A Travellerspoint blog

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?!


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.


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.


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!


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


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.

• Caimans
• Snail kite
• Bats

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


Well, let me tell you right now that nothing made of cotton dries in the rain forest. 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 rain forest, 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.


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.

Posted by bolderwork 17:36 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Day 18 – March 29: Quito-Sacha Lodge (Amazon Rain Forest)


We walked from the Swissotel to the Coffee Tree restaurant in Plaza Foch (about a half mile) for breakfast. There was an ATM right across the street, so we also got some traveling money.

We were short on time after breakfast, so we caught a taxi from there to the Swissotel to get our luggage and then to the airport ($8).


Again tell your driver “nacional” for the domestic departures, and there is just one entrance for all airlines. At the Quito Airport, there are airport people just inside the door to point you in the right direction (I said “Tame” and “Coca” and that seemed to work). There was a woman from Sacha Lodge at the airport that took our luggage and gave us our boarding passes, so we didn’t even have to stand in line at the Tame counter. We filled out an information sheet for her, and she gave us a flyer with more information about the lodge.

We went through security, which is a relatively simple process and then had time to relax in the departure lounge. There are 5 gates, so you have to listen for the announcement of your flight. We were listening and watching the departure screens but still almost missed it. Luckily, we saw other people going to Sacha Lodge getting in line and joined them. There were 2 lines right next to each other, and we didn’t realize until the front of the line that we were in the wrong one. Then, after they took our boarding passes, there were walkways going left and right and almost went the wrong direction. Lesson learned: ask lots of people for help because they will point you in the right direction!

The flight is only 30 minutes long, so the flight attendants handed out orange juice boxes, and that was their service for the entire flight. Our flight was delayed because some people checked in luggage and then didn’t show up for the flight, so we had to wait until they took those bags off.

On the flight, we had a nice view of Cayambe above the clouds. The second half of the flight was very turbulent.


When we arrived at the very small Coca Airport, 2 naturalist guides greeted us. We collected our luggage (they checked luggage tags!) and carried them to the parking lot where an open sided bus was waiting for us. This drove for about 5 minutes to a house in town where we had lunch and bathrooms. They gathered our luggage, put them all in dry bags and sent them off by boat. I had a couple of minutes to run to the pharmacy to get a few items (toothpaste and sunscreen).

Then the adventure started! We were given life jackets and walked about a block to the boat. They call the boat a “motorized canoe.” It was long and skinny and holds about 30 people on wooden benches. There is a driver in the back and a spotter in the front. There is a (mostly) waterproof mesh roof.

As we slowly started down the river, our guide gave us a brief overview of the area and our ride to the lodge. Then the boat sped up (maybe 30 mph) – “air conditioning” they call it. The water splashed high off the sides, and I was amazed we didn’t get wet at all.

The water level was low, so the journey on the river is actually very twisty because of sandbars and logs. The driver would suddenly slow down for a shallow area of the river. The navigation of the river was amazing to experience.

It was very hot this day, so egrets were the only wildlife we saw. Then about halfway on the river, the rain started. Our guides passed out rain ponchos, and we snuggled in tight.

The ride on the river was about 2 hours. It was interesting just to watch the scenery go by – young boys in dugout canoes and mining operations. If it hadn’t rained, we maybe could have read a book. My son took a short nap and listened to his iPod.

All of a sudden, out in the middle of nowhere, there was a sign for Sacha Lodge. Our boat docked, and there was another building nearby with bathrooms. When everyone for the lodge arrived (2 motorized canoes), we started our 30 minute walk through the jungle.

At first, the hike was on a trail but soon it was swampy enough that we were on an elevated boardwalk. I was hoping to see monkeys, but they eluded us at the moment. We really felt like we were in the deep rain forest – strangler fig trees with enormous roots, giant palms, an amazing bird chorus, and bizarre mushroom formations.

At the end of our hike was a dock with long dugout canoes. The canoes had wooden seats with cushions – about 10 people per boat. The guide in the back of the canoe had a wooden paddle as did the guest in the front seat. In our case, my son paddled until it wasn’t so fun anymore  and then my husband took over.

We glided silently across the black lake to our wooden jungle lodge (15 minutes). Very beautiful! What an amazing place!


There is a dock at the water’s edge, which is the “swimming pool.” Then there is a narrow channel where we paddled into and found the main dock for the lodge. Up the hill slightly is the main dining area and lounge (the main hangout area).

We were directed upstairs for our welcome drink, snacks, and briefing. After the short orientation, we were given our room assignments and shown to our rooms where our luggage was already waiting for us.

It was about 4:00pm, and we had the afternoon free until dinner at 7:00pm, so we headed down to the lake for swimming. One of the rules is that you only swim from 7:00am until 6:00pm because sunset to sunrise is when the caimans (similar to crocodiles) come out.

The water was surprisingly warm on top, but about 5 feet down, it is sharply cold. I was careful to swim on top! The water is also very dark and orange in color. You couldn’t see more than a foot or two deep.

We brought a beach ball and water football, which were fun, as was the diving dock. We did not use swim goggles as it was too dark to see anything underwater.

The swim dock area has a few sling-back chairs and many picnic tables. It was a popular gathering spot to read, play cards, or just enjoy the view.


At the dock is a boat house where we were given our rubber boots for our stay. How they can keep track of U.S., U.K., and European foot sizes, I just don’t know!

Before dinner, we headed to the bar area upstairs in the main building. It is a very cozy gathering spot. We got some wine, lemonade, and popcorn. It was a great place to socialize with lots of interesting people from around the world.

At dinner, we are assigned to a guide and our group sits together. Groups are 6 people maximum. We were with a nice couple from Vancouver, so only 5 people with our guide.


After dinner, our guide took us on a 30-minute night hike around the lodge. We brought headlamps and flashlights to see the night creatures. With this light plus a flash, some pictures came out okay even though it was pitch black in the forest. My son got to hold a tree frog, which he thought was pretty cool.

• Tree frogs
• Katydids
• Walking sticks
• Jumping sticks

Some people on our Galapagos cruise talked about all the bugs and the giant spiders, and this hike was when we saw some of those things. However, I have to say that all in all, I was surprised how few bugs there were. For about half of the night hike, I wished I had some bug spray on my neck, but the rest of the hike was fine.

After the hike, we went right to bed because tomorrow we have a 5:30am wake-up call!


Sacha Lodge has a main building with the dining area on the main floor and the bar/lounge area upstairs. The rooms are in duplex bungalows spaced around the main building and connected by elevated boardwalks. All the buildings are made of wood with thatched roofs.

The dining area has a number of tables which are made from beautiful natural wood slabs, and the benches and chairs are made from logs. There are tables set up in a circle in the middle for the buffets. Another table has coffee and tea all day.

Upstairs from the dining room is the bar and lounge. This is a popular gathering spot during the days and evenings. From this floor are stairs leading up a tower in the middle, which gives a great vantage point around the lodge.

Most of the rooms have 2 double beds and a nice-sized private bathroom. Triple rooms have an extra single bed. You can request a king size bed. There are some family “suites,” which are 2 regular rooms with a sitting room in between.

Each room has a porch with hammock, table and chairs, and wooden laidback chairs for watching the monkeys and birds. There are no glass windows, just screens. There is also no TV, telephone, or hair dryer. This is the deep jungle experience – but with a touch of luxury!


It was cool in Quito, but it is much hotter in Coca. Some people wore lightweight long pants and long sleeved shirts, and others wore shorts and short sleeved shirts. The zip-off pants were handy. Our guide said that we might need bug repellent for the beginning of the walking portion, but we really didn’t, so shorts and short sleeves would have been fine. Walking shoes and hat were also good.


The Coffee Tree restaurant (breakfast) has lattes and WiFi, so I was happy  We also had a fruit plate with yogurt and granola, an “American” breakfast with eggs/bacon/3 rolls, a ham and cheese sandwich, and 2 orange juices for $17.

When we arrived at the Coca Airport, Sacha Lodge had a lunch of sandwiches (cheese and tomato on wheat, chicken salad heavy on the mayo on white bread), bananas, oranges, Tango cookies, coffee, tea, and water. We also got a Popsicle from the store next door.

Dinner at Sacha Lodge was a buffet of pork, chicken, green beans, 4 different salads, battered zucchini, garlic toast, carrot soup, and fried potatoes. Dessert was a selection of fruits, chocolate cake, and an extremely delicious passion fruit mousse.

Posted by bolderwork 15:12 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Day 17 – March 28: Galapagos #8 – San Cristobal to Quito


Our last morning on the Galapagos, sigh…. We were up early, got packed, a quick breakfast, and then we said good-bye to the Flamingo I. It was a sunny day, and the harbor looked beautiful.

We took the pangas to the pier. You would think that we had our fill of sea lions, but we had to take another dozen pictures of the sea lions lounging in various dinghies and on the pier.

A bus was waiting for us to take us to the San Cristobal Interpretation Center about 1 mile away. It was a self-guided tour, which talks about the history of the Galapagos including the geology, human habitation, and environmental issues. There is also a walking trail that goes beyond the museum, but none of us got through the museum in time to take advantage of the trail.


The bus took us back to town, and we had about 1 ½ hours to relax in town. Unfortunately, there are not many stores open on a Sunday morning. The main strip is about 3 blocks long, so we walked the length one way and by the time we turned around, things were starting to open up.

I thought the town was very cute, relatively clean, and people were nice. Prices were better than in Santa Cruz, but it was all touristy things (t-shirts, etc.) and no expensive artwork. There were also a couple of playgrounds for the kids.


Our bus took us to the airport where all our luggage was already checked in, and our guide handed us our boarding passes. Then we had about 1 ½ hours to hang out, yawn…. There are a couple of shops and one small food market (hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, ice cream, soft drinks, and beer).


The flight to Quito was uneventful. It stops in Guayquil on the way. We said good-bye to some of our friends from the boat who were departing from Guayaquil. The rest of us just stayed on the airplane, and a few more people joined us. They served a meal on the flight, so it wasn’t important to bring food on the airplane.


Luggage came of quickly at the Quito Airport. It’s important to keep your luggage tags because they check all the luggage when leaving.

We walked outside and found a taxi. They are in a line, but it doesn’t seem to matter if you take the first taxi or not. Remember the price is negotiable. We paid $6 to the Swissotel, which is more than we paid from the Mercure even though I think it is about the same distance.

We arrived in Quito mid-afternoon, and my plan was to take this opportunity to get some laundry done. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan on the Sunday factor. Nothing was open. I also needed more tape for my video camera, but I couldn’t find any open electronic stores either.

While I wandered around town looking for laundry and electronics, my husband and son explored the swimming pool in the hotel and had a great time. It is an indoor-outdoor pool with a waterfall. You are given a locker, which includes a robe, bath towel, work out towel, and slippers. The spa also has a hot tub, sauna, and steam room. You gotta love it!

For dinner, we went to the La Ronda Restaurant. On Sundays at 7:00pm, they have a Folklorico show which includes musicians and dancing. It was really nicely done. The food was also really good. Some dishes were very reasonably priced and others seemed overpriced, so pick accordingly.


The Swissotel is one of the nicest hotels in Quito. We were greeted by a doorman in a top hat, warm towel, and fresh juice. We had seen some amazing roses in Ecuador, but the lobby had some of the nicest.

We were in a suite, which had 2 queen beds in one room, a separate dining table with coffee maker, 1 ½ bathrooms, and comfy robes.


It was warm in the Galapagos, so I wore lightweight long pants and a short sleeved shirt, but I took a long sleeve shirt along for Quito.

It always feels nice outside when we go to dinner in Quito, but it is always chilly when we get back, so I wore long pants, long sleeve shirt, and a light jacket in the evening.


Breakfast was a buffet of French toast, sausage, toast, fruit, cereal, yogurt, and juice of pureed unidentifiable fruit.

Everyone seemed to have snacks in town and/or at the airport (mostly ice cream).

Lunch on the first flight was a full meal with chicken or beef with rice, salad, roll, and dessert.

My husband had a steak at La Ronda, which was excellent and reasonably priced. My son and I split the seafood stew, which he liked more than me, and it was pretty expensive. We also ordered a Caesar salad, which was very good.

Posted by bolderwork 16:29 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Day 16 – March 27: Galapagos #7 – Espanola

Punta Suarez and Gardner Bay


Our morning excursion was a dry landing. One of our guides had to shoo the sea lions off the docking area so that we could disembark. The sea lions were quite animated and vocal so very fun to watch (even after 7 days of seeing them!).

Around the corner from the landing area was a protected pool which we called the “nursery” because it was filled with baby sea lions all playing together. Too cute  Some sea lions would come out and sniff at people’s feet!

In the same pool at the end of our hike, we saw a young sea lion that had an apparent shark bite out of its side. It didn’t look too bad, so our guide was optimistic that it would survive.

This island has a special subspecies of marine iguanas called “Christmas Tree” iguanas because they are green and red. Some of the larger ones that were ready to mate were a brilliant color.

These iguanas were a lot more animated than we have seen elsewhere. Some were fighting (or mating) and were quite aggressive. Some females were digging a nest.

The other highlight on this island is the Waved Albatross. However, they typically don’t arrive until April, and we were not lucky enough to see any early arrivers….

The hike took us along some cliffs, which were quite stunning with the waves crashing violently. One spot is the famous “blowhole” where the water sprays through and shoots up into the air. If the sun is just right, you can see a rainbow in the sea mist.

This hike was probably our longest – about 1 ½ miles – and was very rocky, really jumping from rock to rock instead of on a smooth trail.

• Christmas Tree Marine Iguanas *
• Hood Mockingbird *
• Sea Lions
• Nazca Boobies
• Blue-Footed Boobies
• Frigate birds
• Lava Lizards

  • Only found on this island


Gardner Bay is a must-see by everyone going to the Galapagos. It’s a beautiful white sand beach interrupted only by dozens of sea lions sunning themselves all in a line. This is your opportunity to get your picture taken with these sunbathing beauties.

Gardner Bay is a wet landing, but it was very easy to get in and out of the panga onto the beach.

It was nice to be able to walk along the beach and stretch our legs a bit. We could see where the sea turtle nests were by their tracks in the sand from the bushes to the ocean.

There was also a little inlet inside the beach where the young sea lions played. We are still not tired of watching them….

Another family brought a football, and a spontaneous game of keep away broken out in the shallow water.

There is a large rock (or small island) just off shore, and we snorkeled out it. There were a few fish, but not that much. Then right by the rock, we came across a gigantic marble ray. It must have been 5 feet across – that is scary big! It was just sitting there, and then it started moving ever so slowly. We were quick to get out of its way!

• Sea lions
• Marble ray


For the morning hike, we wore shorts, short-sleeved shirts and/or lightweight long-sleeved shirts, hats, and good hiking shoes for walking on rocks. It was pleasant when the clouds covered the sun but hot when the sun came out.

For the afternoon, we just wore swimsuits and some wore a cover-up. No sandals were needed for the soft sand, and no wetsuits for the water.


Breakfast was poached eggs in a salmon cup, cheese, toast, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and watermelon juice.

Snack after the morning excursion was cheese sandwiches and pear juice.

Lunch was a nice buffet.

Snack after the afternoon excursion was lemon ice tea and yucca rolls dipped in honey (they looked a little bit like mini Twinkies but tasted nothing like them).

Dinner was apparently whatever they had left in the kitchen – BBQ chicken, sea bass with calamari sauce, and herbed rice with raisins. Dessert was a cinnamon cake with chocolate and raspberry sauce. It all sounds better than it tasted.

Posted by bolderwork 15:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Day 15 – March 26: Galapagos #6 – Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora)


In the morning, we went to the main pier in town and then took a bus to the highlands where we can see the giant tortoises in the wild. It is sometimes hard to see them in March, and there was a huge rain the day before, which flooded many areas, but we were going to try.

Our first stop was a quick one to view a couple of lava sink holes. These were very deep, large holes with vegetation where the earth gave away.

Next we went to Primicias Ranch, which is private land next to the Galapagos National Park. They have rubber boots, snack bar, and ping pong tables.

Apparently, it is muddy on most days (hence the boots), but it was particularly goopy today. We could see where the trails should be, but the area was so flooded, we mostly walked through water 6-12 inches deep and mucky mud. I was very happy to have the boots….

We went with a local guide from the ranch, who knew basically where the tortoises were. I guess in August and September, there are dozens of tortoises right around the restaurant area, but in March, you have to work a bit to see them in the wild.

I felt very lucky – we saw 5 of them in different areas (2 males and 3 females), and they are gigantic! We could hear 2 of them mating (they make a loud grunting/groaning noise), but by the time we got there, the female had “run” about 100 feet away.

After the hike, we all went back to the restaurant to wash off the boots, and many people bought snacks and sodas.

Our next stop was the lava tunnel. Typically, you can walk all the way through and stay dry, but with the recent rains, they recommended that we keep our rubber boots.

You go down stairs into the tunnel. The beginning part of the tunnel was cleared of rocks, smoothed out, and with a nice gravel floor. Most people just hiked into the tunnel a little ways and then hiked back out to the bus, but a few of us chose to hike all the way through.

Further in, it got more rocky and uphill. Near the middle, the tunnel squeezes down to about 2 feet high, and you have to crawl on your hands and knees. On the other side, there was one more area where we had to duck down, and then we came upon the stairway back up.

We got muddy crawling through, but I think that is unusual. The tunnel is very well lit throughout, so no headlamps are needed. Photographs were difficult, however.

After the tunnel, we got back on the bus and headed back to the boat for lunch.


In the afternoon, our pangas took us to a different dock near the Charles Darwin Station, which is just outside of the main town.

At the station, we went in one tortoise pen which had 5 males and we could walk right up to them for pictures. This was the only area where we could go inside.

There were other areas with different kinds of tortoises, and you can really see the difference in the shells depending on which island they came from. One pen has famous Lonesome George, but he was hiding in the shade, and we could only see his shell from a distance. There is another area where they have baby tortoises of different types and ages. Very cute! Finally, there are 3 pens with 1 land iguana each as they are trying to improve their population as well.


Puerto Ayora is the biggest town in the Galapagos with lots and lots of boats in the harbor. It’s interesting to see the other cruise boat options. When the sun is out, the water is a beautiful aquamarine, and the town is rather cute if touristy.

After the visit to the station, we were free to walk down the road into town. The main road is lined with cute shops, restaurants, and hotels. We window shopped a bit and then found an outdoor restaurant with WiFi. Some French fries and lemonades later, we were connected!

We met our group at the main pier to catch the pangas back to the boat for dinner. At the main pier area, there is a nice playground for younger kids as well as a grocery store to get any necessities. There was also lively game of volleyball going on amongst the townspeople.

There are also water taxis, so I think it would be possible to stay later in town and take one of those back to the ship.


By now, everyone on the boat is very familiar with each other, so the evening was spent chatting, watching the kids’ Monopoly game, and looking at the stars.

This was our first day without snorkeling, and I must admit that I missed it….


For the morning excursion, we all wore long pants because of the mud. I felt fine in a short-sleeve shirt, but many people had a loose, long sleeve shirt.

For the afternoon, it was very hot again, so shorts, short-sleeve shirts, and hats. Some people wore a loose, long sleeve shirt again for sun protection.


Breakfast was scrambled eggs with peppers, toast, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and pineapple juice.

There was no snack after the morning excursion because it was already lunch time. Most people purchased a snack at the ranch.

Lunch was a buffet of chicken, fish with capers, rice, vegetable, salad, and fruit.

After the afternoon excursion, we had berry juice and cheese empanadas.

We got back pretty late from the island, so there was no separate kids dinner.

Dinner was a buffet of BBQ pork ribs, cheesy noodles, rice with mushrooms, green beans, salad of cucumbers/tomatoes/mushrooms, and dessert of corn/cinnamon/milk cake.

Posted by bolderwork 11:10 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cruises Comments (0)

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