With no set itineraries at Napo Wildlife Eco Lodge, you spend each day viewing wildlife and experiencing and learning about the complex natural beauty of the Amazon rainforest via guided walks and canoe rides, accompanied by bi-lingual expert naturalist guides. Choose from a list of excursions best suited for your interests and activity level. Of course there's plenty of time to relax and enjoy the lodge as you're experiencing the essence of the rain forest.
To get to Napo Wildlife Center, you fly by jet from Quito to the town of Coca (officially known as Francisco de Orellana) on the Napo River. After a short drive from the airport to the dock, you board a large, motorized, covered canoe for a scenic two-hour trip down the Napo River. Upon arriving at the entrance to the NWC Reserve, you switch to smaller, dugout canoes and are paddled up the blackwater creek to the lake and lodge (no motorized transport is allowed on the creek or lake so that wildlife isn't disturbed).
Paddling up the stream is a great introduction to this unique area, and can take anywhere from one to three hours. You might see giant otters, potoos, kingfishers, Hoatzins, jacamars, hawks, and monkeys. You have lunch en route and arrive at the lodge by late afternoon.
ACTIVITIES AT AND FROM THE LODGE
Parrot and Macaw Clay Licks.
The two licks at Napo are the most accessible parrot and macaw clay licks in Ecuador. Blinds have been built for guests to view them so as to keep a low profile. Clay licks form an important part of the biology of parrots and macaws. Both parrots and macaws live by eating nuts from a variety of trees. Some of these trees have a toxin in the nut to protect it against having their nuts eaten by animals and birds. Any animal that eats the nut will then become sick.Parrots and macaws have evolved with these trees, and have developed their own response to the toxins in the nuts. The response lies in the clay. Certain minerals in the clay neutralize the toxins in these nuts, so parrots and macaws seek out deposits of this very special clay. Once a deposit is identified, parrots and macaws will come many miles to eat the clay. This allows them to eat more nuts, and in turn allows them to survive periods when the non-toxic nuts are not available. Napo has discovered almost a dozen exposed areas of this clay within the reserve.
Saladero de Loros Lick:
The blind nearest Napo (Saladero de Loros) is typically visited by hundreds of individuals of Mealy Parrot, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Dusky-headed Parakeet, and occasional White-eyed and Cobalt-winged parakeets. The blind at this site is huge, with plenty of space to hold 30 guests at a time, and even includes a basic bathroom. Access is a simple 50 meter walk along an improved path.
Saladero de Pericos Lick:
The blind in the forest (Saladero de Pericos) is typically visited by a thousand or more Cobalt-winged Parakeets. The noise is incredible! From late October through early April, hundreds of Orange-cheeked Parrots are also found in the mix, as are rarities such as the Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet and occasional Scarlet and Red-and-Green macaws. It is almost certain that other small parakeets visit this clay lick, and new species for the region and Ecuador are just waiting to be discovered. Access to this clay lick involves a 700 meter hike on an improved path with stairs and boardwalks where necessary. The blind itself will hold up to 20 guests and affords fantastic views. Birdwatchers will note that this is where one can find the famous "Manakin Trail" with 6 species of manakins.
The 120-ft. (36m) high canopy tower is a great way to experience the life above the forest floor. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center (the first is attached to the dining hall and allows great views of the lake). The canopy tower is located about 20 minutes from the lodge deep within the terra firme forest.
As you ascend the 12-story tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is actually built into the crown of the tree and experience the view formerly reserved only for the birds and monkeys.
The metal tower itself was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers. Safety is the priority, but so is ecological sensitivity. Most of the canopy towers in Ecuador encircle the tree with a scaffolding of wood. The platform in the top of the tree was constructed by tree platform specialists brought from Peru and incorporates bumpers to make sure that the platform does not scar the tree. From here you'll see flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, Blue-and-yellow Macaws fly past, and nearby trees Spider and Howler monkeys search for fruit. Two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you (lucky guests have even seen both Harpy Eagles and Crested Eagles in a single morning!). Animals that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence. The canopy tower opens a whole new world to guests of the Napo Wildlife Center.
568 species of birds have actually been seen in the Napo Wildlife Center Reserve area. Some obvious highlights include the world's largest and most reliable population of Zigzag Herons, frequent sightings of Agami Herons, virtually guaranteed sightings of all five kingfishers found in the Amazon, and a great population of mixed-species understory flocks and ant-swarm specialists. There are 51 species of antbirds here. The Canopy Tower has produced some amazing sightings including Black-faced Hawk, Crested Eagle, and Harpy Eagle in addition to the cotingas and canopy tanager flocks that pass right through the tree.
Many mammals have been found at the Napo Wildlife Center. Upwards of six species of monkeys have been seen in a single afternoon from the Dining Hall tower, so you have a very good chance of seeing lots of monkeys. The Golden-mantled Tamarin is a stunning little monkey found only south of the Napo River, and so the Napo Wildlife Center is the only lodge on the Upper Napo River to have this species.
Giant Otters are also seen. There are two family groups that move among their dens, and they are found in all of the streams and in the lake in front of the lodge. These Giant Otters are one of the reasons that no motorized boats are allowed on the streams or lake, and appear to be curious (rather than scared) when visitors happen upon them. Again, Giant Otters are not found on the north bank of the Napo, so Napo Wildlife Center is the only lodge on the Upper Napo River to have this species. Capybara come into the lodge compound almost every night. You will have to stay up relatively late to see them, but they are almost always there. Peccaries, Tapir, Brocket Deer, and all of the Cats are difficult to find, but when found are generally seen quite well. There has been no hunting in the Napo Wildlife Center Reserve for well over a decade, so these animals are not abnormally scarce or frightened by humans.