Following the Napo River down the eastern slope of the Andes
brings you to the steamy tropical lowlands of the Ecuadorian Amazon, known as the Oriente.
The rain forests of this region are the most complex biological communities that exist, and
provide the single greatest reservoir of genetic diversity on Earth - a small area can
boast 500 species of birds, 400 species of fish and over 100 species of mammals.
Not surprisingly, this forest remains a focus for scientific
investigation. Estimates suggest that a mere tenth of the insect species have been named,
let alone studied. A short walk soon reveals the huge variety of forms: a monkey just
bigger than a mouse; a liana as thick as a man's waist; a striped frog with poisonous
skin; a dry leaf that suddenly sprouts legs and starts walking. The wonders are there for
all to see.
Sacha Lodge raises butterflies
Sacha Lodge lies in the heart of this
wilderness, 50 miles down the Napo
River from Coca, a small jungle town. Blessed with a stunning lakeside location and
experienced and enthusiastic personnel, the lodge provides a base from which to appreciate
the raw beauty of the rainforest and a relaxing retreat in which to enjoy the comforts and
Downriver to Sacha Lodge
Your journey to the lodge starts in Quito with a 40 minute flight to Coca. In the
airport, you are met by a guide from the lodge and taken across town by bus to the dock.
Here our covered motorized canoe will be waiting to take you two and a half hours down
Although the Napo River is a kilometer wide in places, it is often surprisingly
shallow. Pushing a large canoe full of people off a sandbar is not something the crew
wants to do, so the canoe zigzags its way down the river following the deepest channels.
The riverbanks are home to Quichua communities. Traditionally, their thatched roof houses
are raised on stilts and surrounded by small gardens or chacras, where they grow coffee,
bananas and yuca, among other things. Your guide will be there to explain the surroundings
in more detail and answer any questions.
Paddling on the lagoon at Sacha Lodge
After docking, a short walk awaits you. At first, this follows a village path next to
the river and then a raised boardwalk through flooded palm forest. Giant electric blue
morph butterflies, blue-and-yellow macaws, and squirrel monkeys are regularly seen here.
From the end of the boardwalk, a dugout canoe takes you down a channel and across
Pilchicocha Lake to the lodge. After a brief orientation, groups of 4-6 people are
assigned their guides, a bilingual naturalist and a local Quichua guide.
Before setting out on your first tour, you will be able to settle into
your cabin. The accommodations at Sacha Lodge are truly comfortable, verging on luxurious.
While care has been taken to preserve the flavor of the jungle, a few extras have been
added to make your stay more enjoyable. Our 14 double cabins have been constructed from
wood and other natural materials to maintain a rustic feel.
The main building is a great place to enjoy each others company and the sights and
sounds of the jungle
Electricity is available from dawn to 10 PM and the modern bathrooms
have hot showers. Windows are screened against the insects. The cabins are linked together
by elevated walkways to the main building where the dining room, bar and lounge are
situated. Above the bar is a small lookout that offers views over the lake and lodge.
Most of our day, however, will be spent in the forest. Mornings start
early; groups are usually on the trail by 6:00 am. Not only is it cooler at this hour, but
animal and bird activity is at its peak. Most trails return you to the lodge for lunch
with ample time after for a swim and an afternoon siesta before you hit the trails again.
In the evening, a night walk through the rainforest is an experience not to be missed - a
sensual delight filled with new scents, sounds and shapes. The trails vary in length from
an hour to a full day and there is scope for all abilities and interests.
Explore the wonders
of the Amazon at Sacha!
The Canopy Walk
A new and much anticipated addition to
Sacha's activities is our 940-foot (275-meter) long canopy walkway. At
approximately 94 feet (30 meters) above the ground, imagine exploring the
rainforest up in the treetops! This sturdy walkway is fixed to the ground by
three metal towers for stability, and offers an unbelievable opportunity to spot
dozens of animals and epiphytes seldom seen from the ground. Thousands of
colorful birds await to be spotted, and with some luck you might even follow
along with troops of monkeys as they forage through the forest canopy.
Taking a leisurely walk above the trees on
this incredible structure, to emerge even higher on the top of the towers
surrounded by an endless sea of rainforest, is an experience not to be missed,
and as far as we know found nowhere else in the world.
Sacha Lodge owns 3000 acres of rainforest covering a variety of
different habitats, mostly in primary jungle, they range from terra firma to swamp to
rivers and lakes. Although most tours are on foot, some can be combined with river trips
in a dugout canoe. Tours are not just limited to the ground either. The forest canopy has
been made accessible by the construction of an observation tower that climbs 135 feet into
the epiphyte-laden branches of a kapok tree. The jungle stretches to the horizon in all
directions. On a clear day, the snowcapped peak of Sumaco, an extinct volcano 100 miles
away, is often visible.
From this vantage point, flora and fauna, invisible from the ground, can be studied at
close quarters. Water-filled tank bromeliads stand side by side with sprays of orchids,
hopping between them are a host of exotic birds with equally exotic names: Paradise
Tanager, Spangled Cotinga, Many-banded Aracari. The canopy is one of the least studied
habitats and harbors thousands of still unknown plant and animal species. To be surrounded
by such richness is a rare experience.
Further down the Napo from Sacha, a parrot salt lick offers the opportunity to see
hundreds of parrots and parakeets. They are attracted to an impressive red cliff on the
riverbank early each morning in order to fulfill their daily mineral requirements. Whether
clinging to the cliff or wheeling in circles above it, they provide an unforgettable
spectacle of color and noise.
The land was bought in 1991 by Beni Ammeter, a Swiss entrepreneur, who has been in
Ecuador for the last 25 years, and Sacha Lodge received its first visitors in 1992.
Because Sacha actually has title to the land, hunting and farming are not permitted. The
adjacent Quichua villages benefit from employment and other services that the lodge
provides. Through tourism, Sacha has made the land economically competitive, and by
educating the visitors and promoting the knowledge and culture of the indigenous people,
it offers a way to protect the rainforest.
Tips to Help You Plan Your Trip
It is always advisable to consult your physician regarding health measures before
travelling. For a short visit to the rainforest, the malaria risk is minimal.Bar items and
tips are not included.
Your luggage will be put into plastic bags for the trip down the river, but it is
advisable to bring extra bags for valuables and wet clothes.
The canoe is covered to protect against sun and rain, but a light jacket or poncho is
useful to protect against the wind and the spray.
Please remember that no laundry service is available at the lodge so be sure to pack
extra t-shirts and socks.
Drinks at the bar are put on a tab to be paid on the 1ast night. The bill can be paid
with US dollars, sucres, or traveler's checks.