While traveling to the other side of the world to experience the wilderness of Ecuador, it’s important that you get the best bang for your buck, the most bounce for the ounce, or, in less flowery terms, the most value for your money. Spending less or more on your jungle lodge doesn’t necessarily mean that your experience will be any better or worse than other alternatives, but it’s important to research all possible avenues.
Sacha Lodge can be reached by a 25-minute plane ride to Coca, a 2-hour motorized canoe up the Napo River, and then a 20-minute walk through the forest. This authentically built lodge sporting exposed timber beams, bamboo accents, and private terraces adorned with hammocks grace the edge of a dark lake in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. The lodge strives to provide guests with locally sourced, sustainable food such as Paiche, an Amazon river fish, in its fine à la carte menu, which is refreshed on a daily basis. Many animals, including monkeys and endemic birds, can be seen here from the observation tower, canopy walk or on one of the Lodge’s many hikes, but some walks involve a steady hike deep into the rainforest. Activities include river paddling, forest walks, a visit to the local Yasuni indigenous communities, and a canopy walk. In every aspect, the lodge endeavors to protect the unique natural resources and stop deforestation of the rainforest.
Napo Wildlife Center
The trip to the Napo Wildlife Center is included in the experience, as arriving includes a trip to Coca (by car or plane), a 2-hour motorboat ride, and then 2 hours in a paddle canoe. Located deep in the Yasuni National Park and surrounded by water, the Napo Wildlife Center and has close ties to the local Kichwa community of Añangu. It closely follows sustainable eco-tourism standards by working on renewable energy, education, and health care projects for the community. All waste is processed to protect natural swamps, and the energy used at the center is generated by a variety of solar panels, industrial batteries, and silent generators. The clean, white rooms decorated with raw wood accents and draping fabric are simple but elegant. The center provides guided hikes throughout the forest to be sure that you, as a bird watcher, can see the rainforest’s flora and fauna, many of which can also be seen from the central tower offering 360o views of the surrounding area.
Mindo is a small popular village located about two hours from Quito by car. It is famous for its extreme sports, such as tubing on the river or ziplining through the cloud forest. It is full of small lodges and bed-and-breakfast type establishments, more of a “backpacker paradise” than the high-end lodges on the rest of the list. Activities around town include a chocolate tour through the cacao fields, cable cars, and visits to the several waterfalls in the area. Although a few animals can be seen on guided tours and a visit to the butterfly garden, Mindo is more attractive to those who enjoy thrill-seeking and adventure. For those who aren’t quite up for flying across a valley on a rope, one of the other options is probably a better fit. Keep in mind Mindo is a beautiful town, but if if you are looking for something more remote, secluded, and intimate, it might not be the best choice for you.
Mashpi Lodge is a luxurious hideaway cocooned in the Choco rainforest located less than four hours from Quito. It offers an array of hikes with varying difficulties and times. Each hike offers something unique, including jungle swings, an observation tower, waterfalls, a cable car, and a sky bike. And, of course, every walk offers the opportunity to spot a lot of flora and fauna, including many endemic birds, animals, and butterflies.
After a hike, Mashpi Lodge offers its guests the chance to relax at its award-winning spa for a deep-tissue massage, soak in its open-air hot tub, or enjoy a rejuvenating yoga session. Its restaurant offers a top dining experience, predominantly using sustainable and locally sourced products.
One of the main focuses of Mashpi Lodge is to contribute to science; therefore, it employs a full-time research team that is actively performing research on the surrounding ecosystems and species in the area. The researchers at Mashpi are always happy to teach guests about new discoveries and ongoing projects. The laboratory and expedition room at Mashpi Lodge both help visitors get all the information they want to know.
What do you want in your Ecuadorian forest experience? What is most important to you? Choose a lodge that has the smallest footprint on the surrounding environment, actively supports local development, offers the best adventure in the forest, and is also comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable – in short, a place where you’ll create memories to last a lifetime.