Home > Ecuador > Exploring Ecuador’s Cuyabeno ecological reserve, part two

Exploring Ecuador’s Cuyabeno ecological reserve, part two

January 29, 2011

An early morning outing takes us on a nature hike along a slightly sloped terrain into the depths of the dense tropical Amazon rainforest. As we walk single-file, most of the time in silence to soak in and enjoy the fantastic symphony of natural sounds, we seem to enter the realms of some natural wonderland (which the area actually is…..). Willy, our local guide stops at strategic spots and tells us a whole lot of amazing information about the rainforest, the inter-relations between all of the natural components and the outstanding wildlife of the area. A live classroom of natural history takes us back to basic biology lessons: the sun, photosynthesis, the rain, the canopy, the humongous buttresses of the immense trees, the shallow and swampy soils, all the factors which compose the habitat where us, privileged spectators, are actually seeing and living right there..

The dense mass of greenery, where plants apparently outnumber the animal species, leads us to discover that the vegetation mass just under covers an almost similar amount of animal life, represented in thousands of insects, not easily visualized due to their minuscule sizes, yet teeming everywhere: the most incredible varieties of ants, from the hard-working and highly organized leaf-cutter ants; to the “lemon ants” and “surgeon ants”; beetles and centipedes; scorpions and a myriad of other invertebrates… The varying green tones of the plants is painted with additional color with the vivid reds of the heliconias and ginger flowers; the oranges and roses of the bromeliads and the occasional dark purple or cream-yellow orchids… If just that wonderland of nature was not enough, admiration surfaces to our minds and skins when we learn from Willy’s explanations the awesome adaptations; mimesis processes, symbiotic relations and other mechanisms which keep this dense and exuberant world functioning like Swiss clockwork…. No wonder the Cuyabeno Reserve and the neighboring Yasuni National Park, both on Ecuador’s Amazon Region, are considered among the world’s top “hot spots” of biodiversity…..

We reach the base of a gigantic kapok tree… Its buttresses alone could host a few stories high building.  Taking our photos next to them gives us the dimension of our miniature as compared with these giants of nature… At one side of the centenary tree, an Observation Tower has been discretely built, not disturbing the natural elements nor scenery, yet allowing us visitors to reach high into the canopy level to get an actual “bird’s eye view” of the magic jungle around.  We slowly climb in small groups, stopping at the different levels to see and learn the peculiarities of each level in terms of density, light and varieties of plant and animal life. At the top, the view is plain breathtaking…. The never ending mass of foliage expands for thousands of miles, beyond what our eyes can see… We level up and exchange glances with several raptors, including some endemic falcon species… We look, unsuccessfully, for the mythical Harpy Eagle…. However, we do manage to get close up views of the fabulous blue and yellow macaws, as well as some scarlet and “military” macaws flying, usually in pairs.  The silence is broken by the noisy flight of colorful parakeets (there are dozens of amazing species of them alone)…. Moments of silence give us the chance to listen to the acoustically fantastic tap-tapping of woodpeckers and wood-creepers, some of which we are lucky to see and photograph…..  Below us, splendid colored tanagers busily fly back and forth while we can even peek into the hanging nests of the brightly yellow orioles and oropendolas, while the actual adult birds also provide us with glorious views of their daily life, coming and going to and from their nests….

Later in the day, we reach one of the many waterways which crisscross the forest. A small thatch-roofed kiosk provides some shelter, benches to sit and relax while our guide and support crew provide us with a light snack and refreshments.  Next on the adventure program of the day is a dip in the refreshing waters of the small lake.  Many of the visitors hesitate at first, realizing those waters are the home to caimans and piranhas… However, after a few simple safety recommendations and the assurance that it is all right, we jump into the water to cool off from the over 80 degrees Farenheit external temperature.  While the water is cooler, its surface is pleasantly warmed by the sun and the air temperature, all in all, a glorious experience…..    After a delightful outdoor lunch in the middle of the jungle, we board the small dugout canoes which will take us downstream on a pleasant ride, gently and quietly paddling along, feeling as privileged explorers of the magic Amazon rainforest…. Back at our lodge, the Equatorial night skies will add to the list of unique experiences in visiting Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, a world hot spot of natural life and unequalled biodiversity……

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