There is no human feat capable of competing with the power of nature at its most diverse. This deep knowledge has driven the Añangu community to create an Amazonian adventure unparalleled in the world. This deep knowledge —at various levels— has inspired this native group of the remote Ecuadorian Amazon to show the world the importance of preserving their spectacular jungle realm. A knowledge of deep-rooted ancestral heritage. A knowledge of incomparable nature and a conviction that there is no place in the world as rich in experiences as their own backyard, on the banks of the Napo River, within the Yasuní National Park.
It all starts the moment you get off the plane
Napo Wildlife Center is Añangu’s star project. The community has created, with great tenacity, conviction and effort one of the most special projects within tropical rainforest in the world today. When you find such astounding infrastructure in the midst of unfathomable stretches of lush vegetation, you wonder just how —with what machinery (helicopters, river barges…)— did this miniscule village actually manage to transport everything out here… The amazing response you hear from the native guides is that it was all brought in the very same traditional canoes that takes us gently, through small streams, to the lodge… Each wooden beam, each refrigerator, each metal rod to create cabins, kitchens, the skyscraping observation towers…
These are details that make a world of a difference in a long-lost paradise like this. Details in logistics, organization, just plain old manual labor (epic manual labor!) with few possible comparisons not only within the country, but the world. Details that one notices immediately, every step of the way.
From the moment you get off the plane in Quito, you forget all your worries because here, the Añangu community, with meticulous care, leads the way to create the most comfortable, safe, and once-in-a-lifetime adventure possible. A specifically designated airport advisor waits at the counter to guide the group to their next connection, a flight to the border town of Coca. The next time you see your suitcases will be once you make it to your cabin… six hours later. From here on in comes —in increasingly exciting stages— the amazing journey to the “black heart” of the most imponderable jungle on our planet.
The plane transfer from the capital Quito, straddling the Equator amid high mountains in the heart of the Andes, to Coca, on the headwaters of the Napo River, produces our first impressions. In only half an hour, we have been transported from temperate, spring-like weather to the humid tropics, dominated by endless forest. The Añangu community is the only ecological lodge that owns a pier at this river port, tucked away from the busy, polluted public-access docks. It is, again, only a detail; but not just any detail. Boarding here offers a more comfortable and beautiful transition —one can already sense the breadth of Amazonia— from civilization to the great natural realm that awaits.
The second stage of our trip takes us along the Napo, a powerful café-au-lait colored watercourse that carries within it dozens of rivers and hundreds of streams that have traveled here from the high glaciers and páramo of the Andes on their way to the mighty Amazon. In comfortable seats, you enjoy this river journey, even more, offering a different perspective depending on every traveler. Some will be stunned by the immensity of natural surroundings; others will notice the environmental impact of the oil industry. The trip lasts two hours, and you feel the warm tropical breeze on your face as the motorized canoe whips east, deeper into the jungle proper.
The third stage —only those who stay at the Napo Wildlife Center will experience this leg of the journey on the day of arrival— is undoubtedly the most exciting, and the reason why one travels so far. The community dock is located on a small black-water stream, a rowing-only affair that takes us slowly into the natural kingdom of the Yasuní, surrounded by parrots, monkeys, and birds of all kinds, under the shadow of thousands of trees, with the possible encounter of giant otters, sleeping caiman… About two more hours that most visitors will never forget —a true immersion…
The luxuries of Napo Wlidlife Center
Luxury is a word that depends a lot on the circumstances. In the middle of Amazonia, miles from civilization, luxury can mean something as simple as a cappuccino… or a hot shower. But at Napo Wildlife Center, luxury goes much further. Although one feels surrounded by vegetation, the vast, always-cool cabins (which also blend fabulously with the surroundings) create a hybrid between the ancient wisdom of the Kichwa and the advantages of modernity, offering electricity, all the amenities of any five-star hotel, from cotton towels to bath slippers and fresh drinking water filtered by a state-of-the-art purification system.
Luxury is also, of course, the fact that all rooms have a porch and a view of the lake; that, smothered in trees, rooms offer an ideal perfect of the forest, with herds of monkeys or flocks of birds whipping by the window. Suites even have a Jacuzzi and waterfall-style showers, as well as a glass bottom that allows you to admire the forest that lies beneath. And of course, the luxury of being able to explore this great nature during daily activities. Walks in various types of forests, canoe rides, evening outings, visits to salt licks where you will not only see dozens of macaws and parrots at no distance but where tapirs and even jaguars have been recorded, along with fabulous observation towers where you can see what nobody sees: the world of the jungle canopy over 50 meters above the ground, home to harpy eagles, saki monkeys, sloths and specific bird species that don’t descend to other strata of the forest. A paradise for nature lovers of all kinds, and a growing trend: insect photography… you won’t believe the shapes, and colors of Yasuní’s insect world!
Experiential like no other
The Añangu community has preserved their traditions for thousands of years and their second product, Napo Cultural Center, offers a fascinating cultural journey, a window into human life in the depths of Amazonia. Guests stay on the banks of the Napo —they can venture out to all the regular Yasuní National Park visitor sites offered at Napo Wildlife Center— with the added perk of coming face to face with the community that makes it all happen.
Perhaps the Ancestral Catamaran is the most poetic experience. The mamakunas, or elder women of the community, take us on a voyage downriver at night, on a large boat with a bonfire, telling stories from past, present and future of the various spiritual, concrete and hidden worlds that make up the jungle. Under beautiful starlit skies, the mamakuna perform ancestral music, inspired by the natural muses that envelope them.
Explore the secrets of the forest, day-to-day customs, beliefs and origin myths, the use of blowguns, medicinal plants, mocawa bowls, and power necklaces that absorb evil spirits, dream interpretation and communication with horns, all under the watchful eye of the jaguar that peers, from its hidden layer, at this magical world…
Only in Ecuador
Yasuní National Park holds record numbers of species diversity for various living organisms (plants, birds, insects…). The Añangu project is the only Amazonian lodge located within the boundaries of this megadiverse park; it was the first site to prohibit hunting, ensuring sightings of its amazing biodiversity, becoming the most successful community-run operation in the Amazon Basin, its profits indiscriminately reinvested in the community.
Photos: Murray Cooper, Yolanda Escobar y Juan Pablo Verdesoto.
Address: Yáñez Pinzón N26-131 y La Niña. Edificio Las Carabelas, Oficina 101. Quito – Ecuador
US/CAN +1(800) 250-1992
UK: +0800 0325 771
Office Quito: +(593 2) 600 5893 / +(593 9) 9275 0088