We chose Napo lodge because we wanted to stay somewhere luxurious in the jungle - the reality of this place just does not match the price tag. The room was worn and tired - big holes in the mosquito nets, holes in the window nets (no glass, just nets), curtains which are flimsy, see through and not even large enough to cover the window. This was actually a real problem for us given the location of the hut we were given whereby it wasright on the route to the dining area/bar so we had no privacy as lots of people were passing by. The room doesn't have a wardrobe, only a few hooks.
The setting on the lake is undeniably beautiful - try to get one of the rooms closer to the lake to get some peace and quiet away from the main path to the communal area.
The communal areas are fine and the food was nice; nothing to rave about but there was some limited choice each meal, and we never went hungry. We knew before we went that you had meals at a table with your group and your two guides (naturalist and local guide). After a few meals this became very hard work and conversation became quite awkward. It would have been nice to have a choice of where to sit and some smaller tables on offer. Perhaps just evening meals, but not breakfast and lunch, could be taken like this to find out about the next days activities?
In terms of the activities - firstly I should say that our guides were excellent (Miguel and our local guide David). Both were extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and we felt in safe hands with them. However, despite being asked when we arrived what our interests were and there being
a roughly 50/50 split in our group of people who had a bias towards bird v's mammals, our interests were largely ignored. This is definitely the place to come if you are an avid bird spotter and were aware of that before we came. However, it did make me really angry when on one rare occasion when we actually managed to spot a monkey - we only paused for a few seconds before racing off to try and find another bird that had been spotted downstream. Even when we went caimen spotting (which for us was going to be one of the highlights), the flashlight was used to look for birds more than it was caimens, so we hardly saw any caimen.
The other things to be aware of is that you have no choice over activities and a lot of them are based in a canoe rather than walking which surprised me. The first few canoe trips were amazing (half the fun is getting to the lodge!), but we had to keep going up and down the same creek because of water levels being low on another - it did get a bit repetitive. I asked if we could do some more walks but apparently there are only a few trails; a short one which we did walk to get to the tree canopy but the others apparently we didn't have time for or weren't accessible enough. One of the activities was visiting their cultural centre; we did not enjoy this - despite the good intentions it felt very forced and awkward, and given the choice it is not something we would have wanted to participate in. In general our whole group felt by the end of our stay that we were fed up of hearing about the sustainable side of the lodge and how it is run by locals and supports the local community - don't get me wrong, I genuinely agree this is fantastic, it just felt quite rammed down our throats.
The tree canopy tower was also rather disappointing - it's just a very small platform, not with walkways as I had incorrectly imagined (and seen elsewhere in other jungles). Consequently it felt very cramped up there - there was no where to move with two groups using it at the same time.
The other thing to mention is that there is a LOT of downtime with nothing to do but sit on your balcony - which is all very nice, but not what we had paid a lot to come into the jungle for. When we asked if there wassomething else we could do the response was no because it's very hot in the day so there are few animals to see. Personally I would have enjoyed just being able to walk, even if there was less to see and it was hot. Activities are very early in the morning to mid-moning, and then late afternoon again. The day time activity used to be swimming in the lake - which is no longer allowed following the caimen attack at the lodge in 2012 - but nothing has replaced this activity.
One final tip - get in there early for rubber boots! By the time we got ours there seemed to be limited options available so a few of our small group struggled to find ones that would fit/were comfortable for various reasons.
All in all it was amazing to be in the jungle and it's a beautiful spot - the best bit was getting to the lodge in the mortised boat and then being paddled the rest of the way down the creek. However a lot of things at the lodge are just 'fine' and we had some real frustrations, so I couldn't recommend this lodge at this price. Napo lodge didn't meet any of my expectations based on the price tag, and I have to say that I have seen a luxury jungle lodge done so much better elsewhere in the world.
- 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