Napo Wildlife Center
I have always wanted to visit the Napo Wildlife Center. I dreamed of heading to the middle of the Yasuni National Park. The idea of being in the most biodiverse region of the world always intrigued me. What would I encounter at this amazing site? Would I be able to spot rainforest wildlife such as anacondas, macaws, monkeys, caimans, and such? What would my Napo Wildlife Center experience be like?
Planning for our trip
How to get there…
The Napo Wildlife Center is located 2-3 hours from Coca, Orellana on a speedboat. So, you first have to figure out how you will be getting to Coca from Quito. The only realistic way to get from Quito to Coca is on a short 30-minute flight. The other way is in a car or bus which takes 7-9 hours. I also suggest booking your flights with your travel agent. This way if the flight is canceled (which often happens) the lodge will assist you in the best way possible, they will wait for you at the airport in Coca and will help make sure you don’t miss out on your trip.
When to start planning your Napo Wildlife Center trip…
Me and my family started planning for our trip about 2 weeks prior to our tour. I am a travel agent and get along really well with the NWC operator so I was able to arrange for our tour with such short notice. I would usually not recommend planning a trip to the NWC with so little time in advance. It could be fully booked (almost was for us) or you can have trouble finding flights (this actually happened to me).
I was thinking of driving to Coca since I had worked there years back and wanted to save a bit on the flights. Nevertheless, about a week before our trip, I got word that the shorter road to Coca from Quito was closed because of a landslide. I had to quickly scramble to purchase our flights. The flights I needed were incredibly expensive (about 3 times the usual price), so I decided to fly in the day before our trip started. We had to spend the night in Coca and head to the pier to catch the speedboat the following day. Alas, it all could´ve been a disaster since I didn´t plan ahead. Fortunately, everything worked out for the best.
What to pack…
Now that we knew how we were going to get to Coca from Quito, we needed to know what we had to take with us.
- Insect repellant – a must-have…trust me
- Snacks – the lodge has a small store with some goodies and snacks but its always nice to have your personal favorites on hand. You can stock up on treats at the Quito airport.
- A good camera – I wish I would´ve had a nice camera not just my cell phone.
- Quick-dry pants – these are great, and by no means should you take jeans (really don’t).
- A good book or e-reader – there´s nothing like taking in the rainforest while reading a good book.
- Headphones and music – music sounds great while you ride the speedboat and looking at the stars at night.
- Binoculars – your guide will always take along his binoculars and let you use them but its always nice to have your own.
- Long sleeve shirts – Great to avoid the mosquitos and sun
- Hiking shoes
Don’t worry about boots, ponchos, water jug, slippers, hat, towels, blow dryer, and shower accessories they will all be provided for you at the lodge.
On our way
We were lucky to be able to get our flights to Coca and the departure day had finally come. We were so excited!
We left Quito in the afternoon on a small propjet. On the way to Coca you get to see volcanoes and the entrance to the Amazon Rainforest. Make sure to get a window seat!
Once you land in Coca, you feel the humidity and heat. Start hydrating as soon as you get off the plane. If you arrive to Coca on the flights used by the lodge you will be met my a NWC representative and escorted to the pier to catch your speedboat. Since we arrived a day prior to our trip start we took a cab to our hotel. We settled in the hotel and I wanted to reminisce about my time in Coca so I took my wife and kid to this small dive that sells the best plantain empanadas and other treats. They loved the empanadas and we continued to walk around town and headed to the pier. After some tasty ice-cream we went back to the hotel and called it a night.
The adventure begins
After breakfast we headed to the Coca pier to meet up with our guide. You have to meet the rest of the group at a hotel called ¨La MIsion¨. Our guide was already waiting for us at the hotel. We had some soft drinks, got the meet the guide and once the rest of the group arrived we took off on our adventure!
Speedboat to paradise
It takes 2-3 hours on a speedboat from Coca to the Napo Wildlife Center. The speedboat is very comfortable with nice big seats. If it starts raining, the speedboat has rain protectors they can pull out.
You will speed through the massive Napo River. I took along my headphones and played some of my favorite songs during the speedboat ride, it was true bliss!
During the speedboat ride, the guide will provide a packed lunch. You get a gourmet sandwich, fruit, an Ecuadorian chocolate bar, a tasty juicebox and some healthy andean chips.
After about 2 hours of speeding down the Napo River, you arrive at the ¨bodega¨. This is a stop to go to the bathroom, relax, hydrate, and board a small paddle boat. This paddle boat will take you down a stream all the way to the lodge.
We have arrived!
On the way to the lodge onboard the paddle boat, you will be greeted by wildlife and nature. This canoe ride is amazing.
You get to spot:
- Caimans – one got so close to the canoe …. way cool! (check out the video below)
- Tons of Monkeys
- Parrots and macaws
- Giant river otters
- Tons of birds
- Anacondas – we got to see one as soon as we arrived at the lodge
- and so much more.
This canoe ride is the perfect welcome to the Amazon rainforest. When you finally arrive at the lodge and paddle around the big lake you feel like a yesteryear explorer who has found an ancient civilization. It really takes your breath away.
What is the lodge like?
The Napo Wildlife Center is truly fantastic. It´s pristine location, the big lake, the tower, the food, the service, it´s all perfect.
When we reached the pier we were welcomed by the lodge manager and a cold juice. He gave us a quick tour of the lodge as our bags were taken to our rooms. We had some time to relax and unwind before dinner was to be served.
We were lucky enough to get a cabin with a lake view. The cabin itself is outstanding, it has comfy beds, a nice living room area and a beautiful bathroom and shower. On the porch you have hammocks where you can enjoy the rainforest and big lake.
Before dinner we got a briefing from our guide, telling us about the lodge, our next day activities and rules and procedures to follow.
Dinner followed, the food is excellent. You have a choice of entrees, main course and dessert. Meals are served buffet style and are very tasty. The dinner room is beautifully decorated. The main tower where the restaurant, bar, boutique and observation deck are located in is an architectural marvel. The tower is made with local materials and the elevator is one of a kind.
Later in the evening the guide took us on a night walk to spot insects and other fascinating creatures and plants. By the time I got back from this I was totally spent. I made a quick stop at the bar and had a Coca-Cola and headed to my cabin for some much needed rest.
Activities at the Napo Wildlife Center
I always try to participate in as many activities as I can. I wanted to do everything. Every activity was awesome!
This is your first activity. You have to take a paddle canoe once you reach the narrow river canals that take you to the lodge. I truly enjoyed this activity, it’s incredibly relaxed, you get to sit back and observe nature at its finest. Be on the lookout for amazing wildlife. During your stay you will have many opportunities for canoe riding. Always have your binoculars and camera handy because you never know what you can run into.
The Napo Wildlife Center has amazing forest trails to explore and trek. The lodge has diverse trails to choose from. Some trails are pretty easy but they also have longer more challenging trails. You will be accompanied by the guide who has a superhero-like ability for spotting insects, birds, and other wildlife. You will also learn about the distinct trees and their medicinal uses. Being out and about in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest is truly bliss. It seems like you re-energize your inner self and all the green and pure air makes for a feeling like no other on Earth.
Canopy Observation Tower
You can make your way to the one of a kind observation deck located at the top of the main tower.
During your stay, you will also make your way to the observation tower located in the sister lodge Napo Cultural Center. This observation tower is massive and you feel like you are flying on top of the rainforest canopy. Your guide will help you spot all kinds of birds from the tower. And you will be able to catch a glimpse of the out of this world Amazon sunsets.
Parrot Clay Lick
One of the most fascinating activities you will take part in during your Napo Wildlife Lodge stay is the visit to the parrot clay lick. You have to make your way early in the morning on a canoe first and then on a speedboat down the Napo river. You arrive at a dock where you get off and trek down a well made trail that takes you to a small hut. Here you have benches where you wait for the parrots and parakeets to arrive. A bathroom is handy here and you will be handed coffee, hot cocoa and snacks while you wait to see one of the most fascinating nature spectacles.
Interpretation center or visit to the community
During your stay at the lodge you will visit the local indigenous community at the interpretation center. It’s a traditionally-built cabana within the Kichwa Añangu community and its the perfect setting to learn about the traditions and culture of your hosts. The women of the community will welcome you with typical dances, music, rituals, handicrafts, artwork, food, and drinks. Its a pretty cool experience. Learning about the community and how they live their day by day lives in the middle of the Amazon rainforest is quite enlightening. After the dancing activity and learning about the community you make your way to a souvenir shop with hand made items by the community members. I got some cool stuff, a small bow and arrow, a wooden knife which I have hanging in my office and my wife got some jewelry which is really neat.
An Amazing Napo Wildlife Center Experience
I truly enjoyed my time at the Napo Wildlife Center. The lodge was beautiful and incredibly comfortable. The food and service at the restaurant and bar was outstanding. The guides were really cool and helpful. The activities at the lodge were very interesting and entertaining. My favorite activity will always be the visit to the parrot clay lick and the canoe rides in and out of the lodge. I also looked forward to hanging out at the observation tower, take a load off and read a good book, have a nice drink and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Amazon rainforest.
If you are planning a trip to Ecuador and would like to visit the Napo Wildlife Center. You can contact us with the below contact form. We can talk about the whole experience. I will answer any questions you might have and I will personally find you a great deal on your once in a lifetime holiday at the world renowned Napo Wildlife Center!