Yasuní National Park is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve covering more than 9,823 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest. Yasuní is located between the Napo and Curaray rivers within the Napo forest eco-region. Yasuní National Park features 150 amphibian species, 121 reptile species, 382 fish species, 596 bird species, 117 bat species, 100,000 insect species, and 4,000 vascular plants.
Ever since I found out that there are lodges in the Yasuní National Park that was managed by a local community, I’ve wanted to visit. It is a high end lodge with one of the best services and staff I have ever experienced in my life. The luxurious Napo Wildlife Center is located on the shores of a lake in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
The first day we were picked up by staff from the Napo Wildlife Center at the Francisco de Orellana airport in the city of El Coca. Then they took us to the meeting point where they explained the day’s itinerary, which includes a tour, and introduced us to our guide. There they also gave us the snack of the day and a reusable water bottle to use to avoid single use plastics.
The journey from El Coca take approximately 2 hours by motorboat to a point where we board a canoe to the welcome center where we can go to the bathroom, drink water and stretch our legs. From the welcome center to the lodge it is a further 2 hours by rowing canoe. During the journey to the lodge we are looking for wildlife. We observed various species of birds and several black caimans. During the tour we passed through several canals, where the vegetation transports you to a magical place. Entering the Añangu lagoon, you are greeted by an imposing complex with 20 cabins, 6 suites and an observation tower. That night we rested after a delicious dinner and went to sleep early for the next day’s adventures.
The second day we had to alter our itinerary because it rained all day. I say unfortunately because we had to modify our plans for the day, but the truth is that it was super magical and re-energizing to enjoy the Amazon and its powerful rain. In the morning after breakfast we went up the observation tower, where you can see a wonderful panoramic view of the place. You can access the tower by stairs or by elevator. Since it was raining, we couldn’t see much wildlife from the tower but I fell in love with the view.
At lunchtime, the guides, especially Jorge, noticed that near the lobby there were dozens of golden mantle monkeys. This monkey is native to the area and is also the logo of the lodge. From what the guides told us, it is not very common to see this monkey, so we were very lucky.
Afterwards we went canoeing through the lagoon and through several of the canals that feed it for several hours to continue looking for wildlife. We found dozens of alligators, parrots, blue and yellow parrots, spiders, stinking guans, bats and fish. The main animals we did not spot on this ride were otters, sloths and toucans. Hopefully tomorrow we will get lucky.
Our third and last full day at the lodge we got up early to look for the parrots in the saladero, we saw a handful of them, but not with the intensity that they usually are because it had rained the day before and the clay was wet. Normally, a total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen daily.
We were pleasantly surprised when we saw a large group of monkeys in the trees. From there we went to another saladero where you can normally see parrots, and again we were lucky and found a couple in the tree branches.
Later, we walked through a forest trail where we ended up in the Kichwa Community of Añangu and learned more about the culture and activities. We enjoy a delicious lunch at the Napo Cultural Center.
We finished the day by climbing one of the many observation towers, where we saw a large number of birds and species of toucans, on the way we saw a group of giant otters.
This trip was magical and I count the days until I can go back again. The Ecuadorian Amazon, especially the Yasuní, are treasures of humanity that we must always take care of.
One of the most interesting things about the Napo Wildlife Center is that the members of the community actively participate in the lodge; in fact it is one of their most important sources of income.
The rooms and the facilities
The facilities at the Napo Wildlife Center were designed taking into account the importance of ecotourism, which is why its infrastructure is environmentally conscious.
Power is generated by solar panels, industrial batteries and silent generators, which is an efficient system with minimal environmental impact. All water is properly processed.
The hotel has 20 cabins (12 standard and 8 suites), an observation tower where the store, restaurant and rest area of the hotel are also located. The central tower offers one of the best panoramic views of the Amazon.
This lodge has won numerous international awards for ecotourism and luxury, which gives you an idea of how incredible the place is. Each room is furnished with native decorations, private bathroom with hot water, ventilation, electric plugs, and private balconies with views of the jungle and Lake Añangu.
Your visit to Napo Wildlife Center includes daily tours, electricity all day, Wi-Fi and hot water for bathing.
What to pack to visit the Yasuní National Park?
- Telephoto Lens
- Long pants
- Long sleeved shirts
- Comfortable closed toe shoes
- Bating Suit
- Waterproof bag
- Insect repellent
What animals can you see in the Yasuní National Park?
As with any natural experience there is no guarantee you will see a specific animal during your stay, but the guides go out of their way to make the search for wildlife enjoyable. Either way you will be overwhelmed with the abundance of wildlife around you.
- Black alligator
- Giant river otters
- Dark titi monkey
- Napo Saki Monkey
- Golden-mantled tamarin
- Squirrel monkey
- Red howler monkey
- Black and green anacondas
- Red macaw
How to get to Napo Wildlife Center?
Most trips to visit the Yasuní National Park and the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador start from the capital Quito. From Quito, you must take a flight or bus to the city of Coca. This small town is the gateway to the Ecuadorian Amazon. The city is located on the Napo River and all access to the Yasuní National Park begin here.
This is only the first part of your adventure. After arriving in Coca, a guide from the Napo Wildlife Center will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to the main river port.
Once here, you will board a boat and begin your 2-hour journey upriver to the Napo Cultural Center and from there transfer to a rowing canoe for two more hours to reach the lodge. It may be a long adventure to get into the rainforest, but is worth every minute of it.