20th September 2002: Flight to Lago Agrio, taxi to Pompeya Norte, then research station transport to site
21st-28th September 2002: Yasuni Research Station
29th: Travel to Guacamayos ridge
30th: Morning on Pipeline trail, Guacamayos ridge; afternoon travel to Quito
18th-22nd March 2003: Yanayacu Research Station, near Cabañas San Isidro (including two mornings on Guacamayos ridge)
Notes on Sites
Details of access arrangements have not changed. You still need to visit the fourth-floor of the Biology Department in the Universidad Católica, Quito and speak to a secretary in an office marked "Yasuní Research Station". It is still US$30 dollars to stay at the station, although this includes very comfortable air-conditioned rooms (a real bonus in these humid climes), and food that is both excellent and unlimited.
It can be a bit of a pain crossing the Napo. The oil-field personnel tried to extract extra payment for letting us across, which we side-stepped. In the end we paid US$10 for a boat, although there are free boats and barges if you can wait (we did it for free on the way back). Prepare for quite a lot of waiting around and hassle with security at the oil-field. A recent problem involving Colombian guerrillas has raised surveillance.
It takes considerable extra time and resources to get to Tiputini Research Station, further down the Rio Tiputini (and it can cost well over US$100 a night to stay, unless you are researchers). The latter station is doubtless situated in finer habitat and enjoys lower hunting pressure than Yasuni Research Station (which is being hunted - apart from the core area - by fairly high populations of Indigenous folk living along the main road). Yasuní still makes for a good introduction to the Amazonian avifauna.
At Yasuní Research Station various trails provide immediate access to the forest. The Laguna trail is very good, providing access to lakeside and seasonally flooded habitats (very muddy after rain) and also to terra firma where it meets with other trails such as Kinkajou, Napo and Cosanga. On the other side of the lodge, the Mirador and Peru trails were also good and passed through reasonable quality terra firma, mostly along ridgetops. By walking to end of the Mirador trail it was possible to cross over the main road, walk a little to the left, then cut right for 150 m on a short trail to the canopy platform (this trail begins at the crest of an embankment somewhere near the Km 9 marker on the main road). This platform was excellent, especially early and late in the day. At the beginning of the Mirador trail there is a metal lookout over the river: a fine place to relax in mid-afternoon.
On leaving Yasuní, we booked a taxi (US$15) to take us to the cross-roads town (can't remember the name) from where we could get a bus to Coca. The bus to Coca from the there took about one hour and then we caught a bus to Tena (c.5 dollars each), getting off at the "Ye" (junction) where the road forks to Quito. From this junction we hitch-hiked (asking for "la virgen de los Guacamayos") in a pick-up which dropped us off 45 mins later at 7 pm in the fog by the virgin. We clambered up to the abode under the telecommunications mast, asked for permission to camp in the forest, circumnavigated the rabid dogs and set up a tent about 50 m down the old Inca trail on the only flat bit of ground for miles. We birded down this trail 4 km until the oli-pipeline, and then had to run back in torrential rain.
Several months later, after trips to Peru, Bolivia and Chile, we broke our journey homeward by staying for a few days with Howard Greeney at Yanayacu (US$10 per night). During this time we birded along the main road towards Cabañas San Isidro, and on some makeshift trails in the forest below this property (ie within the property of Cabañas San Isidro). One two separate mornings we paid for a lift from Don Carlos at San Isidro, from Yanayacu to the Guacamayos trail, reaching this site before dawn. The journey there cost US$7, and we hitched and walked the way back both times. We had two clear and rain-free mornings on the ridge.
c.250 species recorded in our week at Yasuní, another 100 or so added upslope.
Highlights were as follows: (at Yasuní) Long-tailed Potoo on a nest, a pair of foraging and mating Fiery Topaz, White-chinned Swift (from the canopy platform on one evening), Brown-backed Antwren, Lunulated Antbird, Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Orange-eyed Flatbill (perhaps a new record for the immediate area). Also Monk Saki Monkey and Golden-mantled Tamarin.