on March 5, 2007
Considered a planetary biodiversity hot spot, Yasuni National Park in northern Ecuador is home to hundreds of plant and animals species. Regrettably, it's also home to considerable petroleum exploration and extraction. Fortunately, the park is big enough to allow you to get away from all but the occasional helicopter. To get to Yasuni you can go by bus, truck, or take a comfortable short flight (by commuter jet, now) from Quito to the town of Coca (named after a local tribe, not the drug). Then it's several hours down the Napo river in an open boat to your lodge of choice. Most of the lodges are on the north shore of the Napo and not inside the park. Two that are inside are the Napo Wildlife Center and Lodge and the Tiputini Research Station. You'll have a better chance of seeing large animals at Tiputini, but the station is (naturally) more difficult to get to and not as comfortable as the Napo Wildlife Center. Depends how you want to spend your time.From the Napo Center I saw giant otters, tayra (a member of the weasel family); capuchin, squirrel, and howler monkeys, the most beautiful bird I have ever seen (the spangled cotinga) and right beside the lodge, the famous golden-mantled tamarin, a tiny primate found only in Yasuni and only south of the Napo river. Along with gorgeous butterflies (including morphos), exotic insects, and dozens of bird species.
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