Ecuador – Sani Lodge

We flew from Quito to Coca on the banks of the Napo river to begin our 2.5hour trip in a motorized canoe to Sani Lodge. This highly recommended tourist destination is deep in the jungle of Amazonia; set up and run by and for the benefit of the Sani community. The wide and brown river – a bit of a navigation nightmare with sand banks and studded with tree trunks is busy with boats ferrying locals to their homes and tourists to resorts along the river.



arrival boat

From the main river, it was a 10 minute walk, then a paddle in a canoe before we reached the lovely Sani Lodge.

sani arriv

sani dockboats


sani bedOn our first evening we meet Lucy, the resident 3m long caiman who lives under the deck. Fortunately she only ventures ashore when she is encouraged by staff.


A night walk uncovered very large, very hairy tarantulas, millipedes the size of dinner plates, frogs, bats and owls but fortunately no anacondas or pumas.

Our small group for all activities was great fun. David from London, Shome,  a Brit who now lives in Sydney and Karen, an American travel writer.


The day starts early here. We met for 5.30am breakfast so that we could get to the 35m viewing platform early when the birds are most active.

tree obs

The birdlife (500 species) varied from tiny humming birds to toucans, many species of parrot, macaws to osprey and vultures and spoonbills and cranes. We were so lucky, as we could see a wonderful assortment of colourful birds from the viewing platform. Our favourite was the toucan, feeding very close to the viewing platform.

touc3touc4Our superb guide (Victor) who speaks the local Indian dialect of Kichwa, Spanish and English who was born in Sani. He was amazing – he could spot a monkey at 200m high in the trees through dense jungle. We saw capuchin, spider and squirrel monkeys. We heard, but did not see the noisy, elusive but very aptly named howler monkeys.




We spent several days paddling the creeks, walking the trails,  learning about the medicinal properties of plants and spotting a tiny fraction of the bird and animal life. Some favourites were many magnificent prehistoric ‘stinky turkeys’, large herons, and tiny bats which spent their day on a tree in the middle of the creek.



Victor took us in our small canoe piranha fishing one afternoon – you don’t do that everyday! Victor caught our dinner but the only piranha hooked flicked off before Victor landed him in the boat.


sunset cerilloWe joined other boats to view the hundreds of parrots who visit  the ‘clay licks’ each day. The clay is important to detoxify palm seeds which form a main part of their diet.

Version 2

We walked through more pristine jungle to a recently established butterfly farm run by a local family.

jungle path


girl1After our tour of the Sani community centre’s school and food growing areas, we were given the opportunity to taste some delicious traditional local food cooked by the Sani women.

sani commsani cooksani lunchWe turned down Victor’s offer of eating a live larva from the palm tree beetle. These very mobile, thick white critters are about 8cm long and are eaten alive, head first, (as demonstrated by our guide Cerillo) are a great delicacy. The fact that they taste like prawns I’ll have to take their word for!



The Sani women raise money for the community by selling handcrafts and coffee.

sani ladies

After our faces were painted in traditional patterns we tried our hand at the art of blowgun hunting – amazingly accurate even for us mugs.


paint girls

paint boys

sani girl

Our last night paddle spotted a number of caiman lurking along the river – surprisingly easy to spot as their eyes reflect the torch light beautifully.

sunset canoe

A too early departure left us wishing we had a few extra days at Sani Lodge. A wonderful place – we’d definitely recommend you add this one to your bucket list! The staff, food, accommodation and guides were all fantastic. Not to mention the sunsets…..sunset 5sunset 6

6 thoughts on “Ecuador – Sani Lodge

  1. Hi Cathy and Ian, Glad to hear you are enjoying the joys and experiences the Amazon has to offer. The bird and primate life is stunning and when you get to see them it is even better. We visited this area in 2010 , staying at Sacha Lodge then we went onto the Galapagos.

    Hope all goes well for your sailing season and we will look forward to reading your blog to learn about your adventures.

    We are enjoying being home in Melbourne but we are planning next year. Heading back to Greece and Turkey.

    Safe sailing. Cheers Jane and Stuart

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks Jane & Stuart,
      Your blog brought back so many good memories of our favourite spots in Turkey and Greece. Love Leros! Enjoy Christmas and happy planning for next year

  2. What a fabulous side-trip! Glad it all slotted in so well, and that Ian now knows how good makeup can make a boy look. D & A xx

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