Yasuni Kichwa Ecolodge is located within the Yasuni National Park, in the depths of the Amazon rainforest through which the Napo River runs. Yasuni means "sacred land" and symbolizes the abundance of life on earth. In the most biodiverse ecosystem on the plant, and ranging over 2421 acres of land, Yasuni represents a miracle of the world that might never be fully discovered. The protected tract of land is home to a third of all Amazonian mammals, including a staggering 60% of all New World wild cats, 106 reptiles, and 610 species of bird; as well as more than 4000 species of plants.
Yasuni has the capacity for 36 people to stay in their 12 single, double and triple cabins as well as matrimonial suites. The lodge provides you with the comfort of spacious cabins with private bathrooms and balconies with a relaxing hammock on deck to enjoy the views of the beautiful natural gardens. Every room is equipped with plenty of outlets for recharging batteries, ample hot water, a safe deposit box and ventilation.
The restaurant, serving local, national and international food, has a maximum capacity of 50 people.
Discover the magical landscapes of the forest and the life that hides within the banks of the Napo River. Visit the most accessible clay licks where with a bit of luck you could observe over 11 species of parrot and parroquets.
Walk through the primary forest as your guides reveal the secrets that lurk in Yasuni. Climb a 35 meter observation tower from which you can discover the life that exists within the canopies of the forest. Surrender yourself to a great adventure as you paddle along in a traditional canoe on the black waters of Anangu gazing at the fauna of this special place. Share the ancestral knowledge, customs, legends, dances and music of the Kichwa.
Enjoy the unique flavors of the traditional food and take part in the drinking of Wayusa, one of the most important ceremonies which takes place at the crack of dawn.
Yasuni Forest Types
Yasuni National Park is uniquely diverse. Ongoing studies, still very far from accounting for a large number of species that exist within Yasuni's borders, have declared the region a "quadruple taxonomic richness center" for amphibians, birds, mammals and vascular plants. In an area smaller than an American county or urban district, there are about the same number of mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species (if not more) than the United States combined.
At Yasuni you can notice some of the different rainforest habitats, briefly explained below.
Varzea or seasonally flooded forest, located close to rivers where fluctuations in water levels inundate entire areas for protracted periods, create dense undergrowth where trees are usually only moderately tall, even low.
Terra Firme or upland forests, are the most extensive forest in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They are made up of generally tall trees set on more hilly terrain with well-drained soils, often more open understory (can be quite easy to walk through) and are generally the richest forest habitat in Amazonia.
Palm Swamps are a particular type of forest that grows in more or less permanantly standing water, and supports basically only one species of tall palm.
Riperian Woodland are forested habitats that grow on floodplain areas and larger river islands which start off with a few tree species, often dominated by Cecropia but eventually become for diversified.
River Island Scrub, a fascinating colonizing habitat that grows on recently created island that form on major rivers (the Napo River, for instance). The river itself can destroy these river islands as fast as they helped create them.
Flora and Fauna
This is a brief recount of some of the many interesting natural dwellers of Yasuni's forest.
Epyphites: One strategy to reach sunlight in the dense Amazonian jungle is to grow on trees like orchids, bromeliads, and ferns. Epyphytes are fascinating opportunists you will have a chance to truly admire.
Leaf-cutter ants: These astonishing critters are the ultimate farmers, and can be seen in transit on seemingly endless self-made highways transporting slices of forest leaves to feed their queen.
Walking Palms: This determined plant has the ability to move over long periods of time, seeking out precious sunlight through the dense jungle canopy.
Antbirds and Army Ants: Members of the antbird family are obliged to follow army ant swarms that charge through the forest flushing potential prey.
Jungle Cats: Although difficult to find, there are a total of five species of these emblematic mammals at Napo Wildlife Center; they run the gamut in size to the largest American cat, the Jaguar.
Monkeys: Yasuni supports the highest number of primates in the world and Napo Wildlife Center is particularly suitable for enjoying wonderful views of most of them.
Giant Otter: This entertaining mammal is critically threatened in Ecuador and a small but healthy population can be seen along the streams and lake of Napo Wildlife Center.
Caiman: A common sight on night explorations of the jungle are the red gleam of caiman eyes, along the water's edge of Anangu Lake.
Hoatzin: A modern-day Archaeopterix with a funky mohawk crest, the Hoatzin can be seen clumsily balancing on branches along Anangu waterways.
Toucans: A total of seven species of toucans inhabit Napo Wildlife Center, boasting their disproportionate bills and attractive plumages in all colors including olive-green, deep reds and brilliant yellows.
Harpy Eagles: With talons larger than a human fist, the queen of Amazonia lives on the highest of trees, seeking out prey and quietly overlooking the kingdom.
Fish: Piranhas are probably the most infamous of Amazonian fish, but there are more fish species in the Amazon Basin than all of the Atlantic Ocean.
Frogs: Glass frogs that are see-through, others that carry babies on their back, small and colorful like candy, and some who carry food to their young over 100 feet up in the canopy.
Butterflies and Moths: Amazonia is a land where beautiful, neon-colored morphos can be outshined by moths: vibrant green and gold Uranias.
Rhinoceros Beetles: Like armored tanks they move through the forest floor, they are known to carry up to 800 times their body weight.
Good old forest exploration by foot is probably the most informative way to learn the secrets of the rainforest. These are some of the most important trails.
Napo Trail cuts from the Napo River to the Lodge, somewhat parallel to Anangu stream, yet the experience is very different since you are on foot. The trail is rather flat terra firme forest, which makes it easy to walk on.
Community Trail runs along the Napo River, closer to where people are, since Kichwa villages are also spread out on this road. It is not deep jungle, more riverine second growth (as opposed to primary forest) giving you the opportunity to see different things, and yet another picture of diversity and differences of wildlife in the Amazon Basin.
Tiputini Trail is probably the wildest of them all. If you walk long enough on it, you will see the most variety in terms of habitats, such as swampy forests and hilly terra firme. It is endless forest that reaches the southern border of Anangu territory and beyond.
As is the case of many of the Kichwa communities, Anangu has strived with much difficulty to keep their ageless traditions intact, perhaps a near impossible task in this modern day. Anangu remains very proud of their culture and aware of the need to preserve the natural resources of their territory.
Today, at the Yasuni Kichwa Ecolodge, stay at the community itself, visit the many different local endeavors that seek to keep authentic age-old customs alive and spend quality time with the privileged keepers of the Yasuni National Park.
Customs & Lifestyles
The Kichwa community has lived in the tropical rainforest for ages, learning to survive where traditional means of agriculture are unsuccessful, in a full-fledged jungle where nature is so overpowering that man is truly just a tiny speck within its complexities. These aspects play an extraordinary role in the lifestyles and customs of the Amazonian Kichwa, who keep a deep respect for their environment. At Yasuní Kichwa Ecolodge you will have the opportunity of experiencing how a culture can thrive in what some have considered deeply inhospitable to man, coexisting with the animals and plants of an extreme biodiversity center. You will get to meet people of a different mindset, learn about their views on friendship, marriage and religion, their arts and crafts, interact with shaman and community leaders, begin to understand the roles and dynamics between genders and generations, and explore unique outlooks on religion and spirituality.
Two native cultures inhabit Yasuní National Park, the Huaorani, a tribe that only recently was contacted by Western civilization, and the Kichwa, who are also found in other areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin, and live and administer the 21,465 hectares (ca. 53,000 acres) of the Añangu lake property. The Kichwa are spread throughout Ecuador, and Amazonian Kichwa have settled along the Pastaza, Aguarico, Curaray and Napo rivers (among others). Their defining factor is their language. Either through the need for communication with Andean communities or imposed by missionaries, the Kichwa language spread throughout Amazonia. Today, people who speak Kichwa have organized themselves into communities that share a common territory, with several families owning a piece of land within communal lands. One of these such lands is Añangu, on the banks of the Napo River, inside Yasuní National Park.
Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!