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“Our Trip of a Lifetime”

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Napo Wildlife Centre
Certificate of Excellence
Gainesville, FL
Level 6 Contributor
386 reviews
59 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 393 helpful votes
“Our Trip of a Lifetime”
Reviewed January 9, 2014

My husband and I just returned from a 7 night stay at Napo Wildlife Center and 7 nights were not enough for us. I doubt that this review will be able to adequately put into words the absolutely amazing time that we had at this wonderful lodge. As biologists, our primary interests were to see the vast and diverse fauna that call the area home, and we were not disappointed. We were fortunate to have wonderful guides – Guido and Freddy – who seemingly could find anything. This was the trip of a lifetime for us.

Searching for wildlife in the rainforest can be difficult – so many places for the animals to hide. Small, quiet, patient groups are more conducive to success. We like to go at our own pace, and we’ve been known to watch the same group of monkeys for 20 or 30 minutes. We are as thrilled with finding small frogs, lizards and snakes, as we are at finding monkeys and macaws. We like to see biology in action. There are a number of strategies that can be used to improve the odds of seeing wildlife - go slowly and look carefully; be as quiet as possible; be patient; be willing to search in the day, night, sun and rain. We did all of these things, but really the two most important aspects are luck (which you have little control over), and having an expert guide. Because wildlife viewing was so important to us, we decided to spring for a private naturalist guide; this also provided us with our own local guide as well as a canoe and paddler just for us. We were so fortunate to have Guido (a freelancer arranged by NWC) as our naturalist guide – his English is excellent, he knows and can communicate a lot of biological information on the rainforest and its inhabitants, he listens to the interests of his guests, he is quite charming, and is a talented photographer. Freddy, our local guide was awesome – he was friendly, knowledgeable, and took very good care of us. They kept us safe from the wildlife, dehydration, and our clumsy selves.

The second decision that we made that enhanced our trip tremendously was that we decided to stay 7 nights, rather than the standard 3 or 4. Like those on the 3 or 4 night options, we were able to hike and view wildlife from the canoes and observation tower as well as visit the clay licks and the Kichwa interpretation center. Staying for 7 nights also allowed us to visit the Kichwa community and see the new school and some of the interesting and innovative sustainability projects they have implemented. We spent a day searching for pink river dolphins and fishing for piranha at Panacocha, and we took a night hike to clay lick #2 and spent the night there (every day of the trip was great, but this day was extra special). Overall, we saw 8 species of monkey (squirrel, red howler, owl, dusky titi, monk saki, capuchin, wooly, and golden mantled tamarin), 2 agouti, a herd of collared peccaries (talk about thrilling – Freddy heard them and took us off trail to hear and see them smashing through the forest), a three toed sloth, a tayra crossing over the creek just 15 feet ahead of us, and a giant otter family; 18 species of frogs (including poison dart frogs); several species of lizards; 6 species of snakes (including an anaconda); and over 70 species of birds. The number of birds may seem low for a 7 night trip, but except for one morning at the observation tower, we really were not looking for birds – most of these we just sort of ran across. We saw monkeys stealing eggs from bird nests and other interesting biological interactions. Note that there are no guarantees that you will see as much (although you may see more) – this list is just provided to demonstrate that the area is teeming with wildlife.

Not only did Guido and Freddy find tons of wildlife, it was great to see how thrilled they were when they did so. Very (authentically) enthusiastic about seeing and experiencing nature. This seemed to be the case for all of the guides at Napo – when one guide heard about something being seen (like the anaconda), word quickly spread to all of the guides, who would then seek out their groups and get them quickly to the right spot to maximize the chance that the animal would still be there.

The lodge itself, the location, and the staff are all wonderful. We concur with the rest of the 5 star reviews in terms of the:
Cabinas – well designed, very clean, comfortable bed, great shower (hot water! excellent flow), and view (ours, cabina 6, was right next to the lake)
Food – three well-prepared meals a day, with snacks (small cheese or chicken salad sandwiches and/or fruit) served on hikes and other excursions. The food was perfect for us – nothing fancy but good home-style local food. Favorites included the ground plantains with chopped bacon for breakfast; the delicious fresh fruit; different breads/rolls at dinner each night; avocados; beef with sauce; roast pork; fried yucca. Fresh juices you can’t find in the US, but served every day at breakfast in the jungle. Our favorite – cold fresh juice (or on the one cool rainy day – hot chocolate) provided to us at the end of every excursion.
Service – service seems like the wrong word because everyone was genuinely kind and caring, and did the best they could to make our visit the best vacation ever. By the end of the week we felt more like friends than clients. Please tip generously – the guides, paddlers, and other staff work extremely hard to make your stay wonderful.

A few tips you might consider:
1. Private guide! This is one option that I think NWC could make more obvious on the website – we probably would not have known it was an option if we had not read it in the TA reviews. And it made our trip unforgettable.
2. The lodge sells (but does not seem to advertise) an illustrated booklet of the birds and mammals found in the area. You can buy it at the bar, and it was a great resource. If only they had the same for reptiles and amphibians!
3. Be open to the experience. Visiting the community with our guides (both Kichwa) was a great experience. Sleeping overnight at the parrot clay lick in the middle of the jungle was unforgettable. We ate ants (taste like lemons!) and drank chicha. We trekked after the elusive wooly monkey. Experiences we will never forget.
4. Have reasonable expectations as to what you will see. We had two incredible night hikes and didn't see a single mammal on either hike – frogs, sleeping lizards, snakes, spiders, and similar animals are much more likely. At the observation tower, many birds will be far away and you will need to take a look through your guide’s spotting scope. Sometimes you come up empty – we never did see the river dolphins and only saw the otter family on the third try (and not where they were supposed to be, but back in the lake as we were heading back to the lodge for the last time). Nature is fickle.
5. Don’t be freaked out that you are asked not to hike without your guide. If we had known this ahead of time it might have been a deal breaker for us and that would have been a huge error. It turns out that there are few trails that can be reached without getting to them via canoe, and the secretive nature of the fauna makes it unlikely that you will see much anyway without a guide. So we did not find being with our guide on all hikes to be a problem. Guido and Freddy were great – we told them we did not need a lot of down time and that we wanted to do night walks and they made it happen.
6. Be kind to the animals. For your safety and theirs, handling the wildlife is mostly off limits. On occasion you may have the opportunity to hold something your guide says is safe. If you have deet or other bug spray on your hands – don’t hold the frogs! They breathe through their skin and can easily absorb toxins.
7. We didn’t want to carry a lot of cash to Ecuador, so we checked with the lodge ahead of time and found that we could charge our tips to our Visa card. You might want to contact the lodge before you leave home to make sure that this is still allowed, but this helped us a lot.

We cannot recommend NWC highly enough, and we are already trying to decide when we can visit next.

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
15 Thank reptileenthusiast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 14, 2014
Dear Michele Many Thanks for your review and recommendations to other users,

Fills us with happiness to all our staff at Napo Wildlife Center that your trip has been more than gratifying, and that you has shared so many wonderful experiences during your stay.
It's true that for so majestic place 7 days are few to admire all its charms, and you'll always have new stories to share.
We are pleased that you enjoyed every one of the activities that we offer and that your expectations have been satisfied, you as biologists know how unpredictable is the jungle, but still you were able to see many species.
We'll give your congratulations to our restaurant staff and guides, especially Freddy and Guido for their excellent guidance and for making your trip more gratifying, they always feel a lot of happiness to be thanked for their services.
Thank you very much for your advice, we always take into consideration the little details that our guests perceive and can improve the quality of service offered for us,
Please feel free to follow the wildlife of NWC in our social networks.
We hope to see you again!

Wildlife Regards.!
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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573 reviews from our community

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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (182)
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English first
Mississauga, Canada
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed January 7, 2014

It’s rare that I leave a place as thoroughly satisfied. Perfect location, great rooms, good food, great guide, good service. NWC is top notch as far as ecolodges go. Our time there as close to a visit to paradise as we’ve experienced. Any small areas for improvement seem rather inconsequential when looking at this experience as a whole, sure NWC benefits from being situated in one of the most biodiverse places in the planet, but they have clearly worked on ironing out the kinks here and seem genuinely interested in improving their already high quality experience.

Our suite (#14) was awesome, did we really need a Jacuzzi, bar fridge, and wi-fi in the Amazon? Probably not, but that gives you an idea of the kind of experience NWC is aiming for. A different fresh fruit juice every day after an excursion, little hors d'oeuvre on arrival, a bottle of wine to compensate for the ongoing construction of the new observation tower and dining area, these touches add to the already enjoyable location.

As other reviewers have noted Delfin is a terrific guide, one of the best we’ve had. Thanks for the tip off fellow Trip Advisor reviewers. Without him this trip would not have been what it was. He made sure we got exactly what we asked for, planned carefully in advance and was good company over meals (guides join the group for all meals). Knowledgeable, sharp-eyed, highly recommended.

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank Jason Z
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 8, 2014
Many thanks Jason for your review,

we are pleased to hear that your trip was enjoyable, i'm going to send your comment to Delfin as felicitation, please feel free to follow us on our social networks in order to stay in touch with the wildlife and thanks for share your experience with others.

Kind Regards,
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level 6 Contributor
119 reviews
48 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
Reviewed January 5, 2014

I would rate the resort a 4.5. Our flight from Quito to Coca was cancelled or overbooked. The lodge arranged a private, 16 person prop plane from Latacunga to Quito. That was an appreciated gesture. We had to ride back, at the end of our trip, in a bumpy 5 hour van ride. Not sure why the airline would have overbooked more than 16 passengers; some of the Napo guests did get on the flight.

The arranged transport from Coca was well executed. The 2.5 hour ride on the motor canoe was comfortable. The box lunch was good and well- put together. The non-motorized canoe ride, of 2 hours, was uncomfortable. They added padded cushions to the seats, but having to take this ride back and forth 2 full times (needed to get to the parrot lick trips) was an endurance test. A person needed to constantly adjust seating positions. Of course what was seen on the trip was very interesting; overall we saw lots of wildlife and jungle foliage etc.

The local guide was very friendly and helpful. Our bilingual guide was also pretty good. The food at the lodge was great- always about 3 different interesting salads, 2 desserts, and a few entrees including accommodations for guests vegetarian etc needs.

The canopy tower excursion was good- no birds could be seen other than through spotter scopes, but we did see a few interesting ones. Not sure why our guide waited so long to start the return trip, but we nearly had to run back to get to the canoe before dark.

If there was one excursion to skip, I would say the terre firme one was a good choice. We saw no birds, and it was 2.5 hours of hot walking through the forest.

At the clay lick, we saw the parrots, but from a long distance, and it was hard to get good pictures. I had the impression from advertising that we would have better viewing. The parakeets never did come down at the salt lick, but this is nature and wildlife does what it wants.

Overall, we saw 35 species of birds, 3 types of monkeys, caymans and river otters. I wish we would have seen the 160 or 190 species that other reviewers mentioned. We were here 3 days; I would recommend one more day to feel a sense of relaxation; we had to get up at 6, 5,and 4:30am on our three mornings.

From a service perspective, I would rate the lodge a bit lower on one point. We had dropped something behind our cabin, in a large mud pile, and 2 different staff said they would help me, but no one ever did. We had to climb down there with our rubber boots. Beware the lake- there are caymans and piranhas, with inadequate signage warning of the danger. On our last night, the lead guide talked for 40 minutes starting at 8:20- congratulating staff and asking for our tips. I thought this was way overkill- many of us had to pack and all had to get up at 4:30. I'd suggest trying to exit before this talk starts; hopefully the lodge will hear feedback and keep the staff congratulations to a reasonable 10 minutes. Not that we don't appreciate staff, but I think the length of the talk was disrespectful to the paying guests.

Overall a beautiful, remote lodge, with lovely cabins, great wildlife viewing opportunities, and knowledgeable staff.

Room Tip: We enjoyed unit 14, on the far end, which afforded privacy, with a whirlpool tub. Some stated that t...
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  • Stayed December 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank georgierocks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 14, 2014
Many thanks for your review,

Our sincerely apologise for the inconvenience generated by the cancellation of flights, this was generated due to the high demand for tickets at this date, but we assure you that we will be more prepared and this inconvenience will not be repeated again .
With respect to the non-motorized canoe rides, we commented that we are working about this issue, and we are analyzing the best way to improve your experience at our lodge.
We regret that you haven’t seen all the wildlife that you expected and that we offer, but this is because the jungle and wildlife is not predictable, even so we always try to take our guests on the trails where they can appreciate the greater many species ,
We will give your congratulations to our restaurant staff and guides, they always feel a lot of happiness to receive appreciation for their service, we will try to shorten the talk given by the guide and do not cause discomfort.

Please feel free to follow the wildlife of NWC in social networks.

We hope to see you again!
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Surrey, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
168 reviews
45 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 173 helpful votes
Reviewed December 23, 2013

I stayed here birding on a Birdquest tour.

There wasn't anything that I disliked.

What I loved here included:

* Fantastic journey to get here - both the fast boat along the main river (about 2 hours) and then the paddle canoe along the narrow waterway to get to the main lagoon an lodge (we took about 3 hours to watch wildlife (including Otters) - others had a much shorter and more direct journey - it probably pays to specify what you would like.

* Remarkable guiding - if you have not done this before the jungle is both sort of teeming and empty. There is very little that is common, but many examples of rare. In a jungle environment this makes finding your bird or other wildlife tough - even if you can hear that the bird is close, it doesn't mean that you or indeed anyone can find it.

We had Juan Carlos Calvachi, a renowned Ecuadorian bird guide leading our tour, but the star of this show was the local guide Remigio Greta, known as Remi. This young man went to fantastic (and normally very successful) efforts to find us birds (and other wildlife) that we would not have seen. On a number of occasions finding incredible spots to set up a telescope to wonderfully reveal an otherwise totally hidden jewel of a bird. His cheerful good nature, enthusiasm and patience was valued by all of our group.

* Wonderful comfort in the middle of Amazonia - 10s of miles from the nearest road

* Very enjoyable food

* A setting beside the lagoon to die for, just beautiful

* Incredibly little issue with bugs

* Just fantastic wildlife - with so many species of birds seen, and some great views of monkeys and yes we were lucky to watch the family of Giant Otters for nearly an hour

* Great, sturdy canopy tower looking through and over the jungle

I think that we had the optimal Napo River trip by staying here for three days and then crossing the river to stay for a further three days at the also wonderful Le Selva Lodge.

That said I could easily imagine coming back here and staying longer.

Remember - nothing is guaranteed in relation to wildlife - but I think it fair to say that if you love wildlife, nature in general and birds in particular it will be difficult to have anything other than a spectacular and incredibly memorable time.

Room Tip: I had a room beside the lagoon and besides what was the restaurant area - this is being changed with...
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
7 Thank M&G_OnTheRoadAgain
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 8, 2014
Thank you for your comment,

It’s very rewarding to know your experiences and we are very pleased to has been satisfactory, we will send your comments to Juan Carlos and Remigio for his excellent guidance, we are pleased to hear that you loved the flora and fauna of the Ecuadorian Amazon, please feel free to follow us on our social networks to stay in touch with the wildlife.

Kind Regards,
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sacramento, California, United States
Level 4 Contributor
34 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
Reviewed December 3, 2013

We stayed at Napo for 3 nights around American Thanksgiving, but 4 nights would have hit the sweet spot, partly because it takes about 4 hours to get in or out and also because of the early wake-up calls, even on departure day. An extra day to relax in our hammock, overlooking the lake, in between a morning and afternoon excursion would have been heavenly!

We had Delphine as our naturalist guide, and we highly recommend that you request him. He is not from the Napo community, but he is an indigenous person of Ecuador, so compared to all the other naturalist guides we saw, Delphine added a sense of "authenticity" to our trip. His English is perfect, his knowledge is remarkable, and he has a sixth sense for spotting animals. Keep in mind the jungle is not a zoo. You never know what you may run into, but it helps to be with a guide who is so in tune with nature that he can spot a sloth sleeping in a tree in the far distance while canoeing down a stream.

Random Thoughts:
- Groups are already small, so I don't see the point in getting a private guide (unless you are a serious birdie on a mission).
- They provide rubber boots, which are nice for trekking through muddy jungles.
- Food was surprisingly delicious, despite being buffet-style.
- Don't forget to bring U.S. dollars to tip! They recommend $5 per person per day for the staff and $10 per person per day for the naturalist and native guides. The bartender is not included with the staff, so tip the bartender separately if you get a lot of drinks from him.

Napo may seem a tad pricey but feel good that you are supporting a local community doing great things in the name of eco-tourism. This was an incredible experience, and we can't wait to come back!

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
4 Thank Minh H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 8, 2014
Thank you very much for your comment,

We are pleased to hear that your experience at the Ecuadorian Amazon has been rewarding, and share your experiences and recommend to other users, we will send your comments to Delfin for his excellent guidance, if you want to keep in contact with the wildlife can follow us on our social networks.

Best regards,
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
Level 5 Contributor
74 reviews
38 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed December 1, 2013

We chose this place carefully from among several in the area, and were not disappointed. The location is beautiful and peaceful, lodging is clean and comfortable, and the food is good (they did an especially good job with my vegetarian requirements, which was a pleasant surprise). But the true highlight is the guiding - our naturalist and native guides were extremely knowledgeable, accommodating, and excellent company throughout our 3-day stay. Our visit to the indigenous community supported by the lodge was also well worthwhile. When we visited the restaurant was under construction so meals were served on the terrace - which is a lovely place and the food was still excellent.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Avatar627
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 8, 2014
Thanks for your comments,

We are pleased that you have chosen to Napo as your destination, and your trip has been most gratifying, we are happy to hear that their food requirements have filled your expectations, we will send your comments to Delfin and our restaurant staff for their excellent work, thank you very much for your support to the community.

Best Regards,
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
849 reviews
76 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 362 helpful votes
Reviewed November 18, 2013 via mobile

The Napo Lodge is run and owned by the local Kichwa people of the Anangu community. It's very much an Eco lodge and everything possible is sustainable. There are 20 or so wood and reed cabanas overlooking the lake and they are very comfortable with huge beds (mosquito nets provided) and fantastic bathrooms with lake views. The food was top class - every meal was outstandingly good (always 3 or 4 choices and always 2 or 3 desserts and fresh fruit). The guided walks (we were 4 people with a naturalist and a local guide) were fascinating and we saw lots of wildlife, though we saw more at the parrot clay licks and in our canoe safaris where we paddled quietly through the water channels and saw otters, birds, caimans, snakes, sloths and many monkeys. A wonderful all-round experience.

  • Stayed November 2013
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Neil R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NapoWildlifeCenter, Public Relations Manager at Napo Wildlife Centre, responded to this review, January 14, 2014
Thanks for your comment Neil,

we are so pleased that your trip has been very gratifying and that you shared your experiences,
we will send your comments to our staff of restaurants and guides for their excellent guidance, we are pleased to hear that you loved the flora and fauna of the Ecuadorian Amazon,

Please feel free to follow the wildlife of NWC in our social networks.
We hope to see you again!

Wildlife Regards.!
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Napo Wildlife Centre

Property: Napo Wildlife Centre
Address: Yanez Pinzon N26 -131 | la Nina. Edificio Las Carabelas, oficina 101, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
Phone Number:
Location: Ecuador > Yasuni National Park
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Yasuni National Park
Number of rooms: 16
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 Centre Ecuador/Yasuni National Park

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