The amazonian basin is a very important area for Ecuador since it produces 500,000 barrels of oil per day which is the main source of income for our economy.  Unfortunately only 63% of this oil is produced by state owned companies, and the 37% left is still fattening the profits of other companies that are not a direct benefit to our economy.

This money pumping basin is also a very important area for ecotourism which benefits our economy.  Unfortunately there are also foreign own businesses that profit form the biodiversity of our lowlands. In order to benefit our local economy I planned a trip to visit the Sani Lodge which is owned and operated by the local Kitchua community of Sani.  The community of Sani has experienced the life changing forces of ecoturism and now are totally focused on forest conservation, customer satisfaction, health and education for their children.

The main attraction to their lodge is the biodiversity of the region, and they are blessed with plenty of it! Their forest neighbors to the north the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve  with 1,500,000 acres.  Most importantly their forest is touching the Yasuni National Park to the south with 2,400,000 ares which is the most biodiverse reserve in the western hemisphere.  Its biodiversity is so important that it has been declared a Biosphere by UNESCO, and the Ecuadorian Government is now trying to prevent the exploration of oil in this region with financial support of the international community (Yasuni-ITT ) in exchange for saving this forest.

Birdwatching Sani Lodge begins before you arrive to the lodge.  The only access to these remotes areas is via the Napo River which in itself is worth a few days of exploration to discover the avifauna near the shores and islands which have a few range restricted and endemics like the Olive-spotted Humingbird.

Olive-spotted Hummingbird

A visit to their new, impressive, observation tower is an amazing experience that yields some great looks at birds like the Bare-necked Fruitcrow, White-throated Toucan, and many other.

Bare-necked Fruitcrow

White-throated Toucan

The lake around the lodge provides the perfect home for birds like the Sungrebe and the Agami Heron.

Sungrebe (look at his feet!)

Agami Heron

The trails are very productive for antbirds and other ground birds like the Chestnut-belted Gnateater and Scaled-backed Antbird.

Chestnut-belted Gnateater

Scaled-backed Antbird

Some of the trails lead into vareza forest where a few range restricted birds like the American Pygmy Kingfisher and the Gray-headed Tanager can be found.

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Gray-headed Tanager

The lodge is in the middle of a primary forest and is visited regularly by many birds. We got our first looks at Scarlet Macaws, Orange-winged Amazons, Long-billed Woodcreeper, and at night we found the Tropical Screech Owl next to the dining room.

Scarlet Macaws

Orange-winged Amazon

Long-billed Woodcreeper

Tropical Screech Owl

A visit to the community area also bumped our bird count with spectacular birds like the Great Potoo and the amazing Rufous-headed Woodpecker.

Great Potoo

Rufous-headed Woodpecker

Last but not least our birding guide Carlos Gualinga, from the community of Sani, was very knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and reliable.   I recommend him to anyone who wants to visit Sani Lodge.

Carlos, Renato, and Paola

Written by Renato
Renato was born in Quito, Ecuador and quickly flew to the USA to learn all about engineering and climbing company ladders. After getting his engineering degree from the University of Minnesota he worked in the Standard-American-Rat-Race-Company for fifteen years. After climbing the ladder to where he could no longer see the ground, he decided to jump off the ladder and migrate south like all normal birds do. To his surprise home did not look like it did when he left as a young fledgling; the towns were bigger, most of his friends had nests of their own, and the countryside was changed. Shocked by all the change he searched for a new life and a new wife. He stumbled across a vivacious young chick who would accompany him inside a volcanic crater to set up a love nest. So, after eight years of nesting inside the crater a new love for nature and birds has sprung a career in environmental conservation and birding tours. Finally this bird has come home to roost!