Our journey starts with a 35-minute flight from Quito to Coca where staff will meet you upon arrival. We will transfer to the banks of the Napo River where your bilingual guides will give a safety briefing before embarking on a 2 1/2 hour boat trip on the largest Ecuadorian affluent of the Amazon, the Napo River. During the journey, we get a taste of the Amazon - ancestral communities, life on the river, and birdlife such as herons, egrets and vultures. A packed lunch will be provided.
The motorized canoe ride is followed by a 15 minute walk through flooded forest and a 20 minute paddle canoe ride across the beautiful Challuacocha blackwater oxbow lake. The lodge staff warmly welcomes us with refreshing cold drinks and delicious snacks before settling down in our cabins. After getting settled in, we will have a short hike on nearby trails where we will get acquainted with the sights, smells, and sounds of the Amazon jungle. The walk is one of discovery, and immediately tunes us in to the richness of Amazon ecosystem. Return to the lodge for a chef-prepared dinner. The talented culinary staff at Sani Lodge is proud to offer a wide variety of delicious national and international cuisine. One of our bilingual guides will give a briefing about the Amazon region before you head out into the lagoon to search for nocturnal wildlife, paddling silently through its black waters. Someone's flashlight will almost certainly find eyeshine in the darkness - you might manage so see black caimans! Return to the lodge for overnight.
After breakfast at the lodge, we set out for a full day of adventure in the rainforest. We will take a hike to learn about the plants, animals and people of the Amazon. Along the way, we will discover medicinal uses for the rainforest's many plant species, search for impossibly small species of frog and startlingly large insect species, keep our eyes open for primates high in the forest canopy, and learn about the Sani culture. We will also hone our blow gun skills to understand survival hunting techniques. After a full morning, we will enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest in a special spot chosen by our guide.
Following lunch, we will make our way to the lagoon system where we will set out on kayaks for an afternoon of paddling, including a recreational paddle back to the lodge. We will enjoy another delicious chef-prepared dinner before retiring for the night.
After an early breakfast, we will paddle to Sani Lodge's observation tower. We will wind our way up a 108 foot high staircase to the wooden observatory perched at the top of the forest canopy in majestic kapok tree. The exhilaration of standing above the entire forest is quickly overtaken by the excitement of spotting some of the 565 registered species of birds. With some luck, there is also a chance to spot howler or squirrel monkeys or even sloths resting high in the canopy. The wildlife viewing from above is an entirely different perspective, and gives a chance to discover some of the Amazon's biodiversity that can be difficult if not impossible to see from the ground.
After getting our fill of wildlife watching from the tower, we will be met by a local Sani community member for an ethnobotanical/agricultural hike to the Sani community. Our cultural exchange and exploration begins on our hike where we get firsthand insight into local life while the Napo River flows by our side towards the Atlantic Ocean. We will learn about the local's architecture, see their farming activities, their lifestyle, discover plants in the rainforest that are used for medicine, and more. Once we arrive to the Sani community, we will learn about and support their women's project, the community turtle breeding work, and also participate in a cooking class, which will become our traditional lunch. Spending time with the Sani women in the kitchen allows for a special glimpse into their culture and customs, and also insight into our many commonalities. We enjoy a very special, very local lunch in the community. We will hike back to the lodge in the late afternoon, spotting the wonderful wildlife of the forest. Upon arrival, we will enjoy a well-deserved dinner.
After an early breakfast, we will depart for a visit to Yasuní National Park. This 9,620 sq km park is Ecuador's largest mainland park and is a Unesco designated international biosphere reserve. The park was untouched by the last ice age, resulting in a thriving and diverse pool of species, and it is one of the last true wildernesses in Ecuador. We will walk in the park, observing its flora and fauna and make our way to a viewing blind near one of the park's famous clay licks. There we might be lucky to see parrots and parakeets. They visit most mornings to eat clay that aids their digestion of unripe seeds and fruits. We might see mealy Amazon, yellow-crowned, orange-winged and blue-headed parrots among others.
After our morning exploring Yasuní, we will return to the lodge for an unscheduled afternoon. You can choose to hike or kayak in the blackwater lake, or even just kick your feet up in a hammock and relax, surrounded by the sounds of the rain forest. After a final delicious dinner prepared by the talented chefs at Sani Lodge, you have the option of taking a night walk in the rain forest to see myriad insect, spider and frog species come to life in their nocturnal habitat.