We arrived to Sani Lodge by canoe and it was a very nice sight to see the lodge as we approached on the lagoon. We were greeted with a drink and taken up to the bar/common room where we also got a snack. We got some information about the lodge and were told which group and guide we were going to be with for the days at the lodge.
First I was put in a group with a family of four (where the two girls were quite young) and an Italian man who didn’t speak very much English. In the other group there was a German family of three and an American couple. The German family was the only ones, besides me, that were going to stay at the camping. As you can’t go to the lodge on your own from the camping but must be picked up by canoe I thought it would be more convenient if I was in the same group as they and I could change group which was good. The Italian man later got his own guide who spoke Spanish.
When at Sani Lodge you will get both a bilingual guide (that might not be from the Sani community) and a native guide. Our guide was Jorge, who also works at other lodges, but is originally from the Sani community and with us was also Nelson.
Our group did a short hike in the afternoon, while the other group just rested, so I was glad that I had changed group.
In the afternoon, after we had been to the camping with our things, we made a short hike along a path behind Sani Lodge. Among other things we saw leaf cutting ants, Conga Ants, termites and termite nests, the foot print of a puma or jaguar, a small toad, ground wasps and a balsa flower and tree. We were pointed out several species of plants, but as I haven’t written down their names I don’t remember them. It was nice to get a first walk in the rainforest (and I’m glad I wasn’t in the other group that just had a rest this first afternoon).
After breakfast the second day we went to the Tower. To get there we first took a canoe ride on the lagoon and nearby stream. It was a beautiful and very tranquil ride and among other things we saw Long Tailed Bats, a kingfisher, Hoatzins, Great Anis, Smooth-billed Anis and flying macaws along the way. On the jetty were the canoe stopped there was a big millipede.
From the jetty there is a short walk to the tower. At the Tower there is a metal stairway beside a tall Ceiba tree and in the crown of the Ceiba tree, at an altitude of 36m, there is a wooden platform for viewing the canopy of the rainforest. We stayed here quite long and it was very nice to be above the treetops. Jorge had brought a spotting scope and through it we could see Howler Monkeys in a treetop further away. We also saw a beautiful blue bird which I can’t remember the name of, and of course some other birds as well.
After visiting the Tower we went for a walk through the rainforest. During this walk we saw several frogs; a tree frog, a rain frog and a poisonous dart frog (a female, which is not so colourful as the males can be). We also saw a small toad and a butterfly with transparent wings.
From the tower Nelson had gone back to the canoe because our walk didn’t end at the same place we had arrived to, but at another jetty, at the beginning of Daniel’s Trail, so we were picked up there.
After lunch we stayed at Sani Lodge to practice blowing arrows with a blowgun. Jorge showed us and then we all tried several times. For me it wasn’t easy as I could just use one hand (the other was broken). Jorge held the blowgun for me and I had to say how high. Well, once the arrow I blew touched the fruit we were trying to hit.
Shortly after we had started the rain begun to pour down very heavily and we had to take a break and wait in the bar/common room for it to stop.
The blowgun has for long been used for hunting. The arrows are dipped in curare, a poisonous liquid made from plants and animal venom. When hit the curare paralyses the hunted animal.
After lunch we had practiced to blow with a blowgun. It didn’t take the whole afternoon so later we went for another canoe ride on the Chaullayacu lagoon and stream. As always in the canoe it was very peaceful. It had rained a lot during the afternoon but had now stopped. The sky was still very grey though. During this canoe ride we saw hoatzins, vultures, a tiger heron, a kingfisher, flycatchers and mockingbirds, and more. We also saw lots of squirrel monkeys moving across the stream. On the way back to the lodge I was dropped at the camping as I wanted to take a shower when it was still light outside, and I arranged to be picked up an hour later. This was the only time I was all alone at the camping.
After breakfast we took a canoe ride to the Monkey Trail. As always this canoe ride on the lagoon was very nice and tranquil and we saw many birds. Among others we saw a kingfisher, hoatzins, mockingbirds, a woodpecker, a hummingbird and a Great Tinamou. On the way back from the Monkey trail we also saw an anaconda curled up in the reeds. It had eaten a porky pine a few days earlier and was now digesting it. From its body spines of the porky pine were sticking out, but apparently it was not dangerous as they would eventually fall of.
At the Monkey Trail we hiked for five hours and during the hike we saw three species of monkeys; Common Night Monkey, Mono Negros (small Tamarin Monkeys) and Woolly Monkeys.
The night monkeys are active during night so when we saw them it was through a spotting scope and they were high up in a hollow of a tree trunk. Their faces looked very funny I think. To find the woolly monkeys we had the leave the trail and follow the sound of them. It had rained a lot during the night and it was wet and muddy so it was very good to have rubber boots. We found the Woolly Monkeys and they were sitting high up in the canopies of the trees. Some were moving and some were hanging from the branches. I didn’t get a photo as they were moving quickly and also hidden partly behind the leaves.
During the hike we also saw a lot of other interesting things, among others; a tarantella, a stick insect, a millipede, wasps, toads, army ants, tracks of a tapir, strangler fig, a plant used as contraception, a plant used to stop bleedings of wounds and a liana with lots of fresh water in it.
After lunch, which was served at 13, we rested at the lodge for a while. Later in the afternoon we went out with the canoe to go Piranha fishing. We were not so lucky in catching fish. Only Jorge got a Piranha, but it was small so he let it back in the water again. We could all feel the piranha nibble on the bait and several times we had to change bait. As we didn’t get any piranhas when fishing we didn’t get any to eat at dinner. That was a pity as I have eaten it once before, in Venezuela, and even if there isn’t much meat on them they tasted very good.
Well, we were not lucky with the fishing but we had a nice canoe ride anyway. As usual it was very nice to sit in the canoe surrounded by the tropical forest and only hearing the sound of the paddles and the jungle (and some occasional low talk from the passengers). On the way back to the lodge we saw a big group of squirrel monkeys moving across the small stream. We stopped for a long while to watch them. They are so quick so they were not easy to take photos of, but I got some blurry photos anyway.
After dinner we went for a night hike along a trail going in a loop from the lodge to the camping. We saw a small green frog, a worm, a wolf spider, a small snake curled up in a tree, a small iguana, giant grasshoppers and more.
I used my head torch during the walk, but when I wanted to take photos it became a problem as the camera shaded the object. And as I had a broken wrist I couldn’t hold the torch in one hand and the camera in the other. But someone was kind to light up the objects, unfortunately with a light that was too bright. And with only one hand for the camera much of the photos got too blurry.
After breakfast on the fourth day at Sani Lodge we made a hike along the Eagle Trail. The Eagle Trail starts behind the lodge and part of this trail we had also walked during our first day at the lodge, but now we made a much longer hike.
During this hike I ate something being alive for the first time in my life and it was lemon ants. Even if they are called Lemon Ants I got surprised that they actually tasted just like lemon. Not everyone in the group wanted to taste the ants, but if you get the chance do it, it is not scary at all.
We also tasted palm heart and a fruit that was a relative to the coconut. We were shown several plants used for medicine among others a bitter leaf that ease the pain of snake bites and another plant used against stomach ache, diarrhea and vomiting. We saw a Sangre de Dragon tree which has got red sap, the plant which fibres are used to make Panama hats big ceiba trees and much more.
Along the trail we also stopped to swing in a liana swing.
The day we were going to Sani Isla community we ate lunch already at 12 and then we went to the canoes to go to Rió Napo. That means we first took a canoe ride on the small stream Challuayacu and then walked on the boardwalk to Rio Napo. Before going down to the large motorized canoe that was going to take us to the community, Nelson picked some red thorny fruits from a tree. The seeds can be crushed and mixed to a red colour. With this colour my group got our faces painted. The colour is also used for colouring soups.
The boat ride on Napo River to Sani community took 15 minutes. Our walk around the village started by the school. The children had holiday so it was empty, but we could see how the classrooms looked like. Then we walked past the pharmacy, clinic and the big meeting hall (without going inside). When meetings are held in the meeting hall and decisions are taken every man and woman in the community have one vote. We continued to a field where we looked at what was cultivated.
Then it was time to visit the women’s cooperative. They had prepared a yummy meal for us with fish, larvae, yucca, plantains and more (I have made a separate tip about this), and of course I tasted everything! I also bought a small bag made of fibers of a plant we had seen on one of our walks near Sani Lodge.
Sani Isla is a Kichwa community. People here live of agriculture, fishing and hunting (but hunting they try to reduce as much as possible). Many people of the community also work at the community owned Sani Lodge, and at other lodges in the area.
The caimans are more active during the night so one evening after dinner we went out in the canoe to go caiman watching in the lagoon. We were not very lucky and only saw the eyes of two caimans hiding in the reed. The water level was high those days and when it is you don’t see the caimans as often as when the water level is low. At the camping we could hear them hunting during the night tough.
The best with this canoe ride was not the caimans but the starlit sky with the Milky Way. Instead of looking for caimans I looked at the sky and I saw the Southern Cross and also a shouting star. Beautiful!
All other 14 tourists were leaving Sani Lodge this morning, and so were Jorge, the guide my group had had since we arrived. For this last day I therefore got a new guide, Danny, who is originally from Riobamba and the native guide was Guillermo.
After breakfast we all left in the small paddle canoes for Río Napo. When everyone else went to Coca in the big motor canoe I, Danny and Guillermo went in a smaller motorized canoe to the clay-lick. The clay-lick is on the river bank of Río Napo and it is a place where parrots gather to eat clay. It is believed that they do this to get the sodium in the clay. When we arrived there were two other boats there with tourists from other lodges. I saw the parrots, took a photo and suddenly they were all flying away. I was told that there was probably something like a snake scaring the parrots, and yes, we later saw a boa in the tree. The other boats left but we waited to see if the parrots came back and they did. At the clay-lick we saw Doski-headed parakeet, Blue-headed parakeet and Mealy Amazon.
After watching the parrots for a while we drove slowly along the river banks of Río Napo and its side branches to look for birds. The birds we saw were: Cocoi Heron, Coloured Plower, Yellow-headed Caracara, Great Putoo, Black Caracara, Black-fronted Nunbird and Ladder-tailed Night-jar.
Back at Sani Lodge we first stopped at the camping to pick up my luggage. Danny had asked the manager if I couldn’t stay in a cabin the last night (without paying more) so that I didn’t have to be all alone at the camping.
In the afternoon we went to Daniel’s trail. As often it started with a lovely canoe ride on the lagoon and small river. When we came to the starting point of Daniel’s trail I recognized the place because it was there that Nelson had picked us up after the walk from the Tower.
Daniel’s trail is called so because it can take you to Daniel’s house by the Napo River. When the trail forked we took the left trail to make a loop and later come back to the same point. Further on we came to a point where the trail got broader and we walked to the right (if we had turned left it would have taken us to Daniel’s house). We also passed the path coming from the Tower. During the walk it started to rain. It had been dry before but very soon parts of the trail got muddy. I had brought the rain poncho but Danny and Guillermo who hadn’t cut off some big leaves to use as umbrellas. They called them “poor man’s umbrella”.
Among many other things we saw a tarantella, both a small and a large Sharp nosed toad, a Mantis praying, the red bowl shaped fungi the Devil’s Cup and a balsa tree with flowers on the ground. I also recognized a tree with a red flower from a previous walk as the plant women use as contraception. I asked Danny if I was right but he didn’t know the plant, but Guillermo told me it was correct. I had of course not recognized the tree if it hadn’t been for the red flower. On the way back to Sani Lodge we saw the anaconda again, the anaconda I had seen a few days earlier and it still had the porky pine spines sticking out from its body. We also saw a Capped Heron.