Napo, Sumaco, and Yasuni

29/Diciembre/2010 | 16:49

By Lance Brashear

Originating from the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes Mountains and ebbing 885 kilometers eastward  through three countries, the Napo River winds through one of the most ecologically diverse regions of the world to which thousands of tourists are drawn each year.

Before it leaves Ecuador, this Amazon River tributary passes through two biosphere reserves – Sumaco and Yasuni - where more species of plant and trees can be found in a few acres than in all of North America.

Biosphere Reserves

The term “biosphere reserve” dates back to 1970 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created the “Man and Biosphere” (MAB) program to establish, “a coordinated World Network of sites representing the main ecosystems of the planet in which genetic resources would be protected…” Ecuador has four registered biosphere reserves, two of which are located long the Napo River.

As the Napo River leaves the Andean foothills, it winds south of the Ecuadorian town of Tena and through the Sumaco Biosphere Reserve.  The core area of the reserve, protected as the Sumaco-Napo-Galeras National Park, with a total area of more than 205,000 hectares, is home to more than 6000 species of plant.  It also contains 101 species of mammals, 86 species of frogs and toads, and 27 families of fish.  The terrain ranges in altitude from its lowest point at 400 meters above sea level to the summit of the Sumaco Volcano at 3732 meters above sea level.

Leaving Sumaco, the Napo River soon enters the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.  Within this biosphere is the Yasuni National Park.  At 982,000 hectares it is the largest of Ecuador´s protected areas.  Extending further into the jungle than Sumaco, it is relatively flatter, ranging from 200-300 meters above sea level. There are almost 600 species of birds and 121 species of reptiles found within the reserve.  And it is estimated to contain over 100,000 species of insects.

Connected by a waterway between whose origin and destination rest a network of ecosystems not fully understood by mankind, Sumaco and Yasuni offer a humbling encounter with one of nature’s greatest patrimonies.

Touring the Napo

For those wishing to visit the reserves and travel along the Napo River there are many different tour operators and destinations, depending on the experience desired. Package tours start at as little as $200 for two nights, not including transportation, but can increase considerably depending on the number of days and activities in your itinerary.

At least eight lodges can be found along the Napo River from Tena to the Yasuni National Park, not including the other lodges that rest off the beaten track.  These range from privately owned reserves, such as Casa del Suizo and Sacha Lodge, to the community tourism initiatives like the Napo Wildlife Center in The Yasuni Park, which is completely owned and managed by the Añangu Community.

And for a different, all-river experience, the Manatee Amazon Explorer, a 30-passenger River boat travels into the Yasuni Reserve after boarding near the town of Coca.

Destinations & Tour Operators

Napo Wildlife Center,

La Selva Lodge,

Misahualli Jungle Lodge,

Yachana Lodge,

Sacha Lodge,

Casa del Suizo,


Manatee Amazon Explorer,

Cotococha Lodge,,

Liana Lodge,

El Jardin Aleman,

Hamadryade Lodge,

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- en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.