Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park in the Colombian Amazon
Welcome to the land of river dolphins, manatees, anacondas, and the smallest primate in the world: the Amacayacu National Natural Park. The protected forest is home to more than 5,000 species of plants, as well as being the region with the greatest diversity of primates on the planet.
It is the habitat of the Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea) the smallest primate in the new world, the largest water lily in the world (Victoria amazonica), the giant silvery-blue butterfly Menelaus blue morpho (Morpho menelaus), and hundreds of more species.
Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park
Amacayacu National Natural Park protects a strip of jungle in southeastern Colombia in the Amazonas department. This protected area represents 40% of the Amazonian Trapezoid and has a funnel shape, with a total area of 2,935 km².
Amacayacu National Natural Park currently belongs to the municipalities of Leticia, Puerto Nariño, and Tarapacá, in the Amazonas department. The park aims to preserve the most representative samples of tropical rainforest landscapes, flora, and fauna species present in the Amazonian Trapezoid.
Additionally, within the depths of this natural Park located southeast of Puerto Nariño, there are indigenous settlements from the Tikuna ethnicity.
Through the jungle, you will explore swamps, marshes, madre-viejas, and river systems representative of the Amazon rainforest. You will also learn about the Tikuna culture with the help of the guides in the park.
A Little bit of the Tikuna’s History
Between 1630-40, the Cristian missionaries Cristobal de Acuña and Laureano de la Cruz recorded the first registers about the Tikuna natives. The Tikunas were described by them as semi-nomadic people, they avoid contact with foreigners by moving their settlement to inter-fluvial areas within the Amazon jungle.
In the middle of the XVIII century, Tikuna natives were forced to labor during the incursions of the Portuguese colonists who came from Brazil.
At the end of the 19th century, the Tikunas have their own exclusive territory until now. It extends from the Atacuari River up to the current city of Fonte Boa, extending between the bordering countries (Peru and Brazil).
The Role of Community-based Tourism in Amacayacu Park
Most of the human groups present in the park’s area and its zone of influence belong to the Tikuna ethnic group, which is present in Brazil and Colombia. There are also Yagua and Cocama ethnicities, although in smaller numbers, and nowadays, mestizo families.
Indigenous traditions, including the Tikuna, have been strongly affected by the destructive intensity of the gold, rubber, fur, timber, drug trafficking, and mining fevers. All this brought disease, violence, and slavery, among many other situations, detrimental to the local ecosystems and the local people.
Today, indigenous communities look for a balance between traditional and modern life. For this reason, the main subsistence activities for the Tikunas are fishing, agriculture, hunting, ecotourism, handicrafts, research, and monitoring of their natural resources.
Amacayacu Park works together with the local Tikuna community to make community-based ecotourism the best strategy towards sustainability and to counteract the natural resource extraction activities.
How to get to Amacayacu National Natural Park
Firstly you must flight to Leticia, the capital of the Amazonas department in Colombia. The most popular route is from Bogota with Avianca, LATAM, and Satena airlines.
The flight takes a 1,5-hours flight from Bogotá to General Alfredo Vásquez Cobo International Airport (LET) at Leticia city.
Once at the airport, you have to go to Leticia Fluvial Port, an approximately 30- minutes ride. Once at the Port you should take an extra 1,5 hours boat ride to Puerto Nariño.
The schedule offered by the 3 companies providing services begins at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, and 1:30 pm. For the return, the schedule starts at 7:30 am, 11:00 am, and 3:30 pm.
It is possible to book your own schedule by hiring private operators, but costs may increase with respect to the already established schedules.
What to do in Amacayacu National Natural Park
The park is currently closed to the public due to the Pandemic situation. The indigenous people of Mocagua and San Martin offer the following activities:
There are four different trails: Las Chagras, Selva, Acuaticos and Miquiando.
- Chagras Trail: On the trail, you can appreciate the crops used by locals and production techniques.
- Selva (Jungle) Trail: A tour through the Amazon jungle to appreciate the most diverse number of Amazon’s plants and animals, such as primates, mammals, and a great variety of birds.
- Aquatic (Aquatic) Trail: Diurnal or nocturals tours that cross the Amacayacu River and the Matamata Creek. In these tours, you can appreciate the different aquatic mammals such as the so-called pink dolphins or Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis).
- Miquiando (Monkey) Trail: In the Mocagua indigenous reserve, the Maikuchiga Foundation offers a tour where you can learn about the 9 species of primates present in this part of the Amazonian trapeze. In the foundation, there are specimens that have been rescued from illegal trafficking.
More than 468 birds have been registered in the Amacayacu park, representing almost a third of the country’s bird population. Among the most outstanding birds are the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), Wattled curassow (Crax globulosa), Razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum), and Grey-winged Trumpeter (Psophia crepitans capensis).
More than 150 different kinds of mammals have been recorded to inhabit this area. Three of the four species of freshwater aquatic mammals existing in Colombia can be found in the park:
- Amazon manatee (Trichechus inunguis)
- Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), and the
- Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis)
Other interesting animals include:
- Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea)
- Brown woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha)
- Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
- Matamata turtle (Chelus fimbriata)
Where to stay in Amacayacu National Natural Park
Currently, the Amacayacu Natural National Park does not offer accommodation for travelers due to its closure. You can stay in Leticia or in Puerto Nariño. We recommend you to stay in La Ceiba and Decameron Decalodge Ticuna in Leticia, Cabañas Maikü Selva in Puerto Nariño.
Best time to visit Amacayacu National Natural Park
Amacayacu can be visited all year round, there is no dry season but July is the month with the least amount of rainfall and a temperature of 26º C (97 ºF).
Amacayacu National Natural Park Entrance fees
The park is currently closed, so there is no entrance fee. Possible costs vary depending on the services provided in Mocagua and San Martin.
What to Consider Before Visiting Amacayacu National Natural Park
- To take any of the tours inside the park you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
- Consider wearing personal protective items (sunscreen, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
- Use binoculars to watch animals’ behavior.
- Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
- Be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
- If you take specific medications, take them with you in a personal first aid kit.
Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.
- Colombia travel
About the authors
Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.
The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.