Yasuni National Park is uniquely diverse. Ongoing studies, still very far from accounting for a large number of species that exist within Yasuni's borders, have declared the region a "quadruple taxonomic richness center" for amphibians, birds, mammals and vascular plants. In an area smaller than an American county or urban district, there are about the same number of mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species (if not more) than the United States combined.
At Yasuni you can notice some of the different rainforest habitats, briefly explained below.
Varzea or seasonally flooded forest, located close to rivers where fluctuations in water levels inundate entire areas for protracted periods, create dense undergrowth where trees are usually only moderately tall, even low.
Terra Firme or upland forests, are the most extensive forest in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They are made up of generally tall trees set on more hilly terrain with well-drained soils, often more open understory (can be quite easy to walk through) and are generally the richest forest habitat in Amazonia.
Palm Swamps are a particular type of forest that grows in more or less permanantly standing water, and supports basically only one species of tall palm.
Riperian Woodland are forested habitats that grow on floodplain areas and larger river islands which start off with a few tree species, often dominated by Cecropia but eventually become for diversified.
River Island Scrub, a fascinating colonizing habitat that grows on recently created island that form on major rivers (the Napo River, for instance). The river itself can destroy these river islands as fast as they helped create them.
This is a brief recount of some of the many interesting natural dwellers of Yasuni's forest.
Epyphites: One strategy to reach sunlight in the dense Amazonian jungle is to grow on trees like orchids, bromeliads, and ferns. Epyphytes are fascinating opportunists you will have a chance to truly admire.
Leaf-cutter ants: These astonishing critters are the ultimate farmers, and can be seen in transit on seemingly endless self-made highways transporting slices of forest leaves to feed their queen.
Walking Palms: This determined plant has the ability to move over long periods of time, seeking out precious sunlight through the dense jungle canopy.
Antbirds and Army Ants: Members of the antbird family are obliged to follow army ant swarms that charge through the forest flushing potential prey.
Jungle Cats: Although difficult to find, there are a total of five species of these emblematic mammals at Napo Wildlife Center; they run the gamut in size to the largest American cat, the Jaguar.
Monkeys: Yasuni supports the highest number of primates in the world and Napo Wildlife Center is particularly suitable for enjoying wonderful views of most of them.
Giant Otter: This entertaining mammal is critically threatened in Ecuador and a small but healthy population can be seen along the streams and lake of Napo Wildlife Center.
Caiman: A common sight on night explorations of the jungle are the red gleam of caiman eyes, along the water's edge of Anangu Lake.
Hoatzin: A modern-day Archaeopterix with a funky mohawk crest, the Hoatzin can be seen clumsily balancing on branches along Anangu waterways.
Toucans: A total of seven species of toucans inhabit Napo Wildlife Center, boasting their disproportionate bills and attractive plumages in all colors including olive-green, deep reds and brilliant yellows.
Harpy Eagles: With talons larger than a human fist, the queen of Amazonia lives on the highest of trees, seeking out prey and quietly overlooking the kingdom.
Fish: Piranhas are probably the most infamous of Amazonian fish, but there are more fish species in the Amazon Basin than all of the Atlantic Ocean.
Frogs: Glass frogs that are see-through, others that carry babies on their back, small and colorful like candy, and some who carry food to their young over 100 feet up in the canopy.
Butterflies and Moths: Amazonia is a land where beautiful, neon-colored morphos can be outshined by moths: vibrant green and gold Uranias.
Rhinoceros Beetles: Like armored tanks they move through the forest floor, they are known to carry up to 800 times their body weight.
Good old forest exploration by foot is probably the most informative way to learn the secrets of the rainforest. These are some of the most important trails.
Napo Trail cuts from the Napo River to the Lodge, somewhat parallel to Anangu stream, yet the experience is very different since you are on foot. The trail is rather flat terra firme forest, which makes it easy to walk on.
Community Trail runs along the Napo River, closer to where people are, since Kichwa villages are also spread out on this road. It is not deep jungle, more riverine second growth (as opposed to primary forest) giving you the opportunity to see different things, and yet another picture of diversity and differences of wildlife in the Amazon Basin.
Tiputini Trail is probably the wildest of them all. If you walk long enough on it, you will see the most variety in terms of habitats, such as swampy forests and hilly terra firme. It is endless forest that reaches the southern border of Anangu territory and beyond.
As is the case of many of the Kichwa communities, Anangu has strived with much difficulty to keep their ageless traditions intact, perhaps a near impossible task in this modern day. Anangu remains very proud of their culture and aware of the need to preserve the natural resources of their territory.
Today, at the Yasuni Kichwa Ecolodge, stay at the community itself, visit the many different local endeavors that seek to keep authentic age-old customs alive and spend quality time with the privileged keepers of the Yasuni National Park.