For those on a Galapagos holiday, adding a visit to the famous Sacha Lodge in Ecuador is the perfect way to top off a truly memorable wildlife watching experience. With Ecuador's only canopy walk and a rich, exotic wildlife population, the lodge is set within a 5,000-acre private reserve. It is renowned as South America's best and most accessible rainforest sanctuary. |
One Man's Dream
Located in the Ecuador Amazon region, a 30-minute flight from the capital, Quito, the lodge is set on the edge of Lake Pilchicocha. It is the dream personified of a Swiss adventurer, Arnold Ammeter, known locally as Benny. Benny arrived in the jungles of South America in 1963, travelling and working in various countries until settling in Ecuador, in 1979.
Sacha Lodge (the name means forest in the Quichua Indian language) was born from his desire to establish a lodge and wildlife reserve deep in the Amazon jungle. He purchased an original 500 hectares of pristine rainforest surrounding Lake Pilchicocha from the local landowners of Coca, and the lodge opened 1992. Since that time, Benny has continued to acquire land; the present day reserve encompasses an astounding 5,000 acres, much of which has been saved from potential deforestation.
Ecotourism At Its Best
As well as offering a safe refuge for the diverse plant and wildlife species of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Sacha Lodge provides an important link between conservation and development. Visitors are able to enjoy the magnificent wildlife, while also learning about the local culture and contributing to the economy in a meaningful and sustainable way.
An Amazon Wildlife Adventure
The journey to the lodge requires travelling by private motorised canoe down the Napo River. Along the way, birdwatchers are in their element, with constant sightings of ospreys, kingfishers, spoonbills and herons.
After a short hike along a boardwalk (accompanied by the cries of monkeys overhead), visitors arrive at the blackwater Lake Pilchicocha, which is teeming with fish and animal species – including omnivore and scavenger piranhas. Dugout canoes then transport passengers to the lodge. The adventure truly begins with an exploration of the reserve's extensive features.
The Canopy Walk: The Canopy Walk allows visitors to, quite literally, walk through the treetops, more than 30 metres above the ground. Stretching for 275 metres, the walk allows sighting of countless birds, monkeys and myriad epiphyte plant species that are rarely visible from ground level.
The Treetop Walk: Set at a height between the ground and the rainforest canopy, the Treetop Walk affords a close-up look at this mid-layer of the rainforest, where visitors will encounter a different world of small mammals, reptiles and insects.
Kapok Tower: This 43-metre observation tower is the ideal spot for birdwatchers to observe some of the more than 500 avian species that may appear above the rainforest canopy at sunrise and sunset, including toucans and parrots. There's also the opportunity to see Howler Monkeys and Three-toed Sloths.
Butterfly House: This is the largest butterfly breeding conservatory in the country, now home to 40 local species. Visitors can walk among the butterflies for an extremely up close and personal experience. Include Sacha Lodge on a Galapagos Holiday
Combining a Galapagos holiday with a visit to Sacha Lodge creates the ultimate wildlife watching adventure. Nature lovers will encounter the unique endemic species of the Galapagos Islands, along with the plant and animal life of the hugely diverse ecosystem of the Amazon – without doubt a genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Marissa chooses the expert-led Galapagos holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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