The Amazon Basin jungle region of Ecuador is not as well-known by tourists as the river cruise spots in Peru, but it’s actually better set up in terms of upscale jungle lodges, such as Napo Wildlife Reserve. You’re near a tributary of the Amazon River instead of the great river itself, but the wildlife is abundant—with fewer insects that want to bite you.
When I was staying at Mashpi Cloudforest Reserve in another part of Ecuador, my guide was a guy who had worked at two lodges in the jungle region previously. He said Napo offered the most natural experience because of where it was situated—a long paddle from the Napo River and right by the Yasuni National Park. This protected area, including the Añangu Reserve around the lodge, has an extreme concentration of plants and animals that have flourished in the wild rainforest landscape. After you get past the little clearing around the buildings you see at the top, it’s nothing but nature.
You’re likely to see plenty just on the paddle in from the main river to the lake. It’s not unusual for visitors to spot electric eels, rays, and otters in the water, then monkeys, wild cats, macaws, or a sloth above. This is just a prelude to canoe rides at different times of day on the lake and walks in the jungle at sunrise (to catch the birds), late in the day (to catch the bats), or at night (when half the jungle wakes up).
There are species around the Yasuni Wildlife Reserve that don’t exist other places in South America (like the golden mantled tamarin pictured here) and many that were on the verge of extinction are recovering in the region. The area is home to more than 600 species of birds. You can see some of them from Napo Wildlife Reserve’s observation tower about a 20-minute walk into the jungle. It stretches 36 meters up into the sky.
Napo Ownership by the Jungle Dwellers
This sustainable lodge is owned and operated by the Kichwa Añangu Community. So there’s a cultural element to your stay here as well.
You will get involved into the jungle activities, but you will also share with our people the way we live, how we study and learn from our ancient relatives, eat and drink our native foods and drinks, and presence the projects we have created to help our people grow strong and independent.
In other words, this is not a lodge owned by some absentee landlord in Quito and there won’t be entertainment troupes brought in from hours away. You are a guest in the community of people who know the rainforest and how to treat its plants and animals. Hunting and fishing are banned by the community so that they can be proper stewards of the ecosystem here.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be roughing it though. You will eat well, you can order a cocktail, and your room will look something like this, with a full bath and balcony:
You can find more detailed information on the rooms by clicking on that photo.