Have you ever dreamed of an adventure into the Amazon Rainforest? While it might seem far too costly for most to afford, this trip of a lifetime is probably more affordable than you think. Sani Lodge one of the best values for a trip to the Ecuadoran Amazon with packages that include almost everything.
My Amazon trip began by flying into Quito’s international airport followed by a flight to Coca Airport in the Amazon. Upon arrival, our small group guide, Victor, led us into taxis that would bring the five of us (myself, a couple from Australia, and two friends from the UK) to a motorized canoe on the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River that rises in on the flanks of the east Andean volcanoes in Ecuador.
It was a journey into the unknown. None of us really knew what to expect, other than what we’d seen on TV and film anyway.
After about 2.5 hours, we landed at the dock, marked by a Sani Lodge sign. From here, it was a 10-minute trek down a tree-lined wooden boardwalk where monkeys looked down at us from the trees. At the end of the boardwalk, another canoe awaited providing a gentle, non-motorized float along the still water while colorful birds floated about. Was there a python lurking along the banks? A caiman below the surface ready to lunge out? No, nothing of the sort.
Despite the fears of one of the other guests, no python or snake of any ever fell out of the trees onto our heads. In fact, we never saw them at all. Further helping to ease any anxiety, our guide Victor said not one of their guests have ever been injured in the three decades the lodge has been open.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a delicious passion fruit and rum drink, and the resident caiman named Lucy who likes to lounge in the water beneath the lodge deck. An injury rendered her unable to to hunt and feed on her own, so the staff takes care of her and guests enjoy close-up views and great photo-ops.
Accommodation is in simple but comfortable cabins with private bathrooms that include showers.
Single, double, family, and mini-suite cabins are available, all with private bathrooms, showers, and beds that include mosquito netting
The Sani Lodge Restaurant was a big hit with all the guests. The chefs prepare a mix of local and international fare with all ingredients grown and purchased locally, supporting neighboring farmers and the community. Snacks, prepared fresh daily, are provided for excursions. The bar offers seating that overlooks the lagoon where you can mingle with fellow visitors, lodge staff, and guides while sipping a refreshing cocktail, wine, or cold beer.
After settling in, the fun began almost immediately. We headed out for a night hike, flashlights in hand, to see what creatures were lurking about after dark: two tarantulas, a massive frog, and bats.
An early wake-up call followed with breakfast served at 5:30 a.m. A quintessential morning in the Amazon, it was worth it – as Victor paddled the canoe and us passengers relaxed, we watched a wealth of bird life. Stinky turkeys, parrots, parakeets, herons and other birds of all sorts could be seen soaring overhead and perched on branches.
Activities revolve around Amazon wildlife and native culture, including:
- Canoe trips
- Jungle hikes
- A visit to the macaw salt licks and butterfly farm
- A look at Kichwa life in the tribal community center
Our excursion took us to the Sani Lodge observation tower, a 100-foot-tall tower built next to a massive Kapok tree. From the top, one can look through the canopy of the rainforest and view some of the amazing Amazon biodiversity. Toucans and countless macaws were seen and we heard the sounds of many animals with the loud calls of the red howler monkeys standing out the most.
Much of our time was spent walking the trails while learning about the various plants and trees, like the Dragon’s blood tree which has a rich, red sap known for its healing properties. It’s been scientifically found to heal wounds, cuts, scrapes, insect bites, bacterial, viral and fungal infections of the skin, rashes, herpes, skin cancer, and much more, although the natives knew that centuries before it was ever proven. We got to sample “lemon ants.” Victor broke off a branch and popped them out – the ants naturally taste like sour lemons and are jam-packed with antioxidants. Not bad, but definitely not something I’ll ever have a craving for.
The Tribal Community Center
Getting to know the indigenous Kichwa people was a highlight. We took a tour of the grounds and a school with another guide who demonstrated eating a live grub by popping one of the creatures head first into his mouth. None of us took him up on the offer to try one for ourselves.
A traditional meal, cooked by the hard-working Sani women, who also make coffee and all sorts of handmade crafts (available for sale), was enjoyed by all. It included a sample of famous chicha, a chew-and-spit fermented alcoholic drink. Afterward, we did a little fun face painting and took part in blowgun practice, both of which brought plenty of laughs.
The only downside was having to leave. Departure was quite a bit different than our arrival with those big smiles now turned to quiet contemplation. Our time at Sani Lodge wasn’t nearly long enough and I still dream of returning again someday.
If you have any questions about my experience that might help you plan your own trip to the Amazon, feel free to reach out! Sani Lodge can be booked directly here.