Ecuador Stories and Tips

Day 19 – March 30: Sacha Lodge

I thought we got up early in the Galapagos, but when the wakeup call came at 5:30am, I realized that was sleeping in.... When does our vacation start?!

CANOPY WALK:

Sacha Lodge has a canopy walk that is strung between 3 enormous towers 43m/135ft high. We met our guide and walked about a half mile through the forest when suddenly a metal tower appeared out of nowhere. It’s like the Eiffel Tower stuck in the middle of the jungle….

It’s a pretty long walk up metal stairs to the top, but what a view when you get there! I was happy to have our binoculars, super telephoto lens for the camera, and our guide’s spotting scope because there was so much to see!

We spent over an hour looking down onto the canopy when we saw the rain heading towards us. Our guide pulled out ponchos for us and we headed down off the tower.

We hid from the rain for a few minutes but then started our walk back to the lodge. It was quite dark under the canopy because of the rain, but somehow our guide found a crested owl hiding out in a dry spot. It was incredible to see through binoculars, but unfortunately it was far too dark to get a photograph.

BUTTERFLY HOUSE:

Next to the lodge, there is a butterfly "house" where they raise local butterflies to sell around the world. They have a nice display of caterpillars, cocoons, and flying butterflies in a tropical park-like atmosphere.

My son was able to pick up and hold some of the butterflies by their wings (the "right way"), and it is a pleasant place to just sit still and let the butterflies fly around you.

FISHING FOR PIRANHAS:

After lunch, a few of us went down to the swimming area to fish for piranha. We used a simple bamboo fishing pole with some line tied to the end and chunks of steak as bait. As soon as we put the meat in the water, tiny fish attacked it, which was funny to watch.

One of the local guides did catch two 4-inch piranhas. The trick seems to be that you let the bait sit on the bottom, and when you feel something pull hard, you pull up on the fishing pole. You do this about a hundred times, and finally something might be on your hook.

Towards the end of our fishing time, we spotted a small caiman around the corner. We threw some of the meat near it, and it sat completely still, but if we threw the meat right on its nose, it would do a full crocodile chomp.

Hard to believe we swim in the same spot!

WOODEN KAPOK TOWER:

Our afternoon excursion was to the wooden Kapok Tower. Almost better than the tower was the journey getting there.

We got in a dugout canoe, paddled across the lake and then into a narrow channel. This channel twists through the rainforest with the canopy overhead and vines hanging down. Very quiet and absolutely beautiful!

We came to a small dock, and took a short walk to the base of the wooden tower. The tower is built in a square around a gigantic fig tree. Think Avatar meets Robinson Crusoe….

There is a platform in the top tree limbs like a giant tree house, and this is where we set up shop for the next hour. There was another couple up there with their guide, so we had 2 spotting scopes, 2 naturalist guides, and 2 local guides. If there was wildlife to be found, we found it! They had a bird that looked close up in the spotting scope, but I could barely see the tree it was sitting in as it was too far for the naked eye.

We saw lots of amazing birds, but no monkeys or sloths today.

Animals (Canopy and Tower):
• Yellow Tufted Woodpecker
• Ivory-billed Aracari (Toucan)
• Many-banded Aracari
• Parrots
• Plum-throated Cotinga (bright blue!)
• Squirrel Monkey
• Crested Oropendula
• Russet-backed Oropendula
• Crested Owl
• Parakeets
• Purple-throated Fruit Crow
• White-necked Puffbird

NIGHT CANOE:

After dinner, we went out in a canoe around the lake for a bit and then down a narrow channel with headlamps and spotlights. This was a chance to see caimans and other nocturnal animals. It was beautiful just being out on the lake in the darkness with the incredible stars.

Animals:
• Caimans
• Snail kite
• Bats

After the canoe, it was straight to bed as we have another early morning tomorrow!

CLOTHING:

Well, let me tell you right now that nothing made of cotton dries in the rainforest. In fact, nylon barely dries. If anything needs to be washed, just pay the laundry fee – it’s worth it.

For a 4-5 day trip in the rainforest, I recommend 2 pairs of nylon hiking pants (1 to wear and 1 to dry) and 2 pairs of pants for evenings (that stay clean). If the hiking pants are not zip-offs, add 1 pair of shorts. Short sleeved shirts and lightweight long sleeved shirts are fine (again something not with cotton). A lightweight long sleeve shirt that buttons down and with rollup sleeves is also great.

Hiking shoes that can get muddy are a must. I also found beach sandals to be useful for keeping our room dry and for going to the swim dock.

They recommend long socks, which I now understand. This is for tucking your pants into, so it’s easier to put your rubber boots on. I recommend at least 3 pairs because they don’t dry.

Oh, yes, a swimsuit and cover-up are also a must.

FOOD:

Breakfast was an amazing buffet with made to order omelets/eggs, pancakes, bacon, fruit, yogurt, granola, cereal, and juices.

There was a mid-morning snack with ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit, and peach cheesecake squares.

Lunch was a large buffet.

Dinner was a buffet with potatoes, broccoli, steak with peppers, turkey, scalloped port, rice, salads, fried eggplant, strawberry pie, apple strudel, orange mousse, and fruit.

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