Tucked away in the far-flung reaches of the Equadorian Amazon there sits a boutique lodge perched on the edge of a placid lagoon. Located in one of the most biodiverse spots on Earth this community run luxury stay allows you to get away from it all, to relax in the midst of unparalleled beauty, to gorge on exquisite three course meals – and of course – to explore virgin rainforest, untouched by human civilization, in the hunt for exotic wildlife and the adventure of a life time. This place is Sani Lodge, and we were lucky enough to spend 4 nights here, reconnecting with nature and forgetting the stress of travel. Choosing an Amazon Lodge is difficult, there are many regions and accommodation options to explore – all of varying quality and wildlife options. What you need is first-hand information to choose the right option for you – so I have prepared this review of Sani Lodge, to explain its features and offerings. To also help you decide please look out for my future posts on why Yasuni National Park is the best place to explore the Amazon and why you should support sustainability in the Amazon.
Sani Lodge is best accessed from Coca, a boom/bust oil town in the far flung reaches of Ecuador. It’s a 45 minute flight or a 12 hour bus trip to get here from Quito. From here it’s a 2-3 hour boat trip down the River Coca heading into pure wilderness, which is included in the Sani Lodge prices. Then a 15 minute boardwalk followed by a 10 minute canoe trip to reach the surreal Amazon rainforest lodge and its tranquil lagoon. Surrounded by 100,000 acres of untouched primary rainforest, Sani is easily among the top of Ecuadors Amazon lodges for seeing wildlife – if not the entire Amazon region! Located on community land between the Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Reserve the biodiversity here will amaze you (as long as you don’t confuse diversity with abundance – the jungle is thick and dense! You will still need to keep an eye out!)
The community land surrounding the Amazon Lodge is managed collectively and is now entirely protected. There is a no-take policy to protect the fragile eco-system and strictly no interference with the ways of nature – if only all of Ecuadors Amazon lodges were so strict! As a result this pristine environment hosts over 1,450 species of trees, 550 species of birds, 13 species of monkeys and over a 1,000 species of stunning butterflies. You’re almost guaranteed to never see the same animal twice! On top of this the other Yasuni National Park lodges are either owned by a foreigner, built near oil drilling sights or near palm plantations (and in many cases both) which is sad – but if you want to see the biodiversity the Amazon is famous for, Sani Lodge is the place to be!
Each room is detached and plotted close to virgin rainforest and all connected by a wooden boardwalk. The rooms all feature wooden fixtures and comfortable, big beds with mosquito nets, however the room has mesh on all windows so we never heard a big or small mosquito inside the room. The beds are cleaned and changes daily which is fantastic if it’s a hot and humid night. There really is nothing like falling to sleep listening to the sounds of the jungle in fresh, crisp sheets. The porch has two chairs with views over the forest – perfect for relaxing in the evening while you slowly get the energy to take off your gumboots!
Each room also features a hot running shower which is amazing to get all the forest grime off after a long day – occasionally the hot water took awhile to come but trust me, a cold shower can often be just the trick! Overall, easily the nicest room I have stayed in in a jungle setting and perfect for relaxing and having a great nights sleep!
One of the highlights of our stay. Lunch and dinner both feature three course meals produced by a rather talented in-house chef (part of the local Sani community and trained in another lodge). The best food we had in Ecuador was here, and was nice to get away from the standard rice, bananas and salad found in everywhere else. Breakfast is a choice of eggs (however you prefer) or granola and yogurt, and both are accompanied by a side of fresh, tropical fruit, toast, and a changing fresh fruit juice. Most are locally produced in the community and it’s great to try new things (and be able to ask what on earth it is!).
Coffee, tea and filtered water are available 24 hours and alcoholic drinks from the bar. On arrival at the lodge we had beautiful mocktails and nibbles waiting aswell as on return from some excursions. My only suggestion would be to bring a few of your favourite snacks as sometimes you are a bit hungry when returning from an jungle hike and it’s perhaps an hour or so till the next meal. Plus it’s always nice to have some creature comforts. The packed lunches and snacks for day trips were great, and the lunch provided if you visit the Sani community is … different. Go with an open mind, and be relaxed knowing they have an alternative lunch from the lodge if needed!
The lodge is centered around a quiet lagoon which only the lodge has access to and the facilities are designed to take advantage of this position. Hammocks and comfortable seating is available on the dock to relax and watch the birds, bats and sunsets from this prime position and the bar area has the perfect seating to view inquisitive birds in the surrounding bush.
For those who can’t escape the modern world, WiFi is available but is rather slow (for obvious reasons), I preferred to disconnect but hey – if you need it, it’s there! The staff are always around to help with any bird identification needs, I would however like to see a few books with the amphibians, mammals and insects species in the surrounding area for identification in your downtime. Our guide explained we can find them in a bookshop on Quito – but that’s wasn’t much help!
The lodge is also lucky enough to have a 37 metre (100ft!) tall birdwatching tower nestled amongst an equally tall Kapok tree just a canoe ride from the lodge. An exquisite spot in the early morning or evening to watch the birdlife from a unique view above the jungle canopy.
The main reason to go on an Amazon Jungle Stay in Ecuador. Before departing from Coca you will meet your guide who will accompany you for the entire trip. We had three people in our group, and I believe the maximum is 4 or 5 depending on the combination of groups joining. We were also joined on every excision by a Shaman from the Sani community who didn’t speak English but was extremely adept at spotting wildlife and telling us about different plant uses. Very cool!
There are three activities available each day – one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one after dark. Do some or all, make it as intensive as you like, your itinerary is up to you. Before you even depart Sani Lodge asks what your specific interests are and let’s the guide know but on the first day it is good to have a frank chat about what your goals are on what you’d like to see and do. If you prefer full-on activity for as much time as possible, or if you would like a slower pace with more relaxing at the lodge and perhaps skipping a few night walks – it’s completely up to you and don’t be afraid to make your desires clear to the guide!
In general activities involve hiking, canoeing or bird watching from the tower. Each offers a different opportunity to spot a different kind of wildlife and the guides know which is best for the conditions. I loved them all! The relaxing vibes of canoeing in the small Amazonian rivers while monkeys swung from the trees above our head. The perspective offered in the tower over the jungle canopy, looking across the Amazon from above. Each activity there was something more to see. Just be sure to bring a decent pair of binoculars and/or a good zoom lens to make the most of it!
And of course just simply walking in the jungle, never being sure what you will come across. Leaf-cutter ants building their huge nests, hummingbirds darting around looking for their next meal, poison dart frogs camouflaged in the leaf litter or snakes slithering on the trees above. Anything is possible and the best thing maybe the interest it fosters in the little life forms – I can honestly say that our guides interesting explanations and local knowledge has fostered a previously unknown love of the creepy crawleys. And don’t miss the opportunity to go out and see it all at night – the jungle sound completely changes, and new and interesting species come out.
Sani Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon provides exactly as advertised – luxury and adventure in one of the Earth’s most biodiverse environments. The rooms were beautifully prepared and the food always exceeding expectations. Assuming you don’t mind the odd hiccup (like the river flooding when we were there!) or a cold shower when things don’t work (hey it’s the Amazon!) you will surely fall in love with this place and never want to leave.
While there are other Amazon Rainforest lodges near Yasuni National Park or Cuyabeno Reserve, they are not community run so by staying here you are ensuring the conservation of this land while helping to channel profits into the local community which benefits through improved healthcare and education. In addition this is one of the only Ecuador amazon lodges to be set amongst truly virgin rainforest and therefore your chances of encountering more mammals, birds and reptiles is much higher. Overall a beautifully executed, sustainable concept which offers you a memorable experience both in the jungle and relaxing around the lodge!
To find out more about a trip to this amazing Amazon rainforest lodge, or for more information on Sani Lodge prices and availability please contact them directly via email. For any questions about what it’s like to stay in an Amazon rainforest lodge please comment below and I’ll try to answer as best I can!
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