Eco-Lodge in the Amazon

Aerial view of Sacha Lodge and Pilchicocha Lake, Ecuador

The last bit of my trip to Ecuador this spring ended with a few days at a lodge buried in the Amazon jungle rain forest. After landing in Coca, we were taken over two hours down river via an oversize motorized canoe, which roared along back and forth across the wide Napo River, slowing down for sand bars that only the boat guide could see. We left the boat and had our first close-up glimpse of the forest, walking a path that was variously solid ground, buried logs, raised boardwalks with rubberized grids for traction, and mud. The Teva sandals and Keen shoes proved useful, and I now understood why we saw a few other people waiting for their boat in Coca sporting tall rubber boots. They’d been here before.

Leaf-cutter ants crossing our trail with their tiny loads.

After a twenty minute walk with frequent “ooh, look at this!”, we came to a little dock and piled into two canoes, which were then paddles through waterways lined with lush growth. This where your houseplants come from, but here, they are on steroids. Thirty minutes later we entered The blackwater* Pilchicocha Lake, surround by low rushes, where the lodge is perched.

Sacha Lodge was founded by a Swiss man, Arnold Ammeter, who spent most of his life working and traveling in South America. A bit over two decades ago, he bought a piece of land from local landowners and started his lodge. Originally opened with six guest rooms, it now has about two dozen rooms with no plans to expand, and his small area has grown to 5000 acres, maintained as a wildlife sanctuary. The naturalists and employees of the lodge are primarily from the local native peoples, many of whom speak Spanish as their second language. Everything at the lodge must be brought in the same way that we arrived, and all garbage is taken out the same way. The lodge has a water well, and a treatment plant. The lodge, built of natural timbers, is rustic, spare, clean, and comfortable. If you want to get away from civilization, out of reach of phones, emails, texts, and TV, this is the place.

First view, Sacha Lodge dock

I’ll write a bit more about the things we did and saw on this journey, but need to beg some photos from my traveling companions.

Looking over docks and lake

Room and adjoining deck. I had a nice nap on my hammock!

* The term blackwater describes the appearance of the water of such rivers, which is a dark coffee color. This color results from the leaching of tannins from the decaying leaves of adjoining vegetation. Blackwater rivers are also characterized by striking water clarity; so clear that visibility may exceed 30 feet (9 meters). However, after rainstorms, blackwater rivers can lose their typical clarity and color while sediment runs off from the surrounding forest. Within a few hours to a few days, the normal conditions return. > Chemically, blackwater rivers are very low in dissolved minerals and often have no measurable water hardness. The very acidic, almost sterile water, with a pH between 3.5-6, keeps parasite and bacterial populations to a minimum. For this reason, blackwater rivers are considered some of the cleanest natural waters in the world, most often compared to “slightly contaminated distilled water.” The water chemistry of blackwater also inhibits the proliferation of insect larvae, so the forest around blackwater tends to be less “buggy” in terms of floor-dwelling mosquitoes. – from Mongabay.com.

I expected the rainforest to be incredibly hot (like, over 100 F) and that huge dense swarms of mosquitoes would suck me empty. There were almost no flying insects, and while it was very warm, especially in the sun, it was not unbearable. The 118% relative humidity, on the other hand, rendered my passport curled , my shirts soggy, and my glasses perpetually slipping down my nose. But in a good way.



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  1. Packing for the Amazon – Epilogue « Two Different Girls

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