The incredible Amazon rainforest stretches across 9 countries, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, and Suriname.It takes up around seven percent of the entire land mass of the Earth yet incredible half the earth’s plant species can be found there. The Amazon rainforest in Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth, and all manner of species of not only plants, but also birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects thrive here.The Ecuadorian Amazon is mainly tropical rainforest elevated 400m above sea level and despite Ecuador being such a diverse land mass in itself, the largest portion of the country is made up of the rainforest region.
Whilst many people are drawn to Brazil or Peru to visit the Amazon, Ecuador offers some incredible, rewarding and unique opportunities to explore this magnificent place.
For those with more than a few days to explore then staying at a jungle lodge is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the environment. Sacha Lodge stands out from the crowd as the forerunner for those who desire to really learn all about the amazing species of the Amazon.
To get there is no easy feat but that makes it all the more special. The closest city is Coca, but the lodge can arrange flights for you from Quito or various night buses head there for the more adventurous. Sacha Lodge has a base in the city where the groups meet their expedition leaders and can relax with snacks and drinks before the rest of the journey starts. A 90 minute motorised canoe ride takes you down the river, with the captain zipping left and right as he expertly steers through the water levels. Next a 30 minute walk takes you to the final leg of the journey, wooden dug out canoes for a gentle ride through the trees to the beautiful lodge.
Sacha Lodge has thought out every aspect of your stay and even pairs you in small groups according to your language and activity preference. Each group is assigned an indigenous guide and a naturalist guide, who usually speak Spanish, English and often German/Italian. The guides adapt the programme accordingly to the groups taste, tailoring walks and boat rides to what the visitors might want to see.
The rooms are simple yet delightful, with spacious wooden balconies looking straight into the rainforest, even more pleasant are the showers, that whilst private have an open side for you to view nature whilst you bathe.
Except dinner which is hosted in the main lodge area, meals are all taken together, in the open air dining room next to the lake. Meals are fresh, filling and varied, including barbecues, fresh fish and sweet treats and there is nothing quite like spotting caiman and giant otters while you eat.
What sets Sacha apart from it’s competitors however are the incredible feats of engineering erected with the sole purpose of allowing you to get closer to nature without hindering the natural habitats of the animals and birds. Firstly the vertigo inducing staircase to the top of the Kapok tree. High enough to require a stop on the stairs on the way up, the staircase leads to a giant platform with gorgeous hanging vines tumbling down to the ground twisted around it. One really feels like they have the best view of the rainforest from up there.
Secondly, and a highlight for many visitors is the canopy walkway. A 275m bridge fixed between three towers it offers a unique opportunity to spot dozens of creatures not visible from the ground. Howler monkeys swinging past, toucans and dozens of wildly colourful birds, with more and more species to be sighted as the mist lifts above the trees. The guides have keen eyes and a photographic memory for birds, noticing tiny differences in patterns to identify species.
The guides really do make a difference to your stay, spotting owls that are even hard to see when they’ve been pointed out to you, but their knowledge of the local plants is almost more impressive. Every tree and plant has a story, and a use, be that healing wounds, making rope or simply for dye, walking around the rainforest with guides is a constant learning experience.
Sacha Lodge finds an excellent balance between providing a temporary community for the visitors, and allowing you to mingle and meet new friends, yet still giving you the sense of being the only ones in the rainforest. Activities aren’t forced upon you, and plenty of free time to is given to enjoy the lodge. There’s a beautiful lake pool, perfect to cool down when the humidity gets a bit too much. It’s a securely cordoned off area of the lake so you need not fear the eels and caiman whilst you swim, but for those who do want a closer look there are canoes to explore the lake and take all the necessary wildlife photos.
For those who really want to learn about the Ecuadorian Amazon, at a place which prides itself on protecting the area and assisting the local indigenous community then Sacha Lodge is the ideal choice, and as many of the visitors were saying to their loved ones back home ‘a real once in a lifetime trip.’