In the Andes, our home base of Chilcabamba Lodge offers the perfect base to explore the highlands of Cotopaxi National Park, the southern mountain region of Ecuador that draws hikers from around the world. Here you will discover a region of the Andes full of high mystical peaks, spectacular scenery, plants and animals, waterfalls, forests and great walking trails. If you love the outdoors, Cotopaxi National Park is the perfect destination!
To ensure a diverse experience of Ecuador, you then visit the Amazon. Sani Lodge is located on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of untouched rainforest. This unique Ecuadorian ecolodge is a comfortable haven in a place teeming with life. On your adventure, you will walk through pristine rainforest that is home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers. The Amazon also boasts 550 species of tropical birds, 13 primate species and 1,000 species of beautiful butterflies. 85% of visitors to Sani Lodge see a Harpy eagle! Sani Lodge is locally run, ensuring profits benefit the community. The Lodge helps to improve healthcare, education, & sustainable projects for the surrounding communities. Additionally, the Lodge offers visitors an authentic cultural experience with the 600 people from the community, allowing guests to learn about and participate in their culture.
Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most beautiful protected areas of Ecuador. On a clear day, you might see Cotopaxi’s peak from parts of Quito, but its majesty is only clearly revealed from within the borders of the park. When the weather cooperates, views of its snow-capped, nearly symmetrical summit cone are awe-inspiring.
We will tighten our boot laces and start our hike at the base of the volcano. For two hours, we will walk towards the serene Limpiopungo Lagoon, where we can see a variety of migrant and resident Andean bird life. On the way, we might see some of the wild horses, deer or llamas that make the park their home, as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and breathtaking scenery. We will spend time at the water’s edge, admiring classic views of Volcan Cotopaxi or perhaps the reflection of Volcan Rumiñahui in its waters. We will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment before jumping on to our mountain bikes for an exhilarating but easy ride back to the lodge.
Explore the surrounding countryside with a local Spanish-speaking guide (bilingual naturalist guide available on request). The Pita River gives life to millions of quiteños, and its source is the pristine glacial meltwater of Volcan Cotopaxi. Its rushing waters will guide us throughout much of our adventure.
The hike starts at the lodge and descends gradually from the grasslands of Cotopaxi down to the area known as the Pedregal and the humid Andean forests. We’ll explore waterfalls, observe bird life, learn about the local flora and more. The hike is suitable and fun for kids (a shorter option is available for younger kids as well – ask us about options). It is also perfect for keen trekkers looking to acclimate in preparation for exploring the surrounding higher peaks.
After a 35 minute flight from Quito to Coca 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 ½ 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. We will take a short hike on nearby trails where we will get acquainted with the sights, smells and sounds of the Amazon jungle. As we enter the forest, sunlight is immediately filtered and we are faced with a million shades of green. A symphony of insect song fills the air, and our senses are instantly heightened. We might see one of the forest’s 13 species of primate, birds, frogs, or extraordinary flora. The walk is one of discovery, and immediately tunes us in to the richness of Amazon ecosystem.
After breakfast at the lodge, we set out for a full day of adventure in the rainforest. We will take a long hike to learn about the plants, animals and people of the Amazon. 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. A stop at Sani Lodge’s observation tower is a highlight. We will wind our way up a 36 meter (108 ft) high staircase to the wooden observatory perched at the top of the forest canopy in majestic kapok (aka ‘God’s Hand) 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 walk back to our kayaks for a (1 hour) recreational paddle back to the lodge. We will enjoy another delicious chef-prepared dinner before retiring for the night.
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 in Yasuni, we will visit the local Sani community. Here, 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.
Our cultural exchange and exploration continues after lunch, when we will hike back to the lodge on a “camino vecinal” (minor road/community path?) accompanied by our guide and a member of the local community. On our hike, we will get first-hand 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. We will return to the lodge in the late afternoon for a well-deserved dinner. Optional night walk in the rain forest to see myriad insect, spider and frog species come to life in their nocturnal habitat.
Please contact us for pricing and other details.