Imagine walking across a bridge suspended over the rainforest canopy, paddling through creeks in search of monkeys and river otters, climbing to the very top of a giant kapok tree or swimming in a black-water lake, threading your way through trees in search of the world’s tiniest monkey.
You’ll find these exclusive experiences, plus many more, only at Sacha Lodge, within a pristine 5,000-acre (2,000-hectare) ecological reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Rivers so wide you can barely see the other side; supersized kapok trees and electric blue morph butterflies; tiny insects that roar and gentle giants who only venture out at night.
Each acre of these forests along the banks of the Napo River has more biodiversity than almost the whole of North America, yet the thrill of spotting tamarind monkeys, giant otters, toucans, boa constrictors, caimans or owls never diminishes. Here, dark water creeks are the canals that lead you further away from civilization and deeper into the wild.
The Amazon might seem like a world away, but Sacha Lodge is easily accessible from Quito. After an easy 25-minutes flight from Quito and a two-hour journey speeding up the Napo River in a motorized canoe leaving civilization far behind, by lunchtime you will be in a hammock listening to the chatter of the tamarind monkeys.
Step into the heart of the animal and bird kingdom, home to eight species of monkeys, 50 species of bats, anteaters, three-toed sloths, ocelots, and birds of more colours than you could ever imagine.
Lodging at Sacha combines the highest comfort to the traveller with the preservation of the environment and rainforest ambience. All of the cabins, with high thatched roofs and private shaded terraces with hammocks, are constructed with traditional materials and nestle subtly into the lush surroundings.
Each of the 26 the rooms, which include single, double and (upon request) triple accommodations and three family cabins, provides a spacious private bathroom with flushing toilet and hot shower – some even feature floor-to-ceiling windows for an immersive jungle shower experience! All cabins are screened against insects, and contain ceiling fans above two comfortable double beds.
Imagine crossing the rainforest across a bridge 94 feet (36 meters) high over the treetops. This 940-foot (275-meter) sturdy walkway is fixed to the ground by three metal towers, and offers an astounding opportunity to spot dozens of animals and epiphytes seldom seen from the ground, immersed in the canopy.
You might even follow along with troops of monkeys as they forage through the forest canopy. And if you don’t see them, you’ll almost certainly hear them: howler monkeys roaring through the sunset like true kings of the jungle.
You’ll feel like you’re on the very top of the world on our 135-foot (43-meter) observation tower, a platform built on the highest branches of a giant kapok tree.
From here, magnificent, panoramic views of the forest unfold all around, while the 500 species of birds registered in the area, including rainbow-coloured toucans and parrots, become easy to spot. Climb onto the crows’ nest for the 360-degree experience, the captain of the Amazon.
Yasuni Parrot Lick
A short distance from Sacha Lodge is Ecuador’s most accessible parrot lick, an exposed clay riverbank where technicoloured parrots of several different species gather in the early morning.
In ideal conditions (sunny and dry) hundreds of parrots will perch on and eat the exposed clay in a spectacular show of sound and colour! The lick is located on the edge of Yasuní National Park, which is accessible from Sacha by a short canoe trip down the Napo River.
The Butterfly House
Sacha Lodge is home to one of the largest butterfly farms in Ecuador. Designed as a live exhibition conservatory, the Butterfly House is now successfully breeding nearly 40 local butterfly species.
Guests will be shown how these beautiful insects are bred and raised, and may roam through ‚”the flying room” where hundreds of colourful butterflies flutter from flower to flower. Transparent glass-wing butterflies, spectacular blue morphs, striking tiger longwings, bright yellow swallowtails and giant nocturnal owl butterflies are only a few of the species you’ll encounter here, up close and personal.
Creeping along the jungle paths through the spotlights of sun filtering down through the canopy, careful not to tread on an army of marching ants, your nature guide will point out plants and insects and the fascinating symbiosis between them.
He might take you through the territory of the crested owls or spider monkeys, expertly mimicking the creatures’ call to win their trust and coax them out of hiding. When darkness falls, have your flashlight ready to spot creatures of the night, from tarantulas and boas to stick insects and frogs.
Besides being your means of transport between expeditions, creek paddling in dug-out canoes is a fabulous adventure in itself, with the bonus that it requires little physical exertion.
Paddling down the streams is like entering into a tunnel leading to a lost world. Birds call in surround-sound and vast families of monkeys leap from branches overhead, a show to coincide with the setting of the sun.
Caiman Spotting By Night
A night-time expedition to look for caiman on the lake is perhaps the most magical experience of an adventure already filled with wonder. Under cover of darkness, you will take a canoe out onto the water, your way lit by glittering stars.
The eyes of the caiman glow ghoulishly red in the torchlight, as the amphibious creatures float along the swampy shallows.
Of the incredible 1,600 bird species registered in Ecuador, 600 (37 percent) have been seen at Sacha Lodge. That’s almost 7 percent of the species found in the entire world!
For avid birdwatchers, we can provide specialist bird guides, who know the best spots for the hard-to-find species, and can easily identify species by both sight and sound. Oscar Tapuy, our local expert who has been with at Sacha since 1995, estimates that he spots 60 species per day on average.
Your guide will lead you through a variety of habitats where mixed flocks are common, and generally begin before sunrise to take full advantage of the morning peak. Our guides carry telescopes, and have become dab-hands at taking photos with your camera or phone through the lense!
Visit The Providencia Community Of Yasuni
Our visit takes us to Shipati Warmi project, an initiative run by and benefiting the women of the Providencia community of Yasuní.
Through an unobtrusive dialogue, we learn about their day-to-day lives: how they dry clothes in the jungle and the challenges of getting to school, before helping to prepare and trying traditional food. It’s an intimate, unique experience, in which we discover both the differences and similarities between our own and another culture. The Shipati Warmi project asks that each guest donates $5
Ideal for families, the Lake Pool is the only one of its kind in the Amazon region. The plunge pool, protected by a mesh cage, allows you to cool off and relax in the black shallows of the Pilchicocha Lake, without the fear of encountering the unknown. You could even spot caiman and giant otters swim by the other side of the net.