Sacha Lodge, Rio Napo, Amazon jungle
The flight to Coca in a 40 seat propeller plane was no problem and out boat ride down the river Napo to near the lodge took just less than two hours. The river is very wide – some hundreds of meters but full of sandbanks and dead trees so that the driver was continually changing sides of the river. Then there was a one hour walk along boards through the jungle to a small lake, where we were taken in canoes to the lodge. It reminded me a bit of the one in Nepal where I rode on an elephant to see rhinos. Lots of thatched bungalows and a big round one for the restaurant. We were in time to join two other Swiss people with a German speaking local guide for a walk in the late afternoon. We saw some of the smallest monkeys there are (pigmy marmosetts) and I saw some howler monkeys like I had seen in Argentina, also a small poisonous frog and one of those big blue butterflies with irridescant wings. Two nocturnal monkeys watched us from there hole high in a tree after being woken by our guide banging on it.
The next day we started early and walked about 15 minutes to a raised walkway 37 meters above the ground. From this height above the canopy of the jungle we saw several types of birds including several species of vultures and tucans. We were lucky with the weather since a heavy shower came soon afterwards, but cleared in time for our afternoon excursion by canoe to a huge tree with a wooden staircase up it. Apart from the flowering orchids and bromeliads the main attraction was a three-toed sloath feeding on the leaves of a nearby tree.
A short boat ride on the Rio Napo brought us close to a salt lick in a clay bank frequented by parrots, which could be observed from about 30 meters away from a covered platform serving as a large hide. The large numbers parrots came in 6 or 7 different greenish varieties. On the way to a second lick the boat ran aground on a sand bank adding some excitement. We had to land further away than planned and walked along the bank through high reeds to reach the salt lick site, which was like a small cave with some water flowing out of it.
For our excursions in the jungle we travelled in 6 seater canoes as well as walking over long raised wooden paths. There was also a tarzan bit swinging between the trees and a small river to cross with a seat and a pulley on a rope. It all went well and we saw quite a number of birds and animals although it is difficult in all the trees and undergrowth as I had expected. There were 6 different sorts of monkeys, a small anaconda, a sloth, alligators, parrots, tucans and lots of other birds. The hoazins are especially interesting since they have claws on their wings when young and appear in all the evolution books as a link between dinosaurs and birds. I took lots of pictures of plants in the jungle as well but I shall not remember the names of many of them. Most impressive is the shear profusion of growth in all directions forming a thick network of vegetation. The lodge has a butterfly farm which we of course visited. The rooms and the food were very good and the local guide spoke German for our small group quite well. An additional native guide was the best expert at spotting animals and knowing what they were.
At midday we retraced our route to Sacha Lodge and arrived back in Quito for one night after the 4 days in the jungle. On the flight from Coca we had good views of the summits of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo but their flanks were shrouded in clouds. This is the way they were to remain for most of our stay.