drifting down a narrow, winding creek surrounded on all sides by
a lush, endless sea of tropical greenery, and all that separates
you from the deep black Amazon waters is a canoe hand-carved out
of a single tree trunk. As you maneuver around a bend something
unidentified crashes off into the underbrush, and you catch a glimpse
of two magnificent, colorful macaws startled into flight. Suddenly,
the forest erupts with a roar so loud that all you can imagine is
some giant, fierce predator on the prowl. But as you turn to face
your destiny, the menace is revealed as a family of furry red howler
monkeys huddled together in a treetop. With a sigh of relief you
continue onward, deeper into the unknown.
This is one of
the many sensations you may experience at Sacha Lodge, located in
the heart of Ecuador's Amazon Basin. A haven for nature lovers,
birdwatchers, scientists and adventure seekers, Sacha Lodge provides
comfortable accommodations, first-class meals and expert guides
in order for you to fully enjoy the wonders of the tropical rainforest.
Getting to Sacha Lodge
The journey to Sacha Lodge begins in Quito, Ecuador's capital
city. From here, a 45-minute flight takes you over the Andes Mountains'
majestic snow-covered peaks and down over 8500 feet (2600 meters)
into the Amazon Region. The flight destination is the port town
of Puerto Francisco de Orellana, locally known as Coca, where you
will be met by a guide and taken to the town docks. Here, a covered
motorized canoe will be awaiting you for a 2½-hour, 50-mile (80-kilometer)
trip down the sediment-rich waters of the Napo, the largest river
in Ecuadorian Amazonia. During the ride it is easy to spot handsome
shore birds such as herons, kingfishers, spoonbills and ospreys
between the scattered native huts as you travel steadily away from
civilization. Upon arrival to Sacha Lodge's 5000-acre (2000-hectare)
private reserve, our guests will take their first walk along a raised
boardwalk through dense flooded palm forest where several species
of monkeys are often sighted. However, as you continue deeper into
the forest it is easy to feel more like you are the one being watched!
The path leads to Pilchicocha lake, a blackwater paradise where
you'd least expect to find any sign of people, but dugout canoes
(and even paddlers!) await to carry you even farther. As you cross
the lake, the cries of tropical birds lead you to your final destination,
which magically materializes out of the jungle at the last possible
The lodging at Sacha was carefully designed to offer comfort
to the traveler yet preserve the environment and rainforest ambience.
Each of our 10 double cabins, with high thatched roofs and private
shaded terraces, is constructed with traditional materials and nestles
well concealed in the lush surroundings. In their rooms, visitors
may overlook the jungle from hammocks and often report seeing wild
fauna such as anacondas or capybara (the largest rodents in the
world) while resting between activities! Electricity is provided
by a distant, nearly inaudible generator, and the private bathrooms
provide hot showers. All cabins are screened against insects, and
contain ceiling fans above two comfortable double beds.
Guests may use
free time to enjoy a raised lookout above our main bar and lounge,
which offers a scenic view of Pilchicocha Lake and excellent opportunities
to birdwatch. Our meals are prepared to please the international
traveler, and vegetarians are more than welcome. During one meal
we will even enjoy a barbecue at our outdoor bar and dining area
right on the edge of our lake! Swimming and piranha fishing are
also activities not to be missed here… but don't worry! Piranhas
are scavengers and the guides will prove that swimming is perfectly
Sacha Lodge's guests will be divided into small groups, each
of which will be led by a native guide with expert knowledge of
the rainforest's medicinal and other useful plants, and a bilingual
naturalist guide educated in the biology and ecology of the area.
A typical day at Sacha begins at sunrise or earlier, in order to
take advantage of the cool morning hours when the rainforest's animals
are most active. Each group may decide on its own wake-up and breakfast
time, as well as the difficulty and duration of their morning outings.
In the afternoon, visits begin between 3:00 and 4:00 and often continue
into the evening, when the nocturnal insect and frog chorus begins.
spread out over a wide area and allow visitors to explore several
distinct but equally fascinating habitats. Several trails lead through
pristine terra firme forest, where 150 foot kapok trees tower above
and roots form huge buttresses to give trees support. Others follow
strategically raised boardwalks in seasonally flooded forests, where
walking on the ground would be nearly impossible during most of
the year due to groundwater. One trail many choose to follow even
leads across fallen tree trunks and a steel cable zip-line through
A favorite activity
of our guests is to paddle dugout canoes along tannin-rich black-water
creeks and lakes, where luxuriant lianas, bromeliads and palm trees
thrive. And wherever an outing may lead the possibilities of spotting
animals, from the tiny pygmy marmoset to the feared ocelot or puma,
souls, the day does not necessarily end with dinner. Night walks
and canoe trips, with the aid of flashlights, often reveal creatures
seldom seen during daylight. Caimans (of the alligator family) and
giant insects rule the jungle after sunset… Do you dare search for
One of Sacha Lodge's highlights is our 135-foot (43-meter) observation
tower. Situated on a hill and constructed around a giant kapok tree
for stability, this tower allows guests to climb into and above
the rainforest canopy for a magnificent view of the surrounding
area. Be it shortly after sunrise or before sunset, from the tower's
ample platform it is possible to observe toucans, parrots, and dozens
of other colorful bird species in the treetops. With some luck,
noisy howler monkeys, foraging squirrel monkeys or the gentle three-toed
sloth may also be seen, especially with the aid of a powerful telescope
provided by your guides.
In recent years
Sacha Lodge has become a favorite destination of both professional
and amateur ornithologists. Over 500 species of birds have been
registered in the area, and from the tower platform our bird specialist
guides have on several occasions reported seeing over 80 species
in a single morning!
The tower may
be reached on foot via a half-hour walk through terra firme forest,
which is an easy way to get there at or before sunrise. However,
no one can miss out on at least a one-way trip to or from the tower
along Orchid Creek, Pilchicocha Lake's natural black water runoff
to the Napo River. In a dugout canoe guests may follow this winding
stream through untamed palm forest for about an hour, a trip that
many choose to repeat.
Sacha Lodge is home to one of the largest butterfly farms in
Ecuador. Designed as a live exhibition conservatory, the Butterfly
House is now successfully breeding nearly 40 local butterfly species!
Guests will be shown how these beautiful insects are bred and raised,
and later be free to wander through "the flying room", where hundreds
of colorful butterflies including spectacular blue morphs flutter
from flower to flower.
At a short distance from Sacha Lodge is Ecuador's most accessible
parrot lick, an exposed clay bank where brightly colored parrots
of several different species gather in the early morning. In ideal
conditions (sunny and dry), the parrots will often perch on and
eat the exposed clay. This acts as a sort of "antacid" for them:
Parrots eat a variety of toxic and acid fruits, and the clay draws
these toxins out of their bodies. On an ideal morning, hundreds
of parrots can be seen gathering around this bank between 7:00 and
8:00 for a spectacular show of sound and color. The lick is located
on the edge of Yasuní National Park, which may be reached from Sacha
by a one half-hour motorized canoe trip down the Napo River. Recently,
the park service has set up blinds in order to watch the parrots
from very close. If weather permits (the parrots won't be there
in the rain!), and you would like to participate in this activity,
the extra cost is only $3.00 per person (subject to change, and
to be paid at the Lodge).
TIPS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
always advisable to consult your physician about health measures
and vaccinations before traveling to a foreign country. Although
Sacha is well-isolated from local populations and tropical diseases
are extremely rare here, during your stay in Ecuador you may pass
through areas of slightly higher risk. Please take any medication
you may need with you, as the selection of medicines in our first-aid
kit is very limited.
Sacha Lodge now has direct radio contact with both Quito and
Coca. In case of a serious medical emergency, we are able to radio
Coca and have a helicopter sent directly to the lodge for assistance.
For lesser emergencies, there is a medical center located at 20
minutes from Sacha by canoe on the Napo River. This medical center
is run by a multinational company and will provide attention to
our guests should it ever become necessary.
The normal tour schedule at Sacha is from Monday to Friday (5
days/4 nights) and Friday to Monday (4 days/3 nights). However,
Sacha will now operate your program on any day of the week (except
Sunday, when there are no flights). With a slight extra cost for
non-Monday and Friday canoes, you can now tailor your trip to fit
your scheduling needs! Longer itineraries and bird specialist guides
are also available… Consult your travel agent for details.
The flights from Quito to Coca are charter flights using two different
airlines, and departure time may vary. The airplanes are normally
19-seat Beechcraft (1900), and both the planes and pilots are FAA-certified
in the U.S.
For the flight to Coca, the airlines require that checked luggage
be limited to a weight of 20 kilograms (approximately 45 pounds)
per person. However, heavier items such as cameras and books may
be taken in carry on bags if necessary. All suitcases will be placed
in waterproof bags for the trip down the Napo River, for protection
against spray and rain.
On The Canoe
For the ride to Sacha from Coca our canoe is covered against sun
and rain, but a light jacket can be useful for the wind and spray.
Be sure to wear sun protection, as the sun's reflection off the
water can sometimes cause a burn.
In the tropical rainforest it is best to be prepared for all kinds
of weather. A common question we receive is about the "dry and rainy
seasons" of the Amazon, but it is best not to trust such generalizations
to plan a trip. At times it can be hot and sunny, but a cool rainstorm
may appear at a moment's notice during any time of the year. We
have ceiling fans in each room for hot afternoons, but at night
(especially after the rain) some guests are surprised at the need
for a sweatshirt!
Lightweight pants and long sleeved cotton shirts are ideal for walks
in the forest. However, if you are more comfortable wearing short
sleeves, remember that exposed skin may need a light dousing with
insect repellant. During the rain, full waterproof clothing can
be uncomfortable as it often gets you wet with sweat instead of
water, but rain ponchos are recommendable for tropical cloudbursts.
A limited number of ponchos are available at Sacha if you
do not have your own, and we also supply rubber boots up to men's
size 14 for walks in the forest interior.
Comfortable shoes (or sandals), shorts and t-shirts are fine for
walking on boardwalks and around the Lodge during meals and free
time. And don't forget your bathing suit!
Sacha Lodge now provides laundry service (washing and drying) for
our guests. Please consult costs with our lodge administrator.
Drinks are not included in your package, and may be paid on the
last night of your stay in cash (U.S. dollars), travelers checks
or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). Please note
that the minimum charge for credit cards is $20 US.
All the drinking water provided at Sacha (including ice) comes from
a local well and is treated with porcelain filters, one of the most
thorough filtering systems available. This water is tested regularly
and has proven perfectly safe for human consumption. If you prefer,
however, you may purchase bottled water from the bar.
Our chef will be more than happy to prepare vegetarian meals for
you upon request. Please make sure to advise your travel agent of
any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have, and also let
our staff know as soon as you arrive.
High-speed film and a flash for cameras are recommendable for shady
walks under the forest canopy. However, slower film is fine for
photos on rivers, lakes, the tower and around the lodge.
(torch) and batteries
(sun cream / sunglasses / hat or cap)
long pants and long sleeved shirts for walks
short sleeves for the lodge
shoes and extra socks
to protect cameras, binoculars, film, etc... from rain
The prices include accommodations , all meals, and excursions
with naturalist and native guides. Not included the flight Quito
- Pto. Francisco de Orellana - Quito , plus drinks.
: We are able to arrange trips to or from Sacha on days other
than Monday and Friday (any except Sunday, when there is no flight),
but there is an additional canoe charge of $100 for groups of
less than four people on each non-Monday or Friday.