Sacha Lodge, Ecuador
How to explore the Amazon.
Simply the journey itself to Sacha Lodge—a tucked-away boutique hotel on the banks of Pilchicocha, a serene black lake within Ecuador’s rainforest—is an adventure. By the time you reach this isolated paradise, you’ll have taken a short, prearranged flight from the capital city of Quito to the small town of Coca, a speedboat ride on the majestic Napo River, an easy thirty-minute walk through the jungle, and finally, a quiet paddle across the glassy lake to the lodge itself, tucked in amongst the ancient trees.
Upon arrival at the Sacha Lodge there is an immediate sense of peace and isolation; only the sounds of the rainforest—cicadas starting at sunset, howler monkeys booming their calls through the trees, frogs chatting with each other—fill the air. The symphony of sound and foliage envelope the lodge’s surrounding grounds and help it to blend into the jungle itself—each boardwalk that leads to every guest room is suspended just above the forest floor, and the main dining area sits right on the water’s edge, offering a beautiful panorama of the lake and forest beyond.
Nestled within a 5,000-acre ecological reserve in the heart of the Amazon, wild enchantment abounds at the lodge; cute black agouti can be spotted scurrying underneath the suspended boardwalks, a huge caiman can be seen from the dining room view, and giant river otters are known to put on a show beside early-morning canoers. A circling staircase has been built around a 600-year-old Kapok tree not far from the lodge, leading to a platform cradled between its ancient, twisted branches from which a 360-degree view of the endless rainforest can be admired. One can walk carefully along a forty-metre-high, three-hundred-metre-long canopy bridge and be awed by the beauty of the trees, the colourful birds, and the sheer vastness of the jungle below. Tours of the forest can be taken in the evening, armed with only a flashlight and a wild faith in the laser-sharp eyes of the tour guides, where bullfrogs, hand-sized tarantulas, and cartoonish owls can be seen amidst the darkness.
The lodge’s amenities are excellent—rooms are well-kept, and each features a balcony with a hammock and a view straight into the heart of the jungle. The staff are friendly and hospitable, ensuring each guest feels pampered and comfortable—even after returning from an Amazonian adventure speckled with mud. Meals prepared by talented local chefs are a unique mix of Ecuadorian and international cuisines intended to keep explorers satiated. The quinoa soufflé and salmon with fresh vegetables are particularly delicious, and the evening barbeque feast in a style typical to the region must be enjoyed at least once.
Sacha Lodge is part of a growing eco-tourism movement in the Amazon, and the guest experience is focused on sustainable enjoyment and exploration without disturbing the local flora and fauna. At the lodge, guests follow the schedule of the animals: wake up at sunrise before the forest is too hot, rest in the afternoon, and explore again when the sun sets. This means long days, but it also offers the best chance of observing the rainforest at its liveliest. All visitors to the lodge are put into small groups with two kind and knowledgeable local guides, without whom one would risk missing almost all of the sights the jungle has to offer. Sacha Lodge’s guides can not only spot birds and animals, but also round out the experience by explaining the uses of various plants, teach a bit of Spanish, and share insights into the indigenous cultures of the area.
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, yet the true horror of seeing oil refineries dotted along the banks of the Napo River is a stark reminder that it is also an endangered one. Sacha Lodge’s focus on sustainability and responsibility, as well as its one-of-a-kind experience, make it an ideal choice for a trip to Ecuador’s Amazonia.
Sacha Lodge, Providencia, Quito, Ecuador, +593 2-256-6090.