Near the Yasuni National Park
Upscale Sacha Lodge provides Ecuadorian cuisine, comfortable cabins, excellent service, and days/nights filled with adventures deep in the Amazon rainforest. Nature gets closer with a 94–foot observation tower with a 940–foot suspension bridge, one of the few in the world.
Your adventures begin early as you make your way to Sacha. First you take a plane from Quito, then spend over two hours–wide–eyed–in a riverboat on the Napo River. You hike for 30 minutes and finally glide in a dugout canoe to Sacha Lodge. It's clear from the beginning that this is a special destination lodge and the arrival is an exciting initiation into your jungle experiences.
As your canoe sidles up to the dock near a "Welcome to Sacha Lodge" sign, you will see a massive, thickly thatched main lodge located on Pilchicocha Lake. Inside are the restaurant, reading nook, buffet area, and dining room. Climbing the wooden stairs you find a full-service bar. Several seating areas are grouped throughout this upper level. An inner tower with swirled-wood railings along steps leads to an observation area on the rooftop.
Jungle juice and hors d'oeuvres are served while the guides create groups by interest and language. You stay with this group of six or less guests and assigned guides for the entire stay. One guide is a bilingual naturalist and the other is an indigenous guide, knowledgeable about medicinal plants and experienced as a spotter of countless animals, unseen by tourists.
Staffers carry your luggage along an elevated wooden walkway to your cabin. Screens keep out mosquitoes and plaid curtains can be pulled aside to create the feeling of living in a private jungle tree house. Banana palms, huge fronds, vines, and trees surround your cabin. Outside is a covered terrace with hand-carved table, chairs and a hammock. If you are lucky, you will be awakened in your "hanging bed" by squirrel monkeys swinging through branches, as well as woodpeckers and birds squawking.
Inside your cabin, a comfortable bedroom is decorated with indigenous art. Extras include a security box, dry box for your camera, (due to the humidity), a large ceiling fan, biodegradable soap and shampoo, boots, ponchos, and umbrellas. Posted security guards watch for big animals gone astray. Laundry service is available to remedy your sweat-drenched garments. A welcome feature in the bathroom is an enclosed shower with steaming hot water-something that feels like a luxury in itself in this remote setting.
The walkways connect cabins with an office, computer room, gift shop, main lodge, butterfly farm, dock area with swimming platform, and an open-air thatched shelter for barbecues. Your days begin early and end late with rest times during the hottest part of the day. A loud bamboo horn announces meal times that can vary in the morning, but lunch is set at 1 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.
Buffet cuisine is set up each day with gourmet selections for each meal, presented beautifully. Succulent fruits such as papaya and mangoes join main dishes like pork, tilapia, chicken, and several types of vegetables. Jungle-lodge baked bread is served each day. An American breakfast buffet is served in the morning and a chalkboard lists the menu for each meal.
During the days, your group has choices that include: visiting the Yasuni parrot lick, butterfly farm, climbing observation towers, bird watching, animal spotting, hiking on jungle trails, canoe rides on narrow streams through low-hanging vines, piranha fishing (remember, this is optional) and more. See our feature story on exploring this jungle area for more.)
In the evenings, some activities include caiman spotting (their eyes have a red-glow when a flashlight shines on them), canoe rides, and hiking on trails.
Two observation towers overlook the canopy of the rainforest. On the platform (top), you view a seemingly unending tropical rainforest. Hidden are innumerable creatures probably spying on you. Occasionally, you are treated to the sight of a monkey, three–toed sloth, and several of the 600 species of birds, including white-billed toucans, and macaws.
The wooden Kapok Tower is 135-feet high, while the newer Kanopy Walkway observation tower is 94 feet high. Its suspension bridge is incredible. Walking over the jungle, especially at sunset, is one of those, "1000 things to do before you die" events.
Upscale Sacha Lodge provides comfort, delectable buffets, two amazing towers, and guides who love sharing the rainforest with guests. Each day presents multiple opportunities to spot wildlife, all in a safe environment surrounded by miles of preserved jungle. It's well worth the adventurous trip to get there.
Web Address: www.sachalodge.com
Total Number of Rooms: 26
Prices: $690 - $1305 (not including $120 flight)
Review by Sandra Kennedy