive animals.

Jungle walk with local guides
No one knows the jungle better than the Waorani, Kichwa or Shuar who have grown up in it and who participate in a culture developed within it. A good local guide can make the difference between an entertaining walk and an unforgettable one.

Towers and canopy bridges
These towers of 30 or more meters above the ground allow us to appreciate birds and primates like never before, and offer a spectacular and new perspective of the forest.

Get up early to watch birds
Although the blankets are heavy, to really appreciate the diversity of birds it is necessary to get up early. The same is true for monkey watching. Few efforts are so rewarding.

Eat Maito
Maito is fish sweated inside bijao leaves, cooked over firewood or in a hole in the ground; one of the most exquisite flavors of the Amazon.

Coexistence with communities
From sharing food to listening to stories and traditions in the voice of the elders, it is another way of getting to know the jungle and its cultures.

CICAME Museum – Pompeii
The best site museum in the country with a magnificent collection of Amazonian archaeological pieces, some almost a thousand years old. Contact the Aguarico Vicariate: : (593 6) 2880 501 / info@vicariatoaguarico.org / https://www.vicariatoaguarico.org/index.php/comisiones/cicame

Archaeological Museum and Orellana Cultural Center
It exhibits a permanent sample of archeology corresponding to the Napo phase (1188-1480 AD).

References

  1. Yasuni National park. Recovered from ambiente.gob.ec
  2. Galapagos. Recovered from
  3. Sumaco Napo-Galeras. Recovered from wikipedia.org
  4. Podcarpus-El Cóndor. Recovered from ambiente.gob.ec
  5. Macizo el cajas. Recovered from ambiente.gob.ec
  6. Bosque seco. Recovered from ambiente.gob.ec
  7. Maps. Recovered from ambiente.gob.ec

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