My daughter and I feel so privileged to have visited Yachana Lodge and been able to experience the Amazon jungle as we did. I chose this lodge based on Trip Advisor reviews and couldn't have been more pleased.
We were so lucky that we and 2 others were the only guests that our guide was responsible for. Juan was impressive--so knowledgeable, attentive and pleasant. Because the other two people were working with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, they spent much of their time with the founder of Yachana--Douglas, leaving us with Juan all to ourselves. This meant he was able to coordinate activities to our preferences. He even roasted cocoa seeds so we could make chocolate from scratch (peeling, grinding and making into a paste--then the best part--dipping small bananas into the fresh, dark chocolate) and he helped us weave baskets. My daughter enjoyed preparing a meal of tilapia cooked in leaves and hearts of palm and stinging nettle side dishes with the chef. We even ate cooked larvae--reluctant to try them alive and wriggling.
The night walk was a favourite activity--frogs, bats, a boa constrictor, a possum....
The visit to a local healer was also amazing. He performed a cleansing ritual then Juan challenged us to use the spear and blow guns to hit targets. May I say I did quite well with the latter.
Loved to see the world's tiniest monkeys and all of the other fauna and flora too.
We went on a trek into the jungle to find the prehistoric bird: the Hoatzin--got great video too.
Another day we took a double-decker type vehicle to do some bird-watching and visited a market frequented by the people from the jungle and surrounding areas.
One of my best memories is lying in bed after 10 pm (when the generator is turned off) in the absolute blackness of our comfortable cabin and listening to the cacophony of insect sounds (especially cicadas) outside of our screened windows. One night the drumming of rain on our roof drowned out all sounds but lulled us into a relaxing sleep.
It only rained that one night and a brief time one morning, otherwise the weather was great. It is very humid (after all, it is the rainforest) and hot but we managed to keep up with our guide. Be sure to drink a lot of water to remain hydrated!
Before we left for this vacation I contacted others who had posted on Trip Advisor re: questions that I had. Questions like: are there snakes, were you afraid to swim in the river, how was the canoe ride? I would like to allay the fears of anyone who is a bit concerned about potential dangers or would like to know what to expect. Here goes:
-we saw only 1 snake, a boa who resided in the thatched roof of one of the lodge huts (uninhabited)--he became active at night hunting the bats in the roof--no threat to us
-hats and sunblock are a must
-bring along your own light poncho (cheap at any Dollar store) if it rains but they do supply them in case you don't have one (we brought rain coats that we only needed for less than an hour) --they supply a pair of boots for your jungle treks
-definitely bring DEET insect repellent--my daughter was bitten many times when she fell asleep in the hammock on the balcony without spraying repellent first (lesson learned)
-the canoe ride in/out of the lodge was very pleasant--the seats are comfortable (see their Yachan video) and there is a lovely breeze as you traverse the mighty Napo RIver, in fact, we wore jackets for part of the ride--such lovely scenery
-the stairs where the canoe docks are steep and long so if you are not fit now, you will be after your stay (I lost 9 lbs by the time I returned home)
-there is always time to rest up/clean up between activities and before meals
-we chose not to swim/tube in the river although Juan said it was safe
-the food is locally harvested, fished, caught, made. It was reflective of the Ecuadorian culture and was delicious! It was served by the students from the Yachana high school--sweet boys with limited English but very eager to please
-be sure to sit on the deck and watch the sunset at least one night
Special mention should go to Douglas, the founder of the Yachana Foundation. It is his vision that we are allowing to flourish. The money we tourists bring in goes toward the running of the high school and land is being prepared for a university that should be ready by September of this year. Outstanding!
Douglas also encourages a friendly, open atmosphere. We were able to meet Jaun's wife and she joined us for a couple of meals. This really added to our overall enjoyment of this wonderful place. We felt at home and welcome--like a part of the Yachana family.
We hope to one day to return.