Our family of four (with 2 kids, ages 11 and 8) signed up for the 5 night / 4 day experience at Napo Wildlife Center. We had researched all of the available options, and we were so glad that we chose Napo. It is located within Yasuni National Park, with great hiking trails only a short distance away (by canoe).
We paid extra ($325) for a private guide as we wanted flexibility with our children. Each day our extremely knowledgeable guide took us out canoeing and hiking along with a local naturalist (also exceptional). Our kids are experienced hikers, and we went on some challenging, and very fun, hikes where we encountered a flabbergasting variety of animal life—five kinds of monkeys, boa constrictors, a huge anaconda, colorful birds, black caiman, a two-toed sloth, camouflaged frogs, a wide array of fascinating insects and spiders.
Our time at Napo gave us a greater understanding of how important each creature (and plant) is to the whole environment.
I am giving Napo five stars because our overall experience there was incredible. No place is without its quirks, however, and here are some additional notes that may be helpful in determining whether this place is for you:
The cabañas were very comfortable. We had a spacious room with one king size bed and two twin beds. There are mosquito nets over each bed; however, on our first night my son had a very large (over 3 inches) flying cockroach inside his net. We got used to these large creatures inside our room (they were intriguing). Bugs are to be expected in the rainforest. I put an energy bar wrapper on my nightstand while reading in bed, and within 10 minutes the wrapper was swarming with teeny tiny ants.
And speaking of bugs, we did have to make liberal use of our mosquito repellant. We tried using a “natural” repellant, but that didn’t work at all (the mosquitoes seemed to love it), so we ended up with the hard-core variety, which did in fact work. We hiked through swarms of mosquitoes.
We did swim in the lagoon, which was refreshing. The water is opaque, and you cannot see anything below the surface. Something did brush against my leg under the water, which was a bit unsettling (this is the same water in which the caiman, snakes, and other sea creatures live). But our kids loved jumping off the dock over and over, and enjoyed the water immensely.
I don’t think that it matters which box you check on the questionnaire regarding whether you wanted intense or easy hiking. There seemed to be a basic itinerary for all the groups, with more flexibility for doing intense hiking if you have a private guide.
You are sorted into groups based upon your guide, and you stay with those groups for all your hikes and all of your meals. When we were there, there was a couple that didn’t pay extra for a private guide but actually got one because they were staying for a longer time. Then there was our family with a private guide. Then there was a large “melting pot” group of about 8 people who had the third guide. For each meal, we sat at the same table with our guide. I think that it would have been much better if there had been open seating during the meals so that we could have interacted more with other people.
The food was okay. Not bad, and the chef did seem to care, but it was nothing to rave about.
The tree-top tower offered a great view, but the railing is NOT safe for children—wide open spaces where a child could easily fall through.
The man waiting with glasses of fruit juice after each canoe trip was a good concept, perhaps, but he expected you to finish your juice on the spot and leave the glass with him. No time for sipping. I understand that they wouldn’t want sticky glasses left in the cabañas—due to bugs. However, the man’s energy was a bit too intense, and not in a welcoming, positive manner.
The Añangu Quichua Community provided a dance / educational presentation to show various cultural aspects of people who lived in the rainforest. However, the community only settled there within the last 75 years (or less), moving from the lower Andes mountain area and driving the Waorani people (who were actually living in this area) deeper into the rainforest and jungle areas of Yasuni National Park. Therefore, the dances / trapping methods / ways of life that were presented by the Añangu community were really part of another culture’s lengthy history, not their own. The presentations were still very interesting and educational, but not quite the same as if the people had been showing us their own traditions that had been practiced by their ancestors for multiple generations.
If it is raining, dress warmly for the motor boat ride down the river (to and from the lodge). It was pouring for our ride back, and even with the rain ponchos that were provided, I got very wet and cold from water blowing up under the boat’s side tarp.
With all of that being said, our experience at Napo was one that we will forever remember. It was fantastic, beyond our expectations, and we highly recommend it to others.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Napo Wildlife Center offers visitors a number of vantage points from which to admire and experience the spectacular, awe-inspiring diversity of the Amazon Basin. Climb the 120-ft. High galvanized-metal stairs to the jungle tower for otherwise impossible eye-to-eye views of canopy dwellers such as monkeys, eagles and macaws...Spy on clay licks teeming with parrots and occasionally visited by jungle cats or a magnificent elephant-muzzled tapir...Experience Man's ageless interaction with the jungle through the native community's perspectiveEnjoy evening walks to witness the astounding nightlife of the dense, entangled understory...Explore the many trails through "terra firme", "varzea" and swamp forest in search of the best that Amazonia has to offerBe it from the ground up, or from the canopy down, from hidden viewing blinds to silent paddling up black-water creeks, we deliver the biggest most intricate picture possible of this wonderful world. Napo Wildlife Center not only provides the educated perspective of bilingual guides but also the hands-on knowledge of the true guardians of Anangu, who live and witness the marvels of their jungle home every day. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Napo Wildlife Centre Hotel Yasuni National Park
- Napo Wildlife Center Ecolodge Ecuador/Yasuni National Park